Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Right-Wing Hits Just Keep on Coming

Last month I blogged about Rush Limbaugh having the real power in the Republican party when RNC chair Michael Steele went toe-to-toe with the radio host and backed down with his tail between his legs. At the time I found this occurrence to be completely shocking and bewildering, but I hadn't yet learned the full, depressing, somewhat comical truth: Rush doesn't actually give a shit about the GOP. I'd suspected for some time that the drivel spilling from Limbaugh's mouth was hyperbole meant solely to attract listeners and controversy but I'd thought that deep down he actually cared about being able to make his core ideals reality.

This illusion was shattered today when Limbaugh, reacting to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's party-switch to the Democrats rejoiced at his departure and told Specter to take McCain with him. He said it would be a good idea to "weed out people who aren't really Republican". That's a great idea, Rush. At a time when only roughly 20% of people identify as Republican you want to thin out the ranks some more? You want to have fewer seats in Congress? Fewer governors, state representatives and city councilmen? When the nation is trending moderate to liberal you want to alienate anyone not on the far right fringe?

As a political strategy this is suicidal but as a ratings booster this line of thought it pure gold. The fewer Republicans there are in government, the more governmental actions there will be that can be attributed to Democrats. As more legislation is enacted with a (D) next to the sponsors' names, the more Rush gets to complain about so-called "liberal policies" that are leading the country to ruin. Huge payday for Rush, not so huge payday for actual conservatives that used to think the GOP stood for them.

Limbaugh is hardly alone in this. Blowhards Neil Boortz, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck are all barking up the same money tree and the biggest joke of them all is that their viewers/readers think these people actually believe anything they are saying. Reagan's Big Tent Republicanism of the 80s is long since gone as those furthest on the right continue to exile anyone straying too close to the middle.

You know, as I read through my history books in school I used to wonder what it would have been like to watch the Federalists or the Whigs fade into irrelevance. Now I know. It feels sad and funny all at the same time.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On the Bright Side in NYC

Two posts in one day? Whose blog is this?!?

So I don't end the day on a note of horrific bigotry, I'll recount this past weekend which was probably one of the best I've had in a while. It's really a microcosm of why New York is a great city to live in. After work on Friday I met up with 1, his cousin RBG, and several of her friends on the steps of Union Square. The 5pm sun was shining brightly, reminding why I used to eat lunch frequently on these steps years ago when I first moved here and interned at the old FSG office.

We sat and talked for a while before heading out to Food Swings for dinner. I'm neither vegan nor vegetarian though I do appreciate food of all stripes, flavors and animal protein levels. The drumsticks were quite good (as reported by several Citysearch reviewers before the site's redesign made it horrible) once I stopped expecting the consistency of chicken... the flavor was quite nice and deep-fried is deep-fried. I had a bit of 1's cheese-"steak" as well and it was also very tasty. I've been thinking a lot lately about sustainable eating and while this doesn't necessitate a switch to a strict vegetarian/organic it's gotten me watching what I buy and exploring culinary options outside of the wintry meat/carb paradigm I've been in for the last few months. Hopefully there's room somewhere in my budget for more Union Square green market purchases and other local alternatives.

From there it was back to the city for some first-year film/photo projects at the International Center of Photography. It was about 50/50 entertaining/run-of-the-mill-art-film which is a pretty good ratio. The free drinks afterward were an added bonus, though the real bonus came in Long Island City after the show. Hanging out, drinking beer on the roof during an open studio whilst staring out at the night-time Manhattan skyline is a great way to spend an evening. Especially when hanging out with cool new people.

Got a late start Saturday and my 10am run with 3 and K turned into a grueling 80 degree 12:30pm run which ended early due to me drunkenly jumping off of a ledge the night before and messing up my calves. This led to a substandard run (~2 miles) but that mattered little when lazily hanging out in 3K's place. After that it was meeting up with Karls Barkley for $3 all-you-can-eat BBQ at Sweet Revenge and a back yard BBQ after that in Fort Greene before finally making it leg-achingly home.

Sunday was beer, chips and home-made salsa in Prospect Park for a couple of hours with N, then up to Woodside for some so-so Ube Coolers at Jollibee Queens with RBG. The night was still young, however, so we took a trip into the city for some Shake Shack and a walk around the Natural History Museum.

A great night.

Why Are Conservative Talking Heads Allowed to be Racist?

One of the many stories circulating around the blogosphere today involves Neil Boortz and Michael Savage (you can probably already see where this is going) engaging in some mindblowingly racist speculation about the recent outbreak of swine flu. Boortz theorizes that since Mexico doesn't have a Center for Disease Control, what better way for terrorists to infect the U.S. than to infect Mexicans? Oh, I don't know, Neil... maybe they can infect Americans? Maybe this latest potential medical emergency isn't a platform for your xenophobic rants against brown people?

This reminds me of a comment thread I was on in which somebody speculated that Muslims immigrating into the U.S. were actually terrorists with the hidden agenda of slowly taking over through breeding a lot.

Is there conservative uproar over this hate-mongering? Or is this tripe just standard noise flooding a media channel including Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh? Certainly sounds right in line with (now former) Georgia councilman John Dowdy advocating playing an online game in which you shoot at pregnant Mexican women.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dreeeeaam. Dream, dream, dream.

