Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter #3
When it's not enough to make a post, but deserves to go out to the world... it's just Bar Chatter.

Joining Armageddon on the list of films I practically know by heart but will watch again and again and again: Smokey and the Bandit. But why do they only show it at like midnight? And I did not realize that Sally Field's ass was that nice.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Quack who's gone to the Dogs!

Ramblings Post #54
There are a number of things that make me wonder if the grand creator really knows what he's doing or maybe, just maybe, he's just occasionally rolling the dice and seeing what happens just to spice things up.

A few weeks ago, Chatty Mogul took a dog on option. That's how he described it. One of our coworkers with small children chose his kids over the dog (fie upon you PETA) and found the dog a new home with Chatty. They had an agreement that he would keep the dog for a month or so and if he didn't like it the family would take it back, and probably take him to the pound.

I feel so sorry for that dog. Damned either way.

So for the past few weeks, mixed in with stock tips, stories of how he built a purse sized ice maker for his stepmother, learning options trading, and the occasional foray into his actual job, he's been having dog conversations with other dog owners, eliciting dog advice, looking up dog information but mostly Chatty has been telling dog stories. Ad nasuem.

The dog eats dry food.
The dog makes him seem less creepy to the neighbors The dog needs exercise. The dog's training went well. The dog's training failed. The dog eats canned food. He needs a fence because of the dog The dog almost bit him. The dog is very intelligent. The dog doesn't trust him. Etc, etc so on....

We don't call him the Chatty Mogul for nothing. Once when he made a startled outburst I mistakenly asked "what's wrong?" only to be shot derisive looks by co-workers and I'm fairly certain one of the girls popped a garrote she keeps handy just in case Chatty just won't shut up. She didn't look to happy I'd asked that either. Luckily, he didn't hear me. I'd momentarily forgotten you don't ask him questions if you could help it. Brain lock.

I'd describe Chatty as our office's version of Cheer's Cliff Clavin, but only without the charm or good looks.

The rest of Moguls are just moguling. Naive mogul still seems to believe he can beat the market, crying in the past few days about a 40% loss on his investment that went back up as soon as he got out of it, and yet in the next breath extolling the virtues of his "system" based on moving averages and USA today news updates or his new ventures into stock options. Daddy Mogul is on diet, with a trainer. For a while I thought he and Chatty Mogul would end up the same size, but I think he finally realized that he doesn't want to end up like his partner in crime. I've often thought of him as the medium between Chatty and Naive, as the young one is Abercrombie & Fitch slim. For the sake of his kid I hope he makes it down a healthier size.

Now, in my minor experience in school and watching my brother do it a few years ago (day trading), people who make money investing tend to watch their stocks like hawks. The office moguls use the stock tracker apps on
their iPhones when they can take a few minutes, but for the most part make even casual investors look like scholars. This does not stop their conversations regarding their prowess.

There are days when it's like a comedy show. I won't even discuss how Naive Mogul rambled through his bastardized version of GI Joe, trampling my childhood memories and sounding like a guy who better pray he stays slim and A & F pretty all his life.

Barkeep...something. Anything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First class, first impressions...

Ramblings Post #53
Ah law school. I had started wandering into the office as late as noon, and spent my nights aimlessly searching the web and putting off little things I really needed to do because I could always get to them later. I think I really needed school to get my mind back into gear and make me stop wasting the hours and minutes and everything else. Because I was getting lazy. Too too lazy. And that's not good.

There is something about that room I just don't like.

The fall session of Law School kicked off Tuesday night and it was great to see a few faces that I hadn't seen since the spring. We spent the few minutes before class catching up, saying hi and trying to figure out who had given up the ghost. Since we're all pretty much confined to the same classes, we kinda know who is in and who is out. And thoughtfully, a few us remembered "the room". When I say that I mean our professor came in a did what most of our law school professors have done: have everyone move up front.

