Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Let’s get some shoes.

Sallie's idea; Dan's comments in bold type

Every now and then, a trend (or 20) comes along that just doesn’t make sense and is totally unjustifiable (at least, to me). These kinds of trends come along pretty frequently in the fashion world: brightly-colored satin in summer (hello, pit stains), ridiculously high platform shoes, cartoon characters on otherwise respectable clothing. However, when it comes to footwear, I can honestly say I’ve seen few things more horrible than Crocs.

I have yet slip into these “crocs” as they are called, mostly because it’s like strapping evil onto your feet.

Never in my life have I ever seen a more ill-fitting, inappropriate-to-wear-in-public pair of shoes. They are bulky, they are rubbery, they are tacky and they have holes in them. Not that I know from experience, but it also makes sense that they would make your feet sweat a lot; like jellies (which are also unfortunate). In my research, I discovered that they were invented for boaters. However, it’s become obvious that their jurisdiction is no longer limited to bodies of water. I can see running around on a boat (where nobody but pirates would see you, anyway) wearing the foam-like shoes, but the grocery store? Come on. Get a pair of loafers or some sandals, for crying out loud. Velcro shoes would be more appropriate.

I wonder if there are some boaters somewhere bragging that they were the first to wear these shoes.

Earl: “Hey Bob, remember when you got your first pair of those boater loafers?”
Bob: “Hell yeah, Earl. Back when I started wearing them they came in two colors, grayish and almost white. Now these Croc things the kids are wearing come in all the colors.”
Earl: “I think they were just dirty Bob. I think they only came in white.” Earl spits on the boat deck and rubs it in with his bare feet. “Remember when you started wearing those rubber “live strong” bracelets Bob?”

Both Crocs and Uggs (remember those?) suffer from some of the same problems:

1) They make your feet look bigger than they actually are.

2) People wear them when they are (very) seasonally inappropriate.

3) They are incredibly ugly.

Why has it become socially acceptable to wear floatation devices on your feet? The thing that boggles my mind most is that these “shoes” aren’t typically worn by those who appear to be fashion-challenged upon first glance. Many times, I’ll see an ADULT woman wearing a button-down shirt, fitted jeans, great jewelry and expensive handbag round her outfit out by wearing a color-coordinated, but still terrible, pair of Crocs. Why? WHY?! Who told these people that this is OK?

The Greek culture surrounding The Place (my place of residence during college) was filled with the polo shirt-expensive jeans-Croc combo for the boys. Then the girls roamed the streets in a cleavage-showing tops, miniskirts and giant Ugg boots lined at the top with fake fur.

When it comes to shopping for clothing, or really anything, one of the best guidelines a person can follow is this: If it’s sold at a kiosk in the mall, DO NOT BUY IT. You’re probably getting ripped off, making a bad decision, or both.

That goes for cell phones and cell phone cases too. Think about it, what else are in kiosks: those helicopter things, Vietnamese massages, body jewelry and men trying to sell lotions. All essential to any modern mall, but all fairly annoying.

Don’t forget the fake hair clip-ins, Dan.

I was hopeful that the Croc trend would end soon, but it appears that the company making them is constantly coming out with new styles. These shoes make me long for the bodacious styles of the early ’90s. Scrunch socks, anyone?

$50 cash reward for every severed foot still wearing Crocs turned in at my house.

Friday, September 5, 2008

“It’s a small price to pay for self-esteem, Michael.”

Sal's idea, Dan's comments. Sorry for the delay...

When it comes to most personal hygiene and cosmetic purchases, I am a reasonable person. I buy a fairly limited number of good- to high-quality products and stick with them. I don’t have drawers full of makeup I’ve used once then forgotten about. I’m pretty good about buying face wash or soap and using it all before I try something different, but there’s one area where I falter and go beyond being reasonable: Hair care products.

Dan: I falter as well.

I don’t know why, but I am constantly tempted to buy new shampoos, conditioners and styling products, no matter how happy I am with my current products. Sometimes my hair needs volume. Sometimes it needs moisture. Sometimes it needs detangling. Sometimes it needs curls or to be straightened. You get the idea. I like to have products appropriate for my needs, and I frequently find that the drugstore varieties don’t all do the trick, which means I have drawers full of hair products from salons. That adds up.

Dan: For 18 years of my life I was perfectly happy using the $2.50 bottle of Suave. You know the one. It’s the 70s green bottle on the bottom shelf. It wasn’t until college, when I had long flowing hair. (Yes, I did have long hair freshman-sophomore year.) I bought into the Herbal Essences commercials (and was disappointed when it wasn’t as orgasmic as advertised) so my hair would smell great.

I know that a lot of this stuff is unecessary, but I don’t really care. You can tell me all the reasons why I shouldn’t buy this stuff and it probably wouldn’t change my mind. Using the proper products for your hair can have a serious effect on how healthy it is. It drives Dan crazy that I have all of this stuff, but clearly I know something he doesn’t, as he’s bald and I still have all of my hair. (Sorry.)

Dan: Some of you might have known that not only am I bald, but I’m bald in weird patches. I was always going to be bald eventually, but I went through a yearlong phase where I wanted to be with the in-crowd, and the in-crowd was bleaching their hair. I couldn’t afford the $40 hairdo, so off to Wal Mart I went. $3.50 for two doses of bleach was, in fact, too good to be true. Hair started falling out soon after.

