Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nintendo Wii

A great article on the Wii from

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fogo de Chao

This is one of those Brazilian style steakhouses where you go and pay a flat fee to eat as much as you like. Interestingly, the salad bar is incredible and you can eat as much as you want, which makes sense because that way you can't eat as much of the expensive stuff (the meat).

I really liked three of four of the cuts of meat and had more and more of those. The way it works is you have a coaster with green and red colors on each side. If you want more meat you keep the green side showing and if you want a break you flash the red side.

Repeat until you're ready to puke.

Plus we sat next to Eddy Curry, which was an added bonus.

If you get the chance to go to this type of restaurant, check it out, it's definitely worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

FM Tuners

If you are one of those people that uses an FM tuner and have trouble finding the perfect station to tune into so you can listen to you MP3 player, then check out this website from Belkin.

Just punch in your zip code and it'll pull up "the best" dead stations.


Last King of Scotland—Review

Who's in it? Forest Whitaker and the fawn from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
What's the deal? Whitaker is Idi Amin, a general that takes power in Uganda. Fawn is a Scottish doctor trying to make a difference in the world.
This is one of those movies that: Makes you wonder how much of it is actually true. It's not a major distraction but it does pop into your head from time to time.
Character Issues: Now here are a couple of characters I can get behind. Each one of them has depth, charisma, and charm. Not to rehash the Spiderman thing, but the deepest character in that movie is the lamest one in this one—the English doctor already in Uganda when fawn arrives. He's lame, plain, and boring. A good man, sure, but lame.
Back to Scotland: I think I like Fawn's character better than Whitaker's, actually. Even though they are both very similar, Fawn is actually likable and he's the kind of guy you want to have a beer with. You want to be his friend.
I'm having trouble with: Putting together a relevant, helpful series of bullets for this movie. It has a lot going on. It's about several things: politics power, friendship, marriage, adventure, international relations, appearances vs reality, and patriotism.
Amin was basically: Moody. When he finally snaps at Fawn for the first time you can see that the guy isn't stable. Fawn (and the audience) thought they were cool until then. It's a feeling all countries have had at one point or another a few months after a change of power: the joyful victor reveals a nasty side that hints at something much bigger. A big, collective "Uh oh."
Having trouble: Saying anything at all that is helpful or interesting about this movie so I'll just give it a B+. Nut sure why I'm having trouble but maybe that tells you something about it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


