January 30, 2007

A Women’s Guide to Men

Posted in Politics, Random Oddments, Relationships at 11:34 pm by Calico Jack

One of my favorite websites to read is the website Ace of Spades. Cleverly disguised as a conservative political blog, Ace of Spades is the funniest website you’ll find, and has the best dedicated group of commenters on the net, bar none. This group of “AoS morons,” as they like to be called, wax poetic not only on political issues, but also anything and everything they want to talk about. They might have the collective intelligence of a chimpanzee, but hey — nobody’s perfect.*

The AoS Morons are famous for a few things: over-the-top flame wars, haiku challenges, and arguing over the differences between women and men. A couple of days ago, Ace issued a challenge to his readers: write headlines for an AoS women’s magazine, written by men. The women were free to respond in like…and everybody rose to the occasion, although I’m not sure that it is an entirely apt description. Six hundred comments later, there is a veritable treasure trove of punchlines to howl at. Some of these are not entirely kiddie-friendly, so I’ve put them after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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January 28, 2007

Famous Last Words

Posted in Music at 8:39 pm by Calico Jack

I’ll admit it: I have a bit of a soft spot for My Chemical Romance, ever since I heard their I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love CD years ago (yes kids, I’m not of those people who saw “Helena” on MTV for the first time and exclaimed “They’re so awesome, I am now their biggest fan ever!”) Anyway, their latest single is glam-rock personified: theatrical, passionate, and deliciously catchy. Enjoy.

January 22, 2007

Birthday Bashes Boycotted

Posted in Food, Games, Personal, Random Oddments at 12:34 pm by Calico Jack

I had quite a few birthday parties growing up, and my parents always worked hard to ensure that my friends and I had a great time. Usually there were only a couple of ingredients necessary for an awesome party: friends, cake and ice cream, and occasionally some sort of activity–whether mini-golfing or going to the roller rink or rock climbing…or even just staying at home and watching a movie or playing games.

As I got older, I stopped having the formal parties with their invitations and gifts given, and instead preferred to simply have a few friends over to stay the night. Some of my fondest memories growing up are from my friends and I bringing all of our Star Wars MicroMachines together (which, let me tell you, is a gigantic collection), spending several hours dividing up hundreds and hundreds of figures and ships into miniature armies, and having a gigantic Star Wars battle that lasted well into the next morning. Such battles often ended with a few sleepy-eyed preteens valiantly defending each side’s prized Millennium Falcon playsets from the hordes of Jedi and stormtroopers who were swarming the ships. Small plastic missles flew in all directions, knocking a dozen Rebel Troopers to the ground with one blow. TIE Fighters swooped overhead to perform recon against the enemy on the other side of the living room, and dozens of dead and wounded Luke Skywalker figures were scattered everywhere (because, as we all know, Luke didn’t become powerful until the end of Return of the Jedi, so when it came time to take turns picking the figures we wanted for our army, we always chose the green lightsaber Lukes first instead of the Hoth or Dagobah ones).

Those were the some of the happiest times of my childhood — and there are a lot to choose from. Today, however, parents have turned birthday parties into competitions. What once was an excuse for children to eat lots of cake, give presents and play games has become, in many households, a lavish production costing hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars. The children become spoiled, and the host parents can now thumb their noses at the other parents who were unlucky enough to spend a few hundred dollars less for their children’s parties.

Some parents are standing up and refusing to get caught up in this tsunami of materialism. From Yahoo News:

Birthdays Without Pressure is taking aim at the oneupsmanship that drives moms and dads to throw parties that will really, really impress the kids and the other parents, too.

“We feel there’s a kind of cultural runaway going on right now around the birthday parties of kids,” said William Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor of family social science who had a hand in organizing the group, launched publicly earlier this month.

Birthdays Without Pressure has started a Web site and launched a media campaign.

Among its suggestions for more modest, stress-free party planning: Hold gift-free parties, with a note on the invitation that says any presents will be donated to charity; eliminate theme parties and gift bags for the guests; instead of organizing elaborate activities, let kids play outside or hold a treasure hunt; and invite children only, not their parents as well.

