Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Philadelphia Magazine Does It Again...

( @Phillymag, #BruceSpringsteen )

Not three days after I posted this response to the most recent Philadelphia Magazine cover story, they flood my news feeds with this post about Bruce Springsteen.

What is the point? The writer hates Bruce Springsteen. That's it. I could point out that his reasons are obviously forced and carefully constructed to be just the right amount of snarky (to win over the hipster crowd), but why bother (okay I just did)? This is just another short-sited opinion piece that will do nothing to grow the magazine's readership or ads. I subscribed to the magazine a few years ago because I wanted to read about things to do in the city and people making a difference, I don't want to read about why a bitter writer hates Bruce Springsteen - and the dude doesn't even have good reasons!

Philebrity also takes the magazine to task, so you should probably go there next to read the comments because I am sure they will be extraordinary. I get it, this is the city that boos Santa Claus, so even "Philly friendly" artists like the Boss have to take their beatings. I expect this kind of shit from bloggers, but not a respectable city publication... grow up!

I shared my thoughts with the writer and we had this exchange on facebook...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Response: Why Guys Won’t Grow Up

( @phillymag, #guys )

The cover story of the March issue of Philadelphia magazine "researches the problem” of Why Guys Won’t Grow Up. This post is my response to the article. If you haven’t read it, please click on the link and then come back here.

Did you read it?

Ok fine, I will give you a short summary. Author Sandy Hingston lays out the lives of local young men who want sex with no relationships, plays video games all day, and of course have no jobs (or no careers). So what is my take on the article? Sandy Hingston is an alarmist trying to sell magazines.

This is the second time I have found issue with one of her articles (and it wasn’t like I opened the magazine seeking her out; I read the article, found it to be distasteful and then checked the last time I wrote a response to a Philly magazine article and behold... it is the same author!). It is just shitty journalism. She has an angle (guys are immature) and finds lame examples that support her claims. Allow me break down her examples:

1. 24-year-old Conner works part time as a blogger and lives with mom and dad. He doesn’t want to give up on his dream to be a journalist (and he is portrayed as arrogant because of this).

Conner is $100,000 in debt for his degree. His profession of choice is dying. Yet he manages to find a job working in this field 30 hours a week. I don’t think this is a shining example of failure or lack of motivation. Could he work another part time job to supplement his income? Yes. But if he went out and got an apartment that difference would be a wash.

So is Conner a loser for living with his parents at 24? Interesting question. I lived with my parents when I was 24. I worked 80-120 hours a week and opened a side business. I basically slept there and it was a place for my stuff until things calmed down. I also felt that renting was wasting money and the housing market was on a high that would crash (I was right about that, so I didn’t strap myself into a house that I overpaid for). I was able to save up enough money for a down payment and buy a car outright.

So is it wrong for a kid to come home from college after they incurred a massive amount of tuition debt and have slim employment options? I don’t think so. Going home for a few years to save some money is smart, and I know plenty of girls who are in exactly the same situation. I think making kids feel like failures for going home is setting them up for years of financial frustration. And if someone pulls the “in my day, once you left the house, you don’t come back” line - I would like to point out that the cost of college has proportionally increased 375% since 1980.

2. Hingston then mentions how it is a bad thing that men are getting married later and having milestones later in life.

First I would like to point out that men have to get married to another person, if men are getting married later, it is reasonable to assume that women are also doing so? Why is there an assumption that men are at fault? Factor in that the divorce rate is at 40.7% and the trends are only expected to increase, wouldn’t that give anyone a moment to really think about getting married?

This generation is the generation raised on divorce. Perhaps young adults just don’t want to make the same mistakes their parents did. Walking into a marriage with $150,000 in combined college debt is not a great way to start a life together. This is the accepted reality: you go to school, get in debt, get married (borrowing money for a nice wedding), and then strap yourself down to even more debt with a house and big fat mortgage.

PS: Considering that women also spend all this money on school, I can't imagine the first thing they want to do once they graduate is get married and start having babies.

3. Women are surpassing men in many success indicators

The statistics have to show this, there is nowhere to go but up. In the 1950’s, women made up about 16% of the workforce. Women currently make up 47.6%. So yeah - women are making a push to get what they deserve, and statistically that has to come at the expense at the other side of the pie chart.... which is men.

4. The example of James, 31, unemployed and living with his parents.

James is a self-centered ass (which I am sure Sandy encouraged to get gems like "I guess I am a catch"). Congratulations, you found someone to prove your point. I know three 30-year-old+ women who are currently unemployed and living with their parents.

5. This whole end section where it seems that decent men are so rare they should be studied (the typo is from the website and I am keeping it in):

Shaun Harper’s had a smart idea. There are young men out there, he says, who manage somehow to navigate the harrowing voyage through American culture and come out as “good guys”—men who drink responsibly, respect women, and behave in anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic ways. So he’s studying them: “We have a national study of mostly white, heterosexual men at large, mostly white universities with large fraternity systems”—schools like Penn State. He’s looking at how these “good men” develop and perform their masculinities in a culture where bad behavior is rewarded and admired. If he can identify what they share, he says, we can work to replicate it.
Really? Out of the hundreds of people that I know, I can count the degenerates with one hand. Once again Hingston twists quotes and “facts” to make it seem that there is some epidemic and actual “intellectuals” are looking into the “problem”.

The bottom line is that the unspoken social pact in America has been broken. The dream of going to college for four years, getting a decent job with benefits and a pension, and moving up the ranks to that corner office is dead and gone... boy or girl, it doesn’t matter. Our reality is that jobs are disappearing and will continue to do so, not just because of a bad economy but also due to innovation and automation.

The women that Hingson interviewed in this article talk about men being “immature” and “not wanting relationships” but the truth is that these kids can’t afford to be in relationships (hence free internet porn). I guess saying you spent the weekend watching every episode of "Lost" on Netflix eating a giant bag of generic brand popcorn because you can afford your cell bill isn't very attractive, but that is reality.

Sandy gets into this sour section towards the end of the article about the “downfall of men” - to quote Fight Club: “We are a generation of men raised by women.” I have written about this in the past, but once again I read about how women are lamenting the passing of a “real man” yet the iconic brute is held up as an example of what not to do. Schools are developing all kinds of policies to prevent “boys from being boys” (or actually exhibiting any kind of emotion). Sandy my dear - if you don’t like the way boys are acting, perhaps you should turn your critical lense on your own gender and document what exactly is an ideal sustainable lifestyle today.

NOTE: I am fully aware that by bringing attention to this article, I am giving Hingston and the magazine exactly what they want. However, I think that Philadelphia Magazine is losing the long term game because I am not sure who the hell they are writing this magazine for. I don't think it is people my age...

One would assume it is for young-ish people who have disposable income that will read the mag's articles about local attractions and make the ad space worth something. Instead they ignore those readers and court older people who go to Park on Sundays for brunch hoping to see former Mayor Rendell stare at some nouveau-riche divorcee's breasts and read articles about leaving the city to spend money somewhere else (pgs 76-81).

One more thing: If you agree with my response, do me a favor and retweet this article and please include @phillymag, I would love to see if I can get a response.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DME: Martin Miller Gin

( @zanelamprey #martinmiller )

Drinking Made Easy just posted an article I wrote about Martin Miller and his next level gin. Over the last few weeks, while I waiting for this baby to arrive, I enjoyed a few MM Gin & Tonics (they were damn good). Check out the article: DME: Martin Miller Gin

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: Cain by Jose Saramago

( #Cain, #JoseSaramago )

I picked this book up by chance the other day and knocked it out before I found a reason not to read it. Yes, "Cain" is about the guy who killed his brother (the first murder), but the book moves past that pretty quickly. Essentially, author Jose Saramago uses Cain to be an unbiased witness of all of God’s “divine acts of justice” during the old testament.

Saramago kind of absolves Cain from murdering his brother by establishing God as the antagonizer of the initial conflict. God accepts some responsibility for the situation but lays down a curse where Cain is thrown around time in a non-linear fashion (think “The Time Traveler’s Wife”). Cain then witnesses God’s old school greatest hits: Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac, God’s wager with the devil regarding Job, Jericho, and ending with the Noah’s great flood.

While Cain is not necessarily a heroic character, he is by default the character you are rooting for. Jose Saramago’s old testament God is nothing short of a colossal asshole: petty, jealous, and out of touch. Most of the “devout” heroes of religious lore are cast and moronic sheep that will blindly follow the Lord’s orders without any thought to the consequences. As Cain sees each act, he becomes more disgusted with God until their final confrontation at the end of the book.

Even with a bit of leeway due to the source material, there are some plot holes that the reader just has to roll over. Saramago doesn’t do a great job at the start of the book explaining the curse and the fact that Cain is being tossed around in time. I don’t have my biblical chronology memorized, so it took me a while to figure out what was happening. Also he spends a few pages talking about how the “mark of Cain” will be a great hindrance in his dealings with people, but it never is.

Those comments aside, I found myself enjoying “Cain”. The book has a fast pace - not lingering on any subject too long (which suits my reading tastes well). Jose Saramago handles the religious materials well and manages to conclude the book with a twist which was much appreciated. If you consider yourself a good God-fearing Christian, this book will probably offend you. If you grew up with bible stories, don’t get offended easily, and think old testament God was a bit of a dick, you will probably enjoy this book.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Book Review: Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker

( #zombies, #brains )

I just finished reading a short zombie novel called “Brains: A Zombie Memoir”. This books take a more comedic approach to the zombie genre by having the lead character named Jack (who is undead) retain his memories and ability to think and write. Jack assembles a team of zombies who have managed to retain certain skills like running or shooting a gun and attempt to find the man responsible for the outbreak.

This book is way too similar to another zombie comedy I read a few months ago called “Zombie, Ohio” by Scott Kenemore. Allow me to review the similarities:
  • Both books feature male lead characters that retained their memories after they become zombies.
  • Both characters were college professors.
  • Both characters cheated on their significant other before zombification.
  • Both characters quickly embrace their zombie natures and gleefully eat people (both books make it an almost sexual experience).
  • Both books have the main character assemble and lead a zombie army.

Like “Zombie, Ohio”, “Brains” reads like fan fiction... bad fan fiction. Becker is going for a comedic tone, so there is no tension. She uses terms like “yummy” when the zombies eat brains, and it comes off as childish. Like the zombies she writes about, the plot wanders. Jack the zombie eventually finds his way to the scientists, but by the time it happens you don’t care because Becker moves the reader past it.

While I don’t normally come down this hard on books, I felt that “Brains” could have been much better. “Zombie, Ohio” also had room for improvement, but the author had fun with the environment he created. “Brains” is a paint-by-numbers zombie story that just goes through the motions.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Book Review: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

( #EndersGame )

If you have been reading this blog over the last month, you will have noticed I have been on an “Ender’s Game” kick. I am sure you will be glad to read that Ender is ending with this review. “Ender in Exile” brings readers back to the titular character of Ender Wiggin, who I missed a great deal during the “Shadow Saga”. Exile is an auxiliary book, you don’t have to read it to understand the main storyline in either series, but it does fill in some gaps in the timeline that I actually appreciated.

This book takes place between the last chapter of “Ender’s Game” and the first chapter of “Speaker for the Dead”. Speaker kind of pissed me off because you never really learned about what Ender did with his teenage years or his twenties. This book attempts to fill that gap, but something strange happens along the way...

Most of the book is about Ender’s travel to the first colony (which was eventually named Shakespeare). Long story short, the ship’s captain is a pompous ass that doesn’t think a teenager can run a colony (even if he just finished saving the world). The captain positions himself to take over Shakespeare for himself when they arrive. Card creates an almost comedic tension between the two, I just kept thinking about the Home Alone movies (the kid outsmarts the robbers at every turn). Readers know that Ender gets to the colony so the fact that so many pages were spent on this conflict were a waste. While wasteful, it was nice to read about a youthful Ender taking people down instead of having a terrible marriage and loudmouth adopted children.

The last 30% of the book is spent on the Indian colony that Virlomi established. Bean’s last genetically enhanced child (who was raised by a crazy woman that Achilles hand picked) grows up on the new colony creating problems for that planet’s leadership. Eventually Ender leaves Shakespeare to deal with the situation as a favor to his lost friend. Card basically wraps up that loose plot thread from the Shadow Saga, so if you want to know what happens to Bean’s lost child you need to read this book.

I liked this book even though there really isn’t a solid reason to. Exile is like a mid-season throw away episode of a tv show. Basically you gets some cool character moments, but nothing important happens. Since Card gives up on Ender in the middle of “Xenocide”, I enjoyed reading Ender in his prime again. If you are new to the series, I would definitely read this after the original book because the character you love disappears after “Speaker for the Dead”.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Recipe: Pepperjack Pull Bread

( #cheese )

I found this recipe via Simply Recipes. Check out that site for more information and pictures.

1 rustic loaf of bread, unsliced, either Italian or French
12 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup (less or more to taste) chopped pickled jalapeƱos
1/4 cup chopped green onions, including greens
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the bread almost all the way through (not all the way) in a cross hatch pattern, spacing an inch between the slices.
2. Place the shredded cheese in a large bowl. Toss with the green onions and jalapeƱos. Pour over with melted butter and use your clean hands to toss, to distribute the butter evenly through the cheese.
3. Place the bread on a large sheet of aluminum foil (large enough to wrap the bread) on a baking sheet. Stuff every crevasse with the cheese mixture. Wrap with the aluminum foil.
4. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Then uncover the foil from the bread and cook for 10 minutes more, until all of the cheese has melted.