Archive for the All Category

…you think your instagram ‘art’ is special or unique.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends, Technology with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by oooranje

First off, Instagram is a fine app, it does fine things, it’s fun and nice and all of that. I have no beef with the app.

But I am sick to the point of bursting with tepid, uninspired and poorly-framed pictures of a) your room b) your food c) random boring everyday implements or d) sunsets.

The reality is two-fold: one, basic stuff like framing still matters a lot in making photographs interesting, appealing, or, dare I say it, worthwhile. This doesn’t mean you need a big complicated camera to take a good picture, it means you need to have a sense of perspective and an understanding of how the lens you’re using works to set up the shot you’re going for. You can’t just throw a lens up against something and call it art, no matter how many filters you apply. And no, setting something to black and white and colorizing one part of the picture is not art either, it’s kitsch at this point. Spielberg did it to great effect in ’94, Ikea has sold pictures based on it for decades, and now you are just Mr./Ms./Mrs./Mz. Original for coming up with it in 2013.

Second: iPhones have great cameras. Androids are pretty solid too. They do some really cool stuff, like, oh, expose for things like sunsets well. So hey, great, you no longer need to worry about exposure (as much) to take a picture that is more or less easily viewable and true to the way you perceived the setting. This does NOT suddenly make you the Ansel Adams of sunsets, and it for sure doesn’t mean that any shitty foreground with a decent sunset behind it is ‘art.’ Again, no matter what filter you put on it.

So whatever, share away, put your bland photos on your boring tumblr, it’s all good. I’d prefer you not take a dozen pictures of your shrimp scampi at the table next to me with the flash on while coming up with hashtags in your head, but it probably beats listening to you trying to make conversation, so I’ll tolerate that as well. But for the love of god, do not destroy things while you make your shitty art. It’s not ok, it’s not forgivable, and it’s neither relevant nor interesting. Oh, and one more thing. It’s not special.

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…you think Being Really Really Serious about your Sport makes you good at it.

Posted in All, Inconsiderate & Rude, Sports, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by oooranje

I have played a handful of sports, some of them fairly competitively.  I have rowed, I have pitched, I have bowled outswingers and played cover drives, and I have occasionally made a basket, although my range is about 5 feet. It can safely be said that I love sports, and I love playing them against other people who love sports.

But what I hate – and I mean absolutely loathe – is playing against some over-aggressive jackass who lowers his head on drives to the basket and then turns around and throws a temper tantrum because you called a foul when he hacked you on the other end. Nor is this a type reserved solely for the basketball court – this is the pitcher throwing 65 mph brushback ‘fastballs’ in the adult rec league, the part-time tennis player who loses his cool when you call his wild serve out too many times, the 250-pound (120-kilo) football player swearing at the ref for not calling a penalty kick for a dive in the box.  This is the overgrown man-child (although occasionally it happens with women, too) crying for his mommy because you pointed out his lack of talent a little too directly, and that hurt his ego.

And sometimes, due to that wonderful concept of ‘seniority’, this jackass becomes captain of his team. And in those situations, look out! Because this idiot will promote every single last one of his idiot buddies up the lineup until you’re looking at a 3-guard set of double-dribbling whiners, an elbow-throwing 5-foot-8 ‘center’ crying foul on every shot that doesn’t go in, or – worst of all – a boat full of unathletic slobs rushing up the slide like the ice cream man just pulled up on the Fourth of July.

That’s not to say everyone who’s serious isn’t good.  Some people do have genuine talent, and I don’t have a problem with them.  They’re just better than me.  But the others – the delusional 33 year-olds throwing up bricks for one last shot at glory – those I cannot stand.  For them, being really really serious about their sport does not make them good. It just makes them incredibly unpleasant to play against.

…you think America won the Second World War.

Posted in All, Dumb Catchphrases, Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by oooranje

This Cold War misconception is so laughable I barely want to spend time on it, but for the sake of setting the record straight, I will.

The United States entered the Second World War at the end of 1941 – nearly six months after Germany invaded Russia.  The United States did not fight a major battle until Midway, six months after that, and did not fight a major land battle until Guadalcanal, a year later, in November 1942.

In the meantime, Russia had absorbed the full brunt of the German advance, retreating deep into its country and losing millions of men.  The Siege of Leningrad started September 1941 (three months before Pearl Harbor), and was not lifted until the January 1944.  Stalingrad – the decisive battle of the war, and one of the most horrific episodes of bloodshed in human history – began in August of 1942 and raged on for six months until February of the next year.  When it ended, the Soviets had lost a million men – but captured or killed an entire Wehrmacht Army Group.

