Thursday, August 31, 2006

White Light, White Light Goin' Messin' Up My Mind

I'm sitting here watching the MTV VMAs...I'll try and do the 'live blog thing...of course no one is actually reading this right now so it'll be a "live blog read at a later time."

OK, Jack Black is a pretty cool guy and can be funny...but what was up with the opening? I realize that it was supposed to have all this excitement and fire and explosions and there were none. Right, I get it, it's ironic. But it wasn't funny. Not even on the ironic side. Then he intoduces The Raconteurs, whom not many people know. Add that Lou Reed is playing with them and most people are thinking "Hey, isn't that Jack White? Did the White Stripes break up? Where's Meg? That Jack White is kinda creepy. Who's that old guy and why doesn't he know the words? Must be a new song..." Yes, Lou Reed is rock & roll icon, but aside from musicphiles, the majority of people watching the VMAs have no idea who he is. The audience definitely gave a courtesy clap.

Lil' Kim
Boy, a year in jail really does a number on your boobs.

Best Hip Hop Video
*Crosses Fingers* No Black Eyed Peas, No Black Eyed Peas, No Black Eyed Peas....Dammit!
Two awards and Kanye is 0-2.

Ohhh Shakira featuring Wyclef. That's what makes the VMAs so special, all these people you'd never expect performing together. It's great.

Cast of Jackass
I love these guys. Can't wait for the next movie. Look it's Wee-man's wee-weenie.

Raconteurs are back sans Mr. Reed. I guess it's past his bedtime.

Commercial for some movie with Napolean Dynamite, Billy Bob Thorton, David Cross, Todd Louiso, Ben Stiller, Horation Sanz...School For Scoundrels, this looks good.

LL and 50
50 cent has 8 bullets in him and is still alive...figure that one out. Kelly Clarkson wins and LL & 50 accept for her. Another round of courtesy claps.

Lil Jon and some rapper I don't know...introduce Pharrell and some other rapper I don't know, although looks and sounds like Ludacris. If I don't get that one right, there goes my street cred.

Sarah Silverman...she's got that quasi-funny, semi-attractive thing going, but is overrated due to her relationship with Jimmy Kimmell...anyway she's talking about Lance Bass. Yeah I was gone for three weeks in Germany and find out Lance Bass is gay?! Didn't see that one coming...

Hey, Kyle from Tenacious D is there...isn't it funny how JB always has to intruduce KG as the other half of TD? Never fails. Now they riff on it. I hope they play later.

Jessica Simpson...isn't getting any more attractive. Anyway we get the best Dance video, I don't care about the Pussycat Dolls...they are talking to much, where is the orchestra?

Chris Brown...don't know who you are but he intro's OK Go who are doing a sweet treadmill-dance video thing. I know the bald guy is just the bass player, but he's the coolest. Nothing rocks more then four indie guys doing a choreographed dance routine. Jamiroqui, take that!

Paris know her song isn't that bad, I think that, because it's her, we all expect bad things. Did she get Jack Black introducing her as "a leading producer in independent film"?

Ohhh, Nicole Ritchie right after Paris, how scandalous! Anyway her and Nick Lachey do best pop? video. Madonna shouldn't be allowed to sample ABBA. No one should. And Pink wins, whoo hooo! Pink is one of the most manly women I've ever seen.

Snoop Dogg
You can never get enough Snoop, that is for sure. I hope he's still being Snoop when he's a geriatric. You know what? I don't know any of these rappers save 50. I'm so outta touch with what's cool.

I have no idea who is singing. Do you sense a theme here? Gosh, I suck.

Sarah Silverman, still not funny

Jared Leto and Amy Lee...
can we get anymore pseudo-goth, dark, and disturbing than these two? And I'm just convinced that Jared Leto was talking with P. Diddy. That is the 2nd time a Moonman breaks. Is MTV having budget problems? And since when can people drink during/onstage?

"Hey this song sounds semi-familiar" thinks half the audience as the Raconteurs play "Steady as She Goes," their "hit."

Ringtone of the year
This is a category? Seriously? Again, no Black Eyed Peas, no Black Eyed Peas, no Black Eyed Peas...Yes! Oh wait, this guy is from Linkin Park? I get it now.

