Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shame On You, George "W" Bush!

Relax, this isn't going to be a political bash story. You'll find out what significance the title of this entry has in just a brief moment.

Now for those of you who know me on Facebook, you've probably heard me gush like a giddy Japanese schoolgirl over the HBO original series, Tremé, more than a few times over the past year. I believe I might even have an archived entry here on this blog where I pleaded with you all to check it out when the show originally aired back in April.

None of you listened. And I mean NOBODY! Sheesh. I swear!

Tremé (pronounced: "truh-may" or "treh-meh", depending on who you ask in the area) mostly covers the historic black and Creole neighborhood of the same name in New Orleans, just 3 months into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It follows the stories of 10 characters (some of whom know each other, but most of whom don't) as they struggle to put the pieces of their varied lives back together again in the city they love and call home.

Anyway, the point I'm making is that you all missed an incredibly AWESOME tv show. I'm sure the real reason is that you don't own a subscription to the premium cable channel. Yeah, that's it! Too bad, too. Because, in addition to being an engrossing and well-acted drama, Tremé was also notable for its focus on the amazing musical tradition the city of New Orleans is known worldwide for.

The show had its regular cast of established actors (some of whom are quite familiar to fans of other HBO shows, if not movies), but what really stood out was the rather large inclusion of a great many local and real life musicians. At times, it felt like I was watching a documentary on the who's-who of New Orleans Jazz and modern brass band luminaries.

Because of this, I've been dying for the soundtrack for this amazing show to be released. And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . that day has come AT LAST!!! Well, only if you purchase your music online, it seems -- like via iTunes or even Amazon's .mp3 downloads store. The actual physical CD won't hit brick 'n' mortar stores until the end of October (bummer!). But hell, who buys CDs anymore?

I'm particularly happy I finally get to hear the intro theme song that plays when the credits roll before each episode. Click here to see (and hear) the opener for yourself. Ain't that just the coolest? :)

The other song I could only hope upon a dream they would release--and was surprised to find out they did!--was the reworking of Smiley Lewis's hit 1957 single, "Shame, Shame, Shame" for the show. The lyrics here were altered to provide a satirically damning slam against George W. Bush, particularly his bungling of the whole disaster recovery affair after the tragedy of Katrina in 2005. In the fifth episode of the season, local "Nawlins" DJ and aspiring mayoral candidate, Davis McAlary (played here by the spastic, but always lovable, Steve Zahn) somehow manages to beg, plead, entice, and/or inveigle some of the Tremé's most notable musicians into helping him record his biting yet humorous take on this song for use on the campaign trail. The end result is a thing of beauty, and must be heard to be believed. I've included a clip of the relevant scene from that episode below so you can see what I mean:

In the show, the song is received with huge success and bolsters McAlary's cause to be the anti-anything that is plaguing the local New Orleans political scene. I was never sure this would ever be released as a real song, but now that I've downloaded the album and found it included among the track list, I can safely say I've since listened to it at least 6 times on just this one day alone. And I'm sure I'll listen to it a few more times before the day is done.

It's a really catchy tune, no?

I have no idea when the show will release on video. Most likely a few weeks before the 2nd season premieres next year. And, oh yes, there WILL be a 2nd season. HBO already confirmed it.

I can't wait!

And The Winner Is -- WHOOPS!

The wrong winner was announced on the live-air results show of Australia's Next Top Model. This is crazy embarrassing -- but also deliciously funny to me, because I'm sick like that. Here, take a gander at this train wreck in motion for yourselves:

I think the shorter girl made things worse when the mix-up was eventually revealed by constantly saying: "No, it's okay. It's OKAY! No, really . . . did you not hear me? I said IT'S FUCKING OKAAAAAAY!!!!"

Well *ahem*. Maybe I did edit that last part in, but you get the picture. She should've just kept her mouth shut. Maybe pout prettily like a good girl and take her lumps.

