Guess who’s back? Back again? (Hint: it’s Eminem)

Rap is by far one of my least favorite forms of music.

And I use the term music very loosely here. I understand that rapping is art, a poetry of sorts, and that it takes immense skill and nuance to master. There’s a reason why only a handful of rappers become household names.

I just prefer music with actual instruments. With a more diverse sound. And people singing.

But I’m trying not to be ignorant here, because, it’s not that I seldom listen to rap — I never listen to rap. Pretty much every musician in the world would have to die on the same day for me to say, “OK, let’s give a rap shot.” And even then, I’d still consider Skrillex or Deadmau5 first.
Eminem

On a side note, electronic music may be the only thing worse than rap. It’s neck and neck.

That being said, there are some rappers out there who do I respect. And I know, earning my respect means absolutely nothing, but you’re reading my blog, so it’s relevant. Anyway, as I was saying, there are some rap artists I can hear on the radio that I could not only tolerate, but enjoy. That I could bob my head to. Maybe even give a little fist pump.

One of those dudes is Eminem.

When I think about Eminem, it brings back fond memories. “My Name Is” was released in 1999 — when I was 12 — right in the middle of the Total Request Live era. Those were good times.

Everybody enjoyed (and still enjoys) his next hit that followed, “Guilty Conscience,” his first collaboration with Dr. Dre. And then, he released the Marshall Mathers LP.

Thirteen years later, this album is pretty much considered the pinnacle of rap for Generation Y. It spawned hit after hit, including “The Real Slim Shady,” “Stan,” and “The Way I Am.” I remember my eighth grade art teacher allowing us to listen to it in class while we worked (which in hindsight … probably wasn’t the best idea), and I recall my brother playing it day-after-day-after-day in his room, to the point where I almost still memorize the words to most of the songs.

Again, in a weird way, this album actually played a big part of my childhood. At the 2001 Grammy Awards, it became the first “hardcore rap” album nominated for Album of the Year, and Eminem’s collaboration with Elton John during the show has become one of the most memorable awards performances of all time.

Shit, the dude even made a successful biopic about his own life that received critical acclaim, and won a freaking Oscar for a song that was in it.

MMLP2And now, he is back.

Not that he’s left us for an extended period of time, but, for the first time in a couple of years, he’s back. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 hits shelves on Tuesday, and as of yesterday, the album had already leaked. I’ve listened to a couple of tracks, including ones that feature Rihanna and Nate Reuss of Fun., respectively. And it sounds pretty good. I think it’s going to be big. I’d post links to some, but it’s not worth it because YouTube is likely on a prowl right now removing all of them. So find them yourself.

Eminem will probably be the talk of the town for a while, so whether you like him or not, you might as well just embrace it. I, for one, have no problem with it. If anything, I admire the man and his abilities.

And no, Macklemore is not this generation’s Eminem. Both men are white — the similarities stop there.

What I’m wondering is … did Eminem conveniently plan for his album to leak on Halloween — the same exact time when the popular candy M&Ms would be distributed all around neighborhoods to eager trick-or-treaters?

We may never know.

It’s not that I’m indifferent towards Halloween this year. I just forgot.

Every year around mid-October, I take a moment to analyze exactly what my thoughts are leading up to Halloween.

I don’t ever want to lose my festive spirit, or my zest for celebrating holidays, regardless of how meaningful that day really is. Because if you’re indifferent towards a holiday that most other people are excited for, then it could be a concern that you are just slowly becoming a miserable person in general.

HalloweenThat’s why, every year, when I do think about Halloween — or Christmas, Independence Day, New Year’s, etc.  — I hope that it does stir some excitement within me. I hope that I do want to join in on the celebratory customs. The last thing I want is for me to think about Halloween, and say, “This holiday is really stupid. I’m not going to do anything.”

Well, this year, I didn’t really do anything. At least not yet. I haven’t created a costume. I haven’t made physical contact with a pumpkin, or any type of orange fruit for that matter. I haven’t watched a scary movie.

But it’s not because I am purposely avoiding it.

