January 30, 2009

Five for Friday, round 2

Five for Friday was such a big hit* last time that I thought I'd bring it back for another shot at stardom. Your comments are welcome. I think.

1. I've just been thinking this week that I'd like to check out an event that has circumstance but no pomp. You hardly ever hear about those.

2. This morning, I walked past a former presidential candidate who also happens to be a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, one General Wesley Clark. You know you're big-time when your actual job title - and not some stupid dot-com-era job title that you invented so it would sound like you're soooo out-of-the-box - has "Supreme" in it.**

3. On the way home from the gym last night - feel the burn, baby - we drove past a black SUV with a bumper sticker that made my seriously ravishing wife start cracking up. Luckily, we were on the 405, so of course we were going about 5 miles per hour and we got a good look at it. It was memorable, because it takes a very special bumper sticker to make my wife burst into laughter, let alone proclaim her intent to affix said bumper sticker to her beloved Jeep. What bumper sticker, you ask, could have possibly had such an effect?

Here's the poster-size version for ya'.

But wait, there's more. As we were pulling into the alley behind our apartment, we looked in the garage next to ours and there was the exact car with the crack-up-inducing bumper sticker. Our neighbors have such a good sense of humor. Or maybe they're proud to be Catholic. Eh, either way.

4. It's too bad Blago is out of office now, because when a serious newspaper can have this much fun writing photo captions about him - this image and description were also on the top of the front page of the national edition of today's Times - well, you want that guy to stick around a little longer. (The caption is great not only because The King is in the background of this image, but because G-Rod loves Elvis and frequently talked about him.)

5. My 10 favorite words from the ex-governor's closing statement yesterday? Since you ask, I'll pick these: "I did a lot of things that were mostly right."

* In the same sense that Renee Zellweger's New in Town flick is going to be a big hit.
** Thanks, MediaEmerging.com, for the list of stupid job titles.

January 29, 2009

Hair today, gone... well, gone today also

Politicians never seem to be able to agree on anything. I have often wondered whether there's any single subject that could possibly get an American legislature to vote unanimously. I wonder no more.

All it takes is a little dab of G-Rod.

As you've surely read elsewhere - unless you're nutty enough to come to SFTC as your first choice for breaking news - the Illinois senate voted 59-0 to unload Governor Blagojevich.

In so doing, state senators clearly answered one of the many rhetorical questions Blago asked during his 47-minute closing argument: "How can you throw a governor out of office with insufficient and incomplete evidence?"

Apparently, the ex-gov comparing himself to Gandhi, MLK and... I don't know, did he mention Jesus and Einstein also?... failed to win over his good buddies in the legislature. I know, I'm as surprised as you are.

To celebrate, here's the front page of the Chicago Tribune's web site from this afternoon. If you click to enlarge, you'll see I've circled the vote tally for your reading enjoyment.

January 27, 2009

State of their art

So much bad economic news the last few days that I can't - or won't - even begin to digest it.

But then I read about this. Brandeis University is unloading a pretty impressive collection of fine art as a cost-saving move. Now, as sad news goes, this doesn't compare with the tens of thousands of jobs lost so far this week. Not by a longshot. But amid all of the other gloom, the Brandeis story stands out as a particularly bad sign of the shape we're in.

I mean, I've heard of massive layoffs before. Not sure I've heard of a top-tier university - one with an endowment that's probably still around a half-billion dollars - hocking its paintings in order to make payroll.

So, dude: Anyone need a Warhol?

January 26, 2009

Half the battle is... wait, what?

I remember one time in elementary school, an assistant principal yelled at me for failing to show up for an "important" field trip. I think he told me my absence and blatant disregard for something or other made him feel like he had lost a son. Which was probably a little more melodromatic than the situation called for. (It'll take too long to explain and/or remember all of the details, but the short version of the story is that I didn't show up for the bus because I was sitting in detention. Ironic, right?)

Anyway, I'd think that on any list of "important things to show up for," your own gubernatorial impeachment trial would be high on anyone's list. Anyone, apparently, except for G-Rod.

Speaking of lists, if I keep a list of "favorite paragraphs I read in the New York Times in 2009," I'm pretty sure this one is going to be in the running for No. 1:

“Is the governor present?” Justice Fitzgerald asked the packed but silent chamber. No one answered. An ornate wooden desk reserved for the governor or his defense lawyers sat empty. “Is there anyone present on behalf of the governor?” No one spoke.