Two nights ago I had a pair of trippy dreams. In the first I dreamed that I was friends with a woman who was putting on a special dinner. She didn't know what to serve so I recommendeded a soul food restaurant, which was run by Florence from the Jeffersons. Not Marla Gibbs the actress, Florence the character. My friend (who wasn't actually a person I know in real life) liked the food and as thanks invited me to the dinner. Turns out the guest of honor was Martin Luther King Jr. He walked in sporting a grey three-piece suit and sat next to me as we began chatting. As we talked he reached into his pocket, pulled out the largest calculator I've ever seen and explained that it calculated statistics tables and it helped him bet on basketball.

At this point I woke up because I was incredibly thirsty. I drank some water, fell asleep and immediately was transported to an indoor track. I was running and running and when I finally stopped I ran into my sister who told me that Nike had just filmed a commercial while I was running. I found someone involved and looked at an early take of the commercial which was basically just me running. I sat down on some bleachers and looked around, seeing somehow that there was a bar on the other side of the room. Spotting my friend Ashley there drinking with some friends I decided to try and make my way over. I couldn't, however, because one of my high school gym teachers was running a basketball camp on the court between me and the bar and in order to cross I would have had to run through all the drills. As I prepared to do the dribble-around-cones drill my alarm when off and I woke up.

What the fuck does all that mean?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blast from the Video Game Past

Things have gotten fairly busy in recent weeks curtailing my blogging somewhat. I've accumulated a rather large stack of subjects I want to blog about, and now that I have some time that stack will... remain exactly the same size. Thanks to NumberThree over at fringeofacity a new topic has shot right to the top of the list: Favorite Old School Nintendo Game. Picking up that original Nintendo Entertainment System in Kindergarten (bundled with Mario 1 and Duck Hunt) was a turning point in my life putting me on track to log countless hours on various systems since. Of the games I loved in those head 8-bit days these ten were the most beloved.

  • 10. RBI Baseball

  • I am not a baseball fan. I haven't really followed baseball since the 1997 World Series. In the days of my wide-eyed, innocent youth, however, I couldn't get enough of it. I was on a little league team and played the shit out of this game. To this day I can only name a couple of baseball games that I'd rather play, and in fact one of them appears later on this list.

  • 9. Tecmo NBA Basketball

  • Though Tecmo Bowl is generally more beloved, I've personally always been more in love with basketball. For NES basketball, while competitor Double Dribble sported a sweet little dunk cut scene it also sported inferior gameplay and graphics. It took me years to break the habit of wildly jacking up threes from the far corner developed from too much Tecmo NBA.

  • 8. Gradius

  • Technology leaps and bounds head of its Atari predecessor, Defender, Gradius was a side-scrolling shooter in which the player controlled a space ship, dodged and shot at enemies, and obtained power-ups to allow greater efficiency at aforementioned dodging and shooting. It remained my favorite scrolling plane-based shooter (a rich genre in those days) until the SNES's epic Raiden Trad.

  • 7. Excite Bike

  • This was not a game that was exciting graphically, nor conceptually, but hearing the title screen music immediately brings a smile to my face to this very day. I spent hours upon hours constructing my own courses, dodging oil slicks, hitting ramps and stepping on the gas too hard to the point of overheating.

  • 6. Jackal

  • The only game to do shooting and lobbing grenades while rescuing hostages better than this was Half-Life's Counterstrike mod. To this day one of my most satisfying memories of the NES is seeing watching those soldiers get on that helicopter and fly to safety. Gameplay-wise, it's everything riding around in the Turtle Van should have been but wasn't.

  • 5. Super Mario Bros.

  • This was the start of it all. A twenty year (off and on) love of video games stemmed directly from a little game in which a plumber jumps on walking heads and turtles to rescue a princess from a larger turtle. Eating mushrooms, smashing bricks, throwing fireballs, kicking ass and taking names.

  • 4. Base Wars

  • In number 10 I alluded to a handful of baseball games that did it better than RBI, and this is on that short list (indeed, the only one on the NES platform.) Adding power-ups, robots, upgrades, and fights to anything is a recipe for success. I distinctly remember avoiding force-outs just to get into more battles.

    Flybot Scott FTW.

  • 3. Contra

  • Few games display the deterioration of my reaction time like Contra. Where as a 6 year-old I could waltz through a hail of bullet fire - spreader rifle firing madly - level after level I now rely on the Konami code to play for any extended length of time. Though this amazing dexterity was likely due to the hours I poured into memorizing exactly where to jump and when to shoot.

  • 2. TMNT2

  • The time I put into this game in arcades across the greater Cleveland area is only rivaled by the time I put into it at home. Games like this (and X-Men and the Simpsons, which all basically followed a similar side-scrolling formula) part of what led to the strength of the video game arcade in this era and porting this experience to the home console was a stroke of genius. This game kicked off a string of fantastic Ninja Turtles games for Nintendo and remains one of the system's best titles.

  • 1. Super Mario Bros. 3

  • This game outclassed every game that came before it and many that came in later years on later systems. Graphically it held its own or surpassed many titles from the later-gen 16-bit systems and from a game-play standpoint it was one of the most ambitious games released by Nintendo until Mario 64. It was bursting with content from power ups (mushrooms, fire-flowers, raccoon suits, frog suits, hammer bros, tanooki, p-wings) to bonus levels (mushroom house, spade house, ghost ship) to hidden secrets (warp whistles, hiding behind scenery). Nintendo used the formula form this game to create the superior Super Mario World for the SNES and while it rivaled Mario 3 in fun-factor few games can rival it for groundbreaking ingenuity.