Dead Caterpillar

The universe is a vast cosmic conspiracy ...

Product Recommendation: Spotify

Saturday, Oct 6th, 2012

I’m saying goodbye to CDs, ipods, radio stations and all other traditional forms of listening to music.

I once considered myself a Music Pessimist. That is, I rarely enjoyed music. Listening to the radio became an exercise in eye rolling because “I Will Wait” by “Mumford and Sons” played on the radio eight times a day. Every day. That and the same Maroon 5 songs, “Some Nights” by (not so) “Fun” and all those Pink songs about being a tough rocker chick who doesn’t care what the world thinks, even though the world has to listen to what she thinks nearly every day in the top billboard charts, a million times over. It’s nauseating.

The record companies pay the radio stations to repetitively play shit so they can sell 6 million copies of Adel. I know this because I used to be a radio junkie. I’d scour the web, hoping to find a station that genuinely played variety. Through internet streaming, I tuned into dozens of radio stations all over the country: Houston, Chicago, L.A, New York, you name it, even stations in the U.K. I hoped to find The One, a station without mind-numbing repetition. But guess what? I’ve found that every station follows the same template. You can’t get true variety. It’s remarkable. ‘The One’ doesn’t exist, not here in Virginia, not in New York, not anywhere. Because to play music, the radio stations need to cater to the record companies, i.e. the people that actually own the music. And the record companies make money by selling 6 million copies of Adel every year. The best way to advertise Adel is to spam her singles on their network of puppet radio stations fifty times a day. So live DJs don’t even pick the songs anymore. Basically, it’s a fucking conspiracy.

And the only alternative to radio, really, is my ipod. But with that comes its own slew of chores: downloading the music (cha-ching), importing the music into itunes, pruning and organizing the library, transferring music to the ipod, backing up the itunes library, etc, etc. Then when my hard drive fails (usually about three times a year), I’d have to repeat the process all over again. I just don’t have time for that.

So I became a Music Pessimist.

The solution

I’ve concluded that ownership of thousands of songs in any format, digital or not, is completely impractical. That’s why I’ve decided to stream all of my music through a free service called “Spotify.” There’s no ownership involved, which removes a lot of the impracticalities. But although I don’t actually own the songs, the playlists and library that I create in my Spotify account will literally be saved forever. No need to back them up because I never downloaded the songs, it’s all streamed. In a way that provides something more permanent, more possessive than actual ownership. My library and playlists last forever, and I will always have access to them so long as I have access to the internet. But if I buy the CD, the odds are quite high that it will be scratched up and unusable within a year. Why pay for something you can’t keep when you can get it free and actually keep it? That’s my logic in now using Spotify for all my music needs. From my home computer, I can get the entire collected works of Bob Dylan instantly, on a whim, at the click of a button. And when I boot up my work computer: Bam, it’s all there. No file transfers. No downloading, all I need to do is sign into my spotify account using whatever (phone, computer, music player) from wherever.

Spotify gives me the ability to search for any song, any artist and instantly have access to titles… The quality of the music is better than radio and I can create my own radio stations based on preference within Spotify, sort of like Pandora sans the constant ads. And unlike Pandora, I can skip songs and play them as many times as I’d like. So it’s sort of a dream come true for me. Spotify. Try it out. In the digital age, the world needs a smarter way of listening to music.

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Batman The Dark Knight Rises Review: Total Shit

Saturday, Sep 29th, 2012

I wish I could come up with a witty or amusing way of expressing that the new batman movie was shit. I’ve made sincere efforts to do so, but I’ve come up dry. Hence the words: the new batman movie was shit. And that’s probably why I could never do this writing thing for a living. Most of my movie reviews would begin with the words: “It was shit.” My editor would spurn me to be more descriptive. To which I’d reply that I meant “A gangly giant turd of nasty, smelly, shitty shit-shit.” Such was Batman Rises.

