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]


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 (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.