Monday, August 31, 2009

I Miss Ze Frank

"For me, experimentation is not about the technology. In an ever-changing technological landscape, where today’s platforms are not tomorrow’s platforms, the key seems to be that any one of these spaces can use a dose of humanity and art and culture.”
- Ze Frank

I think this quote speaks a lot to what These Gentlemen is about.

Born Hosea Jan Frank, Ze Frank graduated from Brown University in 1995 with a degree in neuroscience. Despite majoring in the hard sciences, Ze's primary career path would take him to the internet where, after forwarding this online birthday invitation to all of his friends in 2001, his personal website was flooded with hits and internet popularity. His little "e-card" exploded down the information superhighway and gained him some momentary notoriety. Seizing the day, Ze expanded his personal website to include animated shorts, flash-based video games, audience participation, and children's "educational" videos to accommodate the sudden web traffic. In 2006, Ze launched his main and most successful claim to fame - a daily web series titled the show with zefrank.

the show [sic] was a year-long project which primarily focused on Ze talking into a webcam and providing Daily Show-esque recounts of the news and media on a daily basis. As the project evolved, extensive features outside of the show's original scope were added and this little creative endeavor eventually became a prototypical model for creating a successful and enjoyable website. While the internet continues to expand, the show still serves as a virtual "how-to" in accumulating and affecting a constant fan base.

*Written by John Ozkirbas

1. Big Idea, Itty-Bitty Title
While the most flexible standard - short, sweet, and simple is typically a good idea. Small and simple are easy to remember, easy to say, and easy to spell. You don't want to give your future fan base a harder time talking about your website than is necessary. However, longer titles aren't a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination. Long titles are blessed with the gift of abbreviation, allowing fans to refer to their new web obsession as some sort of faux inside-joke. Ideally, the purpose or mission of a website is paramount and easily reflected in what a designer decides to call his creation. the show with zefrank itself is akin to the concept of "truth in advertising" where a product is called by exactly what it is or contains. The title can easily be shortened to "the show," allowing it to be referred to quickly while still encapsulating its core concept. A mascot, while not completely necessary at first, helps significantly, as well.

2. Gotta Keep It Regul-ah!
Given the "purpose" of your website, this is more or less important. However, regular content on a daily basis is rarely, if ever, a bad thing. Most fan bases (and especially web fan-bases) tend to have the attention spans of five year-olds on speed. You want to provide reminders that you're here, that your existence is worth noting, and give them incentives to return on their own. So, part of your goal is to provide enough material to keep your fans coming back regularly without overwhelming them. Part of the show's concept was to provide absurdist, humorous, but knowledgeable commentary about various news items on a daily basis. Each episode had a simple format, including an introductory tag line and a closing byline, lasted approximately 5 minutes, and featured nearly all original material (including writing and composing songs). Ze provided this material consistently - whether through sickness and health, at home and traveling. Given, Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel's Homestar Runner is still fairly successful while presenting most material at whim, but their weekly Strong Bad E-mail segment is certainly their most popular and definitely keeps their fan base coming back on a regular basis.

3. Community + Togetherness = "Cometherness"
Part of what keeps the fan base coming back is being a part of the collective and identifying with said collective over the website. In my personal opinion, this was the show's greatest asset and Ze executed it with absolute perfection:

First, he gave his fans something to call themselves by attributing to them the moniker "Sports Racers," thereby crafting a collective identity. Now, when audiences returned to watch the show, they weren't just detached third parties looking for a laugh - they became a part of each episode and were now somewhat committed. Next, Ze instituted "Fabuloso Fridays" - a weekly holiday where Sports Racers could send in written episodes from the day before for him to select and perform during Friday episodes. Not only were fridays "special" days for Sports Racers to check in on, but people who actively participated with Ze in this manner became "Fabulosos," as well. The Fabulosos would continue to participate directly with Ze in various other activities, such as a contest to find the ugliest MySpace page (the "I knows me some ugly myspace showdown"), as well as a month long, long distance chess game against Ze himself ("Fabuloso Chess"). An additional holiday was also added to fridays, called "Ride the Fire Eagle Danger Day" ("RTFEDD") where Ze would fill us in on any news that he missed that week that still caught his fancy. the show would take RTFEDD a step further when Ze allowed fans to send in homemade video intros to RTFEDD as a form of celebration. Ze also instituted a movement for something he called "Power Moves" - an undefined set of martial-arts styled moves that were, really, just about letting Sports Racers be themselves on camera. Sports Racers had the chance of having their Power Move showcased and - if so selected - they were presumably indoctrinated into something called the "League of Awesomeness."

There's more, but I'll stop here. You get the point - forming, maintaining, and having fun with the community surrounding your site is extremely important.

4. Extra Content, Extra Credit
Eventually, if you're doing well, your website will grow and your fans will want more. Or, maybe you're just having a lot of fun and you simply want to share that with your fans. Either way, adding attractions outside of your website's core concept allows fans to stay around and invest more time on your webpage. It provides both an increased incentive for fans to return and items to hook in web surfers who weren't particularly attracted before. In addition to his daily feed, Ze created his own wiki where the audience explains the show's jargon and history (in a very Ze way), and an .ORG version of the site to heighten audience participation in the multiple projects Ze organized. He also put together a picture, video, and .mp3 gallery for fans to upload and use material relevant to the show and a forum where fans could freely discuss similar topics. Most of the extra content was very community centered and allowed Ze to interact with fans as directly as he could.

5. Audience Participation is Key
One of the most impressive things about the show was its propensity for organizing a mass collective across the world to participate in Ze's projects. His most notable projects (and my personal favorites) were called the "Remixes for Ray" project, where Sports Racers hunted down a man named "Ray" who sent Ze this .mp3 just to thank him for the song he sang with CD's full of different remixes of the song, and the "Earth Sandwich Project," where the League of Awesomeness called all Sports Racers to attempt to simultaneously place two slices of bread on the ground on exact opposites sides of the globe for the first time in history. I'll let you see the challenges and results below:

- "Ray" Challenge Episode

- Meet Ray

- Earth Sandwich Challenge

- Earth Sandwich Achieved <--- watch the Earth become a sandwich

Ze excited people about being audience members of his show in a way I haven't seen many other places. While I wouldn't call this step absolutely necessary, it's the mark of a truly fantastic concept.