Panic at the Disco
I'm trying to figure out who these guys sound like. Or maybe they just sound like every other "emo" band. I do like their costumes, however.

Best New Artist
Oh no, not Fegie. Go back to Kids Incorporated and play a keytar. But who is this little girl? I like how Fregie can barely lift up her legs to dance because her dress is so short. Very classy, very classy. I have to be honest here and say that I do like that "Angels and Airwaves" song.

Jack White looks uncomfortable at the prospects of being in a band with Jack Black.

OMG OMG, Britney & K-Fed!!! OMG OMG!!!! You know, they actually look decent. I'm disappointed. Beyonce wins, good for her.

Kanye West...ohhh what is he going to say? Damn, nothing controversial. He just talks about Hype Williams receiving the Video Vanguard. The shiny suits were great, they defined late-90s Rap videos. Missy Elliot is having some car problems...I always like when live events don't go as planned. It's perfectly fine to show your blemishes.

Christina Aguilera...*yawn* is this over yet?

Again Lou Reed. Why is he on MTV? At least they are playing the one song of his that is the most popular. Ohhh, I think I'll grow my hair like the guys in AFI. One side side long. And Lou Reed gets no props from the audience and awkwardly sunters to the rear of the stage. Poor guy. In 20 years no one will remember AFI but people will still [hopefully] remember Lou Reed.

Commercial break...hey it looks like Bob Dylan is doing a Gap commercial...sell-out. Oh wait, it's for Apple, so that doesn't make him a sell-out, right? right?

More Black Eyed Peas? Someone drop a bomob on them or something. What is KG doing back there? Who is Kyle Gass anyway? And I don't understand Jack Black's schtick. He's not really funny, of course as I write this him and KG do an awkward fat-man hug. And now Tenacious D sing.

Fallout Boy win Viewer's Choice. Whooo.

And it's Al Gore!!! Wow, what a surprise! Remember when the VMAs were uncool and had surpises at the end of the show like Guns & Roses playing a couple years ago?

And now the Raconteurs cover the Buggles and sing "Internet killed the radio star" How clever.

J. Lo comes out looking...I don't even know. And Panic at the Disco wins Video of the Year. Very anticlimatic. And some guy commandeers the THAT's what I'm talking about! Anyway in 10 years people are going to look back and say "Panic at the Disco?" Who?

Hey speaking of Guns and Roses, it's Axl! Axl, Axl, when is Chinese Democracy coming out? And he introduces the Killers wh ile speaking about how he just met them and came out just to do this. Suuure. Anyway, the Killers are a nice guilty pleasure. I'll admit I dig them and I'll probably be buying their new record.

That's it. Finally it is over and I can go to bed. Thank you for all who made it through my first live blogging experience.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm Back to Save the Universe

Hey gang, it's been awhile. I know you all have been checking in daily and anxiously awaiting my return. I bet a little smile even came across your face when you dropped on by and said "hey, a new post." Such is the life of my faithful readers. I appreciate it, I really do.

Thank you all for the feedback about various travels and experiences with pay-to-pee toilets throughout Europe. I was under the impression that it was just limited to Germany, but I was sadly mistaken. First time in my life, how about that? Of course I didn't even touch upon their hygiene habits and lack of using deodorant.

I know it seems like I've ripped on Europeans a lot, but really it was a couple of these small things that bugged me. I really had a wonderful time. A lot of people who know me well (read: the family) know I'm not that forthcoming with feelings when it comes to relationships. I can tell you that after my 3 weeks in Germany, the OFOMOL and I are as close as ever and we are both confident and committed to making this thing work.

