February 27, 2009

Aquarium design 101

I'm no aquarium architect, but I've gotta assume one of the first things you learn in aquarium architecture school is: Design the tanks so that the seafood... er, I mean, fish... can't open them.

If you're designing fish tanks for a living and you're getting outsmarted by an octopus - as happened this week at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium - it just might be time to find a different line of work. One other thought: It sure was nice of the AP reporter to refer to the mollusk as a "trickster" - you know, instead of referring to the tank designer as a "dumbass."

February 26, 2009


Forgive the self-congratulatory nature of what you're about to read. But as I've written before, it's my blog, so pthththth.

Just wanted to let it be known, in case you're not keeping track, that this little slice of brilliance that I posted yesterday was my 250th post. I think at least six of them have been worth reading, but either way, 250 is a pretty impressive tally, if you ask me. (Or, in this case, if I ask me.)

I'm surprised I've stuck with it this long.

I'm probably forcing a connection here, but the element of surprise reminds me of the funniest thing a waiter said to me last year. (Ten points if you saw that segue coming.) My talented and beautiful wife and I were eating dinner at one of those places that's a half-decent-cafe-inside-a-swanky-movie-theater.

Part way through the meal, our server comes over to ask how we're enjoying the food.

Me: "It's really great!"

Waiter: "Wow! I'm as surprised as you are."


This doesn't change Jon Kyl possibly being a moron

Courtesy of the ultrawonderful GlutenGirl, there's an update on the Washington Post site on yesterday's topic du jour - the challenges facing our nation's capital in its quest to get its very own representative in Congress.

Good sign that there's some progress, today, I guess. But it seems like our brilliant Senators can't just make it easy. Unless I'm missing something, their compromise seems to boil down to this: We'll give ya' your seat in the House, but we'd also like to encourage you to buy more guns. What could possibly go wrong there?

I think you and I both know whose idea this is.*

Thanks, GG!

* I don't really know whose idea it was, but if you take it to mean that there's a chance that Arizona Senator Jon Kyl came up with this horrendous plan, who am I to tell you otherwise?

February 25, 2009

Jon Kyl might be a moron

The last time the junior senator from Arizona was mentioned on SFTC, it was for being one of the dolts who appeared live on TV from the Republican National Convention, unable to pronounce the word pundit properly.

This time, Jon Kyl rates a post because he's one of the federal legislators bold enough to explain why residents of Washington, D.C., still don't have a representative in Congress. Which is strange, because I'm pretty sure those people live in the United States. Washington is part of the U.S., right?

Kyl says D.C. doesn't get a vote in the House, because, well, because of the Constitution. As he explained to the New York Times: “Only states may be represented in the House of Representatives. Not territories, not districts or other federal possessions.” (I think he also added: "Nanny-nanny boo-boo.")

Nice job reading the exact words of the document, jackass. Also, a convenient way to prevent a group of citizens - a group that, if Joe Lieberman's math is correct, is larger than the population of four states - from having a say in federal government. But who's counting?

Now, if only there were a way to, I don't know, add language to the Constitution, or make certain changes to the original document - like if we wanted to give women the right to vote, or end slavery.

I can't help but think Washingtonians are somewhat to blame. I mean, D.C. is, like, sooooo close to where all of those government buildings are. You'd think these people would bump in to a lawmaker now and then. Maybe they could bring it up in conversation.

On the other hand, I think it's kind of cool, kind of ballsy, that the District protests its lack of representation right on its license plates. Where other states have "Live free or die" or "America's dairyland" across the bottom of their plates, D.C. went with this. Very subtle.

I guess if these people really cared about being represented, they could just move a few miles into Maryland or Virginia. Or even West Virginia, which according to their license plates, is "Wild, wonderful."

February 23, 2009

I think James Spader likes Andrew Bird

The musical highlight of my year, so far, was last week's Andrew Bird concert at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A.

I knew I'd like the music - I've been listening to Andrew Bird since I saw him in concert in Chicago at the famed Metro (I think) around the release of The Swimming Hour, which came out in 2001, and I'm now the proud owner of four and a half of his CDs (I used some store credits to download part of The Mysterious Production of Eggs, but never got around to buying the rest). But this show was particularly interesting because of how Bird performs his songs in concert these days. For most of them, he begins by whistling and/or playing violin solos into a microphone and recording them as samples, then playing them back later in the song as backing tracks.

