Monday, April 27, 2009

Walkthrough for The Fed: Quest for the Bull Market (For Playstation 3 and Xbox 360)

By Doug Lieblich * Other Doug Lieblich Posts

Level 1: The Federal Reserve Bank: New York Branch

What was that racket? Run out of your office into the trading room. You will witness a cut-scene of The Liberal Left ransacking the building. The ghost of John Keynes will emerge informing you that The Left has captured the seven Board of Governors as hostages. Look out for his three riddles. Answer: “No, we’re not in a recession,” “What do you mean by sub-prime crisis?” and “Yes, I miss Reagan too. We all do.” The ghost will give you gold-standard armor and disappear. Open the treasure chest behind the secretary’s desk and collect $5,000 Unmarked Bills. Take the elevator to the Federal Dungeon.

Level 2: The Federal Reserve Dungeon

Jump over the flaming tar pits. You’ll encounter a Socialist Chimera. You should have your gold-standard armor equipped and thus, will be resistant to his physical attacks. Keep casting Tax-Cutter and you’ll eventually lop off one of his heads. You’ll have to move fast and finish him off with Tax-Cutter. Otherwise he’ll cast Universal Healthcare to recover completely, and then you’re back to square one. When the beast falls, you’ll get $2,000 Unmarked Bills and 190 Experience Points. You gained a Credit Level! Turn left and pick up the gargoyle fang before you exit the screen (you’ll need it to learn your ultimate attack).

Level 3: The Federal Reserve Catacombs

Look for a Fat Mummy in one of the wall niches. Throw your Tax Cutter to open the bandages and free WARREN BUFFET. He’ll give you a gargoyle fang and join your party. Warren Buffet is a Hedge Fund Knight and extremely useful against Undead Economists. His supportive spells like ‘stimulus’ can increase your Interest Rate by two points. He has high intelligence and a strong business capital. He also comes equipped with a Thunder Axe. Continue over the bridge and break open the pot for a dragon orb, 50 Experience Points, and another Credit Level. If you haven’t reached Credit Level nine by now, I strongly suggest that you backtrack to level a bit more. When you finally reach level nine you’ll learn Tax Evasion, which raises your tax evasion. This will prove invaluable in your fight against Wall Street Douchebag.

Miniboss: Wall Street Douchebag

The dialogue in this cutscene is extremely confusing because you cannot tell when Wall Street Douchebag talks to you or into his Bluetooth phone. When the battle starts, scan his portfolio. You’ll notice he’s weak to cocaine and hookers. Throw bags of nose candy at his face while Buffet seduces him with Old Man Musk. Dodge his drunk driving Mercedes attacks and try to maneuver him into the Bear Sterns building. After enough damage, he’ll try to dazzle you with his Movado watch. Rapidly press B to resist becoming envious. When he starts radioing the SEC for help, bribe him with $3000 Unmarked Bills for the coup de grace. He’ll explode in a cloud of cocaine and stock options. You’ll gain 480 Experience Points and Warren Buffet will learn Demon Rage.

Level 4 The Federal Reserve Docks

Save your game and visit the merchants along the pier. Restock on calculators and nose candy. PRO TIP: Make sure to talk to the Mysterious Fisherman. Buy the GOLDEN PARACHUTE and REAL ESTATE IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS from him. You’ll need these to achieve the good ending in the game. Kill all the pirates in town. After you defeat the captain, the Secretary of the Treasury will approach you and request that you take the Federal Reserve Airship to the next level. DECLINE the request and ignore Buffet’s objections. Instead, talk to the mob boss and he’ll offer to show you the secret warehouse. If you have enough unmarked bills, purchase the third and final gargoyle fang. You should now be able to cast Government Bailout, which revives any bank, so long as its president has donated and is a member of your party. Escape the warehouse and run north past the dwarf village.

Level 5 The Federal Reserve Forest

If Buffet complains of hunger pains, give him some birdseed to abate his nagging. Now that you have all three gargoyle fangs try casting Government Bailout during your next battle against an angry mushroom. If you do so successfully, a dark shadow will appear, impressed with your skill. You’ll discover that it’s secret character, Henry Paulson. You’ll have to accept his challenge and defeat him if you want him in your party. Henry Paulson is a level 58 International Monetary Fund Lord—so short-selling his stocks or raising anxiety will have no effect on him. You can try summoning Jim Cramer to confuse him, but it will most likely just cause Paulson to lose a turn and confuse everybody in the battle. Make sure to return Jim Cramer to his Lamp of Insanity before his magic points are depleted. The most effective way to defeat Paulson is to throw a Conflict of Interest subpoena (you did remember to write one didn’t you?) This will paralyze Paulson, causing him to sputter incoherent statements as he rotates in place. Charge up and finish him off with Buffet’s Sexual Investment. The following cut-scene will show you why the game was rated M for Mature.

Level 6: Lehman Brothers Ruins

This area is the game’s stealth mission. Sneak through the enormous crumbling remnants of the once great Lehman Brothers tower without waking irritable investors and enraged shareholders. If one of them detects you, he’ll call his friends, pin you down, and force a credit default swap on you. If this occurs, reset the game. Your character will never be the same. Along a side path, you’ll find a wandering merchant named Charles Schwab. He’ll repeatedly offer you to “talk to Chuck.” Don’t be fooled--this is simply a reference to himself in the third person. If you’re running low on financial advice, feel free to purchase some. Otherwise, you’re better off investing your money on something practical like a new broadsword for Henry Paulson or a mount for your wyvern.

Final Level: The Federal Reserve Volcano

As you ascend to the peak to the volcano, you’ll discover a band of Latte-Sippin Lefties relaxing around a campfire with some orcs. Destroy the camp and free the Board of Governors. Wow, that seemed easy—almost too easy. While the hostages thank you profusely and shower you with stock options, the volcano erupts! Behold, you are now face to face with the Overlord behind this chaos in its true form.


