Flashback: 1999

September 17, 2009

Well well well.

I will be turning 29 this week.  I received a very curious piece of mail earlier this year (February) from my old Youth Group co-coordinators.   I don’t remember doing this activity AT ALL, but here it is.  When we were all 18-ish and graduating High School soon, we were asked to predict where we’d be in 10 years for everyone else (and write a little message to our ten year’s older selves).  It showed up in the mail recently and I’d like to share the results with you  (I’ll block out the names, and score them on accuracy):

From M****:

Brian: Very important, famous job.  Moved to a really remote part of the country.  Very well off.  Not married.

M**** scores 1 point for accurately guessing I would not be married.


From B****:

Brian: You are married and loving life. You have 1 child whom you adore.  Your job keeps you busy but you are successful.  Good luck! Love, B****

B**** scores 1 point for saying that my job keeps me busy

From S****:

You’re a really successful guy… having a good time with life .. probably a reporter for a big newspaper.  You live in the city.  Good Luck! Love S****

S**** scores 2.5 points for saying I’m having a good time with life, I live in the city, and I “report” which I’ll translate as “blog” for half a point.

From JA****:

Hi Buddy.  It’s fun living with you. -J****

J**** scores .5 points in that I am still his buddy.

From BR****:

*Married to _ _ _ _ _  (my girlfriend at the time)

*Drunkard

*Sleepin’ w/ girls left and right

*director

BR**** scores 2 points.

From Anonymous #1: (girl’s writing)

Hey in 5 or 6 years I think you’ll be as cute as you are now!  Hope you’re happy

Anonymous #1  scores 2 points.  Five or six  years from 1999 was 2005, at which point I was cute — correct.  Also… drama!?!?!?!

From Anonymous #2: (guy’s writing)

I love you, Bri-guy.  You will be a successful suit with a big ole’ fam and a great job.

Anonymous #2 scores -3 points. (Also, to note, I don’t think “suit” was derogatory in 1999).

From JD****

Brian will be a successful businessman.  He will be involved with communications or advertising and thinking up slogans and sayings for advertisements.  You will be happy a when you return to Drexel (note: my old street) you’ll always be happy & remember your childhood. Best of luck!

JD gets 3 points because being in business and communications and advertising is prettymuch what I do.  I have realized though, that the odds of me “returning” to my home street are low …  I grew up in a pretty swell neighborhood and I don’t envision being able to afford now.

From A****

Brian will be a movie critic, take Siskel’s place on the show.  Watch our for _ _ _ _ .  ❤ A****

Ha! A*** gets 1 point because I should’ve watched out for _ _ _ _ _.

Anyway.  That was fun.  Oh, 1999.  I’m going to go break out Hello Nasty and reminisce.   Oh, and here’s my note to myself:

Hey Gorgeous!  Lookin’ Good.

Feb 28 1999

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 130   (note: ha!  what?! scary)

Goals: film studies? journalism?

Hopes: To keep my friends. Positive self-image (note:  also funny)

Favorite CD: Elliot Smith [sic]

Favorite Film: Swingers

ARE YOU DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?

Advertisements

Yelp Snub – Nightwood & TeeCycle

June 12, 2009

I’ve previously mentioned Yelp for their “community censoring” — deleting unflattering reviews and allowing obviously faked positive reviews to remain posted.  For a while it was just interesting “Web 2.0” type news, but I’ve recently had a number of reviews removed from the site for various reasons.  That’s fine.  Yelp’s a private entity that can do what they wish.  (Thank God for Google cache).  I’ll post the stuff that was deleted below (including emails explaining why).

Unfortunately, the first one was for a restaurant called Nightwood, and was deleted.  I assume this is because I wrote the review based on Time Out Chicago and a few other sources commenting on the place before it even opened… ha.  Yeah, I love Lula’s and I couldn’t resist breaking the news that a sister restaurant was opening. Anyway, I received this email on 5/25 from Yelp HQ:

Hi Brian,

We’re writing to you regarding your review of Nightwood. Your review was flagged by the Yelp community, and after looking it over we’ve decided that it falls outside of Yelp’s review guidelines because it links to outside content.

We’ve also noticed that several of your other reviews also contain such links to outside content. Rather than removing these reviews, we’d like for you to use the edit function to remove these links from the body of the reviews in question. Please make the necessary changes by week’s end, or we’ll have to take them down.

We hope you’ll understand our stance here, which is meant to keep Yelp reviews fresh, fair, and original.

Thanks for being a part of the Yelp community.

Regards,
**************
Yelp User Support

Aside from my enthusiasm for the Nightwood owners and the area of Pilsen in general, my review was based entirely on other sources and, as a good blogger should do, I linked back to the stories that I drew from.   I wasn’t about to take what I’d read and pretend it was my own.  Anyway.  The plot thickens I guess.  I wrote to our Chicago Yelp liaison, who is a very nice gal….

Hey ******,

I got this email and I’m confused.

Yelp is going to take down my reviews because of links to “outside content”.

What they’re referring to as “outside content” are my references to sources I’ve used to write the post.  I.E. if I hear about someplace from TimeOut Chicago (which is what happened in the case of the Nightwood), I’m going to reference it as a source as opposed to plagiarizing.  Or, in another case, if the Art Institute used Johnny’s Grill as a place to re-imagine “Nighthawks“, finding an image online and reposting it on Yelp as my own is stealing — acknowledging outside content, I would feel, is the right thing to do.

As a site that depends on community and member reputation, I would think that transparency is of the utmost importance.  Blogging without referencing where your information is coming from, to me, would seem like the antithesis of what Yelp is about.

I would ask that Yelp reconsider what they consider “outside content” compared to proper citation.

Regards,
-Brian Battle

Meanwhile, in the world of actual journalism (as opposed to the cult of passive criticism that is Yelp) Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist wrote a review of Nightwood, in which I got made fun of… deservedly… on 5/27

To review Nightwood after one night would be a disservice to Hammel and wife Amalea Tshilds, Executive Chef Jason Vincent and the humping-to-please staff we encountered last night. (Although it didn’t stop Brian B. on Yelp, who apparently gave Nightwood a four-star rating based on TOC’s preview without even visiting). We’ll have a full-on review after a few more visits. But the Chicagoist food and drink staff have had cameras at the ready lately, so we took photos of some of the dishes we sampled. Enjoy.

Then I got this email at 7pm that same day:

Hi Brian (and *****[Yelp Chicago liason]*****),

After much careful review and discussion, we’ve decided to remove your review of Nightwood. We’re doing so for a number of reasons, but primarily it’s the copious linking and quoting, which do not represent a firsthand experience with this business. And yes, granted, we have in the past allowed “coming soon” reviews, and so, of course, a firsthand experience with a business that has yet to open is impossible. In these instances, we look to the user to write something useful about the business based on firsthand knowledge (i.e. past businesses operated by the owner; location; likely menu), but these reviews must contain firsthand information; additionally, this type of “coming soon” review is only left on the site for one month.

We hope you’ll understand our decision in this case, Brian. We also strongly urge you to make sure your reviews comply with Yelp’s review guidelines because we’ve also removed your reviews of teecycle.org since you state yourself that you have a conflict of interest with this organization.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter and thank you for being a part of the Yelp community.

Regards,
********
Yelp User Support

————— Original Message —————
From: ***************
Sent: 5/26/2009 9:33 AM
To: ******************


Subject: FW: Message from Yelp.com HQ

Hey all…

Hmm, he has a point. Any thoughts? I think his outside content is mostly just images, etc. And the Nightwood post was actually very helpful (moreso than people posting before an opening saying “Can’t wait to check it out.”)

