Monday, April 13, 2009

the end for now . . .

between lack of postings and the social networking revolution, the cultural taproom will no longer post entries.

you can follow your favorite author at their facebook page.

thanks for reading and maybe the taproom 2.0 will hit the interweb someday.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Things That Get Me Through The Day...

Ok, Listen up and listen good. I'm not blogging all night, people.

I don't work well in the morning until my coffee has kicked in, or my two coffees, or my two coffees and a shot of green tea extract and 2 donuts. Don't judge me.

The point is, until such a time as the caffeine gives me palsy and is too much for me to keep sitting and forces me to get up and actually do my job, I entertain myself by checking out several safe and entertaining websites that give me the giggles and makes me a happy worker.

If any of you have a sense of humor you're going to need to check out one if not all of these websites.


Garfield Minus Garfield
describes itself as"a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb." It is honest, intriguing, and pretty dang hilarious. I never realized how depressing Jon Arbuckle really was until you take out the talking animals.


Picture is Unrelated
is a compilation of every picture ever posted on the web that makes no sense and has no meaning whatsoever. A picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures are worth about 3 letters, W T and F. My favorite pictures are captioned "Spook the Cat and Trick the Soul" and "It's Not a Party Til Someone Takes Off Their Pants". See if you can find them.


I Can Has Cheezeburger
is it's own subculture. Cats talk, but not well, they love cheezburgers, there is a cat god and a cat satan. It's a great mix of cute and funny. And after growing up with cats I have to say, this is as close as you get to what a cat is really thinking in their head.

Failblog. Let's face it, there's a lot of failure online nowadays. Ever since parents of teenagers gave up parenting and let their prodegy run buck wild through the electronic world. The idiocy that is America (and foreign countries trying to speak english) has been made available to us all. Learn what fail means. Learn it, and use it.


Not Always Right
. This is in regards to that saying "the customer is always right". Anyone who has worked retail understands how untrue that is. Here is the retail lackies chance to tell it like it is. Every stupid, crazy, mean thing that customers have ever said is up for the ridicule of the entire world. YAY! One can only hope that someone has seen something they've said on there and has learned an important lesson. Better to let people think you're stupid than to open your mouth and prove it.

There, I'm done and now you are all better people.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obstacle 1, Champions League preview and true love?

I don’t listen to the radio very much but occasionally I’ll flip around. Lately in checking in with the Impact, I’ve heard Interpol’s Obstacle 1. Like 4 or 5 times, at different parts of the day. Doesn’t that seem weird? I like the song, but can listen to it anytime I want, so I change the channel. This morning on the way to work during a commercial break for Bob and Tom, I tuned in to the Impact and guess what was on? I listened to the song from to the end, hoping that this will break the cycle. We shall see.



Moving on . . .

The Champions League quarters start today. Here are my quick predictions:

Liverpool v Chelsea. Who cares? History tells us that this will be 180 minutes of “tactical” drama. I’m not going to watch, which guarantees a 3-3 draw.

Arsenal v Villareal. I see Arsenal coming good at the right time. I see a tight game tomorrow with Arsenal winning the tie outright next week.

United v Porto. After United’s amazing comeback yesterday, I think they will ride the momentum from that result and a relatively full strength side to claim a 2-0 victory. Then go to Porto and grind out a 1-1 draw.

Barca v Bayern. This has to be the tastiest matchup of the four. The first leg should have plenty of goals, something like 3-1 Barca and I expect a nail biting return leg as Jurgen tries to save his job.



And finally, a bizarre article I found on the interweb:

A Chinese man was killed last night after trying to catch his suicidal girlfriend as she jumped from the seventh floor of their Quanzhou apartment building in south-eastern China.


Tears for the heroes of love
The young man, only identified as Wang, tried to break the woman’s fall by holding out his arms, witnesses said. He was killed by the impact of her body landing on top of him, according to Perth Now.

His girlfriend survived the fall, suffering only from bone fractures and other injuries. She was not in critical condition and expected to make a full recovery.

The couple had quarreled before Wang went to the street below to try and persuade his girlfriend not to jump. It was unclear if she plummeted from a ledge or out of a window.

Hospital staffers say the woman appears confused and doesn’t know how she fell.