This is not to say everyone sat in the back row, it's just that the prof wanted (and of course got) the front row filled in. To do it she emptied the back row, and then the next to the last row. She claimed it was because she didn't want to have to yell. I wanted to mention we were in classroom not a barn, but I wisely kept my mouth shut. That same move up foolishness thing happened last time we were in that room. Then she made us fill out place cards with our names on them so she could read them and learn who we were. One side I wrote my name. On the other side I wrote "Don Pardo".

It felt very elementary school. I wanted milk and cookies. Then she started teaching. And it didn't feel elementary school anymore.

She's a good teacher, but very animated. And I think she seemed a little surprised that we'd done our homework, considering it was the first class. It will be a couple of weeks before I can be sure, but I think she's gonna be a cool teach.

And I discovered the pizza bagel. It was during the break, and the usual university meal spot wasn't open, so we went down to Einstein's Bagels, which I had never been to before. I see them all over, but I could never figure out why I want a bagel after breakfast time. I looked over the menu and decided because I was adventurous to have the pizza bagel. She popped it into this thermo oven that looked industrial and about a minute later put in a box. It looked interesting. It tasted fantastic. Or maybe I was just damned hungry.

So with class over I went home the did what I should have done Sunday, which was read the Constitution for one of the other classes. I'd planned to go over it in detail Sunday morning, but one of my Facebook people said that they didn't even use the Constitution in a class about the Constitution! So I slept in. Then I go online Monday and get the assignment: Bing! Read the Constitution.

I see what you did there. Tricky bassids.

Barkeep. One last one for the road. And a beer back. And a shot. Hell, set'tem up again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter#2
When it's not enough to make a post, but deserves to go out to the world... it's just Bar Chatter.

Is Mafia Facebook's verison of that damned World of Warcraft? I mean jeez, everyday I get an update on what's happening in the game. Which is amazing because I have the settings marked for no notification! What I'm getting are updates from players accomplishments and what not. I'm am so tired of that mess.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The New Terrorists are American

This is a political post.

In this country we have a system. Every so often we sit down and we all vote and decided that the great ship of state either should stay the course or change direction. It was devised ages ago by our founding fathers, a system that guides this great state we call home on a slow path towards the future.

And in this country we lament for those without our freedoms. Of other states whose governments are not ruled by law or civil discourse, but people screaming in the streets and threats of death. We decry the places where uninformed and narrow minded people are manipulated by a powerful few into mobs and feel compelled to use fear and force to get a point across, one that serves no purpose for the greater good other than to keep those in power in power....

This is what you would say if you lived in Australia or maybe New Zealand and were talking down to America.

Yes. Down to us. Because with Democratic senators by the score receiving death threats for supporting health care reform in this country you begin to wonder if this America or some third world nation run by some feverish religious coalition. And in the America I grew up in, if you didn't like what the government did you marched, you carried signs and gathered signatures, you organized and got the word out, and you got legislation passed and went to court, but showing up to see the President with a gun got you jail time and screaming at elected officials meant you were nuts.

You see the new terrorists aren't Muslim or Iraqi or live in the Middle East or live in caves and want us all to die. The new terrorists are American, who eat at Denny's, live in nice neighborhoods and root for home team on Saturdays. But they're just as uneducated, just as uninformed as that frustrated follower of Islam on the far side of the world who joins the "cause" because he sees an idealistic way of life (that doesn't actually exist) threatened. The new terrorists disrupt meetings with displays of anger, spewing forth emotionally charged nonsense. They quote conjecture and use their fury to deflect honest conversation and dialogue. The new terrorist is the suddenly "powerless" (not realizing they had no power before), the suddenly wrong in the face of the facts, the people afraid of change.

I say uninformed, as the idea that the government would hold "death hearings" to decide if someone will be productive to society is patently absurd and a baldface lie. Especially in light of the fact that our current system of private insurers do actually do have "death panels", those actuaries and executives that routinely deny healthcare and discontinue coverage letting people die in the interest of profit.

I say uninformed, as the protesters demand the government "keep it's hands off medicare", what I guess they consider a well run system, when medicare IS a government program, and it's very existence proves that the government won't kill old people or decide that autistic children will be put to death, and that the government CAN run a health program.