For my money, even though I don't know these girls from Eve . . . I would've placed my bets on the taller girl in red anyway. Everyone knows short girls can't be models. So I'm glad to see she turned out to be the actual winner. Her response was funny, too. She had a look in her eyes that seemed to say: "Uh, how exactly am I supposed to react here? I'm happy, but the manner in which I got this backhanded win is totally FUCKED!"


To be honest, this is why most awards shows do the ole envelope thing to announce the winners. With an envelope, all the people involved behind the scenes get to look at the piece of paper and sign off on the winner before handing it to the talking suit(s) on stage. Also, having watched my fair share of the American version of this show, I've never once seen them announce the winner before a live audience. And certainly NEVER via an embedded earset.

Tyra Banks just wouldn't stand for something like this, no sir!

Monday, September 27, 2010

In America, We Walk Like We Drive . . . On The Right!

Made a quick errand run during my lunch break. It's pouring cats and dogs here in NYC today, but of course this doesn't stop the tourists from coming out. Nor should it. This was us in Paris not all that long ago, after all. Rain or shine, we had an itinerary to keep to!

But funny thing about tourists . . . they don't always adhere to the unwritten rule of New York City sidewalk travel: Here, we walk on the right-hand side of the path, you see?

Got it? Good!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Not To Be An Ugly American

As you know, Lisa and I have done a lot of traveling in the past year and a half. Call it what you will; maybe we have the traveling bug. But, what's been surprising me a lot lately is the response of some friends and family who reveal a decided disinterest in traveling anywhere outside of the United States. Or, if they do travel, they only want to go to locales that fit neatly within their "comfort level." Which is really just another way of saying: "Someplace where they speak English."

This comes as a shock to me. Maybe I'm being naive, but I never thought the threat of being in a foreign country where the local population doesn't speak a language you can understand was ever an impediment to travel. Yes, true, I do tend to stress out about learning the basic greetings and what have you in the language of the country we're about to visit, but this has more to do with wanting to be polite and not come off as some arrogant American who thinks the whole world should do me the courtesy of speaking English while I visit them.

So, is this a problem for those of you reading this? Would you rather only travel to countries where they speak the language you speak, or have a culture comparable to your own?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I Hate Summertime

Okay, maybe hate is too harsh of a word. I should really say: I strongly dislike Summer. There (lol).

Anyway, in response to a comment I made on my crit group friend Ian's blog, I decided to once and for all examine what it is about the hot months between June and September that I loathe so much.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Note On The New Comments System

Okay, now that I've switched over to the Disqus comments system, you'll notice a few changes in the way you leave comments on this blog from now on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bear With Me . . .

As I mentioned earlier, I'm in the process of upgrading Blogger's commenting system to the cool and super dynamic 3rd party Disqus user interface. Apparently it's supposed to be much better and fluid than Blogger's built-in UI. Time will tell. If it works, I'll have greater control over comments as well as more moderation options and spam control.

For now, I've hit a major snag. It seems the template is installed--so you'll now be able to leave comments using the new interface--but I was unable to migrate over all my old comments. Which majorly sucks. I'll keep working on it, but for now if you've ever left a comment on my site in the past . . . they may be lost for good.

I don't think it's as dire as that, but as of right now the Disqus site is causing me grief in importing these comments. Hopefully I can update you all on some happy news in a few days if I can get it to work. And in the meantime I will also keep messing around with the look of the new interface. It's really just barebones right now, but at least it works. I hope.

Quick, somebody leave a message and let me know!

Eventually if I decide to keep this new system, I'll eliminate some redundancies like the two "Reactions" options now available at the end of each entry. I'll also do some other window dressing, too.

Be patient with me, that's all I ask.

