December 29, 2009

End of the aughts, Part 2

If you were here yesterday, you were wowed, amazed and possibly blown away by Part 1 of my end-of-the-decade wrap-up chat with Daddy Geek Boy. And you're dying to catch the rest of the conversation in Part 2.

Well, this is your lucky day. Because Part 2 - which, as I mentioned, is way more interesting - is now up on Daddy Geek Boy. So check it out. And then take care of one of your 2010 new year's resolutions by signing up on his site to become a DGB follower. (What? That wasn't one of your resolutions? It should be.)

If you weren't here yesterday, you should should stop what you're doing right now and go read Part 1 immediately. Seriously. Failing to do so would be like watching Step Up 2: The Streets without first seeing Step Up.* That is, you really might not understand the sequel.

December 28, 2009

End of the aughts: A deep conversation with my (other) favorite blogger

You might have heard that we're rapidly approaching the end of a decade.

To mark this momentous occasion, I decided to... um... blog about it. Which sounds very predictable, but you're in luck, because I decided to blog about it in the form of a witty, snappy and enlightening conversation with Daddy Geek Boy.

We talked music, movies, politics and more. We laughed, we cried. And we did it all on instant messenger, which made it incredibly easy to transpose. I'm nothing if not brutally efficient.

Part 1 follows; you can read the equally amazing conclusion on his site on Tuesday.

DGB: At the end of every year, there are all of these recaps. And since we're at the end of a decade, the pressure to put a fine point on it all is huge. But I've been thinking about what we didn't have 10 years ago.

SFTC: Well, right now, I'm watching the Ravens game on TV, and checking Twitter and email in between our instant messages.

DGB: That's something right there - how much multitasking did you do 10 years ago?

SFTC: A little, I guess, but it's nothing like now when I'm checking Twitter, blogs, email, Facebook and whatever else at work and at home. How about you?

DGB: Yeah, the way I communicate with people is completely different. How are the Ravens doing?

SFTC: Ravens were down 17-0, are still trailing, but now back in the game at 17-14. You mostly don't follow sports, right?

DGB: I don't. Nothing against sports. I really like them. But I feel I don't have the time to really devote to them. I guess I could call myself a Redskins fan, if I kept up with football. But from what I gather, this season it wouldn't really matter.

SFTC: You're right about the Skins. I have to say it's hard for me to imagine doing everything I do now, and then adding two children to the mix, and having time to do anything else - like watching sports - so working parents have my immense admiration.

DGB: If it's a choice of sports over movies, I'm going to have to pick movies. But since we're talking about sports: What events capture the '00s in sports for you?

SFTC: You know, none of my favorite teams won championships, so the most memorable sports events for me were the ones I got to see up close and in person thanks to my job. (Not the same job I have now.) I went as a reporter to the NBA All-Star Game in Houston and the MLB All-Star Game in Detroit. And although I'm not a big NASCAR fan, the coolest experience of all was getting a ride in a stock car that was driven by Rusty Wallace... on the day before the Daytona 500 at the Daytona Speedway. It was unreal.

DGB: OK, you rode in a stock car? Sports fan or not, that's really cool right there. For a lot of my friends, the Red Sox winning the World Series will go down as their favorite moment this decade.

SFTC: Yeah, the Sox win was amazing - I was hoping the Cubs could follow suit in the next few years, but they might never win.

One of the things that I've delved into on SFTC is the too-good-to-be-true political scandals. I know you don't really get into those on DGB, but did you have any, um, favorites of the 2000s?

DGB: The whole Larry Craig thing was the first to jump in my head. For the sheer ridiculousness of it, mixed with a dash of pathetic. How about you?

SFTC: Maybe because I spent so much of my life in Chicago, I got a special thrill out of the Blagojevich incident. Just his arrogance, his complete disregard for the law, the audaciousness of it. I got to see a large part of his rise to prominence and it was amazing how swiftly he just fell apart.

DGB: This has been the decade where I've started to pay attention to politics. But every time I get sucked in, I get turned off just as quickly. It's sad to admit this, but it feeds my pessimistic side.

SFTC: Well, there was a long stretch last year where it was interesting without being terrible. It was nice to be able to follow it and be interested for reasons that weren't negative.

DGB: True. I was never so involved as I was during the election. But I think the same thing - it seems like a never-ending story of greed and corruption and ego and inefficiency, and it's hard to stay tuned in. It's all so contentious and nasty. Though I feel like that's something that's developed over the past handful of years. I feel like as a nation after 9/11 we were told that it wasn't okay to have dissenting opinions.

SFTC: Speaking of which, where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 attacks?

DGB: I was in the gym. Which is crazy to think about now because I've become such a sloth. But I was working out with a trainer, and we watched it go down on the monitors in the gym. We finished the workout, because frankly we didn't know what else to do. I came home and spent the rest of the day crying on the couch with the woman who would become WW™.

SFTC: That seems practical. (The gym part.)

DGB: How about you?

SFTC: A woman who lived in my building in Chicago said something about it to me while I was on the elevator that morning. But she brought it up by asking just, "Did you hear?" I assumed she was talking about Michael Jordan's return to the NBA from his second retirement, because that had been the big news on SportsCenter the night before - that he was about to come back. So I told her that I'd heard about Jordan, and she said, "No, a plane flew into the World Trade Center." Of course at that time, we obviously assumed it was just a bad accident. The Sears Tower is visible from the building where I lived in Chicago, and as I was walking to work that morning, I kept looking up at the Sears Tower and thinking what it would look like for a jet to fly into the top of that building. Then, spent most of the day at work just watching it on TV.

DGB: You know, I flew four days after the attack?

SFTC: You did!?! Why? Where? What did FWW™ think?

DGB: I was living in L.A. and my best friend was getting married that weekend in Philly. There was no way I couldn't be there. I got lucky and when they reopened the airports, I got a seat on a flight. FWW™ was really nervous about it. She said that's what made her realize she loved me. Oddly, I wasn't nervous.

SFTC: Wow. I'm impressed. Were you drinking heavily?

DGB: The odds of something happening again so soon were astronomical. And it really did bring people together. Everybody huddled together in the airport bar and just talked to each other. I was so focused on being there for my friend. That wedding, by the way, was one of the best I've ever been to. It was such a catharsis.

Don't forget: Part 2 - which I promise you'll find way more interesting - is on Daddy Geek Boy tomorrow! We talk Wilco and Harry Potter and reveal how DGB scored a wife-approved absence on Valentine's Day. Don't miss it.

December 24, 2009

The second annual nothing-to-do-with-Christmas holiday post

Some people get bent out of shape about not being surrounded by snow during the winter holidays.

I am not one of those people.


Photo credit: Me

Palm trees with lights - even if they're located in someone's front yard next to a fountain that could generously be called tacky - are just fine with me.

Lawn ornaments representing the crew from Peanuts aren't bad, either.


Photo credit: Once again, Me

Whatever you're celebrating (or have already celebrated) this December, and whatever weather you're celebrating them in, happy holidays from snow-free Los Angeles.

December 23, 2009

If I can make it there

First, let me just say that as I'm typing this I'm eating a Ritter Sport chocolate bar*. And yet - despite the name - I don't feel any more athletic.

