Octopus Hat
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Wednesday, February 28, 2007  

I wonder if anyone is still checking this site in futile hope that I'll update again.

Well, you win.

Come on over and check out the new incarnation of Octopus Hat: Octopushat 2.o.

Tell your friends.

posted by JMV | 2/28/2007 05:02:00 PM

Monday, January 15, 2007  

Something’s Got To Give

Saturday, January 13th marked the 4th anniversary of this blog. I’ve come a long way in four years, and this blog has been a great place to share the highs, work though the lows, get stuff off my chest, and (hopefully) entertain some people and keep those close (but not close enough) in the loop. But my once fertile field here in cyberspace has lain fallow for too long… I think it is better to pull the plug as a decision than let the blog languish in some limbo.

But I can’t just cut it loose and walk away. I need to keep the outlet. So much has changed in 4 years. I’m made over 700 posts and generated a whopping $4.14 in ad revenue. It is just too valuable to give up on completely. OH will be back, I’m just not quite sure what form it is going to take.

Octopushat is dead. Long live Octopushat.

-jmv 1/15/2007

posted by JMV | 1/15/2007 04:50:00 PM

Thursday, November 09, 2006  

Back in the Saddle


The as-of-yet-still-unnamed Scion is out of the body shop, no worse for the wear after our little fended-bender a couple of weeks ago. All things considered, the whole thing was pretty painless and I highly recommend Matrix Collision in Los Angeles for any bodywork. They were very helpful and very quick. I can't believe we've had the car for two months; it, at he same time, seems like we just got it and that I've had it forever. The car is really a great fit for both of us, and I love driving it. After two months, here are some random thoughts:

-The car feels a tiny bit underpowered. It isn't sluggish or slow by any means, and it fact if feel quite sprightly, but I would like a tiny bit more power. Especially in the low-end, but I’ve got some ideas on how to remedy that…

-Gas mileage isn't (yet) what I was hoping for; at least during the driving I've done so far. I average about 23MPG on a tank, however, I think my commute is mostly to blame for this as it is 7 hard miles across town. The commute takes me between 25-45 minutes and my average speed doesn't climb above 14mph. Lots of stoplights and sitting still really bone my fuel economy (but it is still doing better than either of the Accents were.) We'll see how she does out on the highway this weekend when we head to Phoenix.

-Tiny cars ROCK. I love driving something so small. Not only can I park it anywhere, but I feel more nimble than everything on the road. We didn't buy one of the least expensive cars available because of the price, we really bought on size, features, and value. Inside, the car feels roomy and well-appointed.

-It really handles well. Even on the fully stock suspension (which rides almost comically high) I feel very confident taking corners, and I can't wait to get a chance to take it out on the canyon roads.

-The car is FUN to drive. I feel like I have great control over the power-output thanks to the 5-speed tranny and the steering is responsive and quick. Even on the congested LA streets during rush-hour I can find some enjoyable stretches of road, and on those rare occasions that all the lights I hit are green, I'm having a blast.

-Little things on the inside make a big difference. Steering-wheel audio controls are, perhaps, my favorite feature. I've got control over the tunes w/o reaching for the stereo. And speaking of the stereo, the iPod integration is fantastic. Having X-gigs of music at my fingertips, while on the road, is a real treat. I thought that I’ll never (or at least very rarely) have to deal with switching CDs while driving again makes me smile. There is a large storage area under the front seats, “grocery bag hooks” in a couple of places, and a fair amount of cubbies and hidden storage. I was initially worried about cargo space, but our most-common hauling task is are once-every-three-weeks food run to Trader Joes, and it turns out that out shopping trips average 5 (well packed) bags, and 5 TJs bags fit PERFECTLY in the rear hatch.

-Two interior convince items that I purchased have turned out to be fantastic additions. The inexpensive Garmin GPS unit (Streetpilot i3 for those keeping score) is particularly handy, and the Scan Gauge is an extremely geeky device that hooks-up to the car’s ECU to provide a gaggle of digital gauges (water temp, real-time MPG, ignition timing advance and lode to name just a few) as well as a trip-computer that will calculate average speed, peak RPMs and MPH, fuel efficiency etc. So I’ve got a wealth of data available to me as I drive…

-I am very happy with our purchase and as silly as it sounds, while I’m not exactly looking forward to going to work when I wake up, I’m least not dreading my drive to work (ok. Ok. I look forward to it. But just a little bit.)

Julie, have anything to add?

posted by JMV | 11/09/2006 04:09:00 PM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006  

I Once Was Lost…

I have been horribly unproductive at work today. I blame Carl, as he sent me a ling to The Lostpedia: a Wiki about the TV show Lost. I’m utterly dumfounded by the amount of information on this site. It has really stoked my fanboy fires, and just in time for the big episode on tonight! This will be the 6th episode of season three, and the last new episode for 13 weeks. The producers have made some comments about just how stunning the cliffhanger ending is going to be, and I don’t doubt it. I’m excited!

Also, I feel odd about the Election Day results. Part of it is that it has been so long since my voice was part of the majority, and part of it is suspicion. I mean, we have been screwed by the powers-that-be so many times in the past, even now, when we are winning, my asshole is puckered up in anticipation of the shaft. And while I’d like to take to the streets in celebration of Rummy’s resignation I cannot help but see it as a deliberate diversionary tactic by the Whitehouse. It’s as if they are waving their left hands and shouting “look over here!” while robbing us blind with their right… I fully expect some below-board activity in any recounts that happen. Who was it that said People shouldn’t fear their government, Government should fear the people? Does the same hold-true for mistrust?