He’s elite, and very well behaved…

Thanks,
********

*********** *******
Chicago Yelp Community Manager
Yelp.com | *******

Ha!  I love the chain of command!  Our local Chicago community manager calls me “very well behaved”!  Yay!  I should get a gold sticker.  Despite that, Yelp San Fransisco pulls my review… after the suspicious use of the word “copious”.  (Copious = 3, btw).

Anyway, the review clearly mentioned I’m fond of their owners, their chef, their other restaurant and also describes the menu.  Yet, they deem it unworthy of Yelp.  Which, considering what gets onto Yelp,  hurts bad.

What’s worse, upon further dissection of my posts, Big Yelp pulls my review of TeeCycle.Org too.  Ouch.  Ah, well.  The nail that sticks up, yada yada yada.

More on a tirade about a Lincoln Park puppy mill later.


The Digital Switcheroo

May 22, 2009

Photo Courtesy of CNL822 on Flickr

Watching baseball last week with all the jitters, smears, and pauses of digital broadcasting,  I realized I haven’t officially bitched about the digital switchover. All this info (well, except for the Kanye part) I think is pretty valuable:

  • With good reception, digital broadcasts look good. It is a huge step forward for television clarity.  Admittedly.  It does work.  So, if you get a new TV, yay, you get a new TV with potentially much better quality and more channels.  Everybody wins!(?)  The following bullet is much more important…
  • DIGITAL SIGNALS ARE NOT CRYSTAL CLEAR. It’s true.  Before I got a digital converter I didn’t realize this, my coworker didn’t realize this, so I assume some of you have been (or are in the process of being) mislead as well.

Now that people are using digital receivers, we’re realizing that digital TV reception is as bad or worse than analog TV.  Those that haven’t gone digital yet (or in some cases can’t even afford to), hear the Networks pitching the switcheroo and it’s like they’re doing you a favor.  It’s important to know that TV Networks/the government/Big Businss are NOT just doing it for your benefit.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, hell, any rant that mentions “the government” usually makes me tune out.  But this is true, apparently: The initial digital switch plan (I shit you not) was a delayed reaction to  Post-9/11 communication issues. According to Bloomburg

The government mandated the switch to free up airwaves for advanced wireless services and emergency workers’ radios, to raise money and to provide clearer pictures and more programming.

Broadcast networks volunteered to give their analog frequencies over to  emergency police and fire communications.  Though, “volunteered” is a stretch.  Television networks were well aware that this act, which appears fairly selfless and sensible, had an overwhelming business-minded upside.

Giving up these frequencies and moving to a digital signal would mean that every American that does not subscribe to a cable subscription (~20% of the population, skewed towards the less affluent) must buy a brand new TV, update their televisions on their own dime (that’s 285 million sets as of ’05),  or  get cable.  It was a sweetheart deal all around, exemplified by the nifty bullet points below:

  • Government gets low-freq emergency channels (Which is great… whoopdie-doo.)
  • Broadcast Networks, who have been trying to go digital anyway, get to do so with the government bankrolling them, and in the name of public good.
  • Broadcast Networks now have multiple channels to run second-tier content on, which can steal share back from cable stations like The Weather Channel, Univision, Telemundo, and in NBC Universal’s case —  ESPN.
  • Cable companies  profit off of new subscribers unwilling to make the digital switch
  • Electronic stores (namely Radio Shack) make a killing on digital converter box sales, and on selling peripherals around the digital conversion.
  • Everybody gets to pretend they’re helping John Q. Public

That last bullet is the kicker, because, if you installed the digital converter box you quickly realize that reception can, and does, still suck.  What’s worse, broadcast channels that used to come in a little fuzzy on an analog television will not even register through the digital box.  No longer do you have the option of watching a fuzzy screen — it’s all or nothing now.

Digital TV is a snob — if it’s not crystal clear, you’re not allowed to watch it.   You cannot even manually tell your digital converter to include a channel that is not registering — this is what is happening to CBS (WBBM) on my TV and a friends in Chicago.  I wonder if they’re losing ratings because the digital boxes they forced on their viewers refuse to recognize it as a channel.