I don’t agree with all of the suggestions listed. I often had gift-free parties; but as a seven- or eight-year-old, I wouldn’t want to see my friends give me gifts and know that I promptly had to give them away. And small gift bags are always nice thank-yous for the more formal parties…just don’t go over the top. Still, it is nice to see some parents who realize that these contests (because that is what they are, honestly) miss the whole point of having a birthday party for their children–to celebrate the passing of another year in their lives.

Let them eat cake. It’s all they need to have a great time.

January 18, 2007

Karma

Posted in Random Oddments at 10:02 pm by Calico Jack

I’ll be the first one to admit that I suffer from a rather loose interpretation of speed limit laws. As a friend once told me, “They’re speed suggestions, not limits.” Perhaps it’s because I’m always in a hurry to get somewhere, but my definition of speeding doesn’t really kick in until one is about ten miles an hour over the posted limit. Having said that, let me also say that I have never been in an accident, and I have never gotten a ticket. I don’t tailgate behind cars, I always use my turn signal, I slow down drastically when there are adverse weather conditions, and I pay attention to both the road and the other cars around me. I just happen to mostly pass cars instead of being the one passed.

Today I was almost in an accident, and it had nothing to do at all with how fast I was going. I was driving on the interstate in the left lane, following an Oldsmobile whose driver was comfortably traveling the same speed I was (about seventy-five miles an hour.) We were both in the left lane because we were coming up on a semi truck which (big surprise) was moving quite a bit more slowly than we were. I glanced at my rear-view mirror and saw a thirty-something guy coming up behind me at a rather alarming speed.

That’s the car he was driving–a Mercedes CL550. They start around $100,000 and only go up from there. It’s a luxury car which also packs quite a horsepower punch, and the driver was taking good advantage of his automobile. He came racing up to me, then had to slam on his brakes to avoid rear-ending me, even though I was ten miles an hour over the limit already. When I didn’t move out of my lane (since I was still coming up on the semi), he flashed his lights at me a couple of times and moved to within a few feet of my bumper.

But this genius decided not to wait for the Oldsmobile and me to maneuver around the truck and go back in the right-hand lane. Instead, he swerved sharply to the right, gunned the engine, and blew past me going at least ninety or ninety-five miles an hour. Just before he rear-ended the semi, he careened to the left, barely missing the semi’s rear bumper and forcing the driver of the Oldsmobile to jam on his brakes. There must have been less than a foot or two of room between the Mercedes and the Oldsmobile when the Mercedes pulled in front; I don’t think I’ve ever seen two cars be so close to hitting each other. I had to jam on my brakes too, and I barely managed to avoid hitting the Oldsmobile in front of me. The Mercedes just zoomed off into the distance, weaving in and out of traffic until he was lost to sight.

This happens more often than it should, but today was a little bit special. Ten minutes later, traffic started backing up because there were two flashing highway patrol cars parked on the right side of the interstate. When I came closer, I was only going about thirty miles an hour, and I saw that they had pulled over the Mercedes. The officers, hands on their pistols, were approaching the car from both sides, and they didn’t look very happy. As I passed the officer, we made eye contact and I just grinned at him. The driver of the Mercedes was literally pounding his steering wheel with his fists, yelling into dead air. I hope he has a huge fine to pay.

January 8, 2007

College life

Posted in Random Oddments at 1:56 pm by Calico Jack

One of the “joys” of attending a state university is the diversity of people to encounter — not only in terms of race or socio-economic background or political viewpoints, but also intelligence. Or, as is commonly seen, the lack thereof. I was washing my hands in the men’s restroom and messing around with my hair (allow me a moment of vanity), when two freshmen entered and proceeded to have an intriguing conversation. How did I know they were freshmen? Several things gave them away, including their exaggerated swaggering (honestly, nobody cares how cool you think you are, and the odds of you being redshirts for the football team are pretty much nonexistent.) They also dressed like cheap knockoffs of pimps — not uncommon in today’s “everybody welcome!” collegiate attitude, but the kicker was their freshmen orientation T-shirts barely visible underneath the dazzling displays of fool’s-gold chains (never was a term more appropriate) and crystal-studded jewelry. Perhaps they thought that proudly revealing their allegiance to their university made them cooler. This same university is forcing the rest of the incoming class of 2010 to endure their presence for the next…well, if by some chance a miracle happens and they end up graduating, four years. I, on the other hand, must only bear with them for another couple of semesters, a thought which brings me endless joy.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “How can he possibly be so judgmental based only on appearance?” And I would agree with you, had I not heard a conversation which cemented their lowly status in my mind, the gist of which went like this:

Pimp-in-training: “Yo, [expletive deleted], what up with that [expletive deleted] class we just had? The [expletive deleted] professor don’t know none of that [expletive deleted] he’s was talkin about.”