--

I was born in New York City. I visit at least once a year. I have at least twelve and a half relatives who live there. I spent my college years way the heck up in sunny** Rochester. Which is why I don't find this New York Times article the least bit surprising. A survey that concludes New Yorkers are the least happy citizens of our great nation? Sure, I'd believe that.

(One of my very best friends in the whole wide world lives in the Empire State, too, but I think the Oswego metro area must have been exempt from these ratings because it's a little slice of heaven up there.)

I hope I'm not making my New York readers even more upset by posting this. But you have to admit that if you place below New Jersey in too many national rankings, it's probably not a great sign.


* Don't fret, lactose patrol. It's dark chocolate.
** Just kidding about the "sunny" part.

December 17, 2009

It's in his kiss

One of the top 57 reasons I probably won't kiss any ladies in Miami in the foreseeable future is to prevent something like this from happening.

I'm guessing the attorney who got tennis star Richard Gasquet exonerated on the all new Coked-Up Kiss-Off defense is probably not the same lawyer as the one who wears Spanish-language "No Cupable" t-shirts for his clients.

(A big ol' tip of the SFTC cap to Highland Park Attorney for sending the story.)

Speaking of cocaine: I don't remember much about elementary or middle school, but while researching today's post* I was reminded of the drug education classes we had to take in the 80s. This was during the Nancy Reagan years, so if memory serves, the main message we were supposed to take away was that when we were inevitably offered heroin and/or PCP by our local ne'er-do-wells and hoodlums, we were generally supposed to say "no."

I guess that lesson stuck, but I don't recall much else about those classes. Except that - at least in my mind's eye - the teacher seemed to spend a lot of time with us poring over the drugs' street names. Like a dozen nicknames for each of them. Nothing better than a middle school teacher explaining that the pushers might call marijuana "Mary Jane" or "weed."

It was edifying, though. Certainly, I was prepared for the eventuality that if I were at a sixth grade party and the other kids were talking about doing some "blowcaine," I'd know they were talking about something other than a new hairdryer.

* What? You thought I was doing this sans research? This is serious stuff.

December 16, 2009

Fighting impotence

I'm writing today's headline against my better judgment. I thought it would be a nice way to introduce today's SFTC Quiz!*

Ready? OK!

Today's headline, "Fighting impotence" is...
(a) a funny oxymoron, sort of like the name of the Dodge Ram. (Did the geniuses who came up with this name want you to dodge things or ram into them? If I had one of those trucks, I'd constantly be wondering about the proper driving strategy.)

(b) almost guaranteed to result in a steady stream of Viagra and/or Cialis ads over there in the right sidebar for a few days.

(c) refers to my impression of today's Story-That-Doesn't-Quite-Seem-To-Add-Up from my favorite online news source**, CNN.com.

In case CNN.com edits the headline before you get there, here's what it says at 1 a.m.*** on December 16: "800,000 H1N1 vaccine doses for young children recalled; safety not a concern."

Yeah, sure.

Makes sense - I mean, companies recall hundreds of thousands of their products for their lack of impending danger all the time. If anything, according to the story, the vaccine doses might have been too safe - the pharmaceutical company claims they were 12 percent less potent than they were supposed to be. Oh. Kay.

I guess it's reassuring that the CDC says all kids who have received the vaccine are safe. But still, I'm taking a wild guess that the CDC spokesman's comment - that parents should do "absolutely nothing" - might not exactly mollify parents of vaccinated kids all across our great land. Parents are funny like that.

Speaking of the CDC, its full name was changed 17 years ago to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the last two words added to the agency's moniker - but the initialism remained "CDC." If I were one of the scientists who worked on the "and Prevention" stuff there, I would be pretty pissed. It's like their contributions don't even count.

I bet it's why these vaccines are so weak.

--

If you have any interest whatsoever in good music, I'd like to point out that an SFTC emerging favorite, Amy Cook, is offering a free download of "Hotel Lights," a tune from her forthcoming album, over here on her website. Consider it a holiday gift from your sixth-favorite blog.

--

Oh, the answer to the quiz? I guess it's (d), all of the above. Which you probably already figured out.

* Since when do we do quizzes around here?
** Not really "favorite," so much as it is the most useful for this blog, on account of its frequently questionable news judgment.

*** I really need to go to sleep.

December 11, 2009

The Good Wife

Wowie. Anyone else see this news coming?

OK, so we all saw it coming. Actually, I think it's nice that as 2009 comes to an end, we all get some closure on one of the juicier adultery stories of the year.

I have - for your comfort and convenience - decided that I didn't need to add my two cents about that golfer who apparently cheated on his gorgeous Swedish wife. I'm alluding to it here only to pay a compliment to the soon-to-be-former Mrs. Sanford: Very smart media strategy to announce your impending divorce from a philandering, high-profile husband during Tigergate.

December 8, 2009

Know when to fold 'em

On the way home from family Thanksgiving festivities, our flight stopped for about an hour at scenic Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. And by "scenic," I mean "dark, depressing and filled with people trying to gamble away every last nickel before boarding their flights back to the Midwest."

(If you haven't had the pleasure of dropping by McCarran yourself, the terminals are lousy with slot machines, and the slot machines are constantly busy.)

So, obviously, I was inspired to give Lady Luck a whirl and waste a few minutes on the 25-cent slots. Here's where I was smart about it: I didn't want to get too deep into a hole, so I set a limit: One dollar.

Big player that I am, though, I was going to go for it and bet the full 25 cents per spin. First spin: nothing. Second spin: zilch. Third spin: Nope.

Aw, man, I thought. I've lost 75 cents. How am I going to explain this to my super-amazing wife?

Down to my last 25 cents, I hit the Bet button one more time: A blue 7, a red 7 and a white 7! Jackpot! I had won $1.25! Oh, the feeling! I hit the Cash Out button and carried my ticket up to the redemption window. "Buck twenty-five, please," I proudly said to the cashier. "I'll take it in paper and silver."*

I found my wife in line at the airport shop, where she was about to buy a bottle of water, and I told her about my good fortune. "I guess that means you should probably pay for this," she said.

What I learned from the whole joyous experience was far more valuable than my 25 cent winnings. (Which, now that I think about it, isn't saying that much.) What I took away was an affirmation that it's important to know when to walk away - a lesson that I wish I could have shared a few years ago with Terrance Watanabe.

Who's Terrance, you might ask? He's the guy who did this.

* I didn't really say this. But I was thinking it.

December 3, 2009

Tartlet

There's an episode of Friends* in which Monica, auditioning for a job as a chef, cooks several dishes for a very stoned restaurateur, played by Jon Lovitz. When Monica tells him that she's going to be serving tartlets, he responds by very stoned-ishly** repeating the word back to her:

"Tartlet. [pause] Tartlet. [pause] Tartlet," and then adding, "The word has lost all meaning."

Which, thanks to Barbara Walters, is now exactly how I feel about the word "fascinating." You know, because of this.

Come to think of it, tartlet is about right.

* I guess this is the week in which I draw most of my inspiration from long-gone NBC sitcoms.
** Suggestions for a better adverb, anyone?

December 1, 2009

New feature! Say It, Sajak

Welcome to the first installment of a feature that I hope will be a regular part of SFTC for years to come*. I'm calling it Say It, Sajak!

In each exciting webisode, we'll recap something really funny that game show host extraordinaire Pat Sajak said during a recent Wheel of Fortune telecast. Today's quote, for example, was so freaking hilarious when it aired, that the world's most beautiful wife and I nearly spit out our beverages, in tandem, all over the living room floor.**

One metaphysically challenging aspect of this feature is that although I obviously am sitting in front of a computer screen, typing about things Sajak said on the air, you will never get me to admit that I watch Wheel of Fortune, much less that I watch it an average of 3.5 nights a week.

One ground rule for Say It, Sajak: Each entry will be presented without any explanation. Which could possibly mean that the only way you'll agree that it's rip-roaringly funny is that you'll just have to trust me. Oh, and since I'm doing this by memory, the quote might not be totally, 100 percent accurate. Other than that, I think this is going to be an awesome idea.

Today's Say It, Sajak! Quote of the Day is... "Somewhere in Nashville, someone is getting ready to massage chickens!"

See what I mean?

* Upon further reflection, I sort of hope this is the one and only installment.
** This is actually true.

November 30, 2009

Running for my life

Diane: Our relationship was a two-way street.
Frasier: Yes, and I was run over in both directions.
- Cheers, "Dinner at Eight-ish" (1987)

While back on the East Coast for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd go out for a pre-turkey jog around the neighborhood - you know, to preemptively work off some of the holiday calories. That's just my typical holiday m.o.*

So it's Thursday morning and I'm all geared up, complete with black Brooks running tights (subtle product plug and possibly disturbing visual image), ready to run. But my dad catches my attention. How nice, I think, he's going to give me a pre-Thanksgiving-pre-run pep talk.

Well, almost.

"This former colleague of mine - someone who was really respected in his field - was at a conference in Florida** a few years ago," he tells me. "One morning, he went out jogging, a few hours before he was supposed to give a presentation."

What are the chances this story doesn't end well?

"Several hours went by and he didn't show up, so his wife called the police. Turns out that he was jogging along a narrow road. One car pulled over to let him by, but the next driver sped up to pass, and the car hit him. Killed him instantly."

How's that for a pep talk?

"Awesome, Dad. Thanks for the inspiration."

And with that, I set out on the winding, rain-slicked roads near my parents' house, hoping mainly to avoid becoming the future subject of another of my father's similarly uplifting stories.

--

The previous day, I had received a cell phone message from Greg, a long-lost friend who was, without question, the funniest person I met during four years of college. Hearing his voicemail reminded me of one of his most memorable - if not most tasteful - quotes from back then.

Fittingly for today's post, it also had something to do with a run.

Greg and I were with a handful of friends, watching our college basketball team play against an overmatched opponent. During one stretch, our team was outscoring the opposition pretty handily. One of the guys in our group shouted, "I smell a run!"

Without skipping a beat, Greg yelled back, "Get your head out of your pants!"



* That, sleeping 10 hours a night, and spending most of my other waking hours sitting on a couch.
** The conference might have been in a less-crappy location than Florida, but I really wasn't paying too close attention.

November 18, 2009

Passed tents

I went to bed wearing my earbuds last night - probably not great for my otological health - and a Michael Penn song, Strange Season, came on the iPod. The very first line of the song is: This story is past tense.

Maybe because it was 12:30 a.m., I started fixating on the lyrics, and I decided it would be a pretty great idea to write the homonyms for the last two words, "passed tents," on my left palm.

I thought that phrase would be a great name for... I don't know, something. Perhaps I could use it as the title of my next smooth jazz album or maybe I'd start a retail chain that sells deceased camping equipment. Then, I quickly remembered that I sort of suck at the soprano sax - and, for that matter, I haven't even recorded my first smooth jazz record - and that I have less than no interest in rugged outdoor sports.

So I decided I'd use it as the headline for a blog post. Which worked out great, except that - as you've noticed if you're still reading this - I really didn't have an interesting story to go along with my new clever headline.

Just so this isn't a total waste, I'll post a few photos from last weekend, when the world's best gift-giver, my gorgeous and hilarious wife,* treated me to a weekend in Hermosa Beach for my 74th birthday.**

Please pause and enjoy - I snapped 'em just for you.









* Damn, I'm lucky.
** Or something like that.

November 11, 2009

Stay with someone you hate

I just got a promotional email from a hotel in Santa Barbara where the world's most beautiful wife and I have stayed a few times. Nice place and a great location, just across the street from the beach in one of the most picturesque towns in the land.

I guess the hotel is under new management or something because I noticed a new corporate logo at the bottom left of the message:


You could click on the image to blow it up, but I'll save you the trouble. The logo in question is for a firm called JRK Hotel Group.

I'm not one to make fun of names of people - although I still don't get why Mr. and Mrs. Gaga couldn't come up with anything better than "Lady" for their ubertalented daughter. But unlike most men and women, companies usually have a chance to pick names that don't suck. So I have less compunction about occasionally mocking a corporate moniker.

Maybe JRK is the monogram of the company founder. Or maybe the firm was started by three dudes named ... oh, I don't know, Jeremy, Rossifer and Keyshawn. And maybe Keyshawn lost a bet and his initial had to go last, which is why they couldn't name it KJR Hotel Group.

Point is: I look at the email, at the logo, at the website, and I can't get "Jerk Hotels" out of my mind. Why would I want to stay at a Jerk Hotel? Would you?

It's possible I'm overthinking this.

November 9, 2009

Uneasy lies the head

If you're thinking about auditioning for American Idol or whatever the equivalent show is in England*, I have some important advice.

If you make it to the finals, there will be physical consequences. There's indisputable proof that one of the unfortunate results of shooting to stardom on a nationally televised singing contest is that your head gets bigger. I mean, it swells to the point that your neck alone is simply unable to hold it up.

Visual evidence comes in the form of the covers of the latest CDs by two recent singing sensations. Witness:


(Susan Boyle, from whatever that British show is)

I guess the only good news is that in some cases, singers only need one hand (usually the right) to keep their heads from falling over in all of their pop-star glory.


(Adam Lambert, on a cover that could only have been designed in the early 1980s)

It even applies to the previous generation of Idols.


(Carrie Underwood, going with the palm)

Apparently, Carrie Underwood is one of the fortunate ones, able to provide adequate head support with but a single hand. I assume she had exercises - like maybe taking a Louisville Slugger to both head lights and slashing holes in in all four tires - that helped her avoid the dreaded Boyle two-handed lift.

* I think it's Ye Olde British Idole, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

November 6, 2009

Clothes make the (dead) man

A tip of the cap to loyal reader Highland Park Attorney, who sent me this rather strange tidbit about a dead Brazilian guy showing up at his own memorial service.

Alive, as it turns out.

It's the first time I've ever heard of someone actually acting out the cliche, "He'd be late for his own funeral."

I especially enjoyed the reporter's observation that "[the dead guy] did not get word about his own funeral until it was already happening Monday morning." Right. That must be such an awkward conversation to have with someone. I mean, I don't think Hallmark makes a card for notifying loved ones that they are deceased.

Aside from that, it made me feel incredibly grateful to live in a place where (I assume*) medical examiners identify dead bodies using clues other than being "dressed in similar clothing," as the police spokesman put it.

* I assume this because of the 37 different CSI: shows on TV. And Castle.

November 5, 2009

Two delicious

In past posts, I've both poked fun at Baskin-Robbins and paid well-deserved respects to the company's founder.

That's a lot of SFTC love, especially when you consider that I'm lactose intolerant and probably shouldn't really be eating a whole lot of frozen dairy desserts.

But it's possible that this is one of the 12 best food ideas ever. In fact, it might rank even higher than the Taco Bell Double-Decker Taco among foodstuffs that combine closely related items of awesomeness.*

Now I need to get my mom to come up with a comparable invention so I can combine her obscenely delicious pumpkin chiffon pie and chocolate bourbon pecan pie into a single dessert item when I'm home for Thanksgiving. It could happen.

* Also high on the list of foods not to eat immediately after consuming Double-Decker Tacos. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty long list.

October 30, 2009

My aim is true

(Headline inspired by lyrics from this classic song by my close, personal friend, Elvis Costello*.)

Quick post to kick off your weekend: It seems that the fine men and women of our armed forces are, once and for all, trying to put an end to those hi-larious Polish jokes.

Because if you're from a country that is "accidentally" firing a "machine gun" (OK, so the quotes around machine gun weren't really necessary) into a port city of a country that's not at war with you, you might be from one of the stupider countries on the planet.

What was this guy doing, Windexing his M240 while casually waving it around the Lido Deck?

I'm no munitions expert** but wouldn't you think the Navy has safeguards that would prevent a weapon from being discharged in the general direction of a foreign country while that weapon is being cleaned? Like, I don't, know... taking out the bullets first?

Actually, this incident reminds me of one other outstanding tune.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

* Elvis might characterize our relationship somewhat differently.
** Despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

October 28, 2009

Looking the gift card in the mouth

It's more than two weeks until my birthday* and I've already gotten two cumpleanos cards.

One arrived yesterday, and it was from my local Hallmark Gold Crown store. Happily for me, it included a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase at their shop, which is awesome because one thing I want to do for my birthday is buy approximately eight birthday cards for other people.

Following a tradition that continues to impress me and yet makes me feel like they could do better, the other card came from Southwest Airlines. The card now arrives so early every year that I'm beginning to wonder whether they even know when my actual birthday is anymore, or they just know that it's some time after National Deviled Eggs Day. Seriously, they must have dropped this one in the mailbox a full month ahead of time. If I lived in a remote mountain village in Nepal (is there any other kind?), it would have still arrived well in advance of my birthday.

Maybe they're sending it that far in advance because they think I'm getting so old that the chances I'll actually live long enough to see my next birthday keep shrinking, and therefore they'd better get those sincere laser-printed greetings to me as early as possible.

But if that's the case, what a waste of postage, because if I had only two weeks to live, let's be honest, I'd probably book some first class seats on Qatar Airways, take advantage of the on-board Jacuzzi (because what could be more hygienic than a hot tub on an airplane?) and the feather duvet, and fly wherever the hell it is that Qatar Airways flies.***

I realize I might sound somewhat ungrateful, but I really am happy that corporate America loves me so much.

* If this seems like a subtle hint, it's not.**
** Not subtle, I mean.
*** I'm guessing Qatar is one possibility.

October 22, 2009

I'm a winner

And now, I would just like to brag that I won a shirt.

By "won," I mean that I responded to an email offer by sending my name, mailing address and shirt size to register for a promotion in which the company was going to send shirts to most people who submitted a valid name, mailing address and shirt size.

But, still. I'll take it.

There's a strong chance that the shirt, conveniently pictured below, is probably a little too fashion-forward for me. I'm not exactly sure where I'd go where black epaulets on a short-sleeve button-down would be situation-appropriate. (Maybe a screening of This is It?)


As worn by a model. A model standing in front of hay. (And, yes, the right breast pocket flap does fold down, in case you're worried.)

Still, I have to say it's a pretty nice garment. And, actually, it probably would meet the dress code for just about anywhere in L.A. It fits great, it feels well constructed and it's made of stretchy fabric, which for some reason I always think is a nice selling point in a shirt.

Thank-yous to the generous and trendy fellas at Cash Crop Clothing for bestowing the freebie, and to Thrillist for holding the contest. Which I won.

October 13, 2009

The Squid and the Pirate

Several months ago, I boldly proclaimed that we were clearly in the midst of the Decade of the Pirate, what with all of the stories about buccaneers taking over cargo ships on the high seas. Not to mention the Johnny Depp movies. And Alan Tudyk's character in Dodgeball.

A few weeks later, I proclaimed - no less boldly - that I had proclaimed too soon because it then appeared that this actually was shaping up to be the Decade of the Octopus. (Virtually irrefutable proof here and here.)

And then ... silence.

Pirates and octopi seemingly had fallen off of the radar. Fewer pirate sightings was, I'm sure, good news for those who were responsible for traveling the highly prized Somali Coast route. But the sudden lack of information about eight-armed sea creatures was a troubling development for SFTC because, back in May, I promised you that this blog would be "The source you can rely on for the latest in octopus news."

Thankfully - for me, if not for sailors - pirates are back in the headlines. Unfortunately - for the pirates, at least - the latest attack went a little awry. Instead of storming a cargo ship, as they had planned, they (oopsie!) mistakenly attacked a French military vessel. Now, I don't know much about pirating, but I'm guessing one of the first rules is not to attack a boat on which everyone is armed and has military training.

Even if they are French.

And although I haven't read too much about octopi lately, squid news is close enough, right? OK, good. Because Yahoo News recently ran this piece about scientists accidentally discovering a 105-pound giant squid. (By the way, for a 105 pound mass of future sushi, isn't the word "giant" redundant?)

I especially liked that the writer points out that the discovery reminds us "how little is known about life in the deep waters of the Gulf." Perhaps that's because researchers don't really want to mess with the huge freakin' killer squid living down there.

October 12, 2009

Balls

Monday is usually the pits, but I'm doing great so far today.

Mostly that's because I just remembered that CNN.com is still around, still bringing news-starved readers the kinds of important, hard-hitting stories that - let's just be honest - carry with them nothing less than the potential to change people's lives.

Like, for example, this one.

Seriously. Thank goodness the reporter was able to explain the incredible mystery of golf balls at the bottom of Loch Ness -"it is thought locals and visitors have been using the loch to practice their driving skills for quite some time" - because I had presupposed that Nessie had been stockpiling the small white orbs for her planned attack against Scotland.

Extra points to the online editor for categorizing this article in the "World Sport" section (see label at top of page). I guess they haven't come up with a tag for "Completely useless crap that doesn't fit anywhere else."

October 7, 2009

Reduce, reuse and, uh, print more stuff

My employer is saying all of the right things about sustainability, reducing our collective carbon footprint, and blah blah blah blah blah. And, despite the indifference all of those blahs might connote, I strongly support those goals.

One recent step toward a greener workplace was the installation of low-flow urinals. I won't get too graphic here, but these babies use only a few cups of water per flush, instead of the 800 gallons per flush* that the old ones used. (It's actually sort of horrifying to think about how much water we've collectively wasted since the urinal was patented back in 1866.) (You're welcome.)

