December 29, 2011

Stop! Or Mantegna Will Shoot

I saw a retrospective on the Rocky films the other night and was shocked at how different Sylvester Stallone looks these days due to all the plastic surgery. I decided to give The Expendables a shot today*, but every time Stallone was on screen, I couldn't help but be distracted and puzzled by his face. Half the time I thought it was Joe Mantenga playing the lead mercenary Barney Ross.

What do you think? Am I crazy?

* I normally don't watch a lot of action movies, but I was sucked in by Netflix's description of the film:

December 12, 2011


I'm trying not to be incredibly negative about my workplace considering I only have 5 days left with them, but they can't seem to stop giving me reasons to be annoyed, so here we are.

If you don't already know, I work in the Facilities Department for a large corporation. I started almost a year ago. For as long as I've worked there, there's been a work request system in place for when people need things taken care of. It's really simple--you fill out the Facilities form and email it to the Facilities inbox, then it gets assigned internally and handled by the appropriate team member. It's important for us to have the form so we can prioritize and track the work we do, and you know, justify our existence.Yet for some reason, 95% of the employees can't seem to remember how or have no interest in following this process, even when I remind them. Here's one of 17 hundred thousand times I've gone through this (all edits in red, obviously):

First problem, she stopped by my boss' office instead of emailing the Facilities Inbox. Second problem, she emails my boss instead of emailing the Facilities Inbox. Third problem, no form attached. Guess what? My boss is fucking busy with high-level building work all the time and isn't sitting around scanning his email for petty temperature complaints from people who can't follow the simple request process.

Predictably, he's not going to do anything about this except forward it to 6pm, when I'm already gone for the day.

And when I see your sucky email next morning and see there's no form attached, I'm going to remind you that you're doing it wrong and let you try it again.

Even though I've attached the form and sent off an unsympathetic email to her, I'm still going to go investigate the problem without waiting for the form because I'm not an asshole. Also because I know she's most likely never going to fill it out, or will fuck it up somehow and complain to my boss.

In this case, she fucked it up. She filled out the form, but then emailed it to me, not the inbox I clearly indicated in the previous email. From 9am - 12pm, I was not at my desk--I was off doing work elsewhere. Then I took a lunch break. Her email at 9:47am could have said "Help me, I'm on fire and I'm going to burn to death soon" but I would not have seen it until 12:30pm. However, if she had sent that to the Inbox on the top of the form like I said, someone would have seen it and responded accordingly. But instead, I have to now expand my lecture and use italics.


Clear as mud, apparently. Also, notice she's removed my boss from the chain.

Yes, I actually copy/pasted the form she filled out, circled the instruction she seemed to have missed twice, and reiterated its location--"Top of the form." How much more time can possibly be wasted by ignorance? The work could have been completed the day before if she did it right the first time.

Really? The way I worded the email? I'm pretty sure I worded it in a way that a 4-year old would have understood. I didn't respond to this, because it probably would have said "Fuck you, and fuck your company too." And maybe a smiley face. :)

Five days left...

December 8, 2011

The RoBeast's Top 13 Xmas Songs

I'm not much a fan of the holidays, but there are still a handful of Xmas tunes that I dig a lot and recommend listening to at really any time of the year. Predictably, you will find in this playlist a pleasurable mix of Santanic violence, f-bombs, dark sarcastic lyrics, unorthodox takes on old classics, pensive S.A.D. downers, blatant and subtle anti-Xmas themes, and one from Gremlins.

The Kinks - "Father Christmas"
Pearl Jam - "Let Me Sleep (It's Xmastime)"
Darlene Love - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
Fear - "Fuck Christmas"
The Kids of Widney High - "Santa is in a Wheelchair"
The Nightmare - "Riverbottom Nightmare Band" (from Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas)
Bit Shifter - "Let it Snow" (from The 8 Bits of Xmas)
Weird Al - "The Night Santa Went Crazy"
CKY - "Santa Claus is Coming"
Los Straightjackets - "Sleigh Ride"
The Waitresses - "Christmas Wrapping"
Run DMC - "Christmas in Hollis"
John Lennon - "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"

Yeah, I'm sure I forgot a bunch. Go write your own blog, blogger.