The best part was the end, not the end part where batman pulls the ol’ take-the-bomb-out-with-ya-but-still-come-out-alive, I mean the end-end. The part where the screen goes blank, the credits roll and I stand up to leave. Everything before that was irritating, especially Alfred’s teary-eyed melodramatics:  “I raised you [dramatic pause] from the time you were a wee little boy [dramatic pause],” etc, etc.

Fill in the rest. It’s pretty much exactly the same thing Alfred said in the first and second. And that’s the thing about Old Man Love – you can’t over do it, even if you’re Michael Caine with a London accent. Especially if you’re Michael Caine with a London accent. I miss the classic portrayal of Alfred as the dutiful butler whose affection for Bruce Wayne was subtle and understated. That was the whole point, actually, of his formal butler relation to Wayne. Remove the ‘formal’ part and you just have a sniffling old whiny bastard.

I get that Bane is a cool badass villain – Tom Hardy’s been lifting weights and wears a respirator – that’s cool, in an old school darth vader sort of way. But what exactly was his motive for tearing Gotham apart? I’m confused. Was it because he spent his childhood in an underground prison somewhere in the middle east? Oh so he’s buddy-buddy with Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. Surprise! But how does a career mercenary, somebody who kills for money, suddenly switch to an ideological-driven maniac? These questions are important to people with basic critical analysis skills.

Even overlooking that Bane throws batman into a highly escapable prison with HD TELEVISION, the movie’s sense of proportion and realism was so far out of focus that it could hardly be ignored. The idea that one man can bring an entire city to its knees is a comic book idea, and there’s nothing wrong with it in that context. But when you see it on the big screen with live actors, it appears strikingly ridiculous. In a big city, we’re talking about millions of people – that’s thousands of metro cops and I don’t care how much Karate Bane knows or how many protein shakes he consumes daily, just one swat team would nail his ass, along with all his mercenary cronies. Even more ridiculous was the part when the United States military was thwarted by Bane’s antics. Oh yeah, and the New York Stock Exchange.

I’m not asking that movies and fiction be realistic in the sense that they be similar to our own reality (i.e. the classical, colloquial definition of ‘realistic’). I’m only asking that they be realistic within their own context. Goblins and dragons make sense in a Harry Potter movie because the world of Harry Potter is one of goblins and dragons, the context allows for them. But when the context of a story poses to be similar to our own, like in Nolan’s Batman movies, the expectation is that the characters and objects within the story follow the same rules as our own reality. And in our own reality, you can’t walk into the New York Stock Exchange, in broad daylight, plug in a laptop and blow up the entire economy. Then escape on a motorcycle. Physical strength, in our reality, does not give you an advantage over cops or people with guns. That’s why it all appeared strikingly ridiculous. The Spiderman movies, in contrast, made sense in the context of their own world (which posed to be similar to our world) because the heroes and villains were not regular people, but ones with super powers (unlike Batman and Bane).

If all the cops were trapped underground, how the fuck did they survive without food for months? People brought them down food, eh? But If people brought them food, that would mean they had a passage for escape. Are legions of cops really going to toss down their hand guns and start throwing fists when confronted by an army of gun-totting mercenaries? Gaping plot holes like that ruin it for me. I am literally blasted out of the story and reminded that I am watching a movie. I am reminded that it is all just pretend, and Christian Bale looks quite ridiculous in that bat costume. The good movies don’t constantly remind me that it’s only a movie – they bring total absorption, I’m sucked in and I only snap out of it when the credits roll.

There aren’t a lot of good movies. I agree with Sturgeon’s law: 90 percent of everything is absolute shit.

I might have liked the movie a little, though, if I could hear what the characters were saying over the dramatic background music. Movie makers, especially Christopher Nolan, really need to lay off on the dramatic, ear-raping background music. I can’t hear myself think, let alone Anne Hathaway’s sensuous whisperings. And I’d really like to hear Anne Hathway’s sensuous whisperings, thank you very much.

Well, in conclusion you have another “Big and Loud” Hollywood blockbuster that the critics are just swooning over (in no way influenced by the millions spent by Warner Bros. on marketing and PR). Nolan is a good director with a proven track record (See: Inception, Batman Begins, Memento) but this bloated 2 and a half hour peace of shit didn’t pass in my book. There’s just too much going on, too much forced emotion, a lack of interesting characters and an utterly nonsensical plot. In other words, Total Shit.

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As above, so below

Thursday, Jun 14th, 2012

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Prometheus was a bit thin (movie review, contains spoilers)

Sunday, Jun 10th, 2012

The music was right. The CGI was right. The plot was okay, about as good as a mediocre episode of star trek (if there is such a thing), but okay. It’s hard to tell how good the acting was when you consider how bad of a script they had to work with. I think this scene from one of Ridley Scott’s earlier movies best represents my opinion of the movie as a whole.

downvoting ceaser gif. thumbs down roman jif. downvoting roman

Yeah, I’m a bit of a movie snob.

The opening scene hovers over a majestic, primordial earth full of lush green valleys and gigantic waterfalls. A crazy-buff alien guy performs some kind of self-sacrificing ritual. I thought that was just great. I had no idea what was going on, but I still thought it was a great sequence. Sure I had questions: who is this guy? is he human? how did he get so impossibly buff?  is this earth? the future? past? what is he drinking? why is he drinking it? what kind of aftershave does he use? But I was confident some of those questions would be addressed later in the movie. It all went downhill from there.

The emotional vibe took a complete 360. Suddenly we’re on a ship orbiting a strange planet and everyone is just so complacent and boring. The crew during the briefing scene are collectively scratching their heads and hemming and hawing about the mission, which is basically to discover the origin of the human race. I don’t think anyone cares except for the tried and cliche “anything for science” characters (Shaw and Holloway).

Compare that to the briefing scene with the marines in Aliens. That scene served a purpose: we get the idea that our cast is a bunch of gun-toting, cocky bastards. The only thing we learn about the characters from the briefing scene in Prometheus is that they don’t really give a shit, and that complacency carries into the rest of the movie. When they first fly into the alien planet and discover the alien structures, you’d expect someone to at least say something exclamatory after the discovery of other sentient life in the universe. Hardly a peep. It’s all routine. But when the characters don’t give a shit, the audience doesn’t give a shit either.

A few scenes later, we’re in a cave and the tattooed mohawk character, Fifield, is frantically yelling “let’s get out of here,” because the crew has just discovered the 2,000-year-old rotting carcass of an alien (and that’s not me exaggerating numbers, the carcass was literally 2,000 years old according to the main characters first-glance assessment). And there’s nothing wrong with yelling “let’s get out of here.” The phrase is practically a necessity in a Sci-Fi thriller. It just has to be built up to. There has to be enough emotional strain, horror and suspense before someone gets hysterical and starts screaming things like “let’s get out of here.” Finding an alien body that’s been dead for 2,000 years does not constitute enough emotional strain, horror and suspense. I wasn’t feeling it.

The tattooed mohawk guy is the perfect example of poor and inconsistent character development. When we first meet the tattooed mohawk guy, we are lead to believe he is some sort of badass (and I don’t want to stereotype people here, but the tattoos and mohawk did nothing to dispel that notion). Then, in the cave (which is actually a ship corridor), he practically pisses his pants and gets hysterical the moment something strange happens.

The male scientist, Holloway, tells Fifield to “keep it together,” but later Holloway loses it himself. Although he says the finding of the dead aliens is “the greatest discovery in the history of mankind,” he proceeds to lapse into an existential crisis, drinking and feeling sorry for himself, after one day of searching and not finding a live alien. One day. I spent more time searching for my lost sock. It sort of contradicted the establishment of his character as the level-headed scientist, out for the betterment of mankind, who would do “anything and all it takes.”

