Monday, February 28, 2011

Some thoughts on the Oscars

I don't really watch award shows (that's what all the avant-garde types say, right?) but this I kept a casual eye to the Oscars because, incredibly enough, I had seen five of the ten best picture nominees. All five are very good films and I highly highly recommend them (as if my recommendation meant anything in the first place, but we all like to humor ourselves sometimes with delusions of importance).

Here they are:

Inception (a dream within a dream within a dream?)
Social Network (the perfect story that captures the current internet generation)
True Grit (a damn good western. Plus Jeff "El Duderino" Bridges is in it. Oh and Hailee Steinfeld is outstanding).
King's Speech (who knew a movie about speech therapy for monarchs would be so riveting?)
Toy Story 3 (Buzz speaks in Spanish. I am sold!)

If you don't know, King's Speech won best picture AND best director AND best actor. The triple crown. The Social Network, an early favorite, got left out in the pouring rain (or the snow, judging by the bizarre weekend weather). That's a bit of a shame because I was convinced SN would win it. The Academy likes topical stuff (e.g. Hurt Locker), and this film basically speaks well for today's culture. Not to say KS wasn't a worthy film, of course. Very well-deserved Oscar nonetheless.

  • Kirk Douglas should host next year's show. At 94, the man seemed to exude more youth than the presenters themselves.
  • Christian Bale was surprisingly humble and modest during his speech.
  • I kinda want to see best documentary winner Inside Job now. 
  • Steinfeld didn't win best supporting actress? Shame. Such a huge shame.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I am feeling a bit lazy today... I will let Dick Cavett take over for me:

Please watch the whole thing to the end (in fact, everything after 2:41 provides the best entertainment) and pay attention to the last two comments Cavett makes to Mailer.

Some notes to guide you through these epic three minutes:

  • Cavett is a legendary TV talk show host from the 60's who always managed to snag some of the biggest personalities. People like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Janis Joplin and Marlon Brando appeared on his show.
  • Norman Mailer (the guy with the horrible hair-do in the video above) was a twice pulitzer-winning American author of works like The naked and the dead (about a bunch of seamen in the pacific theater in WWII). And yes he actually did stab his wife. Somewhat of a brute.
  • Gore Vidal was a leading public intellectual of his time (and a bit of a snob). The reason he is fighting with Mailer is he wrote an uncomplimentary review of Mailer's work in a magazine. 
  • Janet Flanner (the one with white gloves, in case you didn't notice it) was a journalist for the New Yorker. Mind you, she just won't have it! 

Finally, "Why don't you fold it five ways and stick it where the moon don't shine" has got to be one of the best insults in the entire universe of insults. Of course, "Perhaps you would like two more chairs to contain your giant intellect" is a close second.

For the intrepid, here are a few additional links that act as further research to this very intriguing sparring:

Noted stabber, verbal abuser and brawler Norman Mailer .

Suave, nasally and bossy Gore Vidal .

Dedicated Francophile Janet Flanner .

The wizard of witty one-liners Dick Cavett .

And here is Cavett joyfully reminiscing about this memorable event: Cavett's blog .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Charlie Sheen overdose

I am currently suffering from an accidental overdose of Charlie Sheen.

I am sure that, by now, anyone with internet knows that the man originally born as Carlos Irwin Estevez has been phoning in some seriously crazy interviews to loonies on the radio circuit attacking his own TV show "Two and Half laughs men" and its creator Chuck Lorre.

By now, Lorre has been called "Haim Levine", "a Nazi", "punk" and a creator of 177 dumb shows by Sheen, who proudly declared he was clean because he is mentally tough. The actor also challenged anyone to give him a drug test on-screen because he is sure he will ace that thing.

Lorre and CBS accepted the gauntlet and canceled TV's #1 comedy a mere hours after the highly entertaining Sheenfest. Undaunted, Sheen called in a few more interviews today, hollering at the crew to join him in a war against CBS and Lorre. You heard him guys, Uncle Charlie wants you!