Final Boss: Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac

The image of this twin-headed demon is almost too horrific to translate into words. I suppose the best description is two levitating secondary mortgage markets. As it emerges from the lava, floating over the pit, exuding magma in all directions, the beast explains its diabolical plan. Of course, it seems so obvious. As GSEs, Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac only buy within a conforming loan limit so they can repackage liquid revenue streams into the secondary market, lowering the demand for structured investment vehicles. By virtue of Gresham’s Law, then, it is harder for lenders to sell loans, thus costing more to the consumers--typically 1/4 to 1/2 of a percent—(The CDS protection rate limit is 50 percent higher in Alaska and Hawaii). However, since the demand for bonds not guaranteed by the corporations is almost non-existent, ARM loans are almost 1% to 1.5% higher than typical hyperbolic discounting margins! And the most insidious twist in their nefarious plot: even though FNMA and FHLMC are exempt from SEC filing requirements, they still voluntarily file their SEC 10-K and 10-Q forms! Yes, so simple, yet so unbearably evil. And they would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling warriors.

As you unsheathe your sword, the battle begins. This boss is a toughie. Throw a few Taxcutters at it and have Paulson issue a moratorium on commercial paper transactions. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac will bellow a deep laugh and then summon its minion, Goldman’s Sack. Killing it is easy: just release some telecommunication assets at an overvalued rate, and watch it shrivel up and disintegrate. Now the Fanny and Freddy is left vulnerable. If you can execute a hostile takeover and have Buffet cast Glacial Vengeance, you should be able to take down the monster. The two-headed hellspawn will file Chapter Eleven Bankruptcy. From there sit back, relax, and enjoy the credits.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The End of the Discolored Rainbow

By CL * Other CL Posts

The above graph (click to enlarge) is intended to show the evolution of how I feel about law school. The fact that it's somewhat nonsensical flows from the message it is trying to send: my desire to be at law school is dropping exponentially, while the time I have left at law school is (surprisingly enough) declining linearly.

What does it all mean? For the first two years of my law school career, I really enjoyed it. I had a good work/life balance; I went out a lot without skipping class or missing any reading. I was able to stay sufficiently interested in my subjects that it wasn't much of a drag, and I would gear up for finals every semester by locking myself in a room for most of each day, countered by the occasional concert or night out.

This year? The work side is weighing much more heavily, even if it takes up a similar or smaller portion of my day. I can think of a few reasons for this:

1) Law school is not fun, and that becomes more obvious as three years pass.

2) I'm taking classes this semester that are slightly more bar-exam-oriented (evidence, tax) than the undergrad-major-oriented classes I took previously (law and economics, law and economics seminar, health law (viewed through the lens of law and economics), statistics for lawyers).

3) The economy is awful so half of my friends are taking an involuntary year off before starting work; this makes everyone unhappy and exacerbates the general negativity that pervades law schools nationwide.

This is in stark contrast to my experiences in high school and college. I never really had "senioritis" in either school; I wrapped up my obligations (high school: track, AP tests; college: ...let me get back to you on that) right on time and was ready to move on but also very happy to be there.

What's the difference between law school and earlier educational milestones? We've grown up. Most people graduate high school, lots of people graduate college; each is a recognized accomplishment. As a result, there's a lot of commemoration as you near the end of each, and an implicit deal with teachers and administrators that things should ease off as you approach graduation.

Law school - being a professional school - has no such deal. We're older, we're about to start real careers (sooner or later), and no one has (or should have) any sympathy for our waning desire to be here. There have been several times in my life where I was hit with the sensation of getting older (realizing that I remembered experiencing the years in which people old enough to vote were born, becoming an uncle, having the ultimately-meaningless birthdays between 21 and 25); this is the most subtle and perhaps most meaningful of them all.

3Ls of the world: we're finally not kids anymore. It's time to get to work.

Contributor Bio: Doug Lieblich

Doug Lieblich is a comedy writer based in Los Angeles. Nurtured in a small suburb in Long Island, Doug attended Yale University and graduated Magna Cum Boner in 2008 with a special boner in History. He is now a hilarious and wildly successful writer with respected credits including "Around the Couch Blog bio" (Drafts 1, 2, and 5).

Doug is a sexually active omnivore with basic motor and cognition skills. He can be found on grasslands, taigas, and an unkempt apartment in Hollywood.

As a professional, Doug will remind you that you can hire him for your very own comedy writing needs. Price billing is as follows:

Fart joke: 3 dollars
Joke involving a lobster: 5 dollars
Farting lobster joke: 7 dollars (bargain!)
Politically germane observation: (Pre-Herbert Hoover: $1.50) (Post-Herbert Hoover: 30 dubloons)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Around the Sonnets: Taxation, Representation, and Immigration

By CL * Other CL Posts

My will's as effective as Kyle Orton
Green Card: taxes, no vote, long as I live.
Like DC with Eleanor Holmes Norton:
My voice unheard, no representative.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about
A citizen, if I wanted to be
You're keeping all the foreign talent out
It just takes five, I've been here twenty-three.

A common thread runs through our history
Railroads, software, labor, innovation
To keep this going we need H-1Bs
America, built on immigration.

Letting in the talent was always how
You became the best, please don't stop it now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Greasing the Twitter Train's Wheels

By ned * Other ned Posts

As a self-proclaimed citizen of the web, I recently decided to explore two web 2.0 services: Twitter and Google Reader. Met with devote praise from its cult of followers, ridicule from the knowing outside, and raised eyebrows from the unaware, Twitter's visibility has grown exponentially recently. To me it derives its popularity from the same pleasure as checking away messages on AIM or googlechat: you are able to catch up on people, interesting web finds and information of personal interest in short quick bursts. It allows you to maintain contacts and connections with people in a low-effort, unintrusive way. Contrasting Twitter through depth in its content, Google reader simplifies my internet information gathering efforts. This tool pulls articles, blog posts, podcasts, and comics from most of the sites I regularly check into a central reader. One of the ways this format differentiates itself from, say, perusing a newspaper is that I am also able to share articles of interest with fellow google reader patrons who are my contacts. In other words, if I am trying to keep up on the latest in music and know my friend Mark usually finds out about the "in" bands first, I can check his google reader feed of shared articles to see what he is digging today.