The funniest part is those antannae… you know the ones you were supposed to be able to throw away…  those rabbit ears they made fun of in the “swtch to digital” PSAs earlier this year?  Yeah… you have to buy a new one.


Lost: A New Testament

May 18, 2009

Wow.  What an ender.  The season overall was a bit iffy but you have to expect a little fall-out from Season 5’s incredibleness.  I wanted to think this out a bit longer but since someone has taken my photo and posted it on their blog, I guess I’ll post this while it’s still getting hits, yes? Okay.

This finale has certainly made it worth following the series to its end next year.

What happened?  Well.  Plenty.  But the first scene was BY FAR the most interesting and pivotal scene of the year.  The rest of the episode could have been Vincent the Dog sniffing people and it would still be worth the hour-long program.

Here’s that first scene:

Wow.  Right?  So.  To recap.  Guy in white; Jac0b, guy in black; who the hell knows but he has a beard too.

So we finally see Jacob.  He’s a cool dude.  He’s blonde with stubble and could be part of the band The National with no one the wiser.  He’s got sandals, he seems fond of the ancient Mesopotamian art of weaving, and apparently,  the dude knows how to make a mean salmon lettuce wrap.  We also learn later he is fond of female short story writers. (Wiki pointed me towards the title “Everything Rises Must Converge” might be a nod to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin — a Jesuit who had keen interest in spirituality,  human paleontology as well as the fabric of the cosmos.)

I digress.  So, Jacob’s on the beach — could that be the Black Rock in the distance?  Yup.  It’s gotta be, and no doubt it’s carrying a young Ricardo (aka pre-ageless Richard Alpert).

Then, who’s this coming to the beach, a dude, unnamed, wearing a black tunic (as opposed to Jacob’s white tunic).

A quick except c/o the worth-reading Los Angeles Times blog:

“They come, they fight, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt,” Black says bitterly. “It always ends the same.”

“It only ends once,” says White serenely. “Anything that happens before that — it’s just progress.”

“Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?”

“Yes.”

“One of these days, sooner or later, I’ll find a final loophole, my friend.”

“Well, when you do I’ll be right here.”

“Always nice talking to you, Jacob.”

Yup.  This all brings us back to backgammon.  I know, right?

So, rather then go into details about this, I’ll just do bullet points because they’re fun to do:

  • (TOP) The opening scene of Lost Season 6 Finale with Jacob and other discussing the end of things, loopholes, and the violent tendencies of human nature.
  • (BOTTOM) John Locke  talks to Walt about the worlds oldest game — two players, one dark, one light, played with dice made of human bone.
  • I like this parallel (not only visually), but the fact that “the world’s oldest game” is played by a dark and light character,  with humanity as the dice — the unpredictable, unreliable variable (if you want to push this analogy waaaay overboard).

Plenty more to talk about but I’d like you to get to know the biblical Jacob and his older twin, Esau.  Oh, and Jacob’s 12th son — Ben.  All of the below text was copied, prettymuch en masse, from Wikipedia on Friday 5/15.

Jacob, Esau, and Ben – (wiki)