One thing that I really liked about Europe was the SMART Car. I can be pretty jingoistic when it comes to my feelings about the country I live in. One area I certainly don't identify with is the culture of gas-guzzling, over-priced, accident-prone, bigger-is-better SUVs. As I've started a new (well my first "real") job, I'm looking to buy a car soon. I only have a couple of requirements when looking for a car -- within my budget, reliable, and gets good (great) gas mileage. But when I saw the SMART Car....whoa nellie! I think I've seen these somewhere, probably on some Discovery Channel/TLC/etc show that was filmed in Europe. But to see one up close and driving around, I was amazed! This thing is so anti-American it isn't even funny! I think that's why I like it, it is so different. How would we respond to this car in the US? Well, looks like we'll be finding out in a couple of years. It will be interesting. Both the New Beetle and the [new] Mini Cooper were hits when they were released in the past decade. But both of those were revised versions of classic cars. If I was living in a major metropolitan area, I would certainly entertain the idea of getting one. I could totally see this being a "trendy" car purchased by yuppies and indie-hipster (provided they have the income) types.

I found a neat little site over the weekend, Improv Everywhere. They are a group of people, headed up by Charlie Todd, who performs with the Upright Citizen's Brigade. He organizes public "gatherings" and kind of plays pranks on unsuspecting employees, shoppers, and random folks of the public. Go to their website and check it out. Just to give you an idea, one mission involved a group of people all dressing in khaki pants and blue shirts. They all went into Best Buy and stood at the end of an aisle. If asked by a customer about an item, they answered the question. Of course this provided amusement for employees and shoppers but management didn't like it. BTW, their page is down, so I can't put up links right now. Another mission they coordinated a multi-person 5-minute "skit" that was played out repeatedly over the course of an hour in Starbucks. Take some time to read their missions. If you appreciate this kind of humor, you'll get a kick out of it.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

There Was a Checkpoint Charlie

A fair warning to those faithful readers of mine who don't like to read: This may be my last update for awhile due to me travelling back to the states and then moving next weekend, so I plan on writing a lot.

Well I'm having a great time here in Germany. I've noticed a couple of cultural differences, however, that absolutly drive me crazy. The first and foremost is the fact that they make you pay to use bathrooms. Is this insane? It doesn't matter where you are -- public, private, museum, department store...there is someone's who's job it is to patrol the bathrooms and make sure that people pay the requisite 0.50€. Talk about a job that sucks! Going to the bathroom is a natural human process and they are charging us to take care of this multi-daily task? I don't think so! Being a man, it is a bit easier as we can just go wherever we want...but still. I mean, if someone is going to make me pay to go to the bathroom, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth. I'll take Moby Dick in there or something and cozy up to do some reading. I think a great protest would be for a bunch of students (cause they love to protest) to go into bathrooms and just stand in front of the toilets. Do this all day to protest charging for bathrooms. Germany is the only country that does this.

The second gripe...well its not really a grip because it's not that big of a deal is German's adversion to crossing against a traffic light. What do us American's do? We come to a street, look to see if any traffic is coming, and as long as there is no traffic, we'll cross. We really don't care if the sign says "Don't Walk" or traffic is a go for us. Germans on the otherhand will do their civic duty and wait for the sign to change. It is really something to see an empty street and a bunch of people on either side waiting for the walk sign to appear. Speaking of walk signs, being in the former GDR, I'm privy to a rather neat cultrual phenomenon, that of the Amplemannchen. The Amplemannchen is the crosswalk signal from the former GDR that is much more exciting than it's FRG counterpart, and a lot more exciting then the boring WALK/DON'T WALK we have in the US. Being in Dresden, I've also seen the female version Here is a pic of the Amplemannchen:

Other then these two things, Germany is great. One thing that Germany is known for is it's beer, and I'm more then happy to report that I've been drinking my fill. Radeberger and Feldschlößchen are the two regional beers I've been drinking the most of. Something that is really hard to get used to, as an American, is the lack of open container laws. Every day I see people having a beer walking down the road, riding the tram, or hanging out can drink any place you like. It's great! And beer is usually one of the cheapest things on the menu, so why drink pop or water when a beer will be cheaper! I love it!