For me both mediums are representative of a current trend in how we engage information. For better or worse, information intake has become more democratic and interactive. Many new forms of media rely on individuals to monitor, select and create content to make these services reach their full potential. Information is personalized. Content spreads virally. More users participating means more content is generated which in turn means more information is spreading. As technology becomes more mobile and individuals are able to engage these tools in their idle time, these practices are likely only going to become pervasive and generally practiced. Through this distinction these formats of LCD transmitted type contrasts with how we interact with the written word on the printed page. Engaging words on paper is more closely related to how Gutenberg intended and a familiar sight in my current city of residence.

With a familiarity to large groups of people and tight quarters, most New Yorkers have adapted a variety of techniques to reading when not around their coffee shops, park benches or bedside tables. By far, the best place to observe this is the subway. There are the hunchers, engrossed in their novel and apparently their kneecaps as well. Maximizing space in a crowded car, others will rest their magazine atop shopping bags which in turn resting on their laps. Finally for those so bold, some dare the arm around the pole while holding your book stance – a position for the steady eye and body.

Images like this drive home how New York City is a reading culture. This is not because people in New York (as some inhabitants might believe) are smarter than the rest of the population of the lower forty-eight. Much of this phenomenon is a byproduct of a dependence on public transit. New Yorkers earn through the sprawling nature of their city life one of the largest average commutes of major US cities. This is not to say that Americans are immune to long commutes. In 2005, the average American worker spends about 100 hours a year commuting with an average transit time of around 24 minutes (1). With around 150 million employed Americans, we can very roughly estimate that that turns out to be around 15 billion hours of commuting time annually -- and these hours do not necessarily consider additional errand or recreational travel during the week. But unlike others, most New Yorkers hands and eyes tend to be free during journeys. Lending itself to idle time and substantial opportunities to read.

But, along with allowing one to read, these commutes are becoming more and more politically topical. Public transit and transportation generally have received a fair amount of attention over the past year. The increase in oil prices last year drove public transit ridership to record levels in many major metro areas. The 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis highlighted a general need to repair our infrastructure. Based on the 2008 campaign season and political dialogue leading up to the passage of the stimulus bill, infrastructure improvements even became central to our discussion of the current economic crisis. Images of the WPA have been prevalent in the media, attempting to hearken back to the use of public works projects to try to pull us out of the last major recession. This attention and money creates a great opportunity to impact all of those yearly commuting hours of many Americans. But, even with all this focus, how Americans spend these billions of hours is not a prevalent part of current discourse on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Commuting is generally idle time. But, as in New York, public transit enables the passenger to use that idle time differently by taking away other responsibilities. Public transit allows free hands and minds to engage information. Ultimately, that greater freedom could help grease the wheels of information flow and the economy. As with Twitter and Google Reader, to engage the full power of what the next wave online tools has to offer, we need to have the opportunity to share, interact with, and create information. The spread of the iPhone, laptop and other mobile devices allows us to work with these platforms on the platform. It is worth noting that this type of information interaction is not limited to recreational tweets. The pervasity of “Crackberries” in corporate life blur the space and times of work and play as well. Consequently, more public transit use could alter hours currently spent focused on road rage and the radio to the flow information and revenue production.

There are many factors that should be considered when deliberating where our transportation dollars are spent. Although likely not the primary issue of concern, the general productivity of the populace should be one factor taken into account in the stew of data. Whether through movies, television, and other forms of mass media, part of America’s current strength lies in its soft power over information. Perhaps public transit is one of the pieces to positioning America’s future generations to remain in this bus driver's seat of ideas.


Information cited:


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What I Do Instead of Working

By Josh Cain * Other Josh Cain Posts

Before my current job, I worked for a clothing retailer that had a huge back office in Mumbai, India. One of their innovative ideas was to send a bunch of kids who had just graduated from Ivy league universities and unleash them upon our Indian co-workers with a gleam in their eye and the words “process engineering” on their lips. I was one of those kids. Several promising youths, myself included, were shipped off to India for six months and placed in houses together, despite being mostly unfamiliar with one another. We were each given instructions to “make India work better” and told little else. This meant that I had free reign to do pretty much whatever I wanted and, industrious fellow that I am, I soon found myself arranging a beach vacation to Goa for all of my fellow ex-pats.

I wrote an e-mail to everyone explaining the itinerary of our trip and, applying my usual attention to detail, managed to search the company directory and include “Michael Bergman” on the list of recipients instead of my new roommate, “Michael Bernstein.” Pretty much everyone on the list noticed my mistake and, as good recent acquaintances would, made sure to let me know it. We all had a good laugh.

Since I couldn’t get my video games working in the foreign sockets, I decided to amuse myself by “accidentally” including Michael Bergman the next time I sent out a group e-mail. You could send fake e-mails to people by switching the “I” and “l” in the e-mail address because they looked identical in our e-mail client. The result was you could give the appearance of e-mailing someone (e.g. Michaei Bergman) but in reality the e-mail would be undelivered, although anyone else on the message would think the fake person had gotten it.