December 3, 2011

RoBeast Book of World Records

On November 24th my "graphic of an obscure and unrepresentative example sentence" was finally removed from the hallowed pages of Wikipedia. I'dn't've expected my simple picture of an imaginary complex contraction to have lasted 111 days on a page presumably attractive to Grammar Nazis, but at least I now have benchmark for vandalism endurance challenges.

Whatever will be next?

November 3, 2011

The Most Official Kelly Clarkson Review Ever

As usual, I am late to the Kelly Clarkson album review game, but at least I've narrowed down the delay to a couple weeks rather the months it took for the last one. I have managed to avoid all professional reviews so as to keep my first impression untainted. I did, unfortunately, catch an iTunes user comment that said "Not enough ballads" though, so my mind is not totally pure. (A quick side note, I really hate iTunes user reviews.)

Kelly Clarkson's Stronger - Deluxe Version:

"Mr. Know It All" - The first single and the only one I've heard before. When it first premiered on the radio I was all "eh" but it didn't take much to grow on me. It was the lyrics that turned me off at first, specifically, rhyming "know-it-all" with "know it all", "all", and "y'all" in first four lines of the opening verse. But the rest of the song is catchy, has a mature, subtle chorus, and most importantly, doesn't sound like a "Since U Been Gone" clone which plagued the opening two songs on her last album. Refreshingly, the piano and guitar share the air instead of being another trendy electropop tune with a simple repeating guitar riff. There are some cheesy little electronic drum loops but they're only used sparingly. All in all, I like the song, especially as a first single. I do hope there will be some tracks that kick it up a notch in intensity though. 

One other quick note--the opening to this sounds clipped like the song is joined in progress. It was so jarring that I started it over a few times to make sure it was actually playing from the beginning. Maybe I have a defective version? 

"What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" - The intro to this made me worry we've already hit the cliche electropop tune I was talking about before, but the vocals keep it reigned in. Until the chorus at least. The chorus--foreshadowed in the titled--is pretty much a mid-tempo danceable electropop empowerment song on autopilot.

"Dark Side" - Xylophones, vibraphones, and music boxes give me Earections, so I love the lead-in here. In fact like most of what's going on here--the mood, the music, and the melody--but the generic lyrics are a distraction. Kelly Clarkson even at her most rebellious still basically comes across as a sweetheart, so lyrics like "Do you love me even with my dark side?" don't provide enough examples of this darkness I should be fearing. Are there drunken blackout orgies backstage? Does she torture puppies? Has she been slowly poisoning my V-8? I feel like that she stepped into the shadows a bit on My December when she battled her record company for creative control, but I just don't see it here. Of course, if the song is really a first person narrative from the perspective of Darth Vader, then I get it. 

"Honestly" - Ok, now we're getting darker. I still don't know exactly what darkness she's talking about, but this song at least attempts some actual dark imagery (knives, Stepford wives). Her vocals are desperate and sound good with the distorted guitars that show up later. There's also a cool, unexpected chord progression in the bridge.

"You Love Me" - The muted, breezy intro serves as a good contrast to the previous song. Good vocal layering and effects. It has a late 80s adult pop radio feel to it, complete with the fade out. 

"Einstein" - Is this going to be "Mr. Know-It-All Part 2"?  It starts with a couplet exponentially worse than Pearl Jam's "Nothingman": "Simple math/our love divided by the square root of pride/multiply your lifeless time/I'm going out of my mind." It's just so awkward. Now I wrote a song once with some cryptic numbers and Pythagorean references in it, but the song was about astronauts and space and shit, so it fit but this song is...

Holy fucking Jesus, the chorus is "Dumb plus dumb equals you." I can't believe the song has sunk to this level. When Slipknot sang "People = Shit," I thought it was the lowest common denominator a mathematical song chorus could get, but I see I was wrong. This can't possibly be better than the four B-Sides, could it? I would forgive the chorus if the rest of the song was equally ridiculous or tongue-in-cheek, like Alanis Morrissette covering "My Humps." But Kelly Clarkson plays it totally straight, resulting in potentially the biggest misstep on the album. 