Now as if this much exposure to Sheen wasn't enough, I got to see him in Wall Street 2 as well. Almost on a whim, I rented the movie from redbox at my local Ralph's. Friday night, rain, the whole apartment to myself - what better way to spend it than watch a poorly reviewed sequel, right? The movie is predictably droll and although the acting is good (for the most part), the writing is just downright shoddy.

Anyway, Sheen has a brief cameo in the sequel. If you saw the first one, you would know that he played the cutthroat protege in that one, who was ultimately responsible for turning in Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko.
So here I was, watching this film and they are showing some glitzy charity ball. Gekko is doing the rounds, trying to rehabilitate his image among the snobs and voila! he runs into Sheen's character. True to form, Mr. Sheen is flanked by two ladies, his face bearing his trademark obnoxious smirk. What joy! I burst out laughing and savored that moment for the rest of the film.

And now I am paying the consequences for that overdose.

Friday, February 25, 2011

UG Sports - 13: Weekly roundup of the cricket world cup

Hokay so...the last two sports posts dealt with the ins and outs of the good sport of cricket. I mentioned too that the cricket world cup is currently being held in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Now let's do a roundup of significant events from last week. In order to minimize the actual amount of cricket you need to know to understand these posts, I am going to deal with the juicy parts:

  • Kenya, Zimbabwe and Canada showed, yet again, why they are constantly referred to as the minnows of world cricket. All three of them lost in a spectacular fashion, their teams folding and crashing like a cheap and completely unstable house of cards. Compared to this terrible trio, the Cavs are magnificent winners. There, that should put things in perspective.
  • A historic crowd turned out to watch Bangladesh take on India in the opener. In the recent years, Bangladesh has gone from sucking terribly to sucking slightly less terribly. The team went in with oversized expectations thrust upon their shoulders. And they lost. Quite badly. Sucks for the jubilant home crowd.
  • England bowler Graeme Swann took a brief paternity leave to witness the birth of his son and then promptly flew back to join his team's "crucial" match against part-time cricketers Holland. When asked about the reaction of his son years from now, he quipped that he will tell Swann Jr. that he had to beat Holland. Good luck feeding him that pill, guvnah.
  • You'd think that when Australia conveniently crushed Zimbabwe last week, their captain would be all smiles and hugs and tears. Nope. Big man Ricky Ponting got out in a poor fashion and was seen exiting the stadium muttering to himself. The next thing we know is that he went mental in the locker room and smashed a brand-new LCD TV with his bat. RIP Sony Bravia. You are a martyr to your brethren. Ricky, may I suggest anger management?
That's it for this week. More matches this weekend, meaning more tidbits next week.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A memorable losing streak comes to an end

What do you call a school that boasts a staggeringly shitty 310-game losing streak? Caltech, of course. Last time these techno-geeks won anything in basketball was in 1985, when the Gipper was still president and Americans everywhere were mortified about impending Japanese takeovers (that never materialized).

Our good friends at Yahoo couldn't resist themselves.

"The victory touched off a wild celebration on a campus where students typically only rejoice like that after acing a midterm."

Hardy har har. Hey guys, since we are talking about Caltech, let's sneak in a lame joke about what legendary nerds they are!

Anyway, you go Caltech.

Good job!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The fifth Beatle?

1964 was one hell of a time to be a Beatle. Beatlemania was raging across the world like wildfire, mop top was astronomically hip, and a seemingly endless supply of teens swooned at the merest glimpse of anything Beatle. Amidst this hubbub, the Fab four planned an extensive international tour, stretching from Denmark to Australia.

As June arrived, they began preparing for this tour in earnestness.

When one oh-so slight snag hit them smack in the faces. Or in the tonsils. Ringo got struck down with tonsilitis.

Uh-oh. Ringo was never that prominent in the vocal department (at least back in those days), but he did get by with a little help from his friends (sorry, I had to use that. There is an obligatory bad pun rule when discussing anything about the Beatles).