The war may not have been over just then, but Germany never recovered.  Yes, the Allies (not just America!) re-opened second and third fronts in Italy and Normandy, and yes, these clearly helped to hasten the end. But the reality is this – the Allied invasions only worked once Soviet Forces had neutralized a significant portion of the German forces, and weakened the defenders on the Western and Southern frontiers.

It is telling that England does not claim to have won the war.  As one of its first entrants, they would be in a unique position to claim the honor.  But, from their front-row view, it was only too clear who had turned the tide. My grandparents in Holland still fondly recall the playing of the Communist anthem, The Internationale, upon liberation, despite having a profound distaste for Stalinism and left-wing politics.

So, finally, let me state this one statistic: the Soviet Army under General Zhukov suffered nearly as many casualties in the three-day Battle of Berlin as the United States lost men in the entire war.  The scope of the two operations is barely comparable. And further, because I don’t think the history books are clear on this – the Soviets took Berlin alone, without allied help, taking on the full force of the remaining German defenders on their own. This is why West Berlin became an island of the West in the middle of East Germany – and why, later on, the Berlin Airlift became necessary.

If you want to claim that the United States won the Pacific Theater, you might have greater claim to that, but then you’d have to admit the atomic bomb saved lives and was in the end a relatively speaking humane end to the war.  As for Europe – thank the Russians / Soviets (I’m aware I’ve used the terms interchangeably here.  Oh well. Deal with it).

What the United States did do in Europe, however, is win the Peace by restructuring; the Marshall Plan remains one of the greatest achievements and policy decisions of the 20th century. But winning the peace doesn’t sound quite so sexy, does it?

…you don’t realize, or don’t care, that society is a conscious choice, not a system.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by oooranje

Don’t let the man hold you down, goes the cliche.  Fight the power, stand up to ‘the system‘, get your own however and whenever you can.  Lie, cheat, and loot when ‘Big Brother’ isn’t looking, and take every shortcut because the system is against you and you have to fight it.  

What an incredibly bitter, short-sighted worldview.  What an appallingly brutal, atavistic mindset.  It not only misses the point, but it punishes the very people who dedicate their lives to making things just a little better, not only for themselves and their families, but for those around them.  Consider: on any given street, on any given morning, shops only open because people come to work. You can only buy your coffee at Starbucks because the people in that store decided to do their jobs instead of going on welfare/unemployment and sitting on the couch, getting their own. You can only read a newspaper because someone wrote, edited, published and delivered it.  And so on down the line – every single last creature comfort came from the hard work that someone did, not from some faceless system or shadowy government agency dead-set on prying every last penny from your fingers. The fact that you have declared yourself entitled to those things and much, much more isn’t just silly and myopic, it’s brutally rude to those who have given up their time to make them possible.

Society, if you really boil it down, isn’t about what you deserve or don’t.  It’s not some grand scheme to hold you down and exploit you.  Society is about being part of something larger than yourself and giving your time and effort in little ways so that everyone’s life – yours included – can be better as result.

Take potholes. Potholes are often used as examples of the economic conundrum of the common good. A pothole on a road to ten houses inconveniences maybe thirty people. All it takes is one or two people to fill that pothole with gravel, and everyone benefits. In economic terms, the fact that two people work but thirty benefit is considered a disincentive, a reason for the people on that street not to act, because of course they will not be adequately compensated or even thanked for work they have, in essence, done for others.

In reality the opposite is true, and much more than you might think. I’m not talking about a dream world of altruism, but rather about the fact that people choose, most days, to live and work within a set of rules. The immediate benefit of not stealing rampantly isn’t immediately apparent: after all, if you can take a sandwich or an apple (or $5) off the counter unseen, you are obviously that much better off than you were.

But the reality is that, it everyone steals, everyone is impoverished. Why?  Because no one will put out merchandise, or if they do, they’ll have to hire added security to protect it, and charge you that much more. Look at the failed states of Africa, or the rampant corruption in certain parts of the near east. These are places where everyone looks out for him or herself, and what has it achieved?  Goods are shoddy and scarce, services several times more expensive than they would otherwise be, and the infrastructure literally crumbles all around. Society – what you angrily call a system – is a conscious choice and a juggling act; it takes effort to keep the balls in the air.

Now go back to the potholes. When you run riot, when you steal, when you demand rights and privileges that you have not earned nor paid for, you’re worse than someone ignoring a hole in the street. You are the ignorant cretin who digs up the work of others and picks at the hole. Little by little, literally and figuratively, the road is wearing away. Before you destroy things, try building them first.

…you allow your dogma to overwhelm reality.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by oooranje

Another way to say this is that you let what, according to you, should be, supersede any consideration of what actually is, whether because you can’t, as a matter of personal taste and nicety, accept the status quo, or because your view of the world is too fragile to allow any dissent.

To illustrate this, consider first the example of gay marriage and, indeed, homosexuals in the United States.  In my experience, and among my friends and family, the only people who seem to think that homosexuality is a choice and not a full-on given are those who have no gay friends (I believe in spectrum theory but some people are definitely all the way gay/lesbian).  Anyone who is truly friends with a gay man or woman can tell you, their sexual preference is not a matter of putting on airs or sexual perversion; it is who they are and how they think.  Claiming otherwise is an insult.  Legislating and denying rights based on a spurious, pseudo-scientific claim to the contrary is morally indefensible and the height of self-righteous arrogance.

Similarly, meanwhile, with the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the rolling recession we now find ourselves struggling through, comes the new reality that we live in a world that cannot afford the entitlements we have promised ourselves.  Nothing has brought this into starker focus than the debt ceiling crisis, not because the Tea Party-demanded cuts did anything to actually solve the underlying situation, but more importantly because of the ballooning national debt that underscored the discussion.

Much has been made, on both sides, of how much might be saved if we cut military spending, or Medicare/Medicaid spending, but whatever your preferred choice of cuts, the reality is inescapable: our government’s income is not only unequal to the massive array of entitlement programs we have piled onto our nation’s credit bill, but is horrifyingly miniscule by comparison.  While rolling national debt may not be inescapable at this point, while a zero balance may be a thing of history, there is on some level the clear and unmistakable reality here that we are living – and spending – on borrowed time and money.  At some point, the interest on our national debt will overwhelm our half-hearted attempts to repay it, and then we will see serious downgrading and its devastating effects.

The truth is that we, the United States, cannot afford the cost of our good intentions.  We cannot afford to be magnanimous to all newcomers, fight a fully fledged (and debatably disastrous) War on Terror, subsidize public education including the increasingly worthless English degrees of countless graduates who honestly have no place at liberal arts colleges in the first place, and support union drives for higher salaries.  And that doesn’t include international aid spending, manufacturing subsidies and tax breaks, pork barreling and – oh yes – the truly staggering price tag of the new and frankly infeasible universal healthcare plan.

Over the next ten years, this fact will become unmistakable.  America in particular, but also the world in general face a choice, now: we can either adjust our expectations, entitlements, and proud humanistic intentions to something more in line with what we can actually afford, or we can hold to our dogma – and go screaming and weeping into the pantomime theatrics of corrupt, ineffective, and unproductive countries such as Greece and Portugal.

…because you check in constantly on FourSquare/Places.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends, Technology with tags , , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by oooranje

Beyond being a classic example of the internet making it easier for stalkers/spies/shadowy government agencies to follow your every move, if you are one of these individuals who is convinced that what the world needs now is to know exactly where you are every 5 minutes, you are wrong.

I can understand the appeal of checking off a litany of boxes (I play Borderlands compulsively, after all), and I guess I can understand the appeal of making all of life an interactive video game, but why post the results on facebook/twitter/whatever? I don’t need to know you just went to the Hard Rock Cafe any more than I need to know you just set the new high score on Tetris, or to see a picture of the massive shit you just took. It’s just not interesting.

This would of course be different if you were in an interesting place, like, oh, I don’t know, the moon, or the ISS, or Antarctica, but you’re not. You’re at the Spearmint Rhino in Vegas, or the Starbucks down the road, or at the gym. Pressing information, I know. Downright breaking news.

But ok, I guess, I don’t have to go out of my way to read this stuff. After all, I don’t have to visit your profile page or twitter feed. But oh wait, it also clogs the hell out of my newsfeed, to the point where I miss genuinely important stuff like the latest video of your stupid brainless kid crapping himself, or hipstamatic photos of your awful, yawn-inducing Ikea-decorated apartment, or your reaction to Jersey Shore.