"Standing In Front of You" - Nice. 

"I Forgive You" - Here's one chasing the "Since U Been Gone" formula a little bit, but slower. It has melodies and themes combining Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Taylor Swift's "Love Story." This will undoubtedly appear at the triumphant end of a romantic comedy in the next 9 months.  

"Hello" - I like this one because it's got a standard rock band arrangement without tons of background layers and we're in and out in less than three minutes. 

"The War is Over" - Merry Xmas? Nope. This one's all right though. Pretty standard setup again, but this time with some synthesizers swirling around. I predict this will not appear at the triumphant end of an action movie in the next 9 months. 

"Let Me Down" - Uh oh, getting funky. This one sounds wide in the stereo spectrum. Ok tune. Will probably grow on me. 

"You Can't Win" - Good upbeat tune despite the pessimistic title. Kelly's doing some Katy Perry-like twists in the melodies and lyrics that she really only did before on Katy Perry co-written tunes, but surprisingly, it's not co-written by Katy Perry. Also, Katy Perry Katy Perried the Katy Perry. I normally poo poo songs with generic references to suppressed groups, but this tune handles the lyrics cleverly.

"Breaking Your Own Heart" - Decent ballad, nearly almost a pseudo-country-esque-ish song. 

Bonus Tracks: 
"Don't You Wanna Stay"(w/Jason Aldean) - I think I heard actually this duet on the radio earlier this year. The guy's voice is too twangy for me, but they sound tolerable together. It's a mostly predictable tune that's probably too country for pop and too pop for county. You can't win.  

"Alone" - Fairly formulaic uptempo song with predictable, repetitive progressions. 

"Don't Be a Girl About It" - Another electropop Katy Perry-type tune in terms of lyrical content and delivery. I'm surprised this didn't replace the "Dumb equals you" song. 

"The Sun Will Rise" (w/Kara DioGuardi) - I feel bad for any other female vocalist that has to appear on the same track as Kelly Clarkson, because Kelly will inevitably sound, well, stronger. The tune's all right but I see how it might not fit on the album proper. Overall though, much of the album sounded like it was obviously different sessions and different writers, so maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. 

There's an fifth bonus track called "Why Don't You Try" if you get the deluxe version on iTunes (same price as Amazon) but I've only heard the live version. It's got shitloads of high notes and good singing.

I guess I'm here reaching the same non-conclusion as with my wrap-up of the last album--I don't know what to think. I'll probably stick to listening to my favorites and not giving the others too many chances, which is what I've done with her past albums. I'm not sure how this will do. It doesn't break much ground for the world of music or radio, but there are some decent tunes that will probably grown on me with repeated listens. I could see "You Can't Win" being a moderately successful single. Maybe one of the "Since U Been Gone"-types could hit radio too, but I doubt that any of the songs on the album will reach that popularity.   

One definite conclusion I can draw is that too many fucking people are co-writing on the album and it makes the output inconsistent. The problem is some people want the ballads, some want the electropop, and the songs don't really compromise. I can handle them both within the same song and don't need so much obvious segregation. Maybe it will sell better that way, but the album ends up suffering artistically. You can satisfy these genres and still have a progressive, dynamic album. I know I'm broken record raving about Olivia Ruiz nonstop, but her last album is a great example of the variety I'm talking about. And she got her break after an American Idol-like program too. 

I guess even with the strongest female voice in pop music, You Can't Win.

October 5, 2011

Pop Balance

I think it's cute when generic products ape the name of mainstream products at grocery stores (Mountain Weg--Wegmans' version of Mountain Dew--is my personal favorite). Sure, it's probably closer to copyright infringment than it is to parody but I excuse it because it's almost a mockery of the obscene amount of money and time their popular counterparts spend on brainstorming sessions and focus groups just to come up with the name of spinoff products and flavors. In the end, they're often selling the product's image instead of its quality which is lame. Generics have no interest in the image or the quality which is so lame that it's cool!

