April 29, 2009

In which I atone for skipping most of my 10th grade English assignments

I don't really remember much about my 10th grade* English class, other than:

1) It took place in what the school euphemistically called a "relocatable classroom," or what we students more accurately called a "trailer next to the baseball field."

2) Although we did have your run-of-the-mill high school English homework - like writing b.s. essays about Red Badge of Courage (which, come to think of it, I don't think I ever actually read) - our teacher, Mr. Mann, was pretty cool and let us spend most of our class time on crosswords, seeing who among us could finish that day's puzzle first. Which I liked because - and I don't mean to brag - it was usually me.

3) One other run-of-the-mill aspect of the class was that we had to write poetry. For an entire semester, most of our grade was based on our ability to put together rhyming couplets and stanzas and AABB stuff.

Now, despite what you may guess by reading this artfully crafted blog, I could never make my brain produce poetry. I'd sit there and stare at my notebook paper, pen in hand, and just... nothing. I didn't get it (I still don't) and I didn't want to. So when it was time to hand in each new assignment, I'd basically walk up to the teacher, shrug my shoulders and keep on walkin'.

And yet, despite the fact that I handed in not a single poem, the teacher gave me a B+ for the semester. Clearly, he took pity on me - but I think he justified handing out the decent mark because he loved crossword puzzles and he had watched me strut my crossword stuff all year.

And now, I get to my point: If you read the comments that followed my ingenious post from yesterday, you know that there was a near uproar - can two people typing blog comments create an uproar? - about the fact that I hadn't yet shared my thoughts about... swine flu.

Clearly, what this world needs is more analysis of this unimaginable pandemic that, despite being unimaginable and a pandemic, has caused only a few deaths and a few dozen illnesses. So today I kill two birds with one blog post: I shall break my silence on swine flu and, simultaneously (Mr. Mann, are you reading?), finally, write a few of those poems that escaped me in 10th grade.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: It's Swine Flu Haiku.

The only problem is that I wrote two and couldn't decide which one I liked better. Since SFTC is all about interactivity, I invite you to vote for Haiku One or Haiku Two - and/or write one of your own. (Remember, it's 5 syllables / 7 syllables / 5 syllables.) Just click that Comments text below and start writing!

Here we go:
swine flu all the rage
but not many confirmed sick;
octopi retreat

octopus news fades
while swine flu gets the headlines.
some epidemic!

* Actually, I don't even remember if this was 10th grade, or 9th or 11th. But it took place in high school for sure, and the rest of the information is accurate. So if I'm off by a year, sue me.

April 28, 2009

Thanks for your vote, suckers

I was just noticing that my computer keyboard at the office has much less cat hair on it (and in it) than my computer keyboard at home.

Which has almost nothing to do with the fact that I just read - thanks to a tweet from your good buddy George Stephanopoulos - that Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter is switching parties, and is now the Senate's newest Democrat. That's great for Democrats: Assuming Norm Coleman ever gives up (seriously, this is still going on?), the Dems will have the all-important fillibuster-proof 60 seats that they need to very efficiently continue their investigations of important issues like steroids in sports. So I'm happy about that.

Still, it does seem somewhat unfair to the Keystone State Republicans who voted for him - personally, party affiliation is one of those little things I'd want to know before casting my ballot. On the other hand, I think those people are the ones who were busy clinging to their guns and religion, so no big loss.

April 23, 2009

Thanks for your purchase, you irresponsible dolt

Picture this scenario and tell me if you think it would be bad marketing:

A customer walks in to his local Ben & Jerry's scoop shop - perhaps to order a cup of SFTC's current fave, coconut seven layer bar ice cream with hot fudge... mmmmm... yeahhhhh... Oh, sorry, where was I? - and after he pays up, grabs a couple of those useless half-napkins and enjoys that first creamy bite, the kid behind the counter says something like this:

"Thank you for buying our ice cream. You realize, of course, that all of that fat and calories and fat and sugar and fat are going to kill you eventually, so we'd like to invite you to go get a gym membership. Have a good day."

Hard to believe, right?