I like to have a set of volumizing shampoo and conditioner, a set of moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, a bottle of Head and Shoulders (sometimes my head gets itchy), a deep conditioner, volumizing spray, smoothing serum and hairspray. I don’t use all of these at the same time, of course, but it’s nice to always have what I need in stock.

There’s an episode of ‘Arrested Development’ where Michael yells at Lindsay for paying $60 for a bottle of conditioner. In her words, “It’s a small price to pay for self-esteem, Michael.”

I’m not saying that I base my self-value on hair care products, but having a fragrant, shiny, healthy head of hair certainly doesn’t hurt.

Dan: Although my shower is filled with 400 bottles of products, (3 of which are mine) I guess I let it go without much of a fight. My wife looks good, I can live vicariously through her hair, and every now and then my scalp needs a bit of pampering too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

­Going Green… to spend less Green?

Dan's idea.

Sallie and I have been watching Degrassi: Jr. High (We’ll write a blog on this classic Canadian melodrama soon to explain its greatness.) and one of the episodes was about animal rights. Fifteen minutes of the episode were devoted to pseudo-hippy elitist junior high students disgusted with the treatment of animals. (Who in junior high cares about this stuff?) Then one of the girls discovers her epilepsy medicine was tested on animals and diseases like polio and smallpox were destroyed thanks to animal testing. Proved there are two sides to every story, no matter how noble a cause is.

Sal: Not that this has much to do with going green, but I totally predicted that the character would find out her medicine was tested on animals. Score.

Animal testing was the big hot button issue of the late 80s, but today it’s melting ice caps, emissions, fossil fuels and global warming.

Sal: Uh, that’s ‘climate change.’

High gas prices have prompted a nationwide call to go green. Americans are wondering where the heck we went wrong as they put $80 in their Hummers. Suburban soccer moms and suburban gangsters idiotically bought into the SUV craze five to 10 years ago and are now screwed. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m also forced to pay $4 a gallon, I’m sure I would be laughing at them.

Sal: It’s actually well over $100 to fill a Hummer these days. A 32-gallon tank at $3.89 a gallon is nearly $125. Gross. At nine to 11 mpg, that’s a lot of gas and money. Ouch. Environmental issues aside, there is no need, whatsover for that kind of vehicle. If you need to haul a bunch of stuff, get a truck. If you need to haul a lot of people, get a van. Hummers are some of the dumbest, ugliest vehicles I’ve ever seen, and the only place they belong is in war zones, not in the Starbucks parking lot, as I highly doubt you’ll have to endure warfare to acquire your nonfat, sugarfree, extra-hot, venti mochaccino with no whip cream and extra sprinkles.

I graduated from college less than a year ago, so I still have the taste of incense and pseudo-hippy in my mouth. Just like every era of college students, our university was filled with do-it-yourself, don’t-bathe-in protest-of “insert cause here,” Che Guevera T-shirt-wearing, dreadlocked kids. (I’m really just jealous, I wish I had hair like that.)

Sal: I don’t. One of my roommates in college had dreads. I’ve seen what can live in those things, and it’s not pretty. It’s a whole ecosystem on your head and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

I had a friend who could afford to be a hippy in college. His parents were well off and supported his anticapitalist sentiment. He would argue that we should live in a village system where we all grow our own food, help each other, abolish governments, get rid of currency and live under these happy rainbows of sunshine. This was coming from a guy that had an $800 sleeping bag. I thought that sounded nice, but naive. My argument was, that’s all great, but what about when a guy in the neighboring village decides he wants more land to farm and he comes over with a club and takes over your village? It will happen. It’s just human nature.

Sal: Plus, not all environments are capable of supporting people’s needs. You can’t just grow corn and rice in the same field. Not all fruits grow in the same climates. And people are greedy and like to shower.

But back to my point. I feel like this newest surge of “let’s go green” is being organized by these former suburbanite pseudo-hippies. They only want to save the environment because their bank accounts became endangered. Is this a bad thing though? Now the streets of suburbia are lined with SUVs and trucks for sale by owner for extreme discount prices. Hummer dealerships seem almost abandoned. McCain is desperately trying to distance himself from “Smiling” George Bush. People are actually making a concerted effort to save their wallets by saving the environment. I guess all in all, it isn’t a bad thing.

Sal: Perhaps the poor economy is actually a conspiracy to force Americans to live simpler, less consumer-driven lives. The housing market was manipulated to fail so people would quit building houses they don’t need and can’t afford. Gas prices are sky-high to encourage people to cut back on driving. Jobs are being cut so people don’t have extra money to buy products they don’t need.

Al Gore tried to get people to change with his almost annoyingly award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” There was a murmur throughout the world about saving penguins and the ice caps, but no one did much. I would say conservative opponents of Gore trying to prove that everything is alright stirred more people than not. “Keep driving those six miles to the gallon monster cars, it makes the penguins happy. Trust us. Global warming is a myth, just ask our friends over there.”

Now that the economy has caused businesses to close, people to default on loans, and every politician to point fingers elsewhere, everyone wants to trade in their designer clothes for ponchos. I think it’s hilarious. I wish I were exempt from getting hit by the economy, but at least I’m entertained whilst I go poor.

