Ibiteyoureyes was sitting on the outdoor patio of a beach-side restaurant with a bikinied shepicksyournose. We were sipping on some Dos Equis. That’s Spanish for almost pornography. The beer and bikini, both, were good.

Then, from the table behind us, a shrieking child. Let it be known that shrieking children do not often annoy me, especially in public places, especially outdoors. I can forgive them for simply being children. But whining beyatch children…Ibitetheireyes.

“Gimme my camera!” he shrieked at someone. “Gimme my camera! Gimme my camera!” Later he made a noise like a comic book superheroine in explosive pain: “Aiieeiiiiiiiiii!” I missed what happened in between those two things, because I was busy stuffing napkins into my bleeding ears (and busy admiring the print of that bikini). Probably the little hooligan had received a light smack.

Fast forward only a few minutes later. The mother of said shrieking child was sending him away to play on the beach and/or to drown. But before he left…

“Gimme my camera! Gimme my camera! Gimme my camera!”

This was actually the mother, shrieking also, and setting a bright, shiny good example for her child.

I bite her camera, I bite her parenting, and I bite the harsh reality of that little boy’s future.

Concomitant yet unconnected bi-coastal strikes by unions in culture producing industries have struck. (Do strikes strike?). Hollywood will assuredly be fine. The behind-the-scenes set constructors and set-dressing “little people” will feel the squeeze on account of the writers, but we’ve come to expect nothing else from the totem that is La-la land. Broadway, the name of a street (!) as well as one of the world’s foremost centers of musical and dramatic theatre has gone “dark” due to a stagehand strike, and precisely at its most crucial time of year for making money (something it generally does little of as an industry). Both sides will lose too much money for the strike to continue much longer according to experts (read:my Dad) and The Times (that’s the New York Times) has reported (breaking news!) that our expert analysis is accurate. This post has been forced to change course in the middle of its creation.  Well, it’ll be the same post just with less potent urgency.
The prospect of the arts without the theatre is frightening. Musical theatre (spelled the pretentious way of course) is a neglected art form deserving of greater respect.  Some have difficulty suspending their disbelief and see individuals bursting into song and choreographed dance routines as campy and absurd.  True, musicals can be trite.  Even masters of the form such as Rogers and Hammerstein wrote musicals such as “State Fair” which define corny.  But to judge the genre in this way would be akin to summing up the worth of belles lettres by only reading Mary Higgins Clark.

Any male in his 20’s who has felt undue pressure to get engaged, be married, and find his worth by “settling down” needs to see a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”.  It is impossible to not be impressed by the score of “Sweeney Todd”.  I personally have been able to recall much political history at cocktail parties because of “Assassins”.

Classically trained stage actors whose careers begin on the stage often lend their talents to Hollywood to Hollywood’s great benefit.  Sometimes this requires great actors taking roles that are beneath them in order to pay the bills or pay for other projects.  “Mr. Deeds” is a formulaic and silly movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and John Turturro is arguably the greatest actor of his generation.  The X-Men trilogy is terrific in my opinion, but to see Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stuart in action is to see Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos outclassed, plain and simple.

Acting can and should be about more than celebrity and entertainment.  Television and movies contribute more than their share of schlock as Ibiteyoureyes has recently demonstrated.  They also contribute plenty that is of value.  The stage has its drawbacks, of course, but the ability of a performer to hold a live audience in his or her hands is God-given and only to an elite few at that.  See how the mighty plastic Hollywood sign/edifice may fall without those trained and reared on the stage, their dignity exploited.  Yet another pyramid scheme claims those at the bottom.

Retrogeekery and The News

November 25, 2007

Though it has been a slow week here at Yesterday’s Salad, because we are busy eating leftover turkey (and salads! and eyes!), the rest of the world (apparently) has kept moving.

And despite the best efforts of your “moral majority” and your “president,” it’s moving quickly. In a rare case of “intellectuals-actually-showing-smarts,” a team of scientists have given stem cell critics a sweet lil’ reach-around. Instead of waiting for this “moral issue” to work itself out in the political sphere, they’ve kept working (with science!), and have learned how to bypass the need for embryonic stem cells in…embryonic stem cell research. Science bites religion’s eyes.

While the benefits of stem cell research are not exactly as far-reaching as the theoretical benefits of nanomachines (as far as I can tell) they are pretty close. And I think the topics themselves are either closely related or overlapable. If you are a scientist, or a superior geek, tell me if I am wrong.

The point is that it’s cool to see things that you read about in science fiction books as a kid…nearing scientific fact. Hence the title of this post.

Book 1: The First Immortal. This is a science fiction novel that predominantly deals with the far-reaching implications of nanotechnology on the world and humanity at large. Cryonics, or cryogenics, also play a big role in this novel. This is kind of a weird book, and kind of a scary book, and I kind of liked it. It follows the story of a man who chooses cryogenic suspension after death (a la Ted Williams’s head) and who is later revived and repaired by nanomachines, and who later becomes the first immortal human being when scientists learn how to literally connect our minds to computers through what is best described, in current geek-terms, as incremental direct downloads. I am decently sure that after reading this book, many people decided to freeze themselves, so that they can be revived and repaired by nanomachines, and eventually become immortal. I am not one of these people (death will be a nice rest) but if that sounds like your kind of cheeseburger, you can download the entire book, for free, here. I only bring all of this up because when I think of stem cell research curing disease, I think of nanomachines curing disease, and when I think of the implications (good, and yes, bad) of cured diseases, I think of this book.

Book 2: The Truth Machine. This is the first novel of James L. Halperin, the same author who wrote The Last Immortal. It also warrants a mention, because of this article in the New York Times, which is actually about people who were convicted of crimes they did not commit but who were exonerated by DNA (and not by lie detecting equipment, which is what happens in the book). However, these are the people who are punished by an imperfect system, and whose lives are ruined not necessarily by this system (which is probably better than we think it is) but by the fact that without scores of dependable witnesses and ample concrete evidence, it’s often very difficult to know with certainty who actually committed a crime. Anyway, this article got me thinking about Halperin’s first science fiction novel, The Truth Machine, which is essentially a utopian novel about a future where the world is saved by a genius who invents a machine that can tell with one hundred percent certainty whether or not a person is lying. Apparently, this concept may be based on actual theoretical science as well. If something like this sounds like your kind of chocolate milkshake, you can download the novel for free, here.

In case you are wondering why both of those free download links come from a coin collector auction gallery web site, it’s because Halperin is a famous (infamous!) coin collector and dealer. Though Chief Daily Salad would probably call him a numismatist.

Thank you for reading Retrogeekery and The News. I am the eye biter, and I bite, freeze, repair, and re-bite your eyes.

The Daily Turkey

November 21, 2007

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With Thanksgiving apparently on the horizon, Dash was forced to fly back to Chicago via Manchester Regional Airport. Manchester, the Queen City, the Singapore of the Somnambulistic, is most famous for being the home of former president Jed Bartlett (its main street also may or may not have two dead ends. Alas, citation needed). But longtime readers (e.g. Nowithabang…, ibiteyoureyes, and Jennifer) know that Manchester was also the sight where Yesterday’s Salad relaunched, just about one year ago with this post about poopy-adj (and new readers though we were only about feet!). So allow me to open this month of selbstcelebration with a link.

One of my favorite blogs is the Wages of Wins blog, which analyses basketball from an academic economics perspective. Or, the “Moneyball” of Basketball, if you will. Either way, it’s very different from our classically trained rhetor and presbyter, theciceronian,
who analyses Basketball with an eye on the true and the good. One of the blog’s authors, Mr. Berri, posted today with an article about my favorite part of the book, the end notes. Here’s what he has to say:

“My sense is that few people ever bothered to read any of these, which means some “gems” have been missed. One such gem is the first end note of Chapter 10.

Five games into his NBA career Glenn Robinson made the following observation quoted in an Associated Press article written by Jim Litke (1994): “I expect to do what I’m supposed to do. But a lot of people that don’t know the game, they think it’s all about scoring. I look at it from a team perspective. We have to do well as a team. I don’t need to go out there and score 30 points a game and have us lose. That won’t do us any good. It would help me individually.” Robinson added: “But I want to see all of us get something done.” So a very young Robinson notes that scoring helps him individually but may not help the team. It is interesting that this quote captures the essence of the argument we make in this chapter. Scoring does help a player earn more money. Wins, though, are about more than scoring.

This quote is interesting because it captures one of the basic stories we tell in The Wages of Wins. Scoring gets you attention and it will get you paid. But scoring by itself doesn’t win games. Robinson knew this basic lesson five games into his career.”

While I agree that it is shameful that many readers skip the notes, I do want to point out that there is nothing inherently interesting about the fact that the quote captures one of the basic stories of the Wages of Wins. Indeed, one would hardly expect the authors to have included a quote that didn’t reflect or in some way elucidate the thesis of the book. What is interesting is the fact that the otherwise undistinguished Big Dog, Glenn Robinson came to this realization. Still, I wonder if this didn’t hurt his career. Scorers like Dominique Wilkins are the stuff of legend, while productive role players languish in obscurity. The real question is, what is the happy median between a player’s economic interest and the interests of the team?

(Some) Jokes Aside

November 20, 2007

Though we don’t run as much political coverage around here as we used to, this in no way means that we’ve stopped watching the politicosphere. If anything, the absence of political discourse on the Salad is a reflection of the seriousness with which we view the current political moment. For this is an era of untold, expanded presidential power. Or is that vice-presidential power? This summer, The Washington Post printed a brilliant four-part series about the vice-President’s role in expanding the reach of the presidency, or the “unitary executive theory” (one theory that has no place in Dash’s roulette wheel). But if the power’s of the presidency have expanded, there is still one arena in which the president’s power is not all-told, in which his reach is thankfully limited: the turkey pardon.

Yes, America’s favorite turkeys, May and Flower, will be flown to Orlando, Florida–and first class at that!–; yes, there they will go to Disney World and serve as marshals of the Thanksgiving day parade; yes, these things are all true. But none of this changes the fact that the president’s pardon does not hold to your turkey. No matter this president’s imperial ambitions, Americans will not be forced into eating salad for their Thanksgiving dinners.

But this show pardon does engender a few thoughts:

1) What crimes did these turkeys commit? 134587.jpgWere they tried, or were they held as illegal combatants? Were they ever accused, or is this whole thing some sort of allegory for The Trial with May standing in for Josef K?

2) Is there a better example of the breakdown between the private and the public than that of our national turkey? The presidential pardon dates to Truman, however it is based on the myth that lil’ Tad Lincoln demanded his father show mercy on the family bird in 1863. Actually, the myth link shows that the Truman origin story is also legend, that the first recorded, documentable instance of a turkey being pardoned (with the word pardon used) only took place under President George H.W. Bush in 1989! It can be said that this presidential pardon is little more than a family tradition (Lincoln, Kennedy, Truman? Certainly Bush[s]) presented as national to the American public. Thankfully, recent events have made the turkey pardon more democratic: since 2003, Americans can vote on the birds’ names.

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Two big old Hollywood motion pictures are due to come out in the next several weeks, and I am here to tell ahead of time you that you are most definitely going to want to miss both of them. The two movies are I Am Legend and Awake.

I Am Legend stars Will Smith. He plays the last man on Earth. The Earth was overrun by a vampires, or a virus, or a vampire virus. New York is a post-apocalyptic mess and he has a dog. Here is a trailer and here is the website.

Awake is packed with more talent than Ann-Margret’s bra. It stars Hadyen Christensen and Jessica Alba. He plays a man who remains conscious after being “sedated” for an open heart surgical procedure. Terrence Howard is his friend and his open heart surgeon, and he is going to kill Hayden during the surgery so that he can take his money. Jessica Alba appears throughout the movie and looks cute. Pretty. Cutepretty. The producers of this film decided to use the song from the final episode of Six Feet Under for their trailer. Here is that trailer and here is the website.

A question that revolves (infinitely) around the premise for I Am Legend:

If Will Smith is the last man on Earth…why would I want to watch this movie? Is it a satire? Because if it isn’t, I already know how the movie must end, even if it doesn’t end this way. Will Smith needs to be ripped to a million shreds by vampires in the first minute of the movie. And then the credits should roll. While I would love for this to happen more than you could possible know (I would pay the full price of a ticket to see this movie if it were over in one minute) I am not sure that it will. Will Smith is either not the last man on Earth, or he’s not the last man on Earth because he’s going to miraculously cure everyone of their vampire sickness. Or he is the last man on Earth, and the rest of us don’t care, because the human race is dead because there is no one left for Will Smith to bury his bone in and therefore all is lost. All of these potential cases make your movie a lie.

A question that revolves (infinitely) around Awake:

If Hayden Christensen is awake during his surgery, but is technically asleep, and if the plot of this motion picture attraction takes place predominantly while he is asleep but awake (as the trailer suggests), how can his character contribute to that plot in any way? Does he have telepathic abilities? Is he Matt Parkman? Or is Jessica Alba trading in her Sue Storm for a little Jean Grey? I know for a fact that she can’t be Jean Grey because Famke Janssen is Jean Grey. I suspect that your movie is also a lie.

Also, the Flash websites for both of these movies suck. I could probably figure out how to navigate through them, but I am tired from working all day and I shouldn’t have to turn my mouse into a poking stick or a frenzied magic wand just to get some information.

Youarenotlegend.

Yourarenotawake.

Yourmarketingbitesmyeyes.