Future dropout: “[expletive deleted], I know, man! I just wanna drop out and [expletive deleted] this [expletive deleted]. This whole [expletive deleted] is a waste of my [expletive deleted] time.”

Pimp-in-training: “You should get rid of your [expletive deleted] orientation class. That [expletive deleted] ain’t worth nothing.”

Future dropout: “Yeah, but that [expletive deleted] prof has a mighty fine [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] on her. I’d like to [whole string of expletives deleted for my fingers’ sake], you know?”

Pimp-in-training: “[expletive deleted] yeah! That [expletive deleted] would be a [expletive deleted] once I had five minutes with her. [expletive deleted], man, I could teach that [expletive deleted] course.”

Future dropout: “Man, we all could teach that [expletive deleted]. Y’all don’t realize just how lucky the [expletive deleted] ladies are going to be this year.”

Finis.

I sincerely hope for the [expletive deleted] ladies’ sake, that they come to realize what fine specimens of manhood they have been blessed to share a campus with, and act accordingly. Oh, the joys of a state university…

January 7, 2007

Movie Review: Children of Men

Posted in Movies at 1:25 am by Calico Jack

I sneaked a peek at the reviews for Children of Men before I went to see the movie, and I found many reviewers calling it the best sci-fi film of the year. But I think it is a mistake to call this movie science fiction, as the only thing it has in common with such films as Blade Runner, Gattaca, or Dark City is the premise of an overwhelmingly oppressive society. There is no science in Children of Men, only human drama. Its vision of of Britain in the year 2027 is strikingly, eerily similar to today’s world; there are no flying cars or talking robots or any of the other trappings of traditional science fiction. Because director Alfonso Cuarón’s vision is so consonant to our own lives, the film is riveting from the first frame to the last.

Eighteen years after the last baby on earth was born, human civilization is rapidly collapsing. The only bright spot, we are told, is Britain, which has managed to keep its society intact by transforming into a near-fascist police state with an ironhanded anti-immigration policy. Clive Owen plays Theo, a former political activist turned bureaucratic drone whose connections lead long-ago lover Julian (Julianne Moore) to seek his help in transporting a woman to the coasts of England. Theo has buried his long-repressed pain, and for the first part of Children of Men he is merely a shell without emotion. When asked by weed-smoking hippie Jasper (Michael Caine) “Why do you think we can’t make babies anymore?” Theo carelessly replies, “It doesn’t matter. It’s all over in fifty years.” Yet his agreement to help Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) reach the shores and contact the mysterious Human Project leads to a sudden realization that perhaps there is still a small spark hope left for humankind.

To say anything more about the plot would give far too much away; even the trailer summarizes the film more than I would have liked. But rest assured that Children of Men is a richly textured movie which asks several thought-provoking questions that linger far beyond the closing credits. This is an alternately engrossing and terrifying film, leavened only sporadically by flashes of dark humor. I expected a grim, dystopian movie, but not one this disturbing. Through it all Cuarón shows his unbelievable prowess as a visionary, from the smallest of clothing details to the way in which he carefully crafts and frames each scene. There are many scenes lasting for several minutes long, each which consist of only one take on a handheld camera. I have never seen anything like the cinematography displayed here, and its effect is one of jarring immediacy. Each supporting character, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, gives a solid performance; there is not a weak spot among the cast.

Children of Men, ironically enough, is not at all appropriate for children (and some adults, I would suspect.) Thanks to Cuarón, the violence, although graphically visceral, is never glorified — only displayed in its full ugliness. I was often reminded of how ordinary people living in places like Baghdad or Kosovo must feel when the violence rages all around them. Yet even during humanity’s darkest hour, the mere presence of hope can provide a point of calm in the midst of carnage.