In any event, our heroes had two gut-wrenching choices: cancel the extravaganza or leave Ringo behind and find a replacement. Ever the supreme perfectionists, the band initially pondered calling the whole thing off. Enter manager Brian Epstein.

The mercurial Epstein (sometimes called the fifth beatle) had taken control of the band from the very early days and he firmly believed that the show must go on. If that meant overriding the most brilliant musical minds of the 20th century, the hell with it. Epstein summoned all his skills to conjure up an eleventh-hour replacement.

The replacement drummer was a chap called Jimmie Nicol. He literally packed a couple bags and hopped on a plane. The next day, a dazed Nicol played in Copenhagen. He was given a crude mop top haircut, and he even wore Ringo's suits (leading one of the Beatles to telegram - yes they still existed then - Ringo that Nicol was going to wear his suits out if he didn't get better soon).

Over the span of two weeks or so, Nicol found out what it feels to be a rocket. He went from dirt to stratosphere at a dizzying pace. Soaring above, he got a glimpse of the good life. Romping in the Amsterdam red light district with Lennon, sight-seeing in Hongkong, reveling with screaming fans....

John, Paul, George and...Jimmie?[]

And it all ended. Ringo got better and flew out to join the band in Australia. A platoon of policemen were deployed to guard their motorcade. That night the Beatles threw one of their legendary parties that lasted till 4 am. Nicol wasn't invited. In the morning, Epstein drove him to the airport. He didn't say goodbye to his "bandmates" because he didn't want to wake them up. At the airport, he was given 500 pounds and a gold watch. His name was spelled wrong. "Thank you Jimmy", it read.

One would think some of that magic dust would have worn off and he would find huge success in his later ventures. Instead, his life took an inexplicable wrong turn. He floundered from band to band, rarely finding any stability or success. Less than a year after his stint in the stratosphere, he declared bankruptcy.

Nicol withdrew into his shell and despite rumors of his death, a Brit newspaper tracked him down in 2005. He lives in a tiny apartment and doesn't talk to anyone - including his own son, who is now a sound engineer himself. Apparently, Paul offered Nicol some money to be in a Beatles documentary in the 90's but he refused.

Jimmie Nicol in 2005 []

Thus endeth the ballad of Jimmie Nicol. Fame is fickle, folks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New webcomic blog!

Hey folks, as I mentioned here and here, I am a huge fan of comics. Recently, under the good influence of my artistically endowed roommate, I took up trying to sketch comic strips of my own.

By and by, we decided to collaborate on a webcomic and finally we have everything in place.

*Drum Roll* *Drum Roll* *Drum Roll*

I am very pleased to announce the launch of our new webcomic blog, which you can find right here: On Bogosity .

Currently, we plan to upload new comics Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Enjoy and don't hesitate to hit the comments!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is it a bird? A plane? No, it's Blake Griffin!

In a place they call the City of Angeles - a place full of gaudy restaurants, dizzying traffic and wide-open beaches  - there was a marvelous spectacle on Saturday night in an arena. A spectacle that was reminiscent of Rome in its debauchery-infused glorious heyday.

As the spectacle was winding down, it happened.

From the inside of a sleek silver vehicle, a bearded sage casually tosses a round ball in the air. A mystical figure shot through the air, his hands steady and ready, to grab the ball. This bird-like humanoid soared over the hood of the vehicle, levitated a few more feet in the air, and in a moment glistening with raw power, dropped the glowing ball into a netting attached to a board. He latched onto the netting as mere mortals around him erupted, their cheers and shouts laced with awe, fear and reverence.

Watch it for yourself:

Friday, February 18, 2011

UG Sports - 12: Cricket! (part dos)

So last post we looked at the general aspect of the noble sport of cricket and its three forms. In this post, we will go over what the heck actually happens during the game.

The objective:Like all sports, there are two sides. One side elects to bat, the other side elects to bowl. The order is decided by a coin toss. The objective of the game is to outscore your opponent to win. If you are batting first, you want to post a high-enough total so you can defend it. If you are batting second, you want to chase the target. Unlike baseball, a one-day game has only one inning a side. Test matches function a little bit differently, but we will not worry about them in this post. Every thing said in this post will implicitly assume we are talking about one-day games. Simple so far?