Needless to say, there hasn't been much else like Ze Frank's the show. I mean Phillip DeFranco tries and, although it's cool he raises money for Polycystic Kidney Disease, he seems like a bit of a pissant with a limited world view. Ze's absurd aloofness was a blatantly transparent mask behind which was a wealth of knowledge. the show with zefrank was funded primarily on donations and, when asked how much he made after the year was over, Ze responded "Enough to pay rent... and then some." Currently, Ze Frank is a public speaker and adjunct professor who talks about web media and social networking, and is signed with United Talent Agency. I hope he returns to the web soon. I miss him.

We took a picture of...a molecule?

Holy crap. Scientists have taken a picture of a molecule -- or at least its chemical structure.

From the BBC:

"The physical shape of single carbon nanotubes has been outlined before, using similar techniques - but the new method even shows up chemical bonds.

Lead author of the research Leo Gross told BBC News that the group is aiming to combine their ability to measure individual charges with the new technique, characterising molecules at a truly unprecedented level of detail.

That will help in particular in the field of "molecular electronics", a potential future for electronics in which individual molecules serve as switches and transistors."

The Future Ladies and Gentlemen.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Musical Roundtables

After receiving the go-ahead to ignore - or perhaps the better term is pave over the site construction - the Roundtable returns for another installment.

Recently we have dealt with a number of heavy issues. I decided this week we would give the Gentlemen a break and concentrate on something more entertaining, a splendor of imaginary mass media for the media-hungry masses. I posed the question to the Roundtable attendees;

"You are given the task of putting together the greatest musical extravaganza of all time. What is the format of your monolithic concert, and which artists are invited to perform?"

Answers were as varied as the eclectic musical styles of our Gentlemen. With that in mind, let us peruse the thoughts of our amateur producers, and think about the concerts which might have been.

Adam Winer

My musical conglomerate would be comprised of Bob Dylan on hermonica, Thurston Moore and Jonny Greenwood on guitar, Pete Townshend on base, Kurt Cobain on keyboard, David Byrne can do whatever he wants, the Beatles would be the backup dancers, only, and Frank Zappa, on the drums. They can play only noise rock. They would play in a circle, never facing the audience that surrounds them. The performance and audience would be in a circular dome. Tickets would be by invitation only, and would read, "you are invited by anyone to do anything. You are invited for all time." The name of the band would be called Team Awesome.

Max Nova

This question seems right in my wheelhouse. At this rate our next roundtable question will be either "If you could hug a tree, what tree would it be?" or "Beards are awesome, aren't they? Discuss."

But here's the thing about this question - festivals are tiring. Hell, concerts with four bands on the bill are tiring. Just seeing Broken Social Scene (as much as I like their albums) is fucking exhausting. But a long running discussion I've had with Rohan and in my own head has been about the Don't Look Back series of concerts where bands play a "classic" albums straight through. The problem is that these rarely results in the worlds greatest concerts, even if fans are generally pretty happy. These shows compromise the basic concert of a concert -- a somewhat unexpected sequence of songs that exists as a separate entity from the recorded work.

Still if I could plan a Don't Look Back show it would be a double-bill of Stereolab doing Cobra and Phases ... with High Llamas doing Hawaii, two related and highly orchestrated albums that could only be pulled off in a special context like this. Alternately, I'd love to hear Public Image Ltd doing Metal Box/Second Edition.

But if I really had my way, I'd like to take this in a different direction. I wrote multiple long posts about concert setlist construction, so here's what I want to see: big name bands doing deep-catalogue sets: no hits, and only material form the first X albums (X varying by the band). So Coldplay would only play stuff from the early EPs through Rush of Blood, U2 would only play songs from "11 O'clock Tick Tock" through War. Radiohead would only play songs from OK Computer through Amnesiac (the exception that proves the rule), Smashing Pumpkins would play from Gish through Pisces Iscariot, and Elvis Costello would focus on his first 5 or 6 albums.

That's the kind of festival or series of concerts I would pay big bucks for. And if a fan says before the show, "man I hope Coldplay plays 'Brothers and Sisters'" or "it would be awesome if Elvis played 'Chemistry Class'" there's a real chance it might actually happen. These concerts would keep the fun retro-ness of Don't Look Back, but also still be "concerts" with all the unpredictability that should be a part of live music.

Alex Keiper

The Beatles. All of them. John and George can just get over that whole being-dead thing.

And it won't be so much a 'concert' as it will be them following me around and emerging occasionally from behind shrubberies and such (in Sgt. Pepper attire) to provide musical accompaniment to the momentous occasions of my life (or just to alleviate momentary boredom). Consider it my own personal extravaganza.

John Ozkirbas

"If you book them, they will come"
- Jim Morrison (portrayed by Michael A. Nickles)

When putting on the greatest musical extravaganza in history, no guide serves better than the prolific film, Wayne's World II (staring Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey). While WWII outlines the process of throwing a rock concert of Woodstock proportions - let's be honest - I'm far too indecisive to get past the prospect of "venue." So, in a universe where I'm afforded the opportunity to organize such a spectacle, I'm going to assume that I have the ability to change my personality at will. In doing so, I will be harnessing the knowledge, expertise, and appearance of fictitious, yet legendary, road crewman, Del Preston:

So. You want to throw a concert the likes the world has never seen before? Listen, sonny Jim, I have been a part of every major rock experience since the early seventies - so I can tell you this will be no easy task. I remember touring with Led Zeppelin, on the road, hauling 15 bloody barrels of illegally transported moonshine across multiple state lines. And, John Bonham loved him some moonshine, God rest him. So, there I was, with 2 mates from the crew barreling down a highway in northern Kansas, in a diversion car to make sure the police never caught on to our little operation when - all of a sudden - we see a man, stark naked, standing in the middle of the bleeding road covered in what looked like baking powder. Needless to say, it was a sight to make any man stop and so we did. Poor bloke, broke off into a sob story about how was cheating on his girlfriend and she caught him in the act when 10 police cars came on us from nowhere and took us off to sodding jail for conspiracy. But, to our surprise, when we arrived we found the rest of the crew, the band, and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, of all people, locked up as well. No one knew why Keith was there and we all had the sense not to ask. After some convincing, the police took a barrel of moonshine for themselves and let us, and Keith, on our merry way. Mind you, losing a single barrel in an illegal alcohol transport operation is not bad at all. So, we get to the venue, sent up camp, got drunk on moonshine, and put on one hell of a show. That little jail stint is - also - how I became a roadie for the Rolling Stones. But, that's a different story altogether.

