Monday, December 22, 2008

Bailout

It's not just the Big 3 that are doing shitty.

Wine Review Experiment

There is a gray area when it comes to wine, that place between 12-18 dollars where you’re not sure if you’re buying swill or getting entry level world-class wine. This Gewurztraminer, for 17 bucks, is where you start to taste what real wine is supposed to be like. It’s complex, balanced, goes well with food, and doesn’t kill your bank account. It’s versatile enough to serve with a multitude of foods and it still packs enough punch to sip on its own. You’ll be shocked by how well this wine can stand up to the heartiest of foods because it has weight--similar to that of cheap cough medicine. I’ve had this wine many times in many situations and every time it’s been just right (you could say that 60% of the time, it works every time). What gets me is the range of very dry to very fruit forward flavors you will encounter. Obvious on the nose: wet rocks, citrus, a hint of white pepper, maybe some grassyness. On the palate are wonderful mineral qualities balanced with good lemon-lime citrus notes. The flavors go beyond that, but you should be convinced by this point that you're drinking good wine. Can it sit in your cellar and age? I have no idea. I feel like this is ready now and should be enjoyed as often as possible. If you’re a red wine snob and are put off by white wines, I think this Gewurztraminer is the crazy Frenchie that will reel you in.

Buy it here or search for it online or at your local wine shop

Cheers.

Details:
2005
Chateau d'Orschwihr Gewurztraminer Bollenberg
Alsace, France
Estimated retail: $17-19 USD

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Three Hour Tour


When I was growing up, my older brother had taped on VHS a couple of Gilligan's Island marathons. I had every single episode on a VHS cassette. I watched that tape so often that it began to warp from overuse. I had memorized the commercials that ran between episodes. I would wake up on a Saturday, fire up the VCR, and watch the same episodes, over and over again.

It was in watching GI that I learned how to deal with sadness. The earliest episodes were expository. You saw each of the castaways accept the reality that they were stranded. The life that they had once known was now a ghost that would serve as a constant, haunting reminder that they were stuck, isolated, and helpless.

Gilligan would prove to be the foil in every improbable rescue scenario, and that would become the punchline of every episode. In the beginning, however, it was an unfortunate tragedy. To this day, I watch the pilot episode with an irrational hope that somehow Gilligan will get his shit together. I believe this has been defined as insanity by some psychologists, but as a youngster, those feelings were real. I still believed that life was fair. I believed that hope can change things. I was naive enough to think that there was such a thing as wishes-come-true.

I empathised with the seven castaways. I felt a faux-sophistication in having the ability to absorb all of the emotional fire-power of the first 3 episodes of Gilligan's Island. While that sounds utterly ridiculous, you have to develop your emotional intelligence somewhere, and I was part of a generation that was raised in front of a television. I have trouble making it through the black and white episodes of GI. I don't think they are funny. I watch them and get filled with melancholy. They don't make me cry, but they drum up feelings that I don't like feeling. I can't talk about this anymore.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

BCS


Dear BCS:

If you're going to deny undefeated Boise State a BCS Bowl Game and let a 2-loss Ohio State team go to the Fiesta Bowl, then you need to stop using the word "championship." Ohio State's fan base is what earned them the spot in that game, not their performance on the field. If you're going to refuse Boise State a BCS game after a resounding undefeated season, then you should put large, profitable teams into one division, and the small, mid-major teams into another. There is blatant hypocrisy in keeping teams in the same division if they have no chance to prove themselves as champions.

The bowl system is a relic. It was originated to promote tourism to warm-climate cities during winter months. Bowl games were not created to solve the problem of picking a champion.

If you're not going to change the current system, then stop lying to me. Stop telling me that I'm watching football teams win championships. I think I watched two bowl games last year. This year I'll watch one. If there were a playoff, I'd watch every game. I'm tired of the BCS, and I want a playoff.

Signed,

Me

Friday, December 5, 2008

Things Have Changed

Jon Favreau was better in Swingers.

Remember, every single thing you do from here on out is public information because of the internet and social media. Be careful with those digital cameras, kids.