As the diamond is to baseball, the pitch is to cricket. The pitch is a rectangular patch of soil/mud/grass in the middle of a stadium. On two ends of the pitch are three wooden stakes driven into the ground, called stumps. The bastsman's goal is to protect these stumps; the bowler's to blow them away. Since a picture says a thousand words (or whatever), here is a graphical representation

A bunch of old fogies playing cricket on a pitch

Dramatis personae: Two batsmen, one bowler, and a bunch of fielders. The bowlers bowl overs (each over is six balls) and each side gets 50 overs an inning. Their job is to get outs. The bastmen's job is to outfox these wily rascals and score runs. Oh, and umpires. I guess they are pretty important. Two on-field umpires, one TV umpire. There is also someone called the match referee but I don't think anyone (including the said official) knows what his job actually is. There is some suspicion the job is entirely made-up. Moving on.

How to score: Every time the batsman reaches the other side (and correspondingly, his partner at the other end reaches his end), a run is scored. Other ways to score runs are to hit the ball to the boundary (the edge of the field). If the ball goes into the stands (like a home run), that's six runs. If it crosses the boundary any other way, that's four runs.

How to out: Each side has 11 wickets (or outs, if you will) and a batsman is out if any of the following things happen:
1. The stumps get knocked out
2. The ball he hits is caught (by any player on the field)
3. He is trying to run a run and fails to reach the other end safely

There are  few other ways as well, but they are not as important.

A bit haphazard I realize (let's blame my smashing birthday party last night for this disorganization), but I think the information is all solid.

More parts to follow, as I feel like it.

Now I am off to enjoy the kickoff of an absolutely awesome and spectacular world cup opener and co-hosts India and Bangladesh clash in Dhaka. Woot Woot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The gravity of twenty one

I turned 21 today.

It's like I crossed some mythical boundary, some sort of a legitimizing act because now according to US laws, I can legally drink. Completely arbitrary, you know. European countries have much lower drinking ages. I don't really care much for the drinking part, but I guess it's a little bit flattering to think that in the eyes of the law I am mature enough to go out and thoroughly wasted.

Now on to 25, where I will finally be able to rent a car without having to put my limbs on mortgage.

If you will excuse me now, I need to take a bath in a tub of beer....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

UG Sports - 11: Cricket!

Part 1 of a very audacious and charitable multi-part series explaining the game on the eve of the world cup.

What has eleven players a side, two batsmen on the field at a time, one bowler, one wicketkeeper, is generally awesome AND has a very exciting world cup just around the corner?

If you answered cricket, you get a klondike bar and a permanent place in my hall of legit people.

A very nice cricket brawl in progress[]

Most Every American gives me a blank look when I bring up the sport of cricket. I usually hear crickets chirping every time I mention anything remotely connected with this all-around badass sport. The brave ones usually manage to sputter something like "Isn't that kindaaa like baseball?" or "The one where games last for days, right?"

Well fear not. Before the cricket world cup fever gets crazy, I will give you a very pleasant crash course on cricket. By the time you are done reading this post, you will know the different between a wide-ball and a no-ball and between a silly point and a silly mid-on. And no I am not making these terms up, nor am I pulling them out of thin air.

First, what's all the fuss about the world cup? Unlike the superbowl, the cricket world cup is held every four years. This very scarcity makes it a high-demand good. The first edition of the world cup was held in 1975 and Australia has won the most - 4. They are the Pittsburgh Steelers of cricket. By that logic, the West Indies would be the Oakland Raiders, both because they were very very good in their prime but suck a colossal amount these days. This year's world cup is being hosted jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

This discussion of countries lets us segue into discussing the norms of the sport. Unlike the "big three" American sports, the most watched and prominent form of cricket is played between nations. As can be expected for a sport that originated in the land of the Queen, nations playing it are former colonies or dominions of the said land: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies (you geography nerds may point out that West Indies is actually an artificial name foisted upon a group of islands, but in cricket these islands play as one "nation").