Employing this technique, I again “e-mailed” Bergman instead of Bernstein on a group message, resulting in responses similar to those from my first, although with a slightly more exasperated tone. My other roommate, Conrad, had the most notable increase in irritation in his response. He somehow managed to make the standard “I can’t believe I’m wasting my time communicating with you” tone of his e-mails even more terse. Unlike our roomie Mike, with whom I had spent considerable time outside of work, Conrad and I were acquaintances at best when we moved into our Mumbai apartment. Where I was an expendable person sent overseas because I didn’t do anything essential in the US, Conrad was actually important. Despite his youth he was managing a department and had been ordered to go overseas as part of his steady climb up the corporate ladder. Hard working, tight-lipped, and commanding, if the company were the court of a medieval king, he would be a knight to my court jester. I tried to make friends, but he had spent most of his free time with his girlfriend, Mary, who was also in India with us. Thus, given our lack of familiarity and my generally clownish demeanor, it was perfectly reasonable for him to believe that I was actually stupid enough to accidentally e-mail Michael Bergman our vacation plans twice.

Curious to see people’s reactions (Conrad’s in particular), and still having time on my hands, I continued to send e-mails about the trip and somehow “accidentally” include Mike Bergman on every one. The other people on the list eventually stopped commenting on my error, but Conrad never managed to disappoint. He responded to my e-mails like clockwork, always within about five minutes with a message informing me that, despite his previous warnings, I had again managed to include Mike Bergman on the e-mail and that Bergman was probably getting really confused. His responses demonstrated an impressive mastery of the language, managing to remain brief and professional while simultaneously escalating in their tone of disgust and the simplicity of their wording (presumably his opinion of me lowered with each e-mail and this was his attempt to communicate in terms I would understand). After the fourth or fifth message I decided that Conrad’s responses were now funnier than my original joke, so I shifted my focus. I told everyone but Conrad what I was doing and asked them to play along.

With my new plan in mind, I began to invent reasons to e-mail the group, just so I could include Mike Bergman. Conrad never wavered in his responses and eventually brought it up in person. Slightly unsettled by Conrad’s narrowed eyes and disdainfully curled lip, I managed to laugh it off and flippantly tell him that I “type really fast” and promised to be more careful in the future. A half hour later I sent another Bergman e-mail.

Soon after my last message to “Bergman” I got a call from Mary. “Conrad’s really angry about the whole Bergman thing. I just got off a call with him where all he did was rant to me about it. I told him that I was as shocked as he was that anyone could be so careless.” Delighted at the turn of events, I asked for some more details. “Well,… He said that your behavior really calls his faith in your ability to do your job into question… He also said a few other things I think it’s best that I not repeat.”

I realized that I was running the risk of ruining my relationship with a colleague and roommate. The prudent thing to do was clearly to stop, explain myself, and request forgiveness. Instead I composed an e-mail directed to Mike Bergman himself. When I sent this e-mail I made sure to Bcc all of the people who had been on the previous Bergman e-mails, especially Conrad. Again, it’s worth re-stating that Bergman NEVER got any e-mails beyond the first one I sent him accidentally. Fortunately Conrad didn’t know that when he read the below:

From: Cain, Joshua
To: Bergman, Michael

Bcc: Argos, Conrad; Bernstein, Michael; Papadapolous, Mary; Brithomo, Arminder; Rouge, Tiara

Subject: Come hang out!

Mr. Bergman,

I apologize for the barrage of e-mails you've been receiving from me about my impending trip to Goa. Unfortunately for you, your name shares many letters with my friend Mike Bernstein, who has been the intended recipient of the aforementioned onslaught. I feel that, having given you insight into our impending Bacchic revels, I would be remiss if I did not invite you to join the festivities. We will be in Goa for the weekend and, if you are available, I highly encourage you to grab a plane ticket and head over here. We'll be happy to hang out with you, take you to the beach, and try to get you laid by one of the many hot Goan gals who roam the streets looking for someone to be their Berg-Man. Also, the other Michael is a serious lush and he has already challenged you to a case race to determine who truly deserves to hold the mantle of the name Mike B.

Hope to see you on Saturday,


Joshua Cain • Assistant to the COO
21 Bay Yard Road • Lincoln Gulf, NY 12402

While ostensibly reviewing a process flow to determine a way to make our supply chain more efficient, I peered over my monitor, scanning the office for any reaction to my e-mail. I was hoping for people to come congratulate me or Conrad to arrive in a fury, but I was disappointed. My friends later told me they were amused, while Conrad muttered under his breath that he “didn’t think it was very funny.” Other than that, not much happened.

Feeling that the potential had not been reached, and also because I had nothing better to do, I decided to kick it up a notch. Spending a good amount of time which otherwise would have been spent doing my job, I crafted an e-mail to myself from a fictitious and irate Mike Bergman. Bergman was a store manager somewhere in the Midwest, so I researched his store number and contact information, which I included in his e-mail signature. Store managers aren’t known for the quality of their e-mails, so I intentionally misspelled a few words. I even went so far as to include a sappy motivational quote, which is easily my favorite part of this whole e-mail, although I’m occasionally wracked with doubt as to whether I should have gone with “The best angle to approach any problem is the TRY-angle.” Once the exquisite forgery was complete, I forwarded it to the group but, WHOOPS, included “Mike Bergman” by mistake. You can imagine Conrad’s reaction when he saw this in his inbox:

From: Cain, Joshua
To: Argos, Conrad; Bergman, Michael; Papadapolous, Mary; Brithomo, Arminder; Rouge, Tiara

Subject Fw: Come hang out!

Hahaha, check this out! Who knew Mike Bergman was such a douche?

Joshua Cain • Assistant to the COO

21 Bay Yard Road • Lincoln Gulf, NY 12402

----- Forwarded by Joshua Cain-----

From: Bergman, Michael
To: Cain, Joshua

Subject: Re: Come hang out!

Mr. Cain,

I can tell that your trying to be funny with this email but I really don't appreciate being harrassed like this. I am a happily married man and don't want anythign to do with your juvenile behavior. If you cc me on another email I will report you to HR.

Are you really the kind of person we have working for our COO!?!

