Archive for November, 2007

Why is evereyone so vague about their jobs?
November 16, 2007

I really have no idea what anyone who’s in an office job actually does for a living. My parents worked in office jobs in the government and they used to bore me and my sister to death when they were talking about work during dinner, because it sounded like a foreign-tongue, mainly consisting of acronyms. Here’s a recreation of one of these conversations and in the interest of historical accuracy, these are all actual acronyms :
“So I went to the CAB, and found out that the DOT and DOE are on board my proposal”
“But did you check with the FTA?”
“No, the grant came in through the SAS of OST because of ISTA”*

I still don’t really know what my dad does. He says he’s a physicist, but he doesn’t have any physics labs in his office. He deals with policy and stuff, but it’s kind of hard for me to grasp that kind of profession. Do you clock in and out? How do people make sure you keep those hours if you don’t? What do you actually do at work? And he doesn’t have really good answers like I oversee and regulate policy, blah, blah, blah.

My friends have jobs in offices and I’m not sure what most of them do either. One person said he has a really monotonous routine of entering numbers into records.

I have a friend who’s in the field of PR. I write for newspapers and for this so I thought that might sound interesting, so I asked him and here’s our actual conversation:
“By the way, what do you do for a living again, i know it’s PR of some kind?”
“Yeah, PR”
“So what does that mean, exactly?”
“Public relations”
“No i know that”
“But what do you do”
“Reputation management”

And he’s in PR, for god’s sakes. Isn’t that in his job description to be able to explain things in a way people can understand? He got hired because of his college major but maybe not because of his ability to just speak in plain terms, people can understand. I’ve noticed many people use the word “non-profit” to describe their work as if that holds any meaning to me. I guess when someone says non-profit, they are either hinting that they are good people because they are devoting their workdays toward a charitable cause, or they are trying to express their annoyance at their bosses for deciding that money isn’t important and that that doesn’t correspond to their personal sense of greed. One girl said she worked for a non-profit and then when i probed further, I found out that she worked for an organization that promotes awareness for Jewish democracy, which sounded interesting. Why didn’t she say that? I think we’re all just so used to writing things in business speak on resumes that we forget to actually use words people can understand when describing our jobs.

I recently got what might be considered my first real office job (I did intern at a local newspaper but that wasn’t very officey) and I was really a blank slate as for what to expect on the other side of that partition. Oh, I’ve been back home for a year since I graduated from college, so I’ve seen all these people on the metro with their name tags and briefcases that they carry and that seems like an alien world to me.

Now, it seems a little less alien because while I don’t really know what all of those people do, I at least know what I do. I could summarize my organization and my position within my organization in 2-3 sentences but other people’s jobs still sound confusing and my parents still bore me to death when they talk about work. So I challenge you to try to tell me about your job in 2-3 sentences.

*For the record, CAB=The no-longer in existence Civil Aeronautics Board (but it was probably around back when my dad used to talk about this stuff, remember, I’m shooting for historical accuracy), DOT=Department of Transportation, DOE=Department of Energy, FTA=Federal Transit Administration, SAS=Senior Executive Staff, OST=Office of the Seceretary, and ISTA=Intramodal Surface Transportation Act.

Youtube has turned me into a member of the MTV generation
November 16, 2007

My sophomore year in college I had a roommate who had a few habits that got on my nerves. He would cycle through his mp3s and never be able to play a single song all the way through. He would never be able to watch a half hour TV show, instead perferring highlights on ESPN, clips from Saturday Night Live reruns (back when they aired on Comedy Central), and MTV videos.

It frustrated me that he could never sit all the way through a program without changing the channel. I would listen to entire CDs from start to finish, watch entire movies, and plays. I would go to class and listen throughout the entire lecture. How awful it must be to have that small an attention span, that my poor roomate, has, I thought?

Fast foward 5 years later and after discovering the joys of youtube and other forms of internet video for the past year and a half or so, I’ve turned into him. This is the tragic thing that youtube has done to me.

With so many forms of entertainment being available to me everytime I log into a computer, I want to experience them all and can’t sit still too long at any one thing before something else grabs my attention. Why watch an entire episode of the Conan O’Brien show where you can just see the clips of the skits since it’s on MTV’s site? Why listen to the radio when you can get any song you want on demand? I started taking those shortcuts toward instant gratification and I’m having trouble finding my way out. My primary form of entertainment has gone from two-hour long movies to a one-hour long drama like heros to half hour shows to clips of Monty Python, Conan O’Brien or Mad TV on youtube and it’s affecting everything I do.

I can’t sat still through lectures and often through work I find myself channeling through youtube, a tv show on demand, or some other video or radio station site. I can’t watch TV through the commercial breaks and I’m often alternating between two or more shows. I’m an instant gratification junkie, in short, and I’m fully aware that’s a more chaotic and less peaceful place that both society and myself have fallen prevy to.

How is this a problem? Well, aside from the obvious answers of all the ways a shortened attention span makes it more difficult to focus on anything and get anything done, I feel like we can’t fully appreciate anything at all as well. Remember Beethoven’s 5th symphony? Oh, silly me, I forgot that you folks in generation X won’t dare listen to anything unless it has words being sung/screamed loudly accompanied to a keyboard, guitar, drums and bass, and you folks in Generation Y, live in a world where only rappers are considered true musicians, so that’s pretty much synthesizer, drums and bass (see we’ve already shortened our attention span from 4 instruments to 3).

Anyway, Beethoven’s 5th symphony is that one that goes Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuum, Dum-Dum-Dum-Duuuuum. It’s a very dramatic piece that even my 5-second attention span college roommate had downloaded on his computer but that well-known part of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is only the 1st movement of four parts. If you listen to the 2nd part of the symphony, it’s very boring and insipid on its own, the third is kind of iffy, but the 4th is where it all comes together. When you get to the fourth, you realize that the second and third movements were put there for a reason: to provide contrast to the 2nd and 3rd movements. The symphony takes over 30 minutes to listen to (or maybe it’s 20 or 40, I really am just guessing here, but it’s at least 4 times longer than your average song on the radio, put it that way. I couldn’t find on wikipedia, google, amazon, my desk encyclopedia or this old music textbook how long the symphony was) which very few people in Generation Y has the patience to do but it is that much more rewarding to get to movement 4 . And that’s exactly what we’re missing when our attention spans get reduced to wax: The metaphorical second and third movements of the movie, tv show, album and quite possibly life itself.

Scanner Freaks Make Themselves At Home At Adam West’s Velvet Lounge
November 16, 2007

Man, having only seen Scanner Freaks at the rock and roll black hole that is The Red & The Black (keep trying, guys!) it was great to see ’em come back to my hood and play The Velvet Lounge Saturday. The Red & The Black is a cool little bar, but it’s got a ways to go as a live venue, while The Velvet is established. It is what it is, a little Baltimore-style rock club that bleeds grit from the walls. Perfect for the Freaks’ post-hardcore sound. For punk and hard rock fans, this is maybe the most exciting young bands in the city.

The quintet took advantage of the bigger stage, bumping into each other even more, and they fed off the energy of the larger crowd, getting stronger and stronger as the set progressed. At their September show, “The Ground” and “Consensus” stood out. On this night, they sounded even better. Louder, weightier and more powerful. I’m smitten with the latter. If you love this band, you love ’em for songs that are short bursts of power and energy. “Consensus” cuts against that. It’s an extended hardcore jam, and though it’s much longer than most of the material and at times seems to have a little ADHD running through it, it never gets boring. Instead it shows Scanner Freaks can be unusually dynamic for a hardcore band when they want to be. The fact that they choose to hit-and-run most of the time makes a song like “Consensus” that much more exciting.

And as the set wound down through the last few songs, the band winded up, adding more adrenaline as they again built up to their closer, a cover of Tanners’ “Computers That Breathe,” their signature cover in their young career. It’s a smart choice, sharing a great song by a somewhat obscure San Diego punk band.

And on another note regarding the change in venue, Scanner Freaks seemed much happier and more comfortable at The Velvet, clowning around more between songs and interacting more with the crowd, making the band that much more likable. Check ’em out next time I tell you, too, and look for their debut LP, which is in the works.

Rare is it to see Adam West opening for anybody at The Velvet. That is their bar, their venue. They’ve been holding court there for years, having and creating the most fun of any hard rock band in D.C. It’d been a while since I’d seen ’em, so having them on a bill with Scanner Freaks was a bonus. They, too, are working on a new record, and they played a handful of old songs along with a bunch of old favorites like “God’s Gift to Women,” “Hot Chocolate,” “Bulletproof” and “We’ve Got Cake.” Mostly playing irreverent songs about sex, Adam West was all bawdy, macho cock rock with old school punk energy and loads of humor. Witness another song about sex — “Cantaloupes and Antelopes.” As you can imagine, it conjures old dirty stories about watermelons and sheep.

And many thanks to the first band, Gaslight Society, for setting the show up. I look forward to hearing more of their punky, bluesy garage rock and seeing more of that soulful, jiggly hottie Janet fronting the band. She’s a CBGBs-style frontwoman, carrying on the tradition of vocalists like Debbie Harry — minus the sweetness — and Chrissie Hynde — with added punk angst.

Favorite resturaunts in North Arlington
November 9, 2007

I’m currently writing a cheap eats guide for DC Scene for my neck of the woods: Arlington, VA.

I’ve lived in Arlington for about 20 years and over that time I’ve had the opportunity to eat pretty much everywhere (and I love eating out), or so I thought. I looked in the phone book and found that there are over 450 restaurants in Arlington. I’ve been to at best about 110 of them, so there are plenty of places I’m unfamiliar with.

But, here’s what I might say my 10 favorite restaurants are, in terms of the bargain-level. So these aren’t places for fancy dinners but at the same time, they can be. I’m pretty much focusing on North Arlington, cause i don’t go to south Arlington that often.

1. Mei’s Asian Bistro, Virginia Square-Relatively new restaurant serving both Japanese/Chinese cuisine, pretty fancy atmosphere, serves steamed brown rice and other interesting alternatives, cheap lunch specials. Also has a sushi bar, live music, and a small bar
2. Italian Store, Lyon Village-A big sign on exit 72 on I-66 publicizes the place and people come from miles away to try their famous New York style pizzas, and delicious subs (made with the best ingredients). They also have a grocery store for imported pastas, sauces, wines and cheeses
3. Pasha Cafe, Cherrydale-Nice not-too-fancy but not-too-cheap eatery where they serve Mediterranean food, pasta, and also dabble into pizza.
4. Mexicali Blues, Clarendon-This has a small bar and so it’s considered part of the nightlife but they serve great Mexican food that’s like the opposite end of the spectrum from Taco Bell in terms of being authentically Mexican. They also serve margaritas of all flavors and sangria, so great selection of drinks.
5. Tarbouch, Lyon Village-Really great Mediterranean resturaunt that just opened up, small eating space.
6. Super Pollo, Ballston-One of the best of the Pollo a la Brasa places. Think fast food but instead of a hamburger they serve Peruvian rotisserie chicken; instead of fries they serve sides of rice, rice and beans, yucca, or coleslaw and instead of coke they serve Inca cola.
7. Joe’s Pizza and Pasta, Lee Highway Corridor-I hung out there in high school a lot. Their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is the highlight. Sicillian pizzas, bread sticks, wings, and a pitcher of soda and it all usually comes out fresh.
8. Five Guys Burgers, Clarendon-This is a chain, so it’s around in places other than Clarendon, but it’s got the best burgers and fries around. The menu is simple but it has everything you need.
9. Cafe Asia, Rosslyn-They’re all you can eat buffet at lunch includes all the sushi you can eat too
10. Caribbean Grill, Lee Highway Corridor-The lines are long at lunch but that’s because people know the secret of how good the food is here. A little like the pollo a la brasa places but with a Caribbean twist.

Others:
Lebanese Taverna, Westover
Crystal Thai, Arlington Forest
La Choza, Ballston mall
Dim Sun, Ballston mall
Ballston Place Market
Pio Pio, Virginia Square
Szechuan Wok, Virginia Square
Linda’s Cafe, Lee Highway
Wasabi Sito, Lyon Village
Silver Diner, Clarendon
Crisp and Juicy-Lee Highway
Hunan Number One, Clarendon
Pizza Roma, Ballston

Recommended movies and one to watch
November 7, 2007

I just have to apologize to Tony Gilroy (the screenwriter of Bourne Ultimatum and director of his new film) and Wes Anderson, Roman Coppolla, and Jason Schwartzman for not doing everything in my power to promote their new movies since their new films Michael Clayton and Darjeerling Limited are great films, so if you’re in the mood to watch a great film this weekend, one of those two should be good choices.

Darjeerling Limited is in its 6th week of release (but only about 3rd week of release for the Washington Metropolitan Area as it’s been playing in a scattering of movie theaters) and Michael Clayton is in its 4th week of release, so this isn’t exactly flashing news, and there are great films to see, not limited to The Bee Movie, American Gangster, and the upcoming Lions for Lambs, but if none of those float your boat, Darjeerling Limited and Michael Clayton are two of the best movies i’ve seen this year (I’d put only 3:10 to Yuma and Sicko in the same class as them) and even though they’re playing in fewer screens and all the buzz about them might have dissipated, I think there’s a lot to like in both of them and they are great cinematic experiences.

Michael Clayton is a great thriller. It moves at a fast pace, it’s got great performances by Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson and it poses some really interesting and relevant questions to our day and age.

Darjeerling Limited is made by one of my favorite directors: Wes Anderson. I love the way Anderson layers his films with texture upon texture of visual material on screen and at the same time his scores are so interesting that it’s just a completely different experience to your senses and the the stories and characters on screen complement that as well with their complexities. I also relate to his characters so well. His protagonists usually struggle with a feeling of being trapped by their relationships and gradually come to appreciate all the people who are part of their lives. The focus is usually on relationships between people, usually the non-romantic kind, and they never feel artificial in any way. This film focuses on three brothers and the ordeals of these three syblings on a trip to India seem far-fetched unless you’ve had a sybling yourself.

This isn’t anything too far away from Wes Anderson’s past work, so if you like him or don’t like him, than I don’t recommend seeing it, but it’s unique compared to his other pictures and it transports us to to a different place: Quite literally, with the film set in India, as well as who he presents us with. Adrien Brody, who’s never been in a Wes Anderson movie, fits right in alongside Jason Schwarzman, Anjelica Huston, and Jason Schwartzman.

As for films I’m looking foward to seeing:
Bee Movie-I’ve heard mixed reviews but I think it seems like an interesting enough story and the hype is overpowering
Lars and the Real Girl-To see what Ryan Gosling is up to, and this story about a guy and a blow-up doll who he pretends is his girlfriend just sounds too good to resist
American Gangster-Director Ridley Scott can be counted on to deliver
Bewoulf-Well, I read the book (or rather the poem), now I gotta go see the movie. One of the interesting marketing strategies: They’re flat-out admitting that they’re tampering with the source material, like it’s news. Have you ever seen a movie that copied the book line-for-line?
There Will be Blood-About a Texan oil family, considered an oscar contender
Charlie Wilson’s War-Mike Nichols previously directed edgy material such as Primary Colors, Birdcage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, and Graduate, he’s usually got something interesting to say about his subject which in this case is the Iraq war
Juno-Could be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine
Lions for Lambs-Definitely think this film will be great. Unlike most of America, I don’t think jumping on a couch means translates into bad movie producers. I think whatever Cruise’s acting ability or religious views are, he’s always had great taste in movie projects and is an excellent producer. This film will be really good.

In other news, there’s a film festival in Falls Church’s State Theater on November 13th, which should feature some pretty exciting work.

We also have the Writer’s Strike going on which is a pretty dangerous thing to the state of television at the moment. For one it reveals the sad truth that all the beloved figures that we like to watch on TV late at night, don’t actually make up their jokes or speeches. That actually surprised me in the sense that Jay Leno, for example, is a prolific stand-up comedian: He tours cross-country whenever his show is on hiatus, and he doesn’t bring writers along, so you’d think he could write his own jokes. But again, this affects everyone: The Daily Show, Colbert, Conan O’Brien, Leno, Letterman, Spike Firestein, Furgeson, unfortunately.

The main discomfort I’m having with this, is that the usual place to go to for topical spins on current events are these late night talk shows, so i can’t really get any humorous commentary on the writer’s strike, at the moment.

Olympic Fever hits China
November 6, 2007

I find it interesting the way the media portrays China as a massive glob of herdlike people. I think this is why we get so scared of China as the next superpower. This article, for example, makes it sound like all 2 billion Chinese people have suddenly transformed into human record-breaking machines, when in reality it’s only 3 insane people. By the way, did anyone think to tell the mother of the kid who’s riding on whales that whale riding is not an olympic sport?

http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/news?slug=ap-chinese110507&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

DC IMPROV
November 5, 2007

Flip Orley – America’s Premier Comic Hypnotist from “Entertainment Tonight” – November 6 -18

Nephew Tommy – From “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” & “Showtime at The Apollo” – November 23 – 25

Bob Marley – From Mad TV, “The Boondock Saints,” and “Late Night with David Letterman” – Nov 28 – Dec 2

Tom Rhodes – From Comedy Central, “The Tonight Show” and FOX TV – December 5 – 9

Michael Loftus – From Comedy Central and writer on “The George Lopez Show”
December 11 – 16

Ted Alexandro – From Comedy Central, “Late Show with Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”December 18 – 22

Jeff Caldwell – Ring in the New Year with Jeff Caldwell from Comedy Central & “The Late Show with David Letterman” – December 27 – 31

Corey Holcomb – From “The Tonight Show” Comedy Central, and MTVs “Wild & Out” – January 3 – 6

Dennis Regan – From “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show” – January 8 – 13

Concerts in November and December
November 5, 2007

Concerts

Wed 11/07/07 Motion City Soundtrack 9:30 Club

Sun 11/11/07 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Verizon Center

Tue 11/13/07 Against Me! 9:30 Club

Thu 11/15/07 Neil Young DAR Constitution Hall

Fri 11/16/07 Ani DiFranco 9:30 Club

Fri 11/16/07 Aqueduct Black Cat

Sat 11/17/07 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Rock And Roll Hotel

Mon 11/19/07 Jonathan Davis 9:30 Club

Tue 11/20/07 Art Brut 9:30 Club

Sat 11/24/07 Amber Pacific 9:30 Club

Sat 11/24/07 Tegan and Sara Lisner Auditorium

Sun 11/25/07 Keyshia Cole Verizon Center

Tue 11/27/07 Cold War Kids 9:30 Club

Tue 11/27/07 Richard Swift 9:30 Club

Tue 11/27/07 Dinosaur Jr. Black Cat

Wed 12/05/07 Johnathan Rice Rock And Roll Hotel

Fri 12/07/07 Ted Leo and The Pharmacists 9:30 Club

Mon 12/10/07 Brazilian Girls DAR Constitution Hall

Sat 12/22/07 Souljah Boy Verizon Center

Sat 12/22/07 Rufus Wainwright 9:30 Club
Fri 12/28/07 Patti Smith 9:30 Club

Tour of the metro
November 4, 2007

Yesterday, I took a tour of the metro headquarters on a field trip for my transportation policy grad school class and I would say the best part was seeing the control room where they operate the metro from.

You’d have to see this room to believe it (and unfortunately you can’t, because they wouldn’t let us take pictures for most of it), because it’s so enormous and looks so wonderfully futuristic. I felt like I was in one of those James Bond films in the villain’s lair, where there’s a giant computer screen up front and all these little consoles, but nonetheless, there’s a giant electronic map on the screen with every station and little rectangles on the screen of different colors (the color of the line) that move along it to signify where the trains are in real time. Little versions of that map are on consoles with 2 people on each line.

The people there are all very adept at managing the system, and I admire them greatly for it, because it seems like a lot of information is coming at them very fast that they have to process. They can’t neccessarily leave their desks like many of us can at our jobs. I don’t know if most people are aware of this (I imagine they are) but every train is individually deployed rather than on a computerized system. There’s a timetable that the conductors and everyone else in the system has to adhere to, but the trains don’t go off on their own.

They also talked about how they’re temporarily suspending the “next bus” program which gives you the time your next bus is arriving upon entering a Station ID but you can still call 202-637-7000 to find out about your next bus or train’s arrival.

Also, the University of Maryland (which I kind of mocked in my last article, all in good fun) sent some students on this field trip as well (as did George Washington) and their website is www.ltscm.com (it stands for their departmental program: Logistic, Transportation and Supply Chain Management).
They said they were planning on having some pictures put up on the sight from out trip (the areas where we were allowed to take pictures).

Washington has 2 of the worst mascots in the world
November 4, 2007

Hello everyone, my apologies to the DC Scene Blahg readers who have had nothing to read recently.

I wanted to bring attention to this hillarious article on cracked magazine (and by the way, cracked is a really good humor website. It’s so good that I almost wish the subpar magazine would be relaunched).

http://www.cracked.com/article_15646_worlds-most-ridiculous-sports-team-names.html

Nonetheless, the author of this article makes an organized list of the worst team names ever and the Redskins placed second on “Most racially insensitive” mascots behind a South African football team with the name “Dangerous Darkies” (a remnant from the Apartheid era).

Here’s the excerpt:
“Still in existence are the NFL’s Washington Redskins, who arguably have a pretty insulting name, as well. On the other hand, the use of that term to actually insult Indians is so outdated that kids these days probably think it refers to some sort of crunchy snack. However, concerned about the potential loss of this slur from our language, the team educationally provides a reminder in their logo. “

The 2nd school to be featured is Cardozo High School (in D.C.) which placed in the non-Threatening human category behind the Ghanan football team King Faisal Babies and the Cantralia High School orphans (nut ahead of the Ciaro Syrupmakers) with the team name the “Clerks.”:

‘The Cordozo Clerks are located near Washington D.C., which is still no excuse, because San Fernando Valley high schools never feel the need to name their teams the Pornstars.”

I would have to say that my undergraduate alma matta had a pretty silly team name the James Madison University Duke Dogs: There’s no such dog by that name, and when I tried to explain to my friend “our mascot with a crown on his head who thinks he’s royalty,” he responded “ohhh, so he’s a delusional dog?”

I might have been insulted if my friend didn’t go to neighboring Virginia Tech, which is one of the few schools that had an even worse mascot. As a general rule, Virginia Tech students should not be permitted to make fun of anyone else’s mascot. The Hokes would actually be a shoe-in in the above-list’s non-threatening animal category (cracked has UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs and Columbia College Fighting Koalas on the list). My two questions for those at Virginia Tech, since I have not visited your college much and am not familiar with your relationship to your macot, is a) do you have a thanksgiving tradition where you try to chase him around your field with silverware on thanksgiving and try to eat him on thanksgiving and b) why not? it sounds like fun

And can we take a minute to reflect on local school University of Maryland? No matter how great their basketball, soccer, and lacrosse teams are, it’s hard to feel threatened by a turtle. Is their cross-country team’s primary strategy to lull their opponent into a sense of false confidence and hope that they take frequent breaks over the race course?

http://www.cracked.com/article_15646_worlds-most-ridiculous-sports-team-names.html