Sal: I’m telling you, it’s a conspiracy!!!! The environmentalist whackos are on the loose!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I want to make money: Disney, please have your way with me

This was Sal's idea.

It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, and I’m surrounded by a sea of screaming, not-quite-teenaged girls. Where am I, and how did I get here?

Dan: You see, when a mommy and a daddy love each other…

To answer the first question, in brief, I’m at an Avril Lavigne/Jonas Brothers concert. The ‘how did I get here’ part take a bit more explanation.

Dan: You’d hope we took drugs and forgot the half-hour drive to the concert venue. But there we were, sober as can be.

This whole thing started innocently enough; I have blamed my younger sister (a solid 10 years my junior) for my love of all things ‘tween’ for entirely too long. When were both younger (and possibly wiser), we’d watch “Even Stevens,” “Lizzie Maguire,” “Kim Possible,” and a variety of other shows together after school. I would like to think that this era (the late ‘90s, early 2000s) is when the solicitation of young stars by the Disney Channel became commonplace.

Dan: You can’t forget the “Boy Meets World” repeats. I found these much better at 1 a.m.

Lizzie Maguire, played by Hilary Duff, was always a popular character. She was sweet and bubbly, with a definite charisma. She was also a little chunky in that average pre-pubescent stage. Then one day, she decided that on top of her TV career, she wanted to take a stab at superstardom via music. Don’t get me wrong; I loved me some Lizzie Maguire. I even liked the movies and volunteered to take my sister to see them in the theater.

Dan: I actually skipped a college class for the Lizzie Maguire movie. I’d waited long years for Gordo and Lizzie to kiss and I thought this was my best chance. Plus the soundtrack was bangin’.

Little Ms. Duff decided to drop Lizzie Maguire, drop a bunch of weight and start a career as a singer. She had a few hit singles, including “So Yesterday” and “Come Clean” but nothing particularly awe-inspiring. She had some OK music videos, and that was pretty much it. Oh, and then there was that one time when she teamed up with her particularly schnoz-endowed sister, Hayley, for an upbeat rendition of “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

Dan: “Beat of My Heart”… solid gold, co-written by then boyfriend Benji Madden of Good Charlotte fame.

There’s Shia Lebeouf, who was initially known on “Even Stevens,” but was most recently featured in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” I admire the fact that he never attempted a music career. He’s an actor and he knows it, and that’s what he’s sticking to.

Dan: I tried to hate the kid, but he’s surprisingly a good actor. He just picks bad scripts.

Now on to today’s Disney stars. We’ve got Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, The Jonas Brothers, Zac and Codey, and all those yahoos from “High School Musical” one through infinity. These kids are being pimped out by the Disney channel like nothing I’ve ever seen, and believe me, I’ve had some experience with pimps.

You absolutely can’t walk into Wal-Mart, Target or pretty much any department store without seeing their faces on something. You can’t watch TV without seeing a commercial for one of their CDs, shows or movies. They are always staring at you. There is no escape from their bottomless, soulless eyes.

There’s hardly anything respectable about them. It’s highly likely that their parents shoved them into stardom like chubby little kids down cheeseburgers. They have no control over their images and I doubt the get a whole lot of free time. They (or more likely their parents) are willing to put their images on absolutely anything. There’s no discretion whatsoever.

Dan: Stage parents crack me up. I hope to one day shove a young Dan onto the stage to set off traps to take down Christmas burglars, play the now-loved, soon-to-be-replaced young kid on a sitcom, or whore him out to Disney channel where he will hit the trifecta of singing, dancing, and acting. It’s a true sign that you and the devil have been in negotiations. I’ve already written about this here.

Hannah Montana shirts, shoes, dolls, watches, dishes, cereal, CD players, TVs, lunchboxes…it never ends. I’m just waiting for the day I go to the store to grab a box of tampons or condoms and see the Jonas Brothers’ shining faces staring back at me.

Dan: I want Jonas Brothers deodorant so I can smell like Rock and Roll. Maybe vacation at Camp Rock. Or go to the beach in my official Hannah Montana banana hammock. Just kidding, I don’t wear thongs to the beach… I wear nothing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ghostride the Blog

Conceived and birthed by Dan. Coddled and commented on by Sallie

Its seems that rap and hip hop music continues to get more ridiculous as BET and MTV shove bad rappers down our throats. Where’s the creativity of Run DMC or the quirkiness of the Beastie Boys? What about the very real lyrics about living on the streets by Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls or NAS?

Sal: Tupac’s not dead!

Instead we’re stuck with the likes of Soulja Boy, who somehow repeats the same nonsensical lyrics over and over again and continues to top the charts. Does he become a platinum artist because people like Lacy are obsessed with how ridiculous he is? Or can we blame BET for telling people this is how you’re supposed to act? For those of you that don’t know who Soulja Boy is, he sings the song with the chorus that says, “Superman dat’ ho!” and supposedly teaches a dance during the song. I’ve seen this dance because it’s the only one that Soulja Boy and his crew know how to do.

Sal: I have a bit of a soft spot for ridiculous rap songs. There’s something about the goofy lyrics and bass-banging beats that puts some bounce in my step whenever I hear certain songs. They’re like parasites that wiggle their way into my ears and feed on my IQ points. I’ll be washing the dishes only to realize I’ve been muttering some Nelly song to myself the entire time. It can be a little embarrassing.