YouTube Dreams

After reading Mark Cuban's take on YouTube, I began to think of other forms of digital phenomena that captured my imagination, only to be ruined by corporate interference. It's not the corporations fault. People were spreading around content that was owned without compensating the owners. The life cycle goes something like this: some college kid creates some kick ass application, then a few million people use it, then we start to see a bunch of awesome, creative ideas distributed to millions of people that otherwise would never have seen them, and then big media companies try to cash in, then the site goes to shit. I remember Napster, don't you? MySpace, Facebook, YouTube. They're all going down. What seems to be too good to be true usually is. But hey, they were fun while they lasted.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greed / Black Friday


By now I'm sure you've heard that a person was trampled to death on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, during a pre-dawn stampede at a New York area Wal-Mart. What I bet you didn't know was that the guy was 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed 270 pounds. He sounds more like an offensive lineman than a Wal-Mart employee, so you know that the crowds must have been fierce.

I don't know exactly who is to blame for this. Advertisers get paid to encourage shoppers to take advantage of the massive markdowns, and it was their marketing efforts, in combination with the lagging economy, that resulted in a mad early morning dash to find discounted goods. It was unchecked greed, however, that turned a free for all shopping spree into catastrophe.

There was a time when I would laugh at modern consumerism. Often times I would participate myself with a number of ill-advised purchases, only to regret them later. I can't help it now when I go to the mall and think about the mentality of the shoppers. Walking up and down the mall corridors there will be shoppers living beyond their means, selfish shoppers, shoppers desperately trying to find values, shoppers who can't afford what they want, what they need. Now, I have to worry about the lengths these shoppers will go to in order to save an additional 15%.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to Work

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. You know what sucks? Going back to work after a long holiday weekend. The degree to which your first day back will suck is determined by the attitudes of your co-workers. Everyone shows up with a different outlook on the day. Some lines that you're going to hear a thousand times today with my snooty remarks below (stuff I'd never actually say, but stuff that's going through my head):

"I wish I were still on vacation!!!"
I wish you were still on vacation, too.

"I need a vacation!"
I see what you're doing here. You're being ironic because you just had a vacation, and here you are saying you need one. Clever.

"Don't you remember? We talked about it on Wednesday."
No, I don't remember. Please lower your expectations of me immediately.

"I really don't eat turkey."
Is that so? Are you also a communist? Everyone eats turkey on Thanksgiving, and you're not special if you don't.

"Oh Gosh, I must have gained ten pounds!"
Get out of town! You mean you stuffed your face for 5 days straight and you experienced weight gain?

Also, get ready to rehash your weekend, step by step, with everyone you talk to, even people you don't know. I've got a pre-packaged line ready: "Oh, you know, the usual, lots of food, lots of football. Saw some old friends, which was nice. What about you?"

Mondays are lame. Mondays after a long weekend are worse.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgivacism

Just because I'm Mexican doesn't mean I eat beans, rice, and tacos on Thanksgiving. I've been asked on more than one occasion if my family prepares Mexican food instead of the traditional turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. My mother prepares the standard American meal every year, and she does it well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Adam Sandler & a Top 10 List


Today is the day you will begin hearing Adam Sandler's seasonal favorites on repeat. You will know intimately his feelings on the traditional holiday food, as well as some of his Jewish heroes. You will never underscore the nuance of growing up Jewish, because Sandler lays it all out for you. His free-form singing style may seem kitchy and cute, but soon it will be seared into your cerebral cortex and you will curse Adam Sandler. To ease the blow, here is a list of songs that I recommend to brighten up your holiday season (a top 10):

Alvin and the Chipmunks, "Hurry Christmas"
Brenda Lee, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree"
Chuck Berry, "Run, Rudolph, Run"
Dean Martin, "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!"
Elvis, "Blue Christmas"
Gary Hoey, "Carol of the Bells"
Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad"
Paul McCartney, "A Wonderful Christmas Time"
Run DMC, "Christmas in Hollace"
Wham, "Last Christmas"

Too early for Christmas songs? Never.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ba-con

You're going to be hard pressed in life to come across a culinary situation in which "cover it in bacon" is the wrong course of action. I still haven't decided if this is one of them.

