10. Illinois, Sufjan Stevens
9. Original Pirate Material, The Streets
8. Up the Bracket, The Libertines
7. The Blueprint, Jay Z
6. White Blood Cells, The White Stripes (or Elephant. Ask me again in ten years.)
5. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
4. Funeral, Arcade Fire
3. Kid A, Radiohead
2. College Dropout, Kanye West
1. Is This It, The Strokes

10. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
9. The Office (UK +US)
8. Arrested Development
7. The Daily Show
6. Mad Men
5. Freaks and Geeks
4. Friday Night Lights
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm
2. The Wire
1. The Sopranos

10. Tie: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)/ Fog of War (2003)
9. A History of Violence (2005)
8. The Squid and the Whale (2005)
7. High Fidelity (2000)
6. The Departed (2006)
5. Before Sunset (2004)
4. O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)
3. Zodiac (2007)
2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Rethinking the 4th

July 3, 2009


It’s fair to say that I am somewhat fascinated with the 4th of July.  The all-day BBQs usually satisfy my carnivorous appetite, no matter how predictable or repetitive I am still a sucker for a sub-par fireworks show, and I become giddy with a genuine patriotic joy when I see those complimentary plastic American flag covering the majority of neighborhood lawns.

There is something quite marvelous and Rockwellian about the entire spectacle. (Note: I am currently sitting at a café and the barista just started to play Bruce Springsteen – Greatest Hits. I can’t tell if Mr. Barista’s selection is ironic or sincere but needless to say, his timely musical choice works pretty darn well with the weekends Americana-inspired ambiance.)

Yet, I would like to point out that this classic mid-summer production has a void; that is, the way most of us relate to its historical purpose. It’s not that the holiday doesn’t have a connection with the past. Indeed, far from it. The day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from those big bad tyrannical Brits on the other side of the Atlantic.

I have beef with the fact that most of us don’t seriously acknowledge the historical narrative (booo taxes! booo king! yay freedom!) when celebrating Independence Day. Think about it for just a moment: the birth or our country in America is covered in a-historic, let’s just enjoy the here and the now, clothing. Read the rest of this entry »

Library. Revisited.

April 23, 2009



With this oh-so enjoyable LSAT business on my agenda, I find myself at the public library about three days a week, trying to train my inherently illogical brain in the fine art of logic. (If A—>B, and B—>C, then C—>B. No wait, that can’t be right.) 

It comes as no surprise that I associate libraries with a certain sense of nostalgia. I have fond memories of my undergraduate days buried inside of UC Berkeley’s main stacks, where my masochistic yet focused and productive all-nighters brought out to bring out the best of work ethic.  

And yet, as I have realized in the past few weeks, public libraries don’t really work in the same manner.

Whenever I enter a public library, I frequently end up asking myself the same basic questions: Does anyone else think the Dewey decimal system is rather inefficient?  Why is that man shaving in the bathroom? Do they just throwaway the old card catalogs or are they stored in the basement in case a virus wipes out all of the computers?  Oh, and I don’t really get the whole sexy-librarian fetish. Something about being shushed just seems like a condescending turnoff.

Particularly in the midst of America’s favorite recession, public libraries across the country have become a safe haven for the young and recently unemployed: kill a few hours, read a book, apply for a job or two, people watch, or, as I seem to be doing at the moment, try to figure out if the correct answer to standardized test question happens to be A, B, C, D, or E.

Keep in mind that in my specific case, we are dealing with Los Angeles, a city that, with the exception of a few scattered parks and beaches, lacks a coherent semblance of public space. And the last time I checked, no one was really hanging out at City Hall, so I guess by default, public libraries in Los Angeles have become a hot-spot of sorts. 

My local library has transformed itself into the (very) frugal-hipster’s alternative to the coffee shop. (Which makes sense to a certain extent when you take into account the fact that at libraries you are not forced to shell out $3.50 for that latte and endure unbearable sounds of the barista’s I-Pod.) In fact, this particular biblioteca seems to have a surplus of aspiring screenwriters, cool-than-thou-art graphic designers, unemployed academics, and painters, painting pictures with paint…. and a paintbrush. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Durer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Definitely a favorite of mine.

Durer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Definitely a favorite of mine.

Like most cautious folks, I have a tendency to pre-plan; call it a chronic fear of the unexpected. Generally speaking, this means checking the weather before I go out for a bike ride or ordering movie tickets online to guarantee a seat for myself. And more often than not, I prepare talking points for social interactions, which might surprise those of you who assumed that this wit and charm was a natural god given talent. It is safe to say that spontaneity is not my strong suit.

In many ways, this so-called devotion to readiness explains my obsession with the apocalypse (the end of the civilization) and the post-apocalypse (the world itself following culmination of civilization).

The truth is, I spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about the end of civilization. This is not to suggest that I am looking forward to it. For the most part, I like the current state of civilization. I can’t imagine another world where you would never have to pay a $523.23 fine to the public library and still get to check out an unlimited amount of books.

But like I said, I am pre-planner and have a tendency to prepare for the worst. I don’t want to end up in some underground hell-hole with a tuna fish void are killed and I forget to pack an adequate supply of BumbleBee beforehand.

Despite these worries, I don’t actually spend my free time imagining doomsday scenarios. That’s just not my style because I don’t really have a hyper-imaginative mindset. I didn’t spend my childhood creating fictitious worlds and alternative universes.

Instead of coming up with such situations, I just turn to the experts. If a movie, book, song, graphic novel, painting, or even a vaudeville show has anything to do with the apocalypse or post-apocalypse, I am game. Read the rest of this entry »

City Slicker

April 7, 2009

Baumgarten at Peace in Anza Borrego

Baumgarten at Peace in Anza Borrego

It would be convenient to say that my appreciation for nature was sparked once I moved to New York: landing in the big bad city without a tree or a patch of grass in site, I became nostalgic for a California that I never completely took advantage of when I lived in the Bear State anyway. 

But this narrative isn’t entirely true. I don’t know when I actively started to enjoy the camping. It’s not like I ever had a fear of camping, hiking, or any associated activity. It just wasn’t the first activity to pop up on the Max Baumgarten radar. Yet for some reason I can’t entirely explain why this outlook changed.

And so last week I had my latest one nightstand with the great outdoors. This rendition of slam, bam, thank you sand was spent in Anza Borrego State Park, an ecological dessert wonderland that’s more than just gigantic rock formations and sunburns.

While we are at it, here are a few fun facts about Anza Borrego: it is one of the 55 California State Parks with wi-fi access, it hugs the Mexican-American border, and it’s haunted with ghosts (according to this YouTube gem).

I headed out to Anza Borrego with two friends. While we were only in the park for about 24 hours, we tackled the basics that constitute a successful camping trip: a long beautiful hike where we sort of get lost, sunscreen in the eyes causing temporary blindness, beans, some solid photo ops, and awkward Brokeback Mountain references. Call us team checklist.

By no means do I consider myself a camping virtuoso. In fact, far from it. But I have been camping enough times to know that I am a bona fide fan. Truth is, I am the sort of urban dweller that needs a time out from civilization every once in awhile. As I have come to realize, a night or two under the stars is all about healthy self-reflection. Read the rest of this entry »


Back in Los Angeles.

My first four days home mainly consisted of organizing my room, watching Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist with ma and pa, going to the dentist to get a tooth bonded, and taking a diagnostic LSAT. 

Yesterday around 2pm I get a call from a college friend who is visiting Los Angeles just for the day and wants to meet up for some LAish activity. Keep in mind the weather was all sunshine in the mid-seventies and I am equipped with a god-given knack for playing tour guide. Besides, this would give me the excuse I needed to reintroduce myself to the City of Angels.

So we decide to head on over to Venice Beach and take my dog Roxie for a stroll on the boardwalk. “Pleasant” is the best way to describe the first half of the outing: walk on the path for about twenty minutes, head down towards the water for a bit, grab a beer and some snacks at a boardwalk café overlooking the Pacific. I even had one of those “I don’t know why LA gets such a bad rap” moments. Like I said, everything up to this point was pleasant. Very pleasant.

Around 4:45, it’s time to leave Venice. My friend has a play to catch and I have dinner plans with father Baumgarten. Right as we are exiting the boardwalk, a pit bull on a leash approaches Roxie in what seemed to be one of those I-am-a-dog-you-are-a-dog-let’s-sniff-each-other-sessions. But instead of a good-old sniff fest, the pit bull just starts biting Roxie’s left ear. (While I never caught the pit bull’s name, from this point forward, I am going to refer to that dog as Mike Tyson, the boxer who notoriously bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off in a match.)

Holding Roxie’s leash, I try to pull her back. Tyson’s owner tried to do the same with her dog. Neither of us are having any luck in this tug-a-war match. Thirty-second into the Tyson-biting-Roxie’s-ear-a-thon, the owner tries to physically remove the dog’s jaw from Roxie’s ear. My out of town guests sticks his hand in there as well. In the process, the pit bull bites both of them. Read the rest of this entry »


Generally speaking I try to abide by the established grammatical rules of the English language. It’s not like I am one of those notorious, red-pen happy, sentence correcting, self-appointed grammar policemen. But, as I see it, the rules are there to provide writers and readers, speakers and listeners with the proper tools to engage in a standardized and efficient communicative experience. 

If the powers that be decided that we should capitalize the first word of a sentence, so then gosh darn it, you aren’t going to see me begin a BeingBaumbastic blog post with a lower case letter.  When it comes to following such linguistic principles, I see myself more as a lemming, not a rabble-rouser. Well 98% of the time at least.

 Yet, I have to confess I cannot in good faith support the prohibition of the double negative. In case you need some brushing up, you arrive at a double negative when two negations occur used in the same clause.  The lyrics of one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs ‘Satisfaction’, (I can’t get no….. ) is a classic double negative, and so is the title to that 90s high school comedy Can’t Hardly Wait.  Which, for the record, I watched last week on either TNT or TBS and doesn’t really hold up that well. Ten years later Preston Meyers just comes off as creepy.

Anyway, while double negatives are deemed kosher in some languages, Bishop Robert Lowth pulled a Joseph McCarthy and placed them on English’s grammatical black list way back in the 18th century called with his book A Short Introduction to English Grammar with Critical Notes.

Read the rest of this entry »

What a Fantasy World

March 16, 2009


I would like to discuss a personal experience. I consider it personal experience, not in the sense that it was private or for that matter solitary event. In fact, we are dealing with quite the opposite here.

You might be thinking, “What are you getting at here Max? Why the pseudo-cryptic bullshit?” Which is, indeed, a fair enough question. But when you are dealing with the social wear-and-tear of being a fantasy baseball owner (which is what we are tackling here today) nothing is ever that straightforward or simple.

I have participated in fantasy baseball leagues for the last few years and I am not embarrassed to say that I buy into the stat-based hoopla. And I think I am pretty darn good at it. I make the right trades, I waive the excess baggage, and I pick up undervalued studs. I was born with a competitive streak and fantasy baseball is as good a place as any, on the Internet at least, to channel this type-A energy.

Like knitting, calligraphy, or actual baseball for that matter, fantasy baseball at its core is a hobby. But unlike more traditional hobbies, loved ones rarely care to hear about your fantasy baseball experience. I guess bringing up the fact that you snagged Carlos Delgado in the fourteenth round of your draft (oh how the once-mighty have slipped) isn’t considered an acceptable dinner conversation. Or pillow talk for that matter.
Read the rest of this entry »