Then there’s R. Kelly, who is the Mike Tyson of the rap industry. At one point he was a great entertainer. He took a few too many hits to the face and is insane now. “Trapped in the Closest” is his opus. R. Kelly truly believes it’s a masterpiece. You don’t even have to watch the video; just let me give you the highlights. R. Kelly walks in on his lover cheating on him, so he pulls a gun. R. Kelly cheats on his woman, but hides in a closet when her lover comes home. Somehow a cop and a midget get involved and someone gets shot. I wish I was making this all up, but unfortunately I’m not. For a taste of how bad R. Kelly is, check out “Real Talk” on Youtube.

Sal: R. Kelly just needed to get some stuff off his chest. Respect.

I wonder if people like Soulja Boy and R. Kelly know that they are going platinum mostly because of how bad they are. People consider them a joke and love passing “Trapped in the Closet” around at parties to get a good laugh.

Sal: Most of the time, I think people might pass these songs and videos to get a laugh, but end up developing an actual like for these artists. That’s typically what happens to me, and the reason why I now own three Ludacris albums.

Another great and lewd rap team that bothers me is the Ying Yang Twins. These guys are responsible for whispering very disgusting sexual lyrics for four minutes. Songs can be sexual and not vulgar; Marvin Gaye and Al Green played in the background while lovers sipped wine together for decades. Even as recent as LL Cool J, sexy was smooth, but clean. The sexual energy in modern rap music is almost violent. It makes me want to hit women sometimes when I listen to the music, and I don’t even blast it in my car.

Sal: Which is why Dan and I don’t listen to Top 40 radio stations when we’re driving together. Gotta stick with the trusty mix tape or talk radio. Road rage + Bad rap = Violent Outbursts.

That brings me to yet another point. What’s with rap enthusiasts owning complete crap cars, but putting a sub in the trunk and driving down the street blasting music so loud that I can’t hear my own radio, even though my windows are up. Is this a case of “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” or do other people feel irritated when they’re stuck in traffic listening to Lil’ John scream “YAAAAY!” It can’t be fun to listen to the distorted bass drown out the song. Why listen to music at all if you can’t decipher what is going on?

Sal: It is annoying, but perhaps we’ll benefit from it in the long run. These people have to be seriously damaging their hearing. Eventually, they’ll probably be completely deaf and won’t be able to listen to music at all. In 20 years, we’ll all be able to drive in peace.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some very talented rappers out there today. Dr. Dre still does great stuff. Kanye West, although he’s pompous sometimes, is extremely talented. Ludacris knows he’s a cartoon and raps like he is. Jay Z is about as close to an early-mid 90s gangster rapper around today. Eminem does rap better than many other rappers. So why do we get 400 hundred crap rappers all named “Lil” or “Fat” something, all rapping about going to the club and drinking whatever it is that rappers think is cool to drink nowadays?


I have to blame the music channels and stations for essentially creating clones of the previous generation of rappers, but watered down. I always wondered if I was racist for thinking BET is a crock of crap for featuring “tricked out” Escalades, almost naked women, and men dressed in flamboyant one-color outfits (hat, jacket, shirt, pants, and shoes) with chains hanging off their necks. I’ve been reading a lot of Boondocks lately, and I’m glad to see that Aaron McGruder, an intelligent black man, feels the same way. When will the marketable stop being so pathetic? Did pathetic become marketable or did the marketable just become pathetic?

Sal: I SAID, IT’S TIME TO GET CRUNK! Now excuse me while I run off to go buy a new tall T, a case of Cristal and some ragin’ bling. I gots business to officiate.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Meet me in the smelly section of Barnes & Noble. I'll be the clean-looking girl.

This was Sallie's idea and she wrote first. Dan's comments are in italics.

I’ve always classified myself as a person who really enjoys reading. When I was younger, I would consume books like candy. My mom couldn’t take me and my brother to the library frequently enough. We’d go several times a week and hit our limit on checkouts; and they weren’t picture books, either.

Dan: This was my mom’s idea of fun. Somehow she would convince me, my brothers and the children she babysat that the library was Disneyland. I did, however, enjoy reading and buying 10 cent books. So in a way, it was my own lower-middle class Missouri Disneyland.

I still classify myself as someone who likes to read, but I find it harder and harder to find books that I really like. Perhaps I’m not reading the ‘right’ authors or choosing books from the proper book club list, but I have a hard time coming up with a list of good books I’ve read recently.

Dan: More times than not I find mediocre books, but I have found several in the past year that really had me going. “Life of Pi,” the “Nightwatch” series, and anything by Nick Horby are all solid choices.

When I think of my top books, the majority of them are sci-fi or fantasy. Slap me if you will, but for some reason that’s just what I get into. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll read popular books that Oprah loves, like ‘The Secret Life of Bees,’ but I won’t be impressed by them or want to read them again, which is what is really important. I’ll think ‘Oh, I can see why that is popular’ and move on.

Dan: NERD!

I like things of the weird. My favorite authors, in no particular order, are: Garth Nix, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. How did these writers become some of my favorites? Simple: I could read their books and stores hundreds of times and never get tired of them. There is something about the genres that they tackle that constantly intrigue me. For me, reading their books multiple times is just like watching a movie over and over. You notice things that you never did before. You see how the pieces fit together and become closer to the characters. You practically go into mourning once the book is finished and wonder what your characters are up to.