Charlize Theron played the token corporate tool, but produced hardly any real friction or conflict in the story, though she tried hard. She did light the diseased Holloway on fire with a flame thrower (good riddance) but that seemed like a major overreaction. I don’t think the audience bought it. She could just as easily have put him in a med pod outside the ship like the captain suggested. Or at least thought it over a bit. For God sakes, at least take a few minutes to assess the situation! But she had to light him up, right there, on the spot, no questions asked. I resolved to not feel outrage because of how obvious a solicit for emotion that scene was.

Paul Reiser, who played Burke in Aliens, was a much better token corporate tool in my opinion. His actions evoked hatred and disgust, and the snake oil salesman persona got a lot more under my skin than Theron’s female careerist act.

Ripley: He figured that he could get an alien back through quarantine, if one of us was… impregnated… whatever you call it, and then frozen for the trip home. Nobody would know about the embryos we were carrying… me and Newt..
Burke: This is so nuts. I mean, listen – listen to what you’re saying. It’s paranoid delusion. How – It’s really sad. It’s pathetic…

In that scene from Aliens, you can see the guilt manifesting on Burke’s reddening face. It was just perfect. Burke made me cringe.

“Meredith Vickers” only made me scoff. The character didn’t have any clear motivations except to survive. That’s the biggest thing really, she wasn’t after anything and therefore didn’t have any bearing on the plot. Shaw and Holloway were there for science, Weyland for meaning, Fifield for money, but it seemed like Theron’s charactor, Meredith Vickers, was just sort of along for the ride. She was only there to try to intimidate people and make excessive eye contact.

I can go on and on about the characters, or lack thereof. There’s a Scottish lady who’s entire role in the movie was to have a Scottish accent. That’s literally all she did in the movie: have an accent, and provide the novelty that comes from having a Scottish accent. There was an Asian guy too that stood on the bridge and looked out the window of the ship during a few scenes. All he did was be Asian, and literally nothing else… except for the scene in the end where, out of the blue, he sacrifices himself along with the captain to destroy the Engineer’s ship. I didn’t care that he scarified himself because I didn’t know anything about him, except that he was Asian. I felt nothing! It’s kind of like reading about someone who was killed on the news. The information means little to me because I didn’t know who the person was. Poor character development.

The only half-way decent character was the android, David. The robot had more personality than the humans. But David was basically a ripoff from the android in Aliens. I felt like I was having déjà vu when his head was torn off. The very same thing happened to the android character in Aliens. What is it with androids constantly losing their heads? *Slaps knee.*

Shaw was another character transplanted from aliens: the resourceful, enduring female protagonist that Sigourney Weaver captured so well. She teams up with the decapitated android just like Weaver did at the end of Aliens. Cool, I thought that was cute, but we’ve seen it before. And I think it was done better the first time around.

The movie did have some redeeming qualities. There was no eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere like in the Alien series, but the scenery was fab-tastic. The technology on the ship was mega cool. The plot moved at a steady pace and there’s at least enough gore and mangled flesh to thoroughly pique your interest. There’s an “oh shit” moment at the end, when we witness the first birth of the creature from Alien. Not a plot twist, but more of an “oh shit” moment, because we all saw it coming. But still, even though we saw it coming, it was cool to see it finally get here. I liked the connection with the Aliens plot.

But bottom line, all in all, Prometheus is worth a watch, but only to satisfy your curiosity. It’s not torture, but it’s not the best two hours and four minutes of my life, either. I give it a solid B minus. I think Ridley Scott outdid himself 30 years ago with the Alien series. Prometheus didn’t quite measure up.

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Life on the beach

Sunday, Jun 3rd, 2012

I moved to Virginia Beach about a month ago for a job. I love everything about the area except for the 6 lane, horrifying, cutthroat and merciless i’m-going-to-slit-my-wrists traffic. I nearly lost all faith in humanity.

But other than that, life is good.

My dog is lovin’ it. I take her for a walk on the beach every day. The first time I took her there, she drank nearly a gallon of salt water. That night she threw up dog food and hasn’t drunk any since — I think she’s learned a valuable lesson.