I don't know if that makes sense. Maybe you had to be there - or maybe I need to work harder at writing clearly. Well, anyway, the result is pretty nice to listen to.

In the few days since the show, a few people have asked me, "What kind of music does he play?" And I haven't been able to come up with much of an answer. It's sort of pop, but with classical-inspired violin and world-class whistling, in front of electric guitars and a drum kit. Is there a genre for that? Check out his MySpace page for free samples from his new album and maybe you can come up with something.

Three other things about the concert:
1) It was one of the rare occasions in my concertgoing history that I actually enjoyed the opening act. In this case, the opening act was Loney, Dear, which sounds like the name of a band, but apparently is the stage name of a Swedish* guy (real name: Emil Svanangen), who happens to front a five-piece band. Whatever the case, the music was pretty cool. This might be completely wrong, but I thought it was sort of like Keane, but with a beat.

2) I'm pretty sure James Spader was sitting three rows in front of me. I only caught a quick glimpse, and it was dark, and I mostly could only the back of his head, but still, I'm pretty sure. James, if you're reading this and that wasn't you, I apologize. Hope to see you at another concert in the future, though.

3) Despite the fact that they spell its name with "Theatre" instead of "Theater," the Orpheum is a pretty spectacular venue. Built in 1926, it's further evidence that they really don't make 'em like they used to. This photo doesn't even really do it justice, but it's impossible to imagine anyone building a hall like the Orpheum in 2009:

If you have any excuse to go see anything there, you definitely should.

* Quite a coincidence. A few hours before I wrote this post - which is the only time I've mentioned something Swedish on my blog - SFTC registered its first-ever visitor from Sweden. Seriously, what are the odds? I hope that Swedish person comes back to read about Loney, Dear.

February 22, 2009

In hot water

One of the few things that's even better than a nice, hot shower is a nice, hot shower after the water in your apartment complex has been turned off for the previous 36 hours. I know because I just took such a shower.

At one point during our water-free weekend, I described the situation as "possibly the worst thing in the history of the world." Was that exaggerating? Well, maybe. In any case, I don't think I was too smelly by the end of the ordeal, but I did notice Sampson the Wondercat turn up his nose as he walked by me this morning.*

Anyway, if this ever happens to you and you live near LAX, it turns out the bathrooms at the Bristol Farms grocery store in Playa Del Rey are pretty nice.

* This sentence was added for comic effect and is not technically 100 percent true.

February 20, 2009

Not as easy as it looked

I knew it. I knew all of the hullabaloo around Roland Burris taking the available-to-the-highest-bidder Senate seat from Illinois had died down too quickly and too neatly. No way people were just going to let it be.

Thank the lord this crapfest isn't over yet. We sure do need some more asinine controversy to distract us from important things like moms who have octuplets but can't pay the rent (I know; I'm shocked about that too!) and people-mauling chimpanzees (seriously? wtf?). And Illinois could use some more negative media coverage these days. I mean, clearly, the Land of Lincoln would look awful having the only senator in the country who puts his own self-interest ahead of that of his constituency.

Back to the Burris story for a sec, though. Take a look at the third paragraph of that CNN story. Do you remember, as I do, that after 9-11, everyone - and by "everyone," I guess I mean famous people on TV - said they were going to be really thoughtful about not overusing words like hero and sacrifice? Like that if a New York Jets linebacker made a nice tackle or a movie star lost 20 pounds for a role, we wouldn't have to hear how "heroic" they were? I liked that idea. So I know a lot of time has passed since 2001, but I don't think enough time has passed that it's OK for Pat Quinn to say that Burris giving up his seat now would be "heroic."

February 18, 2009

Sharp observation

I don't really care that A-Rod took steroids for "three years" because now it sort of seems like every baseball player who hit more than 40 home runs in a year during the 90s was taking steroids.

It also doesn't bother me that A-Rod has come across like a moron for the last few weeks because he doesn't get paid to be a genius. He gets paid to hit the crap out of baseballs, which he's very good at.

I did, however, like one thing in particular that he said during yesterday's news conference in Tampa: "I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs." Sure, that makes sense. I don't think they even make Tic Tacs that you can inject in your ass.

That's a lot of "Other"

The new government web site Obama promised - the one that will eventually allow people with a lot of time on their hands to track every dollar being spent as part of the stimulus package - was launched yesterday. You can find it at Recovery.gov.

