Saturday, March 22, 2008

Import Nights Are So Hot Right Now

Just got back from the Hot Import Nights automotive lifestyle show at the LA Convention Center. I was there for Mahalo Daily, mind you, not because I have any particular interest in cars. Although I do have a particular interest in scantily-clad models, so it wasn't a complete wash.

We had a really good time and captured some great footage that you'll all be seeing next week. But it did get me thinking about this whole notion of "subcultures" and how people define themselves. Several people whom I interviewed today explained to me that they "trick out" or modify their cars as a mode of self-expression.

It doesn't really make a car that much more useful to, say, lower it, or add a blacklight, or even put a Nintendo Wii in the trunk, they explained. (How often would you play a Trunk Wii? When is that going to be useful? When you're stuck in the parking lot after a Dodger game? When you want to keep the girl you've just kidnapped occupied while you plan your next move?) It's not about functionality - it's just a way to give other people a sense of who you are and what you're all about.

I gotta be honest here...I don't understand this. I mean, self-expression is great. I'm not trying to knock people who want to be individuals and put themselves out there for the world to see. I am, after all, writing a blog post this very moment, and I spent all day being filmed for a podcast. So it would be pretty hypocritical of me to turn around and belittle others for trying to do essentially the same thing.

But how is modifying your car saying anything to anyone about you personally? Doesn't it instead reflect on the individuals who designed the car or the customization? If you spend money to get people to pimp your ride, are you expressing yourself or are you paying them to express themselves?

I mean, even if you did all the work yourself, and designed all the parts yourself, it's still fairly inadequate as a format for expressing yourself. Writing, taking photographs, making art, performing, filming something...those are all cheaper and, it seems to me anyway, more vital and telling and informative. What's the most compelling insight into your nature that someone could glean from looking at your car?

(1) I like cars

(2) I like green cars

(3) I like fast cars

(4) I like decals

(5) I could kick your ass at Super Smash Bros. Brawl

(I'd like to point out that I'm not trying to be cynical or mean-spirited here. I'm genuinely interested in answers to this question. If you're a big fan of styling cars and feel it is a perfectly valid way to speak to others about who you are, please do leave a comment below. I'd love to start a discussion on this.)

The other weird thing about Hot Import Nights is the way these models were displayed. I mean, I like looking at a sexy girl in a skimpy outfit. Believe me, I do.

But there was such novelty attached to it at the show, like it was an exhibit designed for aliens who had never before seen an attractive human female. There was a line to get a photo taken in between a Pontiac Solstice and a girl who was half-naked and cute. (Of course I waited in it...The picture will be online within 72 hours, I'm told...You'll just have to wait until then to see it.)

A line! To get a picture taken with a cute girl and a car? What, am I going to be able to fool my friends with this later? "Hey, dude, check out this picture of me with my new car and girlfriend! No, you can't meet her, and I can't show you the car. They're in, um, Canada."

At a booth where they were giving away this energy drink called NOS, a bevy of buxom models were on-hand to chat up losers and drive sales, but none of them could even tell me anything about the drink, or seemed even vaguely interested in talking about it. The one girl I interviewed on camera told me she never drank energy drinks because caffeine makes her jittery. I mean, hey, boobs are neat, I think we can all agree on that point. But in this situation, I'm not sure they're actually going to move any NOS units. Someone who could actually endorse the product might have a bit more luck...

Around this point, I really needed the NOS boost, because I was utterly exhausted. I wound up ducking out of the show kind of early (I didn't even get to see The Game perform!), but I still think it will make an interesting podcast. Such a strange new kind of environment for me...It's cool that filming some of these Daily episodes is allowing me to experience all these events going on right under my nose that I would otherwise never get a chance to see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


There is seriously something wrong with me, that I was willing to do this:

Not dress up like a wizard in public...I do that all the time. I mean, attend a comic book convention.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Race for the Prize

So, I guess I need to talk about the speech, as it's pretty much all anyone's talking about today. (Well, that and the fact that a hooker was once on a "Girls Gone Wild" video, surely the most shocking revelation imaginable.) Here it is in case you missed it:

It's pretty amazing stuff, and I'm a jaded guy. For obvious reasons, it's unlike any major political speech I've heard in my lifetime. But I think that might be understating the bravery of Barry going on television and basically calling out Americans of all races for seeing him only through the lens of skin color.

What the guy can do so well, what's so impressive about him that makes him such an effective communicator, is his utter and complete lack of defensiveness. Some politicians, after an entire week of media scrutiny on the potentially offensive statements of someone close to them, would be tempted to make excuses or even apologize. Obama doesn't condemn the nation for being angry with Wright, but he does imply that it's the incorrect reaction to the man. He doesn't defend himself at all; he defends his mentor. Which is brilliant. Because it subtly communicates that he doesn't need to defend himself, because he didn't do anything wrong.

He says his church represents the black community in its entirety. Obama can no more disown Wright than he can disown his own blackness. Think about that...if you condemn their church, you're condemning the black community itself. But he doesn't express this in harsh terms, calling the audience racist. He uses warm language about Wright and his church - "he has been like family to me," he treats everyone "with courtesy and respect." "These people are part of me." He invites you to get past the angry rhetoric, which is something almost every American who's not a Republican sociopath wants to do.

Then he fucking defends Geraldine Ferraro, the lady who said that he's only winning the Democratic nomination because he's a black man. Then he quotes Faulkner. While confronting the notion of racial anger in an honest and straight-forward manner, he quite legitimately depicts modern life in America as "a zero-sum game" in which citizens are made to feel directly competitive with one another. I mean, a black presidential candidate noting that black anger towards whites "is real...and it is powerful"? Holy shit...That's amazing.

Fantastic candidate though she may be in many ways, and I do think she's a pretty terrific politician, Hillary Clinton seems fundamentally incapable of displaying this level of class and panache.

And that's just the first half of the wide-ranging address. I'm not sure an American President in my lifetime has publicly discussed the nation's history with this level of passion, clarity and accuracy. Seriously, people, if we don't elect this guy in November, after having twice sent George Dubya to the White House, future generations are going to really wonder about our collective sanity. Perhaps their air pollution prevented their brains from getting enough oxygen, they'll wonder? Or LSD leaked into the water supply at a constant rate for 8 years, causing a kind of mass delusion?