Daylight Savings Time

Time ChangeDaylight Savings Time came and went a few weeks ago and someone brought up my post from last year explaining it and how they found it to be both educational and easy to understand and how I should post it again and so I am. There was no reason to keep that all in one sentence but now it’s there and I like it.

So here it is: Daylight Savings Time explained:

Over this past weekend everyone set their clocks back an hour, a yearly act that always results in confusion, questions and me wondering why I’m tired the next day at five in the afternoon.  Nobody ever seems to understand why we practice Daylight Savings Time so I thought I would clear things up.

In the 1930’s America was in the grips of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, people wore overalls and farmers attempted to eek a living out of the hard dirt of the barren mid-west.  This was a real thing that happened.

The Great Depression

Photo: Typical American Homestead in the 1930's

While pondering this predicament a savvy businessman began to think about the amount of sunlight in the day, when that light was present and how all of this related to the amount of time spent at work.

He came up with a groundbreaking theory:

fifties

Washington was quick to grasp the significance of this breakthrough and was swift to act establishing the National Daylight Preserve in a secret location and immediately seeking out sources of clean viable daylight. After several false starts they finally struck upon a deal with our friendly neighbor to the north…Santa.

That's Right, Bitches

That's Right, Bitches

Santa had been trying to offload all of his surplus daylight for years having long since been convinced by his marketing department that fur and robes were the look for him, not to mention the Elvish labor unions were breaking his back to cut his work week to five days a week. Back then the North Pole received more sunlight than anywhere else on earth and Santa knew that with a normal five day work week he’d never get toys made for all the good girls and boys. So when Uncle Sam came calling they struck a happy deal. Santa could dump excess daylight down south and make each work day last six months. There were some repercussions.

jungle3

All that was left was a way to sneak all this daylight past the shifty eyes of the Canadians who, for some reason, would probably most likely want to steal it. The answer was obvious: the mafia. With bootleggers already sneaking whiskey into they had the perfect infrastructure in place to smuggle whatever the hell they wanted across the Canadian border. Plus some bootleggers had their own reasons for wanting more daylight:

gatsby2

Things went smashingly for almost a decade with the government setting up a movable strategic reserve in a large ceramic container capable of retaining massive amounts of heat, similar to those used to bake clay: the American Reserve Kiln.

Then the forties came along and things went wrong in the only way things ever went wrong in the forties, the  Nazi way. Learning the secret location of the American Reserve Kiln, which was in Egypt for reasons I really don’t think I need to go into, the Nazis sought to dig it up and steal it. And when Nazis are after your American Reserve Kiln, or A.R.K., there really is only one place to turn (I am so very very sorry for that pun):

indiana

It belongs in a museum.

Dr. Indiana Jones chased the Nazis, in possession of the A.R.K., across half the globe from Tunis to Whythefuckareyoustillreadingthisastan before tricking them into opening the A.R.K without proper protection. Yeah. You know what happens at the end when all their faces melt? That’s why you don’t stare directly at an eclipse.

Dr. Jones was successful and returned America’s daylight reserves home and things remained peaceful until the early nineties when the criminal element that had helped to bring the daylight into the country in the first place began to feel like they had gotten a raw deal. They dispatched two of their best men:

pulp_fictionThese two waged an unholy war against southern California, rival mobs and traditional linear storytelling in their search for the current resting place of all our wonderful daylight…that god damned briefcase.

pulp2

They retrieved said briefcase and returned to their criminal boss, but then the T-1000…well I don’t need to bore you with the rest as everyone surely knows how that part of the story goes. But you probably never put two and two together and realized that this is the reason we now disperse our daylight over only half of the year.

Which is why you had an extra hour to get drunk last weekend.

You’re welcome.

5 Products That Should Act More Like Their Commercials

Over the past few years the amount of television that I watch live has dwindled to nearly nothing. A vast majority of my viewing is pre-recorded or on DVD. The result has been a sharp decrease in my exposure to ads.

This changes occasionally when something must be watched live, usually a sporting event, and results in a glut of advertising hitting my brain and me wondering who the hell writes these things and if they’ve ever actually used the products involved.

So here are the top five products that I really wish would act more like the fantastical versions that exist in advertising land.

1. Beer:

We will start with beer, a ubiquitous product whose commercials range from the ludicrous to the absolutely ludicrous.

The standard ad revolves around fun, and how much of it instantly appears when you pop the cap on a bottle of beer. And I agree with this in a generic sense but the kind of fun that gets represented in beer ads is so far from the kind of fun that winds up happening in real life it’s downright shocking. I mean, good times ensue, but it’s like they’re drinking beer in some alternate universe where being drunk means that you get uber-sober and can suddenly play beach volleyball, deliver perfectly timed witticisms to supermodels or pilot a jet-ski like you were born on Planet Watersports.

The people in the ads never seem to think that stealing posters from bus stops, buying an Elite Membership in the Golden Tee Fan Club or walking through the Holland Tunnel are good ideas. All things that actually have occurred amongst the beer drinkers I know.

And that’s only one angle. The other angle beer ads use is the “Look at how distinguished we are,” ploy. These usually involve some silver-haired guy walking around, talking to the camera about how seriously his company takes its malt or something and in the background there are horses, mountains or one of those giant copper vats that are in every beer factory on TV.

Look. You’re beer. You don’t need to do this and nobody is buying it. When I drink your product I wind up passed out at my desk at two in the morning with a half eaten pizza slice on my lap and the Pussycat Dolls Greatest Hits downloading on iTunes. Don’t try and sell me on this “prestigious” crap. And stop with the malt.

