Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Rocktagon Recap of UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen

Featuring woman on woman violence, a fat white dude with a mullet beating up an African-Frenchman, THREE technical stoppages on one card and Jon Jones shutting up Chael Sonnen...even AFTER his toe EXPLODES!

08:30 PM EST -- All right kids, we’re trying something different for this go-around. Instead of giving you a semi-structured recap of the night’s fights, I figured I’d instead employ something of a live-ish, stream-of-consciousness style -- basically, more fleshed out, wordier “tweets” as the show unfurls. This will either be a smashing success or…well, not a smashing success, I guess.

08:35 PM EST -- Who’s up for some prelims up in this (figurative) biz-nitch? Sheila Gaff is scheduled to take on Sara McMann in just a few. Gaff’s nickname is “The German Tank,” by the way. A general rule of thumb, while I’m thinking it over: never, ever date a girl named after Wehrmacht machinery.

08:40 PM EST -- Wait…they let women fighters wear shirts? Well, that’s sexist as hell. They better be making $0.60 for every dollar a male fighter makes, or else I’m going to be pissed.

08:41 PM EST -- The one with the ponytail (and shirt) seems to be winning so far. “The Shirt,” I believe, is also a much better nickname than “German Tank,” anyway.

08:44 PM EST -- McMann has Gaff in a crucifix, and is pounding the CRAP outta’ her Fraulein foe. And the referee let her rearrange her opponent’s face for about a half minute longer than any paid employee should have. A brutal, brutal beating on display here. Hooray for equal rights!

08:48 PM EST -- All female fighters have hair like Benson Henderson, so it seems.

08:51 PM EST -- Gian Villante taking on Ovince St. Preux next. Things are looking very, very Strikeforcey right about now.

08:53 PM EST -- Joe Rogan is interviewing some giant dude that’s part of a committee to save Olympic wrestling. Go to KeepWrestlingintheOlympics.Com, and “crash the server,” he tells the audience at home. Because a DNS error screen is CLEARLY the best way to inform people about things. For sure.

08:57 PM EST -- Note to readers who may be traveling to Atlanta anytime soon: if you’re ever in the Kennesaw area, you NEED to try the Ultimate Nachos at Bailey’s. You just have to.

08:59 PM EST -- Despite the very, very European names of the two competitors, both dudes are American. You know, like pizza, in a way.

09:02 PM EST -- Rogan calls UFC “the big show,” in a subtle jab to Strikeforce being an inferior product. You know, that inferior product whose fighters make up half their roster now.

09:03 PM EST -- OSP rocks Villante, but it’s not enough to put him down and out.

09:04 PM EST -- It’s about an hour until the PPV main card kicks off, and the pub is already near capacity. I’m expecting a HUGE house tonight for when the main event begins.

09:06 PM EST -- Some dude in house just won a free DVD of UFC 145...which, as we are all aware of, I witnessed live, and in-person this time last year.

09:07 PM EST -- Villante begins the round by leg kicking OSP and dropping him. But it’s not enough to finish him, of course.

09:08 PM EST -- Villante eyeing a guillotine, but it ain’t happening.

09:09 PM EST -- Rogan keeps ragging on the cardio of both guys, calling Villante “flat footed.” And also, apparently, OSP speaks Haitian, so maybe his Americanship is, uh, not as American as I had stated earlier.

09:11 PM EST -- Probably Villante’s round. OSP definitely won round one, so this next one will decide the whole she-bang, enchilada and kit and/or caboodle

09:13 PM EST -- Villante gets eye poked. He tells the ref he can’t see, and the ref WAVES OFF THE FIGHT. D’oh!

09:14 PM EST -- An early nominee for Rogan-ism of a night: “This is just a disaster.”

09:17 PM EST -- And OSP wins on a “majority technical decision,” which is something you definitely don’t get to put on a W-L record too often.

09:19 PM EST -- Anthony Pettis is in the house. Rustam Khabilov and Yancy Medeiros are scheduled to go toe-to-toe next. Imagine that; a fight in which the guy named “Yancy” actually has the less weird first name.

09:21 PM EST -- Guys: if your girl is WILLING to come along to a sports bar, and watch you do a stupid play-by-play blog for a mixed martial arts show…you have a pretty darn good girlfriend.

09:24 PM EST -- We’ve got one fight left on the docket on the prelims, and about a half hour to kill until the main PPV card. Now who is ready for some pure-D stalling from the Zuffa suits?

09:28 PM EST -- You have to see these giant beer bong things they have for sell at the pub. They’re like these giant birdfeeders, filled with American brew…so you know you’re not really missing anything, ostensibly.

09:30 PM EST -- NOBODY in the crowd knows/cares who either of these fighters are. That makes…all of us, to be honest.

09:33 PM EST -- It has happened AGAIN! Yancy dislocates his thumb defending a takedown, and the ref calls it.

09:35 PM EST -- We get an up close look at Yancy’s thumb. I think the last time I saw a hand that looked like that, it was busy trying to kill Bruce Campbell in a log cabin.

09:38 PM EST -- Hard sell for the Bisping/Belfort co-main event bout. Yeah, it’s going to take a LOT of salesmanship to get me excited about that prospect.

09:39 PM EST -- More trash talk from Chael Sonnen, who apparently, has been watching a lot of “Scarface” lately. Well, that, or Razor Ramon promos from 1993.

09:40 PM EST -- Jon Jones in the back, looking all calm and stuff while listening to these huge honking earphones. Oddly, he has an almost Anderson Silva-look going on this evening.

09:42 PM EST -- It’s standing room only at the pub. Did I tell you that the actual show doesn’t start until another 20 minutes, too?

09:43 PM EST -- …and a replay of the McMann/Gaff fight, that happened just an hour ago. Folks…at this rate, the entire show may be over by 11 o’clock.


09:52 PM EST -- Arial Helwani backstage with Greg Jackson. In the back, Jones is shadow boxing (and shadow kickboxing) all casual-like.

09:54 PM EST -- Tonight’s philosophical question: what are frat boys always “WOOO”-ing about, exactly?

09:55 PM EST -- DW and Joe talk about the main event. The baldness, it is deafening.

09:58 PM EST -- If Michael Bisping fought Forrest Griffin, how could you tell who won?

09:59 PM EST -- Well, time for the part of the evening where it takes the house ten minutes to switch the TV feed from FX to the PPV show…

10:01 PM EST -- Jeez…just how many UFC 145 DVDs can one person give away, anyway?

10:04 PM EST -- Continuity, man: it was about two years ago…in the very same arena…that Jon Jones won the UFC Light Heavyweight championship.

10:12 PM EST -- Pat Healy taking on Jim Miller. Miller, as always, comes out to “Full Moon Rising” by CCR.

10:13 PM EST -- Healy with a slight height and reach advantage. And holy crap, do both of these guys look nearly indistinguishable from one another.

10:16 PM EST -- Miller with a takedown. He’s gotten some really good shots in already. It’s Healy’s first UFC fight since 2006, if you can believe it.

10:17 PM EST -- Miller trying to get a crucifix. Looks like he’s going for a guillotine now.

10:18 PM EST -- Miller almost has an armbar in, but Healy manages to escape.

10:19 PM EST -- Now Healy with a takedown of his own. Trying to get something going on the ground, but nothing too substantial so far.

10:20 PM EST -- A very competitive first round. Healy is busted open from some last second elbow shots from Miller. I’d give it, just slightly, to the NJ native. Wait, Healy isn’t from NJ too, is he?

10:22 PM EST -- Utterly random observation: Miller’s pants reminds me of a piece of Bazooka Joe bubblegum.

10:23 PM EST -- Healy with a takedown. He’s probably pressed more per capita action, but Miller has clearly done the most damage throughout the first two rounds.

10:24 PM EST -- Healy, statistically, is out striking Miller by about a dozen hits thus far in the fight. Can he get the standing rear naked choke before the bell sounds?

10:25 PM EST -- Miller escapes from an almost certain-death RNC and now Miller is looking for a guillotine choke of his own. This has been an insanely close fight so far. 19-19 in my books.

10:26 PM EST -- Now Miller is bleeding. Expect some fireworks heading into the final five.

10:29 PM EST -- Healy is four for five on takedown attempts. Looking for an arm triangle  now; Miller is going to have to finish Healy to win this matchup.

10:31 PM EST -- And Healy gets the RNC! A very, very impressive performance by the Strikeforce import. What was Joe saying earlier about SF being an “inferior product” again?

10:34 PM EST -- Ronda Rousey gets a huge reaction, whereas that one dude from the Dallas Cowboys…doesn’t.

10:37 PM EST -- An analysis for the main event is shown. Did you know that Jon Jones has never been taken down before? That…might be a relevant stat for the evening.

