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much the funny

As an early April's Fool gag, NBC has put together some comical "The More You Know" public service announcements starring the cast of the fantastic sitcom, The Office. Even better, they are all in character which I think is a great meta joke about how the series is premised as a documentary. They are beautifully faux serious and range from self-important to completely casual to very ernest about the mundane. Its a great send-up of the "The More You Know" spots and well worth a viewing.

So, go watch them.

Yeah, that's all I've got.


for all the numismatists in the house

Since I accidentally knocked over the used film container holding them, I had an opportunity to take account of my 50-State Quarters collection. Something I do with feverish anticipation about once every 18 months or so.

See, the program was supposed to inspire a new era of coin collecting, and it kind of did. But only kind of. Mostly, it just inspired a lot of people like me who kinda wanted a full collection, but we're really that invested into doing much for it. So after a couple years of being on the look-out for new quarters, I know think of it every once and a while and scramble to locate quarters I know I once had but don't seem to have right now. Usually, this coincides with whenever I decide to roll my extra quarters because frankly I don't really care that much.

I appear to be missing Arkansas, Minnesota, and Kansas. I know I had Arkansas and Minnesota at some point, but I apparently never bothered to set one aside. I'm actually also missing Florida, but I'm pretty sure I have that at work after doing this about a year ago and going through a friends coins at work. Never bothered to bring it home, though.

Part of the problem is that, well, the designs kinda suck. They are either horribly boring nature scenes (Like Oregon and West Virginia) or insanely busy as they cram far too much into the quarter. (Like Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina)

I know the purpose of the program is to offer local color to the quarters, so I'll excuse Vermont's need to enshrine maple syrup production or but some of them are still kinda weird. Like Alabama honoring Helen Keller. Hey, I don't have a problem with her, but is she really all Alabama has? Well, maybe. Ditto Delaware championing of and Iowa putting a freakin' school house on a quarter seem pretty weak.

Also entertaining are the similiarities in the various states. Kansas for instance went with a buffalo for their design. A dumb idea given the buffalo's association with the nickel, but there you are. It really sucked for the good state of North Dakota though, as their design also incorporates the buffalo. One assumes out of spite for Kansas getting there first, though, ND slipped in 2 buffalo. Ohio is also a total design whore as they swiped elements from TWO other states that had a better claim on them. Rather than celebrate anything from Ohio, they opted to celebrate people born in Ohio who did important things elsewhere. Namely, the Wright Brothers first flight in North Carolina and Florida's part in the space program.

Some of the best designs were early designs. Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania all had nice, simple designs that did their job. And kudos to New Jersey for honoring a genuinely important historical event with the crossing of the Delaware.

Two designs, though, stand out as the best to date. Texas is my favorite by far. It takes the elements of MA, NY, and PA (state outline with little added) and refines it. Where the other states all included a human form on their design, which while understandable isn't very strong visually in the small size, Texas went with a simple Texas lone-star. Its a very strong visual, augmented well with a lariat design around the sides. This is easily my favorite design to date. The runner-up for me is my home state of Connecticut. While the Charter Oak ran the risk of being too local for anyone to care, it was very well suited for the Quarter. It makes for a nice, clean visual that still has tons of detail and interest. It only loses points because the story of the Charter Oak is a bit too distant (predating the Revolution by almost 100 years) even though the whole story is pretty fun. The lights going out and something turning up missing is such a cliche, its actually quite gratifying to know it did once happen with something quite important.