I remember learning that same lesson myself when I was a kid, around the age of seven. My family was at the beach on vacation and I got thirsty. I asked my brother to fill a bucket with water from the ocean so I could drink from it. “You can’t drink that because it’s salt water!” he said. “It’s alright,” I said. “Just make sure when you scoop up the water with the bucket to not get any salt in it.”

Again, I was seven.

Anyway beach life is just jolly. My condo is literally steps from the ocean. I’m in the chick’s beach area, on the bay side, but it might as well be ocean side because you can’t see across. Actually, it might technically be considered “ocean side” because, if you look east, you can see the part of the inlet that goes to the open ocean (I take great solace in that fact). I’ve also got a great view of the Chesapeake bay bridge (which is also a tunnel). The bridge looks fantastic at night. A lot of people say the bridge ruins the view of the ocean. But to me, it feels like the ocean has Christmas lights wrapped around it. So I’ve got no complaints there.

the chesapeake bay bridge at night

It’s not a very good pic but you get the idea. Here’s another pic of the same view during sunset.

chesapeake bay during sunset

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Beach pic from way back when

Saturday, Jun 2nd, 2012

My family was always big on beaches. We are a beach-going people. Nearly every year we went to Florida on vacation, but not for Disney Land. We always headed straight for the beach after we checked into the hotel and spent every other day of the vacation doing the same thing: beach beach beach. And I used to think that was normally why families went on vacation to Florida, for the beach. I later learned in life that most people go on vacation to Florida to wait long hours in lines at over-rated and expensive amusement parks. Thank god my dad was cheap. I loved the beach and I always will. Mickey can suck it.

Here’s a pic from those days. My dad just sent it to me out of the blue.

No I didn't apply a hipster black and white photo filter. It's just the camera my dad was experimenting with at the time.

I’m pretty sure that’s a gummy worm I’m holding in my hand. I had a fascination with gummy bears, gummy worms, and all things gummy. In the cafeteria at school, I would always be on the lookout for trades with fruit snacks… that’s one thing I miss about being a kid: trading lunches. You can’t do that when you’re an adult. Just picture yourself at work, in the break room during lunch hour asking around: “hey, does anybody want to trade for my apple?”

People would look at you like you’re fucking retarded.

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A message for tailgaiters

Saturday, Jun 2nd, 2012

If you don’t know, I fucking hate tailgaters, with passion and zeal. And I have encountered oh so many of them here in VA Beach. Oh so many tailgating jerkholes. I got tired of rolling down the window and screaming things at them so I made this custom bumper sticker.

Get off my ass

At first I was going to have it say something clever and punchy like “If you’re reading this, you’re too close” or “I break for tailgaters.” But I wanted bluntness, I didn’t want cute. I wanted to portray extreme annoyance (and possibly a hint of neurosis), and that’s why I used the small red serif font. I gave it quite a lot of thought. The seemingly bland sentence, “Get off my ass,” actually took hours of deliberation. I wanted to convey that tailgaters were both on my ass, and needed to get off it, but I was struggling to find the right words.

I believe I was in the shower when it hit me: Get off my ass. It’s simple, concise and communicates the message perfectly. I ran out of there like a dripping wet Archimedes and wrote it down. I found this site called Zazzle which will mail the sticker to you after you submit a design. And boy after I slapped that sucker on there, I haven’t had a tailgater since.

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On the subject of feet and hands

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I’m not big into feet. It’s not that I have a gripe or a personal vendetta against feet, it’s just that I’m not personally a very big feet fan. I never really got into feet. Though I’d say, comparatively, I prefer my own feet to anyone else’s, overall I find feet smelly and repugnant and want nothing to do with them. Hands, I can stand. That is, I can stand hands, not that I can stand on my hands. I can’t hand-stand but I do like hands.

Just sayin’.

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It’s time …

Monday, May 28th, 2012

She’s been inside all weekend. When you begin to hear Sarah McLaughlin music playing in the background, you know it’s time to take her for a walk.