There are three forms of the game: Test, One-day and 20/20.

Test: The granddaddy of them all. This form lasts for five days, with about 9 hours of play each day. Two breaks a day, for lunch and tea. Yes you read that right. Cricket has a tea break. Outrageously enough, even after five days' worth of play, it is possible to have a draw game. You'd think spectators would throw bottles, bags full of worthless pennies or old cell-phones but no. Sometimes a draw is a moral victory for a side. Other times, it's just plain boring.

One-day: As its name suggests, this form takes a day - about 10 hours of play. The most popular form today, and the world cup is played in this form. Draws a lot of crowds and a ton of TV audience. Not possible to have draws, so no chances of riots. There have, however, been legendary riots because teams didn't perform to meet expectations of home crowds.

20/20: For those with the attention-span of a goldfish. The newest version of the game (which takes about 3 hours to finish) is also its loudest and the most controversial. The grumpy old fogies steadfastly cling to their romantic notions of the purity and the nobleness of the game - whatever the hell that means. Me? I like this version just fine. So do millions of other cricket-lovers, thank God.

I think I will stop here. As with all drugs, one must limit the dosage to avoid side effects.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My favorite things

I am sure all you have seen the movie "Sound of music." I have seen it too, and to this day I have not yet recovered from the scars it inflicted upon my psyche. Those terrible terrible wounds will perhaps never heal...

And yet, the only part of the movie I liked is the song "My favorite things." Over the years there have been a TON of covers/tributes/interpretations/reinterpretations of that song by high profile entertainers and two cent schmucks. Like your annoying hipster neighbor looking for the right time to release his thereminized version of the song.

What I am about to show you, though, is absolutely breathtaking. This version is by the Jazz ubermench John Coltrane. Coltrane brings an amazing tenderness  to the song, taking his time meandering and brooding over the oh-so-sweet melodies.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yet another comic strip

While my roommate and finalize our plans for our new webcomic (hopefully launching next week), I am offering some sneak previews of comic strips that will be on there. Very generous, I know.

Here is one of them:

The Cereal Killer
Meanwhile, ponder this: I know. I know that I know. You know that I know. You also know that I know that I know. Do I know that you know that I know that I know?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My first attempt at a comic strip

As I have said before, I am a huge huge comic strip fan. I especially love me those extra-sarcastic/hard-hitting ones like Pearls before swine, Cyanide and happiness, Bizarro and Non-sequitur. Family circus and Marmaduke, not so much. Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes? Yes please!

My roommate and I are working on starting our very own webcomic blog. We have registered a blogspot domain and are currently busy churning out ideas and illustrations. While he is an illustrator extraordinaire, I am so challenged I can't even draw convincing stick figures. Despite that handicap, I took a stab at it and here is the grand result:

Co-moo-nication problem!

Now pardon me as I go cram for a crash course in drawing comic strips.

And stay tuned for the grand unveiling of this new webcomic blog!

Friday, February 4, 2011

UG sports - 10: Let me smoke a pack of steel

What a crazy, whacky football season this has been. If this season were a rollercoaster, it would be the most attractive ride at a Six Flags. Actually, Six Flags is bankrupt, so let me amend that analogy by substituting Paramount Great America for Six Flags.

Ok moving on. How unpredictable has this season actually been? Well, remember when the Cowboys were supposed to play the superbowl on their home turf? Or how Shanahan and Shanahan were going to take the Redskins to the playoffs?

Instead we got a season where the Jags almost won the AFC South, old man Favre became The God of Small Things, and Rex Ryan made himself the foot of a ton of jokes.

Now we are down to two teams. The Steelers are no strangers to superbowl. The Packers aren't either (a certain Vince Lombardi made sure they got thoroughly acquainted with it), but they went through considerably more to get here. While the Steelers sat back and enjoyed their status at the second seed, they had to work against the tide each week as the sixth seed wildcard.