Dan: In all honesty, half the time I checked books out from the library, they were Star Wars novels by Timothy Zahn. When I did purchase books, they were usually one of R.L. Stein’s “Goosebumps” or comic books, which both open up some sort of world that just begs for the reader to be intrigued. I think it has something to do with humans wanting to temporarily escape their world. Other authors I enjoy in the fantasy and sci-fi genre are Garth Nix, Max Brooks, Richard Matheson, and S.D. Perry. (Although S.D. Perry is loved because she writes novels like B-movies: Horrible dialogue and plot development, but lots of violence and gore.)

Writers who surprise you and describe amazing scenes with such detail that you can’t help but be taken there in your mind — those are the authors that I continually come back to for more, and I have yet to find writers in any other genre but sci-fi or fantasy who do that for me. I want to know the details, but not be bogged down in the description to the point of forgetting what’s going on; I want my characters to exchange witty remarks and save the world, and I don’t think authors from other genres do the job as well.

Dan: More people than want to admit enjoy these genres, but they just enjoy them in other mediums. Movies like “Independence Day,” “Jurassic Park,” “Mars Attacks,” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” pull in millions of viewers who are too cool to pick up the novel. More or less, this just tells me that people are too cool to be literate and if that’s the case, then my dream job is all but extinct.

Give me a suggestion, and I might change my mind. Otherwise, you can find me in the nerd section with the smelly pre-pubescent boys looking at anime at Barnes & Noble.

Dan: I love the nerd section. You’ll know it because overweight guys in silk dragon shirts are usually sitting on the floor in the aisle reading Manga, Sci-fi, or the latest trashy vampire novel. (For those of you who don’t know, most modern vampire novels are essentially cheesy romance novels with neck puncturing.) I’m usually hovering around this aisle, but not willing to dedicate to penetration.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Social networking: The best way to never actually talk to someone ever again

This was Sallie's idea, but Dan wrote it up first

Social networking exploded five or so years ago with the popularity of Myspace and Facebook. Otherwise shy people got to doctor a photo of themselves, (or someone else) make a profile page that makes them seem more interesting than they are and make other recluse friends over the Internet. Eventually, those that were social butterflies found out about the trend and exploded the numbers of people on these sites. The recluses were able to make friends with the popular people only because the popular people needed numerical data on how many people loved them the most. I personally didn’t hear about this until a friend of mine wanted me to check out her Myspace profile, but I couldn’t look at her pictures unless I signed up. And so the name “Sonic Death Monkey” was born on Myspace.

Sal: I learned about Facebook first, but had no idea what it was or how it worked. I got an e-mail from a classmate after I started going to Mizzou telling me to sign up, so I did. My account sat dormant for months. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Myspace certainly has its advantages, like customizable html code and a top friends list. However, Myspace also has many disadvantages like customizable html code and a top friends list. When people, especially those that thrive on the Internet, are given the freedom to customize their profiles to fit their personalities, you get Myspace pages filled with songs, videos, flash games, celebrity photos, sports insignias and banners. If I want to leave them a message, I have to scroll down their page for 14,000 years.

Sal: Honestly, some of those profiles should be presented with a warning stating that viewers of the profile may experience seizures. The bright colors and flashing applications are a health hazard if stared at too intently.

The friends list is only irritating because it started the phenomena of collecting eFriends. Hours after joining Myspace, I had crappy local bands, porn sites and people I’ve never met asking me to be their friend. I humored them briefly, but after checking some of their profiles and noticing they had 35,000 friends, I decided to leave the flock and block the user.

The other downfall of Myspace is the good chance that half the links you click will merely direct you to an error page. Many times I blogged on Myspace, wrote for a half an hour, clicked submit, got the error, and when I clicked back, blog was gone, Dan was cursing and had a new blog topic.

Sal: Which is when one of three things happen: 1) You give up; 2) You start drafting blogs in MS Word; or 3) You realize that what you were writing was probably too long in the first place and try again with a version that’s shorter and easier to read. I typically opted for option three.

Facebook was my next endeavor. Although I didn’t get to put the latest band no one new on my page to prove how cool I was, I loved the simplicity of Facebook. Only people I added as friends could see my profile, and I had zero spammers. Facebook eventually added their own blog sort of thing and applications.

Applications remove the need to customize html code, and you just choose a bunch of prewritten code to put all over your page. This caused a similar problem that was happening on Myspace. Facebook pages became a mile long. Supposedly Facebook is going to fix this soon with tabbed browsing, but we have yet to see the finished product.

Sal: I joined Myspace around the time Dan got on Facebook, I think. I just signed up so I could write blogs that my friends could subscribe to because the blog site I used up until that point wouldn’t let people sign up to read them. That’s right, people: I joined Myspace for YOU. It’s all your fault.

The complete opposite side of the spectrum falls Twitter. Twitter takes away your profile page… because, honestly, who cares what your top 50 movies and bands right now are? They give you a picture and a 150 letters to get across what you’re saying. Twitter organizes your posts and your friends’ posts all on one page. Essentially it’s like having your own private message board.