Running a concert of this magnitude will be the most grueling experience of your life. It will not be easy. You will get tired. You will get blisters. You will get aches and pains. Your concert will have 7 main-stages, each with a front stage and back stage crew, each dedicated to a different genre of music. It will be the Disney Land of rock concerts. One will be rap. One will be classic metal and rock. One will be a techno-rave barn. One will be a concert hall for classical music and jazz. One will be for independent and international music, including American, English, and Canadian Indie Rock. One will be pop music (for the kiddies). And one will be contemporary and alternative rock. They will be shielded from sound - so all you hear is what's being played in front of you. The concert will be 5 days long. You will have plenty to eat. You may not be able to sleep. I cannot guarantee that you will remember all of it. But, you will have an excellent time.

(cough, cough, COUGH, REVERT)

And that's the kind of concert I would put up. As far as who? Well, there'd be a lot of bands and independent artists. I know I'd love to have Minus the Bear, Tool, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. If I'm allowed to resurrect Brad Nowell, Sublime would be in attendance. Those are the first off the top of my head. I may or may not want VAST to show, if they play their first album only. Metallica, Dragon Force, Gun 'n Roses, Stone Temple Pilots, etc. DJ Sasha, DJ Tiƫsto, and Paul Oakenfold would probably man the techno-tent. The rest, well, it's just too much to list and I've talked far too long, so I'll stop typing here. I hope you enjoy my imaginary concert. I know I would.

PS - there would, of course, be a food quarter serving traditional concert food, regional food, international food. One of those booths would be a Skyr booth. Because, currently, I'm obsessed with it.

And that's what I have for you David. Enjoy.

Matt Lindeboom

It wouldn’t be Woodstock -- happened! We need to move on. Case-in-point: They tried it again with Woodstock ’99. Peace, love, unity turned to Fire, Limp Bizkit, and FIRE! We learned nothing organic can grow when the top soil is sponsored by Pepsi Co.

In fact, sponsorships of every kind would be absent from the World’s Greatest Music Event, which will be called THAT -- Are you going THAT? Where is THAT? THAT will burst the corpuscles in your face, thus melting it!

To bar business interests from what they will certainly see as the juiciest, most succulent, virgin money making morsel of the century -- their birthright in other words -- we shall distract them. We shall build a grand alternate reality. A people’s Truman Show, just for them! All the largest venues will be booked and promised ticket sales -- Madison Square Garden, The Wachovia Center, Bank of America Stadium, The Walmart Orpheum, CitiBank Arena; on and on. All of the details down to the brown M&Ms separated from the rest in the giant bowl of M&Ms will be set up with such masterful guile that nary a soul will understand the scale of the deceit that is about to shed its cover like a dress falling to the floor.

Meanwhile, TV will make love to THAT. Messy, stinky, raunchy love the sort of which shakes the walls of the world with proclamations and slogans and contests. THAT is the definition of your generation! The 18th caller will meet Jesus back stage, and then do shots of glacier-ice-chilled Patron with John Lennon and Franz Kafka. Frida Kalho will paint you in gold leaf and you’ll be paraded on the grand stage in front of billions as the bold incarnation of an earthly god. Indeed, every radio wave, cellphone, pixel, and vacuum tube will shudder with the rapture of THAT. We’ll all be rich and famous. Every single one of us, ravaged and trembling in the lights.

And finally, FINALLY the moment is here and everything -- every nano-atom -- is ready for you to come and make it all worth it. The realization of all this preparation and the building hype, the hundreds of thousands of last moment door-to-door leaflets stuck in screen doors across the heartland and the coasts as the sun came up red, comes to fruition now. one comes. THAT is silent as a sun-dried turd.

Leaflets blow idly in the wind.

Cicadas buzz from the inside of a few oak trees.

After a few hours the news gets around that mostly everyone has stayed home. Or gone on a walk. Lawyers are called and they get busy. They love this shit. They were born to grind. The eternal search for upon whom to lay down divinely righteous retribution -- some BAMF writ. And we, the organizers of this deceit, will have to run. In the words of Ray LaMontagne, "...ride like [we] ain't never done before."

David Pratt

When considering this question, I had to imagine what exactly constituted the idea of the perfect concert. Surely this would mean it had to appeal to audiences of every walk of life. However, despite many attempts, no single band in history has ever been so successful in a cross-genre sense as to satisfy every musical taste on the planet. Thus, a grand show centered around a single popular style would not fit the requirements of this task. No, this must go deeper. This must reach out to the world and unite them with the power of music. My show must be what Woodstock '99 was attempting to be. The most amazing show ever conceived.

I would use the same format - a vast, empty field set aside for human use with massive stages constructed to house performances of all shapes and sizes. Rather than stretch it out over 3 corporate-sponsored days, this would be one 24-hour festival dedicated to music through the decades. Five stages would be set up, and each would concurrently run shows just far enough apart that they would not overlap the other stages, yet there would still be no area within the concert grounds you could traverse and not be able to hear a show. On the guest list would be the most comprehensive list of artists ever assembled in one package. Here's something around how it would go:

Stage 1: The Roots Stage
Opening Act: America
Followed By: The Steve Miller Band, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, The Band, Lovin' Spoonful, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, Fleetwood Mac (w/Stevie Nicks), Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Willie Nelson, The Dixie Chicks, Styx, Peter Frampton, Chicago, Al Green, Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Bon Jovi, John Cougar Mellancamp
Closing Act: Garth Brooks

Stage 2: The Cross-Generational Stage
Opening Act: Twisted Sister
Followed By: Def Leppard, Poison, Quiet Riot, Genesis, Duran Duran, Skid Row, INXS, Motorhead, Van Halen, Metallica, Green Day, Oasis, The Foo Fighters, Cake, Dishwalla, Korn, Tool, Garbage, Marilyn Manson, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, The Stone Temple Pilots, The Smashing Pumpkins. Weezer
Closing Act: The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Stage 3: The Cross-Genre Stage
Opening Act: Salt-N-Pepa
Followed By: Janet Jackson, Destiny's Child (w/Beyonce) The NWA, The Wu-Tang Clan (w/Busta Rhymes filling in for ODB), The Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Rage Against the Machine, The Deftones, Eninem, Linkin Park, G-Unit (w/50 Cent), Matisyahu, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Gnarls Barkley, Alicia Keys, Usher
Closing Act: Kanye West

Stage 4: The Mini-Lilith Fair Stage
Opening Act: Liz Phair
Followed By: Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Sinead O' Conner, Tori Amos, TATU, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, No Doubt, Jewel, Norah Jones, KT Tunstall, Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera, Melissa Ethridge, Bonnie Raitt, Bjork, Ani DiFranco, Pat Benatar, Joni Mitchell, Heart, Faith Hill, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple
Closing Act: Madonna

Stage 5: The Holy Crap This is Epic Stage
Opening Act: Billy Joel
Followed By: The Who, Led Zeppelin, U2, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Killers, Phish, Eric Clapton, The Cure, David Bowie, Prince, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Elvis Costello, The Offspring, 2Pac (the statuate of limitations for faking your own death having passed), The Rolling Stones, Journey
Closing Act: Guns 'n Roses (original line-up)

With that much music in a 24-hour span, people would never run out of an act they wanted to see. There would be a senses-shattering overload, and many people would not make it out alive. However, they would die happy, and without being burned to death or raped in a mass riot.

And there we have it my friends; everything from roadie advice to fleecing America. The options are limitless, just like the range of opinions we often express here at the Roundtable. Be sure to keep watching, because you never know what might come up when the Gentlemen come together.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Top Five Oasis Songs

Well, it finally happened. After eighteen years, Noel Gallagher has left Oasis, "with some sadness and great relief," effectively ending the band's existence. In honor of the first band I ever called my favorite, I give you the top five greatest songs from the Gallagher brothers.

5. I Hope, I Think, I Know
After the huge commercial success of (What's the Story) Morning Glory, Oasis was faced with the daunting task of following up one of the biggest hit records in not just British, but international history. While the follow up album, Be Here Now, was by no means as commercially successful as its predecessor, the album was a critical hit, and showed the band taking more and more risks in their music (the average song length is somewhere around seven minutes). "I Hope, I Think, I Know" is a declaration, a flip of the bird to the nonbelievers, a sort of "catch me if you can."

Favorite lyric-They're trying hard to put me in my place, and that is why I gotta keep running.

4. The Masterplan

I'm not sure I can think of any other band that puts more effort and time into their b-sides as Oasis did. An Oasis B-side is an A-side for any other band, in fact, Oasis's 1998 release The Masterplan is an entire album composed of nothing but B-sides. The title track is nothing short of a masterpiece, with its soft, haunting vocals laid over not just the band, but an entire back up orchestra. This one is a Noel classic.

Favorite lyric-There's four and twenty million doors,
down life's endless corridor.

3. Supersonic

At the beginning of this song on Oasis's Familiar to Millions live album, Liam says, "Let's have a couple more of these songs, Noel...write a couple more of these babies!" He's got a point. This song is Noel Gallagher at his best, he's a kid, he's lonely, and he's completely unapologetic. Supersonic is a psychedelic tour de force, it's a kid pouring his heart out on paper and you can hear it in every word of the song.

Favorite lyric-I need to be myself, I can't be no one else.

2. Wonderwall

There isn't much that needs to be said about Wonderwall. Noel's song for his girlfriend (and eventual wife), is the biggest Oasis hit of all time, not to mention the first Oasis song I ever heard. Every once and a while, a band creates something that's completely without flaw, something that can be enjoyed by virtually anyone, and a song that transcends its genre. For Oasis, Wonderwall is that song.

1. Live Forever

It's the best Oasis song ever recorded, and now that they're gone, it seems even more poignant. Off Oasis's first record, Definitely Maybe, the song in many way has the same feel as Supersonic, but on this song, Noel lets down his guard a little bit. It's the essence of what's always made Oasis so great, two kids from Manchester with nothing to lose, sharing their hopes and dreams with anyone who'll listen. This song is about being different, it's about not fitting in, and embracing the hell out of it.

Favorite lyric-Maybe you're the same as me, we see things they'll never see.

The Wire Post (Spoilers Aplenty)

This will probably be my longest of posts, and I could stretch this into a series of many posts but in deference to Jason and Oz who haven't seen the whole series yet, I figured I'd keep it to one spoiler-tastic post, with a lot of my random thoughts on the series and put in blue so it stands out. And to reiterate, all of this below is SPOILER-filled.

Real Police

One of the biggest discussion points on the white hat side throughout the series is about the idea of "real police." Two archetypes who sit on the far ends of continuum of what is "real police" are Daniels and McNaulty. Daniels is about as close to by the book as you get in the series, and McNaulty, obviously, is not. Daniels is loyal to the chain above all else, but as his quick termination as the commish shows , he absolutely will not juke the stats and play the political game, even if it's what has to be done. He also has something of a naive belief about politics and the words of politicians. He doesn't realize that no matter who is in charge, things are going to stay pretty much the same.

McNaulty's loyalty throughout the series is simply to solving the case in front of him (whether it's actually his case or not is another story). In one of the short flashback vignettes shows that solving someone elses case is how he ended up in homicide to begin with. Only by season 4 does he have the common sense (which only lasts for that season) to bring it a case quietly without pissing off the whole chain above him. The middle distance, and possibly the most "real" of the real police to my mind is Carver. I would suggest that when Daniels gives him the promotion right before stepping down as commissioner, the implication is that some day 15-20 years in the future, Carver will be in charge of the Baltimore police. More than anyone else in the series, Carver seems to navigate through both the hierarchy above him and the street cops below (although he's certainly not perfect on either count). He clearly supports Bunny and the Hampsterdam initiative because he realizes that the current system isn't working. But when things swing back to street rips, he avoids the tarnish that ends Bunny's career and goes right back to arresting hoppers without missing a beat.

The Job

On the street side, the most compelling characters of the series, besides of course the lovable Omar, are Prop Joe and Stringer, whose actions suggest a broader truth in the series -- everyone in the show on every side is trying to do their job as best as possible. Sure, one side's is completely illegal, but that doesn't mean they don't try to do it well. The evolution of the wire taps and phone usage throughout the show emphasizes how the two groups do their damnedest to get the job done and keep evolving along the way. The Wire is so compelling because everyone in the series, even the ultra-evil Clay Davis, has a motivation and pursues it. You can argue the methods but not the dedication.


David Simon haaates Ikea. Not one but two detectives are shown over the course of the series piss drunk desperately assembling Ikea furniture. It's one of the best minor comedy moments of the series.

The Kids Get Screwed

Except for Namond, whose unlikely success seems to be a little fuck you to the school system from Simon and Burns, children pretty much have it worst in the show. The other three kids from season 4, especially poor Dukie, have terrible endings, but also in a broader sense, it's terrible to be a kid in Baltimore. Before he's even started his term as mayor, Carcetti has already decided to avoid the schools like a plague and go for issues that will get him the Governorship, even though he has to go begging to the Governor later on for school funding.

Elsewhere Cutty (perhaps the most genuinely good human being in the entire series) is assigned by the school to round up delinquents for just two days of the school year to get the schools funding, an indication of how bureaucracy has trumped the actual learing.
And there's poor young Boadie, who has been in the game since he was a kid, and bites it just for listening to McNulty. His life seems to show the course of how the system treats kids.

The Other Side of Drugs

Rather than simply saying "drugs are bad" the series shows Bubbles through the course of the show fighting through drug addiction, and although I think his plot loses a bit of steam in the final season, Steve Earle is one of the finest casting decisions of the series. He's someone who has fought plenty of his own demons in real life.

Is It Better Than West Wing?

In a word yes. I realize that it's not really fair given that West Wing was a network show and The Wire was HBO, but beyond the fun stuff you can only show on cable, The Wire is still simply the best fully contained but expansive form of storytelling ever put on television. No other show has shown all sides of the equation like the Wire. The casting, acting, writing, directing, and even the soundtracking has been spot on throughout. The West Wing shows one side very well, and even though Vidick gets a lot of time during the final campaign, the show is still mainly devoted to the democrats (not that I personally have any problem with that).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Site Under Construction

These Gentlemen is currently undergoing some administrative maintenance as some of our writing staff takes a break. Posting will be sparser than most weeks as we prepare a few things behind the scenes. Check back at your leisure, as we won't be completely non-existent. For those who check daily, we should be back on the horse again as early as next week. See you soon. We'll miss you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nothing, But the Rain

It might sound odd to some, but, the truth is, I enjoy a rainy day. There's something about the atmospheric pressure - the build and release - that gives me a sense of peace when the water begins to fall. I don't mind being wet and, when it's colder, it's a decent excuse to drink a warm beverage, maybe some soup, and watch a movie or read a book. Staring out of a window into a rain-drenched world, it can be a little melancholic. But, I like that sort of thing - especially when I approach it as life affirming - as I know that this also means the sun will, again, come out soon. And, if not the sun, then the moon. It's an opportunity to be contemplative without being mopey or brooding. And, lets be honest, our world could use a little more contemplation from time to time.

"Nothing, but the rain" is a line taken from Battlestar Galactica, a science fiction re-imagining of the 1970's television series of the same name. Two of the main characters (Bill Adama portrayed by Edward James Olmos; Kara "Starbuck" Thrace; portrayed by Katee Sackhoff - seen left) share a repeated back-and-forth derived from military marching cadences. This exchange deeply resonates with the sense of kinship, understanding, and trust within their father/daughter-like relationship:
Adama: What do you hear, Starbuck?
Starbuck: Nothing, but the rain, sir.
Adama: Then grab your gun and bring in the cat.
Starbuck: Boom boom boom!/Wilco!/Aye-aye, sir. (varied)
It's a great exchange, aptly denoting an emotional connection beyond the words typed on the page. As a creative choice, Ron Moore effectively demonstrates his appreciation for nuance in the fiction he writes. As such, it further adds another element to those that made Battlestar such a great series.

Recently, I've discovered some news concerning Caprica, Battlestar's prequel spin-off series:

I'll avoid going into the obvious excitement of having James Marsters as a regular on another television favorite-to-be and go into the greater discussion - the eventual collaboration of Ron D. Moore and Joss Whedon.

It's close and I can feel it. The planets are slowly aligning. Battlestar alum Tamoh Penikett already has found himself as a main character on Whedon's Dollhouse. James Marsters was cast as an important character on Moore's Caprica. And then, of course, there was this little skit from Robot Chicken:

They can leave Seth McFarlane to concoct another version of Family Guy/American Dad. But, the divine union (as I've just now started calling it) smells of inevitability and I cannot wait. In my fantasy world, it looks a lot like this:
(Joss Whedon and Ron Moore are walking outside on the street, each carrying a script)

Whedon: Oh, woe is me! I've started writing the perfect script, but I've only been able to finish the first half! Frustration!

Moore: Wow, Joss that's interesting! I, too, have been working on the perfect script, but I've only been able to finish the second half!

Whedon: That is odd and strangely coincidental!

Moore: Let's exchange scripts and see if we can help each other!

(5 minutes later)

Whedon and Moore: HOLY CRAP!

Whedon: This would be the perfect ending to my script!

Moore: And, this would be the perfect beginning to my script!

Whedon: We should collaborate and create the perfect story in whatever visual medium we decide!

Moore: I agree without reservation! Isn't it interesting how we know all the same people, yet never had this idea before?

Ozkirbas: Hey guys!

Whedon and Moore: Hello there, person we've just met who has materialized from nowhere!

Ozkirbas: I have no clue why or how I'm here, but I wanted to let you know that I've been pulling for this for a long time!

Whedon and Moore: That's excellent, John! We greatly appreciate it!

Ozkirbas: Wow, that was oddly prescient and uttered in complete unision. But, I'm okay with it!

Whedon: Why don' t you come along and we'll introduce you to everyone we know and tell you the secret of our success!

Ozkirbas: Sure! Let me go to the bathroom first just in case I get too excited!

Moore: I would! Because, the first person you're meeting is Katee Sackhoff!

Ozkirbas: Awesome! All my dreams are suddenly coming true!
What a nice fantasy. But, I'm confident it's bound to happen. And, when it does, I will watch nothing else. Nothing.

How it Makes You a Weapon

I love Matt Good's music.

I like Matt Good - I've met him, talked to him, made him laugh. He's a brilliant, talented guy; a personal inspiration and artistic hero. I respect him immensely. But I don't love him. I love his music, as a body of work almost totally separate from the performer. I listen to it and I'm transported, transformed, mezmerized. The melodies and lyrics hit something in me that only these words and chords seemingly can. He wrote it, he performs it, but these songs are actually a part of me. They come from inside and are channeled through someone else. A lot like love.

I visited Strauss in Chicago recently, and we bonded over Matthew Good. He said 'You're the only one who gets me." He was joking, but there was truth there too. When you find someone else who understands like no one a specific piece of art, who has a shared emotional experience lived totally separately, that music is a part of both people's souls.
You get it.

