December 11, 2010

Scene in Noo Yorc

We were in the Big Apple last weekend.

I wonder whether the natives will eventually learn how to spell the name of that big expanse of recreational space that separates the east side from the west side north of 59th Street.

On the other hand, you have to admire their tasteful and sophisticated sense of humor when it comes to altering the instructions posted on hotel elevators.

Posted by Picasa

October 19, 2010

Either CNN or Adrien Brody's attorney sucks at math

The only "D" I got in high school was for 12th grade calculus*.

Even today, I don't think the poor mark was because I was bad at calculus - which I'm sure I would have been - it was just that I literally slept through almost every class. But I had a good reason: At the beginning of my senior year, I knew that I was just months away from starting college, and I knew that college students often stay up until very late at night, and I reasoned that I should start, well, training for that particular aspect of college. Yes, I would train my body for those crazy late nights of college that were sure to come by just... staying awake until 1:30 or 2 a.m., as often as possible.

So every Monday through Thursday night, after I had finished practicing the violin and doing my homework (except for my calculus homework, of course), I'd watch the 11 o'clock news, and then the Tonight Show (this was in the pre-Leno days, when it wasn't awful), and then watch reruns of Benson and/or Cheers followed by as much as possible of the Letterman show. (Unlike other, normal cities, Baltimore in the 80s apparently couldn't handle going right from the Tonight Show to Letterman.)

That meant I was getting somewhere around four hours of sleep every weeknight. The remedy: A 48-minute power nap during calculus. The result: My beloved "D."

All of which is to say that I'm puzzled about the math in this hard-hitting article.

The piece explains that actor Adrien Brody was to be paid $1.5 million for starring in a movie that nobody will ever see. It says that he has been paid $960,000 so far (which sounds pretty decent for a direct-to-DVD flick) and that Mr. Brody is still owed $640,000, which would seem to total up to $1.6 million - not $1.5 million. At least I think that's right - maybe there's some weird rule about adding dollar figures that I missed in calculus.

* Actually, it's possible I got a D in trigonometry, too. But there's no idiotic story behind that one.

October 15, 2010

Just plane dumb

I can finally sleep at night, knowing that the United-Continental merger is done.

Except that - even though I don't care very much about either company - I just don't get the decision to keep the United name but drop the well-known United "U" logo in favor of the Continental typeface and the incredibly bland Continental globe icon, which could easily be the logo for just about any company in the world.

I guess United and Continental leadership both needed to save face, but in doing so, I have to imagine they cost themselves an immeasurable amount of brand equity. I hope everyone at what used to be Continental is totally stoked by their big win - getting the signature typeface and unremarkable logo of a now-nonexistent company to survive. Nice going.

Oh, also, I appreciate the airline's assurance that the integration - matching up all of that frequent flier data, route codes, in-flight snack offerings, etc. - will go smoothly. Except that it seems they haven't quite figured out how to code an email yet. To wit:

July 21, 2010

I shot a bird... and a flower

... with my camera.

My ability to write anything remotely interesting has obviously deserted me for the summer. But given the proverbial worth of a picture, I believe these two photos would add up to approximately 2,000 words worth of new material. Which isn't too shabby.

I took them last weekend during a quick anniversary-celebration escape with the world's most superbly awesome wife, in Ojai, California. (Have you ever had a one-day/one-night mini-vacation that was so fun and relexing that when you got home you felt like you'd been on an actual vacation? This was one of those.)

Cue the images:

June 22, 2010

No-kill overkill

“I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over."
- Times Square bombing failure Faisal Shahzad
in Federal District Court (Reported in
The New York Times)

No, that's OK. I think once is enough.

June 16, 2010

Great moments in non sequiturs, Part 1

I'm hoping that you've noticed that SFTC has been on the downlow for the past few weeks.

I apologize for the lack of hilarious anecdotes and wry observations. Although, in fairness, none of you wrote in to ask if I was OK. If I were you, I'd have been worried about this sudden and unexpected online silence. "Oh no!" I might have thought to myself. "SFTC might have had his hands cut off by a combine in a tragic farming accident."

But I (overly dramatically) digress.

The real reasons for the hiatus were that I was unusually busy with my other kind of writing - the kind I get paid for - and that I promised that I wouldn't post again until I came up with a monumental blog post, a captivating story truly worthy of my triumphant return to blogging.

I have since reconsidered on that second point, in favor of "whatever the heck I could think of on Wednesday." So here it is:

My aunt is the queen of non sequiturs. Conversations often take odd left turns, making it an adventure to keep up. Emails often contain random mixtures of topics, often completely out of context. Like the one she sent last night.

