Monday, December 24, 2007

Witz Pickz: Holiday Gifts (Part 5 in the series)

On this Christmas Eve, I think it's really important that we all gather tonight, thank each other for simply being there, and explain that Popcorn is not a viable gift option.

Despite what years and years of indoctrination might have told you, not everyone loves popcorn with caramel on it. It's good, sure, but it's also very 1950's, and a tin of butter, cheese, and caramel makes me think I should go test out the bomb shelter in case Russia steps it up. So please, no tins of popcorn, it's gross. Even if it is only $1.49.

The kind of popcorn I'm actually worried about, however, and the topic of this conversation, is Trail's End popcorn. For those of you not in the know, Trail's End is the Boy Scouts' brand popcorn. Apparently women make cookies, and men make popcorn. That's just how life works. I can give first hand proof that people are far far more receptive to a sweet girl with cookies at their door than they are to awkward boys selling popcorn. Too many times did I ring doorbells, trying to sell popcorn nobody wants and got doors slammed in my face, oftentimes by old men who clearly had that, "When I was your age, I worked in coal mines" look to them. One time, my German neighbor, while brandishing a couple fingers of scotch, pushed his wife out of the way and took the opportunity to curse us out for trying to sell them Trail's End popcorn. That's the legacy. In later years (like...6th grade...) I learned to bring my sister with me, and to present her in the forefront of the sales pitch. Sure, you can say no to me, but what about my little sister, who had to walk all the way to your door just to look up at you and hint at tears. Yeah-- buy my freakin' popcorn.

Well, today I came home to find a package of Trail's End popcorn on the counter. From the single package purchase, it was pretty clear it was an Appeasement Purchase (not an indie band) and I nodded with empathy. I imagined the chubby little kid, wandering up to my door, seeing my bearded dad answer the door when he wasn't expecting anyone, and fearing momentarily for his life. "Want to buy some popcorn?" he probably asked. "It takes a long time to get, it's over-priced, it's unhealthy, still not very good, and you can get a tastier version at your local supermarket....but it goes to help the Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts/or my all time favorite "Webelos" (actually an acronym for "We'll Be Loyal Scouts" which, in the context of pedophilia within the organization, is the creepiest of Boy Scout troops)..."

I'm sure my Dad hesitated a minute and then dutifully got out his checkbook. The six to eight weeks passed, and now we have a box of popcorn. So I understood the process. THEN I CHECKED THE PACKAGE!

A lot has changed on the Trail's End package since I sold it. Apparently there is "No Diacetyl Flavoring" which probably means, "Tastes Awful" but maybe it's a step. Then it says, "On Average 70% goes to local scouting!" First of all, it's vague. Does it go to a sports team who gets to scout players? Does it go to troop leaders who get to spend some money to recruit better children? Is there an influx of Cuban scouts in the more wealthy scouting communities? Are they automatically given swimming merit badges upon arrival? Secondly, where's the other 30% go? It implies it goes to the greater Boy Scouts organization, but it could go anywhere! Trail's End Corporation, The Romney Campaign, the purchasing of girl scout cookies. Anywhere.

Then I saw something which put the other issues to shame. In our world, it has become common place for products to lie in their marketing-- a little. They stretch the truth, skew facts, and leave out statistics. "Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper..." more than what? Cats? "Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper than Cats do!" wouldn't sell. "Our product tastes better than the competition" claim a lot of brands. Or how about, "World's Best Shake/Burger/Pizza!" Generally, not the case. But they don't just lie with no basis. Here's what Trail's End popcorn proclaims on its box: "ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE WITH POPCORN!" and there is a picture of an asian youth, wearing a helmet, holding a paddle, and kayaking on popcorn. (deep sigh)

I don't really know where to begin. I think we can all agree that anything is, in fact, NOT possible with popcorn. You can eat it. That's one. You can throw it, that's two. You can string it, that's three. And you can fund the Boy Scouts and potentially other organizations by selling it. That's four. Four things. The slogan should say, "FOUR THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH POPCORN!" and show a white kid with glasses in a comic strip style setup, first eating, then throwing, then stringing, then earning merit badgets, and then sitting bored out of his mind. Granted, not as catchy. It seems like blatant misuse of the medium by the Trail's End corporation and the Boy Scouts of America. We know exactly what's possible with popcorn-- why try and lie to us and push your agenda so translucently. It pains me to see Trail's End reduced to such betrayal and falsehoods to gain America's trust. But I still don't want it for Christmas. Oh, and guess what? Yeah, I donated a goat to a village in Africa-- who knew.

Happy holidays to everyone, thanks for reading, Merry Christmas to everyone tomorrow, and remember that love and appreciation are...not as cool as cash donations.


P.S. Remember: Christmas is not just about giving and receiving gifts. It's about receiving gifts that when added up are worth more than the aggregate of the gifts you have given. And it's about some dude...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Witz Pickz: Holiday Gifts (Part 4 in the series)

I didn't think I was gonna have to do this, I really didn't. I thought that we were all set after my brief aside in a previous post. I thought the Star Registry post would certainly get the message across. But now I have to talk about how nobody, really, truly, deeply, NOBODY wants you to give a gift or donation "In Your Name." Nobody.