In high school, a friend and I would sit talking to each other in bible class, whispering and passing notes. He had never had a real relationship, and even though he was all but dating a girl at one point, he refused the label. He told me one day "I won't date a girl unless she has Andy Warhol boxers."

Months later, in that same class, he was telling me about a first date he had with a girl he had just discovered. It was a perfect date for him - they talked literature and philosophy, went to the zoo and stared at animals, held hands. He was happy. And as he was finishing his story, he leaned in to me and whispered "and she has Andy Warhol boxers."
He fell in love.

I was in love once. But before I was in love, when I was just falling, I made her a mix. We had just had our first date and it would be months until we first kissed, a week after that before we got together. She was visiting her grandmother in Pennsylvania for the weekend and I didn't want her to forget me. So at her former best friend's birthday party we stood outside my car and I gave her my 'December Falls' mix, a mix of winter, autumn, and 'I like you.' She looked at the CD and said -
"Oh, Matthew Good. I love Weapon."

I knew right then I had to date that girl.

I've never gotten over that feeling.

My friend's girlfriend cheated on him, several times, each time with the same guy - a friend of his, and the boyfriend of the drummer of his band. He took her back, more than once. When she broke up with him, she immediately began dating the other guy.

I like to believe my ex loved me. She says she did. But she was also never over her ex, and he was with us every step of the way. When we were over, she eventually went back to him, and he hurt her worse than than he had before.
He was a cheater too.

I'm sitting here, listening to Weapon, and the lyrics go -
"Here by my side - an angel
here by my side - a devil
never turn your back on me, never turn your back on me again -
here by my side it's heaven..

...Be careful.
Be careful"

Friday, August 21, 2009

And now, for your mild amusement, and to mock you, Adam, a rainbow

The ubiquitous 'they' seem to always associate rain storms with a bad mood, and lighting/thunder with a dramatic, terrible occurrence. I guess it can provide a dramatic setting, but also acts as a metaphor.

On my porch, while pressing that small, green SEND button on my phone, I saw lightning strike through the gray sky. The clouds pressed inwards against each other, dense and burgeoning, the humidity thick, I could taste the familiar air, and again, more light streaks and flashes.

Then, the friendly but busy voice on the other end responds to her buzzing blackberry, "yes?"

Moments later, the rain came. It came down quick, and heavy. When I tried to take the dog out, she lasted all but 2 seconds before she whimpered and ran back under the porch, already soaked. I had an umbrella, but I was already soaked. I had already cursed the sky, and cursed the rain, and cursed myself.

I had made a difficult but important decision, but now it would have to be made again:

"... if something changes I'll be sure to let you know... "

Naturally, the rain slowed - it's the summer, after all, it's not going to rain forever. Soon, the water will drain somewhere, and run off into the river, I suppose. Maybe I'll breathe again, I suppose.

It rained

I don't like 'they', and I especially don't like it when 'they' are right. But they were right this time. The lightning storm acted as both a gorgeous setting, and a terrible metaphor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Musical Arists of the Decade (Honorable Mention)

I knew I'd have one or two more ideas for this series after the fact, so here is one more artist of the decade. Everyone else I selected were four individuals involved in a lot of projects. I figure I'd give a bonus entry, a band that has spawned a million side projects.

Broken Social Scene

But even without the side projects, the band have put out 6.5 albums already. And at this point I don't even think Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning know how many folks are in the band at this point, but they've created a wonderful maximal sound that instantly identifiable even as the songs go all over the place stylistically.

Plus of their many side projects KC Accidental, Stars, Metric and Do Make Say Think, and Fiest have all put out fantastic albums that range from post-rock to indie, to new wave. Not everything associated with the collective is amazing, but I look forward to their next decade.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Musical Arists of the Decade Part 4

Jack White

I will admit at the outset, I have listened to Mr. White's music the least of these four artists I've included in this list, but he has defined rawk music this decade as much as anyone (I know that another failing of my list it's very (indie-)rock-centric, but jazz is dead and Wyton Marsalis killed it). On the same night Maryland won our long long awaited NCAA Basketball Title, White Stripes were playing their first headlining show at the 9:30 Club. White hasn't slowed down since then. There have been White Stripes albums, which the duo still record on the quick in a matter of weeks. Then there there are two albums by The Raconteurs his more collaborative band, and whose albums have bee well received. And most recently The Dead Weather, where he has ceded most of the vocal duties, but which maintained the bluesy spirit of his other work. I think the lesson to take away from these multiplying projects is that he's at his best when he's most in control, and we'll see if that's the case when the next White Stripes album comes out early in the next decade.

Beyond the retro sound of his work, there's also a bold uniqueness to the way White approaches all things.
Most notably the red and white (and sometimes black) clothing. Plus there's the subterfuge of his relationship with Meg, and the obsession with the number 3. It ads a bit of the spice that a band like, say, The Shins lack. There's nothing wrong with going all Pavement-y with your bands aesthetic, but it's nice that there are still folks around like Jack White who add that extra spice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

15 Marion Barry facts

The man, the myth, the unstoppable Marion Barry.

Legend has it that Marion Barry grew up picking cotton in Tennessee. This is not true. For Marion Barry, the cotton would pick itself.

Marion Barry did have nine lives. Then, when he ran out, he got nine more.

Marion Barry received a Masters of Science in organic chemistry. Marion Barry began his doctorate degree, first at the University of Kansas, then at the University of Tennessee, but eventually quit out of boredom.

Marion Barry stopped paying taxes almost a decade ago.

When Marion Barry was shot in the stomach, only the bullet died.

Marion Barry has never lost an election.

In January of 1990, Marion Barry was arrested and charged with three felony counts of perjury, 10 counts of misdemeanor drug possession, and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine. The Judge declared the case a mistrial because, according to DC law, Marion Barry is allowed to possess only 'hard' drugs. Instead, Marion Barry went to jail for smoking pot once in 1989.

When Marion Barry was in jail, he was the mayor of the jail.

In September of 2006, Marion Barry was pulled over for running a red light. The Judge ruled Marion Barry not guilty in the case, because DC law states that Marion Barry can run red lights.

A similar thing happened in December of 2006, when Marion Barry was pulled over for driving too slowly. Marion Barry was not ticketed, because DC law states that Marion Barry can drive at any speed he likes.

In the Ward 8 general election, Marion Barry received 95% of the vote. The other 5% of the votes were not counted for spelling Marion Barry's name wrong, as 'Marion Berry.'

Marion Barry was 68 when he returned from political retirement to run for the Ward 8 councilmember seat. Marion Barry said he was having a mid-life crisis. Marion Barry is expected to live until at least the age of 130.

In May 2009, Marion Barry voted against a bill committing D.C. to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere - the only dissenting vote in a 12-1 sweep. Marion Barry said he could not vote for the bill because it "goes against my moral compass."

On July 4th, 2009, Marion Barry was arrested and charged with stalking when he was pulled over for following an ex-girlfriend. All charges were dropped 4 days later when it was discovered the complainant was actually stalking Marion Barry.

There was almost a wax model of Marion Barry at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in DC, but it melted just prior to completion. There can only be one Marion Barry.

this post was inspired by the great Scotty "truemetal" Maxwell. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Scott Maxwell.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Decisions at the Roundtable

Greetings, esteemed followers of our community. Once more, it is time to examine the questions which matter. The questions which drive our every day lives. The questions we ourselves must seek an answer to if only to determine what it is which makes us human. And we must answer these questions . . . as gentlemen.

Imagine if you will, being given a choice. Irrevocable once made, and one which will affect every person living on the planet. What would you do with such power? Such responsibility? Could you make a decision at all? Why would you make the choice you did?

Such is what I posed to the Gentlemen this week. The reaction was excitingly varied, perhaps lending itself to much further conversation on the issue. Thus I present to you our answers, including the debut of our newest contributor, Ms. Alex Keiper.

This week, the Gentlemen answer the following:

While walking alone at night, you encounter beings from another planet. They offer to eradicate either disease or war forever, but you can only choose one, and you must explain to them why.

Adam Winer

When faced with this question, I believe we are forced to confront a sad truth about human nature. I consider disease to be a mostly natural, unavoidable part of life. I consider war to be a mostly preventable thing, because it is a choice. If presented with this opportunity by supernatural beings, I would hope that I could simply wish away disease. If we were rid of disease, and we could choose to stop in-fighting among humans, well, we'd be without both war and disease, which is pretty incredible.

However, the history human nature seems to prove to us that war is natural as well. Also - war can protect us, and if there's anything I've learned from the movie Independence Day, there may be a time when we are called upon to go to war, not with other humans, but with aliens. I don't want THESE aliens taking away our ability to fight, so I'm going to ask them to take away disease.

If it were a genie though, I might go with ridding of war, because war kills so many innocent people when they are so young. I'm okay with disease being part of the game of life, but war, I hope, is unnecessary.

I mean, hey, it's a ridiculous scenario, I can have a ridiculous answer.

Stephen Bragale

My initial reaction was to eliminate disease, and in defense I would state that disease is worse than war.

But I'm hesitant to put such a sweeping measure into action under such vague circumstances. If I couldn't get any more information, I'd probably say neither. How am I supposed to know how this choice will be implemented? Even if there's the smallest chance that something could go wrong with the choice I make, it's not worth risking the fate of the world. What if "eliminating" disease means these aliens kill anyone who has one? What if eliminating war means killing every soldier on earth? Ultimately I believe that we humans can handle both war and disease on our own.

Also, why would these beings offer to eliminate only one of the two? This means that the aliens have the capability of eliminating both war and disease, but are leaving one to carry on. Maybe they don't know how bad our diseases and wars are? Or perhaps they're just toying with us? Those twisted scoundrels!

I've changed my mind. I'd end war on earth... and bring it to the alien home world. In the form of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.

And I'd have to say "welcome to earf" at some point in the conversation.

Matt Lindeboom

Hello Aliens.
Disease is necessary. People must die. Animals must die. Disease helps death carry out its task in a way that is tragic, but ultimately accepted. Not like a car crash or a bullet in the brain. We rage against death in those situations where it is unnatural and inflicted by another person or an animal. We suddenly behold a physical manifestation of “death,” the enemy. We have a cause. Punishment can be meted out. The person will be jailed, or put to death. The animal will usually be put to death. We have a system for handling those cases, you see. Disease, on the other hand, we cannot punish. If we could punish disease we would. If it is not disease that causes death, then it will be time. We would also punish time. All in the name of giving death the finger.

Aliens, I don’t trust you. This all seems to good to be true. If death is necessary, thus disease is necessary, then you’ll guess that my answer is war: “So you would like us to get rid of War?” Harry Patch, the last British veteran of The Great War said war is the “calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings.” War is not worth one life he said. I agree with Harry. I’ve not seen war -- I’m lucky -- but I want nothing to do with it. (Though one must admit, when your country carries out war in your name you are inextricably linked to it whether or not you like it.)

Forgive me for lacking faith, but how would you Aliens accomplish abolishing war? Would you follow Asimov’s example and protect us from ourselves, enslaving life in order to engineer peace? Would you ignite a war to end all wars in the hopes we’d lose our taste of it after horrible slaughter? Don’t underestimate our ability to forget.

Maybe I lack imagination. Perhaps you’d merely speed up the evolution of our altruistic impulse. Would our parietal cortex swell to accommodate a complete sense of each other? Would you abolish punishment? If there is no compulsion to punish, disease could certainly breath easier (if it were breathing hard at all). We could stop using death to punish, the distillation of war. Cormac McCarthy’s quote, “ the history of the world it might even be that there was more punishment than crime...” would suddenly ring hollow, where before it had such an accurate, consuming tone.

Damien Nichols

(thinks to self) "Why would they give me a choice here? This has got to be a trick question."

(to benevolent overlords) "Well it depends on how you look at it. The obvious answer seems to be war. If we get rid of war then we can reappropriate hundreds of billions of dollars per year and a few million people from the mission of ending lives to the mission of saving lives and improving quality of life worldwide. While we're at it we can finally get serious about researching and implementing solutions to extend our available resources indefinitely, since all wars are fought over resources anyway (and because R&D tends to churn out really cool toys).

But it depends on how much of this response swings on semantics. Because if you think about it, war is just a tragic symptom of some heretofore unnamed group-think psychological disorder. It's a disease that convinces us on many levels that there is an 'us' and a 'them' and that 'them' = enemy. This psychological disorder expresses itself from the individual level all the way up to national allegiances, but also finds expression in racial or religious affiliations or more superficial things like what clique you roll with (probably more common in high school and hip hop). The point is, as long as we look at the world and see 'us vs. them' on any level, we're likely to be stuck with both war AND disease. Conversely, the cure for both is one and the same: abandoning politics to science and finding a harmonious balance between society and nature.

BTW, I'm so glad you guys are here. Can you get me Carl Sagan's autograph?"

Max Nova

The short answer: blow up North Korea then end all war so that they can't retaliate.

The long answer: I'd still go with ending war. It comes down to this, what do I have more faith in humans doing -- creating peace across the world or ending disease? I personally have more faith in science. So end war then put all of those wasted resources to ending disease.

Daniel Strauss

It has to be disease, doesn't it? It's funny, initially, I thought war, because war is so horrific, and kills so many people, and has to be just the most unnecessary of man's creations (yes, it rivals even the Snuggie), but then I realized that we have the ability to stop war. If everyone on the planet decided they were done fighting, and no longer wanted to take up arms against each other, war would effectively end. But disease, something like cancer for example, or AIDS, we might be fighting these for another hundred years and still not find a cure. We have so much more control over something like war, something that we created. So, my answer is disease.

Of course, I'd pass on both if it meant I got a fun ride in a real spaceship!

Boudicca Graham

Well because here's the thing: if I choose
disease that probably saves more people and it is the apocalyptic horseman that I am personally acquainted with, so I definitely wouldn't mind seeing him go. And if I choose war I'm going to assume that senseless violence and hatred leave the world as well. But. If I choose disease there's the population overload to deal with, which brings a whole other horseman, famine, in its wake. Not to mention environmental catastrophe. And it was told to me that if I choose war politics and change as we know it would come to a standstill.

So I would mull. And I think, or at least at this exact moment as I type I'm thinking, that I would ultimately choose war. Because as awful as disease is, and as much as it destroys families and relationships, and as terrifying as it is that it can happen at any time to anyone no matter what you do to prevent it, I think war is so much worse. War destroys cities and people and memory and history to the point that what remains is unrecognizable. And political change can come with peace, look at South Africa. Look at Berlin. (Are those our only two examples?)

So I would say Hello aliens, please get rid of war for us. Kthx.

And then I would offer them a Mars bar.

Alex Keiper

War. No question. Ending disease would lead to a ridiculous degree of overpopulation.

Okay, that's the glib, snarky explanation, but I really do think ending war would be a much better choice. Doctors and scientists are constantly working to cure diseases. No, it's not exactly the instant solution offered by our extraterrestrial visitors, but I have a lot more faith in their abilities than I do in the sanity of certain world leaders. At least there's been progress on the disease front: polio isn't crippling children (in most of the world), smallpox has been eradicated, and, well, we have penicillin. Meanwhile, an instant of lunacy from any of a number of countries could have cataclysmic effects on a global scale. I think that destructive potential certainly warrants the quick-fix remedy offered by the otherworldly beings.

David Pratt

This offer seems tempting. It would appear this is no wrong answer - no matter what I choose, humanity will be spared countless billions of lives as the centuries advance. Certainly eradication of disease would mean no more AIDS or malaria, immediately and irrevocably improving life in underdeveloped African nations and other third-world countries. The end of all war would do the same across the globe. With no more senseless killings or the threat of mass slaughter, nations like North Korea and Iran could be handled diplomatically, with beneficial solutions arising for all.

It doesn't seem like I can go wrong here. That is, until I recognize the aliens clever double-entendre. Permanently getting rid of disease or war? I see what they're saying here. They're talking about murdering the human race.

Well aliens, you picked the wrong human race to murder.

I'd pretend I was having a difficult time with my decision and ask for 24 hours to decide. If they refused, well, there'd just have to be an old-fashioned throw-down between me and the bug-eyed freaks right then and there. However, were I granted this time, I'd take the opportunity to clandestinely alert our national security. Now granted, the only people who would believe me would be a conspiracy-theorist nutcase and his tough-as-nails partner, but they'd be enough. Teaming up, we'd trick the aliens into getting aboard their mothership, and from there we'd unleash destruction such as the E.Ts have never known - except when they're brutally eradicating innocent species, of course.

Unfortunately, our efforts would only serve to trigger the invasion signal for the main fleet. Earth would brace for attack, but our strongest weapons would be no match for their advanced technology. Millions would perish by death ray. It would seem all was lost. However, working 'round the clock at Area 54, a team of scientists from all over the globe crack the secrets of the alien mothership we captured. With the entire world's Air Force deployed in brutal combat, only one man would be able to fly it. That man would be me.

As I steered the ship into the heart of the alien fleet, my wise-cracking co-pilot and I would be discovered. They'd hammer at us relentlessly, buckling our shields in moments. Our systems malfunctioning, we'd have no choice but to activate the gargantuan neutrino-bomb on board manually. However, at the last moment, my co-pilot knocks me unconscious and shoves me into the escape hatch. My screams of "Nooooooooooooooo!" are lost in re-entry as I watch him bravely sacrifice himself to destroy the entire alien armada.

On Earth, a victory parade is held in his honor. Reluctantly, I accept the newly-minted Earth Medal of Epic Win on his behalf from all world governments. Using the salvaged alien technology, a new era of peace and prosperity is ushered in, and mankind migrates to the stars, leaving their petty conflicts and diseases behind. Also, I am elected President.

Alternate Ending: Co-Pilot survives because he is Chuck Norris, and the payload on the ship was one of his roundhouse kicks. He lets me keep the medal anyway, as he already has two.

John Ozkirbas

Extraterrestrial beings land on Earth and promise to eliminate two of Earth's great problems with no motivation outside of pure altruism? I've seen this somewhere before:

ABC presents a re-imagining of the 1984 television series "V," where an alien race (known only as "the Visitors") appears from outer space promising technological breakthroughs and medical miracles. Wars and famine will end. The blind will see. Behind the veil of the Visitors' apparent altruism and benevolence, their devious and insidious intentions slowly curdle. Their medical marvels come with a heavy price tag - a trojan horse. The human race has never seen darker times.

I decide on neither. I choose to kill 'em. Kill 'em ALL.

And there you have it, reader. Responses varying from war, to disease, to killing the aliens. Such vast difference of opinion is human nature, is it not? So now let the discussion begin - where do your fellow Gentlemen fall short in their logic? How would you defend your answer when faced with their reasoning? What do our readers have to say?

As ever, we welcome your opinions and feedback. Come chat with us here at the Roundtable, only on These Gentlemen.