The worst design, though, goes to the darn fools of New Hampshire who saw fit to honor a natural landmark, the Old Man in the Mountain. Fair enough. Even if a rock formation that sorta looked like a person in profile didn't seem really important, plenty of others followed suit with nature scenes with less dynamic results. The real problem, though, is that rock formation was known at the time to be unstable. Indeed, they'd known this for about 100 years. Over that 100 years, they repeatedly tried to prevent its impending demise, patching cracks and adding support. Yet, they saw fit to use such a precarious visual as their lasting State Quarter symbol. In less than 3 years after the quarter was released, the rock formation completely collpased. Not quite the symbol of a state's permianance that I'd see fit for a Quarter, but there you are.


seriously, 7 people

I'm really amazed by how many people I'm seeing with "A Million Little Pieces" on the train. Just in the last day I've seen 7 people with the book. Seven! Isn't that a bit much for a book that was just widely discredited and whose author was exposed as a shameless liar who is passing off his fanciful and self-absorbed re-scripting of his life as an actual memoir. I mean, I'm definitely a writer who shamefully writes about myself, but I always come up with fictional dopplegangers even when its blatently my life. I guess the author, James Frey, tried that but no one waned to buy it, so he changed it to be his life story.

But this all came tumbling down when The Smoking Gun ran a story showing him to be a fraud. They went out doing what they always do and tried to dig up a mug shot of Frey, who's "memoir" is chock full of arrests and trouble with the law. They found one, but came up suspiciously empty at many of his supposed arrest sites. A little digging later, and they realize every major event in the book was badly rearranged from what actually. Most disturbing was taking a tragic car accident that occured while he was in high school and casting himself in a starring role as the misunderstood victim. To appropriate someone's very real tragedy for such a craven purpose really strikes me as disgusting.

So why on EARTH are people still reading him? Honestly. He's a liar. He's basically been forced to admit that now that the truth is all out. I do not get it.


happy holidays!

So, it was getting closer and closer to XMas, and I had yet to do anything about cards. I always hate buying cards so I usually try to make something myself. Made some really nifty cards last year, actually. But, I didn't have the time to put into that this year, so I tried to think outside the box. (Not many people know this, but I'm actually confined to a box, so that phrase has a different meaning for me.)

(that joke is in no way meant to disparage people who are confined to boxes)

(that disclaimer was in no way meant to disparage people who get upset about people making jokes about people confined to boxes. Moving on...)

So, I thought I'd release my inner star and tape a video holiday card. Which is precisely what I did. Nothing too special, just with some of my perhaps unsuccessful attempts at humor. If you'd care to view it, you can visit here.

You can also download the file directly here.

I almost created an alternative video with a director's commentary track because I thought that would be hilarious, but better sense prevailed. There can be a fine line between genuinely pompous and mockingly pompous.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my humble efforts. If not, well, screw you. Oh, and happy holidays!


the new dick clark

So, I'm watching the latest edition of televised crack, VH1's I Love the 80's: 3D, and am really taken aback by Chuck Woolery. The guy seriously doesn't look like he's aged since The Love Connection back in the 80's. Admitedly, I first new him as the host of the Scrabble game show back in the day. What can I say, The Love Connection wasn't quite my thing when I was 8.

Back then, he looked like he was in his early 40's, which he was. But now he's like 64 but could easily pass for early 40's. I wonder if when he was younger, he always looked a little older. Some people seem to be like that. They just always look a certain age, both before and after that certain age. From the pics I can find, that may well be the case. Heck, when he was in his early 30's he was playing an elderly mailman on the New Zoo Revue. That almost makes me want to get the DVD.


funny thing happened on the way to work...

I was hit by a car today.

Okay, that sounds more dramatic than it actually was, but its also completely accurate. I debated writing about this on my semi-fictionalized blog that I haven't told you about but most of you have probably figured out anyway (especially my stalkers), but its too good of a story to fictionalize it even if I need to write something over there.

I was walking across a crosswalk next to a train station. Suffice to say, this is a busy crosswalk. I look both ways and see a car a good distance away, traveling slowly. He has plenty of time to stop and, well, its the law, so I assume he will be doing so. I start crossing while checking traffic in the other direction which has quite dutifully stopped. At this point I realize that the car in my lane is still proceeding to come at me. And is showing no signs of being interested in stopping.