Yet that's the feeling I got when I read this Earth Day promotional email from your good friends at United Airlines (click image to enlarge):

Maybe it's just me, but here's how I read this message: "Thanks for flying the friendly skies. You realize, of course, that by using our product, for which we charge you lots of money, you're basically going to destroy the earth's atmosphere. So we'd like to invite you to try counterbalancing your utter disregard for the environment by making a monetary contribution to a fund of our choice."

Why doesn't United just make its own donation? Me? I think I'll hang on to my $15. I'll need it so I can afford to check my suitcase the next time I fly. But thanks for asking.

Performance anxiety; Or, the return of Zac Efron*

If I learned one thing last night, it's that whenever Hollywood types are making a movie that calls for a young fellow who can act, pull off a few somewhat-convincing basketball moves and dance like there's no tomorrow, those Hollywood types call upon Zac Efron. The kid is clearly building a niche for himself.

I learned that because I went out to the show last night to see 17 Again. (You understand, "again" is just part of the movie's name; this was actually the first time I had watched it.) (Yeah, that was terrible. Sorry.)

Sadly, I do not have a patented Six-word Movie Review for you. Instead, I offer these three thoughts about 17 Again:
1) The world's most beautiful wife thoroughly enjoyed it;
2) I was well outside of the target audience**;
3) If you're the kind of moviegoer who would enjoy High School Musical meets 13 Going on 30 meets Clueless, you should stop what you're doing right now - well, after you read the rest of this post - and make a mad dash for your local cineplex.

Last weekend, I saw another movie that was a little more my speed - Every Little Step, a documentary about the casting of the revival of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line. (Not to be confused with Bobby Brown's 1988 hit song of the same name.)

That might not sound like the basis for an edge-of-your-seat movie, but ELS was really impressive. More than 3,000 actors showed up for an open call audition, and the directors focus on a handful of the front-runners for A Chorus Line's lead roles, through the ups and downs of the year-long audition process. For historical perspective, they weave in video and audio clips about the creation of the original show in the 1970s.

I have good memories about A Chorus Line to begin with because my grandparents took my sister and me to see it when we were kids - in fact, I remember my parents being gravely concerned that we would be scarred for life by hearing someone sing about her tits and ass. (Obviously, they were right.)

It's a rare and interesting look inside the grueling, anxiety-inducing process (apparently it was a big deal to get the actors' union to agree to let them film the auditions) and the personalities of the people who pin all their hopes on their ability to sing, dance and act well enough to make it through the next audition.

The movie is only open in select theaters, which as you know is movie code for "New York and L.A." (because who loves singing and dancing more than, well, New York and L.A.?), and it's scheduled to start playing in theaters in "real America" beginning May 8. For some strange reason, it won't open in Boise until late July, so if you're checking in from the greater Boise region, you might want to bookmark this page and come back to it after Independence Day. Otherwise, click here to see when it opens near you. When it does, give it a look.

* Thought I might pull in a few new readers this way.

** And in case you needed more evidence: In one scene, the main character looks nostalgically at a really really really old picture of his younger self - from his senior year of high school. Another character points out, in near disbelief, that the photo is from "Nineteen eighty-NINE!" Which is the same year I graduated from high school. Ech.

April 21, 2009

Canceled? Check.

Apparently, I'm the last person with Internet access to find this out, but nobody at TNT thought to email me personally to let me know. (I thought we had an arrangement.) Turns out they announced more than a week ago that despite not one but two positive mentions on SFTC, the bastards are canceling Trust Me. Not cool, TNT. Not cool.

In other TV-related news: If ever someone needed to consult with a p.r. person before going on camera, this guy is that someone. As part of an expose on dangerous air quality inside ice rinks - yet another reason I probably will not take up ice hockey this year - ESPN went to interview the owner of a Tampa facility about the sudden illness of several hockey players and a coach, apparently from the fumes from the rink's Zamboni.

Ice rink owner dude started out fine - handing the reporter hard copy of a prepared statement and insisting that would be his only comment. (You probably don't want to watch the whole video, so just click here and skip ahead to the 4:00 mark.) But he couldn't let it go. And he started getting very defensive. And basically the only way he could have come across worse is if he had thrown one of the sick kids under the Zamboni. Or said this.