UPDATE: Well, looks like the snag on Disqus end was really my browser's fault. For some reason the button for importing all the old comments over to the new system was not responding whenever I would click it. I even sent out an S.O.S. to the Disqus help team, before I eventually realized -- duh, just right click and manually open the link! After that, everything went smoothly, as evident by the fact that all the comments are back where they belong. Yippee!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The (Blog) Emperor's New Clothes

Well, here's the new look! As I promised earlier today, I've gone and revamped the style and colors of The Bimillennial Man. Phew!

It took me a while to get it just the way I like, but now I'm done. Perhaps I'll do a few more tweaks behind the scenes, but this is it folks!

And before you say anything: no, I'm not changing this. If you don't like the new look, design your own blog. My favorite color happens to be blue, which would explain the overall color scheme I've chosen. I've been so sick of the previous black, white and green motif for a long time now, so I'm glad I got that changed finally.

The other change is the map theme, which goes along with the new subtitle at the top. And, of course, those of you who know me and my fondness for Highlander, you should be able to get the other half of that sentence.

Got it? Good.

Of course, I can't take all the credit. This was all made possible by way of the new "Design" feature and templates being offered by the gracious folks at Google Blogger. This particular template was designed by Josh Peterson. All I did was change up the colors to my liking.

Next up, I'll be looking to overhaul the comments section and maybe adding a few more cool features in honor of these new digs. Maybe.

As always, and especially before I start tampering with them, please click on the "Comments" link at the end of this entry and express your impressions, good or bad.

Inspiration Comes From Anything

I just finished watching the Jimi Hendrix special they had on the Biography channel this week, a 2-hour program by which the life of this crazy-talented guitar god was retold in his own words, via Bootsy Collins, as pieced together from various interviews, letters, and recordings during his brief time in the spotlight from 1963 to 1970.

One thing he said really stuck with me. It was while Hendrix was just setting out to make a name for himself during a tumultuous time in America's social upheaval during the 60s:

"I went to Nashville, where I lived in a big housing estate they were building. Every Sunday afternoon we used to go downtown to watch the race riots. We'd take a picnic basket because they wouldn't serve us in the restaurants. One group would stand on one side of the street, and the rest on the other side. They'd shout names and talk about each other's mothers and . . . every once in a while stab each other. Sometimes if there was a good movie on that Sunday, there wouldn't be any race riots."

Wow, that really resonated with me. It just goes to show how silly all this hate and fear mongering really is, that it can be so easily set aside the minute some cool new flick is out in theaters. It also serves to illustrate how dangerous idle imaginations can be. I know I'm egregiously oversimplifying things here when I say this, but I truly do believe in entertainment--be it books, music, movies, or video games--as a venue for relieving stress, anger, fear, and all the other pent-up energies that threaten to undo society when not allowed a safe and harmless release.

But it also got me to thinking about such moderations on society, and how this benefits the government and/or religious leaders who use entertainment programming to keep the unruly mob in check. And, yes, Sunday sermons and church pontificating is the oldest and most effective form of entertainment there is out there. What, you don't believe me?

Naturally, such thoughts then led me to an interesting premise for a sci-fi story. Although, my work would be cut out for me if I chose to pursue this route, what with the Matrix trilogy and various other sci-fi stories already beating me to the punch with this idea of a complacent mass media-consuming society kept under wraps by its manipulative overlords.

Still, that's one of the great things about speculative fiction writers: we're not always inventing new ideas, but sometimes re-inventing and re-interpreting old ones.

Change Is In The Air . . .

Made some minor adjustments to the blog recently, though I don't know if any of you noticed. Probably not, since they're mostly window-dressing type changes.

One of the more significant of these non-significant changes (heh, heh) is the addition of the "READ MORE" jumpover function, which allows me to hide large portions of text behind a convenient new page link whenever my entries take up too much bandwidth. Which, as you know, they often do because I like to ruminate at the mouth when I blog. This is very convenient for those entries where I'm embedding a lot of pics and/or videos -- such as with my most recent cruise reports. Hiding all that processing-heavy code behind a jumpover makes my main page load a lot faster now. Hallelujah! This naturally only applies to folks who arrive on my blog via the front door, and not by way of an entry-specific link since those pages are automatically expanded to their fullest.