I’m not even that bothered by Arnie’s reelection… The Democrats never had a chance. Who’s fucking idea was it to put that wanker up against the friggin Austrian beast? It’s as if the GOP is sending Tyson and Holyfield-like brawlers to the political arena to face the likes of those handle-bar mustached genteel prizefighters of the 1920s who dance around while twirling their knuckles-sandwiches. What the hell do they expect to happen? The Dems really need to learn the lesson of putting their meanest, strongest, most dirty-fighting candidate in the ring above whoever has the best ideas. If W’s presidency has taught us anything it is that the office can get just about anything done with enough strong and smart people in the background. Of course in Ws case it is strong, smart, and ferociously greedy and possibly evil.

I think what the American people really need is a new point-of-entry to politics. Jon Stewart has done a great job getting young American’s interested in politics (I wish he could parlay that into young Americans PARTICIPATING in politics, but one step at a time I guess) and nothing bad can come of more of America genuinely caring about their government. I suggest political tie-ins to fastfood chains. Or, perhaps American Idol-styled vote-by-txt. Do they make baseball card style trading cards for politicians? If they did, I would happy trade away all my rare Diane Feinsteins and misprinted “Frist Lady W. Clinton” for your mint Jerry Brown. I’d have a whole page of him. Cali Governor, Presidential Candidate, Oakland Mayor, and now California Attorney General! GO Moonbeam!

posted by JMV | 11/08/2006 03:52:00 PM

Wednesday, September 13, 2006  

TiVo Armed and Ready

Greg requested I post my “picks” for the Fall 06 TV season, and who am I to say no? We are in a very interesting period of television history, one that I have heard several people refer to “The New Golden Age of TV,” and I agree with that statement. Sure, there is still a lot of trash and unredeemable shit on these days, but I don’t think there has EVER been so much quality programming vying for viewers. While the Movie industry sees profits and audiences shrink as the budges of feature films bloat and the quality shrinks, the Television industry is in the midst of a renaissance. Julie and I have been discussing this a lot lately, and we have come up with a few theories. I feel that it started with HBO leading a movement towards truly exceptional original programming (basically started by the Sopranos.) Combine this with a long-overdue reality TV backlash, and a new generation on creative that were (quite literally) raised by TV (especially syndicated reruns of 70s classics) and add the TV-on-DVD phenomenon and Tivo andVideo-on-Demand and suddenly it is easier than ever before to consume a serialized narrative w/o fear (or at least with less fear) of missing an episode and getting lost. Anyway, I digress. There is a media-theory thesis topic in here, but I’m not ready by a long-shot to touch that. Suffice to say that turn of the century America was a “perfect storm” of technology, socio-political climate, and a “new wave” of creators getting a chance to make waves. So, what will I be watching this season?

First I’ll start off with the sitcoms, both of which are returning. A perennial favorite SCRUBS is back for a season that promises to be the most off-the-wall yet as Series creator Bill Laurence was pretty much given carte-blanch by Buena Vista. It will also prove to be the final season w/ Zach Braff’s J.D, who is of course the narrator and his departure from the show after 2007 might prove too much for the network to bear and so this might be the final season of the show. Look for several J.D.-less episodes (like last seasons “His Story III”) where the writers will try to convince the network that the show is viable w/o Braff’s inner monologues. Of course SCRUBS won’t actually premiere until January but it does begin national syndication next week! So set your TiVos as SCRUBS is a wonderfully rewatchable show. The second sitcom on my slate is “How I Met Your Mother.” This was a sleeper from last season that I didn’t get around to watching until it was in reruns, but damn is it funny! It takes the formula for (dare I say it?) Friends and tweaks it enough to be familiar without seeming rehashed. The writing for the show is very smart and very funny, and the cast (anchored by Allison Hanagen on one end and Neil Patrick Harris in a career reviving role on the other) has awesome chemistry and great comedic sensibilities. The show uses a soapy season (series?) long arc wherein the main character (voiced by Bob Saget) is telling stories to his kids about “How [he] met [their] mother.” The show then takes place entirely in flashback. A cool twist that does not come off gimmicky at all. This show has shot to the top of the Season Pass list.

I’m not sure about new sitcoms the only thing that I am even remotely interested in is “30 Rock” and that is just because of The Baldwin’s (meaning Alec) involvement. There is also the John Lithgow/Jeffory Tambor show, but I give it 2 episodes before a time-slot change and then another episode before the plug gets pulled on that. I’ll try and tackle the Dramas (both new and returning) that have made the list tomorrow…

posted by JMV | 9/13/2006 04:44:00 PM

Friday, September 08, 2006  

What should we name her?
Originally uploaded by OctopusHat.