This is a moment where is is very difficult to plot out your next action. I'm close to walking out of his path anyway, but at this point, it may not do me any good. Sure enough, after trying to move out of the way, the car knocks into me as the driver finally bothered to notice me and hit his breaks. I fell into his hood, though my feet stayed on the ground. My hand and thigh stung, but thankfully I was basically okay.

At this point, I'm kind of in shock. I actually was hit by a car once before, but then I was admitedly taking a bit more a risk. It also only grazed me. Here I was crossing a busy crosswalk over a not especially busy street and a slow moving car hits me because the driver was dangerously not paying attention.

The driver, to his limited credit, begins apologizing. Now, I'm not sure if you've ever been hit by a car due to the careless actions of a driver, but it would seem that "sorry" doesn't cut it. Not that I think anything he could have said would have made my sentiment any better, mind you. I'm just saying that when you were just hit by a car, you don't much care if the driver is now sorry.

I was running late for work and could quickly tell I wasn't seriously injured. So, although I wanted to get the guy arrested, I settled for cussing him out on the street. Not that I had all that much to offer beyond "what the hell?" and "what the fuck?" and variations there on, but it was a little cathartic, anyway. Still, I was shaking the entire train ride into work. Nearly getting killed kind of leaves you wound up. I swear, crossing the street should not be such a death sport in and around Boston, but there you are. I'm a really good pedestrian, too. I nearly never jaywalk. Always look both ways. I'm just not shy about expecting drivers to obey the law and yeild for me. I'm also not inclined to offer expressiond of gratitude for doing so. Sorry, but I see no reason to wave thanks at drivers for obeying the law. I still do it sometimes out of reflex, but that's not something I should have to do. It isn't rude to not wave thanks at a driver like that. What are you thanking them for? Not breaking the law and killing you? Sorry, but I think that's a fair expectation of people. If I thanked everyone who declined to murder me, that'd pretty much take up my entire day.

Anyway, that's my hit by a car story. See you all next month.


break free!

So, around Boston I've been seeing a lot of transit billboards and posters promoting something called "Fusion Flash Concerts". The posts are meant to be very counter-culture with the image of a bar-code with the bars stretched out evoking the sense of a jail break. The posters seem to suggest a series of free concerts but doesn't provide any dates or locations. This didn't entirely surprise me, though, as "Flash Concert" immediately reminded me of "Flash Mobs" where the location and time isn't announced until the last minute before the protest. So, these posters seem to be promoting something very underground and new.

Actually, I think they are just telling us that flash mobs are now solidly passe.

We had our first inkling when they were featured on Law & Order, a bell weather for all things mainstreamed. Still, these concerts are definate confirmation. While the posters are designed to look very low cost, they really look like they were designed to look very low cost. Instead of achieving their goal, they just make it obvious. There is a diagonal print error at the top of the signs that's too obviously there. The bar code logo is too cliche and too well designed. Its clearly professional work. All of the copy is haphazard in the way it looks when you are trying to be haphazard.

Of course, most obvious is that this is clearly a major advertising campaign. The posters and billboards are all over the subway system. I've bought subway ads so I know they aren't cheap. This campaign must cost tens of thousands of dollars at least. Something underground and anarchistic like the original flash mobs wouldn't have billboards in subway stations. It takes about 2 seconds to see through the artiface to the fakeness within. Simply put, it screams viral marketing. Oh, the corporate sponser was smart enough to not put their name on the poster, but that's clearly what's going on here.

Sure enough, their website (and no, I'm not linking to them) reveals it to be the work of the Sony Corporation. A simple Google search informs me that Ford is also a corporate partner. Its not like I was into flash-mobbing to begin with, so I'm not really offended by this. Corporations do what they feel they need to do to make money, so whatever. This is essentially harmless. But I do find it generally amusing to see Ford and Sony playing pretend anarachists. There is a lot of viral marketing going around, and while its intriguing, I have to wonder how much it really is going to work in the long run. Maybe, all you get it is a short-term bounce and in the long-run you've sacked the credability of the tools you used. Just more corporations trying to brand themselves as anti-corporate. I just don't see the long-term benefit there.


turning you off

Well, since I stunningly have readers all of a sudden, I guess I should try posting again. And what better to turn people away than Steroids in baseball. I'm an avid watcher of ESPN's block of sports talk shows in the early evening, "Around the Horn" and "Pardon the Interuption". Both programs have been consumed with talking about Rafeal Palmero's recent suspension from baseball for a positive steroids test. I've got to tell you, the indignation rings alarmingly hallow to me.