This totally reminded me of the opening of Magnolia. (If you haven’t seen it, see it ASAP.) Is this a grand romantic gesture or an act of lovestruck stupidity? I’m not sure which way to go on this one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

cassettes and sports

Through Netflix, I got 35 free downloads from emusic.com. As a way of generating track ideas, I went through my box of cassette tapes. Remember those? Here’s what I discovered on my trip down musical memory lane:

There are several albums that highlight the late high school to early college years:
--Superstar Carwash by Goo Goo Dolls
--Frosting on the Beater by the Posies
--Never Said by Liz Phair
--Day for Night by Tragically Hip
--Gish by Smashing Pumpkins

I have digital versions of most everything above, except for the Goo Goo Dolls. It wasn’t on emusic, so my next visit is to mp3fiesta.com, although I have found the album on amazon for $2. Anyway, a great album, energetic indie rock without becoming the sugary, polished and overplayed tracks like Name, Iris and Slide.

Another discovery is that apparently I was really into Aerosmith. Permanent Vacation, Pump, Get a Grip, Best of. Permanent Vacation is a classic. Who can forget Dude Looks a Lady? If I can find a tape player that works, I plan to revisit this aspect of my musical past. Plus there are the Alicia Silverstone videos to revisit.



Saturday night I parked myself on a barstool at Claddagh’s to watch basketball and futbol. My brackets were toast thanks to Memphis losing, so I didn’t really care who won. Where did Missouri come from? And where did they get those uniforms? While that game was going on, I was suffering through Portugal v Sweden. A must win game for Portugal, and, to their credit, they did go for it. Sweden was obviously happy with a draw, looking to pick up scraps and didn’t really go push on until Wilhemsson came on with 30 minutes to go. Unfortunately for Portugal and the viewer (me), they cannot score. I have ranted about this on several occasions, so I won’t go into it again. I will summarize thusly: they either need to change their formation or find a natural finisher. The result: 0-0 and there is a real chance of Portugal not qualifying for the World Cup.

Moving on . . .

The TV with the Villanova/Pitt game was turned away from me so it was hard to keep track. I mostly focused on Montenegro v Italy. An early PK set up Italy nicely, and although Montenegro threatened, they struggled to create many clear cut chances. Italy played very narrow in my opinion and only got width from the backs. Montenegro was ok, with their #8 being quite good. Montenegro had a great chance to equalize in the second half, and Italy has several chances to kill off the match before Pazzini made it 2-0 and secure the three points.

That game was followed by El Salvador v US. The US was terrible in the first half. Poor touches which led to poor possession, with Beasley’s turnover leading to the opening goal. Ching did not get involved and Donovon had to drop deep to get the ball. I left at halftime because I was tired and bored. Turns out the US ended up with a 2-2 draw, which is a valuable away point. Qualification is a certainty, and they need to win the group to get the best possible seed next summer.



Finally, I got this newsletter from a vendor. One of these with business news and tips. At the bottom there is a thoughtful or inspirational quote. Here is the quote from last Friday:

“Keep your eyes on the stars and feet on the ground.” Theodore Roosevelt

Doesn’t that sound eerily like a popular American radio host? Very interesting.



Ta Ta.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Will "Kings" Reign?


I watched the first 2 episodes of “Kings”—a new drama on Sundays at 8:00 on NBC. The commercials intrigued me because I thought it recast America as a monarchy instead of a democracy. So I was interested to see how the writers pictured such a world. However, my assumptions about the background of the show were completely wrong. Rather, it is a modernization of the biblical Saul and David story found in 1 and 2 Samuel. I figured this out immediately as there were many allusions to the biblical story—some overt and some more subtle. Here are a few:

The main city with a New York skyline was Shiloh
The king was named Silas (Saul); the young upstart was named David Shepherd; the king’s daughter and David’s love interest was named Michelle (Michal); the Prophet was named Reverend Samuels
An early scene saw David going up against a tank whose model was named “Goliath”

Others could be listed, but you get the point. A more subtle allusion revolved around the anointing of the Spirit. In the biblical narrative, the Spirit is on Saul and then leaves him and rests on David. In the show the Spirit is symbolized by butterflies that come and settle like a crown on the actors’ heads. I thought this was an interesting and profound appropriation.