The only exceptions here are the Dos Equis ads with The Most Interesting Man in the World.

These are awesome and feature a man who is so cool he has all the adventure the other beer ads promise and yet doesn’t even drink beer, creating a mind-fuck so pure for the viewer that he could then pitch feminine hygiene products and I would buy them.

2. Airlines:

Honestly, this feels like a cheap shot. Do I really even need to say anything? Airline ads show things like people arriving at their destination, unpissed off and on time, with all of their luggage.

Upon actually using an airline none of these things happen. Not even close.

So stop lying and showing me people who are the slightest bit relaxed while they fly. Outside of the sheer terror involved in riding a steel tube ten-thousand feet in the air there’s the added bonus that nothing ever goes remotely the way it’s supposed to causing cascading effects throughout the entire nation if one plane somewhere doesn’t get its windows washed in a timely manner.

As I was once told by the person manning my gate during a day when I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Newark airport, “It’s a delicate system.”

Yeah. No kidding.


3. All Children’s Cereals:

These are essentially beer ads aimed at six-year-olds. The product is poured, rainbows shoot out of people’s eyes and suddenly everyone is rollerblading through an amusement park with a cartoon spirit guide. Also, usually there’s a fuddy-duddy adult who, after the tremendous force of the cereal is unleashed, winds up with their hair messed up and tied to a chair or something allowing unfettered rollerblading to ensue.

All of which, for a six year old, is pretty much the equivalent of attractive people on jet-skis.


What actually happens when you eat children’s cereal? The milk soaks into the product after roughly two spoonfuls and you wind up with a sugary sludge that Calvin couldn’t choke down causing children to think they’re in an amusement park with a cartoon tiger but really they’re just running up and down the hall with a pot on their head.

Actually that’s sort of a draw the more that I think about it.

Maybe I just miss being six.

4. M Night Shyamalan Movies:

Is there an entertainer whose products look more amazing than M Night’s and yet whose products consistently fail at the levels his do?

I’m sold every time. The mood, the color scheme, the notion that something will be weird and terrifying but ultimately illuminating…probably that guy with the voice in all the movie trailers will be in there saying something cool and then there’s a loud noise and the soundtrack goes quiet as the screen goes blank and something is spelled out in huge glorious letters.

Fucking-A yes I want to see that movie!

And then I see them and they’re crap.

Well the recent ones anyway.

And, yes, this applies to basically ninety-eight percent of movies that come out.

Let’s face it, Hollywood is better at creating trailers than they are at creating movies, but M. Night for me will always be the king. There is something very well crafted about his movies that always gets my hopes up. They have a professional look and feel and you sort of get the idea that he is comfortably in the driver’s seat and taking you exactly where he wants to take you, its just that where he wants to take you is boring and pointless. Meanwhile with someone like Bruckheimer’s movies I get the idea that a feces throwing chimp is in the driver’s seat while Bruckheimer is off somewhere rolling around on a giant pile of money.

For good measure, though, I have to throw Tarantino in here as the absolute exception to this rule. Every time I see a trailer for a new Tarantino movie I think, “Good lord that looks freaking moronic. She’s going to ‘kill bill?’ That’s supposed to get my dander up?” And then I see it and it reaffirms my belief that greatness can exist in my lifetime.

5. Scrubbing Bubbles:

This is it for me. Cream of the crop. The big cheese. I love the scrubbing bubbles, making this the only entry on this list where I don’t want the product to act like the commercials because I think the commercials are ridiculous, but because I hold the product in such high regard that I honestly think there’s a chance that these marvelous creatures could one day come screaming out of my spray-can of bathroom cleaner.

Ever since I was a kid the scrubbing bubbles have held me in thrall and little has changed over the past twenty years. The way they sort of look like bubbles but also don’t, the way their “scrubbing parts” look like bad-ass mustaches, the way they go hurtling into a dirty tub, “Ride of the Valkyries” no doubt blasting in their heads, performing a synchronized dance through the tiles that is half-downhill slalom and half-Charge of the Light Brigade and in their wake there is only glisteningly clean porcelain. I love every moment of it.

And that is so freakishly close to what actually happens when using the product it’s stunning. I’m always amazed at how the liquid that comes out of the spray-can magically poofs up into a foam. And the noises…mmmm…the noises. The fizzing bubble-popping wonder that fills my bathroom letting me know my little friends are hard at work is strangely soothing. And the result? Well eighty percent of the time I forget that I was cleaning my bathroom while I give them their recommended two-minute wait and I come back eight hours later having done nothing but spray them and walk away and my tub is remarkably clean for me having done zero work.

My hat is off to you my beloved friends. You complete me.

Honorable Mention:

Axe Body Spray

I’ve never used it, so maybe putting it on really does make vapid sluts follow you around licking their lips, but I’m pretty sure it just makes you smell like Seaside Heights.

Mucinex:

I’ve never used this product either but its commercials are nothing short of fascinating. They consist of these guys:

This society of green mucus blobs are right now in your lungs leading lives of astonishing complexity and depth. The level of writing that has gone into these boogers is ridiculous, there are back-stories and fleshed out secondary characters and they have night clubs and swing dance night and gyms and commutes to office jobs and family strife and then you remember that they are snot and this product is an expectorant and you feel sort of weird.

Every Infomercial Product Ever Made:

Sadly I’ve never ordered anything off of my TV so I couldn’t include these on the proper list, but we’ll finish off with a nod to them as clearly these are the kings of all ads.