Secondly, I got rid of my old 3rd party share buttons and replaced them with the Blogger proprietary ones which is a little more streamlined and not as buggy. Plus, that annoying pop-up window no longer shows up whenever your cursor even so much as looks in the buttons' general direction. Ugh! I hated that. The new buttons are unobtrusive and only there if you really need to share my blog with your various social media sites. Which I'm not sure many of you do that, but, hey, it's there in case you do.

I had to jump through some gnarly hoops to get these functions added to my particular blog, because my page is not the standard template at Blogger. Because of earlier modifications I had made to the site, whenever The Powers That Be decide to add some nifty new tool, I have to go into my source code and mess around with the HTML in order to implement it. And if you don't know what you're doing, you can royally screw up your site by rummaging around the source code.

Needless to say, I've learned a lot about what I can and cannot do with this blog over the past few nights. I've discovered ways to improve this page that I never knew about, let alone thought was possible.

All this is my way of prefacing the announcement that The Bimillennial Man will be getting a makeover in the next few days. At least, I hope so. It's very likely that I'll screw something up big time and will end up reverting back to this current template. If that happens, I'll ask you to forget all about this entry. If it does work, however, then the place will have a new visual look. I'm thinking of getting rid of the whole black-and-green color scheme. What do you think?

Another major improvement, if it works, is that I'll be overhauling my comments section -- eschewing the standard Blogger comments model (which, to be quite honest, totally SUCKS!) and going instead with a 3rd party offering called "Disqus" to manage all my comments. I've heard and seen some great things about this service, so hopefully I'll get it to work. If it goes through, I think you guys will really like what you see. It will require me migrating over every single comment ever made on this blog first, though. I don't want to lose those. But this makes the process a very long and mayhaps tedious one -- YIKES!

All in all, I don't anticipate any major interruptions on the main site as most of these improvements will be worked on behind the scenes. One second the place will look like it always does, and the next -- BOOM! Whole new look!

The comments migration and upgrade will probably happen at a later time, however. Can't do everything all at once, now, you know?

Anyway, wish me luck! *crosses fingers and toes*

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Disney Animated Film In November

Because, after all, what's Thanksgiving without a new Disney cartoon in theaters? Ahh, just like old times again!

This new film is being called "Tangled," a riff on the classic Rapunzel tale. Check out the trailer for yourself below:

That's Zachary Levi of "Chuck" and "Shades of Ray" (a very good flick, btw) fame voicing the bandit/thief character, and Mandy Moore as Rapunzel. There's something I dig a lot about what I'm seeing with this trailer. It looks like a lot of fun. Perhaps it's the fact that the interaction between the two main characters reminds me A LOT of two of my favorite video games to come out recently -- Prince of Persia (2008 version), and Uncharted. Levi's performance in particular reminds me of The Prince and Nathan Drake characters combined, which is very much a good thing in my book. The voice actor for both these game heroes, incidentally, is Nolan North. So I guess I should say that Zach Levi is channeling Nolan North in this movie. Still not such a bad thing. I like North's irreverent-but-charming leading man portrayals.

Anyway, the animation in "Tangled" looks fabulous so far, although I find myself missing the warm, cherished hand-drawn look of last year's "The Princess and the Frog". But Disney is Disney, so I'm sure Lisa and I will enjoy this film a lot regardless. We usually do.

Look for it to hit theaters on November 24 -- the day before Thanksgiving. I shudder to think what the theaters are going to look like Friday night. Think about it: day after a major family holiday; kids are out of school; parents have done all their Black Friday shopping for the day; don't feel like staying home and cooking that evening; new Disney cartoon out. Ugh! Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Yeah, I think we'll be catching this the Wednesday it hits, before the crowds do.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Have To Dig Myself Out Of This Self Doubt

So, I know I'm supposed to be gearing up to begin writing my practice novel, right? And I know I just mentioned back in this entry that I was going to take a quick break in order to switch gears and write another short story, right?

