December 27, 2008

Resolved

We're leaving in the morning for a quick trip up the coast, so in all likelihood, this is it for 2008. My 218th and final post of the year.

Now, I'm not one for new year's resolutions. If I'm making any for 2009, I'll never tell, and I'm not admitting to having made any in 2008. But if I had, today's post would represent me having stuck to a resolution for (close enough to) a full year.

In the scheme of new year's resolutions, writing a few lines of nonsense every couple of days might not seem like much. Check that: isn't much. Still, I'm pleased with myself for sticking to it, for getting something, anything, up here on a regular-enough basis. I think these 218 posts - well, most of them, anyway - were much-needed reminders to myself that writing can be pretty easy when it's fun, and it can be fun when it's so easy. Once in a while they even made me laugh, which probably wasn't the point. But, as my beautiful and observant wife has often observed (beautifully, I might add), I'm pretty good at cracking myself up.

Plus, it was a handy way for me to remind you about all of the awesome t-shirts for sale at S and J Market, which could really use your business during these difficult economic times. One of our satisfied t-shirt customers is Bugs, who has this one and is about to get this one, once I can get to a mailbox. I also mention Bugs because she deserves a special thanks for reading every single post and commenting - in some cases many, many times - on most of them.

To the other six or seven of you who have checked in on me so often this year, I thank you very much, for keeping the escalator going. What do ya' say we do it again next year?

Early morning Frost

I waited until 12:16 a.m. to start writing this one, just so I could use that headline. Crazy? Like a fox, baby.

The point is: I owe you another (soon-to-be) famous Six-word Movie Review. It's already been a couple of days since I went to the show to take in Ron Howard's new slapstick comedy, Frost/Nixon (trailers here).

Just kidding about the slapstick thing. But it did make me wonder if, in 35 years or so, we'll get a major motion picture about the buildup to - and fallout from - Katie Couric's groundbreaking CBS interview with Sarah Palin. The can-you-really-not-even-name-a-newspaper-or-magazine? one. Because that might be fun. Wow, I almost made it through December without a Sarah Palin reference. There goes that streak.

The film: Frost/Nixon.
The six-word review: Sheen/Langella are intense/on-target. Entertaining.

Only one real complaint, although it's an issue with the story, not how it was told on film: Thanks to the way Frost came out of the episode - that is, with his reputation enhanced immeasurably - one of the movie's lasting messages seemed to be that if you're a lightweight quasi-journalist, you can succeed just fine if you have a few talented people doing all of your prep work and then you cram for a few hours before a big interview. Which is probably about right.

December 26, 2008

Not quite The Graduate

There's so much cat hair on and in my keyboard, I'm not sure how the thing keeps working. But it does, which means that I can present to you another Six-word Movie Review!

The film: Last Chance Harvey. (Trailer here.)
The six-word review: Willy Loman finds true love. Eh.

(More fun than the movie itself was seeing former Piston-Bull-Laker-Raptor-and-Heat(er?) and three-time NBA champion John Salley at the theater.)

December 25, 2008

Nothing to do with Christmas

Sorry I've been gone a while. Attack of food poisoning. Or, as my dad diagnosed it from 3,000 miles away - over the phone - "that stomach bug that's been going around." (And then, in the same conversation, he dismissed the extraordinary diagnostic abilities of the esteemed Gregory House. Hm.)

Aside from my posting this item on the 25th, this really has nothing to do with the holidays. Except I realize it'd be bad form not to religious-neutrally wish you and yours a happy politically correct festival of your choice. So there you go.

And, actually, I have to admit that I watched Letterman last night and, in keeping with his holiday tradition, he had Darlene Love on to close the show with "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)." Here's a link to the 2006 rendition - but, y'know, because it's a tradition and all, what you'll see at the link is basically the same at what was on TV last night, so just go with it. I'm not a celebrator of Christmas, but hearing Darlene Love sing that thing... well, let's just say she makes a strong case for the general idea of yuletide carols being sung by a choir.

And, now that I think of it, without my even mentioning that I'd heard the song, today my brilliant and amazing wife asked me if I was going to amuse myself today by finding and re-watching this video (which stars the voice of one Darlene Love). And I am. Because "Christmastime for the Jews" has amused me at this time of year a few years running.

I mean, how can you beat lyrics like "They can eat in Chinatown and drink their sweet-ass wine," or "They can gang up on the Quakers / Play for the Lakers / They can do what they wanna / Even blow off Madonna"? Well, when they're sung by Ms. Love, you just can't. You should watch it. Do it for me.

So, aside from those things, I'm serious: This post has nothing to do with the holidays. The reason I wanted to post today was to pass on my two favorite quotes of the week - both from people I'm happy to be related to. It's the first installment of... The SFTC Family Quote Machine!

Quote 1
I was telling my dad about a great dinner I'd eaten the previous night (this was a safe couple of nights pre-stomach ailment, so I'm confident it had no bearing on my illness), and mentioned that I'd had an incredibly good chicken dish. (Trust me, really, it was great.) Anyway, I liked what he said next: "You know, chicken is the new lobster."

Quote 2
My grandfather was telling me about his latest phone conversation with his great-grandson, who also just happens to be in a first-place tie (with his younger brother) for the title of world's coolest nephew. Kid goes by the nickname of Cardboard. Don't ask me why.

The conversation apparently went something like this:
(Gramps) "I knew that was you before I picked up the phone. I could tell by the ring."
(Cardboard) "What did the ring sound like?"
(G) "Brrring, brrrring!"
(C) "What does it sound like when everyone else calls?"

Score one for Cardboard.

And even though I'm avoiding all of the holiday stuff: Happy, Merry, Safe and Healthy. Now, I have some halls to go deck.

December 19, 2008

In which 57 < 57

Turns out I’m big into using incorrect equations for blog post titles this week. You, the SFTC reader, might find that sort of lame, but hey: You get what you pay for.

The 57 to which our headline refers is the current air temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, in Los Angeles, according to the thermometer that was included for free when I acquired my trusty sidekick, Al.

Now, if I were in the City by the Lake - the town I called home for the better part of 13 years - and the temperature was 57 degrees, I would be wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I just might be sitting outside on my balcony, pondering the evils of global warming and, perhaps, deciding what kind of animal to barbecue for dinner.

But I’m not in Chicago, and the imperviousness to cold temperatures that I gained from a dozen-plus years there, preceded by four long winters in Rochester, New York - I was there for four full years; it’s just that it was winter the whole time - well, that imperviousness is all gone. I am now completely... um, maybe... pervious to cold temperatures. Cold, apparently, being anything less than 63 degrees.

So when it’s 57 in L.A., I am most certainly not wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Today, it’s chinos, a long-sleeve shirt, a sweater, and when I’m outdoors, a light jacket. And gloves. (Yes, seriously.) I am decidedly not sunning myself on a deck. And I’m sure as hell not pondering global warming; I’m pondering whether long-johns and wool socks might have been a good call for today.

I’m disappointed. I thought I’d be able to resist the annoying "thinner blood" thing. At least for more than two winters. No such luck.

Oh, and, considering my temperature wussiness, the heater in our apartment picked a really excellent week to give out.

December 18, 2008

Maybe they thought the movie was about long-term debt

I'm just saying: Some New York Times copyeditors apparently need to get out more. See a movie once in a while. So, like, they'd know not to lowercase the name of one of the world's best-known film characters or add periods where they don't belong.

Take, for example, this item from the news summary in the print edition of today's Gray Lady. (Everything, including capitalization and punctuation, is how it appeared in the paper.)

The reinvention of the bond film series gave the hope that the Quantum of Solace game would provide something beyond the usual movie-tie-in dreck. Alas, it does not, Seth Schiesel writes, though .007 shoots a lot. PAGE C3

December 17, 2008

In which 70% < 60%

I'm not great at math, so maybe I'm missing something here. But I was looking at Restaurant.com, about to buy myself some discount gift certificates for two local eateries, when I came to this screen:





See that blue box at the bottom right corner? That's where they break down your gift certificate options. Well, here, take a closer look:



The $10 gift certificate costs only $3. The way I run the numbers, that's 70% off. Not bad. But Restaurant.com says the "best value" is the $100 gift certificate, which costs $40. I think that comes out to right around 60% off, which... isn't that less than 70% off?

