Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Big Bad

It is a well known rule of cinema that villains are much more interesting than the heroes. The actors like to play them and the audience loves to see them get their come uppence while secretly rooting for them.  Keyser Söze, Anton Chigurh, and the Joker won Oscars, Batman wasn't even considered and most people wouldn't recognize the names Llewelyn Moss and Dave Kujan even if they were tacked up on the bulletin board directly behind them.  The bad guys are just cooler.  For me, my favorite all-time (off the top of my head) bad dude is Agent Smith from the Matrix.  Sure he got a little less awesome as the trilogy progress but then so did the entire trilogy.  But the steely menace he exuded as he pursued the whiny/nancy Neo really drove the action of the movie.  In fact while I am at it, here are my top ten movie and television bad guys.  Again, this is completely off the top of my head so I expect to revisit this topic once I stop and expend a neuron or two on it.  There are no criteria or metrics for the order and make up of this list other than my own personal whim.
  1. Agent Smith
  2. Keyser Soze/Verbal Kent
  3. The Thin Man
  4. Hans Gruber
  5. The Joker
  6. Q
  7. Ivan Drago
  8. Ben Linus
  9. Thomas Gabriel
  10. Russell Edgington (Russell earned his spot on the list with this exceptional scene)

 With this said, is it really any surprise that this little girl bows down to one of the most iconic baddies in movie history (he didn't make my list because I am a Star Trek guy, not Star Wars - Yoda wants to bring balance to "the Force" when "the Force" was out of balance in his favor.  Yeah that makes a lot of sense).  I mean Darth Vader once slaughtered a whole school of little Jedi's in training.  Is it really smart for an untrained tyke to stand up to him? I think Mace Windu is the real villain in the video below.  Sending a child to certain death and then rudely escorting her off the stage when she won't be his willing sacrifice.  The girl was just being prudent in joining up with the dark side.

This blog poster is sponsored by the Drunken Clam Tavern.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Goliath Wins One for the Little Guy

Most of the corporate logos that represent the sponsors of this blog have been scavenged from around the internets.  But a select few of them - Bailey Brothers, M&M Enterprises (Everyone has a share), Bromley Marks, Encyclopedia Brown, Ferris Aircraft, and Home Plus -  were created by me on spec for the representative companies.  Yet one of these creations stands above all the rest as a crowning achievement of this blog.  It seems that my logo for Goliath National Bank, famous as the employer of Barney Stinson and, until recently, Marshal Eriksen, has become the de-facto logo for GNB on the internets.  Unlike almost all my other blog posts, which successfully achieve the goal of complete and total obscurity, the one that bears the GNB logo actually draws noticeable levels of web traffic.  If you search Google Images for "Goliath National Bank", my version of the GNB logo is in the top line of results.  This apparently leads to a few deluded souls to click through to the blog entry that bears the picture.  Certainly, the amount of traffic that the GNB logo generates is just a fraction of what a high quality blog like People of Walmart or dominant search engine like Infoseek does.  But to me, this is as exciting as when my G.I. Joe post garnered comments by people who weren't my sister.  So, yeah,  we have now achieved the lowest possible level of internet success.  Come for the Goliath National Bank logo, stay for my insightful ruminations on the awfulness of the now defunct R.J. Gator's.

This blog post is sponsored by Royal Diner.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Collateral Damage

I was watching Knight and Day, Tom Cruise's failed attempt to regain his standing at the top of the summer blockbuster hill, the other night and in between the wacky hi-jinks and intricately choreographed gun-play, a thought occurred to me. Even though Tom Cruise is our movie's hero (he's TOM CRUISE, could he be anything than our wise-cracking hero), the people he is killing, maiming, and generally laying waste to with a broad Tom Cruise smile on his face are actually good guys.  The plot of the movie hinges on a betrayal by Tom Cruise's CIA partner.  The always theatrically evil Peter Sarsgaard decides to go rogue and frame our good man Tom Cruise for his crime.  This sends Tom Cruise on the lamb as a gaggle of law enforcement and federal agents attempt to bring him to justice.  The problem is the evil conspiracy does not seem to extend beyond the always evil Sarsgaard.  So when Cruise takes out several agents, he is taking out good men just doing their job in defense of God and country.  Essentially, the subtext of this movie is that it is OK to be a mass murderer of our nation's law enforcers and espionage agents if you believe you have been treated unfairly by "the system".  Can't imagine that is what the film makers where going for but it is there none the less.  Not that this a completely novel element to the modern action movie.  James Bond commonly lays waste to random security guards and soldiers that just happen to have the bad luck of being assigned to work the night shift when Bond breaks in to steal the secret science project from the penthouse office of an evil mastermind.  A secret science project that no minimum wage security guard just trying to get a few bucks into his 401K would have any knowledge of.  They are just trying to see why the alarm is going off on the 16th floor and a man with a license to kill puts a bullet in their head.  Again, not much different from The Matrix that shed no tears for the mindless drones put out of their misery because they couldn't accept "the reality" that select few unplugged knew.  The heroes are not so heroic if thought of from another angle.