Also, bacon is one of those words that if you say it like 20 times it ceases to seem like an actual word.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rant


I had a pretty good day today. Only one thing pissed me off. I went to Costco where two people, obviously together, entered the store and stopped right in the middle of the entrance, blocking the path of any other customers trying to enter the store. I was one of the customers trying to enter the store. I threw out a quiet, "excuse me," but they didn't hear it. I figured that saying it again would be useless, because surely they'd realize the error of their ways and move the fuck out of my way. I waited about 5-7 seconds. The whole ordeal took up about 25 seconds of my day, but it was by far the most frustrating thing I had to deal with. There are two ways I can go from here. I can either be happy that this mundane episode was the worst part of my day, or I can focus on how inconsiderate we've become as Americans. A night's sleep will erase this from my memory, but for now, on this evening, I'm going to focus on the total lack of civic responsibility that was exhibited by my fellow Costco shoppers. I call them fellow shoppers because we live in a society. We live in a world that has to be shared with millions of people. I'm waiting for a change in consciousness in the general public. I want people to consider humanity first. I want people to believe that this world does not revolve around their individual circumstances. There is a give and take involved in this life. Life does not stop and start at your convenience...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pirates?

Really?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Wonder...

What do you tell a casual acquaintance the day before surgery?

Good luck! - implies that there's luck involved
Hope everything goes well! - why wouldn't it?
I'm praying for you - sounds too dire
You'll be fine - oh, so you're a doctor now?
Well, if you need anything... - now is not the time for bullshit

I've run out of options. I'm going to stick with, "see you when you get back."

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Words 2

Compton Vs. Seattle


I would argue that Dr. Dre had as much, if not more, influence in the 1990's as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I'd have a hard time convincing anyone that anything on The Chronic or Doggystyle matches the musical might of anything on Nevermind or In Utero, or anything on the Unplugged album, for that matter. Three years elapsed between the release of Nevermind and Cobain's death. Over those 3 years, Nirvana redifined Rock & Roll, killed 80's big-hair bands, and invented the "grunge" consciousness. They sold millions of records and achieved international notoriety. Grunge, as a movement, was short lived. As it became more popular, it quickly transformed into a parody of itself. Towards the end of the 1990's, grunge was obscured by the popularity of rap-infused metal, the new incarnation of pop groups, and, largely, by hip-hop. Hip-hop music outpaced the growth of grunge rock and never looked back. The godfather of 1990's hip hop is Dr. Dre.

Dre invented the "gangsta rap" lexicon as a member of N.W.A. and introduced it to the mainstream, especially to suburban whites, with the release of 1992's The Chronic. Its questionable language became commonplace on the radio, television, and, most importantly, in the schoolyard. A generation of consumers grew up using terms like "bitch" and "ho" and "chronic" and "biatch." Whether you think this language is a detriment to society or not, you can not deny the saturation it reached in the 90's. The ground Dr. Dre broke, lyrically, in The Chronic, as well as with Doggystyle (as producer), became a blueprint for future rappers. Taunting enemies, celebrating excess, "repping" your hometown, and overt sexuality was the formula invented on The Chronic and reinforced by Doggystyle. In 1999, Dr. Dre released an album that would prove to be the full realization of what he had done 7 years earlier. 2001, the album, cemented Dr. Dre's reputation as one of the finest producers in popular music.

Kurt Cobain was an icon. A generation of disaffected youth were thirsty for representation, and they found it in the downtrodden and humble front-man of the stripped-down rock band from the pacific northwest. The significance of his suicide can not be underscored when considering Nirvana's legacy. There is a tendency to judge the band by a trajectory based on what they accomplished in the 3 years between the release of Nevermind and the day Kurt Cobain took his life (which was quite a lot). Culturally, much of what was considered "grunge" faded away once Nirvana no longer released albums. The guitars got lower and louder, the singing became yelling, and once again, image become important again and Rock Stars emerged (Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, etc.)