Michael Bergman
Manager - Store 67
Office: (534) 441-0340

"T.E.A.M. - Together Everyone Achieves More"

I sent the e-mail and sat there, waiting. After less than his traditional five minutes I got a frantic message from Conrad, who had e-mailed everyone announcing that I had accidentally e-mailed Mike Bergman (AGAIN!) and we were all in serious trouble. He suggested calling the head of HR immediately (which would have been 4 am for the HR director) and possibly contacting Mike Bergman to apologize in case HR couldn’t get IT to remove the e-mail before he saw it. As I read this message, I heard fellow e-mail recipient, Arminder, laughing hysterically from across the room. I turned around and saw her get up, stride across the room, and gave me a running high-five. I soon got calls from all of the other people involved, congratulating me. This was the response I had been hoping for. For the first time, I felt like I had really made an impact at work.

Reveling in my victory, it wasn’t long before I started plotting my next move. My brilliant scheming was soon interrupted, however, by a concerned call from Conrad’s girlfriend. Despite my assurances that I would handle things, for some reason he didn’t seem to have much faith in my abilities and was planning to call the head of HR and Mike Bergman directly to exonerate himself. I briefly entertained the notion of bringing the head of HR in on the joke, but realized that had enough risks associated with it that it was best to pull the plug.

If I was going to end it, though, it had to be in style.

I told my accomplices the plan and then called an “emergency meeting” to discuss how we were going to deal with the situation. As we gathered everyone was appropriately solemn, although no one managed to match Conrad’s scowl. Pacing as Patton would, I outlined my plan:

“Ok, so I think I know how to deal with this issue. I work for the COO, so what I’m going to do is fake an e-mail from Mike Bergman to me saying all kinds of nasty stuff. Then I’ll forward it to my boss and try to get Bergman fired before he ever has a chance to read his e-mail! What do you guys think?”

Conrad’s expression could only be described as “pure disgust.”

“You’re just digging yourself in deeper, dude. That’s never going to work.” He said, obviously trying to contain himself.

“No, it’s a great idea,” I retorted. “You see, the trick is to switch the “L” with the “I” in his name so that it looks like it’s from him, but really it’s a fake e-mail address. A lot of people would fall for that trick.”

“Yeah, a LOT of people,” echoed Conrad’s girlfriend, starting to smile.

“Oh yeah, people fall for that one all the time,” continued Arminder, also smiling and looking pointedly at Conrad.

I watched intently as Conrad slowly surveyed the circle of smiling faces, his furious scowl turning to a look of dawning comprehension before quickly being replaced with a mixed expression of rage and embarrassment.

“I’ll get you for this, Cain,” he muttered, storming off.

You might think that it would be hard to recover from something like that to actually befriend someone. But, despite this rocky start to our relationship, Conrad and I ultimately became close friends. Turns out that once you got him out of the office and put a few beers in him he was an awesome guy. It took a few months, but he was even eventually able to look back on my little prank and laugh.

Whenever I brought it up he would always threaten revenge, although I didn’t think he’d ever made good on it. I have to admit, though, that at times I had misgivings about playing such an elaborate prank on someone I shared a house with. For example, I couldn’t help being a little suspicious when one day I awoke from a nap on the couch to see Conrad standing near me. “How was your nap?” he nonchalantly inquired as he walked into his room, a slight smirk seeming to imperceptibly flit across his face. I told him it was fine but, in the back of my mind, couldn’t help but thinking that my mouth tasted, ever so faintly, of balls.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Around the Sonnets: Today, We're All Tied for First

By CL * Other CL Posts

It's op'ning day and I root for the Cubs.
A thankless task but one I cannot quit;
First Grace and Sandberg and a bunch of schlubs,
Now Soto, Marmol; Hill can't buy a hit.

We joined the century club just last year.
You'd think ten MVPs would hit the mark;
Even Darnielle has made it all too clear
That heartbreak lives at Addison and Clark.

Yes Wrigley's been the site of tragedies
With Bartman, goats; the annual nosedive.
A fandom full of painful memories
No Series games seen since one-nine-four-five.

But through it all a ray of hope is seen;
Zemeckis said it'd be 2015.

Anatomy of a Wrestling Match

By LeKeith * Other LeKeith Posts

Many people associate March and early April with the annual basketball tradition of March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament that contains the chance for history making moments from upsets and legacies alike. This time of year, I am focused on another annual tradition. Wrestlemania. My fascination started in 1992 and could have possible stopped sooner if not for the moment that captured my attention at Wrestlemania 8: On April 4,1992, Bret 'Hitman' Hart faced Rowdy' Roddy Piper for the Intercontinental Championship.

Our house had just acquired cable and we were taking advantage of the ability to watch the Pay Per View. I remember the layout of the room vividly. I sat crossed-legged on the floor in front of the TV. My great-grandmother sat on our loveseat, to my right. She, like many grandmothers, was a wrestling fan back when she was younger and wrestling was ‘real.’ Next to her was my grandmother, coming to terms with the déjà vu of seeing her mother scream passionately at the man wearing colorful underwear on television. My mother was just to the right of the television, half leaning out the window and yelling to my father, who was on the roof, adjusting the satellite dish to get a clearer picture. Like I said, we had just 'acquired' cable.

The ending to this match has stuck with me to this day. The referee was accidentally knocked down when Roddy Piper, in an attempt to break free from Bret’s headlock, pushed Bret off of him and indirectly into the path of the referee. Roddy Piper went to the outside and grabbed the Time Keepers Bell. He climbed back in the ring, stood over Bret, and raised the belt overhead, contemplating whether to hit Bret with it. With the referee unable to call the match, he wouldn't get disqualified. The crowd pleaded with Piper to not to use the foreign object. Ultimately he acquiesced, throwing the bell out of the ring. He picked Bret up and put him in the Sleeper Hold, Piper’s finishing move. Bret, struggling to break the hold, moved towards a turnbuckle corner and kicked off of it, shifting the burden of the additional weight from him to Piper, causing both wrestlers to fall to the ring mat. Bret, who landed on top of Piper, rolled himself toward Piper’s head, pinning him using Piper's own arms. At the same time, the referee made enough of a recovery to crawl over toe the wrestlers and count the pinfall. As the ref counted, Piper kicked his legs, trying to get some leverage, but the weight was too much. By the time the ref counted to three, there was a standing ovation for both men.