Sal: All I have to say is that Dan sure does love Twitter for someone who claimed they would never sign up for it. He posts way more than I do, but I’ll actually read them because his blog chronicles are too long for my taste and lack the paragraph breaks that my poor little eyes so desperately need. The true point of social networking sites is to find out what people are up to. Twitter lets you do that without all the crap. All you talk about is what you’re doing or thinking about at the moment. It’s simple and doesn’t give stalkers access to insane amounts of your personal information.

My weakness with social networking is that of many people. Our lives revolve around checking all three of the above sites twelve times daily. You never know when someone might be on Facebook chat, or when a band put new songs on their Myspace page or what Joe Smith is up to right now on Twitter.

Sal: I might check Myspace once a month, but I have to admit that I’m constantly on Twitter or Facebook via my BlackBerry, much to Dan’s irritation. Honestly, he’s just jealous that he can’t be connected all the time. Once he gets his hands on an iPhone, we’ll never have to actually talk to each other again. Marriage via social networking, anyone?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Energy Drinks

This blog was Sallie's idea. Dan is in italics.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this move from Myrtle Beach to St. Louis, it’s this: Energy drinks are essential.

I think I learned this lesson long ago when I first picked up a Nitro or Jolt cola, hoping to get that extra caffeine to stay up all night and play Sega Genesis. Granted neither of those drinks had quite the impact that today’s do, but my brain was convinced I was supposed to be a hyperactive child after slurping one down.

This sentiment holds true for pretty much any endurance endeavor: late-night study sessions, waking up for work on time or staying up to play games. Sometimes, you need a boost just to keep from slouching in the middle of the day or to concentrate a little better on the task at hand.

Let it suffice to say that Friday, which marked our drive from MB to stL, was a Red Bull kind of day.

Hands down, sugar-free Red Bull is my favorite energy drink. It’s only 10 calories, it’s full of caffeine and it doesn’t make me feel all tweaked out when I drink it. It comes in a sleek little can that’s easy to hold and has a taste that’s crave-worthy once you get used to it. Major drawback: price. A four pack of the stuff can set you back anywhere from $7 to $9, depending on where you buy it. Forget grabbing a case; that’ll be an easy $25+ for 12 eight-ounce cans. It can leave a little to be desired.

I go for the full on sugared Red Bull. I don’t care that it’s 110 calories per 8 ounces, it gives me the boost I need. I know its doing its magic because after the first drink I blink, and then my eyes start watering, and I can hear my heartbeat in my ears. That is the true test of a good energy drink at work.

Other than Red Bull, though, there are a variety of other energy drinks that are out there. Problem is, they can be pretty hit or miss. One alternative that we’ve come across is Rip It energy drink, which is cheap and comes in six flavors, eight if you include the sugar-free versions, which I love. The drinks come in 16-ounce cans and are four for $5 dollars. Pretty much beats Red Bull to a pulp on the value/amount scale. The drinks taste great, too, especially for the price. For dollar spent, Rip It is your best bet. My personal favorite flavor is sugar-free Citrus-X, with the A’tomic Pom at a close second. They do the drink and take awhile to drink, so you’re not left empty-handed too soon.

Rip It is very tasty, but I didn’t find quite the pump to my brain Red Bull gives me. It does keep me awake, it just doesn’t give me the eye opening experience of Red Bull.

In the ‘Gross-don’t-go-there’ category is the lovely Steven Seagal’s ALL NATURAL, 100% JUICE HERBAL ENERGY DRINK – NO SUGAR ADDED. If that’s not a mouthful, I don’t know what is.

Dan and I stumbled upon these delights while searching for macaroni salad at Wal-Mart. There in the refrigerated aisle, across from the cheese dip, was Steven Seagal’s face staring at us from the cans of said energy drink. The flavors included Cherry Charge and Asian Experience. It was less than a dollar for 16 ounces. We went with the Cherry Charge, as Asian Experience lent our imaginations to wander in the direction of mail-order brides and questionable massage parlors. Let it suffice to say that the drink was gross; I though my teeth were going to rot out of my head and I found it a little unnerving to see Mr. Seagal staring at me every time I set the can down. It was like he was mocking me for being unable to slam the can in one drink and embark on my next martial arts adventure. I don’t appreciate being taunted while I’m trying to get my energy boost on. Sure, it’s cheap, but I can guarantee that you’ll hate yourself after you try to drink it.

I felt like I was getting a roundhouse kick of nastiness to the mouth every time I took a swallow.

Moral of the story: Stick with what you know when you really need a jolt unless you’ve got a good plan B. If there isn’t any Red Bull at the gas station you’ve stopped at in the middle of nowhere, head around back and strike a deal with the local cocaine vendor. You’ll be better off than if you go with Steven Seagal’s beverage. Trust me.

The only other energy drink I’ve felt comes close to Red Bull is the green Monster flavor. I was introduced to this by my great friend Zak on his first visit to St. Charles. We’d been driving around for several hours (this was when gas was under $2) and while I was filling up, he went inside and procured the drinks. It drank it, got a bit teary eyed, and stayed awake for a good six hours. Beats the hell out of the 5 hour
energy by a full hour, and tastes a ton better. Plus you just look so much cooler chugging down a 20 ounce Monster compared to the five ounce energy shot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sex in the City- A Man’s Take

This surprisingly enough was Dan's idea. Sallie's comments are in Italics.