(Hey, kids! Don't forget: You can still get your unlimited-edition Free Rod t-shirt right here, from your close personal friends at S and J Market!)

Making short work of the presidency

I thought I'd heard that Obama was 6' 2", but now I'm starting to wonder. Or else maybe Ray LaHood and this Lisa Jackson from the EPA are like 9 feet tall.

No matter his actual height, I was very pleased to read that the new prez is already starting to fix some of the environmental stuff that Bush broke. It's early and these are just baby steps, but they're baby steps in the right direction.

Don't let me down

It would sound like a cliche if I were to write "I can't remember the last new TV show I was actually interested in." But the truth is, I can't remember the last new TV show I was actually interested in.

I guess maybe it was Entourage, but I didn't have HBO when the series started, so by the time I was interested, it wasn't new. And, if you've been following the blog at all (like here, for example), you might get the idea that I really like House, M.D. Which I really really do. But I didn't pick that one up right away either - it wasn't until season two, after my entertainment-savvy and super-gorgeous wife turned me on to it.

That's a pretty amazing failure rate by the people who make TV shows, if you think about it. All of those new programs in the last several seasons - not to mention all of those splashy! edgy! TV ads and bus-stop billboards - and I really couldn't have cared less about any of them.

My point is that I think I'm interested in a new show for the first time in a while. Yes, if tonight's series premiere is any good, I may be seeking a place aboard the Trust Me bandwagon.

It's got your appealing stars, including Tom Cavanagh, who played one of my favorite TV characters of all time and (random fact-that's-probably-interesting-only-to-me alert) who I saw in person in the bowels of Comerica Park* right before the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby in 2005. It's got a promising setting, an ad agency (good) in Chicago (even better). And I don't know how much it matters that the show's producers have a good track record (seems like writers would really be the key), but apparently the show's producers have done The Closer and Nip/Tuck. Neither of which I watch, but I hear they're good.

So if I remember to tune in or set the DVR, I might get you a review later this week. Or view for yourself on TNT, tonight at 10/9 C.

* You're welcome for using the word bowels.

January 21, 2009

All we are saying

... is give piece a chance.

Introducing the brand new T that will take the nation by storm, just as soon as lots of people start wearing them all over the place, talking about them all the time and ... ah, who am I kidding?

Seriously, wouldn't you feel good about starting that kind of national movement just by buying your very own Piece t-shirt from S and J Market? My sister called it "funny." My superfantastic wife said it was "cute."

And, I'm not kidding: They know t-shirts. What more motivation do you need? Get your own today.

January 20, 2009

Cajun you can believe in

One strange byproduct of the inauguration are all of the lost tapes - not to mention lost photo essays or college phone-book listings - coming out of the woodwork from Obama's days as a state senator - or west coast college student or east coast college student.

But my favorite entry in the Obama Lost Tape Derby was the one I read about in my latest email from Zagat (which each week gives me updates on LA. restaurants I generally haven't heard of and can't afford).

It turns out the new prez taped an episode of the entertaining Chicago TV show Check, Please! (which each week reviewed Chicago restaurants I generally hadn't heard of but could afford) when he was a state senator way back in... oh, 2001. And, at least according to Zagat, the episode never aired because - their words, not mine - "the producers felt he wasn't 'amateur' enough."

See, it's not easy being a Great Orator.

What I liked even better was that the restaurant Obama chose to review was the Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Hyde Park, where I enjoyed all manner of blackened and fried tastiness more than once during my years in the tundra. Hey, maybe I ate with the future prez!

The Chicago public TV station that carries Check, Please made the very sensible decision to air the Obama episode this week. But - assuming this magic link works - you should be able to watch it right here. Oh, you're welcome.

Also, that photosynth thing on CNN's web site is extra-way-super-mind-bogglingly cool. I want one.

What a site

January 20, 2009. The opening screen on whitehouse.gov. Just: Wow. Wow.

January 16, 2009

Five for Friday

To round out the work week, here are five unrelated thoughts, with a minimum of explanation.

1. I don't know how long it'll survive the cola wars, but I have to say: Coke Zero actually isn't too bad. I'm not sure if it has all of the proverbial "cola taste" but it's got most of it.