So it's great that we're conserving so much water. But here's what I don't get: On the wall above each shiny new urinal - and there are hundreds, maybe thousands, where I work - there is now a color-printed 3 inch-by-3 inch sticker extolling the contraption's water-saving greatness.

Do you think those stickers were really necessary? I mean, it's not like some dude is going to step up to do his business, see the blank, sticker-less wall and think, "I can't do this - it might not be a water-saving urinal."

Which means we used an awful lot of paper for no other purpose than to tell pee-ers how earth-friendly we are.

* Just an estimate.

October 6, 2009

Lettuce reconsider

The lettuce in the Trader Joe's Asian chicken salad that I brought for lunch today was 24 or 36 hours past its expiration date. Which was a bummer.

But I can say with absolute certainty that I'd rather eat expired lettuce than read any more stories about Tyler Perry or Mackenzie Phillips being abused as children. (No links to their stories because, well, it's enough already.)

I'm sorry they suffered (although I feel like Perry is sort of getting his revenge with all of the Madea movies), but I don't get why celebrities think that a perk of being famous is the opportunity to spout off about crap that happened to them three decades ago. Maybe they're just doing it because they know I'll blog about it. Clever bastards.

- - -

In news that is - I'm fairly certain - completely unrelated, my incredibly gorgeous wife and I ordered a pizza from Domino's last night. And it was totally worth it. Not so much for the pizza, which was, frankly, a Domino's pizza, but because of Domino's online order tracker.

Have you seen this thing? We haven't ordered from Domino's in about two years, so I may be way behind the curve here. But it's so much fun, we're seriously considering* ordering another one tonight.

Once you place your order online - who talks on the phone anymore? - you're directed to a new screen with a gizmo that looks like this:



At each stage of the pizza-production-and-delivery-process, the appropriate section of the bar flashes red until it's complete, whereupon** that segment turns solid red. We watched in awe as Fabiola (that's what Pizza Tracker said her name was) marshaled our dinner order from prep to oven to quality testing.

I was somewhat concerned that "quality testing" our pizza meant someone was going to smush their hand in the middle of the pie and grab a handful of the tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni that was rightfully ours, but after a few bites of dinner, I got over it.

* Just kidding, Bugs.
** I'll have to double check, but this is probably the first use of "whereupon" on SFTC.

September 25, 2009

Unquestionably worth it

This hasn't been the best week ever, but lucky for me, it's getting worse right now because it's 9:30 on a Friday night and (1) I'm blogging, which is plenty lame, and (2) the jerkwad who lives upstairs from me thought this would be an awesome time to do some home improvement. Sounds like there's some electric drilling*, some sanding, and - probably just to mess with me - a little bit of hammering. Just awesome.

But please: Don't despair. Because I found something you could buy me to cheer me up. Two nights in Pennsylvania. Well, more specifically two nights at Fallingwater - perhaps the coolest private home ever designed. (Photos here, here and here - thanks, Flickrerers.) I'm a big Frank Lloyd Wright fan, and because I lucked out when it came to getting great parents, I actually got to take a tour of the place when I was in high school.

So, if you'd like to pony up the $1,200 for the two-night stay, I'll promise to send you a post card. Seems totally worth it - even if I'd only get to hang out and eat in the main house (sleeping accommodations are in a neighboring guest house rather than in Fallingwater itself). Yep, sign me up.

Oh, actually, one other thing that really cheered me up this week was that for the first time in months, I sold one of my t-shirts - my homage to Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's probably the most un-PC shirt I've designed, but it was also the first one I posted to my Zazzle page, almost a year ago. I was shocked** that nobody had bought one until now - seemed like the kind of thing that would really catch on.

Get yours today - it's the perfect Yom Kippur gift.

* No, not a euphemism.
** No, not really.

September 18, 2009

Two thinks about drinks

That's possibly the stupidest blog post headline I've ever written. But I'm too tired to care. Why? Possibly because I stayed up till 12:45 a.m. playing around with iTunes last night.

But more likely it's because I haven't had a cola* or a Starbucks chai tea latte in almost two weeks. (I tried this once before, memorialized for your entertainment here and here.)

Fortunately, I haven't had any of the withdrawal headaches you hear about, but I'm constantly sleepy and I've finished a 48-pack of Pepto tablets this week, often follwed by Tums chasers.** Also, I've realized that my recent blog posts are almost completely lame.

I'm blaming it all on my well-intentioned but possibly foolish cola-and-chai boycott. Essentially, I have decided that my body is rejecting the lack of caffeine. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but, as you might have read three seconds ago, I'm working without caffeine, people!

On a very loosely related note, it occurred to me this morning that if I lost some of my mojo, it would probably leave me with a mojito.***

Thank you. Don't forget to tip your servers.

* My beautiful wife made fun of me for using the term "cola" the other day, but the word choice is intentional. I did have about a liter of ginger ale last weekend and I was distinguishing that from Coke and its brown, caffeinated soft drink brethren. Now, having explained all of that, I realize I sound even odder, but whatever.
** This is probably not FDA-recommended.
*** I'm sure 943 million people have thought and/or said this before, but I've never heard it, so I'm just going with it.

September 16, 2009

Amazing she knows how to work a steering wheel

I've just parked my car on the fourth level of a seven-story parking garage where I work. I know it's the fourth level because it is conveniently labeled with large, bright painted signs, about every 100 feet, that read, and I quote, "LEVEL 4." I don't spend tons of time in the garage* but one thing I've noticed is that the other six levels are also conveniently labeled with large, bright painted signs, about every 100 feet, that indicate to drivers what level they're on.

So it strikes me as somewhat odd when a woman driving a Porsche Cayenne pulls up to me and asks, and I quote, "Is level 2 downstairs from here?"

After offering up my best incredulous stare, I offer up the most brilliant answer I can think of: "Yes."

"In the basement?" she asks.

Yes. They started the building with level 2, just to mess with you.

I am not making this up.

* I'm calling it a garage because that's what it is, although in L.A., for some reason, people call it a "lot."

September 11, 2009

Oh, good. I wondered where I'd left that temple

Leave it to CNN.com to come up with those news headlines that really make you think. Take this one, for example, which appeared today:
Ancient synagogue found in Israel
Amazing. I wonder where they had been looking for it originally. I'd probably have started in Israel and worked my way out.

Anyway, I'm glad that came up in today's news because it reminds me of one of my favorite passages of motion picture screenplay, which is from the quirky - and vastly underappreciated* - 1998 movie Zero Effect (trailer here).

Bill Pullman plays a crafty but socially inept P.I. named Daryl Zero, who has a unique way of looking at his job. As Daryl put it:

Now, a few words on looking for things. When you look for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad, because of all things in the world, you only want one of them.

When you look for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good, because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.

I've tried to incorporate that logic into my everyday life, but it seems to work better in the movies.

* Either that or it was mediocre but I was in a great mood when I saw it and it just seemed really funny at the time. Which is possible.

September 10, 2009

Whereas other fish look like Michelle Pfeiffer

I'm torn on this one. Which do you think the hoki - a deep-water fish mostly found in the South Pacific - resents more?