Somehow I forgot to post the news on my blog… I imagine most of you have already heard via AttackfotheZ, but for those who haven’t, I said good by the the workhorse no-frills ’99 Hyundai Accent that I bought in 2003 and purchased my first new car: a 2006 Scion xA. I had also been looking at the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Nissan Versa, and I probably would have bought the Versa had I been able to find a 6-speed model, but none of those cars even came close to the personality of the xA. Unfortunately the xAs are getting hard to come by, especially in the Flint Mica (dark matalic grey w/ a rainbow glitter effect that isn’t in the least bit queer) and a 5-speed manual transmission. I was quoted between a 4 and 15 week wait time for one. However a very cool salesman at Marina del Rey Scion, Brett, said he could get me one in ten days. So after a weekend of car shopping I hunkered down for a 2 week wait. Then on Tuesday I get a call from Brett who says, “I’ve got your car.” Amazingly he found the perfect model for me, and since Scion uses the “pure price” model there was no haggling or hassle. We were in and out of the dealership in an hour with my kick-ass new car! I have all sorts of customizations planned for it, and my factory options get installed on Monday (iPod stereo upgrade, fog lights, and blue LED interior accent lighting.) Now I just need to come up with a good name!

posted by JMV | 9/08/2006 05:10:00 PM

Thursday, August 24, 2006  

”I’ll Fight Anybody who says Pluto is not a planet”
Who the fuck decided to revoke the planetary status of our most diminutive and godforsaken planet? I want to know so I can punch them right in the balls. I was all excited that they were going to be awarding planetary status to all manner of weird bodies floating around out there, barely tethered to our sun, but the fucks decided to go the other way and suddenly we have only 8 bodies we can call planets. 8! That is crap. I hate it when my early education is arbitrarily invalidated by passionless nerds.

posted by JMV | 8/24/2006 05:18:00 PM

Friday, August 04, 2006  

Smokin' to the NUB.
Originally uploaded by OctopusHat.

Birthday Cigar Review
(originally posted 8/2/06 at www.cigarpass.com)

I said good-bye to my mid-twenties yesterday. They treated me well, but it was just time to move on. To commemorate my 28th birthday I decided to smoke a God of Fire robusto that I had found at the B&M last weekend.

I generally harbor a distasted for the ultra-premium and rare cigars. I hate to spend more that 8 or 9 bucks on a smoke, but something overcame me when gazing upon the GoF and I paid the $26 asking price. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I used to smoke a lot of Artuo Fuente cigars. 8-5-8s, Chateaux, and Cuban Coronas were in the daily rotation. I enjoyed an occasional stick from the Hemingway or Don Carlos line. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the blenders and rollers of all the vitolas under the AF umbrella, but their marketing bothers me. It bothers me that Fuente is trying to make cigars collectable. And all the ultra-super-double premium special package holo-foil limited edition lines get on my nerves. I don’t want to pay 15-30 for a cigar, and I don't want the indusrty to move any further towards a rare-varient collectable limited edition model.

So why did I plunk-down my debit card for a God of Fire? Besides my aforementioned respect for Don Carlos, and the faint murmurs of the line being exceptional and worth the price, I fell in love with the band.

Yup. This cigars presentation overwhelmed my good sense. Lets ignore the cool coffin-box that the cigars gets all to its self, it was the image of Prometheus getting attacked by the eagle that sold me. I’m a sucker for that story. Prometheus created man, and he stole fire from the gods to keep man warm and to light their way in the cold and the darkness. Zeus punished Prometheus for enlightening man by chaining him to a rock and having a magical (and evil) eagle eat Prometheus’ liver each day. Each night his liver would grow back only to be eaten again, and all the while Prometheus had to watch mankind flounder and suffer under their own flawed humanity.

No good deed goes unpunished eh?

But anyway, back to the smoking.

The GoF Robusto was literally slick with oils when I slipped it from the cello, and it had a pungent fragrance of leather, citrus, and ceder. The wrapper was an intriguing gold-color and it was stretched tight around a dense bundle of filler. I could not wait to sink my teeth into it and rushed through the pre-light checklist and I had that puppy blazing in no time.

The first few draws were slightly tight and very mild. Woody and creamy it tasted just like I’ve come to expect a Fuente cigar to taste. By the time I was ½ inch in the stick started to blossom. Well, really it started to blow-up. There was a cascade of flavors in quick succession. Oak. Butter. Cinnamon. Coco. I was starting to get a little overwhelmed when things mellowed out a bit and I really settled into the cigar. Through the middle ½ of the smoke I was treated to each individual flavor that had bombarded me en masse previously. I had to consciously slow my puffing to keep from overheating the stick. I just wanted to gulp it down. Into the final third things livened up again and pepper and spice (cinnamon and clove) came to the fore. I borrowed a hair-pin from a friend so I could smoked down to the very nub. When I burned my lip for the 2nd time I reluctantly gave up on it.

The burn and draw was perfect from the beginning and by that final inch I was really wishing I had sprung for the Double Robusto.

I don’t like to spend $25 on a cigar, but if I’m ever in the mood to do so I would pick up another God of Fire in a heartbeat.

posted by JMV | 8/04/2006 12:41:00 PM

Wednesday, August 02, 2006  

Had myself a happy birthday yesterday. Went to work, had cake, loafed around, then met up with friends at the Cat and Fiddle, my traditional birthday spot. I smoked an amazing cigar and had a few gin and tonics. It was nice and mellow. Saturday is the less-mellow party where we’ll be striking out into the wilds of Hollywood to raise toasts at Bordners bar. So if you are in LA and want to celebrate with us, come on by after 10, but before I get kicked out (like I did last year.)

Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes!

posted by JMV | 8/02/2006 03:29:00 PM

Monday, July 24, 2006  

Like the Weather
I really dislike smalltalk. It is so awkward and pointless, and talk about the weather is really the worst offender. But the current situation in Los Angeles makes weather-related discussion more akin to current events than small talk. I’m not sure about where you’re at but in the LA basin it is hotter than fuck. In fact it is hotter than it has ever been (at least when you use “Highest official temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles
County” as the caveat) as it hit 119 in Hell’s waiting room (also known as the Valley.) Hollywood was a bit better off as it only hit 102 at our apartment. So yeah, the talk of the town is the weather and whether or not we’ll survive.

I have a fist-full of links that I’m going to TRY and post, but please excuse the brevity of my annotations. I expect Blogger to mangle these links like is has been doing and don’t want to expend too much effort in posting them.

First is a story about fires on Catalina island. The fires were caused by lightning strikes during thunderstroms over the weekend and are notable for two reasons: my father was out there this weekend and since firefighters couldn't fly heliocpters due to the lightning the Marines were called in and used their San Diego based hovercrafts to help fight the blazes. Motherfucking hovercraft. That kicks ass.

Next up is a post on the LAPD blog about an innercity "candy store" that sold all manner of stolen goods and other contraband.

And finally, from the Non sequitur department we have Michael Stipe and William Gibson together at last.

posted by JMV | 7/24/2006 04:31:00 PM

Thursday, July 13, 2006  


IF you need a gift idea for my upcoming birthday, might I suggest some Sweet Meets?

Maybe they A=are listening: HBO just announced a new Cingular-exclusive mini-series based on Entourage’s Johnny Drama. 4 4-minute episodes will be made available to subscribers to watch on their cell-phones. Brilliant!

Thom York’s Solo Album, The Eraser (just out,) is really good. I’m still digesting, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. Catch him on the Henry Rollins show this Saturday on IFC.

posted by JMV | 7/13/2006 02:59:00 PM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006  

If I Was In Charge…

…Things would be better. I’m actually thinking about making this a feature. We’ll see if I follow through on it though. The first (only?) installment will be about saving the beloved HBO show “Entourage.” Entourage is an excellent show, and the first two seasons featured some of the best TV writing in recent memory. For those unfamiliar with the show, it centers on a young actors rise to fame and fortune while he is surrounded by his best-friends from back home. The early episodes had a very distinct fairy-tale feel where everything would go sideways during the 30-minute episodes, but by the end the boys would come out on-top. The later 2nd season episodes carried more strife and drama but were still very encapsulated while still allowing the characters to have satisfying arcs. However, we are now 5 episodes into the 3rd seasons, and the show is on shaky ground. A 2-episode arc the featured a thug from back home crashing with the boys just ended (and none-too-soon) and those episodes really fell flat with a lot of people I’ve talked to. It feels like the writers are “fishing” for a new direction to take the show now that Vinnie has conquered everything that has been thrown at him. If I were in charge these are the things I would do to save the show:

1) Don’t be afraid of writing for Drama. Johnny Drama. Vinnie’s brother is hands down the funniest thing about the show, and the episodes that feature him are fan favorites. However, in recent episodes, the writers seem to only be throwing Johnny the occasional one-liner and he is beginning to stagnate. Never did anyone say Vinnie Chase had to be the #1 star of the show. Shine that spotlight on Johnny Drama! Give him another star-turn episode (like season 2’s Comicon ep.) and follow that up with an increased focus on Drama in the B-plots. Let Johnny grow as a character, and let him taste some success.

2) Put the breaks on the roller coaster. Recent episodes have had a very pronounced build-them-up then knock-them-down formula, and while this is ok in small doses it is starting to get old. Decide on where the hell this season is going and keep building towards it. Remember, the scariest part of the roller coaster is going up that hill.

3) Show-off your Gold. Ari Gold is the other side of the Johnny Drama coin. Together they get the lions share of the show’s laughs, and the writers need to be careful how the mine those laughs. Ari is funny because he is the best at what he does and so he can be a tremendous asshole while doing it (while Drama is so cluelessly terrible.) Keep showing us Ari working his magic, and don’t go too crazy with Ari at home and Ari mowing the lawn etc. This weeks episode where Ari bumps into Penny Marshal and exploits the opportunity to rid himself of a problem in his personal life is a perfect example of what the writers need to do MORE of.

4) Play with classic sitcom formula. This one is tough because it can really backfire, much like it just did when they tried the “introduce a new character into the cast” gimmick with Dom. But I maintain that the #1 reason this attempt failed was because the arc was spread over 2 episodes (and 60 minutes of runtime, almost 3 typical network sitcom episodes.) When you reach into you bag-of-sitcom-tricks you’ve got to remember to keep it simple and keep it moving. Try the classic “take two mismatched characters and lock them in a room” (Llyod and Drama stuck together for brunch at Toast or Eric and Ari’s wife waiting for Ari at LAX’s Encounter or Turtle and Shauna stuck in traffic on the 405.) There are dozens of episodes b-plots just waiting to be hashed out of these classic sitcom formulas.

5) Find tension in new places. This one is tough, but something as good as Entourage is worth fighting for. The show shouldn’t always be about Vinnie becoming successful. That should just be the FRAME for the stories being told about what happens when you become so successful. Season 2’s “money troubles” arc was brilliant. It showed our super-star heroes in a very universally relatable situation and allowed for a wonderfully over-the-top solution (Vinnie’s Japanese commercial.) Find “problems” for our heroes in other places besides the career. We saw the writers try this with the Mandy More love interest in Season 2, but that didn’t go over well with many of the fans I’ve talked to. It went against Vinnie’s persona too much and viewers had a hard time buying him that head-over-heels in love. (Mandy More’s flat-as-a-pancake acting certainly didn’t help things.) Keep things light and always have the boys come out on top. On top of the world. Keep letting our heroes win, and find the drama of the show in the little speed-bumps that they have to get over. The important thing to remember is there have been a 100 different movies and shows about Hollywood chewing people up and spitting them out. Entourage should be about the fairytale of becoming the biggest movie star in the world and how that trickles down to all your friends. This isn’t a True Hollywood Story.

posted by JMV | 7/11/2006 10:23:00 AM

Monday, July 10, 2006  

Pirates and Dick

Phillip K. Dick that is… Julie and managed to see both “A Scanner Darkly” and Pirates II this weekend and I was impressed by both. First up A Scanner Darkly is Richard Linklater’s adaptation of the PK Dick novella and it was produced using the rotoscope animation that Linklater pioneered with his “Waking Life.” This film centers around Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics officer in Anaheim (played by Keanu Reeves) who is slipping into a pit of addiction and paranoia as the lines between his self and his alter-ego blur. Verive family favorite Robert Downey Jr. continues his professional renaissance with a great performance as Keanu’s roommate and rival. (Check out “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” for more great RDJ action!) Winnoa Rider and Woody Harrelson round out the cast (can you even imagine how much pot was smoked on the set?) and provide the love interest and comic relief (both of which are dearly needed to lighten the film’s very dark tone.) Linklater has managed to take the rotoscope animation to a new level of transparency, and it doesn’t feel gimmicky at all but rather adds to the atmosphere of the film’s near-future distopian Orange County. I had very high hopes for this film, and I had been impatiently awaiting its often delayed release and it lived up to my hopes. It wasn’t the blow-your-mind amazement of that first viewing of the Matrix, but all the impact is there, it is just much more subtle.

The newest BIGGEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest, has none of that pesky subtlety. It is all about bombast, and cutlasses, and pirates and rum. And it rocks. Perhaps not QUITE as much as the first Pirates film, but certainly more then enough to keep you entertained for the very brisk 150 minutes. Gore Verbinski has the Pirate formula DOWN and has crafted another swashbuckling classic. I can’t wait for the third installment.

posted by JMV | 7/10/2006 03:40:00 PM

Friday, June 30, 2006  

Like Spinning Plates…

tran·scen·dent (tr?n-s?n'd?nt)
1. Surpassing others; preeminent or supreme.
2. Lying beyond the ordinary range of perception: “fails to achieve a transcendent significance in suffering and squalor” (National Review).
3. Philosophy.
a. Transcending the Aristotelian categories.
b. In Kant's theory of knowledge, being beyond the limits of experience and hence unknowable.
4. Being above and independent of the material universe. Used of the Deity.

posted by JMV | 6/30/2006 02:06:00 PM

Thursday, June 29, 2006  

Everything In Its Right Place
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

About 7 hours left until the show, and I still can’t believe I’m going. It isn’t everyday you get to see you #1 favorite band, in a venue smaller than they would normally play, play new material that you’ve never heard before. It should be quite a show.

posted by JMV | 6/29/2006 01:30:00 PM

Monday, June 26, 2006  

John Saw that Number

Friday: Neko Case @ the Henry Fonda “Music Box:”
A great show in a really cool venue. The Music Box is just up on Hollywood blvd, and this was our first time at a show there. They have a roof-top bar/lounge where we got a couple of rounds and waited out the opening act before heading down to elbow our way to the stage. Funny thing was we didn’t even have to do much elbowing and were able to weave our way though the thick crowd and get a spot a couple of “rows” back from stage-right, just in front of her ass-kicking pedal-guitar/banjo player. The set was great and Neko really blew me away with her performance and affable stage-presence. It was nice to see a show in such a tiny venue after our last few outings at the bigger spots around town. And she closed with one of my favorite songs which is always a nice little bonus. Some additional highlights: just after the first song, during which some duche-bag in the front row was talking, she threatened to “come down their and fucking kick the fucking shit out of [him.]” which really won the (hipster-heavy) crowd over. Then there was her about Los Angeles culture and “dogs in the office” being her favorite part of LA, (I guess my company isn’t alone in having dogs in the office.) Also, she played some great covers (Dylan and Randy Newman) and blew the fucking lid off of “Hold On” (the lead single off the new Album.) A+ show

Saturday: Fiona Apple @ the Greek:
When we first saw Fiona at Largo (capacity of 100) last year we were (obviously) blown away. Then we saw her at the Wiltern (capacity of 2400) and I was concerned about her ability to carry such a large room. And we were even more blow away. Then she played the Greek (capacity of around 8000) and I was again concerned about the size of the venue and again my concerned proved to be unfounded. She was even more enrapturing in the large amphitheatre than she had been at the Wiltern. The set-list was pretty close to what she played when we last saw her, but the emotion and power that she poured out for her hometown crowd made it a memorable evening.

Oh. And Julie just miraculously procured Radiohead tickets at the Greek Theater for Thursday as an early Birthday Present. That’s right. My wife kicks ass.

Also, see: I CAN make it a month w/o posting. Don't make me do it again.

posted by JMV | 6/26/2006 04:06:00 PM

Thursday, May 25, 2006  

A Futile Attempt at Catch-up

Did you see Lost last night? Man, I love this show. So many great little details that combine to form the big picture. There may have been some low-points during season 2, but last nights finale made up for it. Enough clues, hints, and details were revealed last night to keep me theorizing all summer long…

Maybe by then I will have forgotten how crappy the Da Vinci Code movie was. But probably not because it was REALLY bad. And not bad in a “poor adaptation of a book” or “watered down Hollywood blockbuster” way but bad in a, “it makes me depressed about the state of American Cinema” way. I can’t even delve into the films inadequacies, I’ve tried for two days to write a blog-post about it and keep giving up in frustration.

I read the book just before seeing the fim, and thought it was OK. A perfect book for a plane-flight or a day at the beach, or a lazy Sunday. I’m note really sure why it became such a huge phenomenon, but Brown’s style is certainly very approachable even though the subject matter tries to be very cerebral. The Da Vinci Code, like lost, is all about the details and the connections made between seemingly disparate elements. And this is the great shortcoming of the film (well that and the horribly stilted and bland direction,) as most of the interesting details and “oh cool!” connections were stripped out leaving only a shaky framework of exposition.

MI:III was a far better summer blockbuster, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I guess that makes me a JJ Abrams fanboy. Regardless there are some fantastic action set-pieces in the film, and the script is smart and takes some risks that really pay-off.

Musically there have been a steady-stream of releases from the long awaited 4th Tool album to the Ditty Bops’ Sophomore record. Tool was… Interesting. I’m not sure how to take the album, which is both more structurally straightforward and ideologically less approachable than their last album. For an iconic band know for their dishonesty and penchant for jokes, gags, and ruses it is difficult to take the album seriously, and it feels very much like Maynard’s attempt at creating a Swan Song record.

The aforementioned Ditty Bops’ disk is, as expected, and though I was familier with most of the songs on the disc from their live-shows I’d like to give it a few more spins before I write about it. The Raconteurs’ “Broken Boy Soldiers” is a tasty summer-treat that features a few stand-out awesome songs. Hearing Jack White color out-side the self-imposed musical lines of the White Stripes is a blast, and this album is going to get a lot of play from me before I forget about it in the fall. Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” is alt-country at it whiskey-soaked finest, and I highly recommend it to anyone that needs a little more twang in their musical diet. It really deserves more than a one-line write-up from me, but maybe Julie will pick up the slack on this one and write a record review…

More to come…

posted by JMV | 5/25/2006 01:13:00 PM

Monday, May 08, 2006  

You’re Fucking my Shit-up Right Now!

Julie’s high-concept birthday party was this weekend, and it was a smashing success. We stole the idea wholesale from an episode of Gilmore Girls (shutup) and made the party a Quentin Tarantino themed costume party. We played music from all his soundtracks and had a selection of scenes playing on the TV (which while cool ended up being a little too distracting for a party-setting.) We had excellent attendance, breaking a long-standing Verive’s Hollywood capacity record (I think we had around 20 people in the apartment) and fully 85% came in Costume! All in all it was a great time. Check-out the my flickr for some pics.

posted by JMV | 5/08/2006 04:53:00 PM

Wednesday, May 03, 2006  

Booze + Science = Sciooze?
We all now, and most of us love, the Jell-o Shot. It is like food that gets you drunk. In my collegiate days I experimented with many different recopies and techniques for creating the perfect jelled alcohol intake medium. (does anyone remember the ectoplasm shots from New Years eve 2001?) However, I never once got a Jell-o shot to Burn.

posted by JMV | 5/03/2006 01:26:00 PM

Tuesday, April 25, 2006  

Wes Anderson’s AMEX
As previously stated here, I love Wes Anderson’s films. And evidently I also love his commercials. Check out his “My Life, My Card” American Express spot on You-Tube (featuring Jason Schwartzman!) It is like 60-second Wes Anderson movie w/o all the emotional impact.

posted by JMV | 4/25/2006 02:11:00 PM

Monday, April 24, 2006  

Fine. Have it your way.
I’m back on the wagon of blogging now. You’ll just have to deal with my drivel.
The weekend was packed full, as Julie and I attended a memorial for Greg’s mom in Carlsbad Saturday morning and then changed gears and went to Todd’s Birthday party in whateverthefuckSDsuburb they live in (Carmel Valley?) It was really great to the Greg and Christine (and Colin!) though of course the circumstances were not so great. Colin has grown immensely since we saw him in September, and he is now running around quite well. To my amateur eyes he seems to be a well behaved and pretty chill kid. Todd’s party was cool, and it was good to see him and everybody else as it had been a while. I think birthday season has officially started now, and won’t let-up until sometime in July (Mary’s birthday being “preseason” and my birthday being the championships…)

I also finally went to the dentist today after MANY years of frankly being to afraid to. Just xrays and a consultation today, but by the end of May I’ll have all kinds of unpleasant-sounding work done to reverse some gum-disease and crown a really old filling. My wallet will hurt MUCH more than any of the procedures though.

posted by JMV | 4/24/2006 06:04:00 PM

Friday, April 21, 2006  

I have nothing to say.

About 2 weeks ago I started to wonder how long I could leave OH furloughed, and after a month passed I decided to open up word and write a post to break the silence. But I had nothing to say… Sure, I’d seen a few movies (Fun with Dick and Jane was passably watchable, but contained a scene so hilarious funny that I had to literally hide from the TV, Inside Man was a pretty great Heist film,) I had finished a 2700 page three-book series (the first 3 books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series which we long, and wordy, and ultimately incredibly satisfying and extremely impressive.) and I had a few album reviews that needed writing (the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album is a pleasing romp though retro-post-punk and NY art-rock and the Wren’s Meadowlands is playful toe-tapping finger-drumming rock and roll that I can’t stop spinning.) but I just couldn’t seem to collect my thoughts enough to write about them. Or perhaps I just couldn’t convince myself that anyone could actually care enough about my opinions to make it worthwhile.

I could linkmine and post pithy commentary on things of interest I ran-across, but nothing seemed interesting/cool/weird enough to break the silence.

The very act of blogging seemed so futile and narcissistic that I couldn’t bare to commit my thoughts to 1s and 0s. But my malaise went (goes?) deeper. My journal, which in the past I have recorded minute details of any randomness going on around me, now lies untouched. No notes from my last movie. No brainstorms for new projects. No deep and impressive thoughts on the world around me. It wasn’t that I was depressed, or overwhelmed, or lazy, just disinterested in sharing the monotony of mediocrity.

I read, watched, and heard all manner of things. I’ve played and gone on roadtrips, and eaten a dozen of awesome meals. Been to a wedding, seen my dear friends suffer grievous losses, and seen other friends accomplish major goals. All of which I would have (should have?) blogged readily in the past. What changed?

I think I need to redefine my motivations for blogging, as well as what I hope to accomplish by blogging. Perhaps I should start by asking why you come to Octopushat, and what you hope to find when you get here.

posted by JMV | 4/21/2006 05:04:00 PM

Wednesday, March 22, 2006  

Logic Will Break Your Heart.
I’m sure you have heard me bitch about my longer commute, and I tell you it would be much worse with-out my trusty 2nd Gen iPod. At only 10GB it pales in storage capacity to the newest beasts, but 10 gigs of music is still A LOT. Too much in fact to just fill-up, hit shuffle, and hope for a pleasing mix. Luckily iTunes has an under utilized feature called, “Smart Playlists” that allow you to hit your iPod’s library with the big hammer of logic. I use a smart playlist, (well, actually 9 playlists) to create “--> Drivetime:” a smart playlist that hovers around 500 choice tunes and never fails to deliver a great selection of songs for my drive. Here are the details on how it works.

First there is the “master” playlist; the one that I actually “play,” (on shuffle of course,) during my drive. I created a “smart playlist” (by hold “shift” or “option” and pressing the NEW PLAYLIST button in iTunes) that will play songs that are on the “drivetimeis” playlist but not on the “drivetime –remove” playlist which I named “--> Drivetime.” The dash-dash-bracket is important because this pushes my playlist to the top of the list on my iPod removing the need to scroll through my long list of playlists The “drivetime -remove" list is a standard playlist where I can put songs/artists/albums that I for one reason or another DO NOT want to hear in my car. For example, while I at times enjoy the ambient textures of M83, I don’t really lie to DRIVE to them. I put the M83 songs on this list and the are magically removed from my drivetime playlist. . The “Drivetimeis” list is a smart playlist that brings together songs on 6 other playlists that hold the bits of logic that do all the heavy lifting. These are:

-New gig: [“not podcast” limited to 1GB by “most recently added.]
This captures the newest stuff that I have added to the playlist, and represents about 50% of the total songs contained in the master playlist.

-Oft’ Play’d: [playcount is < 10 limited to 100 songs most often played]
This represents my “top-40 hits” and contains songs that I’ve listened to multiple times, but not so many (10+) that I’ve grown tired of them. Though I’m toying with the idea of moving the “<10” operator into the master playlist as there are songs with much higher play-counts that are getting through on the other lists.

-Shorty Podcasts: [podcast is true, time < 8:00, playcount is 0]
this was meant to grab any Podcast that I hadn’t listened to that was short enough to “fit” in-between songs. Really the only podcasts it catches are Merlin Mann’s 43folders podcast. Everything else is too long or has been deleted because it sucked (NPR “Story of the Day” I’m looking at you…)

-4Star: [rating is > 2star]
I tend to only rate songs I REALLY like, and then I usually only give them 4 or 5 star ratings. (Currently I rate 150 songs 4-stars or above.) But this playlist ensures my FAVORITE songs get put into rotation.

-50mix [playlist is not “newgig,” “oft’ Play’d,” or “4star” limit to 50 songs by random]
This is the newest addition and it is there to keep enough suprises in the master-list to keep it “fresh.” The “playlist is not…” operator ensures none of the songs picked by this list show up on any of the OTHER lists.