I find it amusing that, at least for the time being, there's a category marked "Other" that represents $8 BILLION. I guess when the dollar amounts get that small, it makes sense to lump them all in together.

I also find it amusing that the site copy tells us that "this is your money." Kind of makes me want to ask for some of it in the form of a check made out to me, instead of however they've seen fit to spend it.

I do not find it amusing that every goddamn TV commercial I've seen for the last three weeks (casual dining and automakers seem to be the worst offenders) is promoting sales and special deals by calling them "stimulus packages." I guess it could be worse - they could be playing off of the conflict in Iraq by declaring "war on high prices" or something.

February 17, 2009

Five for Friday,* volume 3

Time to get this party started again. I just got back from the Apple, and being on the road temporarily derailed my plan to give you another all-new edition of Five for Friday. (Past entries here and here.)

That actually worked out alright, because I now have five hard-won random thoughts for you.

1. If you're traveling and you forget the handle of your Gillette Fusion razor, but remember to bring your cartridges, all is not lost. It turns out that it is possible to shave by just holding the five-blade cartridge between your thumb and index finger and, basically, hoping for the best. However, your face may not appreciate it very much.

2. There were three things I wanted to eat while in New York: jelly grahams, actual New York pizza (because I've found only one place in L.A. that makes a reasonable facsimile thereof), and a hot dog from a street cart. Sadly, I went a perfect 0 for 3. I had opportunity and I had motive, so it's my fault alone that I didn't make the effort to accomplish my culinary mission. But I'll still blame it on my trainer who has severely dampened my enthusiasm for eating food that... what's the phrase I'm looking for? oh yes... tastes good.

There is an upside, however. When I found the jelly graham link that I used for the preceding paragraph, I learned that Russ & Daughters, purveyors of the only jelly graham you need to know, now sells these life-changing treats online. (I'm pretty sure that last time I checked, everything else on their site was available for delivery except for jelly grahams.) So if I ever decide it's worth 25 bucks (including delivery charge) to eat a dozen graham crackers covered in raspberry preserve, all enrobed in creamy dark chocolate,** I'm all set.

3. Sure, whatever you say, Bill.

4. I'm sure glad I'm not an employee of the state of California. That could really suck. Oh, wait a minute....

5. One might think that if you bore a marked resemblance to the most hated man in New York, you would avoid calling attention to that fact. One might think that - if one had not met my grandfather.

As we approached the front door of a Long Island restaurant Saturday, he turned to the couple walking next to him and asked: "Excuse me, do I look like anyone you've seen in the papers lately?"

* Yes, I realize it's not Friday, but Five for Tuesday just doesn't have the same ring to it.
** I might very well decide that it's worth it, and soon.

February 11, 2009

Feliz cumpleanos

Have you ever asked yourself, "What would the best sister in the world look like, if she were wearing a sombrero?"

If so, you're in luck, because here's the answer:

The photo is from three years ago today, which, not coincidentally, was also her birthday.

You can add your good wishes by clicking the blue "COMMENTS" below.

February 10, 2009

Fairey warning

It was such a nice story - Shepard Fairey's Hope poster being adopted as the iconic, if unofficial, symbol of the Obama campaign. At least here in L.A., by early November, you couldn't get away from the image, which was fine with me. It also was probably fine with Shepard Fairey, who went from extremely-well-known-among-those-in-the-know to plain old extremely famous in the matter of a few months.

Yesterday's news that the Fairey image is now the subject of at least one lawsuit (with another possibly to come) takes a little bit of the shine off - although on the other hand, it also sort of feels like a big publicity stunt. But there's little doubt that the illustration will be around long after any of us.

Now, clearly, the Fairey design has taken on a life of its own. I recently wrote about one example. And today, happily, I stumbled upon another: Yes, people, you can make your very own Fairey-fied image of yourself. Or anyone else you happen to have in a digital photo.

Just go to the Obamaiconme page, upload your picture, and play around with the color palatte until you get the right mix of blue, red and yellow. You might have to register on the site to actually save your image, which... eh... but even if you skip that, it's a nice time-killer.

To give you a little inspiration, I made two of my own, using photos of my superawesome nephews. Max (he's Face) and Jacob look pretty good, don't they?

These guys would get my vote.

February 8, 2009

"Oh god. We have to leave."