April 17, 2009

P.U. D.I.Y. (Possibly unnecessary do-it-yourself)

Look at me with the acronyms.

I know the new economy is supposed to be all about putting the consumer in charge. (Either that or putting the consumer into bankruptcy - I forget which.)

So lots of companies have responded by introducing products that let the customer design their own product. Hence the rise of those Mongolian BBQ restaurants where you pick all of your own ingredients before the chef fries it all up for you. (By the way: Really? That's how they roll in Mongolia?) And that's why Nike and Puma have web sites that let you choose the colors and design of your tennis shoes. (Hey, Puma even calls their service "Mongolian Shoe BBQ." Seriously, I had no idea Mongolians were such do-it-yourselfers.)

Me? Unless I'm getting paid for my vegetable-and-spice selecting abilities, I'm happy to go to a restaurant and let the chef actually do all of the work - including determining how many water chestnuts and how much paprika to use. And the shoe companies employ professional shoe designers, I'm pretty sure. People who probably went to school for this stuff. Given the same palette of colors and materials, I'm pretty sure they'll design a better shoe than I could.

But I'm a little bit torn about the latest entry into the do-it-yourself pantheon. Because Kettle Chips, which makes the absolute best potato chip in the history of crisped vegetable snacks (see the first bullet point here), has introduced a make-your-own-potato-chip-flavor kit.

That is, they send you a few bags of naked chips and seven packets of seasoning - lemon butter, caramelized onion (the carmelized part seems weird because it's in powder form, but whatever), roasted tomato, cheddar, vinegar, sweet chili and sour cream & chive - that you can mix and match to create what is sure to be either a snack that is uniquely suited to your personal preferences or - and this seems like a distinct possibility - a truly frightening combination of powdered flavor granules.

So, I'm on the fence here. On the one hand, Kettle Chips has done a pretty good job coming up with a flavor I dig (namely spicy thai). On the other, I'm sort of curious what a lemon butter-cheddar-onion-vinegar potato chip would taste like.

April 16, 2009

What a character

As I'm sure you read in yesterday's riveting post, I've been tagged into a sick and twisted game of Name Your 10 Favorite Movie Characters. Proper blog etiquette dictates that I have no choice but to follow the lead of other distinguished bloggers who have come before me, and I'm nothing if not, uh, etiquetious? Etiquetteful? Wait, does etiquette have an adjective form? What is going on here?

OK, sorry, back to the movies.

Once upon a time, I kept a running list of my 10 favorite movies. Sad but true. Until yesterday, though, I had never really thought about favorite characters, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with 10 strong entries. Turned out the problem was narrowing the list down. So, before you get to the good stuff, here are five favorites who just missed making the cut: Tony Stark (Iron Man), Roy Hobbs (The Natural), Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark) (Duh), Jason Bourne (take your pick) and Willy Wonka (the Johnny Depp version, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

And, also before you get to the list, make a commitment right now - I know you can do it. Leave a comment below telling us all who your favorite movie characters are. Doesn't have to be 10, but enlighten us a little bit.
And now, in no particular order:

Jake Gittes – Chinatown
A 1940s L.A. private eye who was consistently pissed off, but also consistently interesting and entertaining. Gittes would make the list just for how he delivers the great line at the end of this clip alone - one of my favorite movie quotes ever. Also, Chinatown is possibly the best movie ever, so this gives me a chance to insist that if you haven't already seen it, rent it. Like, immediately.

Benjamin Braddock – The Graduate
For a character who wasn't conventionally cool, Ben did OK for himself (see: Robinson, Mrs.; and Robinson, Elaine). I'm trying to put my finger on what else I liked so much about him, and I guess one thing is how he is apparently liked by his elders but doesn't seem to care at all about what they think.

In one great scene, his parents tell him that his post-college plan sounds half-baked, to which he nonchalantly replies, "No, it's not. It's completely baked." Also, for example, this.

The Joker – Batman: The Dark Knight
Me, before leaving the theater (which was also wayyyy before I knew I'd have to write this whole entire list): “I would pay to watch that movie again right now with just his scenes edited together.”