2. In-n-Out Burger is, to be sure, fun to say the first 18 or 19 times. But their burgers? Vastly, vastly overrated. I'll take Fatburger or Carl's Jr. any day of the week and thrice on Sunday. Shoot,* I'd take McDonald's, Wendy's and BK, for that matter. And I'm glad In-n-Out potatoes are peeled on site and their fries are cooked in non-something-or-other oil. However, I am not glad that they taste like styrofoam. Memo to everyone else in L.A.: Get over it.

3. Neckties are just really stupid. Maybe this has already occurred to you - if not, indulge me and think about it for 20 seconds. What is their point? I say this as a former necktie devotee, and one of the founders of my high school's short-lived Twelfth Grade Tie Club.**

4. I strongly believe that if you listen to this song by the Redwalls, you'll be in a better mood after the song than you are now.

5. Go Ravens.

* Too much?
** I'm somewhat serious, and no, it was not a private school.

January 15, 2009

Looks like I traded up

The palm trees and everything that goes with them tend to convince me that L.A. ain't too bad a place to live.

Having logged 13 years in Chicago, though, I was a pretty big fan of that city, too. I'd tell anyone who asked, and many who didn't, that among the best places to live, no big city on earth could top it. I'm not positive that I was correct - for one thing, I haven't been to every big city on earth - but I do know I was being enthusiastic, which should count for something.

Today, I noticed that the big city's biggest newspaper is running a ticker on its web site showing time elapsed since the temperature went below zero - and that this ticker seems to be going strong toward hour 13. Not sure how well the image will show up, but I put a handsome blue circle around the ticker for you:

Page image was shopped a bit so I could give you the ticker and the Tribune banner without the story about Roland Burris' swearing-in getting in the way.

Also, probably not a good sign when one of the site's top stories runs under the headline: "Why do you live here? 'My wife makes me,' and other excuses."

I'm a loyal person and I still remember Chicago very fondly. But I'm not sure there's any amount of civic pride that makes sub-sub-sub-freezing temperatures feel better. These palm trees are looking better every day.

January 14, 2009

Going to the great Fantasy Island in the sky

God speed, Ricardo Montalban.

This might be a little insensitive, but I'm wondering if the interior of his casket will feature soft Corinthian leather. (The phrase was often mistakenly imitated by comedians - or whoever else imiated Ricardo Montalban - as "rich Corinthian leather," but it turns out the leather was soft, not rich.)

Quick aside: If you click the Corinthian link above, you'll be treated to a video of Montalban in an ad for the 1975 Chrysler Coronado. The actor is great. The car? Well, I know it was 34 years ago, but let's just say that seeing vomit-inducing styling like that, it becomes much easier to understand why American automakers are now begging for help.

Why I'm glad my last name isn't Dolphiner or Patrioter

Because, for one thing, both of those are pretty wacked-out* last names.

For another, if one of those were my last name - and then I became mayor of a city with a team in the NFL's American Football Conference, which, let's face it, is a very real possibility - then I might have to pull a stunt like this.

Which is pretty stupid. But on the other hand, how could any self-respecting politician pass up an opportunity like that?

* One of my Aunt Karen's favorite expressions. It's her birthday today. So I mentioned her on SFTC instead of sending a present. I know, I'm all heart.

January 12, 2009

Shirts I wouldn't wear, part 74*

I seem to have an unnatural obsession with messages on t-shirts lately. I can't figure out why that is. (Resisting urge to ... post ... link ... to ... Zazzle.) (Can't resist. Here's the link that explains the obsession.)

I bring this up because I just walked past a young woman - late teens, maybe early twenties - wearing a shirt that said, and I'm not paraphrasing, even slightly, "Have you hugged my shirt today?"

Unless you want lots of strange people groping you - and the kinds of people who would follow through on that offer are probably the people you'd least want to follow through on it - wearing that shirt in public seems like a pretty bad idea.

* Not really part 74, but I always enjoy** when people write stuff like that. This is actually just the first installment of "Shirts I wouldn't wear."

** "Enjoy" is probably a little bit strong. In truth, I find it very annoying, unless the thing you're reading is, in actuality, the 74th part. But that's almost never the case.

Steal your face

In what was perhaps the weirdest news I heard all week:

Apparently, when he's wearing a hat and you look really quickly at him, my grandfather bears a passing resemblance to Bernard Madoff, pictured here.

Thanks a whole bunch for the photo, Kathy Willens/AP Photo and ABCNews.com

Which is either sort of creepy-cool or just extremely creepy, depending on what time of day you ask me. Of course it also means there's an outside chance that - because of genetics and all - I will look like Bernard Madoff by the time I'm 80. But by then, Madoff will be about 115, and probably still in jail, so I don't think anyone will notice.

This all came up the other day when Grandpa was sitting with my aunt in NYC. Where, as you might know, Madoff is a pretty big celebrity these days. So my aunt noticed someone excitedly glancing over in their direction and whispering on his cell phone, "I think it's him!" After she set the guy straight, she asked my grandfather to remove his hat so there would be no further confusion.

I know you'd like to see my grandfather's photo so you could compare for yourself. But I don't want him to be bothered by the paparazzi, so just add a hat and a heart of gold to the photo above, and you're almost there.

January 9, 2009

Don't walk... run!

... to get yourself the hot new T-shirt from S and J Market.

The latest design is a tribute to the bustling metropolis of Norwalk, Conn., which is where the company I used to work for is based. (That sentence is phrased awkwardly partly because I didn't actually work there - I worked from home and just visited when they had Christmas parties and summer barbecues, which came out to roughly twice a year - and partly because I don't have the juice right now to figure out a better way to write it.)

As my former colleagues could attest (that's you, LDog!), I talked frequently, probably way too much, about my brilliant idea for a Norwalk t-shirt. Now, that idea has become a very wearable reality.

This S and J exclusive is sure to be the must-have clothing item for a very small number of trendy fashionistas for 2009! (And fashionistos, too. Since you're wondering, Yes, it's available in men's sizes.)

Take a look...

... and then click on over!

In other, less self-promotional news, Andrew Bird and his new CD have been getting almost Britney-size media coverage lately! Some of the hype started before I wrote my blog post about the new album, so I'm not taking all of the credit, but I will take a little.

If you're interested, which you should be, the New York Times ran this nice profile. But even cooler is Bird's latest entry in a sometimes fascinating New York Times blog that's written by a handful of songwriters - the neatest part is the audio clips of one new song as it evolved from demo to album. And on this page on NPR's web site, there's a link that'll let you listen to the entire new disc for free! Which is a pretty good deal.

January 7, 2009

Hold that line!

Way to stand your ground, U.S. Senators!

You really did an awesome job sticking to your guns when it came to your pledges that - I'm paraphrasing a little - "No way in hell!" would someone appointed by Illinois' embattled governor G-Rod be allowed to take over Barack Obama's senate seat.

You dug in your heels. You held news conferences. And you held out for, what was it, about two days after Congress reopened for business? You sure showed that Roland Burris. He might have to wait like a whole week before he gets to change his first name to Senator.

With such steadfast commitment to your beliefs, it is truly amazing that you're not more effective at doing your job - fondling interns. I mean, governing the United States.

Do you believe in gosh?

I'm certainly not saying the message is wrong, but I think the folks behind the Athiest Bus Campaign in London might need some help with their marketing strategy.

Because if there's one thing that blows about organized religion, it's that part where adherents try to convince everyone else that they're right and you're wrong.

And putting that message on a big bus ad? Yeah, I don't think that's going to help. Although people are usually so rational about their religious beliefs - I'm sure they'll want to take time to reconsider when they see "There's probably no god" whizzing by them in traffic.

Now, a quick word about the title of today's post: I thought the god-gosh thing made it appropriate to the theme of this entry. But it's a dual-purpose title. Because it's also the name of a very funny Mitch Hedberg CD that was released posthumously (first use of that word on SFTC, I'm pretty sure) a few months ago.

As astute SFTC readers know, the very name of this blog is a rip-off of a Mitch joke. I like to think of him as the patron saint of my site, although I'm not really sure if there is such a thing.

One funny clip from Do You Believe in Gosh (the CD, not the post you're reading) has Hedberg, during a live performance, observing that there's an "Improv" sign somewhere on the stage, before adding, "I had a bad set here last night and they added an E to the end of the sign." Later, he asks: "Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus... or a really cool opotamus?"

More Mitch-isms here. Long live Mitch.

January 6, 2009

At least they didn't spell it "sirveigh"

I think the people who conceived and/or executed this survey are a little dumb.

Here's why I say that: If you're attempting to reveal the cities Americans named as our "favorite and least favorite cities to live and work" - never mind that the phrase is missing a well-placed "in which" - you might want to make sure you wind up with two distinct lists.

I'm no statistician, but I'd think a credible survey would produce 10 cities on the favorites list and - see if you can follow me here - 10 different cities on the lineup of least favorites.

Not this survey, which tells us that exactly four out of 10 - again, not a statistician, but that's gotta be right around 40 percent - four out of 10 cities that the greatest number of respondents are dying to live in are also among the 10 cities where we really don't want to live.

For the record, Chicago (which surely deserves its place on the faves list), Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York were named in both Top 10s. Or the Top 10 and the Bottom 10. Or whatever.

On the other hand, the report does include the astute revelation that "Detroit has a bit of an image problem." Ya' think?

Now that I think about it, that observation about Detroit makes the news item my favorite one of the year, as well as my least favorite.

January 5, 2009


It might have been irrational, but I was hoping that the arrival of the new year would mean that every radio station in Los Angeles would see fit to rethink the gargantuan amount of airplay they're giving Coldplay's Viva la Vida. I was thinking somewhat less than once every 16 minutes would have been great, but so far, no such luck. (If you're somewhere other than L.A., is it this bad in your town?)

Which reminds me: When the song first came out last year, a group-you've-never-heard-of called the Creaky Boards made a big stink about Viva sounding very similar to one of their songs. At the time, it seemed like they had a point, although I think my brain has been chemically altered by hearing the Coldplay version six times a day for the last year, so I have no idea if they've got a case.

Then, while searching for that Creaky Boards video, I discovered that quasi-cult-hero-guitarist Joe Satriani waited until December to decide that Viva also sounds eerily similar to an instrumental he wrote in 2004. Again, I can't tell because my mind has been Coldplayed into submission.

If there's one thing you can learn from all of this, it's that the dude from Creaky Boards has an insane mustache.

Flipping you the Bird

OK, time to get this party started again.

It was around this time last year that I was reveling in the discovery - thanks to a "Best of 2007" recap on NPR's All Songs Considered - of a handful of CDs (or downloads or whatever we're calling them now) that would quickly go into frequent rotation on the ol' iPod. The latest releases by Ray LaMontagne, Arcade Fire and The National, none of whom I'd listened to before, were particular favorites. I liked The National's "Boxer" and Ray LaMontagne's "Till The Sun Turns Black" so much that I eventually also bought earlier albums by both of them.

Another disc I picked up last year was Armchair Apocrypha, the 2007 album by Andrew Bird. I had been a big Bird fan back in my wild-n-crazy Chicago days*, mostly on the strength of The Swimming Hour, which he recorded with his excellently named band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. But the next few albums didn't really do it for me and I was nonplussed by his performance at Lollapalooza** in 2006 (although that might have been because I was wearing a cast on my foot and it was roughly 300 degrees), so when I finally heard Armchair last December, it was like a big sonic hug.

The point of all of this is that I was very pleased to learn that Mr. Bird is playing a show here in L.A. next month to support another new album... and even more pleased to learn that Ticketmaster let me pay them all sorts of ridiculous surcharges (seriously, why don't they also add 10 percent for the privilege of looking at their web site?) to secure two pretty decent seats to said show. And even more pleased, if that's even possible, that the world's most beautiful wife has agreed to attend said (said?) show with me. Because going to concerts on school nights isn't usually her thang.

In a very hackneyed sense - a hackneyed, musical recommenation sense - I guess you could say I just gave you the Bird. Which might not really be that funny, but for reasons that'll become clear in about five seconds, it reminds me of a strange thing I saw during our mini-vacation last week.

We were sitting at an outdoor table, waiting for our food at this ridiculously great roadside cafe in Big Sur, when we heard a car horn followed by the distinctive metal thud-crunch of two cars colliding. Being native East Coasters, we fully expected a nasty brouhaha, or a at least a kerfuffle or set-to. Certainly, someone could have - you saw this one coming, right? - flipped someone else the bird.

So we turned to watch the crashee, a twentysomething woman, jump out of her Hyundai. Realizing her car had sustained no noticeable damage, she broke into a huge grin and crowed to the crasher, a seventysomething man in a Jaguar: "It's all good! Noooo problem!"

And then, as if to remind everyone watching that we were squarely in the middle of the land of the supremely laid-back - and I'm not making this up - she hopped over to the guy who had just backed into her car and gave him an emphatic high-five. "It's totally OK," she gushed. "Plus, it's a rental car anyway! I don't care."

A little hard to imagine the situation going down the same way back home. Kumbaya, my lord. Kumbaya.

* Not actually very wild-n-crazy.
** See? A tiny bit wild-n-crazy.