Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boxers or Briefs?

The infamous question asked of Michael Jordan in the Hanes commercial now 10 years ago. Since that time, Michael has been a phenomenon in the underwear world. There are even ads of other famous personalities (namely Cuba Gooding, Jr., Kevin Bacon, Matthew Perry, and Charlie Sheen) playing on the coolness that obviously Hanes has made Michael. I personally like Michael Jordan. I remember watching him face off with Dominique Wilkins in 1988 in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. It was where ‘air’ was born. Anyway, I digress.

So, does a woman really care if her man, the man she likes, or any man she sees for that matter wears boxers, briefs, or (Allah forbid) bikinis? In the original commercial, you can’t see the men that the ladies are grading, but you can imagine. So what does the type of underwear that a man dons tell you about him? Let’s look at the basic types and maybe we can tell.

First, the brief. These are the traditional underwear of men. These have a Y-shaped fly for obvious reasons, and no not that. The waist and legs have elastic bands to ensure a snug fit. The traditional color is white, hence the term ‘tightie-whities’, but these tend to come in most colors under the rainbow and various printed designs (my little boy wears ‘Cars’ themed undies).

Next, boxer shorts, or boxers. These have an elastic waist but the legs are loose fitting similar to shorts. There usually is a fly with or without buttons, again for obvious reasons. This type of underwear is looser fitting and does not offer the ‘support’ that a brief does. Boxers are available in colors, patterns, pictures, logos, and slogans. Boxers are also made of various materials such as spun cotton, flannel, knit cotton, and silk.

I want to mention a hybrid-type of underwear that has become more mainstream in recent years, the boxer brief. Boxer briefs try to take the best of traditional briefs and boxer shorts and make them into one piece. They are form fitting similar to briefs (and may or may not have a fly, but why they wouldn’t I am not sure…go figure) but the legs are generally longer like those of boxers; think cycling shorts but with shorter legs, and probably no hot pink, yellow, or green stripes.

Lastly are the bikinis. These usually have small pieces of material in the front and possible in the bank connected by an elastic band. There may or may not be any material that covers any of the sides of the leg. No fly. Again colors are various as well as prints (animal is very popular especially zebra). Materials tend to be cotton or synthetic but also silk.

Who chooses what and why is for anyone to guess. This would be a good poll. For me, I prefer boxers as they are the most comfortable. But I am also a fan of the boxer brief which also is comfortable and a little more vogue today. And the bikinis…not for this post. lol

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You Are Where You Have Been

I just finished reading Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels.[1] This is a recommended read. This book explores the history of a boy whose outlook on life is redirected by events related to the Second World War. Two things that I especially liked about this book: first, this author is a poet taking her first voyage into the world of noveldom; second, the characters are real. Now, it should be made obvious that the book is based on actual proceedings. Consequently, some of the nitty-gritty of certain events is included.

But one thing about this book is that I actually ‘felt’ for the lead character. Although it may be a stretch to correlate, my life was greatly shaped by events in my childhood. Granted we are all products of our upbringing and all that comes with that. But when some to most of your early memories are painful or melancholy ... it is different. Not to disappoint, the character does go on to lead a good life. But the story doesn’t end there, so don’t let this review stop you from picking up a copy.

For everyone that has moments/memories in their past that they would like to change (myself included) but can’t, this book is a refreshing “kick-in-the-face”. Your life is only what you make of it. It has been said that your life plays out and that you can only make the day-to-day decisions that define the path. This book makes me think that this view is flawed. It negates to account for the major decisions that we make. We consciously make the decisions that direct our futures. It is the day-to-day events that are difficult to control. So, do not attempt to forget or cover-up what has happened in your past for it has made you who you are today. But make your decisions today based on where/what you want to be tomorrow. I will.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Life’s simple: kill or be killed!"

I like movies, but who doesn’t. I am always a sucker for a good comedy or action film. I’ve even been known to enjoy a few chick flicks with my awesome wife. We’ve seen several of the new movies that came out over the summer. Some of which I won’t mention for the benefit of my juvenile and senior readers. But one that I do wish to mention is Babylon A.D. I don’t consider myself a huge Vin Diesel fan, but I have enjoyed his movies.

How can you go wrong with a movie about fast cars and illegal activities? You can’t. In another life I may have been a sci-fi fanatic, but I keep it to a closet secret in this one. Anyhow, the Riddick films (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick) were great and I look forward to the next installment that is in the pre-production stages. But I held back from buying the action figures. ‘Cause then I would have to share them with my kids. Anyway, Vin Diesel is one of those burly tough guys that you like to see move and kick ass; like Schwarzenegger in his early days. Okay, so you get that I like Vin and a good selection of his movies. But this one was different.

