Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dreaming of a White Christmas

It's half-way through November already, which means the holiday season is almost over. How is that even possible? We're not even in the month of Christmas and already I'm sick of hearing carols being played over the loudspeakers at Wal-Mart. And why the hell am I still shopping at Wal-Mart? I thought I had more of a moral backbone than that. I'll tell you why: because I've only got $1600 to my name and I haven't even put down the security deposit and first month's rent on my new apartment in Pittsburgh yet. I haven't even found my new apartment in Pittsburgh yet. Nor my new job. It's a work in progress.

But I'm getting along alright because the Holiday Spirit is in the air, and nothing makes me happier than some nuts roasting on an open fire, provided they aren't my own. It's not the carols (definitely not the carols), it's not the lights or the decorations--it's just that cozy feeling that starts seeping into my pores around this time of year that makes me want to curl up under a blanket and watch the Wallace and Gromit shorts and family movies from the '90s until I fall asleep. And not even just the Christmas ones--give me Man of the House and Camp Nowhere and I'm good to go, come winter. So despite my impending bankruptcy, my lack of job prospects, and my relatively directionless future, I'm feeling pretty good. It also helps that Jess keeps telling me that everything is going to be okay, and due to her spectacular organizational skills, I pretty much believe everything she says. You don't think I pick out these clothes myself, do you?

But Christmas does not mean all gingerbread hugs and candy-coated kisses. It also means having to see my family. As excited as I am to be moving in January, it couldn't hurt if I were moving a few weeks earlier to just avoid the whole thing. It's not that I hate my family, I just don't exactly... see eye-to-eye with them on a lot of issues. Like the fact that gay people are the scourge of the earth and that divorce is sending the United States by way of the Roman Empire. The problem with my family is that they've lived in the same town, surrounded by the same people all their lives. For generations. My family came to America in the 1680s and settled within twenty miles of where we all now live, except my craaaazy great aunt Mary who moved to Florida in the '60s and never came back. So they don't get out much. By which I mean, most of them have never spoken to a black person.

Which is what has me worried about the looming get-togethers that will begin when we flip the calendar page in a week and a half. In case you haven't heard, we've got a black president on the horizon, and as much as my relatives aren't racists per se, I'm sure they'll have plenty to quip about that. My grandparents just had their 50th anniversary and at the party we had for them on Saturday, my uncle already had a handful of jokes about our President-Elect. "I don't know what everyone's so worried about," he said with a grin, "when was the last time a black guy held onto a job for more than four years?"

I tried my best not to grimace.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good racist joke as much as the next guy, but that's because I think they are ridiculous exaggerations of complete untruths. Outrageousness is funny, and comedians like Sarah Silverman and Daniel Tosh make good money on pointing out just how outrageous the world can be, poking fun at the stereotypes themselves, not playing into them. I know that my uncle doesn't have a Confederate flag hanging off the back of his truck (not this particular uncle at least), but this is the kind of subtle ignorance that scares me more than full-blown racism does. At least if you see a bunch of guys in hoods tromping through town on horseback, you know whose heads to start knocking in (and yes, I am promoting violence here--they might have the right to free speech which I respect to no end, but I should have the right to teach them why their opinion is wrong with my fists).

I am more scared of the little jokes and jabs than I am of burning crosses. I don't mean to downplay the absolute horror of what people have done to each other throughout the history of our country, I'm just saying that I belive there is a quiet ignorance that smolders far longer and more dangerously than hate can. The people that believe Barack Obama is a Muslim are the ones that scare me; the ones that think he shouldn't be our President because he is are the ones that terrify me. And though I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about finding holes in my relatives' linens, these are the kinds of people that many of them are. So I'm not looking forward to seeing them and sitting through their jokes about how "It's the White House, isn't it? A-hyuk a-hyuk!"

But Merry Christmas to you all, already. On November 19th.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Chromeo, oh Chromeo. Wherefore art thou Opera?"

Continuing in my riveting coverage of Things That I Do That You Can Witness on the Internet, comes my latest update: that you can now see the interview Priya and I did with Radio New Zealand National's Bryan Crump for Roadtrip Nation online. It didn't work on Opera or Safari when I clicked it yesterday, but now today it seems to be opening in all three of the browsers I have on my computer, so whether you're on Opera, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Camino or even--heaven forbid--Chrome, you can watch our smiling faces in a snippet of our adventures through New Zealand. The interview was pretty enlightening, as you'll see, and the editing that Dan at Roadtrip Productions did is absolutely amazing. It almost brought a tear to my eye as it ended. Definitely worth a watch.

But on a serious note now, is anyone using Google Chrome yet? Does anyone even know it exists? I haven't seen much of a media push for it, and the amount of time I spend online is truly and completely inappropriate. Chrome, for those of you who don't know, is Google's own internet browser that has been in development since Google realized they could completely monopolize a user's time on their computer (look for GooPorn, coming in early 2009!) and was finally released in a beta version in early September. The browser has been hailed by some as a direct and viable rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with more customization and less security issues, but Microsoft insists that web users will "embrace Internet Explorer 8"--not too terribly far of a stretch when you consider just how lazy and averse to change internet users on the whole are (check out any and every online messageboard for proof of this.)

But Chrome has quite a good thing going for it, or so I've read. As they rightly should after stealing their entire design scheme straight from Opera Systems. You never heard of Opera either? That's okay. It's typically used as a reduced-footprint browser for mobile devices like PDAs and cellular phones. But in the past year alone, the browser has developed into one of the finest, cleanest, user-friendly browers on the web. Of course, you can't watch Netflix movies on it (hell, you couldn't even watch them on a Mac until last week), check your college loan status, or visit a number of popular but poorly coded websites without having the pages come out looking like mangled war amputees--but for simplicity and speed on all other fronts, Opera is hard to beat. It will never compete with Internet Explorer for exactly all of those reasons, but it is a great alternative if you're just surfing the net like so many of us often are doing. Of course, I would have said the same about Firefox four years ago, but look where that is now (read: bloated and slow).

So when Google developed Chrome, where did they look? To some new and influential technologies? To a completely revamped approach to the internet that would be sure to springboard them into competition with the Microsoft Juggernaut. Well, yes, if you weren't familiar with Opera (and most were not). Any way you spin it, Google manhandled Opera, ripping off its designs and concepts like a frat guy tearing the panties off a roofied freshman girl at a Homecoming Weekend kegger. Just look at Chrome's brand-new Thumbnail Homepage:

Pretty clever, right? Saving your favorite websites so that you can access them faster and more conveniently whenever you log on. I'd have a hard time finding fault in a new and innovative tool like--oh wait a second:

Yeah. Opera's Speed Dial. Looks kind of familiar doesn't it? The Chrome browser has also been touted for stripping away the extraneous toolbars and buttons that clutter the tops of Internet Explorer and Firefox windows. Take a closer look at the top of that Opera window--you're damn right, there isn't even a word there beyond the open tab. Looks like someone's already stripped, and let me tell you, she was a hell of a lot sexier.

The insiders at Google aren't even denying it. When the beta was released, I was in New Zealand with Priya, whose brother was working on the Chrome development team. She showed me the new browser, and, as an Opera user for the last two years, I freaked out. When she talked to her brother later on the phone, she told him that his project had its hands down the pants of an already existing (albeit unknown) one, and he responded: "How did you know about that?"

Now, I haven't actually used Chrome at all, so maybe they have taken Opera's ideas and developed them into something much better and sleeker. According to my friend Varun, however, it is not. "It's slow," he said when I asked if he'd used it--he had minimally on a PC and tried to port it to his Mac before finally throwing in the towel, "and kind of ugly." That was enough for me to not even bother. The only reason I have Firefox is so that I can access things like the video I linked that can only be read in it. Even Safari hasn't made it onto my dock (and I even have a shortcut to Civilization IV there). Opera is the one for me, and I'm sticking with it.

And now I need to get in the shower and scrub the nerd off me. It's sticky.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

How glad I am to say those two words. It really represents a step forward for our country to be able to vote into office a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama. Even despite the living, breathing, hate-filled racism that is so prevalent in states below (and unfortunately, above) the Mason-Dixon line, we have moved into a completely new age of social equality. Racism is not solved, equality has not been acheived--but we now stand at the cusp of an era where those goals are coming into sight.

Of course, not everyone is so happy. One such person is hyper-conservative, Native American writer "Bad Eagle" (given name, "David Yeagley")--and by hyper-conservative, I don't mean Pat Buchanan. I don't even mean Rush Limbaugh. I mean George Lincoln Rockwell and John Birch. Bad Eagle is what you and I would probably call ethnocentric. We'd probably also call him a lunatic. Mr. Eagle was my counterpoint on Radio New Zealand National's NIGHTS with Bryan Crump last night. He is from Oklahoma City, and as far as I can tell, is a professional blogger--though he'd have us believe that he is a "newsman." In so far as blurting your opinion on the internet is news, I suppose he is right. The interview can be found in RNZN's archives, just like the last interview I did with Bryan, and it is even more worth a listen, just to hear a complete and utter racist, sexist, psychopath rant on about Obama's Marxist tendencies and illegitimate, third-world past.

Yeah. He also said "Negro" three times.

There was also a third party in the interview, a married mom of one who has lived the last four years in New Zealand, after growing up in Deleware, but there wasn't much to say about her. She was a Democrat, but she was so flighty and typical in her support of "change" that I was almost as frustrated with her lack-of-opinion as I was with Bad Eagle's baseless ranting. I wouldn't say that the format of the discussion was a debate, per se, but those who have listened have told me that I "won." I just hope I didn't misrepresent the American people to a nation across the globe that already kind of looks at us as a mad scientist's social experiment gone awry. I know that I wasn't necessarily my sharpest on all of my points, but give me a break: I was on live at 1:30 in the morning and my head was all a-flutter with politics and FIFA 07 statistics! You're damn right Miller and I were playing our FC Dallas season while we watched the election results come in. The beauty of picture-in-picture television.

So I'm happy. I think we have a big chance as a nation right now. The entire population was tired of our current administration, and realized that things had to change--economically and socially. I don't think that President Obama has all the answers, and I know he won't be able to solve all of our problems--if any, in his first four years--but we have stepped up and shown the rest of the world that our young nation is finally growing into adulthood. Now we can only hope and pray that we continue in such a fashion and do not get lazy and let it all go to waste next time we are called to make a decision about how we would represent ourselves to the rest of the world. That's really what I fear, and we've proven, time and time again, on a number of levels, that we are capable of blinding ourselves to our future. Every time gas prices go up, people begin realizing that the huge cars they're pumping fuel into are in fact, maybe a little too big. But then, as soon as prices go down, they're back buying the Hummer, or whatever other enormous, cock-surrogate the news tells us we need to buy because IT GETS A WHOPPING 22 HIGHWAY MILES PER GALLON! My car was built in 1994 and gets 31. Geo stopped making their Storm, which got almost 40. I am not impressed by the Chevrolet Mountain-Fucker and its 18 feet per barrel.

But maybe this is our chance to turn it around. Maybe we can learn from our mistakes and realize that we need to start taking responsibility. It's something President Obama certainly believes in.

President Obama.

That makes me smile.