Sunday, March 29, 2009

Adventures in Communism

Upon telling my boss that I wouldn’t be able to work on Monday, he said something to the extent of “Nothing quite like hanging with the communist pinkos of Saint Louis, eh?” Cue hilarious laughing. Well, apparently I’m a communist pinko because I loved it there.

I visited the River Front Times offices to meet with staff writer Keegan Hamilton. After a semi-long drive to the loop, I wondered into the building finding the directory going to the main offices located on the second floor. Seeing as no one was at the reception desk, I wondered to the staff floor where the door was locked with a fancy number lock. Following a phone call to Mr. Hamilton’s business line, I was let in.
Mr. Hamilton showed me around the office. I met Ian Froeb, the food critic. I was told of how things generally go and what a usual week is like. We talked of my future as a possible journalist and how much improvement our school paper needs. Having a copy of The Prowl handy, I let him look through it. I explained my complaints and he candidly agreed that we need better pictures.

At ten thirty, the weekly staff meeting began with every significant writer present. Many handshakes occurred on the way to the meeting. Tom Finker, editor and chief, brought the news that the actual size of the paper would be shrinking. The staff’s response was surprisingly lax. It appears they know of the slow death of traditional print as talk of online and blogging started to pop up. A grand stack of paper containing the statistics of which story’s got the highest amount of hits and which one’s got the lowest.

As the meeting closed, Mr. Hamilton walked back to his office. I snagged a couple quick pics, just for the blog. I wanted to include Ian. He mumbled something about how I can’t take his picture while I wasn’t really paying attention. I laughed because I thought he was joking, but when I looked up I found him missing. Mr. Hamilton explained that since he’s a food critique he didn’t want restaurants to know his face. It made sense. We wrapped things up. Hamilton walked me out and we shook hands.

I proceeded to spend an hour in vintage vinyl. It was heaven.

Joel Samson Berntsen (That’s What You Get-Paramore)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

This happened at work…

I just saw the Where the Wild Things Are trailer. With Spike Jonze directing what seems to be a very faithful adaptation of the classic book. I’m thinking of crying. It was my favorite book as a child. I’ve probably read it over a hundred times. From the looks of it, Jonze has added several surreal elements to the book while modernizing it. Arcade Fire was also featured as the background music. A tear just rolled my cheek…
Joel Samson Berntsen (These tears will dry on their own- Amy Winehouse)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Return of the King (or just some poor blogger)

Again, I return! I’m feeling a bit scatterbrained, yet I’m yearning to write something. So, if the following post seems sporadic, you now know the reason.

Yesterday, I gave a book talk to my AP English III class about the book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Hoping for a reaction from Weiblen, who is a Baptist (something she states often), I went up with no note cards or paper, just the thoughts in my abnormal head and a brief passage on fake love. It went rather well. Kody Kolb said it was the only book he was genuinely interested in actually reading out of the other twenty four books presented. I was happy. I will most definitely be writing a review for the book. It is quite amazing.

While on the subject of English class, I received a 291/300 on my post modern poet research paper. Mrs. Weiblen simply wrote, “You write well,” on the grading sheet. I might frame it.

I’ve had a sudden realization that Paramore is also the feminine equivalent to Panic! At the Disco.

Closing the shop, my boss stopped by to watch some March Madness. We somehow got onto the topic of Alan Moore. We talked about his genius for about twenty five minutes. If you’ve read Watchmen, look at the fearful symmetry chapter. From the splash page in the middle, every single panel is symmetric and all the panels have to do with the same characters. This is just one small, obscure example of his intellect and brilliance.

Gran Torino a remarkable film. I’m going to write a critical analysis essay on it after I see it for a second time.

Next post will either be about the River Front Times or Pixar,

Joel Samson Berntsen (19-2000-Gorrilaz)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh Patricia…

The following is a small collection of humorous quotes from our wondrous AP English III teacher Mrs. Weiblen.

“Well… you see… on Wednesday… You have a quiz...” After I asked her if we had on Wednesday.
“Hamlet, Prince of Darkness!”
“Do you still call them slacks” In reference to the varying names of pants.
“I can’t imagine drinking one beer, much less 30. I can’t even drink 30 diet cokes!” – I’m pretty sure she was talking about Fitzgerald or Hemmingway.
“I’ll stand here like a queen and you can lay down your essays at my feet as an offering.”
“Get on YouTube and feed in the unknown citizen... I mean search for.”
She was pointing her finger at certain individuals as she said “You’re talking! You can’t hear me! And you’re eating your lunch…” I was eating my lunch. It was quite tasty.
“I will personally cut off your fingers if you do that!” She was talking about something she didn’t want us to do in our research essay.
“I blame it on the fact that I’m old…” following her inability to remember who Saddam Hussein was.

“So, I’m really creepy,” Followed by “I don’t know I’ve never been creepy.”

“Then you’d prove I’m scum.” She proceeded to give me a dirty look.

"Your nails kinda look like they have a disease” – To Ally Gramlich after looking at her just-before-prom nails.


“Whatever I just said write it down.” This was after she discovered I was writing down all of her amusing comments.

Joel Samson Berntsen (White Room- Cream)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Brainwashing Siblings

In an effort to culture my littlest sister’s interests, I recently burned her the CD Riot! by Paramore. Hoping that I can steer her away from the garbage that is the Disney music group and cater her to something slightly more credible. She really likes girl singers, so I thought Paramore would be a good start. So far she’s only thanked me for the CD, but she had a smile on her face thus giving me good vibrations.

Once again we’ll see how this pans out,

Joel Samson Berntsen (Unbroken-Stranglers)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Dynamic Duo

Quick Musing: While catching up on this season of 30 rock on Hulu, I discovered the fantastic duo of Jack McBrayer and Maria Thayer were re-united in the St.Valentine’s Day episode. Remember the awkward newlyweds in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Yep, they’re back in action, except now Thayer plays a blind woman that Kenneth the Page (McBrayer) falls in love with. It's funny, maybe not as funny as their sex scene in FSM, but still really good.

Check it out:

Joel Samson Berntsen (Surprisingly listening to the radio. It's not even NPR.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Breaking Bank

I don’t have to tell anyone that our economy is slowly coming to a collapse. However, do individuals, like myself, even understand what lead to our current economic depression? I mean, just watch the news, they aren’t trying to explain the problem. They’re arguing over on the various plans and packages that could save us.

Fortunately, there are people that are trying to help that our trying to help others like myself understand what exactly lead to our country’s economy turning into this particular nightmare. Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson have been recently been added to my personal collection of heroes. They’ve been featured on This American Life and the Planet Money podcasts explaining the multiple problems of our current economy. They recently tackled the current problems most of today’s banks are facing. If you have the time, I highly recommend you check out the podcasts. The following is just an echoing of what they’ve been saying about banking, just in my own words.

The basic rule of every bank is you need two kinds of customers: Someone to invest in your bank and someone to borrow from your bank. For example, the bank will charge the borrower a 6% yearly interest on their loan and give the investor 3% yearly interest for investing in their bank. Banks make their money, or capital, from the 3% difference between the investors and the borrowers and, in theory; everything balances out on the grand balance sheet.

The bank’s got greedy though and started giving loans to whacked out individuals that didn’t or couldn’t pay their mortgages. The balance sheet still has to be even, resulting in evictions of homes and reposing of property and with the recent housing slump the banks are stuck with a house that is of less value than before the transaction. This is called a toxic asset because there was a loss of money on the borrower’s side. The banks have developed a twisted ideology through believing that if they keep the toxic assets until the ailing market recover, they can then turn around and sell it, resulting in a profit and capital.

The wrinkle in this idea is that the two biggest banks in America, Bank of America and Citi, are insolvent meaning that they owe more money than they have. The problem is if they declare bankruptcy it would almost certainly lead to the complete and utter destruction of our economy, which is where the government steps in.

The government is siding with the banks. Mainly due to the fact that if the two biggest banks collapse, so will the economies of the world. Which is why our government buys these toxic assets from banks like Citi, they hope that as the market recovers they’ll be able to.

Too be continued… hopefully

Joel Samson Berntsen (This American Life-Bad Bank)

Cramer vs. Cramer

Just some brief thoughts on the John Stewart vs. Jim Cramer episode.

5 degrees of Kevin Bacon and Ellie Wiesel was hilarious.

Cramer: Seemed very pathetic at first. How did he even become famous? Shrunk into a little boy and started to do anything to appease Stewart. He screwed over the public people and his constant stream of apologies and regrets appear some-what insincere.

“We’re not in bed with them.” - The quote has me very concerned.

Best/Worst Quote: “No! Not 2-12!” (Look of panic on face)

Stewart: He was very smart, backed his points, and did his best to expose short selling. Stewart’s on a mission to expose the bullshit of CNBC and cable news. Clips actually showed the true person Cramer is.

“This song ain’t about you.”

“It’s not a fucking game.” – Queue cheering and applause.

Bottom Line: You can’t trust a man who trusts corporations.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Elvis on Velvet-Stray Cats)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watchman Part 1

It’s hard to write about a movie when you’ve read the book, especially when it’s greatest graphic novel of all time. Furthermore, when there are two categories of people who are going to see Watchman: people who’ve read the book and those who haven’t.

Those who haven’t read the book will, in short, be blown away. At least, that’s what I think. The downside of having the audience’s mind getting blown to smithereens is they might have trouble following the story and understanding what the movie is actually about, particularly with the subtleties that occur throughout the movie. We’ll see how audiences react by next week…
Those who have the read the book will most likely be either content or ecstatic. I just read the book last week so every single difference in the movie was blatantly apparent to me, which, upon reflection, was a bad idea. The graphic novel is a highly detailed story board for the entire movie with almost every shot, angle, or lighting replicated.
There is no way a movie could cover every detail of book and it’s the small details that grab and pull readers into a literary work such as watchman. With many of its parallel and narrative elements and metaphors dispensed to make room for other more important things like characterization and explanation of plot, Watchman is lacking, to an extent.
The cinematography was fantastic, done by the wonderful Larry Fong (He did the first few episodes of lost). Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach was incredible as he embodied the very essence of Rorschach. Billy Crudup was fantasic and Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a damn fine Comedian.
Hopefully, I’ll write more later. This is just my initial impressions of the movie.
Joel Samson Berntsen (Kodo-Yoshida Brothers)