Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pouring one out for Paul Newman

I had some salad tonight, opened a new bottle of Newman's Own dressing and poured some out for a fine philanthropist and one of the greatest actors in American history.

I didn't pour any on the ground, though. That stuff's way too yummy and oil tends to stain.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pendulum's 'Propane Nightmares' sounds like a tricked-out Final Fantasy fight sequence on acid and might just be my favorite song of 2008

If the last four minutes of this five-minute, 13-second song doesn't motivate you to burn hundreds of calories on a treadmill or award you triple-digit hit points against a Chimera, I don't know what will:

Seriously. Whoa.

UPDATE: I just realized Pendulum's lead singer has a pure energy reminiscent of Information Society's Kurt Harland. I want to know what you're thinking. Tell me what's on your mind.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ranking the theme songs from 'The Wire'

Initially intimidated by the complexity of "The Wire," I finally decided to suck it up and watch its fifth and final season earlier this year. Helping sway my decision was the fact that it would delve into the world of newspapers, which intrigued me as a reporter.

After being blown away what I saw, I immediately stocked my Netflix queue with the first four seasons. A couple of months later, one DVD disc at a time, I'm now finished with the first three episodes of Season 4.

Maybe one day I'll rank my favorite Top 10 "Wire" characters, but that's much harder than I anticipated due to the sheer army of players and likability of so many. But at this point, I do feel like I can properly rank the theme songs of each of the five seasons. All are versions of Tom Waits' "Way Down In The Hole."

5th place: Season 4 (kids from a Baltimore Boys Choir):

Not terrible, but one of these themes has to finish fifth and this one's the least engaging of the five. I find myself fast-forwarding through this version most frequently, possibly because the lead vocalist isn't connecting with the lyrics. Likeliness to fast-forward: 8/10.

4th place: Season 2 (Tom Waits):

Huge jump in quality from Season 4. Obviously, the lyrics connect more here with the original artist, and Waits earns the highest marks for the way he wails every time he sings the song title. But I start to fatigue from his gravelly voice and minimalist style at the 1-minute mark of the 90-second intro. I give him props as a lyricist and I won't reject him outright, but he's definitely one of those critically acclaimed musicians I just don't "get." Likeliness to fast-forward: 4/10.

3rd place: Season 3 (The Neville Brothers):

The pace picks up a bit for Aaron and whatever his brother's name is. Also helping to set the tone are the soulful vocals and an overall vibe that makes me feel like I'm in a smoky Bal'mo jazz club. It loses a bit of steam, however, when the vocals cut out and the sax solo kicks in. Likeliness to fast-forward: 3/10.

2nd place: Season 1 (The Blind Boys of Alabama):

I'm sure a lot of people were upset when they heard this theme would be replaced by another version, albeit the original. It has the best qualities of the two subsequent themes: Tom Waits' brooding and The Neville Brothers' pacing. There's a reason "Wire" actor/director Clarke Johnson hearkened back to this theme for the final season's montage; it in many ways defines the show just as much as its characters, writing and acting. Likeliness to fast-forward: 2/10.

1st place: Season 5 (Steve Earle):

Maybe I'm influenced by how the show gripped me the first time I watched it, or because Earle holds his own playing a recovering drug addict on the show. But even as someone who bristles against anything resembling country music, I most love Earle's take, whose plucky guitar, popping percussion, smooth strings and spoken refrains convinced me to buy the track on iTunes and blast in my car to help me get in touch with my inner Bunk. Likeliness to fast-forward: 1/10.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Buying fake chips for Facebook Texas Hold'Em is wrong in so many ways

So I love me some good ol' Texas Hold'Em, to the point that I was genuinely excited to spot Howard "The Professor" Lederer in person from afar during the World Series of Poker when my buddy Mark and I sojourned to Vegas a few years ago.

I've even befriended a couple of people in the flesh through Facebook's Texas Hold'Em application. I don't play as often as I once did, but it's a good way to maintain some level of skill without going broke. After all, while I covet the application's chips for the purposes of pride, I have nothing to lose other than productivity because they have no monetary value.

Tonight, I figured I'd get in a game before bed. That game never took place because I was so compelled to document the idiotic elements relating to the second-to-last option on the application's menu bar:
Yes, you read that right. "Buy Chips!" Meaning you'd pay real money for chips with no monetary value; for a game that yields no actual cash, no matter how often or many chips you win; for an application that GIVES you chips every time you sign on, albeit a small number of them.

Curious about this monstrosity, I clicked the "Buy Chips!" tab. And this order form popped up:
First came the shock that, with your credit card of choice, you could spend $100 a pop for fake chips that, once again, you could compile at no cost with just a bit of patience. Then there was the realization that the first option is described as a "better value." A better value than what, exactly? Paying $20 to get stabbed in the face with a rusty screwdriver? Not by much.

Upon closer inspection, some fuzzy math made me wonder if the person describing these "values" was ridiculously stupid, incredibly savvy or both:
For $50, you can get 300,000 fake chips -- supposedly the "best value." Mathematically, that's patently false, because with the "super value," you'd get more than twice the number of chips while only paying twice the exorbitant dollar figure.

But then kicked in my cynical side. Since only stupid people would pay money for free, worthless chips, maybe the application salespeople count on buyers who will just accept the "best value" as truth, blindly pay the $50 amount on a regular basis and never realize that they're not getting the best rate.

It's so crazy and evil, it's genius.

Monday, September 01, 2008

'The Simpsons' nails the only thing wrong with 'The Departed'

With the exception of the excellent movie version of "The Simpsons," I don't watch the series much these days. But thanks to Hulu, today I caught a particularly good recent episode, "The Debarted."

It does an outstanding job parodying one of my favorite movies, but it also skewers the only problem I have with the Oscar-winning film:

Thanks to Ralph, we're all learnding (sic).

Here's my favorite random scene from the episode, which for whatever reason I believe my friend Nate Johnson would find particularly amusing: