September 30, 2008

Quake 2

Just because I like keeping you posted on this stuff, I sat through another earthquake this evening. My second one. Yay!

It was minor - just a 3.0 - so it kind of felt like something bumped into the apartment, and it was over in less than a second. I actually had to look it up here to confirm it was for real; this was probably the kind of quake that, if you're a native, doesn't even count. Oh, the other big plus was that it was centered less than 2 miles from where we were sitting, so it was very convenient - definitely within walking distance.

In related news, I really don't like the word temblor. Really seems like there should be another "r" in there somewhere.

The chai-lites, or, Taste buds held hostage: Day 2

Having just loaded another $31 onto my Starbucks debit card, I've decided it's time to cut back - way back - on my daily chai tea latte habit. By one estimate (mine), I was spending nearly 70 bucks a month on the stuff, one tasty grande cup of lusciousness at a time. And, as I think you'd agree, that's approximately way too much.

Of course, I saved 40 cents every purchase because Starbucks waives the extra fee for soy milk when you pay with the debit card. (Yep, you're welcome for the tip.) And, come to think of it, I essentially got back 99 cents per week because Starbucks had these nifty little promotional cards for a free iTunes download every Tuesday. So, I was getting nearly $82 in value out of the deal each month, which is not too bad.

I won't even get into the caloric benefits of cutting back on my chai habit, but I will give you the link to the nutritional 411. Perhaps the strangest - and most annoying - aspect of this page is the revelation that, apparently, there are fewer calories in Canadian soy milk than in U.S. soy milk. Which is just great. First I have to deal with our dollar being worth the same as theirs, and now this.

Anyway, I've made it to day 2 of my chai-free existence, and I'm holding up OK so far. Thanks for asking. How long can it last? Stay tuned to SFTC for regular updates.

Of course, I still have about $20 left on my Starbucks card, so maybe I'll swing by sometime this week and pick up, um, a New York Times and some oatmeal.

To satisfy my chai craving, maybe I'll just start singing "Have You Seen Her?" every morning, because, well, if you know your R&B groups (or if you click through), you'll figure it out.

September 26, 2008


I've always thought it worked out great - maybe a little too great - that there was a dude named Fuller who started a company that sells brushes, since fuller also works pretty nicely as an adjective for brushes. (Reminds me of a favorite recent line from House, M.D., when someone tells the title character, "I've heard of you," and House replies, "Yeah, it's the name. It's also a noun.")

And you've gotta wonder, what the heck else was Rick Wetzel going to do with his life besides start a pretzel company? (He must have made the decision before spaetzel was the major culinary force that it is today.) All of those other Wetzels out there must be kicking themselves for not getting into the flavored rolled-dough business, right?

What does this have to do with anything? Reading this New York Times article about the closure of Detroit's police crime lab - ah, shouldn't be a problem in a city like Detroit - I came across a quote from the city's former police chief, whose name is Ella Bully-Cummings. And I'm thinking that maybe she'd have been wise to just go by Ella Cummings. Hyphenated or not, if your name has "Bully" anywhere in it, maybe you find a line of work other than law enforcement.

September 25, 2008

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (cough, catch breath) ha ha ha

This headline just makes me laugh. A lot.

It would be like a news article about Starbucks employees with the headline "Baristas to make geometric quantization a priority." It just makes no sense - one does not go with the other. Starbucks without coffee? That would be a problem. (Starbucks without highly advanced mathematical studies? Not so much.)

By the same token, "Illinois politicians" and "ethics reform" shouldn't be used in the same sentence. (Unless the phrase "laugh derisively at" is in there somewhere.) I don't think the world as we know it would survive were government in the Land O' Lincoln to distance itself from ethics scandals and corruption. They go together, like ... well, like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong.

Fave part of the article is the (corrupt) Governor Blagojevich's quote in the last graf. He's a smart (ethically challenged) guy. But, uh, I don't think the reason Illinois politics is ethically bankrupt is that there aren't enough laws.

Intermezzo, international style

Ever have one of those days when you actually have something to write on your blog and that's really mostly what you feel like doing, but for the first time in forever, there's no time because you actually have work to do?

Stay tuned... I'll get my next assault on the English language up here soon.

In the meantime, you might be thrilled (well, moderately interested) and amazed (that is, unless you're watching the Feedjit widget at the bottom right of this page, in which case this information will just be redundant) to read that in the past week, SFTC has welcomed visitors from the U.K. - a place where people are free to refer to their cellphones as "mobiles" - as well as Thailand, Israel and ... could this be possible? ... Canada.

To our readers from abroad: Welcome! What's it like to live in a country with a president who doesn't do crap like this?

To the regulars: Wow, you're part of an international community of people reading very strange musings about insignificant stuff. Big time!

September 23, 2008

Frickin' laser beams

My beautiful wife has been saying since the beginning of primary season that the good senator from Arizona reminds her a lot - and by a lot, I mean "can't look at him without putting a pinky to the corner of your lips" - of famed Austin Powers antagonist Dr. Evil.

Say what you will, but the comparison proved particularly perceptive (shout out for alliteration) during McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul a few weeks ago. If you were watching, you noticed him force a big, craptastic grin - almost painfully, it seemed - following most of his little zinger-ettes. Looked to me like the last piece of advice his handlers gave him after the speech was to smile a lot, and whenever those orders flashed through his brain, he methodically did just that.

All of which is sort of old news by now, but I'm mentioning it anyway because I came across this very closely related story on The Onion's web site. I think you'll enjoy it.

Oh, by the way, I found the Onion article thanks to a link from what I assume was a non-satirical article about Cindy McCain's past drug use (completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but kind of a fun read) on the Washington Post's site. Although the link was clearly under a heading that indicated "From Our Partner," with an Onion logo, this seems a little concerning. As if we needed more evidence of media synergy gone stupidly awry.

A friend recently told me that the Post was an excellent, serious newspaper, but if its web site is providing links to related "news coverage" on the Onion, then, uh, nah.

ANOTHER SFTC CONTEST: Free iTunes song of your choice to the person who comments first with the correct explanation for the headline of this post. Judge's decisions are final and all that.

September 18, 2008

I've got a gift*

* to give to a one-year-old.

So I come to you for suggestions. What should I get as a birthday present for my (soon-to-be) one-year-old nephew? You might remember Max from such blog posts as this and... wait, no, just that one.

Anyway, he's very cute and very smart (you should hear him say "up" and see him stick out his tongue when I ask him where his tongue is), and he has a voracious appetite. Nobody demolishes a cheeseburger like my nephew.

(Quick aside: That reminds me that one of my most favoritest job responsibilites when I interned for an actual member of the U.S. Congress was running across the street to Burger King to get plain hamburgers for her dog. Good times.)

In light of Max's love of food, I was thinking about one of those cheese/sausage towers from Harry & David, but his mom might not appreciate that, and she's lactose-intolerant, so she wouldn't even be able to share the good stuff.

But some of you must have nephews, and most of you were one year old at some point, so help a brotha out!

September 17, 2008

Is that some kind of caribou joke?

Cindy McCain, I'm a little worried about you.

This is a colorful quote and all (and, I guess, a good post-hunting reference), but there are still six weeks left to go until election day, and your nerves are apparently shot after spending a few minutes on the couch answering extremely predictable questions from the mostly non-journalists on The View (Ahhhh. I'm mentioning ... The View ... on my blog). That was supposed to be the easy part.

Are you going to be OK for the rest of this campaign thingy?

(Thanks for the graphic,

Palin drones

So many columns and op eds slamming Sarah Palin each day - let alone the straight-news coverage that keeps uncovering her ignorance/inexperience/vacuousness/right-wingnitude - that my new pasttime is picking one each day that paints the scariest picture of potential President Palin.

It would be too easy to keep putting up new links to my favorite stories about the governor of that Russia-adjacent state, so I'm going to try not to make a habit of it unless I see something really fascinating. It'd just be redundant, I think, like shooting caribou in a barrel.

That said, I sure enjoyed the latest piece by the marvelous Maureen Dowd (so, so good), and most particularly her assertion about McCain's plan to introduce his VP hopeful to heads of state at the UN: "You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus." I'll let Ms. Dowd tell you the rest.

Wait, we're supposed to regulate what?

The kids over at Time bring us the moderately disturbing news that the (now read the name carefully) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - new name, same old ATF acronym - have lost "hundreds" of laptop computers over the last half decade.

Perhaps more troubling, since, again, they're supposed to be regulating four things including firearms, is that over the same period of time the agency also lost dozens of ... well ... uh ... weapons.

I would have liked this article even more if it reported that the agency had also lost a few cases of Stoli and 200 boxes of Marlboro Lights. It's like they're not even trying to cover all the bases.

September 15, 2008

Girls who wear glasses

I stayed up late on Saturday to catch SNL, really only because Michael Phelps was hosting. And it was a poor decision, because aside from the intro skit, I laughed approximately none times. But that first skit was pretty excellent, with Tina Fey doing a stellar job as Sarah Palin.

Doing a less stellar job as Sarah Palin? That'd be one Sarah Palin, according to this piece from the exceedingly fair and balanced New York Times. (Worth clicking through to the article, if only to see the photo on page one of the story: Damn, wish my mayor and city council wore matching denim outfits for class photos!)

The story also makes clear that, despite what you might have heard, Alaskans can have a finely tuned sense of humor. To wit, the Times brings us this highly incriminating story about the governor: "And [Palin] used city money to buy a white Suburban for the mayor’s use — employees sarcastically called it the mayor-mobile."

Wow. How did she withstand that blistering sarcasm?

Oh, so that's what "recurring" means

Yessirree, I'm bringing back one of my recurring features. Ladies and gentlemen, the long-awaited return of Six-word Movie Reviews! (Cue screaming fans.)

I've seen at least a couple of movies, theatrically speaking, since the last SWMR post went up; I guess I just wasn't feelin' it. Plus, if you think about it, summarizing your thoughts about a cinematic experience in a mere half-dozen words is no easy task.

The film: "Burn After Reading" (edited, of course, by the great Roderick Jaynes).
The six-word review: "Fargo's peppier younger cousin; definitely worthwhile."

Oh, the most interesting part of the theatergoing thing was during the pre-preview ads. The National Guard, as you might know, is running a very militaried-up Kid Rock music video (featuring - and I'm not making this up - Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving his stock car) to get people to enlist. As though the reason someone's going to sign up to sacrifice life and limb is that Kid Rock is signing about it. And Dale Jr. is, um, driving his stock car.

The video was at least somewhat more tolerable than the last iteration I saw, which featured one of the bands with a three-word name that also had a number in it, like Three Doors Down or Third Eye Blind or Eight Days Grace or The Fifth Dimension. Actually, I'm pretty sure it wasn't that last one. Whoever it was, I wanted to run out into the lobby and pour that hot butter-related-substance-that-they-use-for-popcorn into my eyes and ears just to make the sights and sounds go away. (Luckily, I never did.) I think the song was called Citizen Soldier, and it actually made me think twice about going to see movies in the theater, for fear of having to sit through the ad. That part is true.

So as Kid Rock's video/enlistment entreaty was ending, a woman in the back of the theater yelled, "That's bullshit!" A few people booed her, but most cheered. Point is, the National Guard might want to rethink playing any version of that ad in greater Los Angeles, or, for that matter, before Coen brothers movies. I don't think that was really their target audience.

September 12, 2008

The point is probably mute

First, his mom blabs to the paper about his state of mind. Now, it turns out that police initiated their search for Vince Young - who's either totally committed to football or soon to be committed to something else - because his therapist blabbed to his coach about the QB mentioning suicide during a session.

Yeah, that must be standard operating procedure in clinical psych any time your patient talks about checking out. If I'm Vince, I'm going to start hanging out with more people who are mute.

Don't forget "stupid." And "slovenly"

Moments after I posted this quickie mentioning that the U.S. just might be turning into the not-so-far-fetched dystopia depicted in a Mike Judge movie, I cracked open my email and found further support for that observation, courtesy of this ad from those smarty-smartpants folks who sell Fiji water.

Back in the good old days - like, last year, I think - companies used to try getting us to buy stuff by appealing to our aspirations, our best qualities. Or by having Kate Walsh do this.

But now, seizing the obvious trend, they're going for the jughead-ular (I can't tell - does that make any sense?), and appealing to our baser instincts.

"Just admit it," Fiji is telling us, "You're too mired in mediocrity to get off your fat ass, go buy bottled water from the store and then carry it into your home, the way our ancestors did. Stop wasting all of that energy and let us ship it - this is water, mind you - let us ship it to you, anywhere in the U.S. Oh, and this is after we ship water to our shores from Fiji. How does your carbon footprint taste now?"

SFTC CONTEST ALERT! Hmmm... I wonder what products they'll market next by appealing to our laziness and/or stupidity. I'm offering an iTunes song to the person who comments with the best suggestion and an accompanying tagline.

So, that's a thumbs down, I take it?

A ride on the escalator for my pal Julie, who forwarded the link to Roger Ebert's assessment of your Republican VP nominee. Pretty right-on, I think.

My dad recently mentioned to me that he thought it would be nice if there weren't so many people - indeed this segment of our population seems to be massive, rapidly growing and, seemingly, mostly right-wing - who consider attributes like "intelligent" and "well-educated" as character flaws to be mocked. My dad, incidentally, also once mentioned me that you really don't need that much shaving cream per shave - a little squirt is usually enough.

Anyway, I guess Republican brass deserves credit for figuring out the best way to appeal to the most voters - accentuating their candidates' native averageness. It's like we're watching the Republic turn into an Idiocracy right before our very eyes. As for me, intellectual curiosity is like a quality I'd like a president or vice president to have. That, a natty hairdo and a snappy wardrobe.

September 10, 2008

Thanks, ma, I got this one

No matter how much you hate getting paid millions of dollars to play a game, you've gotta be even less thrilled to have your mom talking to a reporter from your state's largest newspaper about how much you hate getting paid millions of dollars to play a game.

But it'll be OK for Vince, I think. Football players are a pretty emotionally in-touch group. Even though Vince kinda sounds like he's having an Angela Chase moment, I'm sure his teammates will come together in the locker room to support their star QB through this stressful time.

How's this for a segue? Seeing the names Vince and Chase in the previous paragraph reminds me that I gave up 30 minutes for the Entourage season premiere last night. (What's better than free HBO?) Pretty entertaining as usual, but it felt like not much happened. I'm chalking it up to this being a laying-the-groundwork episode with the juicier stuff still TK. Also, I was not pleased that Turtle and Drama even considered taking a golf club to a Maserati. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Anyone else watch?

Lipsticks and stones

While McCain and Obama continue making cute little TV ads and sniping at each other about veiled putdowns involving lip gloss and canines ... actually, come with me on a tangent before I finish that thought:

Are these people freaking serious? Obama uses a hackneyed old cliche about putting lipstick on a pig - not really eloquent, but an apropos way of comparing the 2008 Republican platform to the 2004 and 2000 editions - and John McCain and Sarah Palin think that just because she made a joke during her speech using one of the same words (for those of you just joining us, that word was lipstick) that Obama is calling Palin a hog? Uh, what? Is it that Palin thinks she now owns the copyright on all verbal references to animals wearing makeup? Maybe it's just that McPlain hasn't heard the expression before - this seems likely - they're like that dumb kid who's the target of a well-crafted putdown but can't figure out what the insult means. And of course all of the mouth-breathers are all riled up about elitist Barack making fun of people who are as stupid as livestock.


... OK, back to the main point. With all of that nonsense going on, and millions of dollars being spent/wasted to influence voters, there's one thing I don't really get about the presidential campaign: How is it that there are voters who haven't yet made up their minds? What are they waiting to find out at this point? (We already know McCain's position on Katrina, for example.) This isn't standing in line at Baskin Robbins and mulling the choice between chocolate marshmallow and rocky road. More like deciding between stewed squash and baked Alaska.

Which reminds me (another aside): Shout out to my aunt Nancy, who had a dinner party the other night and - I think I heard this correctly - served Klondike bars and baked Alaska for dessert, as a mock tribute to Palin. No word on how the caribou main course went over. Just kidding.

Anyway, I trust you've pretty much made up your mind by now. You're pretty damn smart. Which is why I think you'll get a kick out of this Daily Show segment. It's from last week, but I think it holds up just fine, even after five long days. The whole thing's about 8 minutes, so if you have to choose a clip, scroll ahead to the 4:18 mark and watch the next 100 seconds. You can do it. You've got 100 seconds to spare for this. You're welcome.

September 9, 2008

Hoosier brother?

So, first I see the headline - "T. Norbu, Dalai Lama’s Brother, Dies at 86" - and I'm thinking: It would be hard enough to have a famous sibling on the order of Bill Clinton, or even, um, Hilary Duff. But your younger brother is the Dalai Lama? That would pretty much suck every time you went home for a visit with mom and dad, wouldn't it? (How many Nobel Peace Prizes did you win this year, junior?)

But no. Turns out this Norbu dude was considered to be a reincarnated saint, so I guess he could hold his own at the family reunion.

I'm also assuming he's the only reincarnated saint ever to have died in Bloomington, Indiana.

Taxicab confession

One clear lesson that I'll take away from this weekend's travels is that big-city cab drivers hate Barack Obama. I don't want to overgeneralize, but now that I've experienced their clear-eyed arguments in two separate instances, I feel I can mark it down.

In February in Chicago, the dude behind the wheel was ranting about his intimate, personal third-hand knowledge of Obama's use of crack and interest in gay sex. (For proof, he directed us to a YouTube video of some mouth-breather talking about the times he used crack and had gay sex with the senator.)

Last night after our flight back to the left coast, we were treated to some equally well thought-out rhetoric about why nobody in their right mind would vote for Obama. The only good news about the trip was that we live five miles from the airport - so it was a mercifully short drive - and that I had exact change, so we got out of there without having to give the guy a tip. (And I always tip cab drivers - once I even tipped a guy after he picked us up, had to detour to get gas while we waited in the cab, left the meter running anyway, and then had to drop us off at a subway because the traffic was so bad.)

If I understood him correctly, the primary reasons for our driver's virulent anti-Obamaness were that (1) the driver's sister lives in Canada, where she pays 40 percent income tax, (2) Bill Clinton frequently had sex with interns while the terrorists were plotting the 9-11 attacks and (3) "hundreds of thousands" of Muslims live in the U.S. All of which was pretty convincing until the guy started swearing at us.

I generally don't like talking politics even with people I know, let alone borderline insane strangers. So when Obamahater started asking us questions about the election, that little voice was telling me: "Ignore. Tune out. Don't listen. Don't engage. Don't..." But I had just finished reading David Sedaris' "When You Are Engulfed in Flames," which includes a short story about a taxi ride during which Sedaris bitched out the cab driver for his making homophobic comments and bragging about his own, very hetero, sexual conquests. Afterwards, Sedaris wrote, he felt bad about yelling at the guy. So that was stuck in my head - I figured I'd learn from Sedaris' experience. But last night, ignoring the guy definitely would have been the way to go.

(By the way, "When You Are Engulfed" was a riot - many laughs per page. And maybe better to read in the privacy of your own home; apparently, I drew a few stares on the airplane because I was laughing so loud.)

Aside from the taxi politics, the other important knowledge I picked up - and this was thanks, indirectly, to a crossword puzzle in the latest Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine - was this: Tulsa is "a slut" backwards. If I lived there, that would really really bother me. Anyway, if that's not t-shirt worthy...

September 4, 2008

By dint of their stupidity

I won't get into critiquing Palin's speech, even though it made me think I was listening to an overachieving 11th grader with a Minnesohhta accent run for class president.

I'll just get right to favorite moment from last night's convention coverage. It was during the orgy of useless post-speech interviews, when Keith Olbermann struck a blow for English usage. After a reporter had just interviewed Arizona senator Jon Kyl (a very efficiently spelled name, don't you think?), and the senator said something about proving the "pundints" wrong.

When the reporter tossed it back to Olbermann, he told the viewing audience that there was something he wanted to correct, once and for all, because he was tired of hearing it mispronounced. (The other offender last night - whom Olbermann didn't mention specifically -was Palin.) With fantastically appropriate indignation, Keith said: "It's pundit, p-u-n-d-i-t, not pundint."

Somewhere, one of the Merriam brothers or that Webster guy is smiling.

Not my type(face) of movie

Is it just me, or does this new flick (warning: audio, but there's a "sound off" button at bottom right) seem like sort of a cheap - and three-month-late - faux imitation knock-off of the Sex and the City movie? Apparently, The Women is a remake of some pre-WWII thrill ride, but whatever. If they wanted to avoid the comparisons, they coulda built the story around three women. Or five. Anyway, I reaaaaally don't care; just asking.

What I do find interesting is that I look at the typeface for the movie title and I think the following: Hmph. I wonder how much the makers of alli (sorry, don't know how to make that long-vowel symbol over the "i") paid the movie's producers to use a font that would be a subliminal cue to think about their weight-loss drug. Cause it looks kinda the same to me.

September 2, 2008

In a world...

Big day for movie-related posts, apparently.

This is sucky news: Don LaFontaine, whose ridiculously awesome voice gave gravitas to craploads (that's an approximate number) of movie trailers, is headed to the big sound booth in the sky.

If you're as strange as I am, here's a video worth watching about the Don of Voiceovers.

I should have Coen

In the category of "Interesting reviews using literary references I don't understand of potentially strange but entertaining movies I'd like to see," I give you this gem from the New York Times.

Looks like a winner.

(One of the cool cinefile references I did understand was to the MacGuffin, but if you need an assist with that one, I am glad to oblige.)

Dangerous reading materials

Is broadcast journalism's steep decline getting steeper?

Well, this weekend, I caught part of a broadcast of NBC Nightly News -- that's the national one, slim -- in which a reporter (again, this is a national broadcast) covered the Hurricane Gustav story in part by interviewing Louisianans who were fleeing in advance of the storm.

Did I mention this is on a national broadcast?

In place of actual news, this reporter (standing in front of a line of cars who were successfully driving out of town) spent most of his 60-second report "interviewing" two families whose plans to get out of town were temporarily thwarted. One because they ran out of gas (!) and the other because they lost a tire from their trailer (!!). Now, I concede that (a) a blown tire or empty gas tank could happen to anyone, and (b) the New Orleans exodus itself was clearly a national news story, but that doesn't mean that two carsful of people with bad luck was a national news story.

Unless I miss my guess, the only reason they wound up on the (national!) national news was that they had stopped moving long enough for him to ask them some dumb questions.

I submit that this trend toward horribleness is accelerating thanks to poorly trained news producers who do this kind of faux reportage at the local level, are conditioned to believe it's acceptable, and get promoted to national without learning the difference between news and, well, asking people stupid questions while relevant information floats by undisturbed.

Want more bad local news? Check out this coverage of a no-injury shooting in Los Angeles over the weekend. Describing the shooter, the report reads: "He was carrying five loaded semi-automatic pistols with laser sights and multiple loaded ammunition magazines...."

Now, click the video link and watch just the first 12 seconds as our intrepid local news reader seemed to think the phrase "ammunition magazines" refers to periodicals about guns.

She'll see you on the CBS Evening News in a few months.