I say people afraid of change because the current system they scream and holler to keep will bankrupt itself much like Wall Street did, and this time it won't take our money but our lives doing it. And instead of embracing the possibility, the protesters embrace the concept of static. But that leads nowhere.

And I call them terrorists because they employ the use of fear and raw emotion instead of fact and information. Congressmen receiving death threats over legislation designed to help 50 million Americans? Although the President flubbed the line, his statement is true. Much as the existence of the post office did not stop the creation of or threaten the future existence of companies like UPS and FedEx, a "public" option for healthcare wouldn't destroy the whole system. What it does it is offer an alternative, and to some degree keeps the private companies honest and striving to differentiate themselves. Knowing that if they charge too much customers will go to the Post Office makes UPS more efficient and a better firm, in an effort to keep costs and therefore prices down.

That the word "socialist" now fills in for both 1950's fear mongering terms "communist" and the "N" word is a whole other matter. The fact that we've lived in a blend of capitalism and socialism since the 1930s seems to have escaped everyone.

The grand problem of playing with terrorists, and by playing I mean taking them on, is that to defeat them you have to get even nastier than they do. One of the things that happens in countries that promote terrorist activities is the demonetization of the enemy. The problem is once you've won, how do you turn it off? As soon as one "enemy" is defeated, a new one will have to be manufactured to sustain the only thing that gives the group life. In Iraq, as the Americans left, the terrorists began attacking forces of the law in general. It will take a generation before it calms again. Do we really want that here?

I find it amazing that despite the fact that Wall Street ate itself and had to be bailed out by the US government in the last 18 months goes by the boards when someone says we need to stop the Healthcare industry before it does the same. History's lessons appear to be forgotten even quicker than normal in this digital "instant" age. The idea that we can fix this now, create a blended system of a baseline system of care with premium care for those who want to afford it seems to have been lost on the masses.

Do those who disagree with healthcare reform need to shut up and get with the program? Hell no, we live in America. But in America we have a way of doing things, and quite frankly this methodology ain't it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter#1
When it's not enough to make a post, but deserves to go out to the world... it's just Bar Chatter.

Three classes this fall, three nights a week. Five books, just five books. Looked them up online and if I can find used they should only run me about $425 dollars. If I have to go all new, which is a closer to reality proposition, probably closer to $540. Isn't education grand? Oh, and I'll need the parking pass which is another $250. Really, isn't education grand. [insert sarcasm here]

Didn't I just lose/break two cellphones?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I so love British Television

Ramblings Post #52
It has been a long strange trip. I mean from my house to my house and back, this break from law school has been a something I relished and dreaded at the same time. I'm back for another season of "Old Law" , the rolling internet almost show where somebody too damn old takes their ass back to Law School for no good reason at all, and I need to step it up this season. But in the interim, I watched real television...and then I messed around and watched something good.

I found a new show.

I was reading something on Slate, I forget what but Slate is one of my preferred reading sites, it was a review of something else and from there click here and a click there, and three links later found a gem of show that I really think needs to be seen in this country. I mean the original needs to be seen, not what will surely be the cheap bastardized knock-off that lacks the flair or inherent verve of the original (Something I understand almost happened.) One almost imagines that a smart television exec would stop paying for Americanized remakes and just start importing shows whole cloth. I mean I've watched BBC America for quite a few seasons and honestly, there a lot of smarter shows in the old isle than most of what even cable in America is willing to try.

The particular show that captured my attention is called The Thick of It. Shot like one imagines that other British import The Office was shot when it was still a British show. It is about the goings on and back office shenanigans in the offices of a fictitious Brit government Ministry. It is pure magic, that teeters on what appears to be the edge of imporv and tightly choreographed acting. At times it is as though the director just stuck a camera in the room, gave everyone a triple espresso and let the characters evolve. I can't think of anything on American television this good, this innovative or this weirdly intriguing as I watch the dramedy of spin doctors spinning insanity and the knives primed for back stabbing flash in and out of view.