The attention baseball is getting for its steroids problem is frankly a joke. The biggest secret everyone knows in sports is that steroids are rampent in nearly every sport. Baseball is hardly even the worst offender. Track and football both have it easily beat. They do a better PR job about it, yes. They've convinced everyone in the press to not talk about how dirty their sports are, but that doesn't change anything. Steroids is a huge part of pro-football. Its a huge part of college football. Its a huge part of high school football. We have to take our heads of the sand if we really want to talk about this issue. The problem isn't just baseball. Its much much bigger, and if people are serious about doing something, they need to admit that. But I suspect people aren't serious about doing something. They just don't want to think about, so as long as a sport is pretending its doing a good job with the problem, everyone just looks the other way. There is no reason to gang up on baseball in the face of the serious problem throughout the country from high school on up.

peter jennings signs off

Just want to quickly offer my respects to the late Peter Jennings. Though I am not one of those guys who gets their news from The Daily Show, growing up I was always an ABC News guy. Jennings always conveyed a sense of dignity and honesty that I very much enjoyed. He's since proven himself a very good sport and extremely well-spoken when not reading the news. I've always really admired Jennings and its a shock to lose him. In a lot of ways, Peter Jennings will always be my anchor, just as earlier generations will always think of Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow.


phoenix rising

Picked up a new copy of the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix yesturday. They've been slowly building to a revamped design over the last few months and its finally debuted this week. Actually, most of the talk of the redesign took place in rival alt-weekly, the Weekly Dig. I don't mind the Dig, but their obsession with the Phoenix is laughable to say the least. I know they are an upstart in the alt-weekly business and it makes sense to take pot shots at those ahead of you. But it also just reinforces the view of you as an also-ran.

I like that Boston has 2 alt-weeklies. For the uninitiated, those are non-mainstream papers publishing once a week. Well, duh on the last part. They are pretty common in big cities around the country. Often there are small chains of alt-weeklies in a small regional area. Phoenix covers Boston, Providence, and Portland, Maine for instance. The Advocate in New Haven has 3 other weeklies in the Connecticut area.

These papers are increasingly being challenged by free dailies, like the Metro in Boston and other cities in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. These papers style themselves as commuter papers, hiring people to shove them into the hands of people about to enter a subway station and with newsboxes strategically located near train and bus stops. The Metro, at least, is little more than a bunch of abridged newswire stories with very little in the way of depth or context. Its designed to be a quick read so you're done in the 20-30 minutes you're on the train. Being free and litterally thrown at people, its been fairly easy to pick up readership.

The alt-weeklies aren't overly scared, though. The Metro is more of a challenge to papers like the Herald or the Globe. Still, the Phoenix saw a need to shift its appearance to make it easier to be read on the train so they moved to a tabloid style similiar to the Dig and the Metro. The whole brand was updated, as well, with new logo, fonts, and generally new layout throughout the paper. I'd have to say I'm cautiously optimistic.

I really like the new logo. I'm often a fan of elongated lettering and close leading. I could live without the combining of the o and e in their name. Seems overly Roman, but that was probably the point. I do like that the vowels are done in lower case but sized equal to the uppercase letters. Creates an interesting dynamic, especially with the dot on the i floating above. The best thing, though, is the way the letters are all cut off at the feet. Not so high that the letters get distorted but not too low that you don't notice it. It gives the impression of a rising phoenix which I find quiet visually effective.

The fonts I also like. They seem very modern but not self-consciously so. The general layout, I could do without. It does seem too self-conscious. Like its trying to be hip and trying too hard. But it doesn't sink the paper.