I remember when I was younger and first had HBO thinking that this Sex and the City show seemed like something I shouldn’t watch, but yet wanted to so bad. I remember watching one episode of it then and being extremely disappointed. Not only wasn’t there much of the brief nudity HBO was famous for at the time, but these ladies weren’t the normal, “I need a man, I’m kind of ditzy” lady stars I was used to.

This is all mostly true, though some of the characters develop a bit of that desperation as the show progresses and they get older. This ‘independent woman’ aspect of the show didn’t really draw me into the series. I just liked it because it was something different from what I’d seen in the past (I didn’t start watching it until after the series had ended), and I was old enough, etc., to get what they were talking about and appreciate the new perspective.

I’ve recently been re-watching it a bit with Sallie and I think I’m starting to see why woman pay $8.50 to see the very mediocre reviewed movie, and why feminists mostly agree that it is, in fact, a good show. These women, for the most part, are intelligent and have complete control over their lives. It’s not something you often see outside of the horribly written Julia Roberts movie.

We haven’t seen the movie, so we can’t speak for that. I’m taking my time, I guess.

The first few episodes have all the classic characteristics of a Film Noir. Carrie is an inquisitive main character who smokes cigarettes in low light with the ceiling fan shadow spinning across the room.

Then you have the slut character, Samantha. For the most part, she more or less just seems to be a slut, but at the same time you get something else from her. It’s almost like someone took the ditzy cheerleader that slept with the football team and gave her about 100 IQ points so she could validate how she acts. She almost makes being the slut look reasonable.

Charlotte is the character I think that gets shoved into the background the most, but is also the character I would most likely date. She’s intelligent, down to earth and by far the most attractive of the Sex and the City girls. I wish she was more of the focal point, but I guess interesting television doesn’t focus on the most sane person.

She’s also the most conservative, both in sex scenes and as her character’s values are concerned, which would do little to sell the HBO show that’s supposed to be all about sex. However, she does go topless in later episodes.

Sex and the City would never work as the male version because it would become a soft-core porn Kevin Smith film. Women talking about sex toys is empowering, but men talking about them is perverse. If a show featuring males focused on fashion… well we already have that, it’s called “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” And if a male narrated show focused on New York, you would get at best a Woody Allen film and at worst Seinfeld. Both are great in their own right, but neither quite create the frenzy that the four women on HBO created. In a way, I’m jealous. In another, I don’t think I’d want to watch a show that talked about vaginas all the time.

We like this show because we can see ourselves or somebody we know in the characters, even if it’s not a direct reflection. We have some of Carrie’s introspective insecurity; Miranda’s pessimistic realism; Charlotte’s wide-eyed propriety and Samantha’s unapologetic slutdom. The show is undoubtedly girly and can seem superficial, but it also provides commentary on the society that women and the men who come in and out of their lives (etc.,) live in.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Love this post or F*** you

Dan obviously came up with this post. Sallie's comments... nerd rages are in italics.

Curse words have been around since the dawn of man I’m sure. I can picture a caveman on the hunt for mammoth meat only to turn the corner and come face to face with a saber tooth tiger and uttering whatever grunt combination meant, “Sh*t!” Heck, I’ve even heard my grandma throw a “damn” out there once… and it was HILARIOUS. Thanks grandma for that amazing memory. It will stick with me forever.

Originally curse words were literally meant to curse someone, and I think this is the point that most people miss. I find time after time when someone explains why curse words are so bad and shouldn’t be used, they merely say, “Because they’re bad.” However, when someone says “damn you” they are literally wishing damnation on you. But does that word have as much power as it did say in the 13th century? No, just like someone accusing you of being a witch nowadays doesn’t end with you being burned at the stake. In recent years it has become more socially acceptable for people to curse, and I think it’s great.

The point of curse words, as I see it, is to express sentiments that are so strong that everyday language won’t be sufficient. So the commonality of curse words today, if anything, shows that time has weakened the meaning of those words. Though the etymology may be there to back up the meaning of the word as found in the dictionary, it won’t actually mean the same thing to people who hear it because it’s become so commonplace. Curse words are a prime example of how the English language is constantly changing.

Why the pop trend with using curse words? I think several historical events are probably to blame. I’m assuming the late sixties, during Nam and Nixon, was the shedding of the cultural taboo. Teenagers were dying in a war that no one wanted to be in, punk music became popular, the president was a criminal, and people’s general sentiment toward authority could’ve been summed up easily with “F You!”

Then I feel conservative, older America took some power back with Regan’s jellybean-loving cabinet in the 80s, and wholesome Americana had a short-lived second coming.

The early 90s saw many minorities reclaiming derogatory words back. Homosexuals said, “We’re here and queer,” and the Al Sharpton lead African pride movement along with gangster rappers took the “n” word back as a term of endearment. After people realized the only reason that these words had any power in the first place was because we gave them power, they started using them everywhere and at every chance.

At risk of sounding like a George Carlin skit, I just want to point out that curse words can be used in almost every situation for almost every purpose. The “s” word for example can be an expletive, “Oh sh*t!” or a noun. “I have to take a sh*t.” Even a commanding verb, “Go sh*t.” Not many words are as flexible as curse words.

Grammatically, that’s not quite accurate, but I’ll let him make his argument and save mine for another day.