Back stabbing, Spin masters, and Ollie Reader
Photo from BBC

My favorite character by far is a tour de force performance by actor Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the prime ministers' foul mouthed and manipulative director of communications/hatchet man/enforcer. You can imagine that some like him must really exist somewhere in the bowels of every government on the planet, swearing and scaring government into action. From the opening minutes of the first show, where he browbeats a minister into a "resignation" to the end of the last special where he berates another junior minister (with a oddly funny blinking problem) to get on the political train he just found out exists, he takes moments that otherwise be unwatchable and makes you wonder what will fall out of his mouth next.

It's still a British show, so some of it may be a little hard to follow, especially some of the slang, but it's both funny, intriguing and scary that on some level, that's what is being depicted may be how government really works. And since there are moments where you can imagine they people are just over grown children, it makes you think.

I watched the entire series (six thirty minute episodes and two hour long specials) on youtube. That said, if I can find it on DVD I will still be buying it. It's that funny. I don't think it's available here in America, however they do the damn regions but I can't imagine why you would hold it in abeyance. In fact, if I can find it in Atlanta, I'm going to go find In the Loop, a film version that actually starts the afore mentioned character Malcolm Tucker and brings him to America.

I don't need better television. I just need better access.

Barkeep. Something they drink in Britain...bitters or scotch or something cold and wet. Like London.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Quick Restaurant Review - The Social House

When I was college quite a while ago, I had a professor make a statement that at the time was probably true: That only black people ate at black restaurants. It was sociological statement that at the time may have been true, but does not hold water today. That or all those "other" folks in there had no idea it was a black owned place.

Saturday, my lil buddy Schmoopy and I slid into the Social House to check out the board of fare. She'd hit me Friday talking about she wanted to hang out for second, but she was broke and it was "her turn" to pay. She and I have known each other for eight years, worked together at two different firms, and at one point she asked me to marry her and for some reason she thinks $30 or $40 bucks will stand between us and a hang out. I said I'd pay and told her to bring her tail on.

The spot is off Howell Mill, which is and is not an odd place for a restaurant of this type, considering the unusually abrupt meeting of industrial and residential that occurs in the area. Then you turn a corner and you see where the clientele is coming from. The restaurant is literally is in a old house with a dark brown stucco outer coat, and it looks like they merely ripped out the walls, painted everything and stuck in the tables. In fact one of the tables is a regular dining room table for eight or ten, that accommodates smaller couples and foursomes by seating them at the extreme ends of the table. Genius.

We settled in and it was then I realized it was a black owned place. The service isnt' exactly lighting fast. After a quick review of the menu, which looks interesting, Schmoopy got the Salmon with Poached Eggs and I opted for Country Fried Steak Biscuits and scrambled eggs. As usual, she didn't like the OJ, which I believe for her needs to be fresh squeezed. But that's a personal thing. The sweet tea, for those keeping score, actually tasted a bit salty?

Since service was ...well, less than quick....we had a good chance to catch up. And it turns out this week Schmoopy found out about "body issues". In that other people have them. Although she is probably a size 2 or below (and has been trying to lose weight forever), the idea that someone might not be comfortable with how their body looks appears to be a new idea for her. One of her girls didn't want to take a cruise because of how she'd look in a swimsuit, and my girl was a little confused. Looking through someone else's eyes is always a little difficult, but I think she'll get it. I also think most women standing next to Schmoopy feel a little self conscious. The rest of the convo was our usual relationship catch up (me:none - her:on break) and the other sundry items that people who need just a bit more real money talk about: Bills, job, moving, life, etc...

Then the food came. Let me say this: the decor was very nice. Note, the menu said it was Country Fried Steak Biscuits, not country fried steak and biscuits. I didn't notice this until the plate hit the table. The country fried steak could have been more country, the eggs were, and I found about yet another way to classify something as a hash brown. It was different. And I found out what a caper is, as my buddy's salmon came with them.

Country Fried Steak Biscuits and Eggs
From the Social House

How do you know someone is your buddy? When they reach onto your plate for food and you don't even blink an eye. She never did tell me how the piece of steak tasted.

