Wednesday, April 14, 2010

iPad: Item to Publicly Abuse and Destroy

That's apparently what some people think Steve Job's new gadget for Apple is made expressly for. Footage of a certain Tom Dickson slamming the iPad onto a telephone in order to break it in half (because the designers clearly lacked foresight in forgetting to consider the dimensions of a standard blender) has garnered over 5 million views in the last week alone. On the day the iPad launched, a baseball- bat-wielding crowd of teenage boys posted similar footage of an iPad being smashed to pieces in a parking lot. But when asked if they felt any animosity towards Jobs or Apple, the boys looked confused by the question and answered, "No. We love Steve Jobs." Apparently, the question was a non-sequiter. Like seriously, why would you ask such a question? I mean, how else would you express and display your love and adoration for someone? By breaking their newest and latest creation, of course!

And we wonder why the rest of the world hates us. We swim in boatloads of privilege, freedom and democratic liberties, and use it for things like breaking expensive gadgets in the name of "entertainment" and Youtube street cred.

I'm not defending the iPad or arguing for the justification of this oblong and awkwardly-sized app-displayer that can't take pictures or run Flash. But then again, idiots do get laughed at so maybe my sense of humor isn't entirely to blame. Humor is usually at the expense of something or someone's dignity so I guess this time it will cost you $500 plus any shred of self-awareness or decency you might have left.

Cultural customs often bind teenagers all over the world into rigid routines, societal norms and day-to-day realities: African children would forgo food and shelter to walk 5 miles to the nearest school, while others in the Middle East live in fear of getting shot at, bombed or discriminated against. What do ours do?
How are they creating residual
? Smash and destroy invaluable devices while snickering at the camera. Good one, parents. Way to teach our next generation to understand and appreciate the things they are lucky enough to have.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hollywood's Unsung Hero

They say behind every great fortune is a great crime. In the case of Hollywood, for every Bruce Willis, there is a Charlie Picerni. Who's Charlie Picerni, you might ask?

Yeah, that's the way the game is played in Hollywood. The red carpet hooplas might pretend to make a show of recognizing non-actors for the part they play in making the movie, but really...aside from the more well-known directors and filmmakers (Scorcese, Speilberg) the rest are virtually unknown among mainstream audiences.

Indeed, to whom would successful actors attribute their fortune to if not to the stunstmen and women (and post-production film editors) who make them look good? That's right, behind every Mel Gibson falling off burning buildings is a ballsy, no-name stuntman whose name most moviegoers will never know.

Often going uncredited in such blockbuster hits as "Indiana Jones" and "Diehard", the stuntman has even more reason to be down on his luck in today's 3-D, CGI, James Cameron-ified world of movies. Green screen is the name of the game today, and many able-bodied stuntsmen are finding that their services are no longer needed.

Of course, there are actors who famously insist on doing their own stunts, including Jackie Chan and Viggo Mortensen from the LOTR trilogy.
While residual income for actors
are still growing, we can see the rise of filmmakers getting in to the industry. While filming a fight scene for Peter Jackson's famous adaptation of Tolkien's fantasy book series, Mortensen's tooth was knocked out by his opponent, after which he famously asked for superglue for the tooth so that he could continue filming the scene. Talk about staying in character.

These days, films try to incorporate both CGI/motion capture and physical stunt design to maximize the impact using both kinds of effects. If done well, the effect is a seamlessly edited, completely escapist movie-going experience. If done poorly, well, you've just paid 15 bones for a glitchy, makes-you-aware-that-you're-watching-a-movie movie. Ah well, you can always Netflix it when it comes out on DVD. Just make sure you read through the credits and have a moment of silence for the stunt guys and gals after the film ends.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Right to Be Wrong

I might be singing out of key
But it sure feels good to me
Got a right to be wrong
So just leave me alone
-Joss Stone, "Right to Be Wrong"

You know something’s catchy when you find yourself saying, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” I mean c'mon: arguing for the right to be wrong? The powerfully poetic pun is always the writer's ever-elusive subject, and the songwriter's eternally desired companion.