No matter how many parallels and allusions are included, many modernizations of classics end up falling flat. However, I put this “Kings” one on the level of Romeo + Juliet (1996) with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. One aspect that sets this show apart from other attempts to modernize ancient stories is the clever mix of modern and ancient language. While Romeo + Juliet tried to keep much of Shakespeare’s language, “Kings” uses modern English while sprinkling in some “spiritualized” language. For example, when Reverend Samuels denounces the king he says, “I bring a message. Since you have cast aside the word of the Lord he has cast you aside as king. He grants you no more favors. He protects what you love no longer. God wishes a man after his own heart. You have none.”

Through the first 2 episodes they have done a pretty good job of conveying the original storyline without too much fabrication or plot twisting. However, I wonder if they can keep it up without too many contrived stories. One problem I have is with the portrayal of the king’s son, Jack (Jonathan in the biblical account). In the TV edition he resents David, while the biblical account shows a man, who though he should resent David, loves him and accepts David’s ascension to the throne. Unless a plot line makes them best buddies, it will be a pretty significant divergence from the original.

As I said, my biggest fear is the writers turning this story into something it is not, or choosing to show one side of the characters over against another. But if they do, they will be in good company since the Biblical writers do the same thing. 1 and 2 Samuel tell all the dirty secrets of David, while Chronicles cleans up his history and presents a more pristine “man after God’s own heart.”

I don’t know where this series is going, but I like it thus far and recommend you give it a try. You can watch the first three episodes on the NBC website.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Art of Running for People Who Would Rather Do Anything But...

This may come as a surprise to some of you but I am not an athletic person. I have found in my lifetime that sweating and breathing hard and a lot of movement is not conducive to reading which is what I really like to do. I'm also not excited by the idea of physical activity that does not accomplish anything. It seems an awful lot like work. I hate watching sports, I hate sports talk shows, I hate sports commercials and sports stores. I grew up in a dysfunctional family where athletic extra curricular activities were dominated by my brother and entering any such activities would have lead to unflattering comparisons by my less than stellar father, yes, even as a kid I understood this.

However, at the ripe old age of 29, I have finally set aside some of the more serious "you'll never be as good as your brother" issues while other issues are so deeply suppressed in my psyche that I'll probably never be able to break that wall down and deal with them. This leaves me open to try new things without the crushing self loathing of my childhood (wow, where is this coming from?!) So after much deliberation I took up jogging. Now, after nearly 5 weeks of jogging I can tell you everything you need to know to get up and get moving. Let's begin shall we.

1) Infinitesimal Motivation

I don't have a lot of will power, I'm almost never motivated, I don't have moments of clarity that change my life forever. What I do have is microscopic sporadic urges to do somewhat healthy things combined with a total lack of patience. Thus, whenever I have a free time and think "I should get up and do something", I do it. Immediately. I don't think twice, I don't stop to consider all the other things I could be doing, I don't second guess my abilities, I just go do it. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish by blocking out rational thought. And to be clear, I never have the urge to run, I have the desire to be able to run. To do something healthy and not pass out or throw up on the side of the road. So if you have even an inkling of a desire to do something, my advice to you is to jump on it. Attack it and never look back. Do it one day, maybe the next time that urge comes around and you do it, it's slightly less horrible.

2) No Victory is Too Small

This is the imperative second step to following infinitesimal motivation. For me it's important to think that following the motivation is actually changing me in obvious ways, that every step I take is moving me away from failure and towards something better, something I spent most of my life believing I could not do. Today I don't feel as exhausted after 2 miles. Today I sprinted the last block home. Today I could talk while jogging.Today I didn't choke on my own spit. I don't talk to people much about what my goals are in running or about running in general, I just can't afford to fill my head with negative or pessimistic comments.


3) The Zero Tolerance Rule

#3 is basically the other side of #2. As I celebrate every little victory, even if it's just not hating running as much as I used to, I also avoid know-it-alls. Know-it-alls are almost always negative and bossy. I have avoided so many things because I was afraid that other people would be dissappointed with me or that I would be disappointed with myself, I don't feel I need anymore of that talk. So what if I'm doing it wrong, I'm doing it. So what if my shoes aren't right or I'm holding my arms too high or I don't bounce on my toes enough (yes, I've heard these before). I'm doing it, if at some time in the future I choose to improve my style by asking your advise I will ask it, until then I'm just working on putting one foot in front of the other.