Yesterday I went to a European Soccer match. We went to the 1. FC Dynamo Dresden game. The Dynamo (procounced Du-Na-Mo btw) play in Germany's 3rd league, but it was still quite fun. I was quite impressed with the fan support. I mean I would equate this (any soccer snobs, please correct me) to attending a minor league baseball game. Small stadium, cheap seats, & a level of play below that of the Bundesliga. But the fans come out in droves! Colors of yellow, maroon, and black were everywhere! The fan section I would equate to the fan sections at NCAA Football and/or Basketball games. The fans stand the whole game and cheer and chant and yell and sing. It is great! I was patted down as I entered the stadium and I don't ever recall havind gone through that in the US. I was also told that people throw batteries onto the field at opposing players....hmmm, sounds familiar. I can only imagine what it would be like attending a game in the Bundesliga or the Premiership. Gotta put that one on life's to-do list.

We went to Berlin last weekend and that was quite something. Most of us remember the Wall coming down and what it meant...but there is a real history to the Wall and what it stood for that many of us don't know. It was real humbling and educational to read about it and how events played out. The thing that I never really thought about was that the Wall was around and containted the "free" West Germans while the "non-freee" East Germans could travel where they liked (except for West Berlin that is). The other thing that the OFOMOL told me is that East Berlin was a city where East Germans wanted to live because they could receive TV channels from the West and they had some of the best living situations; West Germans, on the other hand, didn't want to live in West Berlin (it was isolated, who could blame them?) and incentives were offered to get people to live and work there. Then in 1989 the Wall came down, David Hasselhoff came for a visit and Capitalism spread across the land. Now they make a buck by selling stuff from those by-gone days. Karl Marx must be rolling in his grave when he sees this:

OK, I fly back to the states on Wednesday. Hopefully I get home with the least of delays and there are no terrorists on my plane...if not, I'll do my best to take them down. I move down to the sticks on saturday. Look for details in the coming weeks about my place down there. I appreciate the comments, so keep them coming.

Friday, August 04, 2006

No One Else Would Know

Second Radiohead lyric in the past three posts...oh well, OK Computer is very applicable to travelling.

Not being a native speaker and knowing all of 50 words in German, watching TV hasn't been that exciting. There is CNN International to watch, which is in English. Although I can only watch so much of the conflict in the Middle East. The other channel I've found interest in in Eurosport. Yes, everything is in German, but sports are pretty universal and I can figure out what is going on without knowing that the announcers are saying.

Without my knowledge I happen to be here during the European Swimming Championships. This is great as Eurosport is broadcasting them. It is not that they are just broadcasting the finals of each, they are showing most of the preliminary heats, semifinals, and finals of all swimming and diving events. This is amazing! How often are we treated to swimming on TV in the states? I know they show the NCAA Division I National meet every year, but that is on tape delay a week or so after the competition takes place. Other then that, the only swimming on TV we get is every four years with the Olympic Trials and the Olympics. Not only is Eurosport showing everything, most of it is LIVE! None of this tape delay BS where, in the age of the internet, you know who has won. Its really great! I wake up in the morning and while we're eating breakfast, I get to watch prelims swims of events. Even with the distance events of the 800 and 1500, they show practically every length. I remember watching Olympics in years past where they would show the start and then the last 100 of the 1500. It was beautiful to watch the German women destroy the world record in the 800 Free Relay last night as the anchor brought it home in a blistering 1:55 and change.

Those of us that are involved in the sport of swimming often complain to the lack of attention our sport gets outside of the Olympics. This is because networks choose not to broadcast meets such as Nationals; if they do, it is on tape delay and takes away from the excitement of watching the event live. Part of the reason for this is ESPN's near monopoly on sports coverage. Yes there are other networks that cover sports, but ESPN is the only 24-hour sports network and is watched in more homes then any other network. How great would it be instead of watching a radio broadcast (yes, they actually film the inside of the radio booth...very exciting TV) of Mike & Mike in the morning, they broadcast live events such as swimming, track and field, or even the EPL. Instead of watching Skip Bayless and Woody Paige argue non-sensical points, we could actually be watching real sports events. What a concept! There are very few US events (well, those that ESPN covers) that take place during the day and based on the success of the 2006 World Cup, the EPL could do very well.

I've started to tire of ESPN and it only sucks because there really isn't a viable alternative. It reminds me of when MTV started broadcasting shows instead of videos. ESPN needs to broadcast sports, instead of another talking head. But keep PTI, that is one of the few shows that works.