10:39 PM EST -- Apparently, this Vinny Magalhaes dude is some sort of Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament winner guy. Phil Davis, conversely, shares the same nickname as 1980s pro wrestling heel Paul Orndorf. Guess who I am rooting for as a result?

10:43 PM EST -- Dig Bruce Buffer’s Magilla-the-Gorilla purple tuxedo. Either that, or he’s cosplaying tonight as Lotso Huggin Bear from “Toy Story 3.”

10:44 PM EST -- And speaking of making a (fashion) statement: how about Davis’s neon-pink shorts!

10:46 PM EST -- Vinny has a decisive height and size advantage, but Davis has landed the better shots (and shorts) so far.

10:47 PM EST -- Vinny ALMOST gets a sub following a takedown, but Davis snakes his way out.

10:48 PM EST -- A hard first round to score. Vinny did have the takedown and near submission, but Davis is out striking his opponent on his feet. Davis’s round, but just barely.

10:52 PM EST -- Davis with an ugly takedown attempt. He’s landed twice as many strikes as his opponent tonight.

10:53 PM EST -- Things are WAY slower than they were in the first round. Both guys looking kinda’ gassed at this point.

10:56 PM EST -- Davis is clearly the aggressor in this fight. I’m not sure how many jabs he’s landed overall, but it’s gotta’ be…well, a lot, at least.

10:59 PM EST -- Davis just clubbing Vinny at will. A pretty boring fight overall, but you have to be at least marginally impressed by Mr. Wonderful’s solid stand-up.

11:01 PM EST -- It’s gotta’ be a unanimous decision for Davis. As before, a lackluster fight in terms of actual, you know, fighting, but it’ll probably raise Davis’s stock as a Light Heavyweight. Probably.

11:05 PM EST -- …what the hell is a “Waka Flocka?” And dig Stuart Scott, rocking the braces and being like, 40 and stuff.

11:06 PM EST -- Hard sell for the Velasquez/Bigfoot rematch on Memorial Day weekend. If it goes anything like the first fight, I’d advise the fans in the first ten rows to bring plastic ponchos, like they were attending a Gallagher show or something.

11:07 PM EST -- Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo up next. This fight is scientifically designed to result in a knockout, somehow, someway.

11:12 PM EST -- What the? Roy Nelson, coming out to “Born in the USA,” instead of Weird Al Yankovich’s “Fat,” as god intended? I hope he loses now.

11:13 PM EST -- You have to give it up for Nelson. Anybody that can rock a “Duck Dynasty” beard, a mullet and a rat tail at the SAME time has to have some immaculate white trash chromosomes.

11:17 PM EST -- Well…Nelson only threw one punch in the entire fight, and that was ALL he needed. With one overhand club, Kongo is down, and OUT!

11:20 PM EST -- Michael Irvin and that one dude that won “The Ultimate Fighter” in the house. Bisping and Belcher set to do battle next.

11:25 PM EST -- Alan Belcher has a tattoo of Johnny Cash on his bicep, but the song he walks out to is by Jimi Hendrix. Just pointing that out for you.

11:29 PM EST -- Bisping out to “Song #2” by Blur. Which isn’t played out, or anything at all like that.

11:32 PM EST -- Pre-fight, Belcher has to be cut out of these ankle wraps he’s wearing.

11:38 PM EST -- A mostly uneventful first round. Bisping was really reserved as far as offense goes, and while Belcher landed more strikes, nothing he threw really did that much damage.10-9 for Belcher, reluctantly.

11:42 PM EST -- Bisping definitely the aggressor in the second round. Belcher looks really tired at this point.

11:45 PM EST -- Bisping’s round, easily. Whoever wins the third round wins it all.

11:47 PM EST -- Joe and Mikey trying their best to get Bisping over, with all of the “look at his cardio!” and “second all time in significant strikes!” chatter going a mile a minute.

11:50 PM EST -- Bisping has this one in the bag. He looked really great here tonight, but all you have to do is re-watch that 2009 Henderson fight…and his last bout against Vitor Belfort…to know that we’re being sold a paper tiger here.

11:51 PM EST -- Thumb to the eye, and Belcher’s cornea explodes. And that, folks, is our THIRD technical stoppage of the evening. Rogan goes on a rant about how the UFC gloves need to be redesigned, while Belcher, I don’t know, goes out and dies somewhere, I guess.

11:58 PM EST -- Dana White says some stuff about motorcycles. It’s important, maybe.

11:59 PM EST -- One final hard sell before the main event. Rogan said that if Sonnen can take Jones down, he might be able to win this one. And then, Goldberg reminds us that Jones has never been taken down before. Ever.

12:02 AM EST -- Chael Sonnen comes out to “Too Much Fun” and wearing a bright blue boxing robe…for some reason.

12:05 AM EST -- An animated Jones comes out, still rocking the headphones from earlier. And dancing. A little.


12:14 AM EST -- Jones with three takedowns already. Jones landing some NASTY elbows on the ground. And now, Sonnen is getting BROCK LESNARED from the side. And folks, this one is ALL OVER.

12:16 AM EST -- A dominant victory from Jones, who managed to WIN THE FIGHT even after his toe exploded halfway through the fight. Folks, make sure you put down your Hot Pockets before you see this one…

12:18 AM EST -- Jones gets emergency in-ring toe-surgery, praising Jesus, while Sonnen tries to sound humble in defeat for the four millionth time. Had Jones not stopped Sonnen in the first, it’s pretty much a given that the fight would have been waved off between rounds. So yeah, yet another perfect conclusion to a failed Sonnen title fight, huh?

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about podiatry, but I’m guessing after your toe turns the opposite direction and moves three inches underneath your heel, you’ll probably need some time off to recover. Pending Jon Jones will get cleared for another title defense this year, it’s likely that he will wind up battling the winner of a Lyoto Machida/Alexander Gustafsson mega-fight that hasn’t been announced yet, but probably will in a matter of minutes. Sonnen will most likely move back down to middleweight, where he will get drubbed by Vitor Belfort later on this year. Bisping looked pretty good tonight, but as we all know, when it comes time title eliminator bouts, he ain’t exactly known for shining too brightly. Maybe his next bout will be a date against Luke Rockhold, or maybe even Ronaldo Souza? Roy Nelson is probably next in line for a Heavyweight title eliminator; pending the winner of next month’s JDS/Hunt bout is the presumptive challenger for Cain Velasquez’s strap, it wouldn’t surprise me if Nelson was matched up against the winner of June’s Big Nog/Werdum bout for the number one contender’s spot. And lastly, Pat Healy probably earned himself a top ten lightweight chart position after beating up Jim Miller -- why not match him up against Josh Thomson for a bout later this autumn?

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: Healy/Miller was awesome -- almost as awesome as Nelson’s KO and Sonnen getting his ass kicked…again.

SHOW LOWLIGHT: Bisping/Belcher was bad. Not quite Davis/Magalhaes bad, but bad, nonetheless.


-  If a referee asks you if you can’t see, and you respond “yes,” he may or may not interpret that to mean you don’t want to keep fighting.

- Thumbs are apparently the deadliest appendages on the human body.

- Even though you can’t finish your opponent, you can at least be adored for your cardio.

- If a dude that looks like Kenny Powers’ cousin from Alabama throws an over hand right, the end result is usually declared a natural disaster area.

- Medical science states that one’s big toe is needed to maintain balance. As it turns out, having one ripped off turns you into an ass kicker, times three.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week. Crank up “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls and “Panorama” by Voivod, and I will be seeing you in just a few.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pac-Man Adhesive Bandages!

The most fun you’ll have with paper cuts, ever!

You’ve probably heard that human beings are driven by certain inherent instincts before. No matter where one lives -- nor his or her race, gender, sexual identity, hair color, or ability to/inability to juggle -- a brief set of urges and desires seem to motivate all of us as peoples. Hunger is probably the foremost driver, with sex being the second; and if you’re really creative (and don’t mind getting morsels of food lodged in some rather unsavory canals), you can probably knock those two off at the same time.

A lot of people, however, have hypothesized that some our instinctual drives aren’t desires, but fears; chief among them, the desire to not have pain inflicted upon us. It’s a solid theorem to be sure, but I recently stumbled across a certain item that completely shoots that little idea to shit.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Pac-Man adhesive bandages!

Now, most of us would normally elect to avoid nicks, scrapes, tears and the occasional scratch, but when the end dividend of a minor slicing or stabbing involves getting an opportunity to tape a beloved video game icon to your flesh, I think one’s only rational course of action is to go out of his or her way to incur minor household injuries. As painful as a paper cut may be, I don’t think that temporary sting is greater than or equal to the sheer awesomeness of looking down at a strip of Pac-Man wrapped around your finger, and you know that as a fact.