So we ate, and it was okay. And then we went cheap folk shopping because neither of us had anything else to do until 5pm. Cheap folk shopping means you look at a whole lot of things you MIGHT buy. Later. When you got some money.

So Social House, sister of Rare and Harlem Bar, was okay. Nice decor, fast seating, less than quick service, food on a different level...and salty sweet tea. Go figure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Just a Face in the Crowd

Ramblings Post #51
Every now and then, a face in the crowd will be "called home" by God or fate or the Great glowing Chupacarbra or whoever it is that collects your offerings and the newspapers will print an obit that catches your eye. It's that moment when the inventor of the twist off beer cap or first man to swim to all the Hawaiian islands has his second moment in the sun (provided he actually got his first) and you have one of those little moments that makes you go "interesting", right before you turn to the comics.

This is really is an excuse to talk about a movie I really like.

I like Turner Classic Movies. It's on the speed dial of my remote and there is nothing quite like a lazy Saturday afternoon watching old comedies from the 1930's, 40's and 50's. The things you could get away with when you couldn't get away with anything just made for better writing. Then one night, I tuned into a film that was captivating, and has since become one of my favorites. The guy who wrote it, Budd Schulberg, died the other day at 95 and it reminded me I need to go find this puppy on DVD. The film is Andy Griffith's film debut in 1957 and it was called "A Face in the Crowd".

If you're over thirty, you know Andy Griffith as either Sheriff Andy Griffith late of Mayberry (they sure got creative with character names back then ) or the venerable and loquacious Ben Matlock. He was affable, funny and generally likable.

The character for his film debut was anything but.

Imagine if you will a Mel Gibson-ish hick, with Rush Limbaugh's bombastic nature and a clear field to play in, set in the middle 1950s, and you have A Face in the Crowd. Griffith plays like a character from a show that could be on HBO next week, all at once lying, cheating, using people and making them feel good about it as he abuses their hopes and dreams. If you ever wondered how a man who played a milquetoast for thirty years on TV ever got hired in Hollywood, it's this performance that says he could have been a Brando-esque star if only apparently he'd decided to do it, instead when he was offered the quiet television show he picked that and became an icon of the old south's contribution to television. One can imagine after he'd done this, there wasn't a whole lot of range left to go. As the character rises from a vagrant to a media empire, the story is well written, well plotted and reads much like one that could exist today. It's one I'm not sure why Hollywood has overlooked as remake material and if they ever do they need a kick in the It would be as if they remade Casablanca or Gone with the Wind.

Griffith's portrayal of Lonesome Rhodes is as a man destined for greatness the second he realizes the power of his voice on a small town radio station. From there he slithers his way ever upward, a public persona so in contrast to his business face, that you find yourself almost salivating for his eventual crash. That the film stars a young Walter Mattahu as a script writer for the character and later quite possibly his only real friend, despite his antics is an added bonus.

It's a film, along with a raft of others, I could sit and watch with hot buttered popcorn on a slow Saturday night and feel I hadn't missed a thing going on in the world.

Barkeep...good wine. Something springtime.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Geek Moments

Ramblings Post #50
Every now and then, I geek out. I get into a Star Wars argument about story elements or rebel strategy, want to talk about holes in Star Trek story lines or go off on X-men, Spiderman or Batman tangents. If you have never caught yourself discussing the meaning of the gender roles in the New Battlestar Galactica, you have no idea what I'm talking about. And since I started messing with computers back when you had to bring your own DOS ( it's what makes the system work for you kiddies ), I get geeky about computers too.

I don't play a lot of video games because I don't have the time.

I bought the last Grand Theft Auto because I needed something to fill the time during Christmas break. It was enjoyable until you figured out it was really a large puzzle and not the sprawling free form do whatever game concept that online journalists touted. The two or three "decisions" merely added a tint to the already set color of the game.

From the Legend Series #5
By Patrick Brown

And so oddly when I do play a game over and over, the ones I play are sometimes years old.