What’s the deal? A group of people I like (really like, I guess) wanted to get together to see this movie, so I obliged and went.
No Carlos, I mean the movie: Are you serious?
At least tell me something about it: OK. There are about five storylines going on here, and they are all mish-mashed together into the one movie.
Wait, so you didn’t want to go see it? There you go. You’re starting to catch on.
The New Yorker said: Something to the effect of ‘This movie is bad—but there is a sequence of about seven minutes where you don’t want to be anywhere else but there, in the theater, watching those seven minutes. I kept looking for them but I didn’t find them ever.
I would like: An explanation about the very beginning when the meteorite or whatever lands. Where’s it from? Why? Does it die? Etc.
Sequel: Should be about the new, black Spiderman—he’s way more interesting/cool/entertaining to watch than Peter Parker.
Wasn’t this movie really expensive? Not sure how much, but my friend said $400 million, which sounds ridiculous. Maybe I’ll look it up. When he told me that I said, “Wow, $400 million worth of fancy computers. Cool.” Because they didn’t spend any of it on the acting, especially the extras, who were so over the top it felt like an infomercial for the Ronco Rotisserie Chicken thingy.
But Carlos, aren’t comics supposed to be kind of like that? Honestly, I don’t care for this defense anymore. The “comics are cheesy and then so does a goo movie adaptation have to be.” Forget it. Cheesy is cheesy and bad acting is bad acting. I’m sorry, but genre isn’t a valid excuse for that. Maybe Toby McGuire is a master actor for being so dorky and cheesy and getting through the whole movie without just stopping and going “how much am I getting paid again?” But it isn’t fun to watch, that’s for sure.
What this reminds me of: An article that David Foster Wallace wrote a long time ago. I think. It was when Terminator 2 came out and it was equating the movie to pornography. Special-effects porn he called it. There is no acting, the movie is simply a showcase/vessel for all these computer effects. It’s a demo for what you can do on fancy computers (although in all fairness, I really enjoyed Terminator 2, but I think DFW was hinting at a larger trend). Impressive? Maybe. Entertaining? Sure, just take out all that cheesy fluff acting and leave the action in—we all fast forward to the good parts anyway.
What I’d like to see on the DVD when it comes out: McGuire breaking down and crying in the middle of a scene and everyone coming over to him, consoling him and going, “I know Toby, I know. I’m sorry.”
Things I noticed: There was a website I used to check out a lot dedicated to catching mistakes in movies. Like lack of continuity or wardrobe errors. Stuff like that. Well the first is that $400 million apparently can’t teach you how to sing or make it look like you can sing. Fly through New York on a web you shoot out of your wrist? Yes. Singing? No. Never for a second do you buy that Dunst is singing. EVER. Why not try a little harder? Oh, right, fast forward. Also, her phone message changes in the movie. Fist she actually says “beep!” before the beep and then minutes later she has the same message but no “beep!” Details people. With all that money, don’t forget to sweat the small stuff—it comes off as real sloppy. Also, the guy who has his face disfigured at the end—the first time we see it and the second time (minutes later) are different. They probably forgot to take a polaroid of the first time so the makeup person could replicate the face the next time he did it. Polaroids for for, what, $50?
More on Dunst not looking at all like she’s singing: It’s the root of a bigger problem. I call it the Matrix II problem. What good are special effects if we can immediately tell that something is fake? Toby McGuire is barely in this movie, unless you count his grunting and “Yeah!” while a CGI Spidey does his stuff. It all looks fake, like Dunst singing. Technology and special effects should convince us, make us believe that what we are watching is real. The perfect example is The Matrix. This movie used as many computers and effects as anyone else. The reason those fighting scenes are so great is because they look real. They spend some money on training Keanu and Co. They are really fighting and you can tell. That, along with some clever pulleys, harnesses, and computer effects, creates a believable, kick-ass movie. Here Dunst singing doesn’t even pass muster. If you want a more recent example of how to do it right, check out 300.
So what’s the Matrix II problem? Remember the scene where Neo fights like 500 of those bad guys who all look the same? The guy who always calls him Mr. Anderson instead of Neo? That scene is horrible because there is no fighting, it’s all a CGI Neo making all those moves. It looks fake. Like Spiderman looks fake. It’s one of the reasons that The Matrix franchise deteriorated as it went into the 2nd and 3rd movies—they strayed from the idea of using effects to complement a really cool idea.
Wow, anything else to say? Yes. I would like to point out that, after the movie, we all walked out asking each other what we thought. Even the friend who really really really wanted to see it had the same comment as the rest of us, “Wow, that was a long movie. Look how late it is!? Look how late it is indeed.
FYI: Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain (now available on DVD)) was going to direct the new Batman movies. Unfortunately, he didn’t. But his concept of a comic-book superhero sounds fascinating: He wanted to make a movie about a regular guy—no super powers—in a costume running around the city playing hero. He puts his car together himself and all that stuff. In other words, the gritty reality of Batman as he would really exist in the real world. Now that sounds interesting.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Torture Porn

An interesting article from Advertising Age about horror films and how they've become so profitable that standards are eroding to the point where movies are just trying to be as despicable and shocking as possible to grab a good opening audience and make some profit.

All the while, those movie makers make it tougher for "traditional" horror filmmakers to get their movies through.

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Got stocks in China?

Have any money in China? In mutual or index funds that contain a significant portion of their allocation in Emerging Markets like China?

Watch out then, because things are getting out of hand.

I'm sure keeping a close eye on it.

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This is an idea I first got when I was living in Paris for three months and doing nothing but reading, writing, and napping (along with taking French classes in the morning).

I had no TV and no Internet, so I spent most of my time reading books. The more I read, the more I thought about the books and about the authors that had written them. I had so many questions about the story, the way the author had come upon certain decisions, and about the craft of writing.

But I had nowhere to go to get the answers.

So I came up with the idea of having a website that would allow readers to submit questions to certain authors. It would be my job (as the webmaster) to get those questions to the author via the publisher.

This would be incredible tough at first, but I think that once a few authors agree to this kind of access (especially with email and all) it would get easier.

So, my question is this:
Do you find the idea interesting/compelling? Would you be interested in being able to get very specific answers to very specific questions about the work of certain contemporary authors?

We aren't talking about general, big idea stuff, we're talking about really specific questions like "In the part of the book where X confesses his addiction to Y, he uses the word "unstoppable." That is a key term in psychology. Did you research the subject and really get into it or do you know someone who has gone through this?"

Granted, I just made that up and may not be very good, but that's the best I could come up with right now. When I first thought of the website I had some good ones, so I'll post those as I find them or come up with new ones from my current readings.