It’s because I just simply forgot. And you can’t consider yourself indifferent towards something if you haven’t really set aside the time to formulate an opinion about it, right?

Don’t ask me why I forgot. Perhaps it’s because Halloween was smack dab in the middle of the week this year, and therefore there was no one universal day for it to be celebrated over the weekend. Or maybe it’s because at my age — 26 — we have a lot of other things to worry about. Like our jobs. And finding more income. That kind of takes precedent over buying a Halloween costume.

At the very least, thinking about Halloween, and the dressing up, the trick-or-treating and all the other crap, doesn’t make me angry. I still think it’s kind of cool. It just didn’t occur to me to be a part of it.

Two years ago, I wrote a post analyzing the evolution we undergo throughout our lives as to how we treat Halloween. It still stands to reason. We go from toddlers dressing up, to adolescents causing mischief, to collegiates getting schnockered, to mid-20s and being in that in-between-what-do-I-do-now mode. Naturally, as we age, we’ll get married, do the corny husband and wife costume duo, and then go through the whole cycle again with our own kids. And that, my friends, is life.

But what you never want is to have that one year where you simply lose interest. And with a couple of days left until “Halloween Weekend #2,” I am going to salvage this holiday season. As I’ve said before, the best Halloween costumes are subtle, and require very little craftsmanship. Which means there’s still plenty of time to throw something together.

That’s right. This guy is going to get into the Halloween spirit! Starting… tomorrow. Or Friday.

So the fact that I’ve forgotten about participating in Halloween in any way, shape or form so far this year does not bother me. Because I’m not miserable (yet), or grouchy (again… yet) or resentful towards other people who do celebrate Halloween enthusiastically (Though I probably will be when I go on Facebook in five minutes.)

If anything, I should be worried that my forgetfulness may be an early indicator of something terrible, like early onset Alzheimers.

Happy Halloween!

“The Fox” is the new Harlem Shake. People just don’t realize it yet

Do you all remember the Harlem Shake?

About eight months ago, it was everywhere. It escalated from a song, to a meme, to a parody, all the way to its own subculture. What was once fun, energetic and quirky, became old, overdone and excruciating very quickly.

And then, like a whisper in the wind, it disappeared. I couldn’t even pinpoint the precise time it left national consciousness. But it did. And until about a few hours ago, I forgot that it even existed.

But what made me think about it today is the new “funny song” that has suddenly emerged in pop culture. Some of you may or may not have heard it. Perhaps you just heard it talked about. But, either way, here it is.

I present to you: The Fox, by Ylvis.

A lot of you are probably thinking different things after viewing that. But the prevailing thought, regardless of what your opinion is, should be: “What the hell did I just watch?”

Because this song is very different. It’s not something you watch and say, “Oh, OK, that was normal.”

But let me go about explaining why this song is the new Harlem Shake. Only then can you understand where I am going with this.

For one, both songs are extremely unconventional. Harlem Shake, composed by German-American DJ Baauer, is an electro-house, synth-riff heavy dance jam unlike anything you’d hear on the radio. The Fox, meanwhile, isn’t even meant to be a serious song. Indeed, it’s written and performed by a Norweigian comedy duo and brothers named Vegard and Bård Urheim Ylvisåker.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, you have Baauer, Vegard and Bard. It sounds like the worst law firm ever.

Second, both songs were heightened almost exclusively by social media. You can’t use one metric to fully evaluate the impact YouTube had on Harlem Shake, because there’s so many videos. Its top parody, featuring the Noreweigan army (Norway again!) garnered 94 million views, 10 different parody versions (including the original) have accrued more than 25 million, and the actual music video itself has another 42 million. I don’t need my abacus to tell me that’s a lot. iHeartRadio Music Festival - Day 1 - Show

The Fox, on the other hand, is a lot easier to define. In just under two months, it has more than 173 million views.

Thirdly, the two songs’ social media success resulted in commercial success for each. People forget that not only did Harlem Shake reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it stayed there for five consecutive weeks. And as we speak, The Fox is #6 on that very same chart. That, to me, is the real indicator when you know that shit is getting real. The Billboard Hot 100 ranks songs based on digital and physical sales, and airplay. So if it’s up there, that means it is getting around.