And yet I've now been given "A Donation towards Fighting ____" in my name. The blank means it's my choice, I can choose from all sorts of things, like Cancer, AIDS, Diabetes, Parkinson's, etc. , but I find the phrasing a little poor. While those diseases are obvious options, I think I'd feel much better about the whole thing if I could write in an answer. Sure, my $50 isn't going to be much in the research of AIDS, but my $50 would probably go a long way in fighting My Upstairs Neighbor Who Files Noise Complaints Against Me. Do you have any idea how much silly string, shaving cream, toilet paper, M-80's, raw fish, and duplicate keys that could buy? That's a battle I could win with a $50 donation in my name. Slip a landlord fifty bucks and you can have any noisy pet or baby in your building "escape." OR BETTER YET, slip a landlord fifty bucks, and you can have that cute as hell raccoon that's been rooting through the garbage outside INSIDE the building. I could also get down with freaking out people by giving, "A Donation Towards Fighting The Unseen Invaders or Those Who Come In Our Sleep, or The South." All because of poor phrasing and a selfish gift.

I mean, the other thing a lot of people say casually is "A Donation to Support ____." Meaning to support research of, but a lot of people don't say that. So there's the obviously issue of not wanting to SUPPORT any of those diseases. HOWEVER, like with the Star Registry, I think this provides an important window of misuse. While I don't ever want to receive a "donation in my name" to a foundation, I would love to give somebody a "Donation that goes to Support Cancer" in their name. Get that one on the books-- that kid LOVES cancer and HATES children! That would be amusing.

Reiteration: If you want to donate money to a charity of your choice, do so-- I fully support it. But don't use Christmas as an excuse to get the satisfaction of giving that gift PLUS the satisfaction of giving ME a "gift" to feel good about yourself. I don't get to feel good about the gift YOU gave, and if anyone comes up to me and says "Thank you for helping fight diabetes," I'm going to look sheepish and say "that wasn't actually me...". It's also like a vote of no confidence in me. If you think I'm a good person and I am smart with my money and help others, give me money and we'll see if I give some to charity. By giving me the donation gift, you're saying, "I want to give you money, but I don't trust you to spend it towards the improving our world." It's insulting. I'm all for giving to worthy causes, but that doesn't mean I want to do it for me.


That's all I'll say about that. In case you need to get a last minute gift, or in case you get an itunes gift card for Christmas (I am so so so against itunes. Get your mp3's elsewhere--,, AMAZON.COM now has a huge selection, or just download them or buy the real CD. Itunes limits the number of computers you can have it on, limits the way you are able to manipulate the file, you can only burn it to a CD through itunes, and from what I've heard, you can only burn it to CD a certain number of times. Good thing ipods replaced mix CD's-- itunes sucks) here is my TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2007. These are not necessarily the BEST ALBUMS of 2007, they are just my TOP ALBUMS of the year, and they probably will have a bit more longevity in my music library than, say, "Caribou" or "Film School."

10) Blue Scholars - Bayani
9) Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth
8) Smoke or Fire - This Sinking Ship
7) The Flatliners - The Great Awake
6) Eddie Veder - Into the Wild Soundtrack
5) Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
4) Gogol Bordello - Super Taranta!
3) Parts & Labor - Mapmaker
2) Wyclef Jean - The Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant
1) Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine

So a more eclectic mix and definitely some genres you wouldn't expect, namely punk (Smoke or Fire and The Flatliners), but within the punk genre, these two albums are tremendous and catchy and filled with good instrumental work and vocals. The Blue Scholars album might be getting more credit than it's worth because I'm a big fan and they are from Seattle where I lived until recently, but the album is packed with great beats, socially conscious rhymes and I want you people to download them and check em out. Brother Ali rounds out the indie hip-hop, and Wyclef Jean, although recent, put out a near perfect pop-hip-hop effort. Taking cues from Santana, each song features another famous artist, but maintains the Wyclef feel and sticks to the theme of the album. There are so many well constructed and catchy as hell songs that it gets #2. Eddie Veder's album is hypnotizing and while not a major departure from Pearl Jam, it's very well done, especially in context with the film. Beirut is crazy and drunken sounding, but that only adds to the complexity and bumped Bright Eyes' Cassadaga off the list because there are about four or five songs on Cassadaga that I can't stand even while the others are brilliant. Gogol Bordello is infectious gypsy punk (but not enough punk to fall under punk) with pretty straightforward lyrics and tons of creativity. Parts & Labor is my wild card pick with their insanely new take on an old genre, and Chuck Ragan wins for having the absolute best folk/punk album I've heard in years. Each song is simple, but deep, with amazingly raw vocals and heart. I can see myself listening to the album in ten years, whereas something like The Shepherd's Dog or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga are probably temporary. Also, somebody needs to tell The Arcade Fire to write some bridges and content-- they are almost exclusively intros and outros. I didn't hear all of In Rainbows so I left it off the list. Here's a list of some other albums worth checking out that you might not have heard of and some songs that deserve mention even though their full albums didn't make the grade:

Bruce Springsteen -- Radio Nowhere
Kate Nash -- Foundations
Just Jack - Stars In Their Eyes
Band of Horses - Is There A Ghost (and I probably would put this album on the top 10 if I'd heard it enough)
Tegan & Sara - Back in Your Head
Matchbox Twenty - How Far We've Come (Yep!)
Jay Z - Roc Boys

Other Bands:
The View - Hats Off to the Buskers
Gentleman Auction House - The Rules Were Handed Down EP (2006)
Against Me! - New Wave
Two Gallants - The Fairwell of Scenery
Deadly Syndrome - The Ortolan

Happy Birthday today to My Friend With A Pool and Zak Jazz!

My Drop In the Bucket Cured Cancer,

P.S. I would definitely donate money to FACE AIDS, primarily because I don't know if I'm fighting AIDS or if I'm supporting AIDS of the Face. That is one organization with an identity crisis. (Shout out to C-Murda)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Witz Pickz: Housing Life

So, yeah, I wasn't around for a few days. Let's chalk it up to the writer's strike, ok? I was suddenly overcome with an illogical desire to support the strike by not writing on this blog, even though I'm not in the WGA...that sounds fair to me. Fine, so that's not it, I was feeling miserable, life was kicking my ass, and I didn't receive any e-cards wishing me back to the site. So we're both at fault. Now let me tell you the story of how I returned to the site after HOUSING LIFE. I warn you, this is a bit gross.

When you have been waiting every single day for an entire week to hear back about a job, after three rounds of interviews and meeting the entire team, and having already turned down one potential job in order to try and get the latter of the two, you start to get a little frustrated with life and all those in it. People in CA continue to be the worst drivers I've ever seen in my entire life, with turn signals and checking mirrors before switching lanes seemingly not being their concern. All my favorite shows are off the air due to the writers strike, my healthcare runs out in two weeks, and you'll never guess what? The one time I go out and have fun, I end up sick the next day. And what do I have? A white spot on my right tonsils (I bet they call that something else, like the aft tonsils or the tonsils a droite...whatever). I had a white spot on my tonsils six months ago. I had one on their 9 months ago when that d-bag from Group Health gave me the antibiotics and I passed out on the plane and all that jazz. Six months ago it accompanied me with a fever and sore throat and since I didn't want to pay for a doctor with no healthcare option, I simply waited it out for a week or two. It finally went away. So when I have 5 days left before flying cross country for xmas, start to have a slight fever, massive fatigue, and dwindling bank funds with still no paycheck in sight, I freak out a little.

Tonsilitis. Tonsilitis. Tonsilitis. This is what WebMD tells me again and again when I search "white spots tonsils." Well, that's not entirely true. I could also have Children's Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma, but clearly I'm an optimist, so I ignore that little gem and store it away in the back of my mind to terrorize me. So tonisilitis it is. Antibiotics can help, but not all the time and I was once told that "these things have a habit of going away by themselves" so is it worth the 200 dollar doctor visit? I don't think so? But in 3 days I fly back east where getting to a doctor with my health plan is not gonna happen, and then Jan 1 it's all up anyway, so what do I do?

I do like any other sane person would do-- I ignored the initial diagnosis, told WebMD to go eff itself (seriously, I mean, WebMD only believes that ankles get sprained, muscles get torn, and people get cancer. It's a worst case scenario doctor site), and broadened my knowledge search to all of the Google Search Universe. I want med student opinions. I want herbalist healers from Califo-- here. I want crackpot insane Arizona druggies telling me what's what, asshole rednecks blaming Jews, alcoholics telling me to take whiskey and raw eggs, and three-nippled carnies telling me my future. I want it all. Google: "White spot on tonsils."

I got a lot of varied results, but none as crazy as I'd imagined. Finally one catches my eye saying, "Many patients are frightened when they see white spots on the tonsils. This is perfectly O.K. These are the dead white cells and dead bacteria that accumulate in the holes of the tonsils called crypts. Here the tonsils are just doing their job." OHHHHHHH SNAP! This sounds like an answer I can roll with! It sounds like there's an enemy I can picture-- Crips (it's important to note here how I was easily able to chance crypts, like mass graves, into Crips, like the gang. But I think it's equally important to note how easily I am able to change Crips into Crisps. Ask anyone from England and they'll tell you how important that "S" is to them. You may very well want a plate of crisps as a snack or dessert, but if a plate of Crips shows up, it's time to get a move on). So the white Bloods get stuck in the Crips. Now I get it. Anyway, sometimes these don't go away. They can cause a sore throat, mild fever, and irritation. For me, the white spot was causing super annoyance/irritation, and apparently a mild fever. So it could be infection, but it could also be this. Another article told me that doctors often treat this with antibiotics, but they have a minimal effect. Interesting. Finally, I came to an article that told me that I could go to a doctor and they could use a "tool" to scrape off the whiteness and relieve the irritation. That would run me about a hundred and fifty dollars I'm betting. I could also buy a water pik or an Oral Irrigation System...that would run me 100 and make me feel sixty-five years old.

Time to go all "herbalist" on them and find some home remedies. One kid gargled with salt water and it fell off. I tried that. Not successful. A water pik, eh? I find the closest thing in the house to a water pik-- a lemon juice squirt bottle. Eff it. I take aim in the mirror and shoot the lemon juice right at the spot. Nothing. Then it stings, then I cry. I do it again. And again. Lemon juice is kinda tasty if no one's there to watch you weep while drinking it. My next solution? Shower head. I almost drown and let me just say it's not a good idea. You ever line yourself up under a high power shower head, hoping to hit a specific TONSIL and turn the water on? You end up choking, gasping, drowning, and very wet. And the white spot remains. I drink vast amounts of fluid, I gargle lots of things including Scope and hot water and salt water again. Nothing. I sit down on the couch, furious and ready to quit. Life wins. I decide to call the hospital help line and ask an "Advice Nurse" or an "On-Call Physician." I stay on hold for twenty minutes before deciding it's just not my year and hang up.

I wait.
I think.
I self-pity.
I glance at the seventh floor balcony and the drop below.
I get angry.
I think.
Eff it.

"Wait a minute, I have a tool!" I exclaim, thinking later I will print it where it will be taken out of context the next time I run for something. I rush into the bathroom, wash my hands, and semi-blindly stick my chubby, sausage-finger into my mouth towards the tonsils (a lot of people, myself included until recently, believed the tonsils was the hangy ball straight back in your throat. They are not. That's the uvula. The tonsils are on the sides and look like teeth right by your cheekbone. Now try and figure out how they cut THOSE out! Scary shit. So I scrape my finger and yes, I almost throw up. Gag reflex and all. But I try again. And again (by the end of this, I had pretty much eliminated any gag issues at all, which means that should the need arise to deep throat anything, I'm pretty sure I'm up to the challenge-- and yes, I'm leaving that vague, open-ended comment for Anonymous to comment on-- I will not moderate it). I nick a piece and look, and it appears to have moved. I try again and without gagging, I scrape it and take a look-- IT HAS FALLEN OFF! I spit it out and take a look-- whitish and calcified. JUST what they said on all those other message boards. I swallow and immediately feel a lack of irritation that had been bothering me for days. Holy shit!

I feel immediately better. No throat irritation, no fever. The great weight of healthcare is off my shoulders, the doctor visit no longer an issue, the flight home not a big deal. I try and imagine if this were House MD:

Kutner: But the white spot not being an infection only accounts for the symptoms of the fever and the irritation. What about the extreme fatigue and sleeplessness?

House: Well, I dunno, let's see. He's a twenty-five year old guy with no job, dwindling funds, Christmas coming up, healthcare running out in two weeks, and there's a WHITE SPOT on his TONSILS!! He's a little stressed out!

Thirteen: I would have thought he celebrated Chanukkah...

House: You would have throught wrong. Remember, unlike last names and hierarchical lands, religion runs through the Mother.

Taub: Yeah, like diabetes and spite.

Thirteen: Oh, please. Mother issues?

House: Ok then. I'm gonna go see if Cuddy wants to work out any Daddy issues. You it is that you do after I make a grand exit....


Feeling better and less stressed, I wander out from the bathroom and sit smiling on the couch. I look at the seventh floor balcony and admire the view, not the fall. For the first time in nine months, I have defeated sickness and not the other way around. It's a small victory, and I'm sure there will be more tests as I plunge into the frigid sub-zero wind chill temperatures of the east coast, and the odds of me waking up healthy on January 1st are slim, but still, Christmas (Time) Miracles are tough to come by, and I'll take what I can get.

Like A Caterpillar Shedding His Cocoon, I Shed My...White Spot Gunk....,

P.S. I miss House.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Witz Pickz: Holiday Gifts (Part 3 in the Series)

Now that we're covered on avoiding reality and diving deep into a fantasy world where you can hide comfortably while playing Madden '08 or Ratchet & Clank, here's a way to get back out into the world. Give someone a trip.

Trips can be very tricky, but when pulled off, people usually are extremely happy and can't believe you went to all the trouble to plan it for them. Plus, it's kind of like you're dictating their life and if you weren't able to buy to latest expansion pack for The Sims, this is the next best thing. The obvious problems are timing and interest. So first, get interest. Most of the time, trips involve doing things, like going to a sports game or a concert or a wine tasting retreat. So instead of deciding that everybody clearly wants to go somewhere with beautiful beaches (incidentally, I DO want to go somewhere with beautiful beaches AND warm water-- I have never been in naturally warm ocean water before and I'm told I'm missing out. And seriously, when Maine and CT were you two prime swimming places, with Myrtle Beach and Cocoa Beach being the only other two, we're not talking 90 degrees here, we're talking like...60....) pick something you know they like, buy them tickets to a relevant event, and build the trip around that. A lot of the time that will decide the timing as well, which is always helpful and usually can revolve around a weekend as opposed to a weeklong excursion with plane flights and missed work ("I wouldn't say I'm MISSING it, Bob").

Checkout what's playing in theaters, any big concerts in big cities or intimate concerts in smaller towns. Is there a comedian showing somewhere or might the person just like to go see some comedy? How do they feel about professional wrestling? UFC? Pride Fighting? Maybe you can score some tickets to their favorite tv show-- not that those are being filmed right now, but maybe you can get Deal or No Deal tickets or The Daily Show tickets once they cross the picket line, and I guarentee you can get tickets for Late Late Show With Carson Daly, which is still on the air and which there can't be a very long line for. Avoid Vegas-- forcing someone to go on a trip to Vegas is a recipe for disaster. Vegas needs to be done on their terms, when they are ready to lose a lot of money. And don't invite yourself along. Regardless of what you choose, tickets always make the trip make more sense.

Now for timing. As I said, weekends are perfect and baseball games, concerts, etc. all make sense in that respect. A lot of the time, buying tickets and a hotel room constitutes a trip, and you don't need to pay for airfare or gas. It's good to get an idea though as to when might work or not work for the giftee. Here are some questions I like to ask:

Question: "If I were to have a party in four months, would you be free?"

Answer: Generally, people will say you're crazy and they have no idea-- that means you're in the clear. Nobody will think something's up.

Question: "I heard (name of band) is touring-- we should see if they're coming to town and how much tickets are..."

Answer: You have to say this VERY lackadaisically so that there is no chance they actually will make a move to check and see. Maybe after or during watching a long movie-- Pirates of the Carribean 3 comes to mind for new releases. Hopefully, they are not coming to your town, but NEARBY so that you can send them TO the show, and with better seats than they would have expected.

Question: (while drunk) "Let's fucking go to Australia! (gage reaction) I mean London! (gage reaction) I mean Paris! (gage reaction-- this next one is key) I mean (name of city kind of close to where you live or where southwest has good deals)! (gage reaction) Whattya think?

Answer: (Regardless of their current state of being) "You're just drunk, man!" Jackpot.

Easy, right? Here are some final tips and your whole trip package gift will be a breeze. If you are indigent or if the people have a nicer apartment/house, don't ask to house-sit for the person/people leaving until a week later OR phrase it as (and as part of the gift, my girlfriend and I will housesit for you). Don't buy plane tickets going anywhere near or involving Chicago. Nothing ruins trips more than horrible flight delays. A "Night Out" works almost as well as a trip. Just buy tickets to something and a bottle of wine and that's that.

So there ya go, that was easily the most informative "how to" bullshitting I've done on the site, and I hope you all prosper from it. I'll conclude with a list of my interests and locales I'd enjoy:

Boston Red Sox
Wine Vineyards
Warm Water
Warm Music in Intimate Spaces
Good Food (but not weird food)

Just Click On My Ads A Little, K?,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Witz Pickz: Holiday Gifts (Part 2 in the series)

There’s really no need to beat around the bush, and there will be plenty of time later to discuss whether or not anybody really wants a goat given to a village in their name. I mean, sure, it’s a nice idea, but I either want to be given a gift, or feel good about giving the village a goat myself. Having someone give a goat to a village as my Christmas or Hanukkah present means that I a) don’t get a present b) I don’t get to feel good about having given anyone anything and c) the person who gave me the goat DOES get to feel good. How is that any kind of gift? That’s just a purchase and a copout all rolled into one. And don’t get me wrong, I think giving the gifts to the villages is great—but maybe you should do it on, like, a Wednesday, not my birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Easter, or any other holiday. Like I said, we can talk more about that later. Right now I’m gonna go straight for the throat of the holiday sales—video games.

If you’re young and in school, and can’t earn any money yourself, or more than $8/hr, then there’s not much of a problem here—you want a video gaming system and you’re thrilled to get it. Also, you maybe shouldn’t be reading this blog, but if you are, thanks! Anyway, if you’re slightly older like me, then you’ve already come to the point where you definitely know you don’t “need” a video gaming system, you wonder if the $400 or whatever dollars could possibly be worth it given all the time you spend working, sleeping, eating, watching tv, movies, reading, etc. and you have already been wracked with guilt over asking your parents to spend said money on such a gift for you. Ah yes, guilt. I don’t know when that happened and maybe it’s a sign of growing up, but I’ve started feeling incredibly guilty anytime my parents spend money on me to be nice and because they want to, but when I really don’t know if I “need” them too. Regardless, you’ve already dealt with this experience, but decided, forget it, you need a present, and those video gaming system are looking pretty good. So which do you pick?

All of my information is based on having played all three major systems (PS3, xbox360, Wii), reading lots of reviews and articles, and talking to people who already made this decision. I’ve figured out a few things and they primarily revolve around Video Quality, Games, Gameplay, and Bonus Features.

Video Quality: From all accounts, PS3 has both the best graphics and the highest potential for future graphics. For a lot of games, Xbox360 and PS3 are on even footing, but PS3 uses a different HD capacity and Blu-Ray discs, so they are able to fit almost three times as much information into their games as Xbox360. They also have a different processor and graphics card, which currently is another PS3 advantage. The PS3 is quieter and doesn’t overheat, unlike the Xbox360 which has proven overheating problems and is loud. Microsoft is releasing new models that are better with those two problems, but they aren’t labeling them differently, so the best bet is to wait until after the holidays clear out the shelves and then pick one up post-Christmas. Then there’s the Wii. The Wii does not compete with graphics because it’s not supposed to. The graphics are typical Nintendo graphics and while they can be good, such as in Tiger Woods, and Madden, they also have the fake looking people and in some of the more fun games such as Mario Party or the sports pack, they aren’t “people” so much as shapes and colors. Still, that’s because Wii is not yet for serious gamers. Which brings us to Games and Gameplay.

Gameplay & Games: The Wii is for all types of people, but not primarily for the intense gamers (and if the commercials are any indication, it’s for families who don’t speak to each other, the elderly, and older asian men). Far from a gimmick, the Wii technology is fun and engrossing, and I’ve heard playing games like Zelda is amazing. It also has a cool effect of making you want to do the things you’re doing in the game. I went bowling after playing Wii bowling. I bought a tennis racket after playing Wii tennis (yeah, I still haven’t used that). I broke four ribs after playing Wii boxing—ok that’s a lie, but I wanted to. The Wii is widely successful in non-gaming groups and demographics, and is fantastic for parties. Recently, I heard that it is being used in retirement homes to get older folks to move around and get some activity, especially if they’re in wheelchairs. Which is brilliant and I guarantee they can have as much fun as you or I playing the games. It is not, however, filled with finely tuned, photo-like graphics and environments. If you live a horribly dull, ennui-ridden, “I’d kill myself the next day if it wasn’t for the Netflix I have coming in the mail,” lifestyle, and need to completely involve yourself in a fantasy reality, the Wii is not for you. For that, you need one of the other two.

As I said, both have amazing graphics and this allows for intricate, engrossing gameplay. With a big TV and great storylines in most of their games, it is easy to get completely involved in the game you are playing and the world you are now a part of. On the xbox side, there are exclusive games like Gears of War, Halo 3, and BioShock, which I’ve heard is a system seller. I played Gears of War and loved it, especially the cooperative mode so I could play it with my friend at his house. PS3, on the other hand, has games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, and Heavenly Sword, all of which are amazing stories, graphics, and, with the exception of Heavenly Sword, franchise hits. All the sports games are for all three systems, so if you’re like me, and get way too into playing as your favorite team, connecting mythical (read: superstitious, lucky) power to your season and reality, and enjoy creating yourself and friends in games, all three systems are options. Rock Band is also available on multiple systems, and is incredibly fun—like the Wii only with music for all systems.

Bonus Features: PS3 also functions as a Blu-Ray disc player. Bam. It also connects via wi-fi to your computer and acts like an external hard-drive. This means you can play video files from your computer through your television. It also means your PS3 is probably watching your porn once you fall asleep. Nothing like this for the Wii, and I’m sure Xbox360 has some kind of wi-fi connectivity, especially with Media Center, but I honestly don’t know about it. The internet being important, it’s important to note that PS3 has free online gaming while Xbox inexplicably still has a subscription based access. You have to pay an annual fee to play your games online and get new content.

So that’s my long, mostly unfunny explanation of the three systems. Can you tell I’m thinking about it? If anyone has any more information, bias, experience, or preference, drop some comments.

I’ll Pick Something Ridiculous Tomorrow, Ok?,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Witz Pickz: Holiday Gifts (Part 1 in the Series)

Let me say, right now, on the....seventh day of Chanukkah, that I do not want to receive a star registered in my name.

I heard the commercials on the radio for International Star Registry (I'm not sure how that differs from National Star Registry-- I mean, they're stars right? So, if I register it nationally, does that mean that some dude in Russia might have his national rights to that star as well? Does International registry trump all previous national registries or do they break down like those little bits of shares of stocks that somebody confused me with years ago? And more so, what's the problem here? I mean, other than the fact that my star might actually be named Witz-Yeltsin-Schmitt-VonDerling-Osaki who's ever gonna know? Might I be travelling the world some time, drinking at a bar and hear some drunken broken English coming from a corner saying, "Star coordinate 56 87 43 93 51 a/z...zat's my star..." and then I have to call him out and go, "No! That's MY star!" Clearly I don't think that would happen and clearly I have no idea how star coordinates work.) and immediately thought, "Now there's something I don't ever want. Ever." Other than the fact that it's completely useless and self-absorbed, the odds of ever knowing or seeing your star are literally a million to one or more. Then, assuming you somehow find your star, when you point and say to someone, "See that star, it's named after me," they will have no actual way to react to that besides, "Really? Where? Oh, cool..." and that's it. There's no more conversation there. The next part is, "how'd that happen" and then, "International star registry" and then, "I don't ever want to receive a star registered in my name." End of conversational topic.

So logically, I looked at the website to see how their service works. First of all so I could talk more informed about it, but also because I wanted to know how much these things cost. And the reason for that is because it occurs to me that this could make a great prank. The idea that you could spend some money and have an entire packet with information and star coordinates sent to someone saying, "The star 'Matt Hates Black People' resides at coordinates...." makes me warm inside. At you'll find all sorts of information, but we want the packages. You can choose from the "custom" which is star talk for "cheap" package, or the "deluxe" which in my experience comes with bacon on it, or you can get the "ultimate" package which runs a stout $139 + shipping and handling, so you're better off leaving the star at will call or the bill might add up. All packages come with a certificate (sweeeet), and get this, "a booklet on astronomy written by a professional astronomer with additional sky charts." Now, to me, that means that the book was not written by a professional astronomer. Anytime somebody is giving me a book or booklet about assumption is that it is by a professional astronomer and nto just some guy dabbling on his roof with a laptop. Apparently, as star registry blatantly hints, I should be more careful. This means I can finally start my jewelry company I've always wanted called "Diamonds by Witz." Then I can sell whatever I feel like until the courts force me to change the name to "Fake Diamonds by Witz."

Anyway, the cheapest package is only $54 which is actually pretty fair since you will be attaching a name to a star internationally, "forever," but I have a problem with the claim of "...a gift that will last a lifetime." I'm not saying I'm going to live a really long time, but if I bought a star registry for a newborn baby (i.e. "Tova Hates Black People") who knows which will be around longer? If the baby lives to be 100, that star could be long gone. This is the problem with stars-- those effers pop off all the time. They blow up and disappear and we don't know about it for a while. So who's to say that my star isn't already gone and the light's gonna wink out at a moment's notice? They assume I will either lose interest, assume it's cloudy, or not know which star is mine, but if I am diligent and attentive, my star just might not exist anymore. I bet this is a huuuge issue in the star registry world. I bet people get hired and fired over shit like that.

As far as I can see, the only difference between packages is the quality of the certificate you receive, and that on the higher end packages you get little wallet cards with the star name and coordinates on it-- which is kind of a must. I mean, the opportunity that affords you at bars, parties, weddings, funerals, Safeway, Bob's Stores, Borders, concerts, hiking trips, whale watches, etc. is too much to pass up. Imagine the pickup lines you could create with that sucker. I'm not gonna list any, but you can bet at least one was a killer penis size joke.

So please, no star registry for me-- although stars might be the last frontier for us to claim and name, they are also the least interesting, most forgettable, most indistinguishable in all the deepest meanings of the word, gifts. Save them for pranks, and shutting your kids up and giving them false hope by wishing upon. After all, you can always just SAY that a star is named after you, and nobody will really know the difference.

Now that you know what I don't want, I'll be posting a series of cool and interesting gifts for this holiday season all week long, so keep checking back.

"Gimme All Your Supermarios,"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Witz Flickz: Tis the Season

The start of December, Chanukkah, and Christmas songs can only mean one thing: you're about to have a relatively plentiful amount free time. You don't need to make excuses for it, you don't need to call in sick, or take a mysterious personal day, or buy a 49 dollar ticket to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines for no apparent reason and run until you can't anymore. You have free time because Jesus was born, Oil lasted longer than people originally believed it would last (ironically the opposite of the oil crisis in the world today), and because it gets balls cold (just above tits cold and just below death by frostbite) in most parts of the country right about now, and if people didn't have some time off to cheer up, we'd probably all be dead.

So I know you're going to want to watch a lot of movies. Even with the abundance of holiday movies on the networks and even with the abundance of bad action movies and dramas on USA, TNT, FX, etc., you'll still have some time for movies-- especially if you get snowed in. So here are some movies to see and movies to avoid during your time off.

The Dog Problem: I just finished watching this film written, directed, and acted in by underappreciated Scott Caan. Starring Giovani Ribisi, the film follows a depressed writer as he tries to feel better about life and make some money in the process so he can pay off his debts. Don Cheadle, his therapist, suggests he get a pet, and the dog is the answer. I didn't have too high hopes, but the writing, acting, and lightness of the piece, along with the good pacing and brevity of storytelling (coming in just under 90 minutes), made this film an easy-going enjoyable film to watch. I'm actually interested to see what Scott Caan has for us next and Giovani Ribisi is always terrific.

Transformers: Honestly, wtf? I was not one of the people excited for the movie when it came out. I didn't see it in theaters, but I heard good things from friends. Plus, I'm a fan of Shia The Beef, and hey, I played with the toys as kids, so why not? One of my older friends who never played with the toys or watched the show/animated movies saw it and said he knew right away that he had gotten in over his head. He wanted to walk out after the first ten minutes, but then everybody around him would know he was the idiot who expected something more out of Transformers the movie. "It was bad man-- there's this part where they uncover an alien language, right? Like, nothing we've ever seen before. And the kid's like, 'It's some kind of alien code...I'm gonna hack it!' Oh man. It was bad, but as my friend told me, 'Dude, it was a movie based on a tv show based on a toy that you didn't play with. What did you expect,' and that's true." So I didn't go into the DVD (on a bigass tv mind you) with high hopes. I was stil baffled. Transformers had some genuinely purposefully hilarious and entertaining moments, but it also had some of the absolute lowest, worst jokes ever, unintentional comedy, boring action, absurd plot, illogical cuts, characters, and dialogue I've ever seen and heard. It really felt like the writers had no idea what they were writing-- they couldn't decide between an action movie, a self-deprecating comedy, a satire, a British comedy, or who knows what else. What I think probably happened was that somebody wrote the initial script as an action movie with some of the main phrases like, "More than meets the eye," but lacking comedy. Then, the producers probably said it needed to be funnier, and paid some other writers to come in and punch it up. That's the only way to explain the random comedy riffs that come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. There's no real way to explain the extended 5-10 minute comedy sequences like when the Autobots are sneaking around Shia The Beef's house or when the transformer Jazz drops a, "What's up bitches?" to the assembled group. The acting was all over the place, especially the romantic interest, who changes personas by the minute, at first appearing dumb and boring, then suddenly she's a comedian, then suddenly she's in love with a guy who barely knows's car. Baffling. To his credit, Shia LeBouf does a great job and pulls off both the action and especially the comedy. I also think it's unfair to say, "who cares" about the acting and assume it's going to be bad, just because the movie is Transformers. John Turturro makes a guest appearance and does a good job, and a few other actors pull their weight. It was the writing and directing (Michael Bay has a lot of explaining to do...and for Michael Bay, that says something) that made it so shockingly bizarre. I can't say it's not worth seeing, I just wouldn't have any expectations at all when you see it.

Tin Man: The miniseries based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz just finished airing on the Sci-Fi channel a couple nights ago. It's a three part series 2 hours a piece and it's re-airing this weekend, so check your listings. Starring Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming, Kathleen Robertson, and Neil McDonough, the series is a re-imagination of the story rather than an adaptation. It takes the framework that Wizard of Oz laid out and plays with it, changing character backgrounds, goals, story, and result. It is supposed to take place in the same universe as the original, but not at the same time. I have to say that while I was never very invested in the plot or the characters, it was interesting to see the ideas and twists. Zooey Deschanel made me loath her as an actress, reminding me more and more that she only has two acting moods-- sullen and morose. "Happy" for her is more of an "Un-Morose" than it is truly joyful. If it wasn't for her deadpan delivery and huge blue eyes and great singing voice, I'm pretty sure she'd be working at a Walmart right now. Alan Cumming on the other hand, surprised me and played a character outside his norm for a change. Most noticeably, he uses a deep voice instead of the thin, higher pitched voice he usually projects. His acting was also interesting and very nuanced which is to say, "just see it and figure it out, I can't really explain how he acted." You won't be blown away by the series I don't think, but you will find it interesting and clever.

Lost on DVD: In preparation for the new season of Lost, I would suggest watching the first two seasons on DVD...then it gets terrible. You're gonna have to wade through those next bits until it gets decent again and then you'll be ready for this season. I suggest baking, cleaning, or sorting change while watching the rough patches.

House on DVD: Fantastic. Season four appears to be over, possibly on account of the writer's strike, so catchup on the first three, checkout season four reruns and online at and you'll be all set when season five rolls around.

The West Wing: I think that the West Wing Christmas episodes get more emotion out of me than actually celebrating Christmas. They are quality television and I suggest getting the DVD's from your local library and watching a few episodes to help you celebrate life.


All I Want For Holidays Is Rock Band...But I Also Need A Gaming Console...And a Big TV...And A Friend Who Can Sing Like Professionals...,

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Witz Pickz: Channukah Time

Sorry for the last couple days of no pickz. It's been a rough couple of days with job stuff, but I'm back in the saddle bringin' some truths. Tonight is the first night of (C)hannukah according to my Dad and The Wikipedia. The two rarely agree on things, and it seems a bit early for it to be time to light the Menorah, but I'll take it at face value and assume that we're moving the holiday up this year to either cash in on the post-Thanksgiving turkey sales or pre-empt a little Christmas spirit and programming.

Here's one thing I need to say-- despite what spokesmen such as Adam Sandler or John Stewart might say, we are not all jealous of Christmas's ecoutrements. YES, Christmas is freakin' sweet and easily trumps eight days of awkward candle staring, BUT I for one, am not jealous of Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the movie Elf. There is an assumption made by non-Jews that simply because there are Christmas songs, Jews with there were Channukah songs. Not the case. Christmas songs are enjoyable once or twice, but the constant onslaught in the supermarket, bookstores, clothing stores, the mall, can drive a person insane. I don't need a Channukah Song, I don't need, "Eight Lights a Glowing" or Torah! Torah! Torah! or "The Littlest Menorah" or "Oops, We Lit It Again" and I certainly don't need movies like Eight Crazy Nights to get me in the holiday spirit. Because there's no need to get in the holiday spirit. Oil lasted longer than it ought to have-- we light candles and think about it, do you know how much prep that takes? About three seconds with a match. (In my household there should be a spinoff holiday where we celebrate the fact that, "We stared at those candles, faking contemplation waaay longer than we thought we were able to!") Channukah is a mellow holiday-- chill back, chant some prayers, be happy, share some gifts, and spin a dreidel for some M&M's. That's all it is. And it can be great, and festive and fantastic, but we don't need Hallmark songs to accompany it.

Despite how it might have just sounded, I like Channukah. I like the attitude of it, the one gift per night and that's that stylings. I like the way that it's easy to switch into holiday mode and out of holiday mode in order to light the candles, be with friends, and go on with life. There's no gigantic buildup, no huge release. It improves life for a week and makes us take the time to contemplate the past, even if we don't do so with rigid attentiveness. I like that it's active (candle lighting) even without having to go to church, in the same way decorating and lighting a Christmas tree is. It feels personal without being forced or melodramatic and while I am happy that I was brought up in a mixed household where I also experienced the extreme awesomeness of Christmas (because I do believe that every child wants to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Morning), I am glad that I had Channukah. Long after the presents stopped coming, I am able to enjoy the holiday, and I don't need Adam Sandler or Jon Lovitz for that. Still, here's a Hannukah song I wrote, set to the tune of Twelve Days Of Christmas.

"On the first night of Hannukah my family gave to me...
One sock!
On the second night of Hannukah my family gave to me...
Another sock!
On the third night of Hannukah my family gave to me...
The rest of the package of socks!
On the fourth night of Hannukah-- I went to my friend's house...
And my parents weren't particularly bothered by it!
On the fifth night of Hannukah, my family gave to me...
The same book they gave my sister on night two...awkward...
On the sixth night of Hannukah we all forgot to light the lights...
Shit, dammit, Witz Sr. what kind of Jew are you anyway, Jesus Christ....
On the seventh night of Hannukah we kind of went through the motions...
Partially because of the night six thing, but also because we had other things going on!
On the eighth night of Hannukah, my family gave to me...
Something that I actually liked!
Going through the motions,
Shit, we forgot Hannukah,
Why couldn't we have just shared,
I played games at Zak's house,
socks still in the package,
a sock to go with the other
AND A SOCK! (big finale)"

Happy Channukah,

P.S. "Tribe" hummus is also good, but entirely unrelated and I am happy about Hebrew Beer.