Disney World vs New York City

Having spent most of last week in Disney World with my family I found myself a little confused upon returning to New York. I was constantly stepping into lines expecting to see some sort of show or animatronic pirate at the end only to be greeted by people wondering how I take my coffee.

While living in this odd mindset of half Disney, half New York I decided to host a little competition between these two worlds to see which came out on top.

Round 1: Friendly Vermin

Actually I’m going to open this up to all animal performers and not just rats. But we’ll start with the rodents and that puts New York out to an early lead. Our rats have character, grit and verve. Disney’s rat has massive (and I mean massive) kid appeal but really doesn’t do anything entertaining outside of being famous. Mickey Mouse is like Paris Hilton that way. I’ll take New York’s rodents every time. Watching them scamper and play around the third rail has whiled away many a long subway wait for me.

However, when we throw open the net to all animals Disney starts to edge out New York. In Disney World I saw an all-bear band playing a hoedown complete with washboard and jug.

New York’s bear is depressed and on prozac.

Decision: Disney

Summary: They have bears playing jugs in a hoedown. Come on. That’s like eight Simpson’s jokes fully realized.

Round 2: Spontaneous Performances

One of the more remarkable things at Disney World is the number of “spontaneous” events that crop up all around you during a day in the parks. Parades and floor shows and characters dancing, they all start to seem old hat once you’re on your third day of Disney and by day four you get a little miffed if you stop for some french fries and a chipmunk on a unicycle doesn’t instantly appear to entertain you.

That being said, New York City has its own type of floor shows and during my first few moments back in town I walked past a drummer in the subway going absolutely Bonham on some buckets and I began to realize that these worlds weren’t all that different and maybe New York could compete on this front.

So who wins? Disney, as mentioned, does a great job constantly making the world seem like freaking a Hollywood musical with everyone around pouncing on any opportunity that presents itself to sing and dance.

I realize the commitment it takes for you to watch a three minute video while surfing the web is immense but I really have to recommend checking this out. They break dance on a moving subway which is making stops the whole time and their grand finale is to form a human wheel and roll up and down the car slaloming between the poles.

If you’re not going to watch the video then please go ahead and reread that last sentence.

Disney has nothing on these guys.

Decision: New York City

Summary: Seriously? If you still need a summary you obviously haven’t watched the video.

Round 3: International Flair

The above image isn’t quite what I was shooting for but I couldn’t get a picture that nailed Epcot’s World Pavilion so I had to go with the iconic Epcot ball and leave it at that.

See it’s the World Pavilion, with its one hundred and eighty degrees of globe hopping, that I’m pitting against the multi-cultural neighborhoods of New York.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “What could Disney World’s little toy ‘cities’ have that could possibly compete against the diversity of a real live thriving metropolis? One is fake the other is real.”

Well pipe down there, Pepe. I’ve made this argument before and I’ll make it again, partly because I like arguing and partly because I refuse to let anyone out-cynical me. The areas of your cities that you call Chinatown and Little Italy are about as Chinese and Italian as fortune cookies and Chef-Boy-Ardee. Which is to say not at all. It’s all fake. Or at the very least it’s all the original culture sort of mushed up with the local culture and then boiled together over time. Anyone who claims to like “Italian food” and then goes to Italy quickly catches on that there are, in reality, eighty bajillion different types of Italian cuisine from southern to Sicilian to Tuscan to northern and that most of them serve horse. And none of them put olive oil on the table with your bread. And the bread sort of sucks.

One of the wonderful things about culture is how flimsy it is, which makes it a terrific medium for soaking up whatever happens to be around at the time and taking it to heart. My point here is that I’m more than happy to view the fake Epcot worlds as being just as real as Little Italy and Chinatown no matter how un-hip that makes me seem. So take off your Che Guevara t-shirt and shut the fuck up.

That being said the food at Epcot is nothing compared to the food in New York City’s neighborhoods, plus you get a lot more diversity in New York with the additions of Korea and Ethiopia and Nepal and on and on.

On the other hand wandering through twelve cultures in New York would ring up about two-hundred dollars in cab fare while at Disney it’s a nice leisurely stroll that you get drunk during.

Decision: Disney World

Summary: It’s all nuts to me and Disney allows roadies.

Round 4: Rides

The rides are one of the biggest attractions at Disney World, and for good reason. From The Tower of Terror, which is just so very wonderful, to Dumbo, which my 3-year old niece thinks is just so very wonderful, the flying, spinning storytelling trips through time and space in everything from tea cups to train cars tend to make up the bulk of most memories from Disney World. The negative to this is, of course, that everyone else in the park is trying to get on these rides and you can burn a lot of time waiting on lines. Still, it’s a theme park and lines are de rigueur so I can’t take too many points off for that.

Plus you can spend a lot of time waiting for one of New York’s rides, especially if it’s on the cursed orange line. And when you do board your train it usually goes sort of slow and at no point does it suddenly plummet down thirteen stories. So at first blush Disney seems to win here.

However, on New York City subways the people are as much a part of the ride as anything and dear god do I love the people. Crazy or happy, neurotic or asleep, dressed in full-on pimp gear or decked out like a wizard you will see every possible combination of everything if you take a seat on a subway car and keep your eyes open. I’ve gotten countless stories and characters from the nutcases and briefcases that have bounced in and out of my subway rides and just when you think you’ve seen it all you catch a train while a Knicks game is letting out and your car fills up with inebriated lunatics speaking in dialects that have yet to be recorded anywhere. And then someone walks by selling batteries at a very reasonable price. Combine that with a subway going to the boroughs where you break through into daylight for the first time and look back at the city framed in bridges and we have our winner.

Decision: New York City

Summary: People watching never loses its thrill. Also…seriously…why batteries?

Round 5: Soundtracks

I utterly loathe any and all musicals. As a friend of mine who shares this sentiment put it: “If you’re sitting there and the actors break into song and all you do is cringe and think, ‘Oh Jesus god no they’re singing again?!’ You are probably not a fan of musical theater.”

However, I love pretty much all the Disney films. Sneaking songs in via cartoons is downright dirty pool but it works and I’ve been known to sing “Under the Sea” in the shower in an awful Jamaican accent with the best of them.  And while you’re in Disney World you hear all the classics over and over, and over and over. Long after the kids are in bed and you’re having a drink at the bar you still find yourself humming along to “Be Our Guest.” I honestly can’t tell if this is a positive for the strength of impact or a negative.

So while we’re deliberating let’s go to New York. What do we have? Well we’ve got Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” after every Yankee win. We’ve got Billy Joel and his “New York State of Mind” as well as Alicia Keys and Jay-Z with their Empire rejoinder. We’ve got hip-hop and doo-wop and Ella and Louis singing about Autumn in New York. There’s The Beastie Boys and “The Boy From New York City,” Neil Diamond’s “Brooklyn Roads” and Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” Simon and Garfunkel boxed here, Croce didn’t mess with Jim here, AC/DC feels safe here. The Pogues put on a fairy tale while The Ramones rode to Rockaway Beach. There’s jazz and show-tunes, trance and punk, ballads and beats, from uptown girls to downtown where the lights are bright to Bono singing about angels.

And anything that got left out Bruce has covered.

No contest.

Decision: New York City

Summary: I’m not repeating that.

Final Tally

Disney World: 2

New York City: 3

It’s good to be home.

Oh, How I Love Sky Mall

As I mentioned the other day, I was away last weekend on a family vacation. This means that I had to board an airplane. And boarding an airplane means I got to read Sky Mall, the single most ridiculous magazine ever printed anywhere. This is not the first blog to be written about Sky Mall, this won’t be the last blog written about Sky Mall, this is simply the most current blog written about Sky Mall.

If you don’t know what Sky Mall is, it’s a phone order catalog that Continental Airlines provides in the seat-back pouch for you to peruse while you fly. I don’t know anyone who has ever thumbed through it who hasn’t immediately begun mocking it mercilessly. It’s the Washington Generals of the airways.

It’s such a weird mix of odd copy and strange products and horrible presentation that…well here:

No. No, I can’t sleep comfortably in any seat. Clearly this man is capable of dozing off having never received the gift of shame. I also could sleep comfortably anywhere if i didn’t care at all what others thought of my shirt, facial hair or gigantic inflatable turquoise rhombus.

Speaking of facial hair, I dare you to name the last catalog in which you saw a mustache, outside of Mustaches Weekly or something.

And yet…

Alllllll the porn stars get their expense reports done early and then relax for the rest of the flight.

I like this one even thought it’s really not a Sky Mall thing. Technically this is just an odd photo.

This is for people who are worried that their walrus-dogs will muddy up the rug. With their flippers. Because that’s a FREAKING WALRUS-DOG!

Anyway, back to the catalog.

Here are some pajamas:

These are world famous. You know how well the fame of pajamas travels. Granted, footed pj’s aren’t the craziest thing in the world…I guess. If you’re a girl. There’s a certain cuteness to them.

No.

Absolutely no. Just…no. There isn’t a man on the planet who could pull off these hideous things. For girls they were a stretch and, frankly, borderline creepy. On this dude? I mean, Jesus Christ, turn in your testicles and go take a nap with the guy on the giant inflatable trapezoid. And…no.

Sky Mall also has some strange infatuation with products that slip over your head and massage you. There’s this.

And this.

And this.

Yes. You know this is a good product because the model is deep in thought. Most likely about the movie Tron.

That last one, actually, was featured on the same page at this:

I think we should slap the two of those together for a shiny stainless steel radar head helmet thing.

What would it do? I don’t know. It would massage you while you listen through your monocular to the neighbors. Or something.

Look. What it does really isn’t important.

When your customer base is willing to pay money for this…whatever this is. A suicide kit I think:

Or this lawn yeti:

Or this cat planter limousine (I’m sorry but that cat looks like it’s stepping onto the red carpet to me):

You really don’t need to concern yourself with what your products do perse.

You just sell them.

Using hideous models.

Perfect.

The Five Stages of Netflix

A number of my friends have recently taken the plunge and subscribed to NetFlix, a service that’s becoming less and less definable as the sexual tension between my computer and TV continues to mount to the point where they should really just do it already so I can stop pretending  they’re not together. However, I do still love Netflix and I wanted to share the various stages I’ve gone through over the past five years of getting DVD’s mailed to me.

Stage 1) You embrace a whole new world of art and culture:

Upon first signing up for the Netflix service one immediately creates a queue of forty seven bazillion movies that have been on some mental back list for years. Godard, Felini, Kurosawa, other names with vowels. You are suddenly presented with the largest video library ever known to this earth and you become downright giddy in your ability to finally lay your hands on all those old artsy movies that are never on TV and certainly weren’t at your Blockbuster. These are the works of masters, and as a lover of film you will finally round out your viewing history.

Stage 2) You realize you aren’t French:

Two months in and something called 8 1/2 has been sitting on your desk for so long you thought it was a coaster. It occurs to you that being able to say, “Yes, I’ve seen a number of Lean’s works,” is more important to you than actually watching any of these weird old movies where people stare off screen for hours at a time and the sound of a tractor on a potato farm is all that’s heard. Sure, you were glad to finally see Psycho and Cinema Paradiso was cute but for the love of god how many movies dissecting the notion that all actors are prostitutes did you really think you were going to sit through? At least mix in some explosions with your subtle implications that man, at heart, is no more than a machine. You get it. Their life sucks. Your life sucks too which is why you used to like watching movies. Surely you can get better use out of your subscription. Remember all those old comedies and action movies from your childhood that provided so much joy? Why, you can put those on your queue and relive your youth! You cut your losses and finally mail back the movies with names you can’t pronounce that have been sitting on your desk unwatched for months.

Stage 3) Nope, nostalgia sucks too:

God, your taste used to blow. Chevy Chase was only funny in, like, two movies and you already own Vacation. Old Arnold movies are…I mean wow. And Stallone is basically retarded as, quite clearly, were most of the 80’s.

It turns out that basic cable has being treating your childhood pretty well all these years and the stuff worth watching was being played on TNT six times a weekend anyway. Really you weren’t missing anything and re-watching everything else is only serving to bleed the few happy memories from your childhood away. You were better off utterly wrong, but utterly happy, in the notion that Cobra was good. You’ve successfully made yourself feel not only stupid at this point for not embracing cultural art house films, but embarrassed as well for having such shockingly poor taste.

Stage 4) You discover TV and things go horribly wrong:

Movies are boring and long, all the new releases are impossible to get and you’d rather see them in the theaters anyway. Anything worth showing is on some channel or another, most likely on demand, especially since Showtime is so desperate for viewers it constantly throws free months at you. And whatever slips through the cracks Starz picks up. But television shows? Now you’re on to something. They’re bite-size so when you have three discs sitting on your desk you don’t feel like some horrible obstacle is slowly being built tiny red envelope by tiny red envelope. And TV has become a groundbreaking art form. Over the past decade the shows on the air have moved from half hour plots structured around a jingle to truly great storytelling. Suddenly you’ve got the cultural feel you joined Netflix to get and it’s divvied up into smaller, bite-size pieces.

But you don’t realize the slippery slope you’ve stepped onto. The dramas are only forty minutes long without commercials and the comedies? Those are like eight minutes. It seems like this makes it easier to watch only a little and move on but once you hit that play button everything bleeds together. Episodes into discs into seasons and TV was not made to be watched like this. How many freaking bad days can one CTU agent have? It never stops! The surreal disjointed plots from your early French movie days are looked back upon with nostalgia as eight seasons of mafia character arcs get condensed into one month. What was supposed to be a few slow paced mob hits strung out over a decade is now fourteen murders crammed into one Sunday. And then you start watching Lost…and you are forever gone. Because Lost at the speed of NetFlix is like a Nyquil dream and you stay up late nights wondering if that hatch and that hydrogen bomb are really from the same show.

5) You give up and start watching cartoons:

Seriously. I’m done. And now they’re putting stuff online now so the very needed delay that used to be inserted by the United States Postal Service is vanishing. I watched The Shield straight through, all seven seasons. From early November till a few weeks ago all I ingested through my television concerned Vic Mackey and his horribly depressing spiral into oblivion. I can’t remember anymore if LA is a real city or not.

I have something called The Last Airbender heading my way in the mail. It was written for twelve year olds.

It sounds perfect.

I can’t handle any more art.

My Guide to Spending the Holidays in New York

I have lived on the island of Manhattan for ten years now and every year there is a massive influx of tourists and visitors and merry-makers during the holidays.  People come for many reasons and to enjoy a wide variety of activities and so I’ve decided to put together some of my thoughts in order to help out all these weary pilgrims who make the journey to my fair city.

1.  STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE TREE:

Seriously.  Please. It’s a tree.  Yes it’s actually quite pretty and yes it’s very large but you don’t understand what you’re doing when you go visit the stupid thing. The foot traffic around Rockefeller Center creates a chain reaction that snarls traffic up in all directions. I don’t want a bus ride across the park to take two hours just because you want to see some lights.

Look.  Here is the location of the tree:

tree-location

Now here is my estimation of the area that becomes affected by congestion due to tree traffic:

tree-traffic

Please don’t go near the tree. I’m sick of telling my cab drivers to take the long way through Nicaragua to avoid traffic when I’m trying to get across town.

 

2. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM CHINATOWN:

Chinatown isn’t known for it’s fast moving foot traffic under the best of circumstances but during this time of year it becomes another thing entirely. Somehow all of humanity stopping and pointing at the little shops that sell weird toys and disgusting fruits manages to bend time or something so that I seriously think the foot traffic actually starts to move backwards. And if you’re in a car just forget about it.

You think I’m kidding?

Here is a shot of Chinatown in June:

Chinatown Dialogue

Just try to imagine it when it’s crowded with holiday traffic. Occasionally I like to go there and get dumplings with family this time of year. Off limits.

 

3. STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM ANYWHERE I MIGHT WANT TO GO DRINKING:

There is a bar in Murray Hill called Rolf’s. This is what Rolf’s looks like (this was taken with my phone so sorry for the quality):

rolfs

You’re waiting for a punchline, aren’t you?

There isn’t one. Rolf’s is its own punchline. Around the holidays the owners go completely out of their minds and put up more decorations than, to be honest, the actual tree probably has. Rolf’s is known far and wide as the bar where Christmas goes to projectile vomit then die.

You may go to Rolf’s. The heat from the lights and the general creepiness of the dolls they hang up make it hard to last more than two beers there during the holidays.

Oh. Here are some of the dolls:

rolfs-dolls

One year some of the dolls had mustaches.

Maybe lasting two beers would be stretching it.

Feel free to crowd into this place as, even if I do go there, I won’t be staying long.

Otherwise the rest of the bars are off limits.

 

 

4. NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, JUST STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM NEW YORK ENTIRELY:

Honestly. It’s closed or something. And they built a wall around the tree this year. Here look:

tree-wall

It’s bedlam.

Stay away.

If you want to you can gaze at this picture of the tree. That should satisfy:

the-tree

It really is pretty, isn’t it? And when you catch a glimpse of it as you turn the corner and look down that long alley of evergreens and statues and then walk in close to where the skating rink is and smell the chestnut vendors…

God damn it.

Okay. You can come to see the tree.

Just, you know, try and keep it down while you’re here.

 

 

 

5 Television Crossover Events I Want to See

I’ve been watching a ton of The Shield recently and Michael Chiklis’ hard knocks style of street-level crime prevention and upper-level corruption creation got me thinking about who was going to step up from amongst the cast to challenge him.  I’m only on Season One, so no spoilers please, but right now he’s got the run of the kingdom with no contenders in sight.

There really was only one person that came to mind that I’d want to send in after him…and that thought led to five  other television mash-ups that I think the world needs.

So starting at number one we’ve got:

1. The Shield meets 24

mackey-bauer

Though let’s be honest, this isn’t The Shield meets 24. It’s Jack Bauer meets Vic Mackey.  It’s the perfect face off of the two toughest, gray area, not afraid to get dirty cops. And yes, Bauer isn’t so much anti-crime as he is anti-terrorist…but I don’t think it’s too big of a leap to imagine Mackey starting to import some tactical nukes or something in order to keep a case together where he nails an even bigger importer of tactical nukes. Or he could accidentally shoot Bauer’s cousin while trying to plant some evidence. I’m not picky and Mackey is accident prone, so there’s plenty of ways to write it out so that the twelfth worst day of Jack Bauer’s life revolves around another day on the streets for Vic Mackey.

Just picture it. There’d be so much skull busting taking place there would be busted skulls all up in your television’s junk.

Skulls!

Busted!!!

2. The Wire meets The Sopranos

wire-sopranos

I’ll be honest. At first I wanted Vic Mackey to investigate The Sopranos. And then maybe he could drop in on NYPD Blue, and then hit up Dexter and then bounce over to Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader to round things off. As I mentioned, I’ve been watching a lot of The Shield lately and the notion of Mackey going after the mob seemed like a winner.

But then I started thinking about The Sopranos’ style, their slower paced storytelling, their long arcs and their building of tension as well as their low-key and very out of the headlines approach to crime and I knew The Shield wasn’t the right choice. The Wire was. And McNulty, Freeman, Kia and Presbo could build one hell of a case against The First Family of New Jersey. Wiretaps and informants would abound along with tons of brooding looks at the camera and a handy helping of  dark, dark humor.

And then, as an homage to both series, the final episode would end with a tender look back at how far we’ve come in the city we love as well as a confusing as shit scene in a diner that resolves nothing.

3. Gray’s Anatomy meets A Flaming School Bus Going Off A Cliff

grays-bus

Yeah, I don’t have all the pieces of this one worked out yet. There could be like an emergency or something…or maybe a field trip. And then the whole cast gets on a bus and then it explodes while going off a cliff. Or something. I guess that’s sort of like Gray’s Anatomy meets Mythbusters?

Works for me.

I don’t like Gray’s Anatomy.

4. The Office meets Mad Men

office-mad-men-2

Back in the day, The Office was a perfect send up of middle management, office politics and English people. It’s long since strayed from its roots and gotten a bit slap-sticky for my taste, but I still think sticking these two groups of suits into the same room would be a surefire success. And if anyone is in need of some serious help with their image, it’s the Dunder Mifflin paper company. But the plot obviously isn’t the point, the point is combining the super smooth veneer of Sterling Cooper with the sweet-spot satire of The Office in order to create some sort of veneered sweet spot. It would be unstoppable. Not to mention you have some perfect match ups, which any crossover hit needs. Don Draper pitching ideas to Dwight and Jim? Sterling and Cooper mixing it up at lunch with Michael Scott? Everyone sleeping together while drunk?

Trust me here. It’s perfect.

5. Lost meets Spongebob Squarepants

spongelost

They both take place in the tropics.

They both contain a colorful cast of characters.

I have no idea what the fuck is going on in either of them.

Yahtzee.

Let me paint you a picture: one of the characters wanders into a forest where they encounter a magical bear eating some seaweed, only it turns out that this bear is the ghost of their friend and they need to sing to it so that the ocean can sleep.

That could seriously be an episode in either one of these shows. As they are. Right now.

Let’s just pile them together and get it over with. All hail Spongelost.

And maybe Patrick can get it on with Kate for sweeps week.

I’d tune in.

YouTube B4 YouTube…LOMFG

Everyone knows what YouTube is. It’s a device that allows absurdly crappy videos to be made by people who shouldn’t be making videos. Then people watch them.  Like this:

Great isn’t it? Believe me, I know how this winds up happening seeing as how I, also, have a stupid video on YouTube.

But here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t realize. Crap like this was getting made loooong before YouTube and today I’ve decided to visit with some of my favorite internet videos that, in fact, were created with nary an internet in mind. That’s right, all of the following videos were made simply for the sake of making something really awful.  Not surprisingly a lot of them date from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

We’ll start with a video that is probably going to wind up in my e-mail inbox any day now.  Since the holidays are right around the corner it’s inevitable that one of my friends will get the hankering to view everyone’s favorite holiday related catastrophe, The Star Wars Holiday Special. If you don’t know what that is…consider yourself lucky. Basically, after the success of the original Star Wars movie, George Lucas decided to shit all over his creation and the end result was a television special that’s a cross between a variety show and every nightmare you’ve ever had.  By the end I’m not sure anyone actually took credit for what aired.

How bad is it? Well the clip I’ve chosen to post here is of Bea Arthur as an intergalactic bartender singing a drinking song in a cantina on Tatooine. Now, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is, “Yes, there is also a song sung by Carrie Fisher as well as, like, ten minutes where there is nothing on screen but wookies barking at each other.”

While we’re on the subject of my childhood being torn apart, let’s visit with a certain set of robotic cats that could turn into a single giant that carried a sword or something.  Everyone’s favorite…Voltron! You remember Voltron, right? I think there was a tiger maybe? No? That was He-Man? Well, whatever, all I know is I used to love Voltron as a kid. Then one day a few years ago I decided to revisit it. Never do that. I was shocked to learn that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, made the slightest bit of god damned sense in Voltron. From a purely technical standpoint I’m not really sure why you’d take five different vehicles that could fire lasers and turn them into one very large, clunky, vehicle that only had a sword. But really what shocked me was just how utterly crappy everything about this show really was, from the production to the story to the voice-overs. I mean, I know it was a kid’s cartoon and all, but why does everything from the 80’s have to be so awful? I should never have gone back to this. In my memory banks Voltron was the awesomeness equivalent of Terminator 2  and Braveheart mating in a never-ending sea of bacon. Turns out I might have been remembering it wrong just a teensie bit. Now I’ll never have that Voltron back.

All I have left is the phrase, “And I’ll form the head!” Which I can thankfully still scream at a handful of people in my life and get a chuckle now and then.

While we’re on the subject of things from the 80’s, let’s visit with another classic. What do you think of when I say the phrases, “Self-help video,” and, “Ridiculous amounts of gold chains?” That’s right, Mr. T! This video actually went crazy-viral a few years ago, or at least the “Treat Your Mother Right,” song from the full-length motivational Mr. T video went viral. Which is a shame in my mind as there were so many other deserving moments from this…whatever this is. The opening alone deserves just as much attention.

Truthfully I don’t care to make fun of this one too much. Partly because Mr. T still scares me, partly because it mocks itself simply by existing, but mostly because, if you pop over to minute 3:33, you’ll see a very earnest and sincere Mr. T detailing what sort of self-help tips for kids he’s going to be giving over the course of this video. And, honestly? He comes across as very likable and genuine…if not horribly, horribly off target. Of course if you watch the first segment on “Shyness” things get a little creepy as, so far as I can tell, Mr. T’s main message is for kids to act like dicks to anyone who gets in their way. Seriously, go to minute 4:30. That’s the “shy” girl. The director isn’t listening to her so she bites his head off and then gives a stirring monologue directly to the camera before all but flipping off the director and then storming off-stage. Watch Mr. T grin a big moron grin at her as she leaves. Moving. And I know I’ll never be shy again.

To end things off we’ll visit with something that wasn’t made in the 80’s. Like I said, crap just seems to get made, regardless of time or internet access. The following is an actual movie. From the Philippines. About a male, gay hairdresser who transforms into a female superhero whenever he swallows a giant pink rock and says some magic words.  Now, this is based on a comic book that’s supposed to actually be pretty good, but I have to imagine the tone of the comic book is slightly more…un-retarded than the tone of the movie version. Either that or the Philippines is just the craziest place on earth and I really need to give it a visit.

Actually the more I watch that one the more I kind of want to see it with subtitles.

What are they arguing about while that giant frog approaches?

Things They Sell at My Bodega

Every few blocks in Manhattan you will come across a little store with an awning out front and a wide array of products inside. We call them bodegas…I have no idea why. Boston, apparently, uses that term as well while the mid-west uses “party store” or “corner store.” Taiwan is flooded with 7-11’s while in New Zealand you might hit up the “dairy” for smokes at four in the morning.

Here is my bodega (technically I have three in my area that I cycle through but they all look much like this):

bodega

Two points here.  First, these things aren’t giant mega-marts with tons of shelf space, they’re little stores which makes this next point so amazing to me, mainly that the ones in New York stock some really fucking weird shit.

We’ll start with what is, hands down, the most astonishing part of my local bodega: the lunch buffet.

Wings and potatoesOmm nom nom!

Not every bodega has one of these but a large number do and I have never, at any moment in my life, understood this. Who eats this stuff? More importantly, who cooks this stuff? I should point out that of the three bodegas in my area this array of victuals is found in the tiniest one. And it’s not a small buffet either.  Here, look:

Steam TableThat’s not a mirror at the end there, that’s more fucking steam trays. This is a crazy number of different foods.  They have a seafood section for the love of all that’s holy! How does a corner store sell this many different dishes *by the pound* at a lunch buffet? And why this stuff? I’ve been to plenty of buffets in my lifetime. Not a single one of them has had deviled eggs:

eggsNot to mention deviled eggs floating in what appears to be salsa.

Now, for all I know this is the single greatest meal to be found on the entire island of Manhattan. This could be a culinary trip through worlds of flavors and tastes the likes of which I’ve never experienced. But I’ll never know ’cause I ain’t eating it. Not a cliff I’m looking to dive off of anytime soon.

The good news is that you can wash down your deviled eggs with coconut water:

Coconut WaterI’ve actually heard of this product…sort of…I think. But it’s a cooking item, not a beverage, and that really doesn’t matter because I can’t find this crap in my local supermarket so why is a place that has one-fourteenth the refrigerator space stocking it?

Here’s a fun one:

Duraflame

I’ll repeat. I live in New York. Who is using these? I think I’ve seen one fireplace in my ten years of living in New York and it was sealed shut with bricks and had a TV sitting in it.

I have no idea what this is:

Menora PolishThe price tag should give you some indication of how big the box is, which is not very big at all.  It certainly does not hold the elaborate stainless steel menorah pictured on the cover. My best guess is menorah polish.You know, because the holidays are just around the corner.

The following is a picture of a bottle of white vinegar from a major brand. This is neither rare nor weird, I’d just never noticed how fucking stupid their slogan is:

vinegar

“The Natural Choice For Food?” As opposed to what? That’s horrible. “Vinegar: It’s the obvious choice for things that you eat.”

Now, let’s say it’s three in the morning and you find yourself ravenously hungry. You don’t want to order in a full meal because you have a few ingredients on hand that you want to get rid of, things like a sack full of toast points, a jar of sour cream and a bottle of champagne. Where do you go? Why, you go to my bodega…because they sell caviar:

caviershot

Oh, my caviar has a first name, it’s K-V-L-A-D-A-T-V-I-A. And my caviar has a last name, it’s S-V-O-R-I-S-T-K-R-Y-P-T-N-I-A…

We’ll end with what has to be the strangest product I’ve ever seen in my life. Technically I think this was actually being used by one of the people working at my bodega and wasn’t for sale, per se, but I don’t care. The point here is that this product is being made somewhere by someone and is then being purchased by someone somewhere else for use.

Tired of your dull, boring leaves?

Leaf Shine

You know it’s good because it’s from Holland.

Daylight Savings Time Explained

Time ChangeOver this past weekend everyone set their clocks back an hour, a yearly act that always results in confusion, questions and me wondering why I’m tired the next day at five in the afternoon.  Nobody ever seems to understand why we practice Daylight Savings Time so I thought I would clear things up.

In the 1930’s America was in the grips of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, people wore overalls and farmers attempted to eek a living out of the hard dirt of the barren mid-west.  This was a real thing that happened.

The Great Depression

Photo: Typical American Homestead in the 1930's

While pondering this predicament a savvy businessman began to think about the amount of sunlight in the day, when that light was present and how all of this related to the amount of time spent at work.

He came up with a groundbreaking theory:

fifties

Washington was quick to grasp the significance of this breakthrough and was swift to act establishing the National Daylight Preserve in a secret location and immediately seeking out sources of clean viable daylight. After several false starts they finally struck upon a deal with our friendly neighbor to the north…Santa.

That's Right, Bitches

That's Right, Bitches

Santa had been trying to offload all of his surplus daylight for years having long since been convinced by his marketing department that fur and robes were the look for him, not to mention the Elvish labor unions were breaking his back to cut his work week to five days a week. Back then the North Pole received more sunlight than anywhere else on earth and Santa knew that with a normal five day work week he’d never get toys made for all the good girls and boys. So when Uncle Sam came calling they struck a happy deal. Santa could dump excess daylight down south and make each work day last six months. There were some repercussions.

jungle3

All that was left was a way to sneak all this daylight past the shifty eyes of the Canadians who, for some reason, would probably most likely want to steal it. The answer was obvious: the mafia. With bootleggers already sneaking whiskey into they had the perfect infrastructure in place to smuggle whatever the hell they wanted across the Canadian border. Plus some bootleggers had their own reasons for wanting more daylight:

gatsby2

Things went smashingly for almost a decade with the government setting up a movable strategic reserve in a large ceramic container capable of retaining massive amounts of heat, similar to those used to bake clay: the American Reserve Kiln.

Then the forties came along and things went wrong in the only way things ever went wrong in the forties, the  Nazi way. Learning the secret location of the American Reserve Kiln, which was in Egypt for reasons I really don’t think I need to go into, the Nazis sought to dig it up and steal it. And when Nazis are after your American Reserve Kiln, or A.R.K., there really is only one place to turn (I am so very very sorry for that pun):

indiana

It belongs in a museum.

Dr. Indiana Jones chased the Nazis, in possession of the A.R.K., across half the globe from Tunis to Whythefuckareyoustillreadingthisastan before tricking them into opening the A.R.K without proper protection. Yeah. You know what happens at the end when all their faces melt? That’s why you don’t stare directly at an eclipse.

Dr. Jones was successful and returned America’s daylight reserves home and things remained peaceful until the early nineties when the criminal element that had helped to bring the daylight into the country in the first place began to feel like they had gotten a raw deal. They dispatched two of their best men:

pulp_fictionThese two waged an unholy war against southern California, rival mobs and traditional linear storytelling in their search for the current resting place of all our wonderful daylight…that god damned briefcase.

pulp2

They retrieved said briefcase and returned to their criminal boss, but then the T-1000…well I don’t need to bore you with the rest as everyone surely knows how that part of the story goes. But you probably never put two and two together and realized that this is the reason we now disperse our daylight over only half of the year.

Which is why you had an extra hour to get drunk last weekend.

You’re welcome.