No major shift in content though some tweakers here and there. A "by the numbers" feature that seems a little overdone at this point, but okay. The cover article didn't seem local enough, but it did have a reasonably solid local angle so I guess I can't complain too much. Its a story about Domino's founder Tom Monaghan and his crusade to save Catholics from themselves. I can only assume he wants to screw up Jesus the same way he screwed up pizza. He wants to build a gated Catholic community in Florida to keep out all the bad influences. He attacks Catholic education, by which I must assume he means the Jesuits who educated me, for not being sufficiently orthodox. His ideas are frightening, but lack an immediacy to be really worried about. I also can't stop thinking about how bizarre it is that Domino's became so successful making such awful pizza. I'm a bit of a pizza snob, I admit. You get that way growing up around New Haven. But I'm not so elitist that I can't see something to like about some of the Pizza chains. They all sacrafice a lot of charm in favor of uniformity, but most of them still have their good qualities. Papa Gino's is almost quite good. Papa John's makes a respectible pie. I still have a guilty pleasure for Pizza Hut and have always found their sit-down restaurants to be fondly nostalgic. But I just can't even eat Dominos. Its inedible to me. I don't understand it. Maybe its because I'm not Catholic.

Another article in the Phoenix kind of amuse me. Departing media critic Dan Kennedy does a pretty by the numbers story about right-wing hate of Hillary Clinton. Its just too obvious for what I've come to expect from Kennedy. He does mention that there are plenty of people who don't hate her, but he just dwells on those that do. The whole gist of it is that the Democrats cannot afford to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2008 because too many people hate her. I know that's the conventional wisdom. Why write a story? The thing is, the CW has looked weaker and weaker as of late. The poll numbers seriously undermine that talking point, and while its true people will loudly condemn her if she's nominated (and even if she's not), isn't it fair to say this will happen to anyone the Democrat's nominate? Swift Boat Liars, anyone? Indeed, Clinton might actually benefit from it as a result of attack fatigue. Its been done before. And with the latest attacks falling into total libel that Clinton may well sue over, sympathy could fall to Hillary. Yes, a segment will hate her with a passion, but more will like her. Frequently, the article compared hatred of Hillary to left-wing hate for Richard Nixon. I guess because we liberals all really hate Nixon so we'd see the gravity of the situation. I saw something else.

Last time I checked, Nixon won two elections for President. Just saying.


our local forecast

So, weird thing I noticed on the Weather Channel this morning. This disembodied voice for the "Local on the 8's" has changed his routine slightly. He used to introduce the segment with "Here is your local forecast." A bit unnecessary, I always thought, but to the point.

Now, suddenly, I find he is refering to it as our local forecast. "Here is our local forecast," he patronizingly entones at the start of the segment. A subtle yet jarring change. This kinda bothers me. I mean, he's clearly lying. Disembodied voice isn't from here. He's a disembodied voice, for goodness sake. But now, suddenly, he's going to be chummy with everyone in the country. Was there really a great yearning to feel closer to the disembodied voice on the Weather Channel? To feel like he was really a part of our lives, just a regular guy from the neighborhood? Who does he think he is? I know darn well this is my local forecast, not the disembodied voice's local forecast. Frankly, it bothers me to be lied to so brazenly. It seems rather demeaning, really. I was quite fine with him being a disembodied voice. I don't see the need to pretend he's a disembodied voice from Eastern Massachusetts.

Still not the weirdest thing I've ever heard from the Weather Channel's disembodied voice. That would be when he calmly announced the my local condition was "Smoke". It was true and all, it just seemed rather surreal to discover this from the Weather Channel. I wouldn't have thought of "Smoke" as a weather condition. Much less a weather condition with a pre-recorded announcement and graphic from the Weather Channel. I know wild-fires are common out west so I shouldn't have been surprised, but still. When you wake up and disembodied voice is announcing that "Currently, the weather is smoke," it just seems weird.


the sound of my own voice

Had a nice little thrill at work (of all places) this weekend. I work for a performing arts group and I moderated a discussion that took place prior to the concert from the stage of our performing hall. I regularly do public speaking as part of my job, but usually just introducing people and always in smallish room. Speaking from the stage of a grand concert hall, though, was a definate trip. Especially since I had something significant to do.