Well, here's the reason why:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reason Number "Nth" Why My Wife Is Awesome Sauce!

I present to you, Exhibit A:

That, good people, is my very own 18-bottle dual temperature wine refrigerator! My wife got it from Wine Enthusiast as my birthday gift this year, and I have to say I'm positively ecstatic! It's a pretty nifty upgrade from the traditional wooden storage rack I had shelved away above the kitchen cabinets:

It solves a nagging worry I've had ever since I started getting into wine drinking a year ago -- which is: How do I keep my wine from going bad when it's being stored in such a blistering hot and sunny environment as my cooking corner? This is a problem because some of my bottles--namely, the most expensive ones that still need a few more years to properly age--need to be stored long-term. With fluctuations in seasonal temps around here, not to mention the furnace heat from my range top, oven, George Foreman grill, and rice steamer combined, it's a veritable battle field for wine bottles.

Hence why this wine fridge is one of the more thoughtful and useful gifts I've received in a long while. First off, it stores 18 bottles -- which is 6 more than the capacity of my old rack. Secondly, the fridge is divided into two zones with their own dedicated temp controls via the touch-screen interface on the door. The top half chills in the range of 54 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for storing reds. While the bottom zone chills from 46 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and is ideal for storing whites.

Right now, I have the top zone at 60 and the bottom one at 48. It took roughly 16 hours for the fridge to cool down from the room temp of 86 degrees to my specified levels, but now that its been optimized my wine is kept in a nice constantly chilled and dark environment 24/7 and all year round. The fridge also uses very little electricity and is super silent to boot!

As you can see, I already stocked it almost to capacity with all my favorite wines. Now, mind you, I don't actually drink this all at once. I usually have half a glass of red with dinner, which means one bottle lasts me one whole week. The whites and the more expensive reds are kept in reserve for special occasions, since sweet whites like Riesling or Zinfandel are the only wines my wife seems to enjoy. Those or a nice, subtle Rose. The reds are mostly imported French varietals, with a few hearty southern Italian reds thrown in for good measure. I almost never drink Californian wines. For some odd reason, I just haven't acclimated to them yet, although I know I should. As for the whites -- those come from all over Europe: Italy, Germany, Poland -- and even Romania!

I'm not a wine expert, or even connoisseur. You can call me a wine beginner, in fact. But I think this fridge is a step in the right direction. I just opened up one of the newly chilled bottles--a Palazzo della Torre 'Veronese' from Allegrini--and allowed it to warm up gradually to room temperature. The bouquet, from what my amateur nose could detect, was more alive and fragrant than the same bottle I opened up a few weeks back, and which had been roasting atop my cabinets all summer long.

Yeah, I think I can get used to this new arrangement.

Yay for the wine fridge! And YAY! to my awesome wife!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Funny, I Still Feel 21

Well, I've certainly come a long way since that very first birthday. This is me pre b-day bath at my grandmother's house on Cortlandt avenue in the Bronx, where I lived for almost the first 2 years of my life. As you can see, I got my birthday hat on and I'm ready to PAH-TAY!

Oh, How Very Christ-Like Of You

To Pastor what's-his-face down in FL who think it's a keen idea to encourage the burning of a certain religion's holy books in service of his Lord, here's what your Lord had to say about the matter some 2,000 odd years ago:

"On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
                                                                        -Matthew 7:22 - 23

Those who call themselves Christians should probably spend a lot more time reading their own holy book before condemning and destroying that of others, no? Call me crazy, but I doubt very much Christ would approve of this self-indulgent and hateful act done under His name.