For instance one of my favorite games is a little gem called Tropico. It must be a decade old, but the concept was simple. You're a ruler in charge of little island nation...go forth. Sure they have a few basic scenarios, such as get elected for 30 years without ballot stuffing, or build a tourist economy... but if you wanted they would just lean back and let you go forth. You could be the ruthless dictator keeping wages low while appeasing your pet faction, or you could be the happy ruler making sure everyone was well taken care of. Over the course of the game you could watch a child born, grow, take on a job, go back to school and start a family of their own. You could also bribe political rivals and build a police state that had to fight off insurgent attacks.

I shudder to think what this game could have been, or could be if someone put a little effort into an update. The game lacked a bit in that you had to build every structure yourself, and their were never any cars or trucks to speed up the process. A little more diversity of structures would have been nice too, but still...keeping a populace happy while trying to sell cigars and keep the Russians at bay and the religious faction happy is hard enough just the way it is. The update was introduce a pirate flair, which reduced the game from a new concept to a system simulator. Genius.

I won't go into how much better Alpha Centauri was compared to the newest iteration of Civilization. Someone needs to remind developers to put the money into the game play and not the graphics on occasion. If the customer isn't buying a shoot'em, you can skimp a little on the graphics, that isn't what they're paying for.

Case in point I purchased Total War: Empire to get through this little lull between summer school and the fall classes, and quickly found that the system requirements were so graphic intensive, the computer I bought last fall will barely play it. Supremely intense a strategy game? What it took to get it loaded on my system aside, passwords and confirmations and all, just getting around to watching the waves undulate on the graphic sea, the smoke float from the plumes, wagon roll, and the little men representing armies marching about brought so much depth (insert sarcasm here). It might have helped a little to include a manual that actually taught you how to play....

Just once I want to see a game that devotes as much to the diplomacy side as the combat side of war.

As it is I won't have time for this nonsense in a matter of days as school looms. And I need to re-apply myself with a vengeance if on the other end of this process I'd like to be able to say I went to law school. I mean even now I can say I went, but I'd kinda like a degree on the other side. Ya' know.

So the games mostly suck because the designers are pushing the graphic element above game play, Han shot first, Grand Theft Auto games are really just big puzzles where you get to shoot, you don't need great visuals if you got a great game. Is that everything?

Barkeep. I need something to give me 50 manna points, the evil Lord Hukka's men approach! Huzzah!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bad Concept Redux

Ramblings Post #49
The definition of lunacy or stupidity or insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. The problem comes in when you look at the situation and the result you thought everyone was looking for is different from the one you expected. Then it gets tricky. This was one of those tricky moments.

If you do it once and it's a bad idea, why not try it again?

Because it was a bad idea from the beginning.

Once again, in my last party of the year, the boys decided to do it all on Sunday. Okay, not the same boys as the first time, but they were in attendance, some other guys I know from New York. It took me a moment to realize the benefit of doing it on a Sunday, but I now realize the profit concept the guys are working on.

150 People. Ten bottles of liquor. You do the math.

You can't buy alcohol in Georgia on Sunday. So you have a party and require all the guys to bring a bottle to get in. Or to donate to the cause. And what they're counting on is guys donate a few dollars. I thank god that the weather was bad for most of the day, otherwise it would have been ugly. It rained off and on, and it was getting a little dark by the time the sky cleared and crowd arrived. I again reiterate the concept that apparently less people have to go to work early on a Monday than I thought. Or just don't give a fuck. There are two or three people when I see them next I will have to ask what it is they do.

And what is about the one more drink concept? When we shut the bar down at 10pm, we were faced with a circle of people hovering trying to get one more drink. And if you served one, you had to serve another, then another and so on an so forth. We kept one more up for about thirty minutes, until finally I just collected my tips under one arm and a remains of the decent liquor under the other and broke camp.

As it was I called it early this time, drove home and woke up as fully rested as I had ever been at 6am on a Monday morning. I mean rested rested. I felt good. Awake. Alive. And just because I'd woken up bright eyed and bushy tailed at that hour for the first time in a year .... as a reward to myself I curled up and tried to take my ass back to sleep.

I'm gonna need a bigger boat.

Barkeep, I'm gonna need a tall tea. Oh that sweet tea.