The movie was underwhelming, to put it best. The action sequences weren’t what they could be and the plot was muddled with holes. The movie is based on a French novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Georges Dantec. The story line is heavy in doomsday politics. Here’s the quick breakdown. The world has come to near anarchy in the not so distant future. Guns and force rule. Naturally, Vin Diesel plays Hugo Cornelius Toorop (Toorop), a mercenary. In an attempt to take control of society, the leaders of a religious cult have created a genetically altered girl that is near perfect and has powers/abilities that are on the level of artificial intelligence. Problem: The girl has been raised in a remote convent in Asia to avoid her discover until the time was right. Solution: Hire a kick-ass mercenary who can transport her safely across international lines to New York City. Oh and did I mention that Toorop is considered a terrorist by the U.S. government and thusly not allowed to cross the border? So now you have what the premise is and you can guess the rest. Anyway, it wasn’t worth seeing in the theater but maybe at Redbox if you are a Vin fan.

But aside from the shortcomings of the film, it had a good soundtrack. Nearly all the music was performed by a band by the name of Achozen. If you have my page on mute, take it off and have a listen. This song, Dueces, is the opening song in the film.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mayday, Mayday!

It is one of those days. You probably know what I mean. It’s just not that easy to wake up, let alone get out of bed and start your standard routine. To complete the day, it would need to be dark, gray, and rainy; me curled up in bed with a good book and the person I care the most about. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and there is no fairy godmother. So, we move on and get it done. But what is the downward spiral that we feel? Why does the psyche get into this zone and what is meant when we say that we are ‘down’?

Let’s look at the different forms that ‘down’ can take. As a noun, down means a downward movement, descent, or a turn for the worse. It can also mean a slice of toast at a diner or casual restaurant, or the soft, first plumage of many young birds. And my favorite is a mutation of down: downer. Anyone or anything can be a downer if it invokes the actions or feelings mentioned above; well maybe not the toast or bird references. Note: you don’t want to be this.

As an action in a verb or adverb, down takes on a fuller image. It can signify movement from higher to lower and on or to the ground, floor, or bottom. It is this movement that I sense. Not a hitting of the bottom as being all the way down, but more of a directional shift toward the bottom. The bottom of what is another question for another post another day. It can also mean to be in or moving toward a calmer, less active, or less prominent state; to the point of defeat, submission, and inactivity; in or moving into a fixed or supine position; to fall; to put or knock down; to subdue; to cause to fall from a height, especially from shooting. These are all somewhat negative connotations to the simple word down. But he’s not all that bad. He can also mean in a book or on paper; in an attitude of earnest application, to drink quickly or in one gulp, in cash at the time of purchase, or toward the lee side as to turn a ship windward.

But perhaps as a modifier or adjective is where down does most of its work. It means downward, ailing, downcast, depressed, dejected; behind an opponent in points or games, losing, finished, done, considered, or taken care of; out of order.

Lastly, what would English be without its idioms? Down and out, down cold or pat, down in the mouth, down on, and down with. So just like all the other four letter words that are considered taboo, treat this one with care and use it when you really mean it.

Down but not out.

A Little Poetry or Prose

High up in the air, like a strung out kid, I am weightless. The horizon is a new challenge, but I'll never win. Always just out of reach and I keep playin’. Up above my problems. Up above my fears. Up above the world. I am a bird with no eyes. I can go anywhere, but I can’t see the way. The sun warms my back while the Earth cools my belly. I have a hunger that knows no satisfaction. My house if filled with priceless art that I don not own and cannot touch. Admission is granted with a smile and happy thoughts. Coming down. Coming down. The ground hits me like solid liquid. I am in the midst of it all. Working in it. Living with it. Eating it. You'll Bee one and overcome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Comeback Kids

Why do we allow comebacks in music and film? It has always baffled me. They had their chance and for one reason or another it passed. Even though actors and musicians may continue to release music and movies past their prime and even remain popular, the quality is just not there. They stick to what they know; what’s safe. However, this doesn’t win over new fans or critics. It takes a ‘shake-up’ or dramatic revelation in the media to bring the focus back.

Now, I’m not down on any particular artist or music style but there are two in particular that come to mind that fit this mold. I will talk about one of them here; Mary J. Blige. I will be the first to admit that I liked her back in the day. I even owned her first album What’s the 411? But during the mid- to late-90s alternative rock was all the rage and that was what the cool kids were listening to. However, it should be noted that during this time period Ms. Blige continued to be successful releasing several hits and winning a Grammy for her collaboration with Method Man on her second album My Life. But then in December 2005, she released her seventh album The Breakthrough and what a breakthrough it was. Ms. Blige collaborated (another post to come about collaborations) with nine different artists/groups/duos on this album. So, instantly there is buzz because people like J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, will.i.am, and 9th Wonder were involved. Another boost was coming though. In February 2006, Mary J. Blige appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She talked all about having a hard life and how she had been molested at the young age of 5. Oprah took to her like flies on sh… well you know what I mean. And she continues to be enchanted by Ms. Blige. This was recently reaffirmed by Oprah including Growing Pains (the most recently released album) as the CD in her influential ‘favorite things’ list for summer 2008.

Not only did Oprah like her but so did the critics and fans. The Breakthrough was flying off the shelf! And it didn’t stop! She went on to win nine Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, two BET Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Soul Train Award. This is not to mention the eight Grammy Award nominations that she received, although she only won three. Now is it just me or does that seem excessive? This is someone who has been popular with fans for a long time but not critically acclaimed for ten years since her last Grammy Award. Everyone wanted a piece of the media frenzy that followed Ms. Blige that year, and they did. Mary J. Blige’s ‘comeback’ is not uncommon in the entertainment industry, but for some reason sticks in my mind. One last note further illustrating the pattern of her media rush was the release of her eighth album, a greatest hits compilation.

I think that it’s great when an artist releases a film or album that demonstrates good work. But for the media and award groups to pounce upon it is asinine. It’s no wonder that it is so hard for an up and coming star to ‘make it’ in the entertainment industry; as those who have to influence to realize those dreams act like ADHD kids without their meds jumping from one shiny object to the next in unison and without much thought.

It's A Beautiful Day

My family and I just returned from a trip to San Diego, California. Let me just say that there is a God and that even though Phoenix may have been overlooked in the creation phase (as I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in the furnace like hell that it is) there are some places that are near perfection. This was my first visit to Southern California. The weather was gorgeous; hovering between 70 and 80 degrees. The humidity makes your skin feel soft and supple; in contrast to the dry and scaly feeling that normally accompanies life in the desert. The people that we came in contact with were nice and courteous, and believe it or not the traffic was not that bad; even I was shocked at that.

We hit Legoland. This is a must see if you have young kids and even if you don’t. It was really fun, even for me. The restaurants were great and the scenery unparalleled. There is something about sitting on the beach, feeling the warm sun on your skin, hearing the waves gently crash upon the sand, and seeing surfers coast on the tops of the rolling water that is so peaceful. I think that I could be happy as a beach bum. But then again who couldn’t? I didn’t get a chance to try surfing or body boarding, but they are on the list for a future visit. We had a great time full of little adventures and can’t wait to go again. My wife even claims that I was ‘looked over’ as we passed a gay bar on our way back from dinner one evening. I have been hitting the gym a little more lately, but didn’t think that I was totally metro. Oh well, what you gonna’ do?

My only regret is that we didn’t get to visit Tijuana. But then again, from what I hear it’s not that cool. My wife and I will have to visit one of the more touristy places in Mexico at a later date with no kids. Any recommendations for where is best are welcome. Hang loose!

Friday, September 5, 2008

"You are going to be a rich man"

As we grow up and begin making choices for ourselves, we have an oversupply of advice. You are told by advertisers to “buy now” and “don’t wait ‘til tomorrow”; friends say “all the cool kids are doin’ it” and “you can’t get pregnant the first time”; parents say “be home by eleven” and “as long as you live under my roof, you’ll follow my rules.” Let us not forget the subtle – yet powerful – messages that we find in crunchy little cookies commonly served after Asian meals; the fortune cookie. What is it about fortunes that we find so intriguing? I think that it’s the slightest possibility that someone else may have insight into your future activities and/or wellbeing. This is most likely the same reason that palm readers, astrologists, and fortune tellers continue to draw new and repeat customers; despite the ludicrousness of their claims. I have to admit that I enjoy cracking open the fortune box to reveal a statement of revelation not to mention my lucky numbers (the Powerball lottery is up to $92 million).

Can you imagine someone back in the ‘90s opening a fortune to find the phrase “business opportunities will present themselves to you soon”, only to watch Mad Money that night and hear Cramer yelling about how great a buy Enron is? Or perhaps your cookie relays the message “you are surrounded by caring friends” and the next day those same friends forget your birthday. In all seriousness, I have wondered about the sayings that appear on the papers and have asked myself if this one was ‘meant’ for me. Did the stars align last night and we experience a near cataclysmic destruction of live as we know it? Probably not. I believe that fortunes are great for making us stop – even if for only a brief moment – and think. Just make sure that you sleep before making any big decisions; and remind your friends that forgetting a birthday is an unforgivable sin.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Washington, Here We Come

So, it is a sad day in the world. The republican’s last hope of having a semi-respectable chance-in-hell ticket just went down an Alaskan pipeline. Now I do not embed myself with either republicans or democrats and do not claim affiliation to either party. But in the immortal words of Forest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.” I heard Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night. Can I say - not impressed? Disappointingly, I found her caddy, immature, and just a poor speaker. It was like listening to a candidate for a high school student body election. She didn’t say enough about why she was a good candidate for vice president; other than she is going to break that glass ceiling that Hilary put so many cracks in. But really, when John McCain dies can you imagine having the country run by a soccer mom or even a hockey mom? No offense to any of the soccer or hockey moms out there but the stereotype is there for a reason…it’s true.

My favorite bits were when she talked proudly of her selling the jet on eBay and telling Congress “thanks, but no thanks” to the earmark for Alaska’s bridge to who really cares where. But aside from the ‘a hjucks’ that her “progressive” statements may have reaped there are real issues here. Hmmm, Alaska is really far away from the rest of the states. It might actually make sense for the governor’s office to own a jet to avoid the restrictive commercial airline schedules and potential time and money savings. Who knows? But even better is the bridge stance. Mrs. Palin was for it when she ran as governor. But when the construction costs nearly doubled, she decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea (not a good way to maintain your constituency). But it gets better. What she failed to mention was that Congress converted the earmark to a grant prior to her decision. So, when she so brashly told those stuffy old men in Congress “thanks, but no thanks” her state still got to keep the $225 million to do with as they please. Now let me think. Is a $2 million dollar jet that actually serves a purpose more of a waste or is the $225 million that was supposed to build a bridge but was absorbed into the states budget? Again I digress to Forest Gump when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, in this case, it looks like just a bunch of nuts. Consolidated sources and more info.

Too Be, or Not To Bee?

I finished reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss. It wasn’t the easiest read to get through; as it was all about punctuation and the correct use thereof. But I was pleased in the end. Reviewing the rules of where to place the apostrophe when forming a possessive and the functional differences between a semi- and a full-colon took me back to my English classes of high school. I must admit that I am not a grammarian (for that is what they are called) by any means, but I do try to write things clearly and correctly. Ms. Truss gives you an awful lot of information, albeit some un-useful to the common reader, to consider. Thinking about the different sources I read, I came to an alarming conclusion; or perhaps not so. Most people don’t know how to punctuate! Truly! Simply looking at emails that are sent unedited and not proof read for errors is a telltale sign of it. However, the most egregious misuse of punctuation (and spelling for that matter) is blogs. You’ve seen it and so have I; the blatant over-emphasis of continuously misspelled and mispunctuated words through CAPITALIZAITON, italics, bolding, and (my personal favorite)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’d like to include two small passages from the book that I found to be of particular importance.

H. W. Fowler’s book, although he being dead for more than 75 years, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, is still regarded as the definitive English style guide in most of Great Britain. He wrote, “An excessive use of exclamation marks is a certain indication of an unpractised writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational.” I couldn’t agree more. So, if you are guilty of this most irritating offense, please stop.

Near the close of her book, Ms. Truss wrote the following, “We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and allusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.”

So the next time you write something, take a few extra moments to review your punctuation. And for my personal sake and that of every other reader out there, run a spell check!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Do you love your mom?

Do you ever have thoughts like ‘I should do something more to conserve’ or ‘What can I do to help preserve the planet?’ Well, you are not alone. ‘Being green’ has been the vogue thing to be lately. Using less and reusing more is in everyone’s best interest. Some of the problems that we face currently are the result of actions by our parents, their parents, and their grandparents. We also benefit from progress made over their lifetimes. Things such as lead-free paints, lighting and ventilation requirements in the workplace, and vehicle emission restrictions are just a few of modern conveniences we partake of due to others’ actions. There are numerous examples of progress if we only look. And, of course, many of these actions are in their infancy and not suitable replacements for true accountability but they are a start. Are you ready to be responsible for what our generation has or has not done?

Awareness is the first step. As consumers, we are constantly bombarded by messages such as ‘environmentally friendly,’ ‘post-consumer material,’ and ‘landfill safe.’ These claims sound good, but what do they really mean? The casual member of society will not know. This is where the internet is a huge asset. We have nearly unlimited access to information at our fingertips (literally). It can be a daunting task to determine where to make changes to your current lifestyle in favor of ecology. Common suggestions include replacing your light bulbs with more efficient CFLs (compact fluorescent light), maintaining proper air pressure in your car tires, and installing a programmable thermostat in your home. But what if you already have done those things and want or can do more? I came across a great website, thedailygreen.com. This site is aimed towards regular people like you and me that want information on the environment and on what they can do to make a difference. The site will even give you local temperature, air quality, where to find green food, and where to recycle based on your zip code. Take a look and make a difference.