Oh right, that stuff sucks too.  I guess there’s just one antidote to your mind-numbing updates.

“Unfriend”.

…you want to leave your ‘boring’ life and try to work in film.

Posted in All, Film & TV, Pop Culture, Work with tags , , , , on June 1, 2011 by oooranje

I mean this as nicely as possible, so bear with me. Most people don’t realize how small the Los Angeles film industry actually is, particularly if you, like everyone else in America, think that your ideas would make good movie material and want to be on the creative end. Worse, the industry today is probably 2-3 times smaller than it was ten-fifteen years ago. As with everything else in America, the money has dried up. And with it have gone the opportunities.

Not for everyone, of course. There are still success stories, though increasingly it’s Herculean feats of patience and resilience than moments of inspiration that ‘make’ a career. Because the truth is, even looking at the list of studio-based production companies, over half of those aren’t in the active production or development business. Attrition, a series of flops, or a lack of dynamic taste has led to the slow retirement of a number of producers, including several legends. Most of the companies listed consist of four, at most five people: the two principals, their assistants, and one junior executive.

What does this mean, practically speaking? It means that, in the sweet spot of the movie industry, there are probably 400 assistant, ‘entry-level’ positions total that might qualify as desirable creative production jobs. That may sound like a lot, but consider: in the present downturn, assistants tend to stay loyal to their producers as much as possible. The industry standard term for promotion in the 90s was 3 years; that’s how long you could expect to have to put in before your company (hopefully) decided to promote you as an assistant. It’s now 5 years. Thus, in any given year, very few of those positions are open. And how many USC/UCLA/NYU grads do you think graduate every year? How many more Texas/Pepperdine/LMU/UNC grads do you think there are dying to get in as well? That’s right, thousands.

Oh, but it gets worse: studio-based production company assistant jobs aren’t actually entry-level. Unless you know someone (get used to that phrase, it’s pretty much the only one that matters in this whole piece), there is about a zero percent chance of getting hired as an assistant off the street. Production companies won’t take that chance. Instead, you’re going to have to put in 18 months+ at an agency or management company before you’re considered ‘qualified’ to answer the phones and run your boss’s schedule. In other words, you’re putting in almost 2 years, most of the time, before the clock even starts running on your 5 years to promotion. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to get an agency or management company assistant gig in the first place. Increasingly, even getting those tends to be a question of who you know.

As for wannabe writers and directors, to be honest, you’re better off staying where you are. Los Angeles is beyond saturated with men and women aimlessly working day jobs while trying to get their screenplays read by anyone with even a vague connection to the film industry. It’s depressing, but having worked on the other side as a junior executive, I can tell you that there is nothing – nothing – that an executive wants to read less than the desperate screenplay attempt of someone who’s spent the last 3 years living off of ramen and working as porn DVD quality controller. Even if the screenplay is compelling or the writing is acceptable, the writer’s background story is so steeped in failure that it’s hard to take it seriously. You are actually more interesting living in Maine, or Virginia, or Florida, or Illinois, and working what connections you have (who you know!) to get your screenplay read – that way you can be the wunderkind from the backwoods who sprung fully-fledged from Aaron Sorkin’s mind.

Actors, actors, actors. Where do I start? The number of genuinely charismatic, talented individuals I’ve met in LA who have gotten zilch for work is surprising. The truth is that the path to success in acting is arbitrary. It’s completely who you know. And even once you’ve ‘broken’, once you’ve gotten a few roles, your success is dependent on coming across as funny and likable and not too smart, so that producers and directors and studio execs think they can exploit you and bend you to their wills. And I don’t mean that bitterly, but think about it – if I’m putting $50 million behind someone’s face, I better believe they’re going to do what I want them to do. And that’s easiest to believe if they make me feel funny, smart, and powerful.

So what’s the best way to break into Hollywood? Make a really good, strong, short film – producers and execs have ADD, just like everyone else, so don’t go too far above 5 minutes – and put it on youtube. I’m serious. For an exec, sitting in front of his computer in his office for 11 hours a day, youtube videos are the ultimate candy, and the ultimate currency. Finding a really good new director on youtube and sending him out to everyone you know is one of the great highlights of an otherwise incredibly unglamorous, demeaning – and surprisingly low-paid job. And yes, it may be a bit expensive to put together the money to make a film and finish it and polish the soundtrack and add visual effects, but guess what? It’s still cheaper than spending a year unemployed in LA, praying for that break.