Am I wrong?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Disney Cartoons Are Really Teaching Young Girls

I came across this series of comedy shorts on YouTube from the Second City Network, called "Advice for Young Girls From a Cartoon Princess." The shorts star the hilarious Second City alumn, Danielle Uhlarik, in the role of various princesses and heroines from popular Disney cartoons.

So far, only two shorts have been filmed--based on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid," respectively--with possible plans to film more if enough viewers express an interest. So far the responses have been highly enthusiastic, so I think there's a fair chance we'll see more. Which is good, because I think these are AWESOME, and Danielle's delivery is so darn snarky and fantastic!

I'm posting the two videos down below (after the jump). Please click on them and show your support. Also, be warned that if you hold these cartoon characters as sacred, and if you have a poor appreciation of sarcasm, the humor might be lost on you. For everyone else, I think you'll find these funny and rather insightful, as well, into the social programming these types of cartoons engage. Particularly toward little girls who, let's be honest here, don't have a lot to aspire to if they look to these Disney princesses as role models for their lives.

Personally, I give kids more credit than that. Most girls are smarter than to fall for the trap of believing cartoons. But, still, I'm glad for folks like Ms. Uhlarik and other Second City alumns who can poke the sarcasm stick at these archetypes and expose them for the ridiculous tools that they are.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy September, Y'all!

September 1st. I thought I'd never see you!

This has been one hellishly hot summer. More than any previous year, I've been looking forward to September finally rolling around with a vengeance. And now it has!

Of course, my fondness for the month has less to do with changing weather trends as we head closer to the Equinox and more to do with the fact that it is my birth month. And, yes, I know that I'm biased here, but really . . . September babies ROCK! I don't think I've ever met a Virgo I didn't like, or at least admire, on some level. I like 'em so much, I even married one -- booyah!

And to think, I was originally scheduled to be born in November. Whoa, dodged a huge bullet there. I don't think many of my current friends would like a Scorpio-factored David. Nah-uh.

So, I'm in a generally happy mood today. August is my least favorite month of the year; it's long, HOT, and has no holidays whatsoever to break up the monotony. So good riddance! September, by contrast, is one heck of an active month even if you don't have the fortune of being born in it like me. You have three holidays (one major, two religious); the aforementioned Fall Equinox transition; it's the start of back to school for the kiddies (at least, here in NYC); and, of course, the start of the new TV season for many shows.

Regarding the last: while I don't watch a lot of tv these days, I'm always on the lookout for something new and exciting. I've mentioned some of the ones that have caught my attention both here on the blog and on Facebook, so I'm not going to rehash them now. But hopefully these new additions to the lineup won't let me down like last year's abysmal crop of failures (FlashForward and V, I'm looking right at you!).

But perhaps the most significant importance of this month is that it means no more traveling for me for the rest of the year. Yes, it may surprise some of you, but while I do so love traveling the globe in search of culture and adventure, the planning and plotting takes a lot out of me. Since I have a healthy distrust of travel agencies, I plan every single aspect of all our trips completely on my own and with no outside help from anyone. Add to the fact that I like to learn a little of the language of whichever country we visit before we arrive there, and this means that a lot of the time I should be spending writing is instead caught up in ironing out our travel plans. This year alone we traveled to 4 distinct and separate countries for a combined total of 10 cities in all. But, aside from a possible drive up to Vermont this Fall, I'm glad to say that our traveling days are over in 2010.

Next year will most likely see us visiting new and exciting destinations (and, I can't rule out yet another return to Paris), but for the next 4 to 6 months at least we're done. Finally I can return to my writing, which I've already done with a recent short story I'm in the process of finishing up.

So, yeah. September. Gotta love it. A time for settling down and getting to the business of finishing up the year. I look forward to lots of writing, a couple of birthday cakes here and there, some new potentially exciting tv shows, and the blissful dropping of temperatures. Jacket weather, that's what I've been dreaming of these past few weeks! Cool, autumnal breezes and changing leaves.

Ahhhhh . . .

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...