You’re probably guessing just how much someone can write about Pac-Man adhesive bandages (and don’t dare call ‘em “Band-Aids,” lest you want a nice suing from the fine folks at Johnson & Johnson.) Before we can talk about the bandages themselves, I believe it’s important to address the manufacturer of the products first, Boston America Corp. On their official website, they pretty much say that they’re in the market of getting people to squander money on licensed, impulse-purchases. Hell, that’s actually their honest-to-goodness corporate motto. On their site, you’ll find a cavalcade of pretty-much-worthless Pac-Man goods, including assorted sour candies and no less than two different energy drinks inspired by the timeless Namco coin-op. And if Pac-Man ain’t necessarily your thing, they have a whole host of other licensed knick-knacks that’ll probably get your motor running, from Count Chocula lip balm (really) to breath mints inspired by the Insane Clown Posse (honest to god, folks, honest to god.)

You’d have to be a pretty cunning linguist to find a way to write a descriptive and/or interesting paragraph about the little paper sachets that adhesive bandages come in, so I’ll just skip trying and move right along. The funny thing is, since the little paper containers are a little opaque, it’s kinda’ hard to necessarily tell that there is a Pac-Man print on the bandages within. I imagine, somewhere, some careless mother dumped a box into one of those first aid plastic boxes that seemingly every suburban family in America is required by law to own, and like, five months later, one of her kids gets a scratch, asks for a bandage, and has his or her mind blown by the fact that instead of wrapping a brown, sticky thing around their thumb, they get to bleed all over Pac-Man instead.

But back to our bandages, no? As you can see here, you get three different printed strips to monkey around with. They’re all really colorful, and I like how the design patterns fluctuate. It would have been so easy to just make two or three different variations of the same pictograph, but the guys at Boston Corp. went that extra mile and made each individual bandage look totally distinct and awesome.

Of the three patterns, I think the black and blue one -- the one that mimics the classic background from the original arcade game -- is definitely my favorite. The yellow strip is pretty cool, too, and I like the pixelated (not to be confused with pixilated, of course) ghosts on the light blue one. The only problem here, of course, is finding a way to get scrapped up three times over the course of an afternoon so you can access the whole trio.

Is there anything else that can possibly be said about these things? Unfortunately, I only believe that it’s possible to write 500 or so words about bandages before you run out of proper adjectives. If this thing were a food item, I could at least extend the column a bit by talking about how it tastes, but due to the mono-purpose nature of the bandages, I’m just kinda’ stuck writing about how it looks. Hell, even if I wanted to bring my other senses into the equation, it’s not like I would have that much to go on. I mean, really, has anybody in history ever asked what a Band-Aid sounded like before?

Alas, they are out there, and they’re pretty cheap (if you pay more than a dollar, you’re getting gypped, and big time.) And as an added bonus? These things make excellent stickers -- needless to say, there were more than a few notebooks around my place that got the Inky, Blinky and Clyde treatment later on in the evening…

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: “Nigger” by Randall Kennedy (2002)

A superb expose on the etymology beyond the most contentious word in the English language, or just a humdrum, half-hearted analysis with a sensationalist title? 

NOTE: In reviewing this book, it’s almost impossible to address the subject without addressing the connotations the title of the book implies. Although this REALLY should go without saying, I, in no way, shape, or form, condone racism in any of its incarnations, and if you just so happen to be one of those Stormfront knuckle draggers reading this right now, please do us all a favor and return to your dilapidated shack and never, ever come out. -- THNX, MGMT.

Hank Aaron was endlessly berated by it while he chased Babe Ruth’s home run record.

Michael Jordan was once suspended from school for shoving a Popsicle into the face of a white girl that said it to him.

Tiger Woods said that the word was hurled at him, while he was allegedly tied to a tree by his classmates…in kindergarten.

It’s a word that’s famously slipped past the lips of countless, historically significant individuals. Among its documented, casual users: senators Benjamin Tillman and Huey Long, Governors Eugene Talmadge and Colemean Blease, Supreme Court Justice James Clark McReynolds, Author Flannery O’Connor and Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

It’s a word that author Randall Kennedy eloquently describes as a verbal nuclear bomb -- the most humiliating term in the English-American language, a word whose mere utterance, according to some, ought to be considered a form of physical assault.

And it’s also the title of a book that I have a lot of qualms about typing in front of me.

I’ve wanted to read Mr. Kennedy’s book for well over a decade now. I believe the first time I heard about the title was through watching “Boston Public” way back when, where it was used as a prominent plot point in an episode about racism or some other mess. The reasons why it’s taken me this long to read it, I suppose, are two-fold. First off, at a little under 200 pages (and with basically three words printed on every page), I couldn’t justify spending nearly twenty smackers on something I could polish off over the course of one weekend. The second reason -- and I am guessing this is why overall sales of the book may have been lagging -- is because I was just too damned scared to walk up to the cashier’s desk and buy it. I mean, what if the person operating the register was…gulp…an African-American? Perhaps perfectly describing the word as a social force, the bare implications of being “racist” for picking up a book with a “racist” title (even though the book itself is actually about as anti-racist as it can get) was enough to keep me away from “Nigger” for more than 10 years. Well, that, or it just took me eleven years to find a used copy under ten bucks and in decent condition, I reckon.

Just picking up the book constituted a minor social crisis for me, so pondering whether or not I should even REVIEW the book on a quasi-public forum presented the sociopolitical equivalent of a personal Cuban Missile Crisis. Should I actually spell out the title of the book when I talk about? Should I refer to that particular word only when directly referencing the title of the book, and cloak the word under some “gentler” euphemism when addressing it abstractly? Is it even appropriate to use terms like “negro” or “colored” when citing specific elements of the book, or is even using the generalized term “n-word” too much? From a social standpoint -- let alone, an etymological stance -- there’s no denying the multitude of implications the title of Kennedy’s book entails. The subtitle of the book is appropriate in many aspects, as well; as troubling as the term may be as a pejorative, you really can’t argue that the term is utterly fascinating, considering the broad forms of usages the same six-lettered-utterance similarly provokes.

The etymology behind the term is the most  logical starting point for the book, and there’s not really a whole lot of new information Kennedy manages to trudge up regarding its origins. More than likely, Kennedy believes that the epithet stems from the Latin term for black, “niger,” which, over the course of  history, has had a virtually endless number of spelling variations. He goes as far back as 1619 to dig up the expression’s usage in the Americas -- for all intents and purposes, not only has “nigger” been around since the U.S. began, it actually predates its existence by at least 200 years. To give you a good idea of just how entrenched such racism is in U.S. history, you know that “Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe” nursery rhyme we all learned when we were preschoolers? Well, in the original version, it wasn’t a “tiger” that was being caught.

For as long as the term has been around, Kennedy, writes, it’s primarily been used as a “paradigmatic slur” and an intentionally destructive descriptor. Looking back on the word’s dispersion into the popular vernacular, he claims that the term has virtually always been used as a pejorative; much more than a crude term that references one’s skin color, Kennedy argues that the term carries with it a certain social disapproval that condemns more than it describes.

Addressing the term as “the most socially consequential racial insult” in U.S. history, he also delves into the term’s “revaluation” in popular culture as a multifaceted positive descriptor that, depending on its context, can be construed as a compliment, a term of affection, or, in stark contrast to the term’s original use, an expression of respect.

Although certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the book, Kennedy’s take on the “nigger vs. nigga” debate is a little disappointing. Despite earlier stating that some -- noting Ice-T and Tupac, specifically -- used the term as both an inflection of “empowered” social standing and a spoof on the ridiculousness of U.S. race relations (at one point, stating that the term could be used as a means of “combating white commercialism,” since black culture-exploiting advertisers don’t have the gall to go anywhere near the term), he doesn’t really explore either the intra-community dynamics of the term (as Chris Rock so poetically stated back in the ‘90s) or how the term has been absorbed into some white communities as a social slur without any ascribed ethnic categories. Granted, Kennedy does touch upon these matters, but he really doesn’t cut into them too deeply, either.

The bulk of Kennedy’s book focuses on the legal history of the term -- an interesting topic, to be sure, but Kennedy’s laser beam focus on court jargon as opposed to court implications makes things drag a little from time to time. One of the questions Kennedy asks is whether or not use of the term “nigger” by a white person is enough to exonerate an African-American person if he or she attacks, or even kills, the individual that uttered the slur. Surprisingly, there are actually quite a few cases on the books detailing the issue (Thornton v. State, North Carolina v. Rufus Coley Watson, Jr., not to mention the story of Julius Fisher, who in 1944, killed a librarian for dropping the “n”-bomb), and virtually all of the cases point to the same outcome --the “provocation” excuse just doesn’t fly in the U.S. legal system.

On the issue of torts, Kennedy said the “mere words doctrine,” in conjunction with a requirement of “outrageousness,” means that civil lawsuits brought against those that utter “nigger” are usually fruitless in U.S. courtrooms (citing the eventual outcomes in Brown v. EMEPA and Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass  Co. as case studies.) Nor does it necessarily constitute an inevitable win in a “hostile work place” suit (Ross v. Douglas County), a pivotal sway point in a divorce hearing (Preston v. Preston), either. And in case you were wondering? No, you cannot legally change your name to “Misteri Nigger”…well, in Ventura County, Calif. anyway.

Far and away the most interesting aspect of the book is Kennedy’s passage on attempts to eradicate the term from the English language. Perhaps surprisingly, Kennedy’s stance is actually firmly anti-eradication, stating that the term is used in such “a rich panoply of contexts” that attacking use of the term, without context, is both an overreaction and a slight against the First Amendment.

In the last third of the book, Kennedy plows through a ton of territory like a tornado sweeping across a junkyard; simply put, there’s a little bit of everything getting dropped as the book concludes, among them: what Kennedy considers an unwarranted attack on “Huck Finn” (which he complements with Mark Twain’s lesser-heralded, but still political-as-all-hell essay “Only a Nigger”), accusations of racism against Boston Magazine, Quentin Tarantino, the book “Nigger Heaven” and even the dictionary itself, multiple instances of staged hate crimes (the stories Tawana Brawley, Tisha Anderson, Persey Harris III, Sonia James and Sabrina Collins among them, not to mention Otis Smith’s comment that it simply didn't matter that such allegations were fabricated) and the broad, ineffectiveness of hate speech codes on college campuses -- which Kennedy believes targets “veritable strawmen” instead of the much more dangerous, and bureaucratic, forms of institutionalized racism going on across U.S. universities. In particular, Kennedy has strong words for Richard Delgado -- an activist that wants people that use the term “nigger” to actually pay financial penalties for their utterances, like we were living in “Demolition Man” or something.

Of all things. Kennedy concludes the book by talking about the popularity of 1950s television show “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” which despite being loathed by individuals like Thurgood Marshall (for whom Kennedy was once a clerk) and Roy Wilkins, was actually liked by a good three-fourths of the African-American community. The intent, I suppose, is to make it clear that what constitutes racism is generally in the eye-of-the-beholder; that is, what’s apparent discrimination to one might be seen as nothing objectionable at all by a good seven out of 10 people. Needless to say, if you’re looking for answers (or really, even questions) about the state of racial affairs in the United States, you’re probably not going to find them in the finale of this tome.

I know my description of the book sounds very jumbled and disjointed, but that’s because the book is more or less that jumbled and disjointed. Granted, it’s an entertaining (and super quick) read, and there are a lot of nice tidbits here and there, but overall, the book doesn’t even begin to carve into the impact and import of the term, let alone begin to truly assess race relations in modern America. More or less, the book gives you a solid introduction on the origin of the term, and it is a nice primer on its implications, but it just leaves so much stuff unexplored that you can’t help but get frustrated while reading it. OK, so it’s been around for a long time, it’s hurtful (but can also be salutary), as a legal flashpoint, it’s had mixed (leaning towards ineffective) results and a lot of special interests folks like to take their disdain of perceived prejudices stemming from its use to ludicrous extremes. But beyond that? There’s just not a whole lot more underneath the cover, I am afraid.

To be fair, I really liked some portions of the book, but to me, it seems as if the topic is just way too broad for a book that’s barely 200 pages. With more and more individuals believing that America has progressed to a “post-racial” society, I think it would be interesting to see how Kennedy would have tackled the topic today; the book may not have been drastically different, but considering how the “mainstream” consensus on racial issues has drifted a little bit closer to the left in the wake of Obama’s presidency, methinks the angle would have been just a smidge more positive than the 2002 iteration.

At the end of the day, Kennedy’s book is enjoyable and interesting, but it’s just too darn brief to really give the subject matter a proper combing. At one point in the tome, Kennedy said that the word “nigger” is just “too important” a term to ignore; and in my opinion, a term that important deserves a dissection and analysis that’s a little bit longer…and more in-depth…than what the author posits here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Rocktagon Recap of UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez!

Featuring ex-junkies kicking their habits by kicking some ass, Strikeforce imports looking kinda’ impressive (sorta’) in their UFC debuts and arguably the most out of place wedding proposal EVER!

Another night, another deep-dish pesto pizza, and another UFC on Fox card. Anybody that can complain about a Saturday evening of the like is a soulless abomination, I say.

We are coming to you LIVE from the lovely Chicago Pizza and Sports Grille, which, despite the nomenclature, isn’t anywhere close to being in Chicago, while tonight’s UFC shebang is emanating from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. And seeing as how the venue is the old stomping ground for Strikeforce, I guess it’s probably more than mere circumstance that all four of tonight’s primetime bouts feature former Scott Coker-paid (maybe?) employees.

Anyhoo, enough jibber-jabber, no? Crank up that one Taylor Swift song that keeps getting played every five seconds, grab a somewhat frosty cup of Mr. Pibb, and get ready to RUMBLE as we embark upon the Rocktagon Recap of UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Melendez!

Welterweight Bout
Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein

Brown -- whom I must eternally acknowledge as former heroin user that hails from the same Ohio town where “Gummo” was filmed -- is on a four fight tear, chalking up a quartet of Octagon victories in 2012, including three via stoppage. Mein, a Strikeforce import, has won three in a row, including a pretty nasty ass kicking of Dan Miller just a month ago. To give you an idea just how stacked the UFC’s welterweight division is right now, the winner of this bout probably isn’t even a top ten contender within the weight class. And also, there will probably be a knockout or a really gross-looking submission in this one, at some point.

A downright awesome first round here, with Brown and Mein going back and forth like Wayne LaPierre’s stance on guns in schools over the last decade or so. Among the highlights of the first five here? Brown getting really pissed of because Mein kept backpedaling, Brown dropping his foe with a solid uppercut, Mein responding by dropping Brown with a body blow, Mein ALMOST pounding out Brown with like two minutes to go and Brown ALMOST sinking in a triangle with about a minute left. So yeah, as stated earlier: an AWESOME first round.

Crowd is super pumped for round two. Brown comes out blazing (sorta’ fitting, I guess, since it IS 4/20 after all), and manages to secure a takedown. Mein is now a bloody mess, doing his best turtle impersonation (but not as good as this turtle impersonation, of course), and the ref jumps in while Brown elbows his opponent’s kidneys into aquarium gravel. That’s five wins in a row for Brown, who MIGHT have just earned a top ten placement in the welterweight division following tonight’s impressive showing. Like I said, “MIGHT have,” though.

Mike Goldberg has a phone call with Ronda Rousey. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets beat up on the Chicago Bulls, while the Pittsburgh Pirates give the resurgent Atlanta Braves one of their first losses of the season. Still waiting for our deep dish, Chicago-style, red pesto, shrimp-feta-pineapple-and-spinach pizza, too.

Lightweight Bout
Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson 

About a year ago, Nate Diaz looked like he was on path to a facile Lightweight Championship reign in the UFC. After vanquishing Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller, he went toe-to-toe with ex-WEC standout Benson Henderson (who, as it turned out, is basically a browner, mildly skinnier version of GSP), and…well, the outcomes weren’t all that positive for Senor Diaz. His opponent this evening -- journeyman Josh Thomson (who has spent time in both the UFC and Pride before becoming a Strikeforce stalwart) is probably best known for his trilogy of fights against Gilbert Melendez, which concluded with a rubber match last May that many folks consider to have entailed a gift bag victory for “El Nino” (who, wouldn’t you know it, is making his grand UFC debut later this evening.) Needless to say, to remain relevant in a glutted Lightweight market, both of these dudes need victories, and direly.

Diaz a huge favorite in this one. My GF makes the observation that, most of the time, the dude that tries to make the meanest face before a fight is generally the dude that ends up losing. And like that, I have myself an all new match-picking system. Thomson the aggressor early, throwing some low kicks and then thwomping Diaz right upside the head with a head kick that he never saw coming. To be fair, it didn’t take Diaz down, but still. Diaz with a takedown, and we do some cage-side clinching. Thomson getting the better shots, when he’s not readjusting his hairdo. Alternate match picking protocol: whoever has the nicest haircut is usually the fighter that picks up the “W.” Thomson with a takedown, some vicious ground and pound, and the first round is over.

Diaz begins the second with a nice ball shot, so time out for Thomson to find where his testes are. Classic Diaz, as he drops the arms and starts the mess talking. Thomson gets a few shots in, and Diaz with a takedown. Diaz looking for a guillotine, but Thomson is landing some effective defensive elbows. Things get vertical, and Thomson ROCKS Diaz with another head kick. Diaz gets grounded, and Thomson is just unloading on him. The ref waves it off, and just like that, Thomson is all of a sudden a relevant force in the UFC’s lightweight division.

Some stuff about Cain Velasquez. Nobody really cares. Urijah Faber is in the house. Even fewer people care.

Oh, by the way, our pizza finally got wheeled out. If your local pizza place has a dish that looks this beautiful, please feel free to e-mail me a few snapshots, and I may drop by your hometown, you know, just because and stuff.

Heavyweight Bout
Frank Mir vs. Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier -- the unlikely alternate-turned-Strikeforce-Heavyweight-Grand-Prix-Champion -- has certainly chalked up an impressive record heading into his big UFC debut. Since going pro in 2009, Cormier -- who, if not in style, surely in physique, has earned the moniker of “Black Fedor” -- has gone 11-0, which includes victories over Josh Barnett and Bigfoot Silva. The highly touted heavyweight (who has gone on record as saying that he ain’t fighting Cain Velasquez and made his intents to pursue the Light Heavyweight strap instead rather clear) enters the Octagon for the first time opposite Frank Mir, the longtime heavyweight titan that hasn’t fought in almost a year (the less said about his lackluster showing against Junior dos Santos, the better). Cormier is considered a heavy favorite in some circles, but seeing as how Mir’s career has been resurrected from the dead more times than the protagonist of “Altered Beast,” there might just be a heavyweight upset in our midst this evening.

Ooo boy, this match, to quote the great James Ross, was “bowling shoe ugly.” I could give you a thorough, three round re-cap, but more or less, this was what the fight consisted of, for fifteen solid minutes: Mir throwing something, Cormier moving out of the way, grabbing Mir, pushing him against the cage, and lobbing pancake slaps on his chest while Mir was immobilized. Like I said, for fifteen minutes. Trust me, it was a lot more boring than it sounded -- probably the worst fight Mir has had since that Cro-Cop debacle from 2010, and mayhap the least eventful, big-time heavyweight throw down since THAT Werdum/Overeem bout from 2011. Cormier wins a decision, but considering how bad the fight was, I don’t think it’s going to necessarily earn him a legion of fans, either.

Brian Stann (whose head is about the size of a fax machine) and Chael Sonnen doing color commentary. A few spots run for UFC 159...aka, Chael Sonnen’s upcoming public lobotomy at the hands of Jon Jones.

UFC Lightweight Championship Bout
Benson Henderson (Champion) vs. Gilbert Melendez (Contender)

For all intents and purposes, this bout is an “unofficial” unification bout, which more or less merges the UFC and Strikeforce Lightweight Championships into a single belt. There’s really not a whole lot that can be said about current UFC title-holder Ben Henderson, who is undefeated since joining the organization in 2011 (outside of the fact that he may or may not have fought Nate Diaz while chewing on a toothpick throughout the duration of the contest, of course.) Currently riding a seven fight win streak, Gilbert Melendez (Strikeforce Lightweight strap holder since Dec. 2009, in case you were wondering) makes his UFC debut this evening, having chalked up recent victories against the likes of Shinya Aoki and Jorge Masvidal en route to tonight’s championship showdown. And also, he starred in a commercial for that one EA MMA game that was kinda’ awesome, made even more awesome by the fact that Paul Heyman is the dude doing the voiceover in it.

Melendez over huge with the San Jose faithful, while Henderson gets booed like crazy. Henderson playing it very conservatively; he tags Melendez, but Gilbert (I wonder what’s eating him?) rebounds instantly. Melendez with a takedown, and some clinching follows suit. Another takedown by Gil, but Henderson is definitely doing some damage with those leg kicks. Melendez drops Henderson as soon as the round expires. Probably Gilbert’s round.

Round two, and the strategies here become apparent: Melendez keeps pushing with the punches, and Henderson tries to keep his foe at bay with low kicks (so, in other words, it’s a real life game of “Virtua Fighter 4” going on.) Gil’s legs are visibly bruised up; Henderson gets a nice shot in, but he can’t secure the takedown. 19-19, even on my scorecard.

The Shark Tank fans are definitely behind El Nino tonight. Henderson puts Melendez down with a low kick. Henderson with some nice follow-up punches, and a takedown. Melendez back up, and it’s swing city up in this. A nice bop on the nose, and Henderson is bleeding. Henderson with a leg sweep, and he concludes the round, atop Melendez, pounding like crazy. 29-28, for the defending champ.

More rights from Melendez and more low kicks from Henderson as the Championship rounds begin. Melendez blocks a takedown. Henderson with some more kicks, and another sweep. Henderson working Gil’s back, but no dice. The two trade paint for awhile, and Henderson says “eff this” and goes back to the low-kick strategy. Henderson decides to play Gil’s game, and lands some solid punches as the round concludes. 39-37 for Henderson.

A close fight, but I think Melendez will have to utterly annihilate Henderson here in the fifth to stand any chance of securing even a split decision victory. Melendez still pushing forward with the jabs, but Henderson keeps him distant with the leg kicks. Two minutes to go, and both dudes are employing rather conservative approaches, surprisingly. Melendez probably lands more straight shots in the decisive round, but it’s definitely not enough to win him the fight. I give it 49-48 to Henderson.

Two judges in San Jose score it 48-47 for Henderson, giving the UFC Lightweight Champ a narrow split decision victory. Personally, I didn’t think it was anywhere near that close, but it was still a pretty entertaining fight. The fans booed the hell out of the decision. In the post-fight interview, Henderson (who is without question what Willow Smith will look like when he’s thirty) decides to propose to his long-term girlfriend, which provokes even louder boos than the decision. So, just to stir the pot a little,: heterosexual love = lame, homoerotic violence = awesome.

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The UFC brass has stated that the winner of next month’s Gray Maynard/TJ Grant bout is next in line for the Lightweight Championship, although there’s still an outside shot that the winner of this summer’s Jose Aldo/Anthony Pettis mega-uber-super Featherweight contest may get the next Lightweight shot. Personally, I think a Henderson/Melendez rematch wouldn’t be a bad course to take either, and pending how things turn out in MMA-Land over the next few months, that might just be the impromptu match-up we’re given, anyway (spoiler: Gray Maynard don’t do exciting fights, ya’ll.) Melendez looked really good, demonstrating himself as true top five lightweight contender; why not give him the loser of the TJ Grant/Gray Maynard fight for a bout in September or something? Cormier has already expressed an interest in dropping down to 205, but I can see that EASILY disappearing if Bigfoot Silva manages the upset against Cain Velasquez on the Memorial Day card. If Cain wins, however, expect Cormier to drop to Light Heavyweight, where he will probably do battle with Alexander Gustafson -- arguably the most diametric fight in MMA history, since it would involve a lanky ghost-white dude taking on a blubbery brother that’s like, 5’9 or something. As for Frank Mir? Even as bad as the Heavyweight division is right now, he really can’t be seen as anything more than a gatekeeper at this point. Maybe a match-up against Travis Browne around late August, perhaps? I’d really like to see Thomson do some scrapping with one of the lesser-heralded Lightweight prospects, like, maybe Rafael dos Anjos, while I reckon the best thing to do with Nate Diaz is give him a shot against the loser of the upcoming Pat Healy/Jim Miller throw down. And lastly, how does this shit sound: Matt Brown, vs. the winner of the upcoming Robbie Lawler/Tarec Saffidene match-up? Good lord, can you imagine a Brown/Lawler slugfest going down? No matter what, somebody’s walking out of that show with some souvenir teeth, that’s for darned sure.

THE VERDICT? A pretty good show all around, with a mostly hot crowd, an entertaining main event, two barn burners, and a heavyweight match we will never, ever talk about again. All in all, I really dug that unpublicized “UFC vs. Strikeforce” hook going on here; why not up the ante, and make an official company vs. absorbed company PPV for later on in the year, DW?

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: The Brown/Mein match-up was really entertaining, as was Thomson and Diaz.

SHOW LOWLIGHT: Not that it really needs to be said, but good lord, was Mir/Cormier something hideous.

ROGAN-ISM OF THE NIGHT: “That’s the way you win a crowd, even if they boo the decision” -- uttered when Ben Henderson proposed to his girlfriend, in one of the most gloriously passive-aggressive comments in the history of humanity.


- Former smack addicts are really good with elbow shots.

- Maybe inviting your opponent to try to kick your ass isn’t the best battle plan (see: Diaz, Nate.)

- Hugging up against a dude and sorta’ slapping his ribs every now and then is enough to constitute a “decisive victory” in the UFC Heavyweight division.

- The “Virtua Fighter” battle engine is actually an MMA simulator.

- Per the San Jose audience: watching two guys wrestler around, half-naked, trying to wrap their limbs around each other for 25 minutes is one thing, but asking your girl afterwards to marry you? Now that’s something that’s really gay.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you kids this week. Crank up “Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA” by Devo and “Winter” by Tori Amos, and I’ll be seeing you in just a few.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Five Google Glass Applications that Are All But Inevitable

Previewing the “killer apps” for 2013’s hottest new tech…

By and large, I am not really the kinda’  person that gets excited about tech stuff.

As far as modern gadgets and gear go, I am still living in the Paleolithic Era, it seems. My cell phone holds about 1 KB of data, and my home computer is basically a glorified netbook from Obama’s first term of office. The most “recent” gaming device in my possession is a limited edition, Tommy Hilfiger-branded, banana-yellow Game Boy Color. I’ve never owned an i-Product of any kind, nor have a purchased a global positioning device of any order or sequence. To give you an idea of just HOW ass-backwards I am? I don’t even have a credit card to my name; and whether or not that explains why I am the only mid-20 something among my cohorts WITHOUT an astronomical amount of debt, I really cannot tell you.

That said, as soon as I heard about this newfangled “Google Glass,” I got excited. Hell, all things taken into consideration, I reckon the contraption might just be worth that initial $1,500 USD upfront fee, even. Think about it; for the first time in history, we have ourselves a mass-marketed device that would LITERALLY allow us to live in a true, never-off-the-cloud virtual reality. Well, I am sure there have been predecessors that Google probably ripped off for their latest and greatest advent, but still -- considering the capabilities of the tech, there’s no denying that we’re looking at an electronic apparatus that has the ability to alter culture in a way not seen since the proliferation of the Web in the 1990s or the rise of the VCR in the 1980s.

A lot of the potential software here seems pretty apparent; video camera functionality is all but a given, as is real-time GPS data. But where things can get utterly astounding as in how basement entrepreneurs could conceivably turn the platform into a market for all sorts of weird, entertainment and social amusement-type applications. What kind of apps could conceivably arise once Google Glass hits the marketplace later this year? Well, here are five potential software applications that I think are absolute givens, considering the new hardware specs and contemporary Gen Y consumption habits…

                             Live-Action Pac-Man!

...and, this, my friends, is how you OFFICIALLY end a recession.

The Premise: Who doesn’t love Pac-Man? If there was ever a game tailor-made for virtual reality, it would be Namco’s beloved binge-eating, survival-horror, social satire of American commercialism. How Pac-Man on Google Glass would work is extraordinarily simple; when you start a game, the Google Glass suddenly “darkens” your field of vision and places a line of “edible” dots in front of you. After yelling some basic information to the hardware’s internal CPU about how large your playing space is, a virtual “dungeon” is automatically created before your very eyes; from there, a motion-sensing mechanism built into the hardware gauges your movements, as you dart in and around corridors, hallways and other basic infrastructure while being chased by computer-generated ghosts.

Alternative Uses for Application? In a post-recession America, there are plenty of empty buildings, factories, schools and warehouses just sitting there, serving no real purpose for society at large. Imagine cities and communities getting together and holding massive “Pac-Man Glass” parties inside dilapidated housing and business structures, thus turning those colossal eyesores into a means of combating childhood obesity. Along that same vein, the app could be turned into a software module that places “edible” dots on highways, thus giving truckers and other long-distance commuters something to “do” while traveling.

Potential Software Drawbacks? It seems almost unavoidable that, at some point, someone will input the wrong playing field parameters, and as a result, wander out into traffic in pursuit of delicious, delicious power pellets. Also, expect concussion rates among children to sky rocket, as “Pac-Man Glass” results in an unprecedented epidemic of accidental head bumps on playgrounds across America.

High-Tech Tag!


The Premise: If there’s one thing the proliferation of “first person shooting” games has taught us, particularly in the domain of “online play,” it is that kids, even when they’re 40, sure do enjoy a heated game of “tag.” Unfortunately, social dictums pretty much frown upon anyone older than 12 playing the much loved schoolyard activity, but thanks to Google Glass, that old school pastime could be brought back to life though the miracle of modern technology. Imagine an entire soccer field of people, all wearing Google’s latest headwear (or is it headware?), armed with “virtual” laser guns, just blasting the holy hell out of each other in thousand man, live-action games of “Halo.” A computer-generated reticle, assisted by Google’s proprietary face-recognizing technology, pops up in front of a user’s visor, while simultaneously “arming” them with CGI, Star Trek weaponry. By shouting certain commands, users can effectively “fire” at each other, while a motion-tracking “Heads Up Display” keeps players informed of their “health” and “ammunition” levels.

Alternative Uses for Application? Clearly, the advent of Google Glass would result in an immediate resurgence in the popularity of “Assassin,” that old tag-variation that was fairly routine on college campuses back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Similarly, the cottage industries built around the app -- specialized weapons, different “terrain skins,” etc. -- would probably fuel the entire U.S. market for at least four or five years, easily.

Potential Software Drawbacks? Well, uh, I don’t know if you heard about this, but there seems to be a lot of mass shootings going on as of late. With that in mind, it’s probably not the best idea to mass market a product that allows individuals to literally “target” friends, family, classmates and coworkers for virtual death. Additionally, it’s pretty much a given that at least one police officer will mistake an in-game war cry of “DIE, DIE, EVERYBODY DIE!” for a physical threat; all in all, expect “Glass Tag!” to generate more than a trillion dollars in standalone profits, alongside a noticeable increase in the number of people getting “Trayvon’ed” on a daily basis.

t(APP)it! The ULTIMATE Social-Media Application!

Google Glass...helping you NOT get John Wayne Bobbit-ed since 2014!

The Premise: New technologies, so it seem, are driven by three primal urges; our urge as mammals to destroy (see the above app), our primal to ingest lots and lots of food (see the next app on the list) and our human urge to, as the great poet LL Cool J so eloquently described, “be doin’ it, doin’ it and doin’ it wild.” In that, t(APP)it! is pretty much the ultimate meat market software. You walk into a bar or a nightclub, you turn on the app, and using Google’s face-recognizing software, in tandem with Google’s far-reaching ability to trudge up one’s Google Plus and YouTube accounts, you’re able to find out pretty much EVERYTHING you want to know about the people you are socializing with. Think of it as being sort of like the scanner in “Metroid Prime,” only instead of collecting information about alien organisms, you’re trying to find out if the girl at the bar is a ho or not.

Alternative Uses for Application? With the app, you can catalog literally EVERY single person you come in contact with, and have an index for literally every one that walks into your life. Furthermore, the technology can be linked up with the “America’s Most Wanted” database, so if you encounter a really suspicious looking dude at the bank, you’ll know within seconds whether or not it’s time to duck and cover.

Potential Software Drawbacks? Well, there’s a lot of thorny legal ground already brought up by all of this social media stuff, and I think t(APP)it! will be the forum that FINALLY brings the whole “invasion of privacy through the Web” dealio to the Supreme Court. Seeing as how the application will be a tremendous boon to stalkers, chi-mos, fraudsters and all around perverts, expect the software to be declared unconstitutional sometime in 2018.

Calorie-Cruncher 3000X! 

So that's what they put in Fruit Gushers!

The Premise: People sure are health-conscious these days (sorta), and Google Glass would allow dieters and other finicky eaters to take their food quirks to lofty new heights. With Calorie-Cruncher 3000X, users could use a newfangled “scanning program” - basically, the same thing as Google’s face-recognizing technology, only involving foodstuffs - which is then able to visually “measure” the nutritional quality of the food one comes into contact with. Users can set personal consumption criteria, and the app would immediately censor any and all foodstuffs out of that range from appearing before you. As Calorie-Cruncher 3000X has a refined, comprehensive “content tracking” system, it would also allow those with allergies to detect whether or not a particular foodstuff is either edible or potentially life-threatening.

Alternative Uses for Application? Seeing as how the hypothetical software would be able to break down foods to fundamental caloric content and other nutritional bric-a-brac, it seems pretty likely that the software could be altered to detect the “composition” of other things, so you could tell whether or not that Prada purse being offered to you by a street vendor is the real thing or whether that dude that has ticking luggage is really a traveling alarm clock salesman like he says he is.

Potential Software Drawbacks? Restaurateurs would effectively ban patrons from wearing Google Glass, primarily out of fears that the technology would inform would-be diners about inordinate amounts of rat poop in their food. Likewise, Coca-Cola would file a massive cease-and-desist motion, in a failed attempt to keep consumers from finding out that the secret ingredient in Coke is actually a cancer-causing version of caramel or something.

Piss Racer!

The battlefield of the Gods.

The Premise: Women, I will let you in on something; dudes like to turn everything into a sport of some kind. Taking a whiz, as it turns out, is no exception. When guys go to the john, they periodically like to pretend their hose is a six shooter, and the commode a carnival shooting range with a virtually endless array of attractions. Piss Racer would capitalize on this inherent trait in the male species, with Glass-generated “targets” popping up in urinals - - essentially, think of it as “Duck Hunt,” only instead of a bright orange zapper, you’re using your own junk. Alternate mini-games would use a force feedback app to measure the literal speed and PSI of one’s urine, which can be recorded and uploaded to an online “high-score” board. Select bars will hold “Piss Racer” contests, which will provide an immediate boon to both the beer and mop manufacturing industry.

Alternative Uses for Application? Clearly, the first-person perspective here would inspire two fields; one, it could be used by physicians for prostate exams and other urinary tract health check-ups, and two? Yeah, this thing is going to revolutionize the HECK out of the global adult film industry

Potential Software Drawbacks? Restaurants and speakeasies will ban the devices, since multiplayer contests would gum up men’s rooms from New York to Cali. And similarly? How many times have you dropped your cell phone in the toilet before?  By 2020, expect accidentally flushed Google Glasses to be the most common non-organic object lost in the nation’s sewer system network.

Monday, April 15, 2013

JIMBO GOES TO THE MOVIES: “Spring Breakers” (2013) Review

Is Harmony Korine’s latest just quick cuts and gratuitous T&A, or is there…gasp…actually stuff of substance to be found beneath the spent bullets and beer bongs?

With “Spring Breakers,” Harmony Korine has fully established himself as a post-modern, transgressive art house retard cum genius on par with Mark McGowan, an English gent that once ate a corgi as an “FU” to the Queen, and Rick Gibson, a Canuck cannibal with a fondness for wearing earrings made out of human fetuses and crushing rats to death in public spectacles. “Spring Breakers” is far and away the most “mainstream” film the auteur of such classics as “Julien Donkey-Boy” and “Trash Humpers” has ever made, and it’s still so bizarre and obsessed with anti-intellectual ugliness that it remains utterly unwatchable for a good 98 percent of the human population. Yes, “Spring Breakers” is glossy, and (comparatively) big-budget, and it stars obese rappers and former Disney TV starlets instead of recovering paint sniffers cast directly off episodes of “Sally Jesse Raphael,” but that trademark infatuation with the hideousness of American life is still here, in ample, disgusting spades.

I’m tempted to say that Korine is more or less the American-version of Werner Herzog, but then again, Herzog’s films make something that resembles a distinct “point,” and he’s not afraid to step outside the confines of dramatization and make a legit documentary or two. The only time Korine got close to making a “non-fiction” work was when he tried to make a movie centered wholly around him picking fights with large men and getting his ass kicked on purpose; and ultimately, he ended up too hospitalized to finish that project.

But, alike Herzog, Korine has an uncanny knack for picking apart the brutishness and vapidity and general unpleasantness of real American life, creating films that are guaranteed to make most viewers cringe, puke and shower as soon as they’re finished watching them. Of all the movies I’ve ever seen, I think “Gummo” -- Korine’s 1997 magnum opus of non sequitir  nihilism -- is probably the most realistic portrait of small-town, rural life I’ve ever witnessed. There’s an unmistakable gruesomeness to everything Korine pens, it seems -- and it’s not so much because of the aesthetics that his films are so impeccably nauseating, as it is the undeniable veracity behind what he’s crafting. Like it or not, what Korine shows us is America, as it really is; warts, pimples and HIV-infected high schoolers and all.

Saying “Spring Breakers” is Korine’s most accessible film is both an accurate utterance and a brass-balled lie at the same time; yeah, compared to the rest of Korine’s oeuvre - - I will let you do your own research on indescribable “classics” such as “The Diary of Anne Frank Pt. II” and “The Devil, His Sinner and His Journey” -- the film is fairly accessible, but for your standard Johnny or Jeanie-Come-Lately off the street that’s never even heard of Korine before, “Spring Breakers” is abrasive enough to elicit a violent skin reaction. To be sure, the candy-colored, hyper-pastel, less-distorted-than-usual hideousness of the film is a far cry from the blunt trauma of “Gummo” or the frustratingly indecipherable “Mister Lonely,” but the chopped up, scrambled and laced with cocaine structure of “Spring Breakers” is still the kind of volatile cinematic mix that would lead most moviegoers into convulsions.

So, what is “Spring Breakers” about, exactly? Well, it has a pretty straightforward plot, which is stretched out, discolored and generally skewed to the point where the celluloid feels like its going to burst into flames at any moment. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, the first ten minutes of the film entails at least 100 exposed breasts, scenes of people firing up bongs while watching “My Little Pony” and a cameo appearance by pro wrestler Jeff Jarrett as a student minister. And after that? That’s when things start getting really kooky.

A lot of critics have taken to describing the film as “Disney Girls Gone Wild.” In general terms, I guess that’s a fitting description, but it also overlooks a lot of the film’s vague sociopolitical criticisms of American pleasure seeking. This isn’t just a film that entails bleach-blonde coeds robbing fried chicken joints and singing Brittney Spears standards outside liquor stores, it’s a film about how the hollow pursuit of hollow gains has led to American culture becoming about as hollow as a bullet-riddled balloon. By no means is Korine celebrating the unrepentant stupidity and destructively excessive lives of the people in the film; in fact, “Spring Breakers” may very well be the most Calvinistic indictment of U.S. consumer culture this side of a Fred Phelps diatribe. This is a movie about gloriously stupid people doing gloriously stupid things for gloriously stupid reasons. With equal doses of venom, this is a movie that absolutely hates the soulless bubbliness of pop-music (I suppose Korine included Skrillex and Ellie Goulding on the soundtrack to similarly mock the pseudo-intellectual, quasi-post-industrialist leanings that modern radio seems to be embracing more and more these days), U.S drug culture, hip-hop materialism, the state of higher education and the general aimlessness of the nation’s youth with a passion. “Spring Breakers” is something of an anti-satire that means precisely what it says; these people are stupid, the things they believe in are stupid, and everything about everything they like is unfathomably stupid.

Believe it or not, “Spring Breakers” might just have the most brazenly Christian-conservative ideology of any movie to come out in quite some time. In the film, Korine literally presents religiosity as a means out of encountering social ills (citing a passage from Corinthians very early in the picture, no less), with a tour bus filled with boring, staid middle-class folks serving as a vessel of Christ that redeems two of the film’s four main starlets.

At the end of the film, the other two primary characters “escape” in a Lamborghini, stolen from a gunned down drug kingpin -- played suspiciously well by rapper Gucci Mane, whose Wikipedia entry, I believe it is fair to note, features a rap sheet twice the size of his discography. The more I think about it, the more I begin to suspect that in the film, Korine is drawing up the perpetually sunny and sandy beaches of St. Petersburg, Florida -- with its nonstop debauchery and hyper-violent hoodlums coked up on consumerism and, well, actual coke -- as a metaphorical vision of hell on earth, while the boring, humdrum foothills of Kentucky represent the physical embodiment of heaven. There’s some serious sociopolitical subtext going on here; too bad most folks will be distracted by all of the gun shots and jiggling sweater puppets to note any of it.

The trifecta of disgraced/redeemed Disney starlets -- alongside Korine’s own wife, yet another benefactor of the Sherri Moon nepotistic model -- do a pretty good job of playing dense, dim, and pleasure-obsessed numbskulls. Now, I don’t know much about Selena Gomez, or Ashley Benson, or Vanessa Hudgens, but judging from their performances here? I have a hard time believing that anyone that can hop into such self-absorbed, homicidal insipidness so effortlessly can be merely acting as morons. Of special commendation is James Franco’s performance as Alien, a Riff-Raff inspired wannabe rapper that’s part Tony Montana, part Chief Keef and part gas-huffing retard down at the local Amoco; between his apoplectic walking tours in which he showcases Ninja Turtle weaponry in his bedroom to his buttery, show-stopping rendition of Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on a poolside piano, his presence as a grilled out, Kevin Federline-on-atomic-steroids is destined to become the stuff of cinematic legend.

Is “Spring Breakers” a brilliant film? A great film? A film worth your $11 hard-earned dollars? Well, I think it’s an utterly fascinating film, visually, structurally and elementally. If you ask me, there’s more stuff of value in the film’s fumes as it stretches out of a digital projector than damn near any mainstream, theatrical release shat out so far this year. It’s a movie with a merciless message about the hedonism of U.S. society -- it’s fascination with guns, it’s fascination with WorldStarHipHop violence and most certainly its fascination with escapism by utter atomization (obliteration?) of the individual through sex, drank and pursuit of the Almighty dollar. That said, most folks will probably hate the ever-loving hell out of it, either unable to detect its SLAPS values or getting sidetracked by the glittery visuals of the train derailment before them.

Those with taste buds need not stand in line for this one; but for those of you with tonsils singed off by a steady diet of bland, materialistic, American nothingness, this is one "Break" from the mediocre well worth signing up for.


Three and Half Tofu Dogs Out of Four

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Most Important Supreme Court Case Ever?

Forget all of the “gay marriage” chatter; the U.S. High Court will soon be ruling on what it means to be human altogether.

True or false: the Constitution of the United State is the utmost guaranteer of our rights as a peoples.

Now, most high school civics classes would teach you to say “true,” because most high school civics classes are taught by basketball coaches that are just there because it gives them a convenient excuse for tenure. The reality here -- the real reality -- is that our First-through-the-Twenty-Seventh-Amendment rights are more or less dictated to us by just nine people -- usually old, wrinkly white ones and at least one token black dude with a mustache.

I once read an argument from some guy that made a pretty convincing point about just how much power the Supreme Court has compared to other branches of Government. I mean, the Executive Branch can pass as many freedom-squelching acts as it wants, while state and federal legislators can pass as many rights-raping laws as the desire, but eventually…though hook, crook, or crooked hook…these matters are almost guaranteed to wind up on the floor of the Supreme Court of the United States, at some point.

Whether or not that’s a fair proposition is pretty much undebatable. There are approximately 320 million people in the U.S., and the guaranteed, soaked-to-the-bone civil rights of all 320 million of them, for all intents and purposes, lay wrested in the hands of just 0.000028125 percent of that ENTIRE POPULATION. And there not even bullshitting us with all of that “representative democracy” nonsense about this one; the sitting President, and the sitting President alone, has the ability to appoint anyone he/she/it wants, regardless of their qualifications as a constitutional interpreter, and unless you’re name is Robert Bork, there ain’t shit the other branches of government can do about it. And to make matters worse? These assholes are given LIFELONG terms in office. That means that, tomorrow, Antonin Scalia could butcher an entire orphanage, and until the Senate got its dookie together, he would REMAIN a Supreme Court Justice up until a formal impeachment hearing is held. And by the way; in the entire history of the United States, only ONE Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached, and even then, the Senate agreed to let him keep his job until he croaked, anyway.

It is the Supreme Court…and really, the Supreme Court, alone…that has given American people a guaranteed right to buy condoms, get some kinds of abortions, not get turned down for a job simply because they are a woman with a child, do consensual two-adult anal or use a VCR if they want. They’ve also had the final say on whether or not something constitutes “worthwhile expression,” and admittedly, their tastes are a little fickle; per Supreme Court mandate, burning a flag is constitutionally A-OK, but topless dancing is something George Washington doesn’t think is all right. And it’s not like the criteria they use for defining things like “liberty” or “obscenity” is almost comically vague, or that the prevailing opinions of the Court tend to fluctuate considerably over time, or the Court ever makes insanely dubious decisions that in hindsight look absolutely inconceivable, or that Supreme Court Justices ever say outrageously Fascist things every now and then, or play hilarious pranks (like putting pubic hair in people’s Coca-Cola) on their colleagues.

A lot of incredibly important decisions were entrusted to these people. And as technology, medicine and changing attitudes about what constitutes humanity change, it’s pretty much a given that a lot of GINORMOUS decisions -- which could very well dictate our very fate as a species -- are in their respective courts. Hell, literally, in this case.

We could argue back and forth about what the most important Supreme Court case ever is (Marbury v. Madison? The Slaughterhouse Cases? Board of Airport Commissioners of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc?), but an upcoming case -- which will be argued  in front of the High Court next week -- may very well result in the most influential SCOTUS decision ever.

We’ve had cases that determined civil rights, the scope of civil protections, what constitutes libel, what the parameters are for eminent domain and whether or not one has the right to die and/or get executed in a state prison. But for the first time ever, the Supreme Court will be taking on a case that asks a question with absolutely gargantuan, indefinitely far-reaching implications - what, precisely, does it mean to be human?

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. -- outside of being a mouthful -- is a case that could have LONGSTANDING implications for U.S. citizens, conceivably, until human beings stop being altogether.

The argument, heavily truncated, is this: does a corporation have the ability to patent -- in other words, legally own -- human genes? Keep in mind, we’re not just talking about synthetic genes, but naturally-occurring ones. As in, the kind that are a part of our genetic code before we are even born. A slippery slope argument, to be sure, but since SCOTUS is so heavily dependent on precedents, a ruling in favor of Myriad Genetics, Inc. could feasibly lead to potential cases in which parties claim (and horrifyingly, could be legally declared) ownership of genetic sequences, DNA strands, individual nucleic acids or even full chromosomes. The implications on biosciences and medical research, quite obviously, would be leveled by such an outcome, with thousands of bio-tech firms scurrying to buy up as many “gene” patents as they could; and from there, the legalities get even more pants-pissingly-horrifying.

If an individual party has legal ownership over genes, couldn’t that also mean that said party could lay claim to at least partial legal ownership over the functions, organs and bodily structures formed by those genes? As a result, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a company, with a patent on a particular gene affecting the formation of a human heart, could file a claim that any and all bioscience and medical modifications to that gene could constitute an illegal act. That means that, unless granted explicit permission (or payment of some heavy dues, which is the FAR likelier outcome), basic biogenetic research on the human heart would be a verboten act, by decree of Constitutional interpretation. Although absurd, granting legal ability to purchase genetic code at least lays out a groundwork for the “copyright” on organs, bodily systems (that better be an officially licensed endocrine system you are using, kid) and…taken to the utmost extreme…human life as a whole. Hey, the U.S. judicial system has already given certain organizations the basic right to patent naturally occurring crops and plants via seed trademarks, so it’s not like there isn’t just a bit of stare decisis in play here.

Ridiculous? Impossible? Absurd? Yeah, but keep in mind, this was the same Supreme Court that took damn near 150 years to FULLY come to terms with the idea that black people ought to have the same rights as white folks.

The argument against full Constitutional protection of gene rights is kinda’ apparent. For one thing, the dudes and dudettes at Myriad Genetics, Inc. (which, upon doing a lunchtime inquiry, I am convinced is some sort of bad sci-fi conglomerate villain transported to our actual reality, “Last Action Hero” style) are making a BROAD claim that, somehow, they, and they alone, ought to be able to conduct breast cancer research, since they “own” the trademark on two genes that are known to correlate with the disease. Now, just how in the bluest of hells can someone lay claim to ownership of any and all variations of a certain gene? Well, it’s because -- and I am NOT making this shit up, folks -- they believe they “created” the genes (which, once again, are NATURALLY OCCURRING)  by isolating said genes from the human body. A SCOTUS ruling in favor of Myriad Genetics, Inc. would, effectively, make it illegal for physicians to do genetic breast cancer testings, because the “patent” held by Myriad would prevent them from examining their “creations.” Imagine a world in which cardiologists are forbidden from performing heart surgeries, because some corporation out there holds a trademark on a specific artery. Folks, that crazy ass scenario is basically what Myriad Genetics is proposing, only on the genetic (and thusly, far wider reaching) level.

The immediate effects of a ruling in favor of Myriad would be devastating on several fronts. For one, it would completely cripple the entire breast cancer research field, and secondly? It would also kinda’ prevent people with cancer from GETTING genetic tests to see if they have cancer. Did I mention that these assholes are also trying to say they “own” something that’s been a natural, genetic component of the human condition for eons? Well, they are doing that, as well.

If there is a silver lining here, it’s the notion that the Court will almost assuredly rule in favor of the Association for Molecular Pathology. For one thing, in last year’s Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. ruling, the SCOTUS determined that patents for “personalized medicine” were unconstitutional, and since the constituency of the Roberts Court hasn’t changed over the last 12 months, it’s reasonable to assume that they won’t elect to travel the opposite course on a similar -- and decisively, broader -- genetic patent case. And seeing as how the Supreme Court effectively ruled that abstract human thought couldn’t be copyrighted (no, seriously) in 2010’s Bilski v. Kappos decision, it similarly seems a little unlikely that the Court would pronounce that individual human beings don’t have ownership of their own genetic code, either.

Even so, there’s an off-chance that the Court could swing towards the opposite end of the spectrum, and it wouldn’t be a totally unprecedented ruling, either. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that synthetic genes and other “man-made microorganisms” were subject to copyright protection - - a decision that led to a boom in biotech patents for the better part of two decades.

No matter the outcome, the Supreme Court decision in this case is a true watershed moment not only in U.S. history, but human history as well. A ruling against Myriad serves as a precedent that would (hopefully) deter future claims to organic human matter, and an extremely unlikely -- but not impossible -- ruling in favor of Myriad opens up a Pandora’s Box of hitherto unthinkable bioscience scenarios.

While all of the Prop 8 and DOMA argumentation may be getting all the ink when it comes to Supreme Court news these days, I think it’s quite apparent that this much, MUCH-less publicized hearing has far greater bearings on not only a much vaster population, but has a much larger impact for future generations.

Is it an overstatement to declare Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc the most important case ever argued in front of the Supreme Court? To some, it may be an exaggeration, but considering the far-reaching implications of the matter, I think it’s a difficult proposition to argue against.

I mean, it’s a decision that only affects people that have a genetic structure, after all…