Okay so call me a freakshow for reading a subliminal political message in Joss Stone lyrics. But methinks the talented young songstress, aside from penning the words to an amazing soul number, was on to something deeper than just externalizing teenage angst to R&B riffs. She might actually have been commenting, albeit unwittingly, on the now raging debate on the role of the federal government concerning our nation's alarming childhood obesity rate.

Think about it. Ever since the new campaign for childhood obesity prevention "Let's Move" was announced, Michelle-Obama-haters have been knocking the First Lady for “over-mothering” obese children all around the nation, and creating an initiative which, essentially, refuses fast food, soda and junk food companies the “right to be wrong.” True, singing out of key doesn't really harm anyone (though Simon Cowell might disagree). But junk food does. Should tone-deaf school boards be the only ones to decide what is sold to students on their campuses, even if what they decide hits all the wrong notes? Should the federal government "leave them alone"?

While we're on the subject of things being "wrong", if I may ask a naive question: Why would you offer to sell someone (a not-yet adult to be exact) something that will ultimately end up causing harm? I mean, yeah, telling American capitalists how to make money by throwing ethics out the window would be like preaching to a Grammy-winning choir. But it seems as though the lyrics to the song some right-wingers are chanting these days is really "the right to DO wrong".

Now, a government measure to prevent this particular right from being practiced, when you really think about it, isn’t so far-fetched right? We as a nation, and as members of the same species, have ostensibly agreed to refuse people the right to do wrong things. Like, oh, I don’t know, murder, steal, rape? It would be crazy to insist that legally restricting the freedom of people to exercise these kinds of rights is the bigger wrong, and that we should be protecting the right of businesses to sell and market harmful products to kids.

Which brings us to the philosophical and always necessary question: What is difference between right and wrong? And more importantly, who gets to decide what this very crucial difference is? Or to put it simply, where do you draw the line?
In regards to childhood obesity, it seems that we have at least reached a consensus that kids under the ripe old age of 10 who have the blood pressure of an overweight 56-year-old is a problem. Or a teenager weighing 400 pounds and feeling compelled to lose weight because she “wants friends” is where one might draw the line between healthy and unhealthy. Or right and just plain...wrong.

No, the obese child should not play victim and blame it on the system. Personal choice and responsibility play a huge role. But is a choice between Sprite and Coke, chips or fries, really a fair choice? The truth of the matter is that, in a plummeting economy, fast food is cheap, easy and, well, fast. And if obesity is indeed reaching the same number of people as the tobacco industries once did, using the same tactics (strategic taxing on unhealthy food products) might not be a bad way to go.

This issue is inextricably bound up with the issues of national healthcare, free market and federal government regulation of municipal activity (i.e. school food programs). You can't really talk about one without touching on the others. For now, I'll leave you with some neat tips on how to stay healthy while cooking at home. And for the soylovers out there, check out these tips on how to incorporate a healthier alternative to regular dairy into your diet.

Sadly, American Idol is losing the man who says what everyone is thinking but afraid to verbalize (possibly the sole reason I turn to Fox these days). But it seems as though, in the open audition for the Obese Child, our First Lady has sat down and made herself comfortable at the judge's table.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

20 Healthcare Questions

Remember the old game ‘20 Questions,’ a.k.a. a form of Truth or Dare? Q: How much more interesting would this game be if the questions were fundamentally UNanswerable? A: Infinitely. Let’s spice it up, shall we?

Why do I need ID to get ID?” (an insightful Mos Def in an old school classic)

What would we do without Wikipedia? (Just walk around not knowing Cher's real name or why Boyz-II-Men went from 4 to 3 I guess...)

Why is a barely-legal Disney channel crooner the center of a phenomenon known mainly (and disturbingly) to middle aged women as ‘Bieber fever’?”