  • The mother of Jacob & Esau, Rebecca received the prophecy that twins were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, and after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that the older would serve the younger; its statement “one people will be stronger than the other” has been taken to mean that the two nations would never gain power simultaneously: when one fell, the other would rise, and vice versa.
  • When the time came for Rebecca to give birth, the first to come out [was] named … עשו, Esau (`Esav or `Esaw, meaning either “rough”, “sensibly felt”, “handled”, from Hebrew: עשה‎, `asah, “do” or “make”;[4] or “completely developed”, from Hebrew: עשוי‎, `assui[citation needed]).
  • The second is named יעקב, Jacob (Ya`aqob or Ya`aqov, meaning “heel-catcher”, “supplanter”, “leg-puller”, “he who follows upon the heels of one”, from Hebrew: עקב‎, `aqab or `aqav, “seize by the heel”, “circumvent”, “restrain”, a wordplay upon Hebrew: עקבה‎, `iqqebah or `iqqbah, “heel”).[5]
  • As youths, Jacob tricks Esau into giving up his birthright for a bowl of stew… lentils that Esau referred to as “that red stuff”… Esau’s lack of appreciation for the long-term value of such an intangible right when he was more interested in fulfilling his immediate needs
  • The Bible depicts Esau as a hunter who prefers the outdoor life, qualities that distinguished him from his brother, who was a shy or simple man, depending on the translation of the Hebrew word “Tam” (which also means “relatively perfect man”).[1]
  • According to the Bible, Esau is the ancestor of the Edomites.[1] In the Book of Genesis, Esau is frequently shown being supplanted by his younger twin Jacob.
  • Jacob’ had a dream about a ladder that went to heaven, and “heard” God telling him that the land he was standing on was his… “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Jacob
  • Jacob, at some point, also wrestled with an angel, and then demanded a blessing. Declar[ing] that from then on, Jacob would be called יִשְׂרָאֵל, Israel (Yisra`el, meaning “one that struggled with the divine angel”…
  • Jacob/Israel’s wife, Rachel, went into labor and died giving birth to Benjamin (Jacob’s twelfth son).
  • Benoni, the original name of Benjamin, since Benoni was an allusion to Rachel dying just after she had given birth, as it means son of my pain


Take My Stuff and Pay Me For It – Genesis (not the band)

February 23, 2009

I don’t like giving stuff away, even if it means getting money back in return.  This must change.

It seems I’m increasingly less impressed just by my collections of things, especially because I went about all such collections half-assedly. I also had to concede that, because most music is now bought and enjoyed digitally, having CD jewel cases on display not only seems like a waste of space, but also a somewhat dated (dare I say cliché?) male interior design choice.

Seriously – what’s the point of displaying jewel cases anymore – to prove that you go somewhere and buy proper albums instead of going online?  Is that a claim to fame nowadays?  It’s seems pitiable, and very nearly a failed attempt at elitism. Now, if I was a vinyl junky it would still be cool to have crates of that shit sorted in my apartment, Rob Gordon style, but I am not.  I never got into vinyl. I do not own a record player.  So it’s time to say “bye-bye” CDs and hello to whatever money a record store will give me.

I can’t get rid of ALL my albums at the same time though… they’re my most-prized, but still poorly maintained and disorganized collection. Baby steps.

I decided to start weeding out the ones I never listen to, or will feasibly never take out of their cases again.  Everything was fair game, so long as it is also stored on my external hardrive backup.  This logic only half makes sense. Apparently, I’m only comfortable giving up something I never use so long as I could feasibly use it sometime in the future.  However, this does explain why I have pairs of jeans in my closet that have never worn, never plan on wearing but can’t bring myself to give away.

“So”, I comforted myself, “you’re not really losing any of these albums, just the physical manifestation of them.”  Yes.  That’s still off-putting though, isn’t it?  What is it about saving things on a computer that makes you feel still slightly uneasy?  Why do we still print out important emails?  Why am I abstractly distrustful of Google’s “cloud computing”.  For me, I guess the physical presence of an item is a comfort — an increasingly wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary comfort.  (Just like most comforts!)

So, recalling some Buddhist-like advice (“It doesn’t matter where you start, only that you finish,”)  I grabbed my topmost CaseLogic that was topped by a fine layer of dust, and opened it up to the M-through-P discs.  I then sat my ass down in front of my cheap sleek Sweedish black-painted wood media center and got crackin’…

I’ll try to document my little adventure more later this week.


Quick! Someone Identify These People!

February 20, 2009

Which ones are writer Miranda July and which ones are musician Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent).  Good luck.


Lost is Back in the Future

January 22, 2009

Through the darkness of future past,
The magician longs to see
One chance out between two worlds:
Fire, walk with me.