This whole diatribe does bring to mind one of my favorite scenes from Clerks (embedded below) where they discuss the morality of killing the contractors that were likely hard at work on the Death Star when the rebels blew it up for the second time.  I still argue that the Knight and Day federal agent isn't in the same category plumber on the Death Star or the roofer working for the mobster.  But it probably does work for the employees of the Rupert Murdock-analog in Tomorrow Never Dies and his Fox News-like organization.

This blog post is sponsored by Cybus Industries.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Your Tax Dollars

Question : "Would the state’s highest-paid employee consider taking a pay cut to help with the ballooning deficit?"

Jim Calhoun : "Not a dime back"

Congrats to an egomaniacal coach with a shady history and documented recruiting violations on winning the ugliest national championship in decades with a bit of basketball that looked like it was being played by

How about we all agree that we can make due with a state college basketball team that doesn't necessarily win national titles every now while still meeting the lofty standard of hitting 35% of your shots (and your best player is considered to have an outstanding game by going 5 for 19 shooting) and save us all a bit on our taxes by clearing the 1.6 million dollar salary of the untitled Mr. Calhoun and the additional dollars of his very costly coaching staff from the public rolls?

This blog post is sponsored by Acme Corporation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bowl Season Round-up 2011

This being the night of the NCAA basketball championship, it makes complete sense to me to post my recurring NCAA football bowl season standings.  Actually, there is a very good reason to pair these two events.  The underlying theme of all of my bowl season posts is that the little guy is being unfairly kept down by they man.  The "experts" that heavily influence popular sentiment insist on repeating the same nonsense year after year that only serves to prop up the status quo and ignore the facts.  Yet once again the Mountain West Conference showed they were just as much a power conference as the SEC and Pac-10 and absolutely shamed the ACC and Big 12.  Despite the best efforts of the talking heads to marginalize these teams and the power brokers to lock them out of the big money games, the mid-major football conferences produced a that rightly deserved to be called national champion.  Numbers don't lie.  Kurt Herbstreet does. 

Then of course this years NCAA basketball tournament did more to make the Sportscenter yakkers look bad than Boise State ever did.  First, the major conference backers were apoplectic at just the thought of the 8th best team in the ACC or Big 12 didn't make the tournament and that the lowly VCU Rams did.  How could the tournament not reward a mediocre team with a vast recruiting advantage in favor of a team tried to get in by winning basketball games?  Shame on VCU.  But it didn't matter, because the tournament organizers banished VCU to the hinterlands of the play-in game.  Unfortunately for Dick Vitale, VCU won that game and then 2 more.  All against the talking heads preferred talking heads.  Their was nothing better than seeing Vitale eating crow after VCU made the Sweet Sixteen.  But even then he wouldn't admit he was wrong.  He claimed that many teams in the ugly step sister NIT tournament could have done what VCU did and predicted they would soon loss.  Only problem is they didn't.  They kept winning.  Virgina Tech and Colorado couldn't make the Final Four of the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament.  So much for all the insider knowledge Vitale possesses.

The real question I have is why anyone ever listens to these guys?  They are never right.  They don't even seem to be pay attention to what is happening on the field/court (See Joe Morgan).  Why does ESPN pay these guys millions of dollars when I guy off the street would do the same talking head job for $10 and be just as right in predicting games as "The Swami". 