I suspect that I will be pondering this movie for some time to come. It is deeply thought-provoking and haunting, filled with images of both sorrow and hope. Children of Men is not one to watch when looking for a cheerful timewaster; but as a masterpiece of the mind and of art, it is without recent equal. One of the best films of 2006 warrants a solid A.

January 3, 2007

Library Love

Posted in Books, Personal at 11:28 pm by Calico Jack

I was working at the library this evening an hour before closing, and there was little to do apart from straightening shelves and amusing myself with the library’s computer system. A boy of about thirteen walked around the corner and stopped in front of the children’s desk with a rather quizzical expression on his face. He asked the librarian about a certain book for which he was looking, and from the way he spoke I could tell that he was disabled. Fortunately, I had shelved the book he wanted less than an hour before, so I walked with him over to the rack and gave him the book. He asked me, “Do you have another one? The teachers at my school have lots of copies of their books, and I don’t know if I need one or two.”

I responded, “I’m sure you’ll do just fine with one. Is there another book I can help you find?” He nodded and named another title which I recognized, so together we went to find the second book he wanted. After he had both books firmly grasped in his hands, he looked at me and burst out, “Thank you so much for helping me!”

I smiled, said “My pleasure” and started to walk away. He came up, threw his free arm around my shoulder, patted me on the back and told me, “Just so you know, I love all of you guys at the library.” I just grinned at him and answered, “We’re always happy to help.”

It made my day.

January 2, 2007

Muse- Starlight

Posted in Music at 12:25 am by Calico Jack

Simple. Satisfying. Sublime.

January 1, 2007

Rose Bowl Champions

Posted in News, Sports at 10:29 pm by Calico Jack

©LAT

32-18.

That is all.

2006 in Review: The Very Best of a Mediocre Blog

Posted in Writing at 4:51 am by Calico Jack

We here at Ignorant Critics have had an interesting first six months in the life of this blog. And always being ones to set the trends instead of following them, we came up with the novel idea of compiling a list of the top posts that we had this year — not in terms of page views or number of comments, but instead using a complicated mathematical formula that involves much random counting and blind picking. Here is a chronological look back at some — well, all — of our highlights:

1. On the Fine Art of Man-Bashing. Edward Teach ruminates on the role of men and fathers in today’s culture.

2. World Cup Madness. Calico Jack goes on a caffeine-fueled rant about the boring sport of soccer.

3. Being a Better Boyfriend, Part 1 and Part 2. Elizabeth Swann gives excellent advice to guys looking to improve their relationships with their girlfriends. This quickly became one of our most popular posts, and even today we’re on the front page of Google for relationship advice about boyfriends.

4. Art, Entertainment, and a Quest. With all of the dreck that is released by movie studios pandering to the lowest common denominator, it’s time to bring back movies that function as art as well as entertainment. Jessica Stover is trying to do just that.

5. If Only Money Didn’t Matter. Princess Sela takes a look at the toys of the extremely wealthy.

6. Whom Do You Call? We keep in contact with each other through so many different mediums, but are we losing our genuine connections?

7. Applebee’s, Atrocious Food, and Automatic Gratuities. This rather long rant against poor service and mandatory tipping sparked quite a heated discussion in the comments. I had to delete over a dozen comments for being full of insults and profanity, and the ones which remain still show how passionately people argue over food.

8. Quality Dates Quality. When a narcissistic, egotistical woman declares to the entire world that the vast majority of men are not worthy to even be in her presence, let alone ever consider dating her, Calico Jack diales up the Snark-‘O-Meter to full and lets loose.

9. Survivor: Race to the Finish. Captain Morgan discusses the thorny issue of race relations as viewed through the prism of reality TV.

10. Literacy Matters. After seeing a mother deny her child the opportunity to read, Calico Jack ponders the effect of parents who do not care enough to spend quality time with their children.

Even with the highlights listed, we encourage you to take a look at the archives and browse around. We have all kinds of interesting things there: addicting internet games, music videos, Japanese game shows, and even discussions about topics ranging from the “coffee shop look” to Australian beauty queens. Everything is conveniently sorted by topic on your right (or, if you’re using Internet Explorer’s broken way of viewing web pages, on the bottom of the page), so enjoy! And if you are so inclined, subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic updates. Happy New Year!