-Twin Peaks

As all great shows do, LOST’s Season 5 began last night and answered a few questions (that most already knew) and added a whole bunch more.  So now, as great politicians do, I will pose questions for myself to answer:

 

Q: Why is Sawyer so tubby?

A:  Despite the amount of ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ required for LOST fans, I’m still dismayed by how doughy Sawyer looks.  That said, I guess I have to accept that Sawyer is played by a real human who is not stuck on a mysterious time-jumping island.

 

Q: Why is Sawyer obsessed with putting a shirt on for most of the episode, and why do they focus on him getting jabbed by a sharp bamboo stick?

A:  My best guess is that Sawyer (who was stuck in a giant Skinner Box during Season 2), will now start living through Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need” theory.  In which shoeless/shirtless Caveman Sawyer can not become truly “self-actualized” until his base needs are met — Food, Water, Clothing, Shelter, Companionship… or as Sawyer would see it — mangos, beer, flannel, a tarp and Juliet(?).   In fact, as LOSTwriters are prone to do, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an unsubtle hint, like a character named “Maslow”, show up on the island.

 

 

Q: Did I catch LOST using both the titles “3 years Before” and “3 Years Ago” in the same episode?

A: I thought I did… bullshit right?  It feels like they’re being aimlessly deceptive.

 

Q: Does the ability of all characters to jump through time and space revolutionize the show?

A: Prettymuch

  

 

Q: Do Tell.

A: It’s a smart move on the writer’s part.  Any loopholes that previous seasons have created can now be closed by depicting their preceding events (in the past) that haven’t been shown yet (in future episodes).

Also, it’s a great storytelling tool that allows the viewer to be sympathetic to a character’s implausible plight.  In that way it reminds me of the film Memento, where moviegoers observe a hero with no long-term memory in scenes which run backward from end to beginning — thereby projecting the character’s brain issues onto its viewers.

 

Q:  Intriguing.  Please go on!

A: If you insist, good sir…  by telling the stories of the “past”, “present” and “future” simultaneously, at some level the viewer will be rattled by revelations that the characters themselves are experiencing.

Also, if you care to geek out about physics even more so (like I occasionally try to), good ‘ol Einstein showed that all “time” really runs concurrently.  (As well as fixed and unalterable as Daniel Farrady emphatically argues.)

So… viewing LOST in what David Lynch might call “the futurepast”, with all times going on at the same time, is actually just as valid as viewing a story from what we perceive, relatively, as the right way — beginning, middle, and end.  Ohhhh, Science — fucking with my brain again.

photo via the Chicago Sun Times

Q:  I feel dizzy and humbled by this new knowledge.  Does this have any direct implications within the reality of the show beyond clever and overly-smart script writing?

A: Absolutely maybe!  For the first two seasons we’d been watching (what we thought were) real-time events buttressed by compelling (and suspiciously coincidental) background stories that manifest themselves on the island.

The first twist was that Beardy Jack (and later other characters like Sun and Kate) were being shown in what we first thought were flashbacks, then concluded were flashforwards, but know now thanks to Season 5 (and Einstein, I guess) that the correct timing of events is all um…. Relative.  I mean, it would be a flash forward or backward only if you view the Oceanic 6’s time on The Island as the “present”.  (And now even that’s messed up.)

So, now that we know that they ACTUALLY JUMP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE, all the things that seem like ridiculous happenstance and coincidence could actually be an intricate and calculated set of events put into motion not by chance, but by necessity.  (And, as a further mind-fuck, possibly set in motion by their future selves in order to set-right the only future that wouldn’t unravel the Fabric of the Cosmos).  And now, if you’re keeping score, we’ve stumbled into Donnie Darko territory.  Break out the emo eyeliner.

More on this later… some thoughts on the future/past, and maybe a sprinkling of mind/body and dream/reality concepts.  So yeah, stuff you talked about while high, or in your Philosophy 001 class, or possibly both simultaneously.