And I could yap on and on, but I think others have been doing a ton of analysis. So I won't bore you anymore.

Here is my take on the game: Packers will win it, because Aaron Rodgers has been consistently better than Big Ben in the homestretch games (remember how the Steelers almost lost to the Ravens and Ben got sacked a bunch of times?). And although the Troy-powered defense will pose a tough challenge, the Packers have energy and boisterous enthusiasm on their side.

Either way, this should be a fun superbowl.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Postal Panda!

In recent years, we have put pandas on a pedestal and designated them as official mascots of cute. I bet if you looked up the word cute in Merriam-Webster or Oxford English Dictionary, panda would be one of its synonyms.

We have been flooded with baby pandas, pandas giving birth, pandas crying, pandas sneezing. Oy vey.

But did you know pandas have a dark dark side? Take a look at this HILARIOUS youtube video, where a panda browbeats people into buying Panda cheese! (courtesy of a friend of mine):

Quite a "pandamonium", right?
The best 2:46 I've spent in the last 38 days!

Presenting His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt

Best. King. Ever.

OK, so what's not to like:

  1. His 18,500 acre personal domain has been around twice as long as the modern German state.
  2. He has never paid taxes to a foreign power, but does give annual "gifts" to the big player next-door.
  3. He declared war on Australia.
  4. He's leaning on a 5-foot bust of his head! (Presumably erected by his adoring subjects. Or by him.)
No, he's not a Middle-Eastern mufta (I'm actually not sure if that's a thing). He's His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt, husband of Mrs. Casley, Her Royal Highness Princess Shirley of Hutt. The two have enjoyed 40 prosperous years of sovereignty over the Principality of Hutt River since officially seceding from Australia.

Here are some gems from the article. Really, you have to read it for yourself.

"....As heads of a principality, Mr. Casley, known formally as His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt, and Mrs. Casley, Her Royal Highness Princess Shirley of Hutt, have also bestowed knighthoods on loyal subjects. How many exactly, Mr. Casley could not recall...."

"....Some 13,000 people had acquired citizenship in Hutt River, which allows dual citizenship. Some live abroad and act as diplomatic envoys, scoring invitations overseas for Mr. Casley, as indicated by the many photographs, newspaper clippings and copies of official documents displayed in a large room serving as a ministry of foreign affairs...."

"....Many officials in Western Australia, some quite high up, and even nationally in Australia are happy to play out the myth of Hutt River’s sovereignty — attending functions, returning correspondence, abandoning the claim for tax...."

What. A. BAMF.

New Live Action Expose...

Hey all!

It's my responsibility to get the word out about Live Action's scathing new expose of Planned Parenthood, caught with its pants down. 
So I'm pulling out the big guns - I'm posting it here, at the vital hub of social dissemination known only as "Universal Gravitation."

And here's the UCLA chapter's mention in the NY Times!
NY Times

(Please excuse any residual biased reporting left over from their previous write-ups of the story.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some random thoughts

On this wednesday, a lot of random thoughts are swirling around in my head, like a freshly stirred cup of good coffee. Allow me to share them:

  • Pearls before swine is on my favorite comics. The absurdity of the cast and the pungent wit make it a very delightful read every day. Take a look at this one from last week featuring the Pillsbury dough douche boy (click to enlarge):
  •  The other day I was driving around my hometown and made a stop at CVS. There was a tiny video store next to it called "Video Joy". Hmm, I don't know about you, but with a name like that, I don't think I want to visit that video store.

  • It's med school rejection season right now. Most schools are done sending out interview invites so now they in the business of notifying the rejected candidates. Almost all emails are stiflingly formal but there are some unintentionally funny ones. For example, this one:
Your application, although reviewed multiple times, was not selected for admission.
          The subtext here is "you were a loser each time your application came up...hahahahaha"

  • Some human genetics research papers have more than 50 authors on them. We read one for a class last week that had 55 authors from 39 institutions, representing 7 countries. Talk about the summer olympics sheesh.

Hey Lakers, you do know the object of this game to win, right?