Posted by: apblake | May 18, 2011

Man eats 25,000 hamburgers

This is what I did at work today…

Man eats 25,000 hamburgers

Published: 18 May, 2011, 22:56

Man eats 25,000 hamburgers.

Man eats 25,000 hamburgers.

TAGS:
Celebrity,
Movies,
Health,
USA,
Culture

Competitive eaters of the world, take note: those looking to oust Don Gorske from his recent record-breaking feat have an awful lot to ketchup on.

39 years to the day since Gorske ate his first Big Mac—and then another eight of them—the 57-year-old Wisconsin man finished his burger number 25,000 from McDonalds—a whopper of an accomplishment that has earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

The media was on hand to catch Gorske’s 25,000th burger on Tuesday, where he said he would continue to eat Big Macs “until I die.” He was 19 when he downed his first 1,000 Big Macs and pondered how long it would be before he hit ten grand.

The McDonalds corporation has acknowledged Gorkse’s achievement, saying,“We’re honored that Don Gorske continues to be a longtime, loyal customer. We look forward to serving him for many years to come.”

Gorske is not known to have any health problems and keeps a normal cholesterol count, despite eating 14 of the burgers—each containing over 500 calories a piece—every week. He was profiled in Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me and has only gone a handful of days without a Big Mac since his first encounter. Now he keeps a supply in his freezer in case of an emergency.

“I never get sick of them and I look forward to them every day,” he said in a 2001 report from the Internet Broadcasting news agency.At the time he boasted that his children have eaten more Happy Meals that any other kids in the world and, in case you had any doubt, says that Big Macs are indeed his favorite food. He has only had one Burger King Whopper.

Before he was even half-way to his current burger count, Gorske says he wondered, “Boy, by the time I hit 25,000 I will be old and retired. Well wouldn’t you know, I’m not super old, I am 50-something, but I am retired and stuff, but you don’t dream of living so long as to reach a milestone like that.”

And a milestone like that is certainly something worth relishing.

Posted by: apblake | May 9, 2011

Smoking Popes – May 4, 2011 – Washington, D.C.

One summer I spent five weeks in Chicago and listened to Destination Failure by the Smoking Popes every single morning in the shower. I ate a lot of really good hot dogs that summer and had a lot of really awesome times, but most of all I remember falling in love with what is now one of my favorite albums ever.

Smoking Popes played the Red Palace in D.C. the other night. Here are some photos.

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The night before Gene Ween played Philly last month, I made two important decisions:
One, I would get my ass out of bed before noon on a Saturday and make it to the show, two states over.
Two, a cheesesteak would be absolutely imperative.

The latter ended up being perhaps the most regretable decision of the entire spring of 2011, but in what is around #13 or so on my tally of Ween-related show, last month’s set at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia is among the best ever.

Gene Ween did two hours alongside Dave Drewitz and Claude Coleman, Jr, allowing essentially most of Ween (3/5, to be exact) to play a full set of Ween material. Gene opened up the show on solo acoustic with “Squelch the Little Weasel,” which was then followed up with Dave joining him on bass and Claude sitting in on an abbreviated drumset (kick, snare, hi-hat and crash).

Lots of trademark Ween-crowd revelry. Lots of big beards and hippie stench. Lots of fun times. Lots of stuff that made the show a great time (exclusing hippie stench, of course). Everything was in abundance (including rare Ween tunes that usually don’t make it to the full electric shows). The only thing that was in large quantity that I came to regret was the mysterios red sauce on my cheesesteak at Pat’s. When it comes to gigantic sammiches, however, there are lessons to be learned that I will never quite understand. Tis my shortcoming.

Anyway, here are some photos. It should be made note of (Thanks, John!) that the door on the battery compartment of my camera fell off before the show. As a result, I had half a pack of cherry lifesavers lodged ontop of my battery, which was then secured down to keep the unit it place thanks to four layers of tape. I only had to re-do it every ten minutes. Real McGyver stuff.

One of these days my legit site will be up and running and I can actually make these look non-dumb. If you know the girl in the “Big Jilm” shirt, please send her my way so I can make-do with a marriage proposal. Thank you.

The setlist (as eloquently typed from my cell phone at the show, like a real winner):

solo:
squelch

with Dave and Claude
ooh VA la
flutes chi
stallion three
stallion four
leave you on the farm
she’s yr baby
mtns and bflo
grobe
framers talking bout
that fucking Hawaiian one (dd on uke bass)
stay forever
spirit walker
object
freedom
rights to the ways
cptn fantasy
don’t get too close
pork roll egg chz

set break

ARGUS
choco town
yr party
baby bitch
daisies
tried and true

Posted by: apblake | May 3, 2011

Bin Laden killed unarmed

I made this!

This frame grab from the Saudi-owned television network MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center) shows alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden gesturing an undated videotape broadcast by the Dubai-based MBC 17 April 2002. (AFP Photo / MBC)

This frame grab from the Saudi-owned television network MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center) shows alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden gesturing an undated videotape broadcast by the Dubai-based MBC 17 April 2002. (AFP Photo / MBC)

TAGS:
Military,
Obama,
Middle East,
Terrorism,
Afghanistan,
USA

At a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, the White House disclosed that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was not armed when US troops opened fire on him at his Abbottabad compound on Sunday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged at the briefing that Bin Laden was killed with two shots—one to the head and one to the chest—only a day after White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan told the media that troops would have taken Bin Laden alive, if possible.

“If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” Brennan told reporters on May 2.

At Brennan’s conference, the spokesman said that “the concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation,” and added that, “Indeed, he did.”

“It was a firefight. He, therefore, was killed in that firefight and that’s when the remains were removed.”

A day later, Carney says a “highly volatile firefight” erupted and that an unarmed Osama resisted. “Resistance does not require a firearm,” added Carney.

Now the press is questioning what threat a weaponless, sickly, 54-year-old man posed to a team of elite, heavily armed NAVY Seals.

Carney disclosed that two al-Qaeda couriers were killed on the first floor of the building where troops later located Bin Laden.

The White House has also backtracked on their statement earlier this week that a woman was used as a human shield. Today Carney backtracked earlier statements and said that a woman, Bin Laden’s wife, “rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed.”

“Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed,” Carney said.

The assassination comes after orders of the president to “capture or kill” Bin Laden.

When asked how Bin Laden resisted his capture—despite being unarmed—Carney only referred the media to the Pentagon.

Posted by: apblake | May 2, 2011

Fight over release of Bin Laden body photographs

I just wrote this. Slow news day, huh? JK, dude is dead.

A news broadcast on Arabic satellite news channel Al-Arabiya showing an image which has been circulating on the internet and allegedly shows the body of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011 (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)

A news broadcast on Arabic satellite news channel Al-Arabiya showing an image which has been circulating on the internet and allegedly shows the body of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011 (AFP Photo / Sabah Arar)

TAGS:
Military,
Obama,
Politics,
Terrorism,
Mass media,
Afghanistan,
USA

Even hours after President Barak Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden on Sunday night, people began rallying for the release of photos of the deceased al-Qaeda leader.

­But although US officials have attested without a doubt that it is the body of Bin Laden that was identified and buried at sea, skepticism is already running rampant among the public. While many are championing the release of the death photos to see the damage done by US troops, others are seeking out photographic proof to serve as confirmation of the assassination of the 9-11 mastermind.

“There’s no doubt it’s him,” said an US official to ABC News. The source says that they have seen the photos that show the slain terrorist—all 6’4” of him—complete with head wounds, guts and gore. Officials have confirmed that, with the help of DNA testing, they have “99.9 percent certainty” that it was Bin Laden that they took down. Even if they may be ripe with exposed brains and bloodied flesh, though, many Americans are already bringing forth allegations involving alternative theories behind the demise of Bin Laden.

Infowars.org has reported that one former Bin Laden affiliate says that the corpse of Bin Laden has been “on ice” for nearly a decade, with government officials awaiting an opportune moment to disclose the details of his death. They say that former Council on Foreign Relations member Steve R. Pieczenik confirmed the death of Bin Laden back in 2002 and that the video of the al-Qaeda leader taking credit for the September 11 attacks was a hoax used to manipulate the public in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack.

A newswire issued by the ANI news agency cites a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) statement that also denies reports that Bin Laden was killed, and the Afghan Taliban has denounced such allegations as well. Retired Brig. and Ex Chief of Pakistan’s  Inter Services Intelligence Hameed Gul says that  “The statements by the Americans don’t seem a reality, in the visuals of Osama, he seems much younger and they claim that no American was killed in the helicopter crash, I doubt all this. Obama is a smart person, this is a great start to his election campaign. The time is tough for Pakistan now.”

Overseas, even others continue to dispute the claims. Syed Munawar Hasan, a member of parliament for Ameer Jamat-e-Islami, is telling the media that the US’ false claim nothing other than propaganda directed against Pakistan

Furthermore, Infowars goes on to cite several other leading officials that have alleged Bin Laden has been long deceased, conjuring recollections of Former CIA official Robert Baer confirming his death in 2008, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s assumption that he had passed in 2002 and even Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s 2003 announcement that she believed President George W Bush was waiting for a politically expedient moment to speak about the capture of Bin Laden.

As US officials announced today that photos of Bin Laden’s corpse exist — yet may or may not be released to the media—and that the body has already been disposed of before public consumption, many are demanding proof before they play ball with the word of the government.

If the photos are released, they are said to show a massive head would about the left eye of Bin Laden. The US government released photos of the slain sons of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but not until morticians had acted on the bodies.

I was watching Dumb and Dumber in bed last night (Big Gulps, huh?) when I started hearing that some dude was dead. Turns out it was Bin Laden. This is of particular significance to me since I have been using him as a scapegoat for anything bad that has happened in my life for the past decade (Failed AP History? Friggin’ Bin Laden…).

Realizing that I live six miles from downtown DC and that I was wearing pants (a rarity, especially on the weekend, especially at that hour), I hopped into the Buick and headed down to the White House while listening to BBC Radio’s coverage. They said a bunch of people were congregating downtown and rallying.

They were right.

Lots of young, white kids chanting variations of “USA! USA!” and “Show us your tits!” Lots of homemade signs. Lots of smashed beer bottles and discarded aluminum cans. Lots of facepaint. I saw one guy running around with an iPad using it take photos. People were driving down 15th Street NW honking horns, hanging out of windows and sunroofs, screaming, shirtless. I only counted one crowd surfer, which is one more than I saw either of the last two times I went to a Pearl Jam concert. Apparently the spirit of 90s rock lives on, and it is patriotic as all get out.

Here is a bit of what I encountered.

Posted by: apblake | March 8, 2011

Jonathan Richman at Mohawk Place. Buffalo. 3/5/2011

One time Tom and I drove from Buffalo to Albany without any discussion to catch Jonathan Richman on the other side of the state. One time we drove to Cleveland–across two states. That same time I spent an entire night on a bus so I could see him in Chicago.

Those were all incredibly stupid and worth it without a doubt.

On Saturday I drove from Alexandria, Virginia to Buffalo to see Jonathan at Mohawk Place. Around 250 miles into the trek, my windshield wipers stopped working. That was also when the sun went away. Coincidently, that is when the monsoon started.

I drove three hours without a wiper to make it to this show and it was by far the best I’ve ever seen Jonathan and Tommy Larkin. Here are some pics.

Posted by: apblake | December 14, 2010

Gene Ween – 12/10/10 – Charlottesville, VA

Four hours in rush hour NoVA traffic seemed like it would be a nice way to spend a Friday night. It wasn’t that bad, really. Managed to discover a whole new city (first time in Charlottesville), destroyed some of the best damn pizza I’ve ever seen, and managed to catch Gene Ween at the Jefferson.

Gene Ween in Charlottesville. 12/10/10. Click for full gallery.

Setlist, thanks to the Ween Forum:

Dont Shit Where You Eat
The Grobe
Stay Forever
Stallion Pt. 3
Ooh Va La
I Dont Wanna Leave You On The Farm
Eye To The Sky
She’s Your Baby
Oh My Dear (Falling In Love)
Old Man (Neil Young)
Spirit Walker
Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)
She Wanted To Leave
Mountains And Buffalo
Flutes Of Chi
Object
The Argus
Cold Blows The Wind
Chocolate Town
Don’t Laugh (I Love You)
Birthday Boy
Mononucleosis
Little Birdy
Right To The Ways And The Rules Of The World
Blackbird (The Beatles) (tease)
It’s Gonna Be (Alright)
Baby Bitch

Posted by: apblake | October 12, 2010

Pavement – September 25, 2010 – Columbia, Maryland

Stephen Malkmus of Pavement. Photo by Andrew Blake.

Stephen Malkmus of Pavement. Photo by Andrew Blake. Click for full gallery.

When I realized that the Pavement reunion shows were going to be just a few days before I had to fly across the country for a wedding in Las Vegas, I quickly aborted any intention I had whatsoever to pawn my bass and camp out in Central Park for their four night stint in Manhattan. In a sort of silent protest (maybe even a vigil), I stopped listening to the band. I couldn’t live with it. I get way too excited about rock and roll reunions, especially these never-thought-it-would happen ones. That’s why I spent a week on the road following Jane’s Addiction last year and it’s just a prime example of how my spontaneity and irresponsibility makes me almost annoyingly undesirable. No Andrew at Pavement meant no Pavement for Andrew. It was tough, but I couldn’t drag myself to hum along to “Harness Your Hopes” or “Cut Your Hair” if I could help.

A year after they announced their reunion–and nearly a year since Tom announced his Vegas wedding–I find myself living outside of Washington, D.C. in a swanky condo jugging five jobs and no friends. It just so happened that my lack of social obligations matched up perfectly with a random gap in my work scheduled when, a-fucking-ha(!), Pavement was booked to play only 30 miles north of here in Columbia, Maryland. Can I finagle press credentials? Can I get an assignment? Can I make it all happen, Andrew?!

I did. On assignment, I got to make it out to the Virgin Mobile Free Fest between D.C. and Baltimorea few weeks back (note: yes, this blog post has really taken me that long to get online). The annual concert offers a few thousand free tickets every year and every year, even with an awesome line-up, I can never drag myself down to it. This year, of course, I was offered Pavement. M.I.A., Ludacris, Joan Jett and a dozen others were on the bill, but I was going to see Pavement and let nothing else matter. Maybe my cocky determination is another one of those pesky qualities I have. Whatever.

Those that wanted a shot at the front-row for Pavement had to queue up beforehand to be allowed into the “pit” area directly in front of the stage. I spent five hours waiting to do this for Pearl Jam a few Bonnaroos all while being subjected to a set of Jack Johnson’s for way too much of it. This time around it was relatively painless, only having to take in a brief set from Matt & Kim, who looked way too out of place on the giant amphitheater stage. The last time I saw them was at a dive bar in Chicago and I busted open my forehead because I insisted on crowd-surfing. I deserved it. As soon as their set was over on Saturday they kicked everyone that was in their pit out and ushered in the Pavement folk. I snagged a spot five rows back from Malkmus and waited. It was everything I hoped it would be.

Courtesey of Setlist.fm:
Grounded
Cut Your Hair
Date w/ IKEA
Summer Babe (Winter Version)
Heckler Spray
In the Mouth a Desert
Range Life
Perfume-V
Heaven Is a Truck
Shady Lane
Stop Breathin’
Trigger Cut
Unfair
Spit on a Stranger
Stereo
Fight This Generation
Two States
Starlings of the Slipstream
Gold Soundz
Here

I have been a casual Pavement fan ever since I picked up the soundtrack to Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy at a used cd shop outside of the University of Maryland over a decade earlier. Kind of like the first time I saw SNFU rip apart a stage in a dive bar in Hamilton, Pavement lived up to everything I thought they’d be live. Malkmus came off as half drunk/half retarded, and the loose interpretations of songs they’ve known for 20 years didn’t make it pathetic, but almost poetic the way the group weaved in and out of renditions of “Stop Breathin” and “Stereo.”

Raw and ragged interpretations of songs already recorded with such fluidity and low-fi lack of power  somehow heightened the delivery of each tune. The shitty synth fills on “Stereo” are just a cachaphonic bleep when Bob Nastanovich palms his fist into a keyboard. But that lack of care – that lack of care that never quite put Pavement in the same tier as Weezer or Blur, was all what the group was about, and thankfully still is.

Okay, I’m sick of writing about something that happened a month ago. Go look at some pretty pictures:

Pavement by Andrew Blake.

Pavement by Andrew Blake. Click for full gallery.

Posted by: apblake | September 16, 2010

Should it Stay or Should it Go?

Here is an article I had published this week in Artvoice, issue v9n37 (Health & Fitness Issue, week of September 16)

Debating the merits of tattoo removal

“People should be happy with the tattoos they wear.”

Andrew Sharpe, a 23-year-old Buffalo native, might stand by this statement more than anyone. The heavily inked West Side resident not only brandishes an array of artwork across his body, but he works as an artist at Rise Above Tattoo just shy of the Kenmore border. He’s not concentrating on any new additions to his personal walking, talking portfolio, though. Sharpe, right now, is in the process of a removal.

“If you have to look at a tattoo everyday and are not satisfied, it’s priceless to be able to replace it with something you can enjoy,” says Sharpe. The tattoo in question, a Japanese style sleeve up and down his left arm, isn’t quite what he had hoped it would be. So short of his expectations fell the tattoo, in fact, that Sharpe is investing months of treatment through laser removal sessions—at a few hundred dollars a pop—to have the unsightly scene gone for good.

Sharpe is far from alone. The Nieman Center, a Williamsville-based dermatology clinic specializing in cosmetic surgery including hair transplantation, botox, and tattoo removal, reports that about half of the 20 million or so Americans with tattoos desire to do without them. “I think people are not really instructed when they are young about the consequences of what they do, and they wind up with something that they really don’t want,” says Dr. Joseph B. Neiman, MD F.A.A.D, a board-certified dermatologist who has practiced in Western New York for over 30 years. “There’s not enough consulting of people that get these things, and if you look at the people that are actually doing the tattooing, they don’t look like somebody that wants to consult anybody. They just want to do it.”

Karen Arcangel has worked as a registered nurse under Dr. Neiman for a decade now, and say’s that 20-somethings with terrible tribals are far from the bulk of their clientele. “Most common patients are females in their 20s that are going to get married within the next year,” says Arcangel. “Middle-aged married men in their 30s or 40s men who are having children of their own and don’t want [their tattoos] anymore make up a good chunk of the patient population, too. As well as someone who is going into the military or wants to be, say, a state trooper.” Both professions require that the applicant be free of visible tattoos, which leads to many applicants considering tattoo removal.

The Neiman Center has done laser removal for 13 years now, most recently with the aid of a RevLite Q-Switched YAG Laser, an instrument specific to tattoo removal, and according to the clinic, the best option when it comes to removal. “Those are some pretty serious lasers,” says Arcangel.

With millions of Americans attempting to opt-out of what was once believed to be a permanent form of body modification, Arcangel and the doctor urge that you think about your options and consider the severity and seriousness of removal before going under a laser, especially when a professional might not be present for the procedure. “You can really cause some damage to the skin and you really need somebody who knows how to operate a laser, and not a technician that had one or two training classes…It doesn’t work that way,” says Arcangel. According to the RN, it’s typical for a patient in their clinic to show up after suffering a botched removal at the hand’s of a tattoo artist in their shop. “You don’t want to be exchanging a tattoo for scar tissue. You really need to know what you’re doing and go slowly and progressively and increase the level of aggressiveness.”

Lasers, she says, are serious business.

When someone goes under a laser, a beam is projected at the ink and breaks it down into tiny particles, where the body’s lymphatic system takes away what’s left, says Arcangel. Due to the rate at which the body works at removing the ink on its own though, treatments must be done around eight weeks apart to efficiently rid the skin of the ink. “There is no way to rush the process, so to treat every four weeks doesn’t do it,” says Arcangel. The average tattoo, she says, takes eight to 10 treatments to be totally removed. With the clinic charging around $250 a session for what Arcangel considers a “normal size” tattoo, an investment of a few grand might be needed to eliminate the ink. “People will spend $100 to get a tattoo on and then spend a fortune to get it off,” she says.

On top of not being cheap, many find the treatment painful and debilitating, as, depending on the person, after-effects can vary. Sharpe was finally convinced to opt for a removal after seeing how well the process was working out for a fellow tattoo artist that was visiting him in Buffalo. He expected some slight swelling in the vicinity of the tattoo, but his hands ended up swelling tremendously too and prevented him from doing most anything. “I had massive King Kong-sized blisters all over my forearm that took a week to go down. Can’t do too much when your arm is a huge alien looking mess,” says Sharpe. Arcangel says it might take up to 10 days for post-session blistering to diminish, which leaves a good month of healing before the next treatment is performed.

And while laser removal might be the most effective method of removal, the safeness of the procedure is still uncertain, given the relative modernity of the technology. Arcangel stresses that laser removal is FDA approved, but it’ll take years before any long-term side effects are fully realized. “Are they going to come back 25 years from now and say it causes cancer? I can’t tell you that,” she says. In the meantime, removal with a YAG laser is, most say, the best bet for removal.

Other routes do exist for those weary of going under a laser, but the results are nowhere near as guaranteed compared to what Dr. Nieman and other area dermatologists can offer. Many people still opt for the do-it-at-home method of salabrasion—removal performed by sanding the skin with table salt—but Dr. Nieman thinks of it as simply “archaic.”

Wrecking Balm, a product sold in the first-aide aisle at Wal-Mart, advertises itself as a “unique, devastatingly effective tattoo fade-removal system that is unlike anything ever seen from the far-reaching corners of the earth.” Dr. Nieman says the product sounds more like “hocus pocus” than an actual solution, and mixed online reviews show that many feel the same way. The product, which retails for a fraction of the cost of laser removal, bundles a topical, FDA-aproved cream with a mechanical hand-held medical device that grinds the top layer of the skin away and draws the embedded ink toward the outside. One customer posted on Consumersearch.com that, “If you were to buy sandpaper, pumice stone, some sort of scrub, a vibrator, and skin lotion it would roughly be the same thing.”

Arcangel says that two patients have so far come to the Nieman Center to get laser removal after Wrecking Balm was unable to provide effective results, and the professional procedure was made more difficult because of damage to the skin caused by Wrecking Balm. According to Dr. Nieman, any at-home method of removal is “futile.”

In the meantime, between sessions with his own clients that he hopes don’t make the same mistake he did, Andrew Sharpe is continuing to undergo tattoo removal treatment. “I would recommend it to others,” he says, “only if they go to a person that’s experienced and well known for laser removal. It takes dedication to continually get work done, and can take a year or two to fully remove a large tattoo.”

And what about when the removal is finally done? “The plan for my arm is to get new tattoos,” he says.

Arcangel makes a point of mentioning that the first laser session can’t be performed until 90 days after the initial inking, though, so Sharpe and others should be ready to sport their presumably permanent tattoo for at least three months. Here’s hoping for longer, though.

-andrew blake

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