Is this something worth pursuing?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ichiro Enlights Us

Even if you don't know or follow baseball, here's all you need to know about him before reading his quote: he's really really good and he's the most popular player/person in Japan. He's played in the majors for 6 plus seasons. Ish. From USA Today:

Ichiro's reserved nature is partially reflective of his nationality, he says.
"It's a weakness to try to show yourself to be more than you actually are. To me, it's cooler to hide yourself, even if you're better than that," Ichiro says. "That's a big difference between Japanese and American cultures. Sometimes, (Americans) try to make themselves out to be bigger than they are."

Airbags Dangerous for Tall/Short People

Great, another thing for me to worry about.


Have you noticed how this has become such a pervasive word? Not just to tack on at the end of a word like a time or direction: "It's fiveish." "It's north of Addisonish."

This is pretty common and I use it all the time. Personally, I also like to add "plus" to any amount I'm estimating: "34 times 12 is 400 plus."

But back to Ish. Have you seen people start to use it as it's own, standalone word. I caught myself using it the other day, and then I heard my boss use it the next day. Nobody objected, everyone understood.

Is this becoming a standard thing?

This is how it sounds: "We need around 35 catalogs. (pause) Ish."

Or: Person 1: "We need 25 people."
Person 2: "Ish."

I like it, that's all I'm really trying to say here.

Failed Review—Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair (Book)

Genre: Philosophy/Memoir
How I heard of it: It's a "classic." I've seen it on all kinds of "all time" lists. Didn't really realize it's more philosophy than memoir.
How far did I get? 134 of 400+.
What stopped me? Chatty McChatty. The author writes like a philosophy undergrad might talk after a few whiskey sours—on and on to get through a relatively simple topic.
Anything good? Well, the copy I have is a "P.S." copy, so it includes all kinds of extras about the author and discussion topics. The author's story is actually really interesting (mental illness, shock therapy, and so on), and it's a shame the philosophy part was done so dense and boring that it kept me from the memoir part. It's kind of a downer when, between scenes of travel and beautiful scenery, you have to put up with a long-winded professor—not nice.
Is the writing good? Yeah, the memoir parts are. The philosophy parts is not (and I double majored in philo, so enjoy it).
Disappointed? Big time. I actually really wanted to find certain stuff out—the story was intriguing—but it wasn't worth it to put myself through the torture of reading the rest of it. Plus, it's a "classic." Time tested. I thought for sure it would be a good read. T'was not.
What's next? I think I'll take a little break from novels here. I'm reading Best American Travel Writing while I try to catch up on my new New Yorker subscription. Not easy. And by the way, so far the fiction in them hasn't been anything to write home about. But the articles are interesting—I just read one on the graffiti artist Banksy the other day, it was really good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The One Show Awards

Check out the site, it's great and you can take a look at all the winners, from around the world, of the various categories of ad awards.

It's a great way to get exposed to international ads, which lead you to immediately ask: "Why don't we see good ads like that in the US?"

Answer: Political Correctness

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I've always been interested in this sort of thing, and this article shows how the application of this science can help mankind.

In this case, scientists were able to directly target cancer cells to destroy them and only them, making chemotherapy much, much, much more bearable.

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The Lovely Bones

Strange but true: Peter Jackson is going to direct the movie version of the best-selling book. I haven't read it but I know what it's about and I know the author's story, which is pretty interesting.

It just seems like a strange pairing, but I'm looking forward to it even though I haven't read the book, which I admit is a little weird. Maybe I'll read it the week before it comes out, it's what I did with Lord of the Rings.

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Obama in the New Yorker

I'm a recent subscriber to the magazine and I wanted to give a heads up to everyone to check out this article about Obama. It talks a lot about his ideal of unity and how for Obama this isn't just a political thing—it's part of his personality.

I could go on and on, but just take a look at it, it's well worth it.

It's nice to be excited about a presidential candidate.

By the way, it's a part-time job keeping up with this magazine every week. In a good way, though.

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Cubby Greed

I haven't posted on the Cubbies in a very long time, mostly because if I started to I would start to get really frustrated and annoyed with most of the decisions that are and aren't made. But actually Lou Pinella has been pretty good: he's played Theriot, given Guzman a shot, and I like the way he's handled the kids. Murton is my one issue where I feel he should play more.

But ANYWAY, this isn't about that. It's about this new promotion they are running, which makes it look like they are being gracious by offering fans a shot at on-field tickets. But look, it's an AUCTION, which means—as usual—that those of us who won't spend a thousand dollars on a single ticket.

So big whoop.

But, in the spirit of fairness and evenhandedness, I will mention that last Sunday I went to the Cubs game and sat in the best seat I've ever sat in at a baseball game:

How did I manage to score these seats? Well, the Cubs website had a "raffle" of sorts. "Of sorts" because you didn't really win anything, you won the "chance" to buy great (expensive) tickets. So I said what the hell and I entered. And I won. I was given a website and a password and was told to go there at a certain time. I did.

I found tickets available for these sections that are usually sold out at this point. So I still had to pay the big bucks, but without this raffle I would've never even had a chance.

So I guess the two sides balance each other out—the greed of the auction and the generosity of giving me a chance to spend my money with them.

Checks and balances.

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I like this website, it's devoted to making life more efficient via software. I am a HUGE proponent of making all kinds of processes, be they work related or not, faster and more efficient.

This one particular tip to deal with spam seems to make a whole lot of sense for people/business that don't receive a whole lot of legitimate foreign email:

By blocking email from most of the undeveloped world, I've successfully reduced spam by 95 percent in the past year.

And he goes on to show you how to do it.

I thought nothing of it except that it wouldn't work for me, seeing as how I have people I'd like to hear from in "underdeveloped" parts of the world.

But, as is usual for these kinds of news pieces, the comments section provided infinitely better entertainment (the now-deceased comments section on Yahoo News was the best!):

I don't know why they don't just make a separate internet just for Americans - who cares about people in the rest of the world.

Then there is a standard case of the people knowing more than the writer, as they debunk the claim that the "underdeveloped" world is the cause of 95% of the world's email.

On the comments section:

C'mon LifeHacker, change your xenophobic ways! Everyone knows that the lion's share of all spam originates in the U.S. of A, with Canada, the UK high up on the list of offenders too.

SpamHaus Statistics:

And sure enough, the statistics bear this out.

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Farfour the mouse

Check out this bit on the "Hamas Mickey Mouse." All of the angles have been worked here but my main concern here is for the legacy of Mickey Mouse.

Aren't some copyright laws being broken here? I actulaly remember reading something a while back about Disney's copywright on Mickey ending soon. Maybe it already did. People were getting ready to flood the market with all kinds of Mickey memorabilia without worrying about infringing on any laws. Disney was going to get an extension but, according the article I read, it didn't look likely.

Anyone have the details on this?

That would be one hell of a way of battling terrorrism—sue the shit out of Hamas in a courtroom.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New Blog on Being an American Stranger

For those of you that are keeping track, I posted something a while back about possibly starting a new blog with some articles I've been writing about my experiences as a foreigner that doesn't look like a foreigner living in the US. And all the hilarity that ensues.

I got a couple of comments about it, one of which was the following:

Anonymous said...

Aren't you being just a bit disingenuous in characterizing yourself as a "foreigner" in the US? You are, after all, 50% US American by birth and were schooled in institutions following US culture-based currricula, esp. your early childhood schooling when those things are easiest to learn and get hard-wired.

My response:
Carlos P said...

Perhaps a bit disingenuous, but the way I see it I was raised somewhere that is NOT the US. No matter what kind of situation you are in while living in a place like Guatemala, it is NOT the US. It is, like any other place in the world, completely unique. So moving to the US afterwards, while being much easier for me than some other people (i.e. those that don't know english, have darker skin, etc.), was still an adjustment. An adjustment that was not easy at all.

The blog would focus on those adjustments and the new life that comes with being someone who carries a culture and experience in his heart and mind while living in an entirely different place that knows very little about the experience.

Maybe I'll post more on this later. I'm in a bit of a rush but it's a good question to discuss.

More on this later.

Well, later is now. I figured this was the perfect time to start the new blog and get my articles ready for outside viewing.

So to read up on the rest of my response to this comment, please go to the new blog, American Stranger. If you have a better name for it, please let me know, I'll consider good ideas.

And please don't stop reading this blog, as it will still be as active as ever!

Bulls = Awful

So the Bulls have been playing like a piece of crap with a jersey on, only in a collective way.

I don't want to talk about it, but I appreciate that my main man Nocioni was able to bring a smile to my face with this quote after the game. If you didn't see the game or don't care about this stuff, he was clean shaven, which isn't normal for him.

When asked why, he replied:

"I missed a spot shaving," Nocioni said. "Then I tried to make everything smaller and smaller. It didn't work, so I shaved everything."

He is our everyman.

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More on the housewife's salary

Remember that post I made a few days ago about a housewife's "job" being valued at around $130,000?

Well, loyal MSN Money readers responded in droves and one in particular caught my eye:

I'm looking forward to your article detailing how much men are worth. A typical male's "overtime" wages would include mowing, trimming, edging, fertilizing, weeding, gutter cleaning, snow removal, general repairs, car repairs, coaching Little League six to 10 hours a week, not to mention the overwhelming stress of being the provider of his family's financial security. I won't hold my breath waiting for that article.

