Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Come check Gouda's new digs! :)

I've been away for a long while, and the time has come to close the Gouda doors, however, I'm still lurking around on the internets. Come to my new site, Ask Allie Anything and drop me a line! I promise to feature your question and a patented Gouda answer. :) I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Flag FAIL

I was eating lunch yesterday in one of those chain restaurant establishments after which "Chotchskies" in Office Space was modeled, and among the deluge of knick-knacks and other "pieces of flair" bedecking the staff and the walls around me was a giant American flag. I found myself initially noting its garish size, but then thought that I really do appreciate the aesthetic nature of our stars and stripes. It's bold, edging on boisterous, and its symbolism is pretty self-evident. It could also never be confused with the flag of another country, like a lot of those "three color blocks and nothing else" flags. Yes, I'm talking about you Mexico and France! This is not a patriotic statement in the slightest. Viewed simply as a piece of cloth, Old Glory is just pretty.

I then began to ponder the flags of other nations, and I realized that while some of them were also notable in the aesthetic sense, others were just downright silly. Now look, I'm not insulting your nation by insulting your flag, but come on. If a flag is supposed to encapsulate the greatness of your country on a single piece of cloth, then I think it's pretty easy to say that Canada blows. A maple leaf? Come on! Leaves are not only exceedingly bland, but they make your lawn all messy in the fall, and they're weak. A baby can tear one in half, for crying out loud! Look, I have a lot of Canadian friends. They are good folks, but their flag is gay. Sorry Canada. Fail.


Japan's flag is ridiculous. A red dot on a white field. Oh the unsavory things this symbolizes for me. Namely waking up in the morning to find you've had a bloody nose on a pristine pillow case. Look, I know that Japan is all minimalist Zen-like, but this is ridiculous.


You want a much better suggestion for the Japanese flag? Look no further than the Karate Kid. That's right. Cobra Kai, bitches. Strike First. Strike Hard. No mercy.

Then we have copy-cat countries. The ones who decided to look at the guys next door and go: "Well, what's good enough for you is good enough for us. We'll just change the colors around a little bit and no one will notice. Chief offenders: Sweden and Denmark. Granted, both countries are homes to things I love. Ikea and delicious breakfast pastries, respectively. But this is no excuse to have flags that look like poorly-wrapped gifts. If I received a present wrapped in the style of a Swedish or Danish flag, I'd set it on fire. That's right, kids. Giftbags are perhaps the way to go.
Oh, but the atrocities don't stop there. In fact, there is a whole world out there to cover. If only I had the time to pick on them all. But don't worry, I've saved the worst for last.

Poland. Please, do your countrymen a favor and try to do your part in eliminating the ancient stereotype that you're stupid, once and for all. Changing your simpleton-like flag would be a good start.

Northern Marianas has a flag that could only be described as infinitely tacky. I could sit here and stare at it for hours and still not figure out what exactly it's trying to tell me about that particular nation. What is that stone thing behind that giant star? Why the bridal garland? Listen, I'm sure all of this gaudiness is significant to the people of Northern Marianas in some way, but to the casual observer, it looks like something that was stitched together during arts and crafts hour at a nursing home. Oh, and in case you think I'm getting too cocky, remember that Northern Marianas is an American territory. Marianas needs to do a better job of representing. Just sayin...


Technically, the following flag is not for a specific country. It is for an organization of countries. This is the flag for OPEC. Nevermind that it makes the work of Salvadore Dali and Picasso look completely logical, and that it makes the wrinkled ass of John McCain look nearly appetizing. To me, it looks like four heads, one of which is being eaten alive while the other is running away screaming, which I guess is kind of appropriate. The thing is, OPEC's flag could be so cool that it could feature Chuck Norris having a sword fight with Charlton Heston and it wouldn't even matter. This flag fails just for the fact that OPEC is partially to blame for making me pay nearly $70 to fill up my gas tank. Screw you, OPEC.


But worst offender on this list is miles ahead of all the rest when it comes to making the visual senses nearly vomit. I don't even know where to begin, but Brazil has really done their nation a disservice with this doozy of a flag. The color scheme is putrid. The layout is awkward. What's with all of those stupid stars? And the words across the middle? Very bad form. This fail is bigger than the biggest shaking ass at Carnival.

I'd hate to sound biased, however. After all, the only flag in this entire blog I've praised so far is the American flag, and some of you might be thinking that this is incredibly unfair. But in my research, I have found a flag that trumps every flag ever designed in the entire world. I don't even need to see the other flags to know this. And why? Because this is the kind of flag that everyone wishes they had. Especially someone like me. Libya, you may be full of insane people and are on my personal Top 5 List of countries in which I fear being stuck. But no matter. Your flag is fucking genius. Oh yes, some might call it a tad plain. Perhaps uninspired. Empty, Spartan, or downright depressing, even. But no... your solid green field with absolutely nothing on it is the pinnacle of flaggy awesomeness. It means I can make your flag say anything I want it to say. It's so ironic, really, from a country not particularly heralded as a bastion of freedom, that your flag allows me to have so much of it! Here's my tip of the hat to you, Libya! Hope you like the falafel.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


Or more like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Da Vinci National Treasure X-Files Mummy Code*

If there is one thing that can be said about the latest Indiana Jones movie to come out in nearly twenty years, it's this: don't let anyone ever tell you that a 65-year-old man can't play an action hero. Harrison Ford remains a stalwart marvel in this film, and anyone deigning to make walker and wheelchair jokes can quietly set about eating crow. Forturnately and unfortunately, however, there is much more to say about Indiana Jones and Words...Words...Words... Let's start with the good news.

There is no shortage of thrills in the latest installment in this franchise. From breathtaking chases through city streets and rainforests, to some downright creepy moments (particularly for the insect-phobic), Kingdom delivers the adrenaline-laced goods without hesitation. Harrison Ford portrays the older and wiser Indy exactly as he should have, as a man who has visibly aged, who is a little slower, more cautious, less cocky, and not quite as lithe, but who is just as hardy and determined, and perhaps even smarter with age. Shia LaBeouf was also a welcome addition to the cast, and made cocky greaser Mutt Williams likeable and relatively sympathetic.

Now, for the not-so-good, which unfortunately tips the scales. What made Temple of Doom fall far from the greatness of the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and solified it's last place on the roster after The Last Crusade was lack of chemistry between Indy and another leading character. There was no Marian Ravenwood or Henry Jones Sr. that allowed Indiana's charisma to shine, and the movie simply failed to ignite on the character level. The very same can be said for Kingdom. Although it doesn't disappoint as much Temple of Doom did, it didn't come close to rising to the occasion of matching the interpersonal magic other two movies. While it was intended for Shia Lebouf to fill the heartfelt character role, there wasn't quite enough substance there to allow their chemistry to flourish. The return of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood should also have been enthusiastically welcome, but the result fell short as the story did little more than just stick her in the middle of the action with nothing to do other than inspire nostalgia and deliver insipid dialog.

The villains were also a weakspot in this film. Because the plot takes place in the mid-50s, Indiana Jones is no longer fighting Nazis. The country is at the height of the Red Scare, so Russians are the enemy, and Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) is public enemy number one. Leading a group of Russians to acquire the ultimate in psychic weaponry from the Peruvian rainforests, her aim is to ultimately rule the world through mind-control. Blanchett clearly had fun with the role, enunciating every Ukrainian-tinged syllable with abundant zest. The problem is she wasn't nearly imposing enough. If the idea of an enemy is to create a sense of danger for our heroes, she actually failed quite miserably.

But now to the most controversial plot addition to the Indiana series. It is one that will have fans split down the middle and perhaps more than one person seething at the name of George Lucas at a level that nearly tops the ire directed toward the Star Wars prequels. Although Lucas didn't physically write the screenplay, his influence over the story feels quite palpable here. Indiana Jones has faced all manner of supernatural events, from the lethal energy of the Ark of the Covenant to the healing power of the Holy Grail. We accepted these things because he was just as much of a skeptic as the rest of us. But science fiction? Aliens? UFOs? This may just be asking too much for even the most ardent Indy fan to accept.

Some will argue that it fits the timeframe of the story well, as pop culture and folklore revolved heavily around UFO sightings at the time not to mention what happened in Roswell, New Mexico, and if the adventures of Indiana Jones are based on the pulp adventure stories of their time, there is nothing incongruent here. The problem is in the execution, as it puts Indy on completely different territory than we're used to seeing him. As a bit of a realist, he's normally just as skeptical as we are about some of these legends, and in that healthy skepticism, we always had someone we could trust. Jones knows Gods, idols, and artifacts of human civilization, and he is a dependable hero because we are able to rely on his knowledge of these things to carry him through danger, and by the end, we always felt he learned something new and was significally affected by what he saw. But even Jones was a little out of his element here, and the climax just felt awkward. He seemed neither surprised nor affected much by what he saw, and as a result, the audience can't help but be underwhelmed as well.

Overall, though, the film was not as major a disappointment as it could have been, based on the fact that what it did do right, it did well enough to keep a smile on my face, even if I felt that it was on a different dimension from the other films. The enduring likeability of Harrison Ford has a lot to do with this. Even with its slightly lackluster dialog, 2-dimensional characters, and its higher-than-normal demands on the viewer to suspend disbelief, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a worthy enough trip to the theater. The key is just lowering your expectations and shutting off that part of your brain that insists on adding logic to the mix, which has always been key to enjoying any Indiana Jones film. Just be sure to bring along your tolerance for whimsy on this one, because you're definitely going to need it.

Final Grade: B-

*Caption help courtesy of Ian T. Healy, good friend and fellow writer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Political Math Lesson for Hillary Fans


The West Virginia Primary was today. It was a race that Clinton was widely expected to win. Something about demographics of comprised widely of ignorant hillbillies and racists makes elections a shoe-in for Hillary, but nevermind. While the delusional Clinton campaign (and the media who loves it) sets about its usual course of painting inevitable races as unexpected victories and "surging momentum" in a race that has essentially been over for months, I figured I would fill in a Paint-by-Numbers of the remainder of this exhausting and most disgusting of Democratic Primary seasons for those who are still under the impression that Hillary still has a real shot at the nomination.

1. After tonight's primary, there are 189 total delegates left up for grabs. Hillary needs 172 of them in order to tie Obama's lead.

2. Even if Oregon (a state that Obama is expected to win by 20 points or more) didn't vote next week, Kentucky (another state that is in Hillary's column) will give him enough delegates to clench the majority of total delegates.

3. The delegate gap between the two candidates after tonight will be 168.5 (this is assuming a net of 10 delegates for Obama in WV based on exit polls). This means Clinton needs to pick up a net of 84.5 delegates to not be mathematically eliminated. This means she needs to hold Obama to 9 delegates in Oregon. 9 delegates. In Oregon. That would mean she would have to hold Obama to an 8 point lead in a state where he's leading by 20 with only a week to go.

But what about the Superdelegates, you might be wondering? Easy.

4. Let's give Hillary a 65% win in KY, WV, and Puerto Rico and Obama an 8 point victory in Oregon. This is the miracle scenario that makes the raising of Lazarus from the dead look like Jesus merely farted.

Hillary needs 80% of the remaining Super Delegates, or 191.

Obama needs 25% of the remaining Super Delegates, or 62. He's gotten 24 Supers this week alone. And that was leading up to a race that no one counted on Obama winning.

5. The Clinton campaign is 20 Millon Dollars in debt. Hillary's desire to run has more than outlasted her resources, or gross lack of them.

Once Barack Obama clenches the majority of pledged delegates on May 20, this race will be over. No amount of Kentucky and West Virginia lovin will be able to stop it. It's done. It's over.

That's no spin, folks. It's simple math. It can't be spun. Now, here are some potential scenarios that could net Hillary the nomination:

1. In a giant battle between Godzilla and Mothra, Obama gets stepped on.

2. Hillary finds a time machine, goes back to 1961, kills Barack's mother.

3. Four words: Obama. Airport bathroom sex.

Good luck, Hillary!