Last, and most importantly, both songs are catchy. Why do you think Harlem Shake lasted so long? It’s because people actually enjoyed hearing it. It made us want to dance. And the huge dance drop about 16 seconds in nearly became iconic.

If you actually listen to The Fox, the singers sound pretty good. Disregarding the lyrics, the vocals are pretty smooth on the ears, until you get to the chorus, of course, which is when the song is not meant to be taken seriously anymore.

However, people are taking it seriously. For now. I’ve seen people praising the song on Facebook and Twitter. It’s yet to reach its peak popularity — or notoriety — so no one is sick of it yet.

But, like the Harlem Shake, it will not take very long for The Fox to be despised. And trust me, it will be. Maliciously.

It will have a longer shelf life, though, because, again — it’s a joke. The song was created by comics, not singers. This isn’t Rebecca Black trying to become famous. This is two dudes with weird punctuation in their names trying to make people laugh. And right now, they are.

But soon, those laughs will turn into tears.

And not tears of joy.

It’s time to nip Bitstrips in the bud before something terrible happens

Many of you may have noticed an upsurge of comic strips on your Facebook News Feed from, well, zero to… a lot. But the unique part of these strips is that the characters look very similar to your actual friends.

Well, this is no coincidence. Bitstrips, an app that has been downloaded 11 million times since its launch last December, has become even more popular since its new iPhone and Android updates were released in recent weeks.

I don’t own the app myself, but I get the point. It allows you to construct your own version of you, by picking your body type, hairstyle, clothes, among other things, and then placing your comic-self in a humorous context, complete with a caption.

It’s actually a very conducive app for people who are funny. If you have a good sense of humor, then that’s three opportunities for you display it.

And in the last couple of weeks, I’ll admit that I have enjoyed some of these comic strips. Their harmless, campy, uncontroversial, and it’s funny to see people’s interpretations of themselves via an illustration.

But here’s the problem: I know people. And people are not funny.

We all have one or two friends who are truly hilarious, and who, if they probably wanted to, could maybe pursue a career in comedy and possibly gain a following. Those people are funny. Other people — your friends who are teachers, accountants, paralegals — are not funny.

So despite the massive potential that Bitstrips has for humor, we all know where this is going. It’s only a matter of time before all the unfunny people of the world begin to abuse it, and make us decry that this app was ever conceived.

But that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s so new. And that’s why I am imploring everybody in the world to just stop right now. By eliminating this app from society, we wouldn’t be missing anything because most of us never knew it existed until this month. And we’d be saving ourselves from the inevitable shitshow that’s going to ensue.

In fact, I’ve already noticed a worrying trend. I’ve seen a couple of people who are using the app to convey the mood that they are in. As in, “Jacob is upset,” or, “Dana is angry.” They’re basically treating it like a new-age emoticon.

Again, it bears repeating that we will benefit from this app — because funny people will utilize it correctly and create illustrations that make us laugh. But for every one of those, there are going to be 10 more that make us shake our head. Let’s avoid that.

I’m just looking out for the greater good. Because the only thing that’s worse than annoying Facebook trends is the public reaction to annoying Facebook trends. It’s a lose-lose situation for all of us.

So let’s get it all out of our system now. Make your comics while they’re still fun and welcoming. But by the end of the week, I really hope the only strip I see is in a dimly lit room surrounded by velvet chairs, cigarette smoke and overpriced liquor.

RIP Colleen Ritzer

We hear about death every day.

And I’m not going to lie, when I see an article or a news story about someone who died, or was killed, it doesn’t really affect me. And what I mean that is I don’t let it affect me. Because I didn’t know who this person was 17 seconds ago. Do I wish they were still alive? Of RitzerMOScourse. But I’m not one of those people who’s going to hear about a death on the news and suddenly let it ruin my day.

If I wanted to, I could investigate into the person’s life. Or hear interviews from the people who loved him or her. And then I’d become sad. Because that person would be more real to me. They would mean more to me than just a name.

But I don’t want to be sad. Who does? So I don’t do any research, and just move on. When people die, it is — rightfully — their friends and family who mourn them, who remember them. Those are the ones who knew the deceased best, and will never let their memories of them die.

However, yesterday, I read about a death that really, really devastated me.

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook about Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher in Danvers, MA, who was stabbed to death inside of her school’s bathroom by a 14-year-old student.

I couldn’t help but click on the link. I needed to know more. At the top of the article, the first thing shown is a photo of Colleen, and it’s hard not to notice that she was very pretty. But then I kept reading, and the article, written by Gawker, included a link to her Twitter account. Further intrigued, I clicked.

It’s a Twitter account unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. There’s no complaining, no immature jokes, no selfies, no ambiguous or mindless comments.

Instead, it’s full of homework assignments. Colleen Ritzer actually used her Twitter account for a practical purpose — to inform her students of each night’s assignments. Every night. She didn’t miss any.

But that’s not all. She posted corny math jokes, including a photo of a pumpkin inscribed with the Pi symbol. She ended a good portion of her Tweets with a smiley face, and was encouraging towards anyone who Tweeted at her, whether it was a student or a friend. Heck, one of her Tweets even showed her enthusiasm for an upcoming Parent-Teacher Night.

That’s right. She actually had such a passion for teaching that she couldn’t wait to inform parents about it.

Here’s another one of her recent tweets:

Rizter2

And somehow, inexplicably, she’s dead. This vibrant, intelligent, delightful girl was stabbed to death by a 14-year-old student. How does that make any sense at all? Words can’t express how much this upsets me. The world needs more people like Colleen Ritzer, but instead, we now have less.

Nearly 40,000 people already ‘like’ a RIP Colleen Ritzer page on Facebook, and the Boston Red Sox paid tribute to her prior to last night’s Game 1 of the World Series, as pictured at the top of this post.

Again, if you watch the next edition of the news — on any station — there will be another tragic story about someone else who was murdered. And the same will happen tomorrow. But this is one that deserved to be brought to attention.

And after learning about it a mere 24 hours ago, I know I won’t soon forget Colleen Ritzer.

So there’s a Lego movie that is happening

I’ll admit I was a bit bereft for topics today, when I suddenly recalled something that I only learned a few days ago: there is a movie being made about Legos.

The moment I remembered this felt equivalent to finding a $20 bill on the ground. It was like hitting the jackpot.

We all know that familiarity breeds popularity. The more known and accepted something is, the more it will be spoken about. That is why film companies waste little time securing the rights to successful books, comics, characters, video games, and yes, now … children’s games.

Actually, I’m not even sure if Legos qualify as a game. It’s more like a puzzle. You don’t compete against other people, instead, you use the plastic bricks to construct miniature houses, vehicles, towns, etc. They’re actually quite educational for young kids, and enable them to obtain a basic grasp on several important life skills, such as engineering, architecture, problem-solving and more.

But that does not make it a movie.

Warner Bros. has slotted The Lego Movie for a February 2014 release. For those who are interested, you can view the teaser trailer here.

To be perfectly honest, the trailer is actually kind of funny. And cute. With the right amount of campy. In fact, with this movie seemingly catering to its youthful target audience, I think it can actually be successful. The graphics look fairly impressive. Morgan Freeman, Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks are attached to the project. Chris Lord and Phil Miller are directing the movie, whom already had success directing another kids’ movie in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. All things considered, this movie might end up being good.

But that’s not the point.

Legos are small toys. They exist to be played with by toddlers. Not to be the subject a full-length feature film with a multi-million dollar budget.

Nothing about staring at a Lego set should inspire somebody to say, “Wow, this would make for a great movie!”

Two years ago, a movie was made based on the board game, Battleship. I actually saw parts of it a few months ago. I am being completely serious when I say it is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The only real connection the movie had to the game was that it took place on a battleship. And really, there were no other connections that could be made, because that’s all the game really is.

But somehow, they threw aliens, large explosions, Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker in there and made it a movie. The filmmakers didn’t even attempt to conceive a plot and the special effects were so ridiculously over-the-top that is was laughable.

The point is, sometimes a board game is better left a board game. And whether the Lego Movie is good or not, that should still be the case. What is going to come next? The Beanie Baby movie? An action film adaptation of Checkers vs. Chess a la Batman vs. Superman? I’d make a Tetris Movie joke too, but something tells me that it’s already in the works.

Pac Man, you’re next.

The only positive I can think of with the Lego Movie is that it’s coming out in early February, meaning it will already be in theaters by Feb. 14.

Valentine’s Day date, anyone?

Owning a pumpkin ends up being a bad idea 100 percent of the time

I’ve decided that late October is officially the peak of pumpkin season.

The arrival of pumpkins into national relevancy begins sometime in early September, mainly in liquid form, with the onset of pumpkin-flavored coffee and ale in local coffee shops and bars. But with Halloween rapidly approaching, pumpkins become as prevalent in our culture as green shirts do among wannabe Irish people on St. Patrick’s Day.

Somewhere along the way, pumpkins became part of Thanksgiving, too. In fact, Halloween and Thanksgiving just seems like one big holiday at this point. They both involve not only pumpkins, but autumnal color schemes like brown and orange, leaves, the word “harvest,” and flannel shirts.

The only difference is one revolves around turkey and stuffing and the other around candy. With one holiday, I’m thankful for my friends and family, and the other, I’m thankful for trampy costumes on women.

But anyway, back to pumpkins. It’s customary for people to acquire their own pumpkins for holiday season. Some place them on their front lawn, others plop them on their desk, and people may even put one in their car for safekeeping.

I’m all for people developing a festive attitude, but sometimes I wonder if we really think things through when we go about owning our own pumpkins. Because I seriously don’t think people put as much thought into it as they should.

When you put a pumpkin on your work desk, or on your front stoop, it’s not like you’re putting any old decorative item there. For example, one could place a snow globe on their desk, and keep it their until the end of time. It will go unchanged.

But pumpkins rot. They start to smell. They attract insects and rodents. And when you actually carve open a pumpkin, it only accelerates the decaying process. If you leave a pumpkin out overnight on your front lawn, a raccoon or a squirrel is going to eat the shit out of it faster than you can even post a photo on Facebook.

And within hours, your cool-looking pumpkin suddenly looks like a deformed, mutated basketball. Last year, my company encouraged employees to participate in a pumpkin decorating contest. It was actually kind of fun. People went to great lengths and made some creative get-ups for their respective pumpkins.

But after a few days, nobody knew what to do. Throwing a pumpkin in the trash just feels weird. It’s not garbage. It’s not a used tissue. it’s an actual fruit (and yes, a pumpkin is apparently a fruit, not a vegetable.) Putting it in the trash bin would be like throwing out an entire watermelon without ever eating it. Even though we never had any intention of eating the pumpkin.

And seriously, who ever does eat a pumpkin?

So, I kept in on my desk. Days passed. Then weeks. Besides the fact that it took up a lot of space, pumpkins are also very awkwardly shaped and tend to not stay still. One nudge and it goes toppling, sending your entire desk into disarray. But again, I couldn’t toss it. Finally, the pumpkin started to turn a shade of brown — which I ignored — and then black. Which I could no longer ignore.

Possessing a pumpkin is almost like a chore, in fact. It’s comparable to a girlfriend you like just barely enough to not want to break up with and hurt her feelings.

Also, I can’t be the only one who thinks pumpkin carving is a little sadistic, can I? It involves taking a long, deadly blade, and brutally slashing it into a hard, meaty surface repeatedly. And by doing it multiple times, you only get better at it. In essence, we’re nurturing our knife wielding skills. For all we know, the Zodiac killer gained his inspiration after carving his very first jack-o’-lantern.

This topic is especially relevant to me because, this morning, my company once again rolled in a crate of pumpkins for this year’s contest. I was probably the least excited person in the room to see that barrel of orange spheres. Nonetheless, I gave into peer pressure and snagged a pumpkin.

Time will tell how long I hold onto this pumpkin. But unlike last year, I will not let this relationship last longer than it needs to.

Pumpkin, it’s not you. It’s me.