In an industry that moves in cycles and waves, Dr. Dre never seemed to fade away. The movement he created became much more than that. Hip-hop grew and multiplied and took many different shapes. In a similar fashion, Rock & Roll metamorphosed after the death of "grunge." What distinguishes Compton from Seattle is that the "grunge" movement was a musical and cultural gold rush--eventually, the rivers and creeks dried up and fans were left wanting. They moved on, got tattooed and pierced, and started listening to Linkin Park. And what happened to hip-hop? The rappers became movie stars, publishers, clothing designers, and entrepreneurs. Rappers became the mavens of pop culture. Even seen an episode of Cribs?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Burn


For those of you unaware, southern California is on fire. I was speaking to a friend in Chicago last night who mentioned that he was seeing snow flurries--not quite snow, but enough speckles in the air to know that snow is on the way. It's like that, but it's not snow, it's ash. I live in Santa Monica, a good 40 miles from the nearest fire, yet, standing outside of my apartment, I can see ash falling from the sky like snowflakes. I can smell the burning in the air. The sky is gray, there's an orange hue tinting the daylight, and scent is toxic. Lives have been lost, over 20,000 acres have burned, and hundreds of homes are gone. As of right now, we're at about 30% containment of the three fires raging through southern California's Santa Barbara, Sylmar, and Orange County areas. The heat and the strong, dry winds causing a near perfect storm for large fires. It's happened many times before, and seems to be a seasonal reality here in California. It happens so often that, unfortunately, I've become desensitized to the damage being done. Local news stations air horrific moving pictures and close-ups of individual homes burning. I can't help but try to image what it would be like to see my home burning to the ground. Or my parents house burning to the ground. The place where I grew up, the place where my parents spent their lives paying for, not to mention all of the possessions inside the home. My heart goes out to these people. The few people left who can actually afford their homes, displaced, helpless, watching their American dream reduced to dust. It's heartbreaking, particularly in the context of the current economy. And still I don't think this is affecting me the way it should be. I don't know anyone who's had their house burn down. I don't have any buddies from high school or college that are out there fighting the fires. All I feel is a slight guilt that I'm carrying on pretty much as usual, and all I can think about are the little inconveniences these fires cause me: need to wash car, keep windows shut, pick up some Visine, check to see if the freeways are closed, and on and on, blah blah blah, etc. Not enough empathy, but what could I do, really, that could help? Not much, I think.

[This is the dialogue going on in my head, and it seems a little pointless.]

The devastation unfolding makes it easy for me to not give a shit about Bond making over $70MM, Brock Lesnar beating Randy Couture, and all the other news (GM/WaMu/Obama/etc.). I'm trying to keep my mind off the fires, but it's hard when every breath seems to include ash and smoke. My throat hurts, my eyes are itching, and it's scary looking outside. I'm praying (I'm Catholic) that people are safe, and that seems to be the best course of action.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Coffee


The kitchen in my office has two ways of making coffee: one is to brew a full bag of coffee using a Starbucks-provided coffee maker, and the other uses one-serving sized cups that you insert into a machine that shoots hot water through it and gives you a convenient single cup of coffee without having to make a full pot. The problem with the latter is the quality of coffee, which is poor at best. Everyone drinks the actual brewed coffee first, and it's usually gone by 11AM.

So the other day I'm yawning and feel the need for a jolt of caffeine. I walk to the kitchen and see, naturally, that the preferred coffee is gone. I then prepare one of the shitty cups of coffee and begin the unsatisfied walk back to my desk. Walking into the kitchen as I leave is an important executive. When I'm about 15 feet from the kitchen, I hear, "thanks for leaving me a cup you [expletive deleted]."

Here's the deal: I didn't drink the last cup, but this person has no way of knowing I didn't. I'm a pretty recognizable person (because I'm huge). This situation is now a pockmark on my reputation with this executive. For about 3 hours after this went down, I debated whether I should go talk to this person and let them know that I didn't drink the last cup. I was prepared to apologize for not brewing a new pot. The guilt and nervousness ate away at me for the rest of the day. It's been about a week now since it happened. I'm sure things have cooled down, but I still get an uneasy feeling from this person. I've waited too long and there's nothing I can do.