4) Night Time is the Right Time

This one is not for everyone but it really works for me. Running at night. As long as I don't get hit by a car, I really really like running at night for several reasons. A) It's cooler outside, as we near summer temperatures of 110 degrees, this will be come more important. B) You can't see how fast or slow you are going, it forces me to pick a pace based on what I can handle instead of how fast I think I should go. C) I'm less self conscious knowing there is no one to see me and judge me. D) It's quieter and there's less traffic.

The down side to jogging at night is the possibility of wild animals and weirdos. Ben and I were on the bike trail at about 9:30 one night and got within 20 ft. of a coyote. Tonight there was some old homeless looking guy putting on a ski mask who yelled something at me. I have no idea what he yelled but it kinda sort sounded like "You're a fag!".


5) The Buddy System

Run with someone really positive. Run with someone who's a better runner than you but has a lot of patience. This way, they can talk to you while you run and take your mind off of some of the pain. Run with someone really encouraging. And most importantly, lay out ground rules quickly. Ben is my running buddy and I made sure to tell him the very first day that if he got ahead of me, my first instinct is to catch up instead of telling him to slow down, then I would run out of steam, then get frustrated, then quit. So Ben knows not to push ahead but stays next to me. He also keeps track of time so we stick to our schedule.


6) The Bully System

As much as I don't allow anyone to be negative about my running. I can be negative about myself if I want. I don't allow disappointment or frustration, but I allow myself a little affectionate ribbing now and then. There is a killer hill I run into towards the end of the 2 miles, I hate it. I have yet to run up that thing without having to walk some of it. This is normally about the time I try some negative motivation. "Maybe this hurts so much because gravity is pulling my big fat butt back down the hill", "Maybe I should take this hill twice today, show that cottage cheese who's boss", "maybe I don't hate this hill, maybe I just love little debbie too much". Staying positive and not allowing frustration doesn't mean don't face reality, sometimes reality is having to push through no matter what. Sometimes humor is making the best of a less than ideal moment.


7) Clothes Make the Runner, Especially the Feet Part

I realized 2 weeks ago, that at 29 years old I have never owned a brand name pair of shoes and I've never bought a pair of shoes that cost $50. As of two weeks ago I own both. They are Nikes, I named them Betty and Ling (right and left). They are worth every penny. Betty and Ling keep my knees from hurting (too much) they have arch supports and padding, and they aren't as loose on my feet as my first running shoes (from payless).

I also went out and bought some really comfortable running pants and capris. But for those you can go to Goodwill, there's lots of selection and they've already been broken in for you! Pajama pants don't cut it. It's already hard to run, you should make sure you are as comfortable as you can be


8) Get a Plan

Get any plan, close your eyes and point and you can get a running plan, they are all over the internet. I recommend the Couch to 5K Running Plan created specifically for sedentary people like me. Get a plan, then get a route, no one likes to stop running to decide which way to go, get it mapped out before you go and there's less to think about.


Right now I can't tell you how I feel about running. I like that I do it, I like that I can do it. I don't enjoy it for it's own sake. I like feeling a little bit of accomplishment every time. Things I never thought I would be able to do, like run a whole mile without walking, are pretty simple now. I'm not as embarrassed to run with people watching. I don't know that I'll ever actually do a 5K but it's not out of the realm of reality. I would like to go to Hawaii this summer and I'd like to wear a bathing suit without feeling like the Pillsbury dough boy, or Staypuff Marshmallow Man, or the Michelin Man or any other white squishy monster. Maybe someday I'll enjoy running for the sake of running, maybe someday I feel the endorphins kick in like I hear tell of. That hasn't happened yet. When/if I get to that point I'll let you know, I'm sure it will be a momentous day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Damages Season 2

I want to bring to your attention a TV show that has caught my eye "Damages".