If you followed that logic, then stick with me for this one. When mainstream products use tons of resources to research product names and decide that TOTALLY RIPPING OFF OTHER PEOPLE is the most effective recourse, like The Ghost of Orville Redenbacher did here...

...then it's Super Lame! Smart Pop? Really? "Smart" is the word you felt would make your product appear unique on the shelf amongst all the other low calorie popcorns*? Or are you really just trying to trick people into either accidentally picking up your box thinking it's someone else's or allowing "smart" to become a valid popcorn-related marketing buzzword. Nice fucking wavy green banner too, assholes. Oh wait, Orville's's** is totally different--it curls down at the end while Smart Balance's curls up.

You know, I go to the grocery store to calm down after a shitty day working at a shitty megacorporation and this is what I'm confronted with.

I'm going to go scream now.

*Please note that Pop Smart and Smart Balance were not directly next to each other on the shelf and this photo is just a manipulative dramatization like they do on the tee vee.

** Totally valid contraction, just look at photo example on Wikipedia***

*** JOKES ON YOU ORVILLE, I TOTALLY DID THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

September 22, 2011

Drinking You Under A Table

Michelle Branch's catalog isn't the only one I'm trudging through these days. I'm also about halfway through watching all 275 episodes of Cheers on Netflix. I really don't have any special insights to share (even after six seasons), but I did just wanted to quickly mention my favorite part of the show's intro. It's right before the show title appears in this shot:

It took me probably a dozen views before I really noticed the wasted dude hanging out in the bottom right under the table, but now it's a show highlight for me.

The other thing I look forward to is seeing Mary FuckYouToo's name at the end of the show.

September 20, 2011

Michelle Branch - "All You Wanted"

So it's been well over a year since I started and abandoned my exhaustive Michelle Branch catalog review masterpiece. After only two songs I seemed to let the dark side (Tumblr-style posting) fully envelop the blog. I think it's time for some text to come back so I'm going to revamp this wildly unpopular feature.


Last Friday I went to see Michelle Branch record a "Meet the Artist" podcast at the Apple Store in Soho. I dragged there and I think he hated every second of it. Afterwards we went to a bar and argued about the music industry and pop and the 2000s and I ended up explaining to him my interpretation of Michelle Branch's career path. What makes me think that I'm some kind of expert on it (and why he would care), I have no idea, but I sounded convincing to myself at least. I guess that's what reminded me to jump back into writing my magnum opus, or at the very least, my mashed potato mountain. This means something! This is important!

Back to 2002. We have landed at "All You Wanted," which remains Michelle Branch's highest charting single in the US of Americas. Here's the video:

The video was directed by Liz Friedlander, who also did the clip for "Everywhere." It's the second video that features Michelle focusing her attention on some random scruffy and/or shaggy tall dude. There are a lot of a other similarities to the first video--it starts in her room, she sees herself playing onstage, she never gets the dude--but the production quality has definitely been amplified. More extras, more camera movement, and more rain means more money, so the record label must've felt more confident with Michelle's potential by this point. The gamble paid off as it got more spins on TRL than its predecessor.

Thought I don't traditionally side with the popular vote, I've always preferred "All You Wanted" a little bit more than "Everywhere." I'm not sure why. I wasn't watching much MTV at all back then so it wasn't the Out Of This World-style time-stopping trick that hooked me. I think I'm going to try to get to the bottom of this today.

Both songs start out with arpeggiated chords but "All You Wanted" is more straightforward and robotic. Its rhythm and tone matches the drum machine, which I really want to call "machine-like" but I know that would be redundant. I won't call the beat "industrial" because that would suggest Ministry or Nine Inch Nails which is not what I'm getting at here. How about this... it sounds like an assembly line of kitty litter being scooped up by a plastic scoop? Sounds good to me. The vocals again come in at a logical point and even sound a bit robotic themselves because of their repetitiveness: "I wanted to be like you/I wanted everything/so I tried to be like you." And they don't rhyme this time like this line of mine.