-Drivetime +add
This is a standard playlist where I can drop songs/albums/artists that I want in the mix. I usually have between 100-200 songs from my “standard” albums/ This allows me at least SOME control for my general “mood” from day-to-day…

That’s it. All the thinking is handled by the iPod, and I can concentrate on driving (or singing along.)

posted by JMV | 3/22/2006 05:36:00 PM

Monday, March 13, 2006  

I Woke Up This Morning…
Thankfully Comcast hasn’t yet pulled the plug on our HBO for 5 bucks deal, and last night we certainly got our moneys worth with long awaited the season premiere of the Sopranos. I must say, after last season’s spotty episodes I wasn’t actually very excited about the show’s return. But the opening sequence in last night’s episode hooked me all over again. I was pretty damn impressed with what they pulled together and I only hope that the whole of the season will follow suit and keep us off balance and interested.

posted by JMV | 3/13/2006 12:51:00 PM

Friday, March 10, 2006  

The Battle is Joined
I decided to treat myself to lunch out of the office today after two weeks of brown-bagging it. My destination, the LA institution Tito’s Tacos in adjacent Culver City. Tito’s is famous for their sparse, In-and-Out like menu and monumental lines at night. Luckily the lunch-rush was over by the time we made it, and we stepped right up to the counter to order our tacos: shredded beef and lettuce with cheese in a crispy shell. Simple and delicious. I had to get an enchilada too, since they are my great weakness, and while it was pretty good the key is clearly Tito’s tacos.

posted by JMV | 3/10/2006 05:18:00 PM

Tuesday, March 07, 2006  

An Epic Battle
Over the weekend I expressed, to Julie, my unearthly cravings for Mexican food and when she suggested that we scrap our plans to hit up our fav little coffee-shop for dinner and get some Mexican instead I told her that I would rather, “draw out the satiation of my craving” by eating smaller Mexican “snacks” of a few days and “culminating in a battle of epic proportions with a Mexican feast the likes of which haven’t been seen on these shore in years.” Julie was more than a little taken aback by this. The concept of a “meal as battle” did sit with her as something one would look forward to. Am I alone in this? Is my desire to eat until I can no longer function foreign to you? I once heard a morbidly overweight comedian explain how he would get SAD when he finished a meal. That his heart would sink with the last bite of a pie or the last spoon of ice cream. I knew that feeling. I have often felt sad when I finish a treat. I very clearly remember the sadness when I would finish the last fork-full of noodles from my instant lunch in elementary school. Is this normal? Does your heart sink when you eat the final French fries from your combo-meal? Do you know the sadness that lies at the bottom of a pint of ice cream? Or am I alone in that too?

I’m still biding my time before the epic battle… A taco here. A taco there. All the while I steel myself and wait. I know that soon the din of flatware on china will ring in my ears and legions of enchiladas and tamales will fall before me like sheaves of wheat fall before the reaper.

posted by JMV | 3/07/2006 04:45:00 PM

Monday, March 06, 2006  

It Worked for Me
Here is an interesting article in the Herald Sun regarding Soda and its effects on obesity. Take from it what you will, but there are some good points in there, and Julie and I frequently credit quitting soda for our weight loss of the past year… Regardless I’m sure Americans would be a lot better off if the de facto beverage from childhood wasn’t Coke or Pepsi.

I realized yesterday that I had completely neglected to offer any commentary, let alone predictions, on the Academy Awards. This wasn’t by design, but I think that it says a lot in its own right. I wasn’t at all surprised by Crash’s win over Brokeback Mountain. The Oscars are nothing if not political, and Hollywood is in no position to risk the further wrath of those audiences who would be appalled by the “gay cowboys” getting the top-nod. So instead they took the “safe” way out and recognized a stellar film about racism, corruption, and hate. Anyway… back to the grind.

posted by JMV | 3/06/2006 04:42:00 PM

Thursday, March 02, 2006  

What Once Was Lost

I was just about to give up on the meandering clusterfuck that Lost had become over the past couple of months and subjected Julie to a RANT as the “Previously on Lost” bit aired at the head of last night’s episode. Much to my surprise the writers seemed to turn things around and delivered a top-notch episode. An episode that actually LED places and that matched the “WHAT THE FUCK!” quality of some of the choice 1st season episodes. There were some BIG reveals this week (I don’t think I’ll give anything away when I say “theatrical glue!? OMG!!”) and some more big questions poked at. Lets hope the rest of the season will build off this model and deliver 10 more nail biters.

In more TV related content, Julie and I just worked our way through the two seasons of HBO’s Entourage and I have to say it really surprised me. It surpassed all expectations I had for it, and well deserves all its praise. I might go so far as to say it is the tightest 30-minute show on TV. Great writing, and great acting (especially by Jeremy Piven.)

It hasn’t all been roses though. The first disk-and-a-half of “House” has left us kinda unimpressed. Does it pick up anytime soon, or does the remainder of the 1st season follow pretty much the same formula? I’m a little warmer towards “Veronica Mars,” but still on the fence. The show is clever enough, and I enjoy the mix of single-episode cases and the slow unraveling of the over-arching “who killed my best friend” case, but it feels like is lacking something.

I mourn the loss of Arrested Development, though rumors are still murmured about Showtime picking it up.

posted by JMV | 3/02/2006 04:47:00 PM

Wednesday, February 15, 2006  

Wonder Bread Product
It is like a bagel. But Square.

posted by JMV | 2/15/2006 05:23:00 PM

Some fantastic Spam-poetry found its way into my inbox this morning. The subject was “Your Order” and I have no idea what it is trying to sell me. Enjoy.

Brave men are all vertebrates they have their softness on the surface
and their toughness in the middle.
It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.
A hero is someone we can admire without apology.
To be adult is to be alone.Courage is acting in spite of fear.
The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable.
A well begun is half ended.
It is odd but agitation or contest of any kind gives a rebound
to my spirits and sets me up for a time.

posted by JMV | 2/15/2006 09:39:00 AM
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