Sam – Garden State
The ultimate quirky-cool-creative-fearless (good combo, right?) movie girlfriend. Extra points for introducing Largeman (and many of the rest of us) to music by The Shins.

Creasy – Man on Fire
Creasy appears simultaneously to be falling apart and totally in control. Watching him, you can't help but think that a guy who seems to have a death wish is maybe not the best choice for a bodyguard for your 10-year-old daughter in Mexico City. And yet, you're confident because this is a guy who just gets things done.

Don Logan – Sexy Beast
I know this list is for favorite characters - not actors - but the completely psychotic Don Logan makes the Top 10 specifically because it's hard to imagine this intense, terrifying ferocity coming out of the same actor who played Gandhi. That might sound pretentious, but we are talking about Sir Ben Kingsley. [Until I find something embed-able, you'll have to click the text link to watch a trailer. Sorry for the.... nevermind.]

Floyd – True Romance
Nobody on this list had as little screen time as Brad Pitt’s character in True Romance. I’m not normally super-amused by stoner humor, but Floyd just needs about 30 seconds to crack me up. I rented this movie last year pretty much just to watch his scenes.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Amadeus
I wonder if it's OK to include actual historical figures on this list. Yes, I have decided it is.
While I realize others probably found Tom Hulce's frequent giggling a little bit grating, Wolfie makes the 10 Best for making me feel like I was watching absolute genius in action - even if he was half-nuts. Bonus points for you if you recognize the dude playing the emporer in this clip and can name the other 1980s movie he was most associated with.

Vicomte de Valmont – Dangerous Liaisons
John Malkovich's character is evil, but so much fun. Well, until the whole swordfight thing.

Juno MacGuff – Juno
Wise-cracking, fast-talking, cute as all get out? Check, check and check. But she’d make the list just on the basis of “most romantic use of Tic Tacs."

And that makes 10. Your comments, please....

April 15, 2009

New York's archbishop, now in economy size

The New York Times web site today featured coverage of the installation of Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

I'm not Catholic, so I have to admit this photo really made me wonder: Are all archbishops like 10 times taller than the other clergymen, or is this guy just a freak of nature? See for yourself:

(Click to enlarge)

In other news, Daddy Geek Boy posted a list of his 10 Favorite Movie Characters (thankfully, he didn't specify "Of All Time," because that phrase is so often redundant), and then tagged me and a few other bloggers to compile our own 10 Best lists. So I've got my first-ever blog-related homework.

SFTC's crack research team has already begun culling video clips from our extensive library*, and you can expect to read the official SFTC list within the next day or two. Yeah, I can tell: You're holding your breath.

* YouTube.

April 14, 2009

Insanity, thy name is slightly altered obscure political quotes

Yesss! G-Rod is back in the news, baby.

Read all about Blagojevich's latest court appearance! Buy a handsome commemorative t-shirt designed by the creative team behind SFTC! (While supplies last.*) Brush the hell out of your hair!

Aside from feeling a reassuring sense that there's probably plenty of mockability left in the case of the former Illinois governor, I gleaned one other thing from today's coverage. I'm no legal expert, so I'm not really sure if it's even possible to plead insanity in response to the charges Blago is facing. But I think that's where he's headed.

Because if you need to make yourself look certifiably nutso, misquoting a little-known Teddy Roosevelt line seems like a good way to go.

The New York Times, describing Blago's post-game press conference outside the federal building in Chicago: “Black care never catches a rider whose pace is fast enough,” Mr. Blagojevich said at one point, offering a slight permutation on something Theodore Roosevelt once said. “You got that?”

You bet, G-Rod. We've got it. Loud and clear.

* I don't think they're in danger of running out, since I've sold roughly zero of these so far. (I know, shocking, right?) (But, still, you should definitely place your order today.)

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Remembering Harry

Hall of Fame sports announcer Harry Kalas died yesterday. I was fortunate enough to meet him once, a few years ago, when I was working as the spotter for a national radio broadcast of a Chicago Bears game that Mr. Kalas was announcing.