While "Everywhere" would have abruptly shifted the song to rock territory with more deliberate strumming of power chords by now, "All You Wanted" just continues to slowly build. The second half of the first verse adds some louder, yet equally steady drum machine beats, some extra notes into the vocal melody, and a slightly different arpeggio at the end of every other line. This song declares that "when the tide comes I'd take you away" and it's actually going to wait out the six hours instead of hitting us with the rogue wave of "Everywhere." The guitar lead just sort of dreamily whimpers into the chorus.

The chorus is definitely the song's high tide so it's a good thing the scruffy dude is wearing a life vest like Marty McFly's, but despite the action in the video and the pleading in the lyrics, it still feels less in-your-face than "Everywhere's" chorus. I blame the incessant hi-hat ticking. I shouldn't say "blame" really because the steadiness of this song is what sets it apart from the first single. The second verse is looser than the first as the arpeggio now has some upstrokes, Michelle has some upsqueaks, and there's some crazy drum machine shit going on in the background that's a holdover from the chorus, but it still does not approach the dynamic structure of "Everywhere." There's no dramatic stop before the chorus or quick quiet sing-along section and to be honest, I'm happy about that.

The song continues its stable trajectory before finally breaking pace in the last few bars where Michelle repeats a couple lines from an earlier verse, a technique she employs fairly often. Another trademark that appears a lot is Michelle's vocal ad libbing for the final chorus, which is particularly strong here in "All You Wanted." For some reason those vocals and the ones in the bridge remind me of Hanson. Despite sitting through the entire "Mmmbop" video, I can't seem to pinpoint why. I also haven't solved the mystery of why I still like "All You Wanted" more than "Everywhere." I guess it's a secret no one knows.

Although "All You Wanted" peaked higher than "Everywhere" a decade ago, I think the latter has ultimately shown more staying power with the masses. I base this on the fact that I still hear it on the radio more often and it's got nearly twice as many plays on the YouTubes. And that's as scientific as I plan to get for this series.

See you next time, on Nova.

September 12, 2011

Square Peg/Round Hole

BS, indeed. I considered posting this over a copy machine today after solving yet another technical problem that could have been easily figured out by any one of the people here getting paid way more than I am. I opted for a tamer version without the final sentence. Still, there are some questions you may be asking yourselves:

1. What exactly was the problem?
Some genius put a Black Cartridge where the Bonding Agent Cartridge belongs and vice versa.

2. That's silly, but could probably happen to anyone. Isn't it HP's fault?
Not at all. HP has posted a smaller, color-coded illustration of exactly how the cartridges should be placed into the machine (you can probably see it in the top part of my own diagram). On top of that, HP has designed the cartridges and slots in a way that you can't actually put a cartridge in the wrong hole without forcibly ramming it in. It's rare that someone here actually makes an effort to do anything, but they had to really mash those things in there to cause the problem.

3. If it was so easy for you to figure out, why was the copier not printing correctly for several days?
"If you see something, say something" is not a motto for anyone working here. In the five minutes I spent troubleshooting and solving the issue, I had three people inform me that the printer was screwing up for most of last week. About 60 people use the printer and not one thought it was a good idea to report the problem to me.

4. Why would they report it to you anyway? You're not in IT.
Excellent question. No, I'm not in the IT department. I have no IT training and I have no HP training, but somehow, I'm in charge of 20+ HP copy machines--not IT! Fortunately, HP had designed copy machines that even humanoids can use and has detailed on-board troubleshooting when things go wrong. I seem to have harnassed the magical power of "reading instructions" and learned some basic problem-solving methods in 1st grade, so I can fix most issues quicker than it takes to call the helpdesk, log a ticket, have them contact HP, and have HP show up, diagnose the problem, and fix it themselves in five minutes (after 24-48 hours). My boss, who just doesn't get it, is a fan of instantly announcing "Call HP" whenever someone says the words "printer" and "problem" in the same sentence, but he's also on my ass every month about minimizing downtime for the printer fleet. More corporate hypocrisy!