Final College Football Bowl Standings

Conference W L GB
MWC 4 1 -
Big East 4 2 0.5
Ind 2 1 1
Sun Belt 2 1 1
SEC 5 5 1.5
MAC 2 2 1.5
Pac10 2 2 1.5
WAC 2 2 1.5
ACC 4 5 2
Big Ten 3 5 2.5
Big12 3 5 2.5
C-USA 2 4 2.5

Bowl Season Performance - 2007-2010

Conference W L GB
SEC  24 13 -
MWC  16 5 -
Big 12  16 12 3.5
Pac-10  13 9 3.5
Sun Belt 5 3 4.5
Ind.  4 3 5
Big East  12 13 6
Big Ten  14 17 7
C-USA  10 14 7.5
WAC  5 11 8.5
ACC  13 21 9.5
MAC  3 14 11

This blog post is sponsored by Massive Dynamic.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bad Medicine

In the wild, the natural enemy of the PhD student is the Med student.  Or even worse, the pre-med student.  The two species mix as well as a mongoose and cobra, or the Jets and the Sharks, or the Channel 4 news team and reporters from all of the other San Diego local stations.  Actually, the relationship between PhD students and Med students is much more like that between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.  The PhD students are completely annoyed and constantly hating on them while the Med students are so self-involved that they don't even notice that anyone else in the world exists, let alone the PhD students.  So it is not surprising then that a big smile came across my face when I rediscovered an old article on Wired's website that spelled out a few of the reason's why those training to be haughty, patronizing quacks are such a hate-able species.  After teaching a couple of laboratory courses filled with pre-meds, I can personally vouch for all of the Wired characterizations of pre-med students.  It also helped me understand why it is so hard to find a good doctor.

Top 5 Reasons to Dislike Pre-Med Students by Aaron Rowe

5. They haggle with their teachers for extra points.
4. They use questionable tactics to get good grades..
3. They horde leadership positions and then run organizations into the ground.
2. They game the system to get good grades.
1. They are not motivated by curiosity.

This blog post is sponsored by Veridian Dynamics.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One More Way Newspapers Have Moved Online

While we are on the topic of nerdy web-based comics that amuse me, I have to mention my favorite of the bunch,  xkcd.  I forgive the fact that it favors physics and mathematics over biology and genetics for its humor  Egg-head humor of this quality is hard to come by.  But all of this talk of comics reminds me of my favorite part of the Sunday paper growing up.  Calvin and Hobbes. Far SideBloom County.  Despite the fact that the paper was think enough to kill Alvin and the Chipmunks if it were to land on them, this was only section (other than Sports) that I would make sure to read (well I may have also made sure to review the Best Buy flier).  But as the newspapers began to die so did the comics section.  It became thinner and thinner.  Soon the only things left were the milquetoast strips like Beetle Bailey and Family Circus which are the humor equivalent of Orange you glad I didn't say Banana Knock Knock joke. Thankfully, the thing that killed the comic strip is saving it again.  The internet has a flourishing comic strip community.  Some blogs are even assembling their own Sunday comic sections with only web-based comics.  They aren't terrible.  And they are definitely better than Hagar the Horrible.

This blog post is sponsored by Kabletown.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mine. All Mine.

Just when I was sure that the only person to ever see the words that I type on this blog was me, my little sis went and left a comment on the last post.  Despite my claim that the humor in the Lady Gaga in a labcoat video was mainly for the lab rat set, she was there to let me know that it did have a more broad appeal.  Well, this can't be.  I have failed the most sacred tenet of this blog.  For just a brief moment, this blog brought a smile to the face of someone that is not me.  I will not let this stand.  If the last post was not sufficiently nerdy or dorky enough to turn off 99% of population, then I will make sure this one is.  And for that I will turn to the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD).  It is based entirely around a group of poor, struggling graduate students and their eternal struggle to get there degree and move onto a job market that can't support them.  Now that is insider humor.  Try to enjoy this Teen.  A comic strip about how what we publish in scientific journals gets hopelessly twisted by main stream media and the average lay person (insider and elitist - now we are talking reader repellent).  Of course most people publishing articles in scientific journals would consider themselves lucky someone even read their work let alone have it wildly distorted by the main stream media.

This blog post is sponsored by Lunar Industries.