With Wrestlemania 25 happening on the 5th of April, I can revisit this match in order to get into the spirit of what is to come in the latest installment of this event. Wrestlemania is typically the most watched Pay Per View event for the WWE. As such, the WWE works harder to elevate its storylines and wrestlers so that the program satisfies lifelong fans like me but also invites casual fans and novices, like I was 17 years ago, to start watching the regular programming. This match– Bret versus Piper – is the match that made me a regular viewer. With hindsight and acquired wrestling knowledge, I can identify three elements of story that were interwoven to bring the match to its successful conclusion: the champion v. challenger story, the babyface v. babyface story and the technician v. streetfighter story

Champion v. Challenger
The Champion versus Challenger story adds a unique element to wrestling matches because there are fewer titles than wrestlers. At the time of Wrestlemania 8, there were 3 Titles: World Champion, Intercontinental Champion and Tag Team Champions. Because of this limited number, title matches have an additional story element that can not be in every match. With Bret / Piper, Bret was the number one contender, earning the right to face Champion Piper. This taking place at Wrestlemania, exposes both Champion and Challenger to higher scrutiny; the Challenger has to prove that he is worthy of becoming champion; the Champion has to prove that he is worthy of being champion. Bret and Piper display this tension during the pre-match interview. Piper tells an anecdote about he and the Hitman when they were younger. Storyline wise, Bret and Piper are childhood friends. One of Piper's strengths in wrestling has always been his ability to cut a good promo. As a babyface, he disarms the audience by making light of the situation, telling jokes at the Hitman's expense. When Bret remains stoic about the situation, Piper‘s attitude flips and becomes serious when talking about the championship title. The promo ends with both Bret and Piper raising fists at each other. Piper's hand is wrapped with some kind of illegal foreign object he pulled from his tights, most likely brass knuckles wrapped in black tape. This act is a clear indicator that the Champion is willing to do whatever is necessary to retain the title.

Streetfighter v. Technician
In the promo segment, Piper has already shown that he is better versed in the talking portions of wrestling. Roddy's most famous Wrestlemania moments aren't remembered for his matches but for his actions: Boxing Mr. T (WM2), Spraying Morton Downey Junior with a Fire Extinguisher (WM 5), Shaving Adrian Adonis' head (WM3). As a result, Piper’s wrestling strengths are more of a streetfigher’s style.

Bret Hart is known for being one of the most technically sound wrestlers in the industry. As a second generation wrestler, Bret displays an understanding of wrestling that comes from both performing and running a wrestling promotion, which he did with his father in Calgary, Alberta, Canada up in the industry. In addition to his ‘Hitman’ moniker, he is also known as the ‘Excellence of Execution,’ because of his use maneuvers that are rarely, if ever, implemented, like the pinning combination described above.

The difference in styles make for a compelling match-up. Bret and Piper booked the match - design a guideline for how to match will play out - so that the ebb and flow between their styles is visually different when each wrestler is leading. Piper has a boxing with a win of the Golden Gloves; he controls the match through punches, kicks and clotheslines, the kinds of moves you would be more likely to see in playgrounds or alleys. Bret's technical skills - holds and reversals - help him either gain control the match or reverse Piper's momentum.

If each wrestler remained steadfast in their fighting style. the match would be less compelling. Instead, either wrestler adopts some elements of the other’s fighting style. Where Piper’s punches are a show of dominance, Bret's punches are seen more as desperation attacks. In turn, the start of the match has Bret and Piper exchanging holds, going through a series of collar-and-elbow tie-ups, headlocks and waistlocks. Whenever Piper applies a hold, Bret consistently reverses it. In one series, Piper goes for a waist lock that when Bret reverses, Piper falls out of the ring; frustrated, Piper starts applying more street tactics in his arsenal.

Babyface v. Babyface
In addition to fluctuation between the technical versus street styles, Bret and Piper play with their respective roles as babyfaces. A babyface (also known as a face or a fan favorite) is the wrestler that the audience generally wants to see win. In situations where two faces wrestling each other, there is confusion within the audience in the sense of who to cheer. A babyface's counter part is known as a heel. Both the Hitman and the Hot Rod have spent some time in their careers as heels, Piper more than Bret. Not only is either wrestler capable of playing the role of heel, but their heel histories serve to remind the audience that both wrestlers are capable of being the bad guy. Hart and Piper use this knowledge to keep the audience interested in the match.

Throughout the match, both combatants use tactics that are underhanded to a degree, which affects them being viewed as a face or a heel by the crowd. Bret uses the deception method of 'playing possum' twice during the match. The first time, Bret pretends to have injured his shoulder\. The ref allows for a 'time out' (there are timeouts in wrestling like there is crying in baseball), halting Piper from initiating an attack. Bret in turn pops up and hooks Piper into a Small Package, a pin attempt. Piper kicks out but is so angered that he slaps Bret because of the underhandedness. The second instance, later in the match, Bret is laying motionless, facedown. Piper climbs to the top turnbuckle. Just as Roddy reaches the top, Bret springs to his feet with a quick motion analogous to getting up from a squat thrust and takes advantage of Piper's vulnerability as he is exposed on the top rope.

Each time Bret performs these maneuvers, the crowd reacts favorably. This is partially because these moves are considered less underhanded than most others but also because the audience is more comfortable accepting Bret as a face. Piper uses a decidedly more heelish tactic to take advantage in the match. Both wrestlers fell to the outside. Piper got in the ring first and held the ropes open for Bret, which is a very face tactic, a gesture of fair and clean competition. After they both entered the ring, Piper pointed to Bret's boot to indicate that there was a problem with it. As Bret bent down to examine, Piper kicked him in the head repeatedly. This very heel tactic, which followed a very face tactic, indicated to the audience that Piper was willing to be more of a heel if it resulted in him retain the championship. By the end of the match, where Piper grabs the ring bell, the audience is more shocked that Piper would be willing to go that far to retain than surprised that Piper is capable of doing such a thing. Piper's display of heel tactics during other parts of the match, have left the audience comfortable viewing him as a heel.

The heel tactic implored by Piper was instrumental in setting up another aspect of the match. Bret started bleeding during this sequence. This was accomplished through a method known as blading. A wrestler takes a razor and cuts themselves on or around the forehead so that blood will flow. That entire sequence of Piper pointing to Bret's boot was done to shield the blading. Bret pulled the razor out from where he had it hidden, and cut himself above his eye while Piper distracted the audience from seeing this using the series of kicks. The blood, or juice, affects the babyface / heel dynamic of the match. The attack becomes considerably more heelish because it resulted in blood being drawn. Piper draws heat - boos - from the crowd, making the audience lean in favor of Bret overcoming the additional obstacle to win the Championship.

The elements of story are interwoven so that they are all resolved through the same ending. stories being told come to a conclusion through the same finish. The champion was upset by the challenger in a toughly contested battle, resulting in Bret winning his second Intercontinental Championship. The technician bested the brawler by reversing of a finishing maneuver into a pinning combination. The more face of the two wrestlers in the match was able to take advantage of the lesser face's moment of indecision. Piper's hesitation reads that he does not want to be a heel again. After the match, Piper grabs the title from the referee before the referee was able to hand it to Bret, pulls Bret to his feet and exchange a handshake. Piper then places the title belt around Bret's waist and they walk out of the ring the together. Both wrestlers have returned to a babyface status.

I'd be remissed if I didn't mention my favorite part of this match. After the pin is counted, there is a slight moment of hesitation by the crowd. That is because the bell does not ring. Piper threw it away from the time keeper's area and they were not able to get it before the end of the match. It is a very small attention to detail and continuity that is sometimes missed in wrestling today. I look forward to Wrestlemania 25 in anticipation of another match that will be as compelling as Wrestlemania 8's Intercontinental Championship contest.

For a limited time only, you too can watch this Wrestlemania Classic!
The promo before the match:
Part 1 of the match:
Part 2 of the match:
Part 3 of the match:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Block Party – A Weekday in the City

By je * Other je Posts

Living for the City

I lock eyes with the meter maid. She no longer has any dominion over me.

I (finally) moved into Manhattan last spring, after spending the last three years situated a bit east of the center of the universe. When I started my new job in January, I also severed my suburban umbilical cord, getting rid of my car and joining my brothers & sisters on the streets, subway platforms, and commuter rail cars. Now, to get to work, I have to make an 8:32 train to NJ, a quiet 32-minute ride west under the Hudson and through Jersey's industrial steppes, on the lower level of a double-decker train. This was exactly what I always wanted—a commute that I could read or sleep through, one free of stop & go traffic or morning lines at a gas station.

Like all NYC transplants, it's taken a while to really start to see the jigsaws fall in to place. Now that I'm close to my first full year on the isle of Manhattan, routine and exploration have battered down a poor sense of direction and a natural inattentiveness to environmental landmarks: the Gotham geography is finally beginning to make some sense. Since I don't have to worry so much about getting lost, I now have the mental bandwidth to begin observing more of the world around me. And (sadly) the 15-20 minute walk from my Hell's Kitchen apartment down 8th Ave to Penn Station is sometimes the most exciting part of my day.

Shiny Happy People

Times Square is one of the happiest places in New York City. Almost everyone there smiles, but there aren't many natives.

If you're visiting NYC, Times Square is a destination, and so you gawk, bask in the neon glow of big screens and sort of just lazily float along the streets. All this flagrantly aimless sauntering is infuriating for the New Yorker, who views the Square as a means to a much more exciting and authentic destination, so he silently curse as he turns on evasive maneuvers to make it to any of the 13 metro trains that stop in Times Square. Accordingly, there are few New Yorkers in Times Square. The relative handful that spend any significant time in the malformed quadrangle between Broadway, 49th St, 7th Ave, and 40th St. are only around because they happen to work in the area. Few hang out or chill there and so the tourist takes pictures behind a backdrop of other tourists and advertisements. This has always seemed bizarre to me.

I bet Universal Studios or Disney could fabricate their own Times Square on a soundstage with fake buildings, bright lights and oversized televisions, simulated city noise (cabs, hot dog vendors, and calls for half-price tickets to plays/comedy shows/titty bars), hire a whole bunch of extras to walk aimlessly and totally nail the entire experience. Times Square is as real as the sets of any over-produced theatre on Broadway, and yet it is such an iconic view of New York. I avoid it as much as possible.

On Your Mark

Although 8th Avenue is outside of Times Square proper, inevitably, there's going to be a little spill over of solicitors, bright parka clad tour guides, and purse peddlers. A woman tries to hand me a flyer--advertising for a parking garage around the corner. She sees me walk by every morning and I never accept her hand-out, but she still tries again day after day. I thought it'd be clear that I don't drive (ergo I have no need of her parking services). In the evening, she'll be replaced by someone wearing a very dirty but smiling sandwich costume, trying to entice the evening commute into a local Subway for a sandwich. 8:08

Obstacles to Overcome

Fortunately, there isn't a lot of dog poo on 8th, due to the heavy pedestrian traffic, and I can get away with keeping my eyes off the ground for most of the morning constitutional. This isn't the case in all neighborhoods in Manhattan, but the thoroughfare seems to have found other ways to keep things interesting for the minutes we share every morning. I suppose this is only fair; Legends of the Hidden Temple had its Temple Guards, so it follows that I should encounter my own resistance during the trek through NYC's concrete jungle. In lieu of semi-solid waste, one must remain on the look-out for "phantom puddles," the foot soldier's black ice. These harmless looking pools of stagnant water are dangerous—DO NOT BE FOOLED. Although they may appear to be shallow, the phantom puddle transcends the laws of physics & nature, luring victims into a 6 inch Mariana Trench. Coupled with the accumulation from the previous night's snowfall, they are at most deceptively lethal (many a leather moccasin has been left slain in their wake). The city of New York should really post warning signs on every street corner.

