Mr. Bill George Presents

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

How Do You Rent?

In Film on September 29, 2009 at 2:02 PM

I really feel like re-watching The Mist.

I’m not sure what it is that’s driving me. I saw it when it first came to DVD and it has stuck with me since. Now, Halloween is coming up (or so every store in the mall keeps telling me) and I’m in the mood for something on the scary side. Not to mention, I’ve finally connected the dots and realized that it stars Thomas Jane, the lead of one of my favorite new shows Hung. So I can’t wait to revisit his performance.

So the question becomes: how do I get it?

It isn’t the type of movie I see myself owning and re-watching frequently so I figured I’d rent it. But how should I do that? There’s so many possibilities now. I have my own favorite methods but I’m curious as to how my peers go about this process.

And thus, the following poll:

My issue with buying things outright is that I now limit myself to purchasing only Blu-Rays. So, while I could buy it on the cheap on DVD, I prefer not to continue to build an antiquated library. And Blu-Rays aren’t cheap enough to buy on a whim.

On a different note, it’s sad that all these news stories say Blockbuster and the like are on their way out. Even though my preferred method of rental nowadays is my PS3 and its Playstation Network, I still find myself in Blockbuster at least once a month. Not even necessarily to rent. Everytime I walk through those doors I spend a good hour there. Just wandering. Reminding myself of what’s out. Reading boxes. Seeing if there are any good deals on pre-owned discs. Renting video games.

(Because, let’s face it, Blockbuster is still the best way to rent video games, hands down. Demoes give you just enough to let you know if it’s worth playing more of, but not enough to convince you if it’s worth owning and replaying. That’s where the rental comes in.)

Like I said, I prefer my PS3 now for a number of reasons. The most important one being its convenience. I never need to leave the house. Not to mention leave the house twice. (Once to rent, once to return.) Also, the PSN fulfills my need for high definition. And I’ve always been satisfied with its download speeds, visual and audio fidelity, reliability, playback options etc.

But video stores will always hold a place in my heart. Growing up I used to dream of one day owning my own video store. I’d know everyone in town and make great recommendations and talk movies all day etc etc. But that dream lives on no more, not only for me but for just about everyone. There’s not much to say and not much can be done. Newer methods of rental are undeniably better. It’s just a shame to see such a big part of my/our past fade away.

Others thoughts? Either on the decline of rental outlets or the poll results?

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Yell-O Submarine

In Society on September 27, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Prologue

You know the old saying that your mind is like a steel trap? Have you ever had the pleasure of the ole’ proverbial trap getting rusted shut? Writer’s block. I thought it didn’t exist, merely a shield to hide behind when your writing was as interesting as the latest iteration of the Saw franchise. But I’m here to tell you that it does exist. My hours of staring blankly at assignment after assignment have easily proved its existence to me. Maybe I was uninspired writing fake news articles for a journalism class. So what follows is hopefully a rebirth of mediocre, relatively obvious critics of the world as I see it.

Love,

the_skeptic

Yell-O Submarine

I was already down. I was taking a look at the netbook selection at my local Best Buy when my parents call. They had bought a MacBook Pro (something I had always wanted) for themselves, with a student discount because I (their son) am a student. So, thanks to me, they got what I wanted. At least now when I go home I can pretend that it’s mine. (If I can drown out the chorus of “Where’s right click?” and “so command is control?”.)

After all of this had played out I walked into Barnes and Noble, where I saw it: Glenn Beck’s new book, Arguing with Idiots. http://www.glennbeck.com/content/books/ (the reviews are particularly intriguing.) I began to think…about how anger, argument and (my personal favorite) yelling have taken the place of all logical civil discourse in the world.

Remember in the children’s movie Beethoven, when the dad told the evil scientist that he was going to “kick his butt”? Remember how powerful that outburst of anger made you feel? Do you ever feel like that when you watch Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and any other show that squares off two or more “experts” against each other about issues which the success of our country and well-being are discussed, yell at each other? How could you? They yell about health care, they yell about Obama, they yell about each other yelling about Obama and health care… and don’t get them started about Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran.

How long can this go on? Can people really continue to get their information from such clearly biased, clearly clueless windbags who were chosen for their jobs for their ability to yell rather than reason? Neither side is exempt from this by the way, left or right, blue or red or whatever stupid way you want to say it, everyone’s guilty. (Just so everyone’s clear, I’m not yelling as I type this, or hitting the keys very hard, my temperament would be “inquisitive and vexed” if this was the mood line on my MySpace page.)

George Washington had it right from the beginning. As he was giving his farewell address as the first President of the United States, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) “I’m going to retire now, but before I go, remember these words: this whole political party thing people are talking about, try not to do that, I don’t think it will work very well. Well, see ya later.”

Just remember this kids, if someone is talking about an issue and you don’t agree with them, question them, listen to them, and give them your side. Don’t raise your voice, and don’t use any wild cliché hand gestures either. Your point might just be absorbed instead of redirected toward you in the form of more yelling by the other party. Don’t believe me? Picture a microphone. When you speak with a normal tone into it, it carries your voice to others who can absorb and interpret your words. Now, if you yell into a microphone, the words get distorted, crackly, and if you yell loud enough it might just feedback, at which point the audience will cringe, cover their ears and start yelling back. Then we’re right back to the Cro-Magnon era. Right Glenn?

So TIAW loyalists, how’d I do? This is easily the most I’ve written in months. Give me your feedback…but please, don’t yell.

Odds And Ends #2

In Film, Music, Video Games on September 23, 2009 at 10:28 AM

– Friend of TIAW and frequent commenter, ‘unofficialitguy’ is doing a site revamp over at http://www.unofficialitguy.com/ . Make sure to check it out this Friday, September 25th. When the time rolls around I’ll edit this post with updated details but I wanted to make sure you all were prepped and ready to go. He’s also been added to our links list on the bottom left of this page. Can’t wait to see it!

– The long awaited DS game Sribblenauts came out recently and I picked myself up a copy. It is unbelievably fun at times but can be frustrating at others. As a 5 minute demo to show off for friends, it’s unrivaled. But when you really sit down and starting putting time into it and slog through the hundreds of levels, it starts to wear. Sure, you can create any object you want and use it to help you solve puzzles, but often those objects don’t act the way you expect them to or hope they will.

If I create a construction worker and put him in a backhoe and place the whole thing above a dig-able surface, I expect results! Instead he sits idly by twiddling his virtual thumbs (essentially). In fact, whenever you create any other human characters they either act as a guardian for you, an enemy of you, or neither and just meander around.

The game’s database is a marvel to behold with no stone left unturned, and as an appetizer the game succeeds tremendously, but hopefully this will flourish into a franchise. Maybe then they’ll focus on adding depth to what happens on screen instead of just deepening their glossary.

– Speaking of games, I recently played The Beatles: Rock Band for the first time. I had about an hour and a half with the game and went through 3 or 4 sets with a handful of songs a piece. It is what I expected: a Rock Band game full of Beatles music. But it goes so far above and beyond in terms of detail and presentation that it really blows all other music games out of the water. The amount of effort that must have been poured into this game is palpable in the background videos, loading screens, menus etc. It’s truly a sight to behold, and I’m not even a huge Beatles fan. (Though I am becoming one. It’s so much easier to comprehend just how much they did when you see it all in one place. And it helps when that one place is a video game franchise I already know intimately and love.)

– Steven Soderbergh’s new film The Informant! came out last week and I had the pleasure of seeing it. It tells the unbelievable true story of Mark Whitacre and his work with the FBI as an informant in a price fixing scandal involving one of the biggest companies in the food industry in the early 90’s. Sounds like a snoozer, but Damon’s performance as Whitacre is inspired. It’s a fascinating story that’s told so well that it is nothing short of riveting. Worth a watch for sure.

– I downloaded the song from the new Nano commercial. It’s a good time. You can find it HERE, track number 9, “Bourgeois Shangri-La.”

Selling Out

In Business, Society on September 21, 2009 at 12:29 AM

“Oh, to be employed,” I thought to myself as sat in my bed for nearly three months of this past summer doing absolutely nothing.

Well, absolutely nothing in between the many festivals and shows and Phish concerts I attended with the help of my graduation money.

Cursing my dwindling bank account, but reveling in the freedom of my schedule, I wonder if maybe I am destined to a life of hippie-dom, floating from show to show, bumming off of my parents, and scraping by in life just enough to enjoy myself, but not enough to feel like I am actually contributing to society.

Then I got a job.

For the first week I hold onto my pre-working lifestyle tightly. The night before my first day I stay up late out of protest. I watch Larry King’s senile ass like I had been for the entire summer, even though he is on at 3 a.m. and I need to be up for 8 o’ clock the next morning. The next day I nearly fall asleep during my training, and instead of going to bed earlier that night, I drink double the coffee at work the following day.

I come home for my hour lunch break. And despite my every instinct I blaze with my sister during that hour. I go back to work paranoid, out of it, and just generally dumb, but it’s worth it because I prove to the world that I’m not going to give up my life for a stupid job. I tell myself that, OK, maybe toking isn’t the best course of action when you’re trying to learn two intensive computer programs, but I still smoke two more lunch breaks after that before I finally give it up. Actually, I run out of weed.

A couple more days go by. I find myself making promises to myself that I know I wont keep. I refuse to let my newfound schedule hinder me from working out, and despite my early evening tiredness I still drag ass to the gym and do 50 minutes of cardio (plus weight training) five times a week. I look forward to my post-workout glass of wine (make that two) and a few episodes of me and my mother’s favorite show, In Treatment. Or, depending on the Netflix delivery schedule, I pour that glass of wine and curl up in bed.

I sit down at my computer, “Ah, tonight’s the night I will write that piece about working for This Is A Weblog. Right after I smoke this customary peace pipe for inspiration.”

I get to feelin’ pretty inspired, and at this point I have already drank 2/3rds of the glass of wine, so I decide to play a little Tetris before I write. I wake up with my laptop hot on my thighs. It is 3 a.m. I finish the wine and blink and it’s 8 a.m. I’m awoken not by my alarm clock, but by the sound of me yelling “noooo” at my alarm clock. I tell myself I will go to bed earlier that night, that sometimes we have to compromise our ideal lifestyle for work. That’s why it’s called work.

After a few more weeks of this, my 8 a.m. alarm turns into my 8:17 alarm. My Larry King Live appointment turns into YouTube clips of Charlie Rose; I can watch those at anytime, and besides Larry sucks now. My midday blaze session turns into my nightcap. My bedtime glass of wine turns into the “Can I finish this glass of wine before I pass out?” game. My weekends are no longer for partying, but for catching up on sleep. I start to see the barefoot and free version of myself from the summer slipping away. I wonder what I am becoming.

A month goes by and I get my first paycheck. I grimace when I see the hunk of taxes taken out, but grin when I take another hunk of cash out and put it toward my car savings. I buy a Man Man ticket as soon as it goes onsale without hesitation. I charge $114 on my American Eagle credit card. I even overdraft my checking account just because I want to buy a good bottle of wine. I look at myself in the mirror, adnored with a new blouse, pair of pants and red-stained teeth, and I know that I have become a corporate whore.

Cryptozoologists Unite!

In Science on September 13, 2009 at 12:46 PM

For most of my life, I have generally had my head in the clouds. I can recall many a time where a teacher has called upon me, snapping me back from my alternate reality as a dragon rider that I had just created in my head, to answer some banal question that is much less interesting. This most likely stems from my obsessive reading of science fiction/fantasy books as a youngster and also can said to be attributed to my insistence that mythological beasts either do exist, will exist, or did exist at some time.

The catalyst for this thought process was  an article I read recently reporting that two New Zealanders were trekking to the Gobi desert in search of proof of the Mongolian Death Worm. It has a flashy name I know, but its attributes are even more of an eyebrow raiser.

This fabled worm “is reported to look like the intestine of a cow. It is the subject of a number of extraordinary claims by Mongolian locals—such as the ability of the worm to spew forth sulfuric acid that, on contact, will turn anything it touches yellow and corroded (which would kill a human), and its purported ability to kill at a distance by means of electric discharge (from its arse).” according to Wikipedia. My first thought upon reading this was that this worm would make a badass Pokemon. I mean electricity, poison, AND earth properties? That would make a nice addition to my… er… hypothetical lineup.

Though no matter how much I might wish this creature exists, the reasoning portion of my brain tells me that a worm that shoots acid and lightning probably doesn’t exist, and if it did… well, then God help us all. Yet no matter how much my brain discounts the possibility of this creature’s existence, I find myself rooting for these two journalists to find it. Just as I wish the Loch monster might reveal itself one day and terrorize the local tourists, or that Big Foot would bring to fruition his revenge on the “Messin‘ with Sasquatch” crew for tarnishing his image, or that any of these bogus creatures could have some credibility, aside from crack pot monster-hunters and people like me who just want some mystery added to the world. The worst thing about those documentaries on “The Search for Bigfoot” or the Discovery show “River Monsters” is that if any of these fabled beasts were actually found it would be all over the news, not revealed in some syndicated TV show. Yet despite these facts, we watch anyway. Such is the power of mystique.

Of course, this all leads back to my childhood obsession with dragons. For if Bigfoot can exist, or if a lightning defecating acid vomiting worm can exist, then surely a flying, fire-spitting reptile can, or once did, exist. I must say that the animal mocumentary on dragons that was on Discovery awhile ago really put me in a state of ecstatic glee, though only on the inside. Otherwise my friends may have realized my brain has never matured past my early teen years. I mean is it really so much to ask to have a dragon as a best bud who sounds just like  Sean Connery like in Dragonheart?

But enough about my fascinations with cryptozoology, does anyone out there harbor that mad hope that some of these fabled creatures exist? Perhaps one that is more intriguing than the others? I would say the Loch Ness Monster would be the coolest in my opinion (aside from dragons of course). The idea of some relic hidden in a labyrinth of underwater caves, shying from the human eye is awesome. It’s too awesome to listen to reason. Therefore hope must take over in order to preserve that sense of wonderment that grows increasingly absent as we grow from children to adults.

Statistics, Lies, And Videotape

In Film on September 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM

I’ve always been fascinated with statistics. Especially everyday life statistics. Such as the amount of time every year the average person spends waiting in line. Or the number of times we blink. Or the amount of a certain food we eat. I love when we are able to take a step back from ourselves and view our habits through the prism of cold, hard, truth-telling numbers.

In fact, I wish I had a statistician. I think everyone should have a statistician assigned to them. Just to follow you around and keep track of what you’ve eaten, where you’ve gone, how much time you’ve spent doing something, how many times you’ve worn that outfit, how far you’ve walked, how many times you’ve yawned, how many bathroom visits you’ve made etc. etc.

And, as we all know, the knowledge of being observed changes behavior so the statistician would have to be invisible. Maybe God (if he/she/it exists) is doing just that. And when reach heaven he pulls up an Excel spreadsheet and says, “Alright, let’s take a look at the numbers here…”

But there is one statistic measuring my actions that I think I can recount accurately: Most Watched.

We all have a certain handful of movies that we watch much, much more frequently than others. Sick days, rainy days, you name it. The type movie we feel it is our mission in life to show to anyone who hasn’t seen it. The type of movie we not only know all the words to, but every single sound effect, music cue, cut, angle, facial expression etc.

Because of my affinity for film I have can think of many movies that fall into that category (The Blues Brothers, The ‘Burbs, Apollo 13, Tremors, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, A Few Good Men, almost all of M. Night and Spielberg’s work etc.)

But there is one film I know for fact I’ve spent more time watching than any other:

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I’ve seen it countless times (well it would be counted if I had a damn statistician…).

For a span of two or three years I actually had a New Year’s Eve ritual that involved T2. I was never very big on New Year’s Eve as a holiday or the parties than resulted because of it. And often times I’d just as well stay home, watch the ball drop and hit the hay. But when I was in middle school (I think it was) I made it a habit that every New Year’s Eve, as soon as the ball dropped, I’d pop James Cameron’s masterpiece into my VHS, in order to ensure that the first film I watched of that new year would be non-other than T2.

Alright folks, now I want to hear from you. Shout out your most watched movies in the comments section. I’m really interested to see what kind of mix we get.

Why I Hate Country Music

In Music on September 7, 2009 at 4:38 PM

What kind of music do you like?

In my experience the archetypal answer, at least for everyone around these parts is that they like pretty much everything, except for rap and country. Recently, rap has sort of fallen off that list. So why does country music never make the cut? In a society where people are exposed to, and seem to enjoy more and more types of musical genres it becomes difficult for people to say that they are fans of any type of music, so they simply say everything but country? Poor country.

I think, that in my years of listening, I have stumbled upon the reason why I am not too fond of a lot of country music, and I’m guessing that this might apply to a lot of other people as well. It’s not the excess use of peppy fiddle or the strumming of acoustic guitar, both of those I rank up in the awesome category. It’s certainly not the down home vibe that it gives off, as I’m a fan of folk music and it usually carries with it a similar imagery (albeit usually sans cowboy hats). I think it’s the fact that Country, more than any other genre of music, over-utilizes as type of song that simply doesn’t resonate with me. The story song.

Have you all heard the story song before? It starts off on some rainy night when the singer was a kid, or maybe during a conversation with an auto-mechanic or your dad, you enter into a situation thinking one thing or feeling one thing, and thanks to an odd circumstance, or conversation or a bit of imparted wisdom you’re able to get over your sadness, frustration, being cheated by the car dealer and become better or smarter for it. Blech.

I’m sorry Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Brooks, and Dunn. Story songs are stupid. Really, really stupid. They just don’t hit me at all. They tend to start off on a shaky premise, and end up feeling forced and hokey. There are some notable exceptions to this. The Gambler by Kenny Rogers being the first that comes to mind. The Gambler is a story about a man got some advice from a wise poker player about how to live his life. It’s catchy, and it really, really hits me. It’s a story, but it’s a story from a moment in time. There’s no resolution except that the dude was like “Wow, good advice.” Kenny Rogers was smart enough not to end that song with some rhyming version of happily ever after. He didn’t grow and change and go home and kiss his wife because of what “the gambler” said. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the gambler dies in the song, which is always dramatic. Stuff happens, a story is told, and it’s cool! It’s cool because they leave something up to the imagination.

Look country music writers: When we lend you our ears for two to five minutes we’re not looking for a story. We’re not looking for you to smirk and tell us about the time that you outsmarted your friends. Or learned a lot about life, or how you’ve grown as a person. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I would love to hear how you’ve grown as a person, just not in lyrical form. People tune into music in order to feel something, and 5 minutes is far too short of a time to go through conflict and resolution. Just leave it at conflict. Take the song for what it really is, a moment in time, and just belt out how effing miserable you are. Don’t grow, don’t change, don’t rethink your life. I don’t want that. At least not in your music, and if you’ve got a story to tell, please for the love of all that is musically good, don’t end the story. It doesn’t need an ending.

So I guess that’s why I hate (some) country music. How about everyone else? What makes you hate (insert genre here) type of music?

Actual Blogging: Sept. 4th Edition

In News, Television on September 4, 2009 at 12:39 AM

So it’s late at night and I’m staying the night on a friend’s couch. Currently I’m typing whilst watching Letterman and I felt the need to write a bit. Mostly because the site hasn’t seen a new post in days and it was about time something went up here.

I figured I’d take the time to do some actual blogging and discuss what’s going on this weekend for me because I’m excited about it and technically it’s preventing me from posting anything else.

For any of those who may not know, I live in Western Mass and work at the Apple Store in Holyoke. I’ve recently been given the opportunity to become a ‘mentor’ in the store. Part of this responsibility involved going to Boston for training at our corporate office there. That training occurred earlier today (technically yesterday I suppose) and it was fantastic. I really enjoyed it and took a lot out of it.

Meanwhile, I have today and tomorrow off from work and a friend from New York will be in Boston tonight so I decided to stick around in town and spend some time with my friends, which I see far less than I should.

Tomorrow (technically today) I will have the morning/afternoon to myself in the city (until the friend from NY arrives). So I’ll get a chance to do whatever I want in Boston and I just planned my day.

I’m going to head into the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a great way to spend some time and I’ll be able to do it at my own pace, a luxury I’ve never before experienced. On top of that, there is a showing of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Something I’ve never actually seen but have always had an interest in. I can’t wait. Expect plenty of twitpics.

Then I’ll reconvene with everyone for a night out. So anyway, that’s what’s up.

Have I ever told you my feeling about late night TV by the way? I’m a huge Letterman and Ferguson fan at this point in my life. i used to be a big Conan  advocate, and I still believe he has the best bits, but his interviews are starting to feel canned and he has lost his edge. Meanwhile, Letterman and Ferguson have the most interesting, fun and unpredictable interviews. And Fallon… well… he’s trying. But yea, CBS all the way for me.

That’s all.

UPDATE: Didn’t get a chance to see the movie at the MFA. But the trip in and of itself did not disappoint. And I did end up going to the top of the Prudential and it was amazing. Once I get home and get the pictures up on my MobileMe gallery, you’ll be the first to see ’em.

UPDATE 2: I’ve updated my MobileMe gallery with pictures from the trip. Including a video you can hear me being told to stop taking at the end of. Make sure to check out the stuff from the top of Prudential in particular and the Boston Harbor misprint that I submitted to the fail-blog HERE.