So what about it America? Let’s give up the remaining fight for the 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” memory we all have of what America is. Give in, we are the youth, and we curse like sailors.

Sal: Granted, I think there’s a time and place for curse words, but I think it’s a waste to use them so frequently that they lose any and all meaning. Inserting a f*ck, sh*t or other curse word into every sentence or after every other word will eventually have the effect of a filler word, such as when people say “like,” “um” or “you know” 60 times in a sentence because they can’t think of anything actually important to say. It makes people sound ignorant, ill-informed and full of steam. If you can’t get out a thought without adding a bunch of meaningless syllables to your sentences, chances are what you’re saying isn’t that important or pointed. Plus, do you really want to sound like a teenage girl talking on the phone with her best friends when what you’re really trying to do is give a serious presentation or argue an important point? Do you want to be speaking, but saying nothing? Because that’s what the overuse of any given word, especially words that are meant to have strong meaning, will end up doing. You’ll sound like a valley girl and nobody will take you seriously. Or I won’t, anyway. And that’s what’s really important, right?

Yes, I do want to sound like a teenager because I will always be thirteen in my mind. My inner child likes four letters words. People tend to point out your space fillers less when you’re throwing the f-bomb in there because they still have enough power to intimidate. Even if its on a subconscious level. If I said “like” in places of the F-bomb, then people would assume I was in fact a cheerleader. I’m no cheerleader. I have no school spirit. Although my legs would look nice in a skirt.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A true test of marriage: Lost Odyssey

This particular blog was Sal's idea. Dan's comments on the original article are in italics.

Sal: Dan loves video games. Quite frankly, it’s unhealthy. But, I love him and I knew what I was signing up for when I agreed to marry him. As a result, I’ve watched (and played) a few video games in my day. If the title exists for Wii, Xbox 360, Gamecube, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, Playstation or any incarnation of the previously listed, it is highly likely that I have watched either Dan, my brother or one of their friends play it.

Dan: I do love video games, and I partially based my decision to choose Sallie as my wife on who she kept around her. Matt, Pershing, Lacy, John…well honestly I could just name all of her friends here or I can just state that all of her friends play games. Essentially I knew my future wife wouldn’t destroy my love of zombie hunting or tomb raiding. It was already too ingrained in her life.

Sal: Some games are fun to watch. Pretty much anything involving zombies is good. I enjoyed Dead Rising as a viewer immensely. It possessed a creativity with weaponry that is rarely found in games. If you can pick it up, it can be a weapon. That’s real life. If I were on the defending end of a zombie attack in a suburban mall, I’d definitely pick up the gumball dispenser and whack a zombie in its rotting little face. It’s a game that I had no interest in playing, but eventually gave in to because it looked like fun. It is.

Dan: The previous paragraph has only confirmed I made the right choice for wife.

Sal: Another game that falls into that category is Team Fortress 2, part of the Orange Box set, which also includes Half-Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2 and Portal. Out of that set, I’ve played Team Fortress and Portal, both of which are fun for different reasons. Team Fortress is fun because all the characters are tough, but cute, because they’re cell-shaded (think: Zelda: The Wind Waker). You get to run around shooting people and you get to pick your accessories. I’m a girl, get over it. Portal is fun because there is some shooting, but it’s mostly a puzzle-solving game, which I’m always down for.

Dan: Within my first couple months of marriage, I got to watch my wife choose the character “Heavy,” who has a large chain-gun. She held down the trigger, sprayed bullets at the advancing enemy, and then gleefully laughed as said enemy turned into a cartooned, bloody mess on the ground. I’m so in love.

Sal: I’ve even enjoyed watching Dan and his friends play Rainbow Six. (I have an undeniable lust for violence).

Dan: Marshall, Rob and I not only think that it’s important to save the world from terrorism, but also to not forget to do it in the most entertaining way.

Sal: However, there is one game that I almost immediately disliked as a spectator. What could it be, you ask? LOST ODYSSEY.

This particular game is for the Xbox 360. There are a variety of reasons that I can't stand this game. At first, I thought the characters were OK. I was fairly impressed by the voice acting, and I thought the dialogue was actually funny. However, after a few hours of game play, Kaim, the main character of the game, has to deal with the supposed death of his wife, where he runs into his estranged daughter, granddaughter and grandson. At this point, they go to the wife’s funeral and the player is subjected about 45 minutes of sobbing and ridiculously repetitive tasks. At this point, the game is completely NOT FUN to watch. Which for me meant it was time to bust out the liquor.

This funeral takes place on the second of four discs. That means that there are two more discs worth of game play to deal with, which is equal to about 20 hours. You’ll have to make a couple of beer runs, you’ve been warned. It got to the point where Dan treated playing Lost Odyssey like going to a minimum-wage job. He hated it. The only reason he signed on every day was to finish what he started. Needless to say, we were both happy when it was over and he sold that junk to some unsuspecting gamer on eBay for $40.

Dan: What can I say? After disk 1, I hated playing, but being the goal-oriented person I am, I had to finish. Needless to say, I, too, did hit the liquor, if only to numb the pain. Sallie stuck with me and truly showed that she believes in our vows. I was definitely sick and very close to death, but she merely sat on the couch, calmly asking, “Where’s the next save point?” I’ll tell you… it’s in my heart.