I think in the end we all feel undervalued, no matter who we are or what our job is. Chalk it up to human nature.

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Street Wars

A friend of mine at work tipped onto this. It's called Street Wars and it's basically a water gun/assassination game in real time, in real life. No computers (except for signing up), no fake identities. By entering your provide your address and work address and you get someone else's data too. Your job is to squirt that person with a water gun.

Sound filled with all kinds of possible scary/dangerous scenarios? Of course, and that's why it's such an awesome idea.

The idea of someone knowing where you live and trying to hunt you down though, that might be too much for the more paranoid of us out there.

There are all kinds of rules involved and I suggest you check out the site for more info.

This is the kind of thing that, if it were happening in another city besides the one I lived in, I would be telling whatever buddies I had there that they HAVE to do it. But me? I'll pass.

I'll be on the lookout for the water guns though.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The State of Book Reviews in Newspapers

Here's an interesting article about how book reviews are becoming less and less common in papers as the popularity of blogs has exploded.

I for one agree with the "democratic" characterization of book reviews on blogs. If I want to review whatever book I want, I can. If I want to say something is horrible, I do. Newspapers (as all other institutions) have certain interests and needs that need to be met. Freedoms are restricted. Bloggers have their own business when it comes to their reviews.

I do feel for those who can't or refuse to adjust to this change. Especially older folks who love books and want to read about them but are having a tougher time finding reviews in traditional media.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Housewife's Salary

Here's an interesting article from a study done by the people at They've tried to come up with a salary that measures what a mom would make given her work hours and different responsibilities.

I think it's a great way for numbers-oriented people to realize the often undervalued jobs of women in the home.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pursuit of Happyness—Review

Who's in it? The Fresh Prince of Bel Air—Will Smith—his son, and what looks like the woman from Crash that gets felt up by the Cops. Might not be her though. (Confirmed, it's her)
What's the deal? Based on a true story, a smart guy (Smith) makes a bad business deal and ends up alone with his son on the streets. He gets picked for an unpaid internship at Dean Witter and must make it through some extremely tough times with his son as they live on the streets—all while preparing for his big exam that may or may not get him a permanent, paying job.
How much of it is true? No idea, but I remember reading up on this guy when the movie came out and I think the gist is pretty much there.
Is "happyness" a typo? No, it gets worked into the movie. The whole pursuit of happiness angle works well, but it's one of those things that, if it's actually true (that the real guy actually thought of Ben Franklin), then it works well. Otherwise, it's a bit contrived and semi-cheesy. Kind of like the whole James Frey thing.
The role of the rubik's cube in this movie: Pretty major, actually. I guess it was all the rage in 1981 and no one could solve them. Fresh Prince though, does, and it gets him the internship. Again, this is cool if it's true, kind of lame if it's not (research: rubik's cube was Smith's idea, didn't actually happen; for more on the disparities go here). But all this is now, after I've seen it. Throughout the movie it works, since I get sucked into movies pretty deep while I watch.
Will Smith's kid, is he any good? The kid's got charisma and he's cute—so he's halfway there.
One thing I kept waiting for and never happened, which was surprising/unrealistic: No racism. This was a business (stockbrokering) with mostly white, college-educated men, and I didn't detect an ounce of racism in this movie (plus it's 1981, remember). Although him being treated like an assistant by the one guy could pass for it, it's certainly not overt or meant to be noticed. Plus he shows up with his son in front of a beautiful CEO's house (the house is beautiful, not the CEO, FYI) and the CEO shows no issues with a black man in this neighborhood, on his porch. Instead, he invites him to sit in his box at the 49ers game. Now, I may have just been coming out of the womb in 1981, but wouldn't he have encountered a fare share of blockades due to his color? Or was the intention of the producers to show that, when it comes to stockbrokers, the only color that matters is green and not black and white.
Where I got that last line from: A PBS special on blacks in Hollywood.
Trailer teaser: They showed the best parts in the trailer, what the hell? Respect to this movie that even though I had seen the most powerful parts, they were still strong enough to swift-kick me in the guy, at which point I started to cry.
Cry factor: 8/10 (10 being Cool Runnings, the ultimate guy-crying movie)
It's incredible but I totally buy: How he kept going to work in a professional-looking suit, even when he was homeless. This was a no-brainer on his part—you gotta look the part to get the part.
Wrap up: This is a great example of a movie with good writing, good acting, and a great story. No lasers or special effects or made up accents. It's great to see an "old fashioned" movie that's really good.

Here is the real-life Chris Gardner in a recent photo:

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