When i first heard about this new show back in July 2007 i began to think legal thrillers are silly and boring. They just are...period. For the life of me I cannot figure out how so many people get enraptured by Law & Order, but i watched it anyway and below is what i thought.

So when I first saw the previews of FX’s Damages Season 1 I was expecting a decent performance by Glenn Close as class action lawyer Patty Hewes, but a bunch of petty storytelling with little soul. Not only was I mistaken in my snap judgment of the storyline, but Damages has gone on to become one of the best shows on television.

By the time Damages hit the air The Shield was a bit trite. OK, so Vic is a bad dude on the good side of the law. Yippee. Damages came along and proved that FX has a winning formula for its dramas.
Give the writers leeway to tell intelligent and adult stories, and then what you’ll end up with is an Emmy winning show.

Perhaps the networks should pay attention because they are getting trounced by cable when it comes to original programming. As season one came to a close it was difficult for me to understand how Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) could continue working for Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), even if she planned to work with the FBI to take her down.

The season two premiere answers that quite nicely as we see Ellen one month later struggling to deal with her anger. Ellen’s naivety in season one stemmed from inexperience, not a lack of intelligence or ability. The show handled that deftly, and Rose Byrne held her own against Glenn Close.
Now we’ve moved beyond that as Ellen is insistent on doing everything to take Patty down, even giving the FBI pause when she’s readily willing to perform any task asked. Ellen is also attending anger management meetings, and it’s there she meets Wes Krulik (Timothy Olyphant).

The casting of Olyphant alone for the part had me on edge on whether this man could be trusted, and while Ellen confides in him she does seem reserved. Perhaps it’s because she isn’t ready to move on from her fianc├ęs death, or she suspects him as much as I do. While the big case of the season doesn’t involve Frobisher (Ted Danson) –who, incidentally was shot when last we saw him– I was ecstatic to see him coming back for the second season.
Time will only tell if what happened changed him, or if it’s all an act. One thing I know for sure is that Arthur Frobisher is one of the most likeable bad guys on television. I’d go so far as to say he’s not really a bad guy, just a man with power who suffers from some terrible flaws.
For her part Patty is the envy of the entire legal world after her multibillion dollar win against Arthur Frobisher. Clients are trying to get her to take cases, and Ellen is handed a fake case by the FBI to use to bring Patty down. But nothing sticks, no matter how hard Ellen tries. Or even Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan), Patty’s most trusted lawyer at the firm, who backs Ellen’s decision to convince Patty to head up the case. Then Daniel Purcell (William Hurt), an old friend of Patty’s, calls on her for help. What starts as a favor for a friend and a domestic violence case quickly escalates into something more. Anyone who feared that the loss of Ray Fiske (Zeljko Ivanek) as Patty’s legal nemesis would hurt the show need not worry. In the second episode we’re introduced to Claire Maddox (Marcia Gay Harden) who goes to legal battle with Patty the moment she appears on screen. This is a woman who will never be afraid to confront Patty.

Also, Marcia Gay Harden is a stunningly beautiful woman and her portrayal of Claire is so powerful and intense I can easily see her joining Glenn Close and Zeljko Ivanek as an Emmy winning cast member. The style of storytelling in season two is similar to season one, but not identical. We do start off with something happening six months in the future, and then the bulk of the show is what happened to lead up to these moments. Instead of a bloodied Ellen stumbling down the street, this time we get an Ellen who is cold and calculating as she sits and discusses matters with…someone.

The season two premiere ends in this time frame with a scene that is chilling. I didn’t see it coming, and that’s the point. Where Ellen was broken down by Patty in season one I think season two is going to showcase her crossing the breaking point. Damages returns without skipping a single beat. New characters are as complex and interesting as returning favorites. The show delivers on a style that is intelligent and simultaneously easy to follow. You’ll never scratch your head wondering what is up with any character, as each choice and action made makes perfect sense as you watch it. The use of the flashback formula is where Damages shoehorns in its suspense and mystery as we near the end of Season 2 this is a must watch for anyone who enjoys television and i encourage you to get season 1 & 2 and enjoy it as much as i have done.

Next week i will try and stomach discussing the Utd collapse against Fulham as well as Fergie's bad team selection and why i think Liverpool's hype is just hype!!!!

Bye for now