Maybe they just mean it's the best value for the people who run the web site.

While we're on the topic, if the site lists restaurants near you - the selection is OK but not great for establishments in our area - it can be kind of a handy way to save a few bucks. And they're doing some kind of holiday promotion now, so if you enter the code FROSTY at checkout, the gift certificates are even cheaper. Happy shopping.

December 16, 2008

He might need some help with how kites work

Maybe we'll still have some nice White House malapropisms to play with, even after W leaves the DC.

December 16, at the news conference announcing Arne Duncan as the nominee for Secretary of Education:

"These kids, Mr. President, are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft." - VP elect Joe Biden

Then there was music

If more people read this blog, I might be able to legitimately call this post a public service announcement. As it is, maybe it's just a service announcement.

Here's an easy way to help fund what I think is a very worthy cause - and the beauty part is it doesn't cost you a thing. Fidelity, which THE AUTHOR'S NEGATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT FIDELITY FUND PERFORMANCE HAVE BEEN REDACTED FROM THIS SENTENCE*, will donate $1 toward musical instruments in schools for every holiday greeting email you send. So go send a lot of them. Musical instruments for kids = good thing. Fidelity picking up the tab = even better.

It's easy. It's fast. It's free. Click here and then email away. The musical future of our nation may depend on it.

* by the author himself

Revolution. Televised.

I might have watched my last commercial.

The dude from the cable company visited this weekend (Me: "Can I get you something to drink?" Him: "Vodka and orange juice sounds good.") and installed one of those magical time-saving, advertising-eradicating DVR things.

Yes, I know you've already had your DVR for many, many years. No matter. I believed him when he told me that within a week, I won't be able to watch TV without it.

Next order of business in my Five-Year Audiovisual Equipment Upgrade Master Plan is to finally acquire the high-def TV that I've been talking about for a little while now. Ah, who am I kidding - I've been talking about it for at least five years. Come to think of it, that's probably how I got the name of the Master Plan.

I've been watching prices, comparing brands, checking out displays at Best Buy and Circuit City (and now Costco) (and now every bar or restaurant we go to that has a flat screen), but one thing I haven't done is buy a damn TV.

Just asking: What's the opposite of an impulse purchase?

I figure I've saved hundreds of dollars watching the prices go down in that time, which also means that I might be able to get a slightly bigger TV than the ones I was considering back during the pre-Miley Cyrus era.

But I think a purchase is imminent. The last real obstacle was that I couldn't get my head around the idea of paying the cable company more money per month for the privilege of getting HD content. But that's now a non-issue because I recently discovered that high-def programming is included - free! - with our monthly service because our building has a bulk deal.

(Which reminds me: When we first moved into this place and had the cable turned on, the installer said, "Wow, you have a great deal, getting cable for free." Which he meant to be nice, but which ticked me off. "Yeah," I told him. "All I have to do is just pay the ridiculous rent to live here and they throw in the cable - for free.")

For the last couple of weeks, I've been in something like "ready to buy in the next few days" mode, but I keep finding more models to consider and hearing that prices will go down even more after Thanksgiving... on December 15... after Christmas... before the Super Bowl. It's gotten to the point that my gorgeous and extremely smart wife - who couldn't care less what kind of TV we have, so long as it's color and picks up Gossip Girl and House - is gently pushing me to buy the thing already. So I can just shut up about it.

I think even Sampson the cat rolled his eyes yesterday when he heard me say the words "Sony Bravia." That's OK - I know he's going to enjoy NFL football even more on the new set.

December 14, 2008

The Penn is mightier

I've been looking forward to seeing Milk since I first heard about it months ago, and nothing I read or heard about it since then did anything to diminish the anticipation. So although I knew it boasted a stellar cast, interesting story (which I only vaguely knew about in advance) and great director, I was worried for two reasons: One, I'm often disappointed in highly hyped movies; and two, I'm lactose intolerant.

(Rim shot.)

But I'm glad to tell you that Milk (trailers of many sizes here) is as good as advertised. Without further delay, your Six-word Movie Review:

The film: Milk.
The six-word review: Riveting. Sean Penn for the win.

Aside from the tragic ending, the saddest part of the movie was wondering why 2008 Californians couldn't defeat Proposition 8, the way 1978 Californians in the movie managed to block Proposition 6, which would have made it mandatory to fire gay schoolteachers. I wonder if things would have been different this year if Milk had been released in October, a few weeks before the election, instead of now, a few weeks before Oscar nominations.

December 9, 2008

Because you can't spell corruption without a "T"

Hot off the metaphorical presses... it's the brand new S and J Market t-shirt everyone in Illinois will be wearing tomorrow. Or at least they would be if they'd ever heard of S and J Market.

Our sartorial tribute to soon-to-be-ex-governor Rod Blagojevich is right here:



Here's hoping for an interesting trial.

Duty denied

Oh, yeah, and in case you were wondering, this was how jury duty went yesterday:

8:15... Arrive at court house; wait in line for about 10 minutes to get through metal detector.

8:25... Take a seat in jury waiting room, which is a pretty nice jury waiting room. Two newer computers with free Internet access, a big TV in a separate room, comfy seating. I could get used to this.

9:00... Audio of juror orientation is played over the waiting room p.a. Sounds like it was supposed to be accompanied by video, but there's no video anywhere, so we all stare into space while a disembodied voice tells us how important we jurors are.

10:30... Half of the potential jurors - but not me - are called to a trial.

10:45... The other half are told that nothing else will happen until 1:30, so we're free to take a 2 hour, 45 minute lunch break. Which seems OK.

1:10... Return to jury waiting room 20 minutes early. Not sure why, except that...

1:18... Jury waiting room announcer lady announces about 15 names and tells us that the case we would have heard has been settled, and we're free to leave. Or we can stay until 2 to hear the judge explain what happened.

1:18.01... I decide not to stay until 2 to hear the judge explain what happened.

2:30... Nap.

So there you have it. America's justice system works again. I'm honored to have served. Look forward to doing it again next year.

... making O.J. the second-dumbest criminal in the news this week

Sure, this may seem sad, pathetic and hopeless.

But it's also totally awesome that a governor, who knows - and who everyone else knows - is the subject of a years-long investigation for... what was it? oh yeah... corruption gets busted for trying to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder. Again: While he's under investiagation for doing that kind of thing anyway. It's just that now he's doing it with a Senate seat.

So I think it's incredibly cool that Illinois politicians keep coming up with new ways to break the law. So creative. So entrepreneurial.

I'm just... I'm... speechless? Yes. Impressed? You betcha.

What's the over-under on hours till Blagojevich's resignation? I'll take 18 hours from right now, although the smart money may be on "under."

December 7, 2008

Duty calls

I'm on jury duty starting Monday. I'm certainly in favor of everyone having to do their part for our wild and wacky legal system (I'm just calling it wacky because this was the weekend OJ got sent away for stealing sports memorabilia, a decade or so after skating for two murders), but I just hope it doesn't adversely affect my blogging schedule.

Actually, I'm probably the only person I know who actually looks forward to jury duty. I'd kinda like to get in the box and listening to some riveting testimony. We'll see how that works out.

Whatever happens, it'd sure be cool if I get to see an attorney wearing a shirt that says "No cupable" - y'know, like the guy in this post.

How am I preparing? I loaded some new This American Life, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me and All Songs Considered podcasts onto the magic little music box, in case I have to amuse myself while waiting to be called. I bought a 230-count box of granola bars at Costco (actually, it might have "only" been 96 bars) (you may mock me, but what if it's a long trial?). And I'm practicing saying awesome things like res ipsa loquitur and voir dire. Yes, I know I probably can leave those phrases to the professionals. But just in case.

December 5, 2008

Into the woods

I'm not sure how you'd review a movie like Defiance in six words.

I can tell you that if you have a chance to see it for free at the supercool Majestic Crest theater in Westwood (an old-fashioned one-screen theater; the interior is even neater than the outside, but I can't find any photos of the auditorium) with screenwriters Ed Zwick and Clayton Frohman doing a post-screening Q&A, well, you should do that. Or you could wait till the late-December release and just see it in a movieplex near you, without the Q&A.

Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, the guy who played Billy Elliot and some kid who doesn't really talk play brothers who lead hundreds of Jews to escape Nazi persecution by hiding out in the forests of Belarussia, and while they're there, repel repeated Nazi attacks. The trailer is here, but - if you haven't seen the trailer yet - consider skipping it. I don't think it spoils any surprises, necessarily, but you might be better off watching the film knowing less in advance about the challenges the group faces.

I'll preface my patented Six-word Movie Review by writing that I thought Defiance was good - the true story is so amazing that the film is certainly worth seeing. But I don't think it was great, and I can't put my finger on exactly why.

The film: Defiance.
The six-word review: Amazing true story; just missing something.

Last thought: This movie took place in a forest; the last movie I saw, Benjamin Button, reminded me of Gump. What are the odds?

December 3, 2008

De-posed

Seeing someone stick it to the man is always fun.

But it's even more fun when the man who's sticking it to the man is the ex-man, in this case Mario Cuomo. New York's popular ex-governor is refusing to pose for an official portrait that's supposed to be hung in some Gallery of Governors in Albany. They're about to hang the painting of his successor, but I guess the space they saved for Cuomo's likeness will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

To which I say: Good call, Mario. Who needs the aggravation? (Besides, the article says, he'd have to pay for the picture himself. I'd back out on that basis alone.)

But voice your choice, America. Hit that Comments link below and tell me what you think.

Old and news

It's been a while since I've bored you with a nod to the New York Times' frequently awesome online infographics. There were just too many to choose from during the campaign, and besides, I had caribou on the brain.


But in the face of a complete and utter lack of requests from you, the SFTC reader, for more coverage of the great and wonderful ways that the NYT presents information in pretty charts, graphs and photos, I thought it was about time to pay a visit to those mad geniuses who make the old Gray Lady's web site so newsgeeky-fun.


It's not terribly new, but my latest find is this weekly series of then-and-now pictures from various parts of NYC. The writer/photographer took a bunch of photos in 1978 for a New York guidebook, and now is returning to the same spots to show what they look like from the same vantage point in 2008. These are probably more interesting if you live in New York, but either way, I love how the site displays the photos with a roll-bar that lets you reveal portions of the new picture in the same frame as the old picture - or to just see either picture on its own. Fun, right?


Maybe some day I'll have the patience - 30 years is a lot of patience, but whatever - to do something like this.


Unrelated random thought: For no apparent reason, I was wondering if anyone else had thought of this idea for a web page. And of course, someone had. A long time ago. But I like it.

December 2, 2008

All about the Benjamin

I've been lax in my blogging duties lately. I apologize. I think it's partly because I knew this post would be my 200th - would it look more momentous if I spelled it out: my two-hundredth post? No, I guess not.

The point is, I was trying to save up for a high-quality update worthy of this mini landmark in blogging. But it turns out this is the best I could come up with:

Yeah, it's expensive as all get out to live in L.A. But it's worth it because (1) the weather is close to perfect and (2) free movie screenings, baby!

Last year, somehow, I got myself onto a list to receive email invites to screenings, and for whatever reason, those invites are picking up heading into the end of 2008. Last night, my indescribably beautiful wife and caught a sneak preview of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (high-def trailer here), which doesn't even open until Christmas! Now that's a preview. Next up is a freebie of Defiance, later this week. Don't worry, I'll report back on that one.

(Last night's screening was held at the Directors Guild of America's headquarters on Sunset Blvd. We'd driven by the building about 100 times before and never noticed it, which is strange because it looks like this.)

As you may know by now, TCCBB follows the life of Pitt's character, who is born a tiny old man and ages in reverse.

The title of the film comes from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story on which it's based - well, very very loosely based (really the only leftovers from the original text were the character named Benjamin Button and the idea that he grows younger). So the title made sense. But I kept wondering if they considered renaming it to something like "In Which Brad Pitt Just Keeps Getting Better Looking For The Better Part of Three Hours."

At one point, when Pitt comes on screen having un-aged a few more years, appearing now to be in his early 20s, two women sitting behind me just laughed. I'm postive that what made them laugh was the absurdity of watching Brad Pitt's rugged good looks improve right before their very eyes. Unquestionably, they figured they'd already seen the guy at his most movie-star handsome: How much gorgeouser could he get? This isn't like a weird male crush observation - I'm just giving you the cold hard facts, people.

As the movie went on, I kept thinking that it reminded me an awful lot of Forrest Gump, and when the movie was over and the screenwriter came out for Q&A, I figured out why. Said screenwriter was Eric Roth, who also wrote Gump, and a few other pretty memorable flicks. Gump and Button are definitely not the same movie, but they share several major elements - the short moment-in-time episodes, the way they use a narrator and flashbacks, a star-crossed love story and, in the background, the evolution of American culture throughout the 20th century. (Or twentieth century, if, again, you find that kind of thing more momentous-sounding.) Which is to say that if you liked Forrest Gump, I think you'd probably be safe with a trip to see the Button.

Two more quick asides before I get to my patented Six-word Movie Review.

1) For no apparent reason, the movie had a weird scene that involved Teddy Roosevelt watching some blind clockmaker (the guy was blind, not the clocks) install a big clock in a train station. The clock worked backwards, which matched the theme of the movie, but the whole storyline, which set up the movie, seemed pretty extraneous. Why am I telling you this? Because Ed Metzger, the dude who played President Roosevelt, has apparently carved out an interesting career playing dead famous guys, including Einstein (at least five times in different TV shows and movies!) and George Washington. Weird, I know, but cool.

2) Most of the movie takes place in New Orleans. But Fitzgerald's story and - according to Roth himself - the original screenplay were set in Baltimore. The Cajuns offered the filmmakers a better financial deal, so they took the production down to the bayou. Nice goin', Charm City: You could've had Brangelina and Cate Blanchett hanging out at Bertha's Mussels and Ravens games! Opportunity missed.

Good god, this post is almost as long as the movie itself. Before I overdo it, ladies and gentlemen, your Six-word Movie Review!

The film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
The six-word review: Reverse in story love Gump-like melancholy.

November 26, 2008

What's with all the pirates?

I don't know if people traditionally give their spouses presents for Thanksgiving, but by writing a post with the above headline, I just gave one to mine. Happy Thankgiving, my beautiful wife!

(She thought it was funny when I asked her that very question last week - although I think it was more because I was cracking myself up at the time than because of the question itself.)

If you didn't catch my earlier nonsense on Pirates Gone Wild '08, you can catch it here.

Goin' on a little tryp(tophan)

So I'm back home for Thanksgiving and I've decided that ice-cold temperatures - which, now that my blood is L.A.-thinned, seems to mean anything below 52 - aren't conducive to blogging.

Or maybe I have less time to write since each day I'm here, I eat for approximately 10 of the 16 hours I'm awake.

Other than calorie-loading and freezing my ass off, one of the interesting experiences of the journey so far was being diagnosed with "common migraines." They probably mean common in the sense that it's the same headache every other migraine sufferer gets, but it also works nicely since I get them commonly enough to be really annoying. The good doc said that I'm susceptible to headaches because I have a sensitive brain, a phrase that I repeated to my wife and parents about 1,659 times in the two hours after leaving the hospital.

Which probably gave each of them a pretty distinct headache of their own.

The doctor was fantastic - he spent tons of time with us and answered every question we could think of. But he's a headache specialist whose office is located in a pediatric clinic - i.e., lots of screaming kinds running around and screaming and running and screaming. Kind of like having a tire store located at the intersection of Pothole Blvd. and Broken Glass Way.

I may try to post again before we return to more sensible temperatures, but if not - in the spirit of the holiday - thank you again for reading, and I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving desserts as much as I'm going to enjoy mine.

November 20, 2008

Great moments in customer service: Hotels.com edition

Let's just say that the Low Price Guarantee that Hotels.com offers for reservations made through its web site isn't so much of a guarantee as, well, promotional copy that someone puts on the web site to make you think they offer a low price guarantee.

The as-short-as-I-can-make-the-story version:
  • Booked hotel room for $169; reservation offered Low Price Guarantee
  • A few weeks later, found same room on Hotels.com for $129
  • Called company to ask for credit for the difference
  • Friendly customer service rep said the guarantee didn't apply because the hotel charges a change fee (which all parties knew when I made the reservation), which nullifies the guarantee

November 19, 2008

Shockingly predictable

Two news items I saw today just knocked my socks off. I mean I was just shocked that those once-in-a-generation geniuses in charge of our awesome pickup-truck-and-SUV manufacturers would do this and not realize it might be incredibly bad p.r.

I was equally blown away that Don't-Call-Me-Pacman Jones, the NFL's version of Steve Howe - that might be a bad and/or morbid analogy, but I'm referring to Howe's repeated reinstatements, not his prodigious and ultimately fatal drug use - would be given yet another chance to suit up and play pro football.

But life is filled with surprises, ain't it?

Resuscitated

I'm just very happy because the best show on TV is back to being the best show on TV.

I continued to love my House, M.D., even through about a season and a half in the wilderness, during which the show downplayed the medical mysteries and upplayed (?) a bloated cast that took screen time away from the Foreman, Cameron and Spencer characters we had come to ... well, know and love, I guess. Even the title character seemed to lose his way. Where the House character had always been cruel but funny, he had become just cruel for a while.

With the last couple of episodes, though, the mojo is decidedly back at Princeton Plainsboro.

Last night, we got to see Cameron and Spencer talk about a case instead of just making random cameos (well, maybe they just talked about talking about a case, but it's a start), there were not one but two mysteriously ill patients to save, and while he continued to make everyone miserable, House had a few vintage one-liners. (Example: Telling a friend that he went to visit a possible love interest, but couldn't bring himself to knock on the door, House says, "I left without ringing her metaphorical or literal bell.")

Next week's new episode looks pretty spectacular, too. I know, I know, they all do in the previews. But it's an extended episode, and they're bringing out the guest-star firepower in the person of Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek (if you've watched TV in the last 10 years, you'll recognize him even if you don't recognize his name), who is, I feel safe in saying, my favorite Slovenian-born actor of this generation.

If you haven't watched lately, you may want to catch up with some full episodes. My treat. (Well, mine and the kind folks at the Fox TV network.) Seriously. It's good stuff.

November 18, 2008

The iPatch

Have I just not been paying attention for the last few decades, or am I right that until 2008, we had mostly gone for years and years without news coverage of pirates?

For weeks, we've been reading one story after another - including today's latest - about pirates doing pirate-y things on the high seas. Aaargh! It seems totally anachronistic, doesn't it? Next thing you know, we're going to read news articles about the new age of blacksmithing. Or a return to glory for telegram operators.

I'm guessing the prevalence of pirates in pop culture has played a major role in their resurgence. So, who you think modern-day buccaneers model themselves after: this guy or this one?

When the smoke cleared...

I haven't felt very bloggy the last few days. I don't know why; maybe it was the fires. So let's start there. For those of you from the other coasts - y'know, East and, um, Midwest and Canadian - here are a few fire-related FAQs, from an extremely narrow point of view:

1) Were you anywhere near the fires? Not really.

2) Did you smell smoke? Yes, for most of Saturday, all of Sunday and Monday morning, it smelled vaguely like you were standing a foot away from a Weber grill that had just been used for grilling the heck out of something all afternoon.

3) What about ash, bro? It was most noticeable on Sunday morning. I parked Al outside for about 90 minutes while we ate brunch in Playa Del Rey, and when we came back, it looked like he had been subject to a light dusting of snow. Given that we were in PDR, I was fairly certain, however, that 'twas not snow. 'Twas ash from the fires. Also, what's up with the "bro" thing?

4) Screw you - what's up with the 'twas crap? Good point. Next....

5) Did it affect anyone you know? My beautiful wife's aunt and uncle live in Montecito, and their home survived basically unscathed despite being very close to where that fire started. We also know someone who lives in the same area and lost a guest house but miraculously not his main home. The fire got to his porch and then stopped.

6) So a lot of people must be very fire-conscious now, huh? You would think. But apparently, not the case. On our way to the gym after work last night, we were driving through one of the canyon roads, where plants and homes would be very susceptible to fire. And some turdface a few cars in front of us tossed a lit cigarette out of his car.

In not-really-related news:

Fred Willard was my latest celeb sighting. Last night, Studio City.

I'm enjoying the heck out of Sweet Leaf mint and honey iced tea. If you like iced tea and you like mint and honey, there'd be no earthly reason why you wouldn't like this beverage. Even if you only like two out of the three, there's a good chance you'll dig it. You should be able to find it at your local Whole Foods, unless it's one of those dumb Whole Foods, like mine, that conveniently only carries it every third day or so.

By the way, help me out here: The world's most super wife (mine) pronounces the name of the store thusly: WHOLE Foods. I've always said Whole FOODS. I think it's a regional thing. But I'd like your whole opinion. Please share in comments.

Howard thinks I should stop picking on Sarah Palin. As mentioned earlier, I wanted to, but she keeps rearing her wild-animal-shooting head in very public ways. And, besides, if Dick Cavett can keep picking on her in incredibly amusing ways (seriously, worth reading) (unless you're Howard, probably), well, who am I not to post a link?

Incidentally, anyone else remember Cavett's outstanding cameo on season 2 of Cheers, back in the Shelley Long era? Great exchange: Diane: Excuse me, I couldn't help noticing you're Dick Cavett. Dick: I couldn't help being Dick Cavett.

Alright. I guess I'm feeling bloggier again.

November 14, 2008

Two things about smart kids

Thing one
Perhaps we should all read and digest this story about an enterprising eighth grader in Chicago, who demonstrated quite clearly that some (many?) Obama supporters who like to talk about how open-minded and tolerant they (we?) are, are just as obnoxious as those horribly closed-minded red-staters.

This does not, however, change my belief that the Republican vp candidate wasn't really even smart enough to cast a ballot - let alone have her name on one. But I think the kid makes a good point.

Thing two
If you're looking for a movie this weekend, I have a winner for you: Slumdog Millionaire. (Official site here; high-def trailers here.) I'll give you a six-word review in a moment.

First, though, this recommendation comes with a major caveat: Slumdog includes a handful of brutally violent scenes, including one that, although brief, rates as among the cruelest I've ever watched. If that's a deal-breaker, then maybe you should skip it.

But I think those scenes are worth enduring. Because if you go see this movie, you will also witness some of the most beautiful images you'll ever see on motion picture film (read: unless you have one of these, in this size, do not wait to watch it at home). I know that sounds trite - and, to repeat, I hate pseudo-intellectual movie criticism by morons - but trust me, this film is gorgeous to watch.

It's crushing but inspiring. It's a thriller, a love story and a coming-of-age saga about two very crafty brothers in India who miraculously, incredibly, survive and - in a way - thrive, despite an almost hopeless childhood. Oh, and major parts of the movie take place on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, so, well, yeah. And now, your official SFTC Six-word Movie Review...

The film: Slumdog Millionaire.
The six-word review: Unlike anything you'll see this year.

November 12, 2008

A rockin' good time

I'm not sure that this is how I want to spend even a few minutes of my birthday tomorrow*. Maybe if I think of it as a geology festival, rather than a disaster drill, it'll seem a little better.

On the other hand, the ... uh ... geology festival comes with fun games and activities like this one, so I guess it can't be all bad. I got 10 out of 14 on my first try. Would have done better but the room started shaking and I got distracted.

Give it a shot and post your score in the comments. I want to know if you actually think you'd duct tape your remote control to the furniture to prevent it from smacking you in the head in case of a quake.


* Subtle, right?

It's not over

One of the very few downsides to Barack Obama's big win last week - or so I had presumed at the time - was that, to paraphrase the great Richard Nixon, we wouldn't have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore.

I guess we can move Sarah Palin-kicking-around back into the "still an option" category.

Alaska's brainiac-in-chief is apparently continuing her media tour, promoting, um, herself? Maybe she's just laying the groundwork for a series of educational guides - kind of like Caribou Barbie Berlitz - that would enable the rest of us over down here to learn what the hell she means when she says Yoda-inspired stuff like this: “But not me personally were those cheers for.”

Or this: “And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”

Which makes me think that someone should explain to her how doors work. Y'know, if they're open and all, walking through the empty space usually does the trick. I don't think there's any plowing required.

November 10, 2008

Limited release

This weekend, I finally got around to watching Donnie Brasco, which had been on my Netflix queue since I had a Netflix queue. And even before then, thanks to recs from friends, it was on my must-see list.

You've got your best-actor-of-his-generation Johnny Depp. You've got your Al Pacino. (And this was filmed pre-recurring-caricature-of-Al-Pacino Al Pacino.) You've got your before-he-was-a-star Paul Giamatti, whose character asks about the meaning of the word fuhgeddaboutit. Not to mention the before-he-was-dead Bruno Kirby. And you've got your can't-miss story of federal agent infiltrating a New York mob family.

To which I now say: Eh.

And so, without further delay, it's the return of Six-word Movie Reviews!

The film: Donnie Brasco.
The six-word review: Good, not great. Watch Goodfellas instead.

November 7, 2008

Step it up, Southwest!

One key benefit of being a member of Southwest Airlines' frequent flier program is that you get a birthday card every year.

So for several birthdays, I've been cheered by the annual arrival of my card from Southwest - I marvel that it always shows up well before any other cards or presents from, well, people I actually know. It has always made me feel like if I ever did anything that caused every relative and friend to stop talking to me, at least I'd get a birthday card from someone. Even if that someone was a no-frills airline whose flight attendants are sometimes a little too chatty for my taste.

So, yes, I was grateful for this year's card, which spelled out "Happy Birthday" using letters from the radio operators' alphabet - Hotel, Alpha, Papa, Papa, Yankee, and so on. That in itself made me happy because it reminded me of the name of one of my two or three favorite albums of all time.

But I have to admit that, thanks to a couple of other savvy marketers, my excitement about Southwest's birthday greetings has begun to pale somewhat in the last 24 hours.

First, I got an email from the fish-taco-making geniuses at Rubio's - at some point last year I became a proud member of their Beach Club, which entitled to me to receive lots of emails from Rubio's. Yesterday's message offered a free meal, up to $7, for my cumpleanos. There's a Rubio's right near my office, so you can bet I'll be cashing that sucker in.

(And when I do, you can be sure I'll be thinking about the chain's rather oddly worded radio ads, which ask you, the listener, to "Open your mouth. We're mentally going south.")

Then, waiting for me in the mail when I got home was a card from Banana Republic containing a $15 gift certificate - either because someone there really likes me or because I have a BR credit card. (Yeah yeah, whatever. You get good discounts. Give me a break.) Fifteen dollars - not bad! Good bet I'll cash that one in, too, since there are Banana Republic stores approximately every four miles in L.A.

So just by living another year - which for the most part wasn't that hard - I earned $22 yesterday.

And I know it's the thought that counts and all, but my thought is that maybe Southwest could fall in line here. I really do appreciate the card, you know, but next year? A few extra drink coupons or a couple of credits toward my next free flight might be nice.

November 5, 2008

Right, wrong and rights

Wonderful - I mean really wonderful - fantastic and, to me, still a little bit unbelievable. Though Obama had my support from the get-go (or couldn't you tell?), I really didn't think this country would elect a black president in my lifetime. Even after he won primaries and caucuses, I doubted whether he could win the party's nomination, let alone a general election. I thought there were too many people across the nation who just wouldn't, couldn't, vote for a black man. Here's an understatement: Glad I was wrong.

Last night, I suppose, will be one of a small handful of those moments in my life about which I'll say, "I remember where I was when..." in 30 or 40 years.

My celebration of Obama's victory was tempered this morning, however, by other election news. I woke up this morning to a reminder that there really are plenty of people - more than 5.1 million in California alone - who still suffer from a paralyzing mix of fear, ignorance or a combination thereof. Here's what some of those people look like:



(Thanks to L.A. Times for the photo.)

Let's be clear: This a picture of people who are ecstatic that may of their fellow citizens will again be treated differently under the law, simply because of who they choose to spend their lives with. So, way to go, Jim Domen of Yorba Linda. I can see why you'd thrust your arms in the air as though you've just won the Super Bowl. I mean, you did an awesome job rescinding a basic civil right from thousands and thousands of California men and women just because... I give up. I'm at a complete loss. I hear the "threatening traditional marriage" argument and I don't understand what that means or how two gay people getting married has even a remote impact on your life.

I guess you can rest easy tonight, knowing that no more of those highly dangerous gay couples will be able to get married in California. Kind of like you could have rested easy last night, when gay marriage had absolutely no effect on anything you did. But whatever.

November 4, 2008

Out, damned spots

Depending on the results of the actual voting, I believe the third or fourth best news at the end of the day will be that we don't have to watch election ads anymore for a year or two or four. That's change I can believe in.

(Although I recognize the next sonic annoyance, wall-to-wall Christmas music, is just around the corner. Nothing my little friend can't take care of, though.)

An email from my dad this morning contained the best phrase I've heard in a while. In reference to the election, he wrote that today's events would be "kind of filling in the crevices of uncertainty for a day or two." With a tweak or two, I thought it could be the basis for the title of the next Bond movie.

Lines at the polls in our NOTW were running about 90 minutes long for those who showed up at 7 a.m. How about in your neighborhood?

November 3, 2008

And now a word from (me about) our sponsors

Just so it's clear, I have nothing to do with what ads Google serves on this blog. So if you're reading this item on November 3 or November 4, and if there's a "Yes on Prop 8" ad over there underneath the escalator image, it's Google's fault.

While I'm at it: Vote for whoever you want for president. But if you're planning to vote yes on Prop 8, you can get off my blog right now. If you live in California, please, please, Please vote NO on Proposition 8.

I assume the ad will be gone after tomorrow and this blog will be a better place for it. When that happens, be sure to click on whatever ad is there so I can make some money off of this thing! On the other hand, if you click the Yes on 8 ad, maybe it'll cost those morons some money. Now there's a thought.

OK, so the plan is this: Click on the ad, but do not under any circumstances cast your vote for this unfair and discriminatory proposition.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Miscellaneous Monday

In no particular order:


1) After a hiatus of two years or so - during which they probably missed me terribly - I am once again a Costco member. The most immediate result of this weekend development is that my mid-afternoon snack today is approximately one and three quarters pounds of delicious pineapple. Guess what my mid-afternoon snack tomorrow through Friday will be.


Since we don't have tons of storage space in our apartment, it's probably a tossup whether the annual membership fee is a great investment. The 30-pack of paper towels might save us lots of dough, but unless we start crating stuff on our porch, that's probably a little too much Bounty for the humble abode. But if my math is even close to correct, we should be able to make it worthwhile with what we save on gas (almost 25 cents per gallon cheaper at Costco right now, I think) and cat litter alone.


2) Speaking of cats, we took two of our three to the vet for vaccines and checkups Saturday. Is it just Sampson and Brearley or do all cats really freakin' hate getting into their carrying cases? I don't think they even care how deeeee-luxe these bags are - they want no part of it.


Unfortunately, we had to bring Brearley back to the vet this morning for a dental cleaning, which is kind of a production for kitties. So we weren't in the greatest mood while dropping her off and then the receptionist makes it worse by continually referring to our cat as "it," as in "Has it been to our office before?"


I'm no expert on animal hospital management, but I'd hazard a guess that one of the first rules they teach you in vet receptionist school is referring to the animals as "he" or "she." Maybe because pet people want vets and their employees to not make it seem as though they're taking care of inanimate objects.


3) In what must be a sign that I'm now a full-fledged resident of Greater Hollywood, while I was sleeping last night I dreamed up approximately half of an episode of Entourage. It wasn't the most original storyline - I think E cheated on his girlfriend but got caught - but the dialogue was pretty snappy. Maybe there’s something in the air (smog?) that makes people think teleplays.


4) So, you knew I'd get to t-shirt news at some point, right? Oh calm down. I'm not even talking about what's new at S and J Market.


No, I wanted to show you what arrived via UPS this morning. My very own Alaska for Obama t-shirt:




I ordered it a month ago, just minutes after the Palin-Biden debate, as my own mini protest against criminally inept vice presidential candidates. I guess lots of other people had the same idea because the shirt was backordered. But I think I'll wear it tonight when I get home and certainly tomorrow while we watch election coverage.


5) OK, never mind that stuff I wrote before about not boring you with more news from S and J Market. How could I let you go through the rest of your day without seeing our latest new design? Answer: I couldn't.


There's a suburb south of Chicago called Flossmoor. When I lived in the Big Windy, any time someone mentioned the place, I'd tell them I had a brilliant, t-shirt-worthy slogan that the town should use to drum up... I don't know, tourism? The point is: Until this weekend, that brilliant idea was just a t-shirt-worthy slogan. Now, it's actually on a t-shirt.


See for yourself:




Catchy, no? (Weird picture, though. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to this dude's head.) And it's printed on a high-quality American Apparel shirt - perfect for holiday giving! (On sale through tomorrow!)

October 31, 2008

Studs

What a crappy way to end the week.

This, I mean. (Click here, too, because the Times gets the headline right - but definitely read Rick Kogan's piece in the Tribune.)

One of the understated highlights - I don't know if that phrase makes sense, but I hope you catch my drift - of the thousands of days I spent in Chicago was meeting Studs Terkel at a cocktail reception for a community journalism project. He was, of course, wearing a shirt that looked exactly like the one he's wearing here, which I gather was true almost all of the time.

I'd be getting in over my head to explain why I thought it was so cool to meet him, but for one thing, he was the author of The Good War, one of the very few books I read all the way through during college. Although he was born in New York - his family moved to the Windy City before his teens - he was unmistakably, charmingly Chicagoan. Oh, and he had a cameo as a writer in Eight Men Out, which I always thought was cool.

In the way he culled great stories from thoughtful interviews, Studs was It to generations of journalists and other writers.

Extreme niche marketing

Buoyed by S and J Market's latest sale (and largest to date) - my new best friend in Atlanta bought three of these magnificent garments - I hurried our production team to get some new merch into the mix.
What they came up with were these exclusive reissues of concert shirts from one of the great tours of all time.

It will be interesting to find out whether anyone other than me thinks that these are worthy additions to our rapidly growing collection. I hope so. But who knows if there's anyone else out there who finds this wacky blend of world history and pop music iconography to be as entertaining as I do. If not, this exercise could truly redefine the term niche marketing.

Anyway, here, take a look. (Click the images to see how they look on the actual tour tees):






Go buy today - the Market is having a sale - $3 off when you use the code 3OFFZAZZLETS at checkout. That's some well thought-out code, isn't it?

A brief rumination on geology and meteorology in Southern California

Apparently it rained overnight here in the city of angels.

Which means that since Memorial Day, I have seen puddles on sidewalks as many times (two) as I have experienced an earthquake.

So I've got that going for me.

October 30, 2008

Not quite a flying start

If you're in marketing at JetBlue Airways, the following probably isn't what you had in mind when you paid the Los Angeles Clippers a whole bunch of money to sponsor an in-game promotion.

In this contest, a fan is given the chance to make baskets from various spots on the court, for the chance to win flights to various JetBlue destinations. The harder the shot, the better the destination. So far so good.

(Although the prize for the easiest shot - a layup from right under the basket - is a trip to Oakland. Which made me think of the W.C. Fields line about Oakland's East Coast counterpart: "First prize was a week in Philadelphia. Second prize was two weeks.")

At last night's Clippers season opener, the contestant made a basket to win that Oakland trip, but then proceeded to miss every other shot attempt. Which prompted the Clippers' emcee - and, again, this is a contest sponsored by an airline - to announce over the Staples Center public address: "Oh, man. You're gonna crash and burn."

Maybe not exactly the best word choice.

October 28, 2008

The answer was simple

First, a little background: To fully appreciate this post, it'll help to watch this one-minute video or read the transcript of this subtly funny Saturday Night Live commercial spoof from 1988. Or, if that's not the way you roll, you can just keep reading and I'll explain....

The spot, for the fictional First Citiwide Change Bank, poked fun at the self-important talking-heads financial services TV ads of the time. Its premise was that the bank existed solely to provide change - if you had a hundred-dollar bill and wanted a fifty, two tens, four fives and five ones and twenty quarters, First Citiwide was your kind of bank.

The kicker (starting at 0:53 in the clip) is delivered by the bank spokesman, who admits that customers always ask how Citiwide makes any money, if all it does is give people change. "The answer is simple," he explains. "Volume."

That seemed pretty funny to my high-school-senior brain, and come to think of it, it seems pretty funny now. It does not, however, seem like the basis for a legitimate business plan. For, like, a non-spoof company.

Which - finally! - leads me to the point of this post. Over the weekend, for no apparent reason, I was reminiscing about one of the great casualties of the dot-com bust: Kozmo.com.


For those who don't remember, or who didn't live in one of the seven markets it eventually served, Kozmo was a web-based retailer that sold snacks, drinks, small electronics, CDs and DVDs. And with distribution centers strategically located throughout each of its cities, it offered one-hour delivery.

So if it was 2000 - the year before Kozmo krashed - and you absolutely had to have a pint of New York Superfudge Chunk (which I did a few, OK, several times) and a copy of *NSYNC's No Strings Attached CD (which I definitely did not), and you had to have them pretty much right away, it was Kozmo to the rescue. And, despite the almost unfathomable convenience, prices were pretty much the same as you would have paid at 7-Eleven for the ice cream or at Tower Records (remember them?) for the CD.

Oh, and if it sounds too good to be true, it got better still: Delivery was free.

In other words, it was perhaps my favorite company of all time.

But even as I was enjoying the heck out of this brave new business model, I also felt a creeping doubt. Something close to guilt, actually. Without charging a premium, let alone a delivery fee, how could Kozmo possibly survive? I was pretty sure that the more I ordered from Kozmo, the more money I was costing the company, and the sooner it would go out of business. But there was Superfudge Chunk to be eaten, and I had Internet access, so I blithely put those doubts aside.

Until one day, probably just a few months before it all went pfffft, when I had the opportunity to write an article about Kozmo's marketing strategy. While interviewing the marketing director, I mentioned that I didn't quite understand how they could charge the same prices as retail stores, offer free one-hour delivery and absorb all of the attendant costs, and still turn a profit.

I am not making this up.

Her answer was simple: "Volume."

Beats working

Especially during a week like this, I feel like this guy has the right idea.

October 27, 2008

Chocolate kisses

One good thing about my name not being clearly identifiable on this blog is that I can just come right out and tell you what movie I saw this weekend.

Culture snobbery aside, you should be psyched about it, because... you get... another all-new installment of... Six-word Movie Reviews!

The movie: High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
The review: Way more entertaining than you'd expect.

(Thank goodness for contractions - that sucker was shaping up to be seven words.)

Probably the best part about the theatergoing experience - and I hesitate to say this because it'll probably sound creepy. But it's not creepy, so just go with it - was seeing it in a theater filled with 12-year-old girls. (Well there were also at least a few parents, one of whom we heard say to another: "So, they suckered you into seeing this, too, huh?") Every time Troy and Gabriella almost kissed, and especially the one time Troy took off his shirt, the theater sounded like the second coming of Beatlemania.

Even better, though, was the audience's reaction after the main characters shared a chocolate-dipped strawberry. Said one of the youngsters: "Ewwwww!" Said another: "It's like they're kissing! With a strawberry."

I know! Soooooooo gross!

October 24, 2008

Good news, bad news

Which do you want first?

OK, the bad news.

(Cue John Williams-composed breaking news trumpet fanfare.)
TASTEBUDS HELD HOSTAGE UPDATE: Day 26. The standoff has ended. Your Escalator Operator stumbled into the local (and by "local," I mean one of the six within a quarter mile of where I work) Starbucks and indulged in a hot, sweet and spicy chai latte.

I was enjoying the will power - surviving the excruciating challenge of not succumbing to my chai needs. But after almost four weeks, I remembered that I still had more than $15 left on my Starbucks card, and that money wasn't just going to spend itself. Clearly, in these trying financial times, it would have been foolish - nay, irresponsible - to leave all of that money just sitting there, where it couldn't help stimulate the economy. So in the interest of our greater good, I went for it. Besides, it's Friday. I deserve a treat.

I figure I can get another three and a half chais out of this debit card, and then we'll take it from there.*

OK, now the good news:

SHIRT AND SWEET. Let's hear it, kids. Three new wildly cool t-shirts have been added to the S and J Market lineup. So if you feel the need to show your love for High School Musical but in a cool, tasteful way, or if you appreciate the intricately rendered irony of a good Magritte painting (for men and women!), there's now a shirt that's just for you.

I'm figuring those two options sort of cover both ends of the spectrum.


* Sentence updated/edited thanks to Bugs' eagle-eye proofreading.

October 23, 2008

Madam President

Put your hands together for Tessa, who is too busy to read the SFTC, but who indirectly brought this slightly partisan but highly funny page to my attention.

You'll need audio - and, probably, residence in a blue state - for the full effect.

Warning: If you are a big animal lover, you might not want to click on the Oval Office door too many times. (Although the visuals supposedly will change every day, so if you're reading this after Oct. 23, that might not make sense. In which case, never mind.)

Why you should like Jason Bartlett

You might not care about the World Series. Or baseball. Or sports. Or anything that's good about America, for that matter.

But you should care about Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett. Because during the fifth inning of last night's World Series game, he stole second base. Why does that matter to you?

Well, as a result of that stolen base, you are entitled to a free taco at Taco Bell.* (And, no, I'm not admitting that I made a lunchtime run for the border yesterday. For three crunchy tacos.**) How great must Bartlett feel? At a time when Americans could really use a pick-me-up, the guy treats the whole country to approximately 1/4 of a meal of questionable nutritional value. Awesome.


* Can someone tell TB copywriters that "90ft." should have a space in there somewhere? Or else, maybe mistakes like that are just soooo out-of-the-bun.

** This is partly why I'm eating strawberries with a little granola - barely a light dusting of granola, really - as I write this post.

October 21, 2008

Numb and Numbers

Summarizing my last few days, in one of those cute weekly-magazine-style numerical lists:

600
Garlic and herb french fries that ended up constituting my dinner last night. I had just finished telling my brilliant and amazing wife that I've been thinking a lot about eating smarter. That the thought of a big, juicy hamburger seemed really appealing in theory, but I knew I would feel better about myself if I had something healthier - a little closer to the tofu side of the food scale - for dinner.

Then the waiter shows up and somehow the words "garlic and herb fries" come gushing out of my mouth. I hastened to add, "Without the cheese sauce."

My wife laughs.

"What?" I ask.

"You just said you wanted to eat healthier."

"Well. Um. The fries have herbs on them."

I think I lost that one.

Five minutes later, the world's largest order of french fries arrives. Way, way, way too much for a single person to eat, but I shift into another gear and polish them off. I think I'm good on fries for a while.

2
Shirts I've sold from (lord, here we go again) my fledgling t-shirt store. The illustrious GG was my first customer, which was awesome. As either Sarah Palin or Tina Fey would say, there's a special place in heaven for her.

But yesterday, I rang up an order from someone named Megan, who's from Chicago, and who I don't even know - in other words, this was not just a friends-and-family sympathy purchase. Clearly, Megan has impeccable taste. She picked herself up a "Wassup Wasilla" tee, perfect for the Decision 08 home stretch. No wonder it's now one of our top sellers!

As my sister pointed out, I only have to sell about 10 more in order to trigger my first commission check. So there's that.

Since you're dying for more awesome S and J Market t-shirts, I'm working on a new design (very highbrow) that should be posted to the store later today or tomorrow, so stay tuned.

5,000
Total hits recorded by Sorry for the Convenience as of late last week. I recognize most of those are friends-and-family sympathy hits, but I'll take 'em. Thanks for reading all of this weird stuff! You're the best!

10
Foreign countries from which people have visited SFTC since I started tracking last month. The list: Germany, Holland, Hungary, Israel, Jamaica, Peru, Russia, Thailand and the UK. Oh, and Canada. That counts, right?

3
Phrases "I wrote" that "were actually published" in the 2009 Zagat "Movie Guide." (Yes, Zagat also publishes a guide to movies. I guess it's so you "have something to do" after you "dine" at one of the "eateries reviewed" in their better-known "restaurant directories.")

It wasn't my first time getting "some of my bon mots" into Zagat. I landed a few in the Chicago restaurant guide "a couple of years" ago. But this one was "particularly rewarding" since, the way I see it, I was "competing for space against" dorky amateur movie reviewers "from all over the country" as opposed to just dorky amateur restaurant reviewers from "a single midwestern city."

Oh, "and since you asked," one of my "reviews" that they used was about The Savages (Laura Linney and Rochester's own Philip Seymour Hoffman take care of their senile old dad), about which I wrote "savagely smart script." Hey, they seem to like alliteration. I leave open the possibility that someone else submitted the same exact phrase about this movie, because, well, "savage" is right in the name, and it was a smart script, so "you do the math." But I definitely sent my survey in "with those words" on it, so I'm taking credit. Thank you.

The "other two" were about No Reservations, the flick in which Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart fall in love (!) after "initially not hitting it off" (!) while working as chefs in the same restaurant. I know, I was shocked, too. Zagat used my "as predictable as a Big Mac" and "a little heavy on the sugar." (Get it? Restaurant, food references. Right.) The movie was actually better than I expected it would be, "so sue me" if they only used my snarky comments. I have a reputation to uphold, people.

Approx.
Since this post got me thinking about numbers (duh), I was reminded of something my dad said when I was a kid that cracked me up at the time - and still does. I think I was in second grade, and I had just nailed some particularly challenging spelling assignment.

My dad was sitting at the dinner table and I ran up to him and said, "I know how to spell approximately!"

"Big deal," he said. "So do I."

"No you don't. Let's hear."

Without skipping a beat, he said: "A - P - P - R - O - X - period."

October 17, 2008

Ayyyyyyyyyy

So, apparently, every 29 years or so, I see Henry Winkler in person.

I walked by the former Fonz the other night at Dodger Stadium - right before watching the Dodgers lose an NLCS game to the Phils - and he seemed very cool, stopping to talk to fans and posing for pictures. He's also shorter than I remember (which I suppose is quite clear in this shot - or else this picture was taken by a very tall photographer who couldn't aim down).

But that could be because the last time I saw him I was in second grade, when I was not the hulking giant I am today. For some reason that I can't remember - but even if I could rembember, I'm not sure I would understand - Winkler was making an appearance at a local public library. Oh, right, it was probably to get kids interested in reading. (Unless I miss my guess, someone almost definitely said something about reading being cooooooool.) I really don't remember anything else about it.

That would have been right in the middle of Happy Days' 11-year run. Which, um: Happy Days was a kick, but it was on for 11 years? Also: Mr. Winkler was a huge star at the time! It's kinda hard to imagine a big sitcom actor doing an event at my local library now (and I live minutes away from Hollywood). Actually, are there even any sitcoms on TV right now, or is it just DWTS and a lot of shows that seem a lot like CSI:?

Henry, if you're reading this: See you in 2037.

October 14, 2008

Anyone need two?

My entrepreneurial career is off to a flying start: I sold one of my t-shirts! (Thank you, GG, thank you.)

The problem is that, by selling them through Zazzle, I don't get any of my commission money until I amass $25 in commissions. To reach that lofty figure, we're talking about another 10 or 11 shirts. By the time that happens, the Cubs might very well have won a playoff game.

Speaking of postseason baseball: If I've learned anything from the last couple of days, it's that I'm not really cut out to be a ticket broker. Yesterday, I got a marketing email from the Dodgers explaining that they were releasing a bunch of tickets for sale for game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Figuring any game of an NLCS is a surefire sell-out, I thought I'd get two tickets and then turn around and sell them for an easy profit.

So I clicked over to the Evil Empire's web site (which you probably know as Ticketmaster.com) and picked up two half-decent seats for tomorrow's game. I got a post up on Craigslist right away and on StubHub as quickly as I could, which wasn't very quickly, for reasons that I won't go into.

And then the Dodgers go and lose game 4, which means that now L.A.'s interest in game 5 - which could end up being the death knell to the Dodgers' season - is slightly less than L.A.'s interest in what transpired during the January 7, 2008, Concord, New Hampshire, city council meeting. (The meeting minutes are here, by the way, in case you're curious.)

So now it's 29 hours until the game starts and no bites yet. And I've got about $200 worth of Dodgers tickets that I'm probably not going to use.

And just as I wrote that paragraph: An e-mail appeared from a Phillies fan in San Diego. Go figure. We may have a taker. I may yet make a few bucks (emphasis on few) on this deal.

While I wait for my new best friend to get back to me about the tickets...

After attending two of the latest playoff games at Dodger Stadium, I have an observation for you. Many say our current economic meltdown, and the unconscionable greed, avarice, stupidity and criminal behavior it exposed, is a sure sign of the end, or at least the accelerating decline, of U.S. society, capitalism and/or America's once-lofty world standing. Until last night, I thought that was probably overstating the depth of our decline.

But if you want living, (mouth-)breathing evidence of the decline of civil America, all you'd have to do is sit in the lower- and medium-priced seats at the ballpark for a few hours and take in the unrelenting gluttony and bad behavior.

I realize I sound like I've never been to a sporting event before (definitely not the case) and like I'm about 80 years old (still a few years away). And Amish. But I swear it just keeps getting worse.

A couple was sitting in front of us with their son, who must have been about four, and I kept wanting them to get him out of there. Let him watch at home on TV, so every time the Phillies got a hit, he didn't have to hear 18 people yell "Fuck!" at the top of their lungs. Or so he wouldn't have to see wasted assholes harrassing the concession workers when they announced last call for beer sales at the end of the seventh inning.

It's gotten to the point that we count it as a pleasant evening at the stadium when we escape without seeing any fistfights in our seating section. At a playoff game two years ago, there were too many to count, and we finally gave up and left when one guy in our section was so bloodied he had to be taken away in an ambulance. Last night wasn't nearly that bad, but we did get close: At one point, a couple of beligerent twentysomething women almost got into it for no reason other than one of them was drunk and stupid, and as the argument died down, one of them yelled something like, "You're lucky I'm pregnant or I'd kick your ass." Her kid is going to have one awesome mom.

Maybe the guy who's going to buy my tickets for tomorrow (I hope I hope) will get to sit next to her.

Surf city, here we come

Next time you see me sitting in front of a computer screen, just typing random crap into the Google search bar, you can rest assured that I'm not wasting time.

I'm making myself smarter.

This news is exactly what lazy, out-of-shape Americans need to hear right now, isn't it?

T-shirt update: Some new inventory (I think that's industry lingo for, um, shirts) went up on my Zazzle.com page last night. Judging by the new designs, I probably need even more brain function than I'm getting right now with all of my web surfing. I know, I'm getting sick of the cross-promotion, too.

October 13, 2008

So would that be a t-shirt sail?

I don't mean to be pushy, but Zazzle.com is having a Columbus Day sale today - everything is 14.92 percent off. (I assume they're serious.)

So if you've been dreaming about picking up a lil' somethin' to show off your snarkiness, your love for Tulsa or Wasilla, or that, um, you're a judge (?), today's your big day. Be sure to enter COLUMBUS2008 in the appropriate place at checkout.

Sorry for the commercial. I just really want to sell some shirts because this is kinda bringing me down. Plus I just couldn't resist the sale-sail pun.

October 10, 2008

Wow! I thought Test Person lived in Chicago

For months, I've been very impressed with Obama's strategy of making small-time donors feel like they "own" a piece of his campaign. It's a great idea and the marketing to support it has been extraordinarily well-executed.

Apparently, the strategy has made some other fans. Guys like Test Person, a native of "Some Place, Utah." And someone named Jgtj Jfggjjfgj, who's from... well, from this article, I'm not quite sure where Jgtj is from. However, I have a hunch his close friends call him J.J.

Now, I know the McPlain camp is going to cry foul, and say that Obama is taking money in excess of federal campaign contribution limits from millionaires who are taking the time to come up with incredibly deceptive pseudonyms and then going to the trouble to get online and donate $7 here and $10 there.

But I don't think that's the case.

I think people are remembering the day when Obama was first introduced to most of the nation - his speech at the Democratic convention in Boston four years ago - and he referred to himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too." I think other skinny kids with funny names - names like Test and Jgtj - feel like this campaign is also their campaign. That America has a place for them, too.

So I think the Repubs will probably get over it. I mean, those people could be real. It's not like their names are Track or Trig or something.

Oh, and also: James Franco's face is nearly perfect.

October 9, 2008

October 8, 2008

In which I become a wildly unsuccessful entrepreneur

I have too many t-shirts.

There, I've said it.

My dresser drawers are literally overflowing with the things, and for the most part, I can't bring myself to get rid of any of them. Some are ratty but oh-so-comfortable (a red one with a tastefully faded State Farm insurance logo comes to mind). Others are old and stained but have sentimental value (my Interlochen ringer t).

Several are from 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons that I ran, back in the good old says before my knees decided to start messing with me. (I'm never getting rid of my shirt from the 2003 Chris Zorich 5K race, which I ran at a personal-best 7:10 per mile pace.)

Since I'm a guy, I also have a ridiculous number of shirts commemorating sports championships I personally had no part in winning. There are at least three Chicago Bulls shirts from the mid-90s, a few from the Ravens' Super Bowl and, best of all, a University of Rochester basketball t-shirt from the magical 1990 NCAA Division III title season. That last one is particularly special, because only players, coaches and recruits got this particular edition. My friend Kyle, who joined the team the following fall, gave me his shirt when I graduated from college. One of the best presents ever.

Oh, and let's not get into event t-shirts that I haven't even worn (Ripken's 2131 game, McCartney in Chicago, Cream at MSG), because at some point I'm going to get them individually framed. That'll happen.

Then, there are shirts that have it all: sentimental value, cool design, wearability and extreme comfort. On this list: a Genessee beer t (a gift from HPA and Mrs. HPA) and my Capitol Records and Guinness shirts (both green, and both from the best wife in the world).

But the thing is, you can always use another t-shirt. (Or, I guess, frame another t-shirt.)

Which is why I'm making a highly tentative, low-risk, low-cost move into the cutthroat business of t-shirt design. That is to say, I've posted a few designs for sale on Zazzle.com.

I'm particularly proud of today's addition to my (ahem) product line. If nothing else, it's proof that our designers (me) can work quickly to respond to hot issues in politics and popular culture. Take a look:



Pretty sharp, right? And more patriotic than paying taxes! (Sorry, couldn't resist. But this is still a pretty unbiased t-shirt. Perfect for the Democrat or Republican in your life.)

Seriously, though, it's really for sale. Over here. It's a soft, comfy American Apparel t, so you know you'll look good.

C'mon. You know you want one.