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Rants on rhetoric

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A friend introduced me to a woman last night as a “bright young fellah,” and I countered with “Excuse me … I prefer the term strapping young lad.” The woman grimaced and painful awkwardness ensued. She obviously didn’t get my joke and felt that I had said something  stuck up and conceited. So I wrote her an extremely recondite explanation of my joke. Here it is …



The grimace had no moral foundation as I am not conceitedly praising my physical appearance. To the contrary, I am implicitly exposing and scoffing at a widespread phenomenon known as human vanity.

Often when people are openly narcissistic, they are secretly humble. True narcissists do not confess their narcissism because they are afraid it might distort their precious image. As a liar will never tell you he is lying, otherwise he would be telling the truth. And we all know that liars do not tell the truth, don’t we now. The hypocrite cannot tell you he is committing hypocrisy because, to be a hypocrite, is to say one thing and do another; when the hypocrite commits hypocrisy, and says he is committing hypocrisy, he is doing precisely that which he says, and is therefore not a hypocrite. Because to say you are a hypocrite is to say you do not do what you say; and to not do what you say, and say you are not doing what you say, is to do precisely that which you say. Ergo a hypocrite cannot tell you he is a hypocrite just as the liar cannot tell you he is lying, as the narcissist cannot tell you he is a narcissist. The hypocrite lies when he calls himself a hypocrite, and the narcissist speaks hypocritically when he calls himself a narcissist. Now there is a type of liar that acts narcissistically but talks like a hypocrite, and a lying narcissist that is really just a hypocrite. But those entirely different rhetorical animals we won’t tackle just now.

The inverse of “overt narcissism” is self-deprecation which is also an ironical rhetorical device. The speaker mocks and pokes fun of himself, but his true intention is to mock and poke fun of everyone. Anything found in the individual can be found in the collective and anything found in the collective can be found in the individual. Because … a person is a member of a people and a people is really just a bunch of persons. To put it even further in laymen’s terms, people are inherently the same. Thus to make fun of one person is to make fun of them all. The tone is ironical because you appear to make fun of yourself, but you’re really making fun of everyone.

I hope you enjoyed the lesson in rhetoric. Have a nice day.


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The View

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

the view

So it’s early one February morning last year at the ol’ box factory. Me and some guys just clocked in and are standing in a semi-circle, sipping coffee out of our mugs and chatting about the tsunami disaster in Japan and other news headlines. The ol’ manager comes out of nowhere and says, “Alright, enough of this male version of The View. Let’s get some work done.”

Haha get it? Male version of The View. I could not stop laughing.

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Finally got around to reading Ulysses

Saturday, Dec 31st, 2011

Clapcop. Clipclap. Clappyclap.
Goodgod henev erheard inall.
Deaf bald Pat brought pad knife took up.
A moonlight nightcall: far: far.
I feel so sad. P.S. So lonely blooming.
Listen! (329)

What the fuck? This is the great James Joyce? Ulysses, the holy grail of literature? Fuck that. I’m going back to reading Steven King.

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Not the brightest kid

Tuesday, Dec 20th, 2011

When I was a kid my grandmother offered, in one hand, a five-dollar bill, and three singles in the other. I took the three singles, and grandma thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. She corrected me and explained how a five-dollar bill was worth more than three one dollar bills, even though the three one dollar bills looked like more because they were separate bills. A few weeks later Troll Grandma offered me the same thing: A five-dollar bill in one hand and three singles in the other. I took the singles.

Bling bling, baby.

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Sudden realizations

Sunday, Dec 18th, 2011


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I give you Whit Hertford

Saturday, Dec 17th, 2011

The fat kid from Jurassic park. You know the one…

“More like a six foot turkey!”

Yesterday I spent about three hours obsessively cyber-stalking him. It turns out he’s a writer now and does some acting on the side. He recently stared in this short film called “Elliot.” I furrowed my eyebrows through the entire thing. He has a very strange face! Okay here’s a link to the very cheesy and weird short film, which I found strangely mesmerizing on account of its cheesiness and weirdness.

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