Quickie


If you're going to play Asshole (the drinking game, you perverts) this weekend, here's a rule suggestion:

If you're the Asshole three hands in a row, the President gets to make a phonecall to any phone number saved in your cell phone.

You're welcome.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quote of the Day



“Google is the answer to the problem we didn’t have. It doesn’t tell you what’s interesting or what’s important. There’s still more in the library than there is on Google.”

-Malcolm Gladwell

Monday, November 10, 2008

I retract my previous statement.


I take back everything I said about iPhones, but only if you use this.

Focus

Dear Concentration,

What the hell, bro?

Best,


Michael

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Why we're losing.


GM & Ford need to get their shit together and innovate instead of whining about providing healthcare to their unionized employees.

Ever feel like this?


I find myself adjusting my problems to fit the tools that I have at my disposal, when it should be the other way around.

In related news, I will never buy an iPhone or a Blackberry.

To begin with, talking on your cell phone in public makes you look like a douche, no matter how important the phone call is. Bluetooth technology only magnifies this.

Do not expect me to have my cell phone on me at all times. Even if I have my cell phone handy, do not expect me to answer your call. I'm not anti-cell phones, I just don't like this imposed social norm that I need to be reachable at all times. If you accidentally forget your cell phone at home when you leave the house, you shouldn't feel like an idiot, even though most of us do. I don't like that.

I don't ever want to be in a situation where work melds into my personal life. I have work hours and can be reached during those hours.

Most of all, the gift of gab is diminishing. The art of conversation is becoming less important. We have far too many filters, barriers. I'm a shy introvert, so all of these digital devices actually suit me, but I'm looking to rise above that limitation. Over the course of a regular work day, I see a mass of individuals in our cars, in our own worlds. I get to the office and I'm overloaded with emails, faxes, forms, and photocopies. I drive home and I see the same faces, worn out and beaten down by the monotony of our mcjobs. I struggle to find the humanity in all of this. I try my best not to see an unread email in my inbox, but an actual person sitting on the other end of the internet, typing that email. I try to identify with the concerns of their job. I try to understand that they have bosses, procedure, bureaucracy that they have to deal with just like I do. All of the technology is a test--are you able to see a person there, or do you just see some widget that needs to be dealt with? iPhones fuck with my head because it reduces everything you need to process into a handy little 3 inch screen. I'm tired of that. I'm tired of staring at a fucking monitor all day.

So, how does a person that uses Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, blogs, etc. reconcile with all this? Besides a willingness to swallow a bit of hypocrisy, I do my best to achieve balance. I'm trying to live an actual life instead of simulating one online. Right now I'm in the middle of trying to achieve that balance, and my fear is that an iPhone would tip the scales the other way.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gray


I have 2 gray hairs. Both are long.

If you know me, you know that I have the body of a 30 year old heavyset man, but the face of a 'tween. This freaks people out, especially blackjack dealers. They can't figure me out. My state issued driver's license only makes matters worse. It must be fake. "Why does this (soon to be) 28 year old look like Baby Huey," they say.

My youthful glow is something I embrace, but the gray hairs might undermine my plan to pretend that I'm still in college. I wonder what caused them. Was it a specific moment in my life? Was it a specific time period? I've worked a couple of crappy hollywood assistant jobs, which would be the obvious culprit. Perhaps they are the result of a decade of neuroses. Perhaps I should pay attention the irony of worrying about what caused my gray hairs.

(no words)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not so fast, my friends...

Obama won. I cried a few times. Waiting in line and voting was a profound experience. I wanted to hug the black guy standing behind me in line just because. I was proud. Even though my dad isn't black, he's a Mexican immigrant, and I can't help but think he's especially happy to be an American. I'm excited for all of the young minorities out there who now live in a country without frontiers. They can now be whatever they want to be because someone went out and proved it can be done.

President-Elect Obama makes me want to be a better citizen. Like many of the red-staters, I have concerns about the next four years and the immense challenges we face as a nation. What gives me hope is the fact that Obama has mobilized the youth of this country. They came out in record numbers to campaign for him, and they're still energized. Let's get together and volunteer, donate, rally, fight, serve, give, teach, tutor, and sacrifice. This is a call to action. We wanted him and we got him. Let's not fuck this up.

Monday, October 20, 2008

We Must Protect this House


I found this intriguing. Under Amour is getting into the rugby business by becoming the official outfitter of the Wales national rugby team. This brilliant move pits UA head to head against other global monsters like Nike and Adidas. I'm also optimistic about the flipside--that in partnering with a largely American company, international rugby as a whole is making an attempt to truly go global (by stirring up interest in the US). This is the latest in a string of events that suggest that rugby is becoming a true international sport.

A lot of buzz has been generated regarding including Argentina in the Tri-Nations tournament. While this is an incredibly important step, the more ambitious plan would be to create an Americas tournament including the USA and Canada. The talent level in the US isn't there, but with large corporations investing millions of dollars into the sport, the hope is that more athletes will be encouraged to play. The timeframe for this, of course, is impossible to determine at this early stage, but to see a company as aggressive as Under Armour getting into the frey is very encouraging.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rematch


As I watch the games unfold on this college football Saturday, I'm picking up on the stench of the possibility that the national championship game will be a rematch of USC vs. Ohio State, which USC won in boring-ass fashion earlier this year 35-3. I understand that Ohio State would need lots of help, but they don't play anyone significant for the rest of the year, which means they probably won't lose. I also don't see the Trojans losing any time soon. Without conference title games in the Big 10 and Pac-10, the rankings will give us the game that the current system deserves, a shitty rematch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Genius!

Check out this article from Malcolm Gladwell (he's smart as hell). It's a discussion on our idea of genius and how much quicker we are to anoint someone as such when they're younger. It also talks a lot about what it takes to achieve genius status. Hint: it's not what you think.

Legacy.

Think about what kind of legacy you'd like to leave behind. I'm still in the middle of forming mine, but I think we all can take some suggestions from this:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beisbol


Boston's season was over. Down three games to one and down by 7 runs with less than half a game to play. Most of the team, players, and coaches were probably focused on tomorrow's tee time or the beginning of contract negotiations. The Fenway crowd--forget about it. What was left at that point was the appearance of a team. The players were on the field, playing baseball. The fans were in the stands, watching a game. Something wasn't quite right. The season of limitless expectations was about to end. And then all hell broke loose. The next thing you know, Boston ends up winning 8-7 in a highly improbable comeback. For most sports fans, they will have to relive this moment through ESPN and YouTube. For those that wouldn't give up on the Sox, you got what you deserved--one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. The Sox need to win two more games for this win to mean anything, but it was a treat for the fans nonetheless.

What strikes me as the most interesting thing about this game is what must have been going through the heads of the Red Sox players and coaches. Maybe I'm being naive and they thought they were going to win no matter how seemingly insurmountable the Rays' lead had become. Maybe they just got lucky. Either way, I'm most interested in the shift in mindset that must have occured when the Sox put up their first runs. There must have been a feeling of rebirth for those players. What they once thought was impossible became metaphysical certitude with the swing of a bat. .

I am not a very big fan of baseball, nor a student of the game, but I love watching it come playoff time. There is a tension in every pitch, every play of the game. There is drama in every aspect of the game--a drama that can not be matched, from first pitch to last out, by any other sport. My Dodgers were knocked out of the playoffs earlier this week. I'm upset with the loss. I had high hopes for this team. I'm most upset, however, about being robbed of the experience of watching my team play in the World Series. I won't be sitting on the edge of my couch hoping for an extra bases hit from Manny or Furcal or Martin. I won't be praying for Lowe or Kuroda to strike out the side. I won't be hearing Vin Scully call the game.

These feelings of emptiness, for me, validate the importance of America's game. Without the longing for your team's success, this game wouldn't have the luster that it currently has. I feel pain, but it only serves as a reminder that baseball is awesome.