“Can Americans afford to get sick?”

This last one is, of course, the only one that has been getting much attention in recent news (though Entertainment blogs have been having a field day with Jesse James and his alleged mistress -which begs the age-old question: "Why do men cheat?" A blog for another day, ladies). On Tuesday, President Obama used over 20 different fountain pens to sign the bill, after receiving a hearty handshake and a not-completely-unexpected expletive from Biden (hilariously audible clip of this also available on before announcing the passing of this historic overhaul of the American national healthcare system.

People groups affected include tanning salon owners, who will be forced to charge their customers an extra 10 percent nationwide. This tax is projected to bring in at least 2.7 billion over the next decade, which will help to fund the bill and increase coverage for more Americans. On the bright side, maybe certain B-list celebrities will think twice before going out in public looking like an Oompa–Loompa (*cough-cough* Lindsay Lohan)
While tanning salons are significantly cheaper than a tropical vacation three times a year (and yes, that exact statement was issued in all laughable seriousness by various tantrum-throwing tanning salon patrons who were interviewed by CNN Money), one cannot ignore yet another underlying question behind the “outrage” of tanning salon owners: In light of the current economy, what are the moral and ethical implications of capitalizing on a select market of consumers who purchase artificial UV rays while sober?
After Al Gore's diminishing-polar-bear-habitat hoopla, can Americans still justify the 'convenient' use of a rapidly dwindling energy and electricity supply for the purely aesthetic adjustment in skin tone? And those of you who “need Vitamin D” might be off the hook for now, but don’t think I’m not thinking what I know the rest of y’all are thinking: “Dude, can’t you take a pill for that?”

In a war-torn economy, Americans used to simply tighten their belts, maintain stiff upper lips, and send their ladies out in red bandanas to darken their lungs inside metal factories. In England, they “remained calm and carried on” (but then again, they have universal healthcare over there so remaining calm might actually be a viable option). Nowadays “tanning salon outrage” makes front page news. Granted, even tanning salon owners gotta eat so what can you really say? Except that Socialist accusations have reached an all time high for Obama, and comments following news articles and updates on healthcare are getting vicious.

Maybe the real question for Americans should be how to skirt the ever-complicating system and still maintain a functional level of health. Or a less solemn humdinger: how many minutes can you talk to someone this week without mentioning the word 'healthcare'? Ready... set.... go!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pinch Me I Must Be Drinking

Guinness-loving Norcalians can relax tonight. Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and San Francisco are all offering free cab and tow service for inebriated St. Patty's Day revelers. The group of injury lawyers who are sponsoring this service aren't the only ones battling belligerent behavior tonight. Triple A of Northern California is calling their tri-state lawsuit-preventer (California, Nevada and Utah) "Tipsy Tow".

Does anyone else wonder what it is about this garishly green holiday that justifies the lack of inhibitions? While March does mark the onset of Spring (hence the color of choice), the holiday is not without its ironies. The most obvious one being that it actually started off as a sacred homage to one of Ireland's patron saints - some refer to St. Patrick as the Martin Luther of Ireland, the country's own St. Paul. (Also ironic is that one of St. Paddy's Day monikers most obviously puns on quite possibly THE most anti-American band to date - maybe one of the only American traditions Greenday wouldn't write pissed off lyrics about. But I digress...) Hardly the makings of a lime-flavored jello shot showdown, to be sure. What started off as a day where Lent practices (fasting of vices) were temporarily suspended has now turned into an all-out bar hopping, drink downing Mardi Gras minus the purple and gold.

At least drunkenness is in the vein of commonly accepted celebratory practices though. I mean, what's up with the creepy looking Lucky Charms leprechauns looming over the supermarket aisles and freaking me out before I finish walking through the automatic sliding doors at Target? And the pinching complete strangers for not donning the color green? Who made that up? Someone who obviously didn't get pinched as a child.