I was probably a bit awestruck - he really was a legend - so I don't think I talked to him other than to introduce myself a few minutes before the game started. But it was such a treat to hear that iconic baritone in person. Hard to explain, but I guess it was the sports fan's equivalent of sitting on stage while Yo Yo Ma played a cello concerto. He was completely prepared, completely in control, and - unlike some other big-name announcers I met in the booth - completely unassuming. Other than that, I only have two memories of that experience.

One is that this man who made a living off of his voice regularly snuck cigarettes during timeouts. Of course, smoking wasn't allowed in the radio booth, but who was going to stop Mr. Kalas? (Apparently the cigarettes were an open secret - a few Philadelphia Phillies players lit up yesterday in what I thought was a fairly odd tribute.)

The other is that Campbell's Chunky soup ads played during a few of the commercial breaks. At the time, the ads were narrated by Mr. Kalas because of his close association with NFL football. And each time they came on, the radio producer would call out to those of us in the booth, "Ka-Ching!" - the sound of another Campbell's royalty check for the announcer - which got a chuckle out of Mr. Kalas.

Unfortunately, that was about the extent of my interaction with the master, but thinking about the time I sepnt in the radio booth at Soldier Field reminds me of one funny story.

A year or two earlier, I was in the booth for a Sunday night game and the temperature was probably about 10 F, with a wind chill below zero. And for some reason, the window to our booth had to stay open, which was... awesome. I think I was wearing about three pairs of pants and six shirts and sweaters under some kind of arctic parka, none of which seemed to make a difference.

I forget who the play-by-play announcer was that day, but former NFL running back John Riggins was handling color commentary. Every few minutes during the broadcast, the announcers would remind listeners how freaking cold it was, which must have made for great radio. Anyway, during a commercial break, someone from the radio crew mentioned to John that, despite the frigid conditions, the guy sitting behind us who was working the controls was not - I repeat, not - wearing socks.

As soon as he got back on the air, John shared this with the national radio audience: "They just told me that Mike, our sound guy, isn't wearing socks. That reminds me of something John Wayne once said in a movie. 'Life is hard. But it's especially hard when you're stupid.'"

April 12, 2009

Great moments in natural selection, part 1

No comment needed about this awesome story out of Germany.

Well, except that I'd probably rewrite the lead paragraph. So instead of this:
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A polar bear attacked a woman at Berlin Zoo Friday afternoon after she climbed a fence and jumped into its habitat during feeding time, police said Saturday.

... it would read more like this:
BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A complete idiot was unfortunately rescued after she was moronic enough to throw her stupid body into a polar bear habitat at Berlin Zoo Friday afternoon, police said Saturday.

April 10, 2009

Five for Friday, part 4

Welcome to the long-awaited return of FfF. Apparently, it has been seven weeks since I've been able to come up with five comment-worthy subjects on a Friday, although - judging by what you're about to read - perhaps I should have waited seven more. You be the judge.

1. The good thing about Five for Friday is that even if each of the five items I write is only 21 percent as interesting as a standard SFTC post, you, the reader, still come out ahead.

2. As I've mentioned once before, for the last few years, I have been interested in approximately zero new TV series. Which was probably a good thing, since it gave me more time to do useful things like play word games on Merriam-Webster.com. Oh, yeah, and exercise.* Unfortunately, I'm at least moderately into four shows that have debuted since January. (How did network TV programmers know that one of my new year's resolutions was "watch way more television"?)

First among them is Trust Me, which follows Ed and Will (actually Conner and Mason, but you probably get what I mean) and their coworkers at a Chicago ad agency. Random Chicago references, the marketing world, and a good cast were enough to keep me tuning in the first few weeks, even though I thought it was all taking a while to come together. But either my senses have been dulled or Trust Me has sort of hit its stride in the last two weeks, and it's now a must-watch for me. The banter between the two main characters is always entertaining (not quite Rory-and-Lorelai-esque, but not bad) and Monica Potter's Sarah Krajicek-Hunter character (or maybe just Sarah Krajicek now) keeps getting more fun to watch.

I've also been tuning in to Lie to Me, perhaps because the name sounds so similar to Trust Me and I want to make sure I don't miss any Chicago ad agency hijinks. But also perhaps because it's almost exactly like House, M.D. - except that instead of watching Hugh Laurie unravel medical mysteries in spite of the lies his patients tell, we're watching Tim Roth unravel crime mysteries in spite of the lies his suspects tell.