A) That New York Times writers are stating categorically that it is "an ugly creature"

or

B) That there's a good chance it ends up covered in "cheese" and served as a McDonald's Filet o' Fish sandwich

Thinking about that delectable combination of fish and cheese reminds me of one of my favorite (that is, one of the nastiest) restaurant reviews ever, which I blogged about back in the good old days.* If you missed it, you'll want to check it out. Unless, of course, you happen to own Gladstone's in Malibu.

* last year

September 9, 2009

Super, dawg

Airport layovers usually stink.

But when you're traveling cross-country and you've got a few minutes to kill at Midway Airport in Chicago, layovers rule.

Why?


Photo credit: Me
Food credit:
Superdawg


I sort of meant to take a picture of the hot dog, contentedly cushioned in its bed of french fries, but I ate the darn thing too fast.

September 2, 2009

The National Gallery

My regular readers will be relieved to know that, despite the catchy, artsy headline, this post doesn't have anything to do with paintings.

Nope, I'm just posting a mini gallery to recap a magnificent performance by The National last Saturday at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. The guys played almost all of the songs I wanted to hear - only exception was my favorite National tune, Gospel - and sounded great doing it. Plenty of energy, and plenty of volume, too, which was cool because several of their songs are essentially loud ballads, so I was wondering how they'd sound in concert.

We were seated in the balcony, which on this night was only a problem because there was no discernible air conditioning and it was about 200 degrees. But despite the heat and the high perch, I managed to take a handful of pictures that I thought were not too terrible.


(To answer the snarky question that my sister will probably ask: No, I didn't take this one from the balcony.)


(Just setting the scene for you. Drink in the atmosphere, people.)








And, for those of you who prefer hearing music to looking at still photos of it, here are vids of two numbers from the show. They're a little dark - bordering on pitch black - for long stretches (I'm doing the best I can with my seven-year-old Sony camera!), but the sound is pretty good.

First, Fake Empire:



And here's Start a War:



Dates for the next few shows are listed here if you want to hear for yourself.

August 31, 2009

When you wake up feeling old

(Today's headline courtesy of Wilco.)

You know that scene near the end of Goodfellas when Joe Pesci's character, Tommy DeVito, gets dressed up in his finest suit and tie because he's about to become a made man, and then he walks into the room for the ceremony, but the ceremony never happens because - BANG - Tommy gets shot in the head?

Saturday afternoon I had a similar - if somewhat less bloody - experience. Like Tommy, I never saw it coming.

I'm sitting in a barber's chair at Supercuts, getting the usual SFTC 'do - #3 clippers on the sides and back, scissors on top, sideburns trimmed. Everything's going just fine when my friendly hairstylist casually asks, "Do you use any styling products?"

"Yes," I say. "Pomade."

"Oh. You might want to switch to fiber."

Missing a sterling opportunity to make a joke about already having all the bran I need in my diet, I ask why she thinks I should take such a dramatic step involving my carefully chosen haircare products.

"Your hair is thinning a little on top," she said. "It'll help it look thicker."

[Needle scratches record]

Ouch.

This was especially painful to hear because, throughout my entire haircut-receiving life, I had been told by stylists and barbers that I had such a "thick head of hair." (Which, if you think about it, sounds kind of weird. Maybe it's the "thick head" part.)

I realize they meant it as a compliment, but it was sort of a drag. During my middle school and high school years, I could never wear my hear like the cool kids were wearing theirs. Despite my best efforts, it usually ended up looking... well, a lot like the guy on the right in this picture.

But apparently those days have come to an end. Because now I need to switch to fiber.

Thankfully, I just recently bought two more containers of pomade, which means that my thinning hair will just have to look crappy until approximately the end of the decade.

As I was considering that fact this morning - in what I hope will be my most esoteric thought of the week - I realized that my haircare products have evolved roughly every 10 years. For those of you keeping track (which I figure will be nobody except for Bugs), that evolution has gone something like this:
1980s: Mousse
1990s: Gel
2000s: Pomade
2010s (projected): Fiber

Interesting that the French-sounding products seem to be in vogue every other decade.

Anyway, the whole experience was a huge downer and I was really feeling old. But I had mostly gotten over it by Sunday morning, when I was driving home from the gym. I had the car radio tuned to the oldies station, which usually plays music from before I was born - Beatles, Elvis, The Supremes. But apparently, they've changed that strategy. Because some jackass music director with a twisted sense of humor thought it would be OK for the oldies station to play the vastly unremarkable Naked Eyes song "Promises, Promises." Which was released in 1983, when I was 11.

Thanks, everyone. I think I got the message.

August 28, 2009

In which I have a meaningful conversation with Hugh Laurie

Actually, that headline might be a tiny bit misleading - "meaningful conversation" is stretching it a little.

But I did ask a question and Hugh Laurie, the multitalented portrayer of the title character of my current favorite TV show, answered it. Our magic moment took place Wednesday in an online chat on the Los Angeles Times web site but it was almost like we were hanging out in Starbucks like two old pals and since I like you so much, I saved the transcript so you could relive it. Again and again, if you wish.

(Click to enlarge; my question and Mr. Laurie's answer are boxed in yellow for your reading convenience.)


As you can see, it wasn't the most insightful question ever asked, but it's not like I used to be a journalist or anything.*

In my defense, I tried submitting three questions, but this was the only one the moderator chose to include in the chat. Which sucks because my other queries were much more profound. I don't remember the exact wording, but I think my first question was about his view of the potential economic implications of Obama's healthcare bill and the other might have been about Sartre or something.

As celebrity interviews go, I thought it went alright. I mean, at least I didn't pull one of these.

* Oh, right. I actually used to be a journalist.

August 23, 2009

The minimally annotated L.A. Times redesign announcement

If there's one thing our nation's newspapers seem to love these days - even more than, say, good reporting or staying in business - it's redesigning their web sites.

So I wasn't surprised to see an email from the good folks at the Los Angeles Times, trumpeting the latest new look of latimes.com (click to enlarge):


Well, let me clarify. I wasn't surprised to receive the email. I was a little surprised once I cracked it open. My hastily considered analysis:

1, We're in 2009, which has to be at least 10 years after marketers figured out that they could personalize email messages, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Which is why, "Hello Visitor," didn't strike me as the warm, personal greeting they might have been going for.

2, Looks like a slightly refreshed typeface for the masthead. Is it just me, or is it funny that big-city newspapers keep recycling versions of this sort of gothic-y typeface that appears approximately nowhere else in modern life instead of actually coming up with something new?

3, In case you missed it, Michael Jackson died June 25, approximately two months ago. (I'm pretty sure the Los Angeles Times was one of the few media outlets to cover the story at the time.) But, heck, let's subtly drop one more King of Pop reference into the promo email because what better way to tread on the year's most overdone news story than to use it to draw attention to a web site redesign?

4, Let me get this straight: You're drumming up excitement for your web site's new look which, presumably, makes everything look all pretty and nice. And the dominant image in your email is a huge fricking inkblot? A redesign that's so excellent, they'd rather spill crap all over it than show it to you in this message? Wow, I can hardly wait to see.

August 21, 2009

Short of useful

Just picked up a tasty submarine from my local Quizno's. I left the store with my sandwich and a plastic cup full of banana pepper slices, of course, but also a potentially useful observation for you.

You know those measuring-stick stickers that businesses put near their doorways so employees can easily tell how tall burglars are while they're running out of the store? Well, the one at this Quizno's started at 5 feet, 5 inches, which I think means that if you've just robbed a Quizno's and you're 64 inches or shorter, your odds of being caught are much, much lower.

I'm 5-10 or so, meaning I'd be well within the burglar-measuring range at Quizno's. Now, I'm not planning anything criminal, mind you. But next time I go there - just to mess with anyone who might be watching me - I think I'll duck on my way out.

August 19, 2009

Only 2.19178% of a year late

One of SFTC's most dedicated readers - and one of the proud few to be an official SFTC follower - recently celebrated a birthday. Since then, I have been trying to think of a brilliantly witty way to connect that important occasion into some other news item to create a birthday-worthy blog post. But while I was thinking about it, eight days - or 2.19178 percent of a year - went by.

That's not a very long stretch in geologic time, but in cyberspace and in the belated-birthday-wish genre, it's an eternity. The kicker is that I have heard that an SFTC birthday shout-out was one of the presents she most wanted. (Weird, because if it were me, a birthday mention on SFTC would be about 1,345 spots behind, well, one of these. But, really, who am I to judge?)

So without further ado - or as they say in my hometown, "without further adieu"* - I send the very schmanciest Happy Birthday+8 Days greeting to Jaya B.


* They don't really say this in my hometown; I think they say it in Indiana. I just didn't want to take a cheap shot at Indiana.

Late-breaking news. Emphasis on "late"

I think it's great that the New York Times is so assiduous about citing reporters whose work helps produce published articles.

But I'm wondering if the credit line that appeared at the end of this article was, technically, completely necessary. Keep in mind, this ran in a story (about the death of legendary CBS News producer Don Hewitt) that was published August 19, 2009.

That's 2009, as in seven years after 2002.



Is it extra creepy that this appears at the end of an obituary? (Personally, I'm wondering if the Times editor felt compelled to add something like "... He just wasn't aware of it at the time.")

Well, either way, RIP Don Hewitt. And, while I'm at it, RIP Walter Goodman, too. Heck of a reporting job.

August 17, 2009

My champ

A few of the highlights from a weekend back at home, way over on the other coast...

My nephew swam the full length of my parents' pool - without stopping! - for the very first time.


He had a blast when John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" played during the seventh inning stretch at an Orioles game, just like I did when I was his age, which I think was around 120 years ago.



And after he did that, he leaned over to me and whispered, "Uncle, I'm going to miss it when you're not here."

Me too, kid.

August 10, 2009

My kind of town

The nice thing about Chicago is that if you're invited to a retirement party for an elected official, there's little chance you'll find yourself wondering, "Should I get a retirement present?" Much less, "What would be an appropriate gift for the occasion?"

Because the answers always will be: "Duh." And: "Cash."

If you need a concise parable to remind you of this advice, I just happen to have one, about the ethically awesome Alderman William J.P. Banks. Kind of cool that his last name is Banks, isn't it?*

Hard to imagine that this is the same city that gave Governor Blagojevich his start in politics.

* Also, I think J.P. probably stands for "Just Pay."

Statue of limitations

Don't you think this incident, gnarly but somehow poetic, seems like something that would have happened in a Quentin Tarantino movie?

Sure enough, it happened in real life. Thanks, Drunk Belarusian Dude.

August 6, 2009

A decade away

For no apparent reason, I read this article in today's Times that includes the prediction that the job of statistician will be H-O-T, hot, hot, hot in 2020.

I've always thought that if you're going to publicize some crazy-ass predicition* that you've made, you might as well (1) publicize it in the New York Times; and (2) make your prediction about something 10 years in the future.

Why, you ask?

Because on the off chance you're right, whoever is filling the role of CNN reporter-moron in 2020 will find the New York Times article and interview you about it repeatedly throughout the year, so your consulting firm will get lots of great exposure.

And if you're wrong, who the hell is going to go back through 10-year-old New York Times articles looking for idiots who made wildly off-base predictions about the employability of stasticians in 2020? (Hint: The answer is "almost nobody.")

Which is why I can tell you that I feel very close to certain that a decade hence, SFTC will be the crown jewel of a $10 billion-a-year media empire and I will be the NBA's first-ever 47-year-old all-star shooting guard.

* Yes, I do realize that it's incredibly stupid of me to make fun of this idea because there's a good chance that Google's chief economist, who made this particular prediction, knows much, much, much more about the subject than I do, even though I read almost all of the New York Times article in which he was quoted.**

** I still would argue that this post is a good guide to use if you do in fact want to make wildly off-base predictions while speaking to news reporters.

July 28, 2009

The Minimally Annotated Judd Apatow iTunes Playlist

iTunes posted a playlist selected by movie director Judd Apatow. If I were really knowledgeable about a wider range of musical genres and if I were motivated enough to write a trenchant analysis of someone else's favorite songs, I'd give you a fabulous, in-depth commentary about all 15 tracks.

Lucky for you, I'm neither of those things, so just two comments:

1, I knew I liked this guy. His favorite band ("in life," he explains): Wilco! And apparently the soundtrack of Apatow's upcoming movie, Funny People, will include my favorite Wilco song, Jesus etc. I am on board, mister director.

2, Does it strike you as funny (or, if you are Tipper Gore, does it strike you as an epic mistake) that the Eminem song, "When I'm Gone" on this list is tagged with an "Explicit" label, but three lines below is a Warren Zevon tune called "My S**t's F****d Up," that doesn't have the warning? I'm pretty sure Zevon actually spelled it without those asterisks, and he certainly sang it without them. These iTunes censors are on the ball, no?

July 23, 2009

Where there's smoke

I woke up this morning with a strange craving for Cool Ranch Doritos and Twinkies, and now I know why: This newsmaking event was taking place just a few minutes from our apartment.

I wonder how many people gathered around to, um, observe.

UPDATE/DEVELOPING STORY:* My observant and gorgeous wife read today's post and informs me that the fire actually occurred earlier this week. It was only "news" in the sense that today was the day that I found a three-day old article about it.

This leaves open the question of why I had a sudden taste for junky snack food earlier today. Suggestions?

* I mean "developing story" in the same, presumably ironic, way that CNN means it when they're covering an event that has already happened but label it on TV and online as "developing." Which is to say, it's not really a developing story.

July 22, 2009

Undiscovered country

I just got a promotional email from the fine people at Yahoo! Travel - their exclamation mark, not mine - that caught my attention.

Here's a lil' piece of it (click to big-ify):



See the right sidebar, billed as "Top All-American Destinations"? It makes me think that this email would be so incredibly helpful to anyone planning a domestic vacation! Imagine: A reminder that among the top American cities for tourism are places like New York, Philly, Boston, San Francisco and D.C.

(Really? Over Detroit, Schenectady, Timonium, Ogden and Akron?)

I don't even want to click that link to "see more travel ideas" because I'm overwhelmed with the amazing concepts Yahoo! Travel has already provided for me. I never would have thought of those five.

July 21, 2009

Nonstop fun

OK, alright, already. I'm back from cruising around the Land of Palin. Great trip, thanks for asking.

I'm pretty sure the funniest thing I saw while we were away was actually in Vancouver, B.C., before we set sail.

While we were on our way from the Vancouver airport* to the Vancouver pier,** we spied outside of the starboard side (I'm all shippy now, but for you non-sailors, that's means "the right side") of our bus a traffic sign that looked a lot like this one:


And I wondered: How strange to cross out a stop sign. Because, wait... remind me, what's the opposite of stop? I mean, couldn't they just do this?***


The hijinks didn't stop there. On board our big huge ship, the main dining room took up parts of the seventh and eighth floors. I assume there are some times at which the stewards have to travel between the two decks, which led me to believe that it's one of the rare times you can see a dumb waiter on an elevator.

(Crickets, right?)

Thank you. I'm here all night.

* Possibly the cleanest airport in the universe.
** Almost certainly the most Vancouverish pier I've ever seen.
*** Before I get all kinds of angry comments from traffic-sign-loving Canadians: Yes, I know the sign actually means that you're not allowed to stop your car by the side of the road in that area. I maintain that when it comes to traffic instructions, there's a subtle difference between "don't stop" and "no stopping," which is why god invented this sign.

July 12, 2009

A, but not WOL

Goin' fishing* for the next few days. Well, not actually fishing - I'm going on a cruise to Alaska. But I thought I'd write "goin' fishing" because it's folksy, and because I didn't want to reveal my exact plans. But now that I mentioned the cruise, so much for that.

This alleged "cruise ship" apparently charges 50 cents a minute for Web access, and while I dearly love all eight of you who read this blog, I don't think we're at that stage in our relationship where I pay 50 cents a minute to inform and enlighten you online.

Still, I do care. I know you'll want to be entertained while I'm gone, so I'm reminding you about a few of my favorite blogs that you should visit while I'm on the high seas:

Daddy Geek Boy: If you're looking for a entertaining blog written by a dude in greater L.A. (also how I describe SFTC), here you go. (That description sells DGB short, but it's midnight, I'm tired, and I have to leave for the airport in 6 hours.)

Color Me Katie: If you like wholesome goodness, sunshine, photos, pets and/or imagination, this is almost guaranteed to make you smile.

Swiss Miss: Satisfy your craving for cool design and neat new products.

Motherhood in NYC: I gather that most of MiNYC readers are moms. As you might know by now, I am not a mom. I do, however, consistently laugh MAO at this amazing blog.

Awkward Family Photos: Sort of self-explanatory, isn't it? Also sort of un-PC. Which is OK with me - I'm just sayin'.

I'm back next week - possibly with vacation stories. That'll get you to come back, right?

*Since I'm writing Goin', I suppose I should just write fishin', too? WWSPD,** right?
** What Would Sarah Palin Do?

July 8, 2009

Oooey gooey diplomacy

Am I seeing things, or did Vlad Putin - Vlad and I are on a first-syllable basis - serve Toaster Strudels when President Obama arrived for breakfast yesterday?

Visual evidence from the New York Times:


Seriously, I think that look on Putin's face pretty much says: You take the strawberry strudel, Mr. Obama, and I'll go nuclear.

Oh, and if you're one of those folks who actually reads the news instead of just scanning the pretty photos, here's the story about their meeting.

One passage about U.S.-Russia diplomacy that I found interesting, if not very surprising:
Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev announced an agreement to open a joint early-warning center to share data on missile launchings. But Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris N. Yeltsin announced the same agreement in 1998. Mr. Clinton then announced it again with President Vladimir V. Putin in 2000. Mr. Putin and President George W. Bush recommitted to it as recently as 2007. And none of them ever actually built the center.

Well, good to know we're moving in the right direction on that front.

Occasionally, death is creepy

The phone rings Monday night and it's my mom.

Me: Hi, Mom.
Mom (excitedly, without pausing to say something like "Hello"): You going to the funeral?
Me (trying to remember if a relative or close friend had died in the previous 24 hours): Huh?
Mom: Michael Jackson's!

Oh. That.

Of course, I did think for a few minutes about entering the lottery for the KOP's memorial service, but despite my love for recently deceased individuals who I've never met, large crowds, driving to Dodger Stadium to wait in line for stuff, Los Angeles traffic made worse by widespread street closures, and things that are generally overwrought, I decided against it. Sounds crazy, I know, but I think the right time to get Michael Jackson tickets was actually about 25 years ago.

And so I determined to skip the big to-do at Staples Center yesterday. But like any good child of the 80s, I did tune in for some of the online coverage.

There were plenty of creepy moments, ranging from slightly uncomfortable to cringeworthy - I'm looking at you, singing-to-the-casket-Usher - but I especially liked these two (click to enlarge images):

1) Video Michael reaches out for a low-five from Brooke Shields.


2) City of Los Angeles asks mourners to kick in a little coin to pay for all of the city's hard work in shutting down most of downtown for a day - with the clever spin that it would give Jackson "the world-class memorial he deserves." Right.

July 6, 2009

Wilco (the photos)

If you've been paying attention, you've probably picked up a hint, here or there (or here) that my favorite (currently active*) music group is Wilco.

I have heard them perform live in four states (multiple times in Illinois, once each in Wisconsin and Washington, and now twice in California), which won't sound that impressive if you're into Phish or the Dead, but I can say with certainty that it's a personal best - and, thankfully that's three more than the number of states in which I've seen Huey Lewis and the News perform. (Landover, Md., 1986! Whoooee!)

I'm enough of a fan that I bought their newest album, which is cleverly titled "Wilco (the album)," despite the fact that before purchasing it, I had listened all the way through about four times and don't really like it. But, eh. It's Wilco - I'll like it eventually. Besides, the CD cover is a picture of a camel. That sort of hooked me. And, further evidence of my fan-hood (fan-ness?): In flagrant disregard of my already-overflowing T-shirt drawer, I now own three Wilco t-shirts.

The point is that I was fortunate enough to grab a seat - well, not a seat, actually, but a very small piece of standing room in between the chests, butts and elbows of fellow fans - for one of Wilco's three sold-out concerts at the Wiltern in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

See, it says Sold Out right there on the marquee.


The performance was just fantastic - among the best shows I've seen them play. (Unless Laura is reading this. In which case: Laura, don't worry, it was terrible.) The songs from the new disc even sounded good - including a surprise Leslie Feist appearance for the duet "You and I" - and the band played several of my favorites, including California Stars, Pot Kettle Black, Passenger Side and A Shot in the Arm.

If I were feeling more enterprising, I'd post a video clip for you (I might add one later), but for now, I thought I'd share one of the only photos I took that actually came out alright. Here are Mikael Jorgensen, Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche and John Stirratt in action. (Not pictured are Nels Cline and Pat Sansone, in case you're keeping track.)



I'm sorry you couldn't catch the concert with me. I'd suggest you make up for it with 3 minutes, 51 seconds of muscial excellence - my favorite Wilco song, Jesus Etc.

* To distinguish them from the Beatles, my favorite group in the half-of-the-band-is-now-dead category.