Irish history is fabulous, don't get me wrong. And another reason to drink? I haven't met a single person yet who would say no to that. But if you see me in the corner looking suspiciously over my shoulder and shielding my arms from you, don't say I didn't warn you. Take my advice: hoard your cases of beer and look up Irish facts in the privacy of your own home, or learn how to make your own green-tinged cocktails!

And to the rest of you Irish and non-Irish folk, bottoms up! And remember to call Triple A after your last round of 'Danny Boy.'

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Attention Students: This is Not a Drill

Remember those duck and cover drills in elementary school? Admit it: you used to live for those moments when you could stop copying down Social Studies terms, or showing your work on those pesky long division problems, or whatever else those teachers with mediocre training would get you to do while you’re stuck indoors during the best hours of the day.

The fire drill bell goes off at an ear-shatteringly loud decibel, and students all over the school giggle to each other and eagerly drop their pencils to huddle underneath their desks. Yup, you know the drill. It occurred to me that most Californian students would probably wonder to themselves what it would really be like to live with the constant and very real threat of an earthquake. I mean, we have the San Andreas fault and all, but since the big San Francisco quake in 1906, there hasn't been anything close to what's been going on in the Southern hemisphere as we speak.

As the entire world stands in the wake of two devastating quakes, there really isn’t much laughter to be had. The ‘earthquake lady’, as Dr. Kate Hutton has been dubbed by the masses, has received more and more face time since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have caused massive panic in all hemispheres. Even as neighboring countries rush to provide aid and relief, they also have become more concerned with how to be prepared for potential earthquakes in the future.

Rehearsal that does not precede a real show is no rehearsal at all. For without the looming reality of the final performance, what real motivation can a rehearsal sustain in its actors? But if the recent two quakes have shown us anything, it’s that all those drills might not have been a complete waste of time, as many elementary school procedures often are. Check out these tips on how to be prepared in case of an earthquake from an exclusive interview with the Earthquake Lady herself and how to support the victims of the recent quakes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cheating? There's an App for That.

Remember when being called 'tiger' was a good thing? Like when someone calls you 'champ', or 'sport' or any other variation of those peculiarly American appellations fathers call their sons while slapping them on the shoulder and throwing around the old pigskin.

Yeah, those were the good ol' days. Fast forward to the world of perpetual internet access, where privacy is a lost cause and paper trails have now gone digital. The word 'tiger' conjures up all sorts of inappropriate things (it ain’t just the animals on four legs that pop up on Google image search now), including a certain record-breaking golfer who left the world's most unfortunate digital and audio trail of infidelity in his very public fall from grace. But it turns out that the brands and companies which dropped their endorsement deals with Tiger aren't the only ones capitalizing on his marital failures.

Yes, the infamous App creator strikes again. In case you weren't familar with this new breed of entrepreneur, h/she is the consummate multi-tasker: with one hand on the pulse of pop culture, the other hand has a firm grip on the latest iphone. Throw in the programming know-how and voila! New apps appear faster than you can say spot the nearest Apple store.

This time around, it seems as though one of these brilliant minds thought, "If only there were a way to protect those careless misogynists from getting caught in their tracks!" Yes the tiger puns really won't stop. And this time, we have paw tracks to add insult to injury. Introducing Tigertext: Cover your Tracks. You know an App has traction when it makes you say, "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" No, literally TRACtion: after it deletes your text message, it leaves a graphic of animal paw tracks in the text box. Cute in a kind of shady, vile sort of way isn't it?

You can even customize the amount of time your text remains intact- from 'delete on read' to a shelf-life of up to a month. So for the cheaters playing it safe, all remnants of the deed are erased immediately. But for those who prefer to flirt with both mistresses AND danger, you can toy with this option and really get your adrenaline going. It’s an equal opportunity enabler, this app. Now if only someone could get the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme song to play while the app runs.