Quickly, the other two shows I might have to keep watching are Castle, which manages to overcome major believability gaps because of the great lead characters, and The Unusuals, which debuted this week. Think of it as NYPD Blue meets... hmm... Mystery Men, except with less screen time for Dennis Franz's ass. It's tough to gauge after one episode, but if the Unusuals keeps up the uber-quirkiness combined with semi-realistic stories, I'll stay tuned.

3. Admit it. If you read a news story about a top-ranking intelligence official being photographed holding papers marked "SECRET" (apparently in capital letters, so you know it's serious) in such a way that the information on those papers was legible to anyone who zoomed in on the photo, well, you'd assume that the jackass in question was American. Nope, turns out they grow 'em dumb in England, too.

4. I realize the year is young, but I'd be willing to bet that I Love You, Man will hold its own for the next eight months and remain my favorite comedy of 2009. It wasn't an all-time great by any means, but I was thoroughly entertained and I laughed out loud several times. I'm just concerned that Hollywood is going to be unable to make a decent comedy that doesn't star either Paul Rudd, Jason Segel or Seth Rogen (who, almost miraculously, was not in ILYM) ever again. We'll see.

The movie scored extra points with me because Peter and Zooey (Rudd and Rashida Jones) get married June 30 in Santa Barbara. Which is pretty much exactly what my drop-dead gorgeous wife and I did. Cool, right? That same drop-dead gorgeous wife also made reservations for us at James Beach, the Venice restaurant where Peter and Sydney (Segel) have their first man-date. Fish tacos, here we come.

5. Apparently, someone out there took offense at my posts about octopi threatening to displace pirates as the "it" trend of the decade. Because, in case you missed it, pirates have muscled their way back into the headlines, hijacking stuff, and probably saying aaaargh and letting parrots hang out on their shoulders. I just hope that posting this item doesn't add fuel to the fire in the rivalry between eight-armed sea creatures and swashbuckling buccaneers.

Sadly, I fear we're headed for a massive octopus-vs.-pirate showdown on the high seas, sometime before the end of 2009. If that happens, you can be sure you'll read about it right here. You're welcome.

* Not so much on the exercise.

April 9, 2009

An SFTC public* service announcement

This might be too morbid, I don't know, but in the interest of the safety and security of SFTC readers - my favorite people in the world - I wanted to write a short post advising that you stay away from anything having to do with the Los Angeles Angels** this season.

It's just that they've had a bad run this week, with the death early this morning of a pitcher who had played in last night's game against the Oakland A's, and the death earlier this week of a fan who was beaten up while at the stadium. They're both tragic. But fans getting beaten to death inside stadiums seems like a big marketing problem for Major League Baseball. It's almost sure to erase some of the family-friendly appeal they like to promote.

Sadly, the news about the spectator's death is not hard to believe: As I've written before, I've seen plenty of fights and near fights at Dodger Stadium, including some that got very ugly. When I lived in Chicago, fights at Wrigley Field seemed pretty rare, but they were an occasional problem at U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play.

Even if it means hiring security guards to stand in every seating section of every stadium in the country, MLB and the teams had better do something about fan violence, and quick. Let's keep the violence on the hockey rink where it belongs.

* To the extent that the dozen people who read this can be considered the "public."
** Loree: That's a Major League Baseball team.

April 7, 2009

Mad props

Things and/or people and/or dieties I'm mad at today:

The Michigan State Spartans. Not because I had money on the game, and not because I was particularly pulling for them to win the NCAA men's basketball championship last night - although, clearly, an MSU victory would have solved all of Michigan's problems - but because Sparty was so overmatched that I was bored silly watching the game. Like, fell-asleep-in-the-middle-of-the-first-half bored. That should not happen during March Madness.

(Aside: Whoever came up with all of the college basketball catchphrases - March Madness, Final Four, Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, Clark Kellogg - that person sure liked alliteration.)

Anyway, the game was such a disappointment that I was starved for entertainment, which meant I had to keep the TV on afterward to watch...

The ER series finale. Waiting for me on DVR from last Thursday was two hours of excellent entertainment. A perfectly fitting finale, I thought. I haven't watched ER regularly in about six years, but I thought the writers did a great job of bringing back some of the original characters in ways that actually made sense. Not to mention incorporating the enchanting Alexis Bledel as a young doctor. (One, Had she been a regular for a while? Two, Did I just write enchanting?) Nice also how the story and the action just kept going, right until the end, with little pause for sentiment and mush, a strong bookend to the series premiere.

(Aside 2: As you might remember, ER and Chicago Hope premiered the same week in September 1994. Those really were the salad days for Chicago-based medical ensemble dramas, weren't they? I was pretty sure at the time that Chicago Hope was the one that would be around longer. Oops.)

So why am I mad at ER? Because I was tired before watching ER and I really should have gone to sleep. But after two hours of unusually great TV, I was pretty geared up - I was craving more televised entertainment. Which meant staying up even later to watch me some rerun Letterman. (Which was a great move, because there were Stupid Pet Tricks, including this one, which cracked me way up.) Which means that I'm really freaking tired right now.

The baseball gods. Because on the strength of their Opening Day performances yesterday, I have hope that the Orioles (especially), Cubs and Dodgers all are on their way to the playoffs this year.

Which, because of pitching (Orioles), being the Cubs (Cubs) and pitching (Dodgers), they're probably not. So why did they have to get my hopes up?

Californians. Because now it looks like Iowans get it. And Vermonters (?) get it. And Golden Staters, who always seems to make a racket about being the people who set trends on these kinds of things, still do not get the idea that adults who want to get married should just be able to get married. Period.

That's a lot of mad so far, I know. But the day is young.

April 3, 2009

VIP treatment

From what I can tell, most of the savvy people who read this blog couldn't care less about professional sports. But "writing to my audience" isn't one of my great strengths, so I'm still going to tell you that I am very excited that baseball opening day is this weekend.

(Caveat: No sports knowledge needed to enjoy the rest of this post, I promise.)

Actually, maybe I'm more excited about the idea of opening day than about opening day itself.* Because the one team I really root for, the Orioles, has almost no hope. And although I enjoy the occasional trip to Dodger Stadium, I spent most of my time at Dodgers games last year watching drunken assholes threaten to beat each other up (last half of this post, for example), which is sort of a waste of time.

So to celebrate the beginning of another baseball season, I was trying to come up with an inspiring baseball story for you, and the closest I could get was this fond football-related memory. It'll have to do:

In the early 1980s, my grandfather had a work-related connection that enabled him to become friendly with several New York Jets players and the Jets' head coach, Walt Michaels. Once, as a present, he got Coach Michaels to sign a green-and-white business card that proclaimed me an honorary assistant coach.

I probably still have that card somewhere - because I still have approximately everything I ever owned during the 80s - but at the time, I carried it with me everywhere. You know, just in case I needed to impress the ladies.**

This was back when the Colts were where they belonged - in Baltimore - and for a few years in a row, my grandfather would come visit us when the New York Jets were in town to treat my family to a game. One time, we were running kind of late, and we arrived at Memorial Stadium seconds before kickoff. Every parking spot within a mile of the stadium would be filled. We were facing a long walk and the prospect of missing critical Jets-Colts action.

Driving the family Buick, my grandfather ignored all of the LOT FULL signs and brazenly pulled into the stadium's VIP lot, which seemed odd because not only was it reserved for VIPs, but, as you know, it was full.

His left hand on the steering wheel, he stuck his right toward me in the back seat. "Do you still have your assistant coach card?" he asked. I reached into my wallet and pressed the card into his palm, just as we pulled up to a confused parking attendant.

"Here," my grandfather said, shoving my very unofficial credential into the guy's face. "I'm a Jets assistant coach. Need to get in right away!" My grandfather looked back at me and winked.

The attendant quickly handed the card back and pointed us to a vacant spot just yards away from the stadium entrance. We were in our seats for the opening kickoff.

I don't remember anything else about the game, but it's hard to forget that kick-ass parking spot.