You know you're married to a pretty spectacular woman when you're with her at a movie that's ostensibly a chick flick and during one of the movie's romantic high points (relatively speaking) - a moment at which most of the misguided audience let out a collective "awwwww" - your wife turns to you and says the six words in today's headline.

(Strange - six words and movies, that reminds me of something. But what exactly? Hang on, I'll think of it.)

The movie in question? He's Just Not That Into You. My advice: Stay away. Far, far away.

Now, to be fair, there were a handful of things I liked about the movie.
1. For no apparent reason - other than that Ben Affleck's character had a boat - the movie took place in my fair hometown of Baltimore. And it made Baltimore look gooood, man. Exposed brick lofts, exposed brick condos, exposed brick drinking establishments. Come to think of it, there was a really lot of exposed brick. Surely some building in Charm City has plaster walls, right? Anyway...

2. Prominent and tasteful use of a great older song by Wilco (my favorite band, in case I haven't mentioned it). "I Must Be High," recorded way back in '95, was playing in one of the many exposed-brick-bar scenes. Amazing how much better a movie scene gets when there's a Wilco song involved. Do your ears a favor and enjoy this live version.

3. Ben Affleck's character wants to keep a ratty pair of tan cargo pants and his girlfriend, played by Jennifer Aniston, wants him to get rid of them. Which, if the pants were chocolate brown, and if they weren't actually pants, but a very stylish woven necktie, is very similar to an experience I once had.

4. With the big-screen pairing of Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long, I could reminisce about their work as Diane Snyder and Warren Cheswick (I'm not sure why, but I think it was Warren P. Cheswick, right?) in canceled-before-its-time Ed. Which, strangely, is the second Ed reference in the last three weeks on SFTC. That's a new record, for sure.

And yet... and yet... despite those four nuggets of wonderfulness, I really did not like this movie. It's painful to watch people who otherwise seemed intelligent and well-adjusted make wrong decision after wrong decision about their relationships (which I know is realistic; I just don't want to have it crammed down my throat for two hours) and then have to sit there and digest happy endings for, well, more than half of them. Blech.

Also, it's painful to watch all of that nonsense and then have to endure a scene in which the Keane song "Somewhere Only We Know" - actually, it was worse: a sadistically extended version of the Keane song "Somewhere Only We Know" - is played as the background music for one of the incredibly predictable happy endings. Nothing against the song, per se, although if I were in charge of music for this movie, I'd have chosen something else if for no other reason than its appearance in the trailer for The Lake House three years ago. Damn thing still makes me think about bad Keanu Reeves movies. (Is that redundant?)

Oh right! I know what that six-word stuff reminded me of: It's time for a Six-word Movie Review! About two-thirds of the way through the movie, I thought of my six words, and nothing in the last third made me reconsider. I don't think I can top my wife's perfectly chosen half-dozen, and - as she pointed out - using the six-word review you're about to read means I can't use this one again if we see a movie that's (gasp) worse than this one. But I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that won't happen for a very long time. So here goes...

The film: He's Just Not That Into You
The six-word review: Made me want to kill myself.

February 6, 2009

The kid stays in the picture

I'm not sure why being sick all week prevented me from sharing some more of the entertaining-yet-educational homespun wisdom you've come to expect from SFTC. But it did. So here it is: My first post of February.

What caught my eye today was a New York Times article about a Metropolitan Museum exhibit of Walker Evans photographs. You're a pretty enlightened bunch, so even if black-and-white 20th century photos don't make your world go round, I'm hoping you'll find the article worth reading - I did. If not, I admit I'm mostly posting the link for the benefit of Bugs, who actually owns one (or two?) Walker Evans photos. Which I think is very cool.

There was one sentence in the article that seemed particularly encouraging to me:
"Born in St. Louis in 1903 and reared in Chicago, Evans started collecting postcards in grade school, years before he failed at his initial goal of being a writer and took up a camera." [italics mine]

Made me think: Maybe there's hope that I'll make something of myself yet.

Although if the lesson here is that the first step to great artistic success is collecting postcards, that could be difficult. That might mean I'd have to clear out room among my Sports Illustrateds, Wheaties boxes, baseball cards, commemorative state quarters, ticket stubs, and I'll stop there lest you get the impression that I have a problem.

But I do like to pretend once in a while that I can take good pictures. Want to see one? OK, good. Here's a shot from last month in Malibu. I'm sure it'll be in a retrospective somewhere in a few decades. Behold: