Spam Baiting

May 20, 2008 - Leave a Response

Next time you see one of those messages in your in-box from someone in Africa who’s asking for your credit card information so you can help them with their crippling disease or project in Africa, why not get creative with them rather than deleting it? There are some people who have done just that with hillarious results:

The first person, John Cheese, is a comedy writer who decided to try to respond to scammers and see how bizarre he can make the email exchanges before the other person catches on (without ever giving away so much as an address). He has done this multiple times and posted his e-mail exchanges in multiple places. Here’s a sample:

http://www.juvenilecomedy.com/419.htm

The second person is a self-proclaimed spam baiter who attempts to get spammers to waste as much of their time on possible so theoretically they’re scamming less people. This particular person convinced a scammer in nigeria that he is in charge of a fund that gives scholarship money to people who can reproduce samples from american and british tv, and convinced two people in Nigeria to act out a monty python sketch for him:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvyrzQldOKE

 

Polvo At The Black Cat, May 9, 2008

May 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

I must apologize for an unforgivable omission from my concert picks column that was a disservice to all of my loyal readers (i.e.: Mom). Somehow, I let the Polvo show slip through the cracks, and it was probably the best concert I’ve seen this year. In my master list of upcoming shows, a Word document on my home computer with all the shows I plan to recommend, I had Polvo listed at one point, but somewhere along the way it was deleted. I almost forgot about the show myself until a friend reminded me about it the day before.

 

Seems like the math rock giants are reuniting in order of importance/influence/legend, at least in my opinion, which is the only one that matters and is always right. We had the Slint reunion a few years back. In December 2006, Chavez regrouped for a couple of shows. Now that Explosions in the Sky has convinced Polvo out of retirement, the band has scheduled some warm up gigs, the first of which was at the Black Cat. I felt privileged to be in the crowd, particularly because of how good the band sounded. The band apologized for missteps here and there, but those were either unnoticeable or inconsequential, not really interfering with the music.

 

The music was about as good as math rock gets, like a heavy metal band playing jazz fusion compositions. Polvo struck a perfect balance of thunderous, plodding metal and pretty ambiance. Though Polvo, like many a math rock band, can be repetitive, when the band struck a groove, it was hypnotic. There were times during some of the instrumental numbers, which tend to stretch into jams, when my mind wandered and I was maybe a little bored, which to me makes my assessment of the show all the more unexpected. Despite losing my attention at times, Polvo made an incredible impression on me. I left so amped, jazzed and excited — almost giddy — and I don’t think that’s happened since the Boris or Dinosaur Jr. shows last year.

 

And I’m bumping Chavez to number three. Too much emo in their arithmetic.

 

–Matthew Stabley, Music Snob

Washington D.C. Dragon Boat Festival Date Change Announcement

May 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

The 7th Annual Washington DC Dragon Boat Festival and Races, originally scheduled for this weekend, May 17th and 18th, has been postponed due to strong and unsafe water currents at the race site.

We apologize to participants & spectators for this unexpected schedule change.

A tentative schedule of May 31st & June 1st is planned for the Festival.

Please come out, between Georgetown & Kennedy Center to see some 60 teams compete for top places in colorful dragon boats, along with great cultural performances and pageantry.

For more information and updates, please visit our website, at:

dragonboatdc.com

DC Cabs & Meters

May 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

Well, finally I’m starting to see more and more cabs in D.C. using meters. They have until June 1 to make the switch from zones to meters but a few of the drivers are still using zones.

Last weekend, I noticed a big difference in the fare. Going from Georgetown to Ballston, it was $14 for 3 of us. Before with zones, that trip had cost around $19. For the most part, meters will benefit the average rider, esp those who are out late night and don’t have to worry about traffic driving up the cost of the meter.

Urge Overkill At The Black Cat, April 27, 2008

May 15, 2008 - Leave a Response

Part of the draw of this show was the probability that this band was still a mess, that I’d get to see them fall apart on stage and I could have a good laugh. But really, the hope was that they’d play the kind of punky-yet-arena-worthy-and-still-trashy power pop they mastered in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The kind of rock that had so many people with an ear underground thinking they were the next big thing in rock music when they did get a major label deal during the alternative rock explosion. Though the band harnessed that energy of its youth, it didn’t bother to play many of those old songs.

In a way, that was an eye opener. Unfortunately, this band is best known for its cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” a song off the 1992 “Stull EP” that originally was just a tossed off cover but later became a noteworthy single after it was featured in Uma Thurman’s overdose scene in “Pulp Fiction.” That’s probably what killed the band. It really wasn’t their kind of music or their style, but it earned them a new audience — while alienating some of the old audience — that their first DGC album didn’t. Of course, the following album, “Exit the Dragon,” didn’t capture the new fans the way “Girl” did, and they revolted, and its cleaner sound alienated even more members of the old audience, and the band was essentially dead on its release. But the songwriting on the album was terrific.

That became clear on stage at the Black Cat 13 years later. While UO ignored most of their early material, they played the latter stuff with the raw energy and snarl of their youth. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. The band was tight, heavy and catchy, as well as witty. Singer/guitarist Nash Kato remarked that back in the day they were familiar with a D.C. response of “are these guys on crack?” an obvious and easy jab at the straight-edge scene, but one that was well played in light of UO’s history of destructive excesses. “Ian MacKaye’s passed out downstairs,” Kato joked.

The band promised a new record in the works, and hopefully they do it right. That is, the way they started. Maybe the window is still open for this to band to be the next big thing in rock.

–Matthew Stabley, Music Snob

A little bit early to declare this a $100 million dollar weekend?

May 12, 2008 - Leave a Response

If you check the news on most internet outlets or listen to the radio right now (I’m writing this late Sunday night/early Monday morning, 12:27 AM to be exact), you’ll see news about the film Iron Man having had a $100 million plus weekend. Specifically, boxofficemojo has the number at about $750 thousand over the 100 million mark. This is somewhat of a big deal as only a small handful of films have ever grossed that much in a 3-day period. Spiderman was the first to do it in 2002 and since then, 6 other films have done it (Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Carribean II and III, Star Wars III, Shrek II and Spiderman III), so it’s an even bigger deal for a film to do it that’s not a sequel and this early in the summer.

But, I digress, here’s the thing. Does anyone ever wonder how the reports of the box office weekend can come out before the weekend is over? Movie theaters around the country are just beginning to close at this hour and the general managers are counting up the revenue produced at the box office for the day. That’s an entire third of the weekend. Well, what actually happens is that the box office gurus predict the weekend count based on Friday and Saturday’s take and extrapolate for what Sunday is supposed to be. On Monday afternoon and even on Tuesday, studio estimates will continually be updated as returns come in. So the actual figure of whether Iron Man grosses $100 million dollars is a very loose figure, but it still is one that newspapers will take and run with tomorrow morning. Keep in mind, the actual figure could be higher or lower than the current estimate, but either way, $750 thousand is a small enough margin of error, that newspapers should mention because if they don’t, it wouldn’t be an entirely honest headline that will line the top of the arts/style/life sections of newspapers nationwide tomorrow morning.

So whatever happens, Iron Man is pretty much now a hit and has made history as the first non-sequel film since Spiderman to gross $100 million in a single weekend, even if it really hasn’t. Five years ago, Matrix Reloaded was given a very low exit score by dissapointed viewers walking out the theater, and it’s not particularly well-remembered today but as far as the studios are concerned, it will always be known as a commercial success for its historic first weekend and history is likely to repeat itself tomorrow morning.

On a side note: The opening number for a weekend box office gross is very important, as movie theaters make a mid-week decision as to what to run the following week, based on weekend box office figures. As a result if a film doesn’t have a good opening weekend, it haseven less of a chance of doing well the second weekend and each subsequent weekend thereafter, so be sure to see a film you want to support between Friday and Monday.

 

 

-Orrin

Why am I supposed to root for college teams like Maryland and Georgetown?

March 15, 2008 - One Response

I feel like the Washington Post Sports section wants me to feel sad if Maryland, Georgetown or any other local college team isn’t doing well, and elated if they do do well. Michael Wilbon’s columns say things along the lines of, “This year is a great year for us in the D.C. area. Maryland, GW, and Georgetown are having great basketball years,” when I really don’t see those colleges as of concern to me. I surely can got onboard a winning streak from a Washington professional team like the Capitals or Wizards because I’m a Washingtonian, but am I supposed to be rooting for local college teams as well? Is that the general notion?

I have no affiliation with colleges like Georgetown and Maryland and to be honest, I actively dislike some of them. I take grad courses at Mason, so I’m very much rooting for them, and I took piano lessons at GWU and attended the open jazz sessions so I like them as well, and that’s about it.

I suppose some counterarguments for not caring about local college teams are that:
-You would think that I would naturally form friendships with people from every college over time, which is partially true but not too much
-If and when one of these schools wins big (like Georgetown last year) the town will go wild and I’m free to partake in the enjoyment.

Georgetown vs Louisville

March 7, 2008 - Leave a Response

Tomorrow’s game is being touted by the Washington Post as one of the most exciting games of the season: The two best teams in the Big East will play each other in their last game of the season which is a historic first of some sort. I think they might be exxagerating the historic nature of the event, but nevertheless, it should be exciting and fortunately it’s taking place at Georgetown. I believe Georgetown is on Spring Break at the moment, is it not?
Georgetown plays Louisville.

Dengue Fever And Exit Clov At Black Cat, March 1, 2008

March 4, 2008 - One Response

The local fan base Exit Clov has built is staggering. I always admired the band for their relentless self-promotion — the constant local gigging, passing out fliers and free CDs on street corners — but I only recently realized how effective the effort has been. Buried in as the second of four bands at a show at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Feb. 1, I was surprised by the push to the front and the moving bodies this band inspired (not that they don’t deserve it, just that local acts don’t usually generate such buzz prior to getting national attention). On Saturday, there was, again, a strong Exit Clov crowd as they opened for Dengue Fever at the Black Cat. Those fans are just in their allegiance, but some of them demonstrated a stubborn indifference that serves them poorly. After Exit Clov’s set, I overheard several clusters of their fans debate whether to stay for the headliner. Most of the people involved in these conversations spoke about knowing nothing about Dengue Fever. I tried to will them to stay and learn. Judging from the leaner room when the headliner took the stage, my mind powers failed — or are insignificant.

Live, Dengue Fever didn’t quite match their records. Some organ, saxophone and guitarist Zac Holtzman’s picking were able to recreate some of the Eastern sounds and Ethiopian jazz, but it was largely a ’60s psychedelic garage rock sound, heavy on surf rock. A lot of it sounded like it should show up on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Still, it was an impressive performance. This band weaves various influences — those already mentioned and others like jazz fusion and Bollywood — and sounds authentic, more retro than retro. Singer Chhom Nimol was adorable and in great voice, and her stage presence was as sweet as Selena — at least how Jennifer Lopez portrayed Selena on screen. I’ll admit to knowing nothing about Selena before the biopic. (Cred check: It was on cable and it starred Jennifer “Bosoms” Lopez and I fell asleep halfway through and had to ask someone later that night how Selena was actually killed.) Though the band is touring in support of a record just a few weeks old, “Venus on Earth,” they didn’t focus too much on that material. One highlight was “Pow Pow,” a Ros Serey Sathea cover from their self-titled debut LP, that started out with a burst of punk energy. The lyrics were mostly sung in Nimol’s native Khmer, but judging from the new record, that’s a smart move. Many of the English lyrics on that album seem trite. It’s the one knock on the album, which sounds great. I just prefer it when I don’t know what she’s singing about. One exception is “Sober Driver,” a simple tune about a girl who only calls a guy when she needs a ride and about how the guy is starting to think she might not be worth it, or at least that he’s worth more. Holtzman — sporting the fakest looking real beard I’ve ever seen — and Nimol shared the vocals on that one and the other English-language song with passable lyrics, “Tiger Phone Card.” Those “Venus on Earth” cuts where overshadowed by the album’s first track, “Seeing Hands,” a brilliant, haunting number with a steady groove. The best moment, though, was when the ever-saccharine Nimol pulled two audience members on stage to sing “I’m Sixteen” — another Sathea cover from the self-titled record — with her in Khmer.

For their part, Exit Clov was as good as ever. They keep things mixed up, not playing cookie-cutter versions of their songs. They embellish the songs sometimes, hold back and leave more space at others. While the set didn’t copy the Rock and Roll Hotel show of a month earlier, it did include the same “DIY,” “MK Ultra” and “Moving Gaza” progression late. But it wasn’t a copy, either. They dragged out the intro to “MK Ultra,” which concluded with a somewhat unexpected but welcome and encouraging roar from the crowd (check out the video here), and the post-punk “Moving Gaza” closed with a heavier finish. And I also noted that the band used more violin this time around, giving it more chamber pop moments, which they execute so very well. The band’s seamless blend of rock, post-rock, jazz, neo-post-punk/nü wave, prog and pop was on perfect display. It’s that kind of ear for music that probably leads them to such bills as Dengue Fever.

So I wish Exit Clov luck as they head on the road toward SXSW, and I’m confident they will perk some ears in Austin, in anticipation of their first, and overdue, I’d say, LP. So if you haven’t familiarized yourself with this band, check ’em out when the come home to Iota on March 22. And if you are familiar, don’t leave so quickly when they open for another band — Exit Clov has good taste and they can show you a thing or two you probably weren’t expecting.

Classes I enjoyed taking

March 4, 2008 - Leave a Response

In today’s edition of the Washington Post within the Metro Section, there was a great article on interesting classes taught at college.
Here are classes I enjoyed taking:

1. Anthropology-The Washington Post quotes a student from 1935 who said that anthropology was a complete waste of time better situated to the 1890s than the 1930’s. Well, it’s the 2000’s and I think it’s back. I got a C in this course because the questions on the tests were so arbitrary and vague but on the flipside, I had an enormously entertaining and funny professor, who did things like do Austin Powers impressions (it was the summer after Austin Powers: Goldmembers) and stick a finger into an electric socket to note the difference between science and religion. There are a lot of disciplines like sociology, psychology, media culture, philosophy, etc. that challenges our way of looking at things, but personally, I feel that the other ones involve a little bit of common sense

2. Urban Geography-I learned the history of the D.C. area and all kinds of fascinating things about how suburbs first came to be formed. Since this course was taught an hour away Mary Washington, where I first attended college; a good amount of our focus was the Washington D.C. area, so we learned about how Tyson’s Corner was once upon a time (not too long ago, 30 years ago) just a soda shop, and now it’s the 13th biggest economic center in the country. We learned all kinds of things like how traffic in 2000 in Manhattan goes almost twice as slow when horse drawn carraiges were going through the streets in 1900; how parking lots are set up because people are unwilling to walk more than 600 feet at a time which is also why malls are set up so that people can’t see from one end to the other with plants in place and all; how glass elevators were designed to protect against rape; how the names of many suburban housing complexes like Pheasant Run, East Meadows, The Woods at Fairfax, etc. reflect the English and later-American traditional dream of owning a little piece of the countryside, even though ironically, the housing complexes are tearing those very same countrysides down. I also did a project with two other guys, both of whom I made good friends with and continue to keep in touch with, where we went into a Salvadorean pocket of immigrants in Bailey’s Crossroads and learned about the community.

3. Cultural Geography-I was a geography major and didn’t regret it at all because that was full of mostly very interesting classes. In cultural geography, we learned about the spread of culture and the class was full of interesting material, such as how music spreads along geographic lines (i.e. rap is found in cities, jazz started in New Orleans and spread along the Mississippi River), how gang culture is exported to Guatemala, how you can mathematically tell about the culture of a place just by looking in a phone book, how different languages can be created by barriers like mountain ranges and oceans.

4. Energy and Transportation-I transferred to James Madison after two years and in order to graduate in two years, I didn’t have room for a single elective, but my senior year, I decided to take this course and postponed graduation for another month anyways. It was the year of Hurricane Katrina and when gas prices started to spike up for the first time, and I thought it would be interesting to understand how it all worked, plus it complimented my urban geography class. The course gave me a C+ (most of these cool classes, unfortunately, resulted in low grades for some reason, often because the “cool” teachers might not have had standardized tests and things which I do better on) and the teachers relied too heavily on google and wikipedia, but we did a lot of interesting experiments, like make our own biodiesel, melt wax, and grow our own ethanol-producing plants. The class taught me where oil came from, how it was running out, and generally scared us to death about how bad the state of our energy resources are

5. Kinesiology-Kind of like an advanced version of P.E./Health at the college level. Two days a week we played sports, so who can complain about that. Being forced to exercise twice a week was definitely a good way to make sure I kept in shape. One day a week, we’d have health but it wasn’t the kind of lame health classes we had in grade school which serve the purpose of warning us of the dangers of drugs and sex. These classes taught us about exercising in ways that won’t result in us getting hurt, dealing with stress and eating nutritiously.

6. Film Courses-Offered at most colleges, these courses helped make up for the difficulty that I had transferring. I met a number of people with like interests, and spent time watching films. These weren’t electives because I ammassed enough film courses to make a minor. Aside from being exposed to some of the best and most influential films in history and getting college credit for it, films can also teaches you a lot about society and history.

7. Band-In between Mary Washington and James Madison, I took a course from George Mason University and thought I might try to do something social while I was there, so I joined the concert band for half of a semester and it was a lot of fun. I was in the band in middle school and a year of high school and I enjoyed it but there was also a lot of pressure to be good and subsequent feelings of rejection for not being that good. When I joined the band at George Mason, I felt liberated from the pressure and didn’t care that I was last chair in my section. That was probably the most fun I had with music.

What classes did you all enjoy taking?