SFTC Shoutout: A quick thanks to SFTC's newest "Followers" (sounds cultish, but really isn't). Thrilled to have you aboard the SFTC train this week. When we have our almost-inevitable IPO, you'll obviously cash in big time.*** If you haven't signed up yet, please do. I think you just have to click the "follow" button in the box near the top of the right column over there >>>

It's free, it's fun and it tastes great!

* I think I'm bastardizing a phrase from When Harry Met Sally here. If you can confirm, please do.

** This didn't work.

*** Technically, I don't think that really makes sense, and the IPO is probably not so much "inevitable" as it is "not even a remote possibility," but the point is that I'm glad you're among the first to show your faces (or joysticks, as the case may be) on the site.

April 2, 2009

CNN.com: Dead horse. Me: Kicking

Taking a quick break from writing about English muffins...

I guess it's not really fair anymore to pick on CNN's web site. Everyone who reads it anymore must realize that it's not so much a news site as it is a glorified blog that runs a "Breaking News" or "Developing Story" banner in bright colors every time a building collapses or President Obama speaks in front of TV cameras.

But when you resort to writing headlines that sound like elementary school playground taunts... and your "reporting" entails quoting bloggers whose expertise is collecting other people's stories... well, it might be time to just give up.

My only other concern is that CNN does not seem to be offering that scrumptious headline on a nice cotton t-shirt. What a letdown.

April 1, 2009

Biting the mail... update added

Just posted a quick update to the Wolferman's English muffins saga. See the end of the previous post, below.

Thanks for all the interest!

Biting the mail-order catalog that feeds me?

Well, this might be disappointing.

When I wrote yesterday about the deliciousness that awaited me in my newly delivered package of Wolferman's English muffins, I sort of figured that at some point - the Internet being what it is, and Google being what it is - someone from Wolferman's would find the post. If nothing else, I'd have brightened the day of someone at the company (maybe even a distant relative of Louis Wolferman). That would have been just fine.

I wrote that I'd welcome a package of English muffins in exchange for the unsolicited testimonial - that was just a joke. Realistically, though, I thought that someone from the company might even leave a pleasant note acknowledging the post.

Sure enough - according to my trusty Feedjit widget, over there >> near the bottom of the right column - SFTC started attracting an unusual amount of traffic from Medford, Ore., where Wolferman's is based. (Actually, any amount of traffic from Medford would have been unusual, so it was pretty easy to spot.) A few clicks last night and five so far this morning. See for yourself (click to enlarge):

So I was kind of stoked, figuring that the tasty muffin folks had found my glowing report and that, just maybe, I'd brought a little sunshine to someone's day. Because, as you know, that's how I roll.

Then, about 30 minutes ago, at exactly the time that those five Medford clicks were happening, I got a comment from... well, from "Anonymous."

Want to guess what the comment was? Let's go multiple choice!
A. Thanks for the plug! So glad you like the muffins.
B. I'm writing from Wolferman's. Enjoying the blog.
C. Checked out the site and found this great deal - 12 pack of muffins..you choose the flavor for $29.95 + free delivery
D. Tell us your address so we can send you some more muffins, on the house!

The correct answer is... C.

That's right. The response for writing about my love affair with the world's best $2 English muffins was an anonymous comment - I know I'm going out on a limb, but could it possibly have been a sneaky person from company HQ?!? - suggesting that I go drop another $30 on the damn things.

(Also? Good christ, I just ordered two dozen - how many freaking muffins do you think I can eat before they get stale?)

All I can say is.... well, I'll let Jeff Tweedy sing it for me.


UPDATE, 3:15 p.m. PT: Cindy from Wolferman's corporate relations got in touch (click Comments link below to view) with a nice big "thanks" for the original post. She also said that although this kind of thing does fall under her group's responsibilities, she couldn't figure out who would have posted the anonymous comment with the sales pitch as a response to yesterday's post but she was looking into it.

Better yet, she offered to send more English muffins and other Wolferman's goodies! (my first BIF, or blog-induced freebie!), which I just might share with some pals at the office. If they're really nice.

Another happy result of this little storyline is that today was the busiest single day for traffic on SFTC so far. Which can only mean that you people must really love reading about English muffins. I'll have to keep that in mind. (Also, thanks, Loree and Laura.)