If I may say so, I think I did pretty well. With very little preparation either, which only enhances the thrill. I spoke off the cuff with a minimum of hesitation and pause and moving swiftly from one speaker to the next as I moderated. I really should have found a career in public speaking as it rather much suits me.

The funny thing is that one-on-one work situations I can often be very socially insecure and withdrawn. Not enough to seriously hamper me, or anything, but my introverted personality can definetly come into play. I seem basically at ease, but I tend not to be very assertive in the process. To a crowd, though, I think everything comes across just right. Its definetly a hidden talent of mine. I just hope that others felt I did well. Especially if they say so to important people where I work.

Can't hurt, after all.


movies and stuff

So, its Oscar time again. I feel bad because I haven't seen many of the nominated films, even the ones I've been wanting to see. I saw Eternal Sunshine, which I can safely say was robbed in several categories of a deserved nomination. Not the least of which being Jim Carey who offered the performance of his career. A lot of blockbuster actors just rest on their paychecks and don't worry about Oscar recognition, but here is a guy who is genuinely out there looking for interesting and different films, trying to prove himself as an actor, and he just gets no credit. He easily outacted Kate Winslet (no small feat) in that film, and its a shame that she got a nod while he remains unacknowledged.

I also just saw The Aviator and was appropriately impressed. Its not Scorese's best, but its definetly one of his better films. Its a grand ol' spectacle and DiCaprio puts in a wonderfully nuances performance. He really communicates Hughes' decent into insanity and his wildly divergant personalities in a coherant way. It all felt like it was coming from the same place, which was a nice achievement.

Basically, that's it. I did manage to spoil myself for Million Dollar Baby just because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I had no interest in seeing it given what I knew about it, so no harm. I get the fuss, but it also makes me suspect that the film could have been manipulative of the response it would elicit. Indeed, I wonder if the contraversy is creating a circling of the wagons as Hollywood rushes to protect the film by honoring. [editing note: to be clear, I do not think the film was made to manipulate contraversy, but rather that the marketing and specifically Oscar marketing seems so; at least judging from how often people in the industry keep bringing it up as a reason to vote for it] I want to see Sideways, don't really care about Finding Neverland (when I read about how much basic factual information was tossed to create a more pleasing story, I lost a lot of interest; didn't like Monster for similiar reasons)

I guess I'm not really looking forward to the awards as much as I think I have in other years. Mostly I'm dreading the inevitable award to the fat-baiting documentary "Super Size Me" which is just a total pile of BS. It takes a lot to be unfair to McDonald's, but I guess some MTV producer managed to find a way. All while duping people into think he's some sort of sainted martyr and not the lying carny he really is. [note: and let me just thank the Academy for proving my concerns wrong]

Other than that, I did get to watch the first season of The Office and loved it. Really excellent, funny show. At least I thought so.


is this because i'm a lesbian?

Really bizarre end to Law & Order tonight. It was ADA Serena Southerlyn's last episode and right at the end she was fired. I kinda figured she'd be quitting given the tension they allowed to slowly build this season for her character, but they went the other route and it worked too. Not at all surprising given that she blew up to her boss earlier in the episode. It was punctuated by a really bizarre penultimate line for Southerlyn.

"Is this because I'm a lesbian?"

Just out of the blue, like its something we all know. Of course, its not. There isn't a bit of backstory to justify this. None. Fans are already nit-picking everything but without much luck. Some reason to suspect, but nothing too serious. Nothing that plenty of gay friendly folks wouldn't think or say. It just struck me as rather bizarre, that's all.

Is that because I'm a lesbian?