Thanks for listening and no offense to the color-blind.

Sike, you color-blind fuckfaces!

August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene NYC Damage Report

Non-metereologist RoBeast Rollie reporting here from the No-No Zone in the middle of Manhattan. I hit the street early this morning to see the latest disaster that I slept through. For the most part, there were more dogs and amateur photographers out than branches down. Thumbs up, NYC.

Here's my round up of the urban destruction:
Umbrellas have been mutilated.
Balloons have been abandoned.
Drum Circles are cancelled. 
Looters are running rampant. 
Unemployment has not been halted. 
And businesses continue to get their typo on. 

In all seriousness, it's still potentially dangerous out there, so be careful. I was a few steps away from getting hit by a metal rod falling from one of the blue awnings in the picture below.

Some tourists saw it happen and I told them, "I wouldn't go that way if I were you." They responded, "Maybe we should go back to the hotel."

Branch down on Laguardia Pl.
Off of Bleecker St. 
Evil fog and a large branch being cleared looking South on Broadway.
If you can fight the cabin fever, it's probably best to just stay inside and wait for the branches to be cleared and the flood waters to recede. You bought all that damn food so you may as well stay wherever you are, eat it, and ponder this message:

... and the Media too.  

August 27, 2011

Cheap Halloween Costumes: Beetlejuice

This is pretty old news, but Harry Badface alerted me to an article about an Etsy site charging $500 for a Adam and Barbara Maitland Halloween costume, so I felt I should post something in case anyone else wants to do something for less money.

Halloween is big deal for the RoBeastress and I, and in 2009, we decided to do our first couples' costume. Our choice was a bit ambitious and we knew there wasn't going to be an off-the-rack version of the couple from Beetlejuice, so we had no choice but to take the Do-It-Yourself route. DIY Halloween costumes are exciting and inexpensive, and the results are usually extra satisfying. There's also lots of preparation and trial and error involved, so it helps to have lots of patience. The RoBeastress and I are not patient, but fortunately, she's a certified genius and I'm an aesthetic wacko. Let's see what I can remember.

The front of the Adam face took shape with two cheap masquerade masks.
The top was a baseball/hockey cap with the brim cut off. 
A glove stuffed with newspaper through the hole in the hat made up the back and then the whole thing was taped up. Man, I was fat in 2009.

While the final shape of the RoBeastress' mask looked a lot more complicated than mine, it was actually a lot easier to accomplish. (Certainly a lot easier than trying to post fucking pictures in Blogger and add captions to them without screwing up your entire layout.)
She basically made a large oval with newspaper and papier mached it. After it dried, she cut it in half, emptied out the newspaper, then reinforced the shell with more papier mache. She discovered that technique from this guy's awesome YouTubes.
Here's the two halves of the hollow egg shell linked with some cardboard, pre-papier mache.

My first papier mache experiment was not as successful. I tried using ripped bedsheets with the glue mixture because I wanted to achieve a more fleshy texture. It instead came out super wrinkly:

I ended up peeling it all off and started over with the more traditional newspaper technique. Results were much smoother:

While I was busy having my wrinkly crisis, the RoBeastress made her giant tongue (tape and coat hanger wire)....
...and baked some teeth (Fimo modeling clay shaped into tiny squares and made tooth-like with a Phillips' head screwdriver).
Here are the finished faces after being painted, glued, and eyballed (those were like a quarter a piece):

We got some of that one-way Ninja black cloth to fill in the holes where you could see our skin. The RoBeastress donned additional black face paint in case of flash photography, and I shaved off my beard because Alec Baldwin didn't have an awesome beard in the movie. The RoBeastress and Geena Davis share the curly hair gene, so there was no work needed there.

Here are a couple full body shots (no black face paint on the 2nd one):

We ended up winning the costume contest at the bar and the prize was more than we paid for materials to make it. So let that be a lesson to you--get out there and DIYFS.