How quickly behaviors change when you're no longer behind the wheel! Unless you drive a cab, there are some specific traffic rules that we all (strive to) abide by in our automobiles. This is simply not the case when grid-skipping on foot. Traffic lights, crosswalks, the distinction between curb & intersection—these aren't even suggestions to the pedestrian. At every corner, I turn into baseball's all-star kleptomaniac Rickey Henderson and the next block is my 2nd base. I side-step the diminutive bagel delivery man, move several more inches into the street, and then glare at the livery driver turning right onto 8th Avenue as he nearly runs over my toes, the exhaust warming the back of my calf. 8:12AM

Most often, it is my fellow pedestrians that I need to watch out for. Oblvi-miss, the large-purse-totting zig-zagging urbanite, always presents a challenge. Individuals of this type ignorantly occupy a disproportionate area of personal sidewalk space. Adding insult to injury, Oblivi-misses (or Oblivi-misters) roam the streets like blind ravenous Mongols and consequently block any attempts to pass on either side by annexing potential lanes into their ever expanding territory. Be extra vigilant on rainy days, when Oblivi-miss brandishes her ridiculously sized umbrella, much to dismay of afro-ed. Oblivi-miss sometimes appears in her alternate form: oversized backpacker with giant over the ear headphones.

Way Too Sexy

I probably pass a dozen places to buy pornography and adult novelties during the 13-block jaunt down 8th Ave. On the east side of the street between 40th and 39th Streets sits WORLD OF DVD. At this particularly seedy establishment, the window display is angled 45 degrees to the sidewalk, and is incredibly difficult to miss. It features the tanned toned trio of what I assume is some gay adaptation of Survivor (the title is "Man Island") greased up and wearing nothing but briefs. The dudes stare out with their best let's-do-something-worthy-of-a-republican-sex-scandal faces, with the hand of the lead (in the center) down his pants, cupping his um.. man-bits. One of my favorite 15-second pastimes is watching the wayward eyes of people passing porn on my way home in the evening. In the morning rush, however, I'm the one getting punked. 8:20

Now, I'm a pretty modest guy, but I have nothing against "sexy shoppes"—in fact, I feel better knowing that my neighborhood is peppered with them. Their presence is a bit like a sexual security blanket—what if I have a 3AM dildo emergency or the internet goes down and I really need to watch Edward Penishands? Or I find myself in a situation that desperately calls for some silicone-based lubricant. But this promotion is so aggressively explicit (do they really need to flash pubes?) and that shit always catches me off guard. Way too much unsolicited sexy before 9AM.

Train Station Tsunami

Times Square may be a bit like sailing through a harbor littered with naval mines, but the last leg of my trip through Pennsylvania Station is more akin to sprinting head in the "wrong" direction during the Running of the Bulls, or swimming upstream a waterfall.

The main corridor runs underground along 34th Street and collects streams of exiting masses: starting with riders of the A-C-E lines of the subway, adding Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit passengers, and finally picking up the 1-2-3 subway folk before leading everyone up 2 escalators (and a set of stairs) to the primary street level entrance to the station. The corridor is also home to a few dozen newspaper stands, mass-market bakeries, and miscellaneous commuter service shops. To reach my gate and jump on the train, I need to take the single escalator moving in the down direction and eventually cross through the torrent, traverse/battle my way through the main concourse, and slip through another (much smaller) exodus of workday warriors using the 7th Ave/32nd Street exit. I might even kill a dragon or two while I'm at it. 8:26

Odds are that if I stopped for coffee or a croissant, I've had to step up the pace to a power walk for the last block or two, so by the time I've reached the mouth of the station the first few droplets of sweat have started to form on my brow. My self-conscious side sounds the alarm: "Stay Cool, Je. Running is for suckers, and you don't want to stew in your sweat for the next half-hour anyway. Stay Cool, Je. ICE COLD!" Not much time left if I'm going to catch the train, and unfortunately this can be the trickiest part of the trip. There are only a few minutes before departure, and if I happen to be out of train tickets, I'll need to set aside time for the slow purchase process at the NJ Transit self-serve kiosk.

After the first few weeks, I discovered that I could minimize the risk of falling into the mirror game with an oncoming commuter (I move left, they move right and we repeat our two-step a few times trying to adjust to each other's movements). No matter what, cutting someone off ON FOOT is a big dick move, so I try to be quick about it and move without hesitation, using one of the following approaches (in order of preference):

  1. The Hypotenuse – a slow, but direct shot, giving people time to understand your trajectory and move out of your way. Requires less thought and results in fewer steps overall to destination, but is sometimes difficult to execute if the crowd is moving like molasses.
  2. The Perp – attack perpendicular to the flow of people. Shortest distance across the main corridor (and the people moving through it), but adds time to the overall walk to the gate. For best results, find someone trying to perform the same procedure and use them as a blocker.
  3. The Reach Around – used only in extreme cases, like a disabled escalator. Bypasses the very viscous fracas early and runs along the outside of the flow path. Takes the most time and must be executed early for best results.

The whole chaotic concert can be overwhelming, but it's time to make moves..


If all goes well, it's now 8:29 and I'm settling into my seat.