It read: "Did u know Paula Abdul is Jewish? Guess where I am? xxoo "

I wrote back: "I didn't know that about Paula. I also don't know where you are, but given the setup, I'm guessing Paula Abdul's bat mitzvah."

It turned out she was just in Baltimore. But I was pretty close.

May 25, 2010

The National Gallery, Volume 2

About nine months ago*, I wowed and amazed you** with a photo-and-video scrapbook of my visit to Los Angeles' famed Wiltern for a rockin' good concert by The National. Saturday night, I returned for the first time since then. For a concert. A concert by The National. I'm nothing if not creative.

Further evidence of that creativity? Today's post will be a photo-and-video scrapbook of Saturday evening.

I haven't been to a whole lot of music venues in L.A. yet, but I've decided that the Wiltern is one of the best in town, thanks in part to its kick-ass marquee, which on Saturday, looked a lot like this:

Another thing I love about the theater is that the name is an amalgamation of WILshire Boulevard and WesTERN Avenue, which intersect near its entrance. The name would have been even catchier if the theater had been built where Jackson Street runs into Kass Avenue, but, sadly, whoever was building art deco theaters in L.A. in the early 1930s missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Also, there's no Kass Avenue in Los Angeles, but whatever.)

The National mixed in several songs from its newest album, High Violet, including Bloodbuzz Ohio, which I especially like, and Conversation 16, which is a favorite of my exceptionally gorgeous wife.

Among its other wonderful qualities, Conversation 16 includes this rather snappy lyric:
I was afraid I'd eat your brains
I was afraid I'd eat your brains

Cause I'm evil
Cause I'm evil

And one of the highlights of the concert was hearing lead singer Matt Berninger explain the deeper meaning behind those words. "That song," he said, "is a metaphor for this one time that I ate a girl's brains while she was sleeping."

We in the audience assumed he was kidding, of course, and we got a good chuckle out of that metaphor.***

Another cool part of the night was meeting - in person! - my online friend Violette, a music connoisseur with whom I've been exchanging tweets since that first National concert last August. Violette has a great (and recently redesigned) music blog, which you should check out, so long as you finish reading this post first.

OK, enough with the words. How 'bout a few of my very favorite photos I took Saturday night, and a couple of videos that I might or might not have shot with my digital camera, depending on whether I needed the band's express written consent to videotape anything ...

The stills

If you were in a band, you'd put this on an album cover, right?

My favorite picture I've taken in a really really long time.

Motion & Sound

Start A War

Mistaken For Strangers

The band's remaining 2010 tour dates, you ask? Right here.

* Tip for all of you aspiring writers out there: This strikes me as a potentially dramatic way to start any story not involving the birth of a child.
** Well, two or three of you.
*** For more metaphor-inspired hilarity, please don't hesitate to read two other recent SFTC posts, this one and this one.

May 6, 2010

SFTC Cribs: Inept bomber edition

Once in a while when I'm scanning the latest headlines on my Google home page, I'll see a link to a seemingly inane "news story" in the feed and cringe. And I'll wonder: "What kind of idiots would waste their time reading about this nonsense?"

And then, typically, I answer my own question by clicking through to read more.

Today, that happened when I came across a Very Important News Article about the "$65,000 home equity piggy bank" belonging to Faisal Shahzad, the man being held in connection with the botched attempt to car-bomb Times Square last weekend.

I'm not sure why this seemed interesting, except perhaps that I've never seen the inside of an incompetent bomber's home, or maybe I'm the kind of guy who just likes virtual open houses. As you can see here, it's all pretty unremarkable. No telltale signs of an "aspiring terrorist bomber," as CNN so eloquently* put it. Not even any photos of Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

In fact, what I found most interesting were the cloying little blurbs accompanying the photos, which read as though they were co-written by Captain Obvious and a very dimwitted real estate agent.

For example, the master bedroom:

This is precisely the reason we turn to CNN. For analysis like this: "Green is the theme color in the Shahzads' bedroom. The curtains pick up the tone of the bed linens, and a bamboo print hung between the windows extends the botanical motif."

This is not retouched or edited. Someone really wrote that.

Walk with me to the kid's room, won't you?

The extraordinary analysis only deepens here, where we learn that the child's bedroom "appears to be slightly more cluttered than the rest of the house - a not-uncommon characteristic of a child's room."

Penetrating insights from the news organization that is quickly becoming known as the world leader in boudoir-organization reportage.

OK, let's go out back:

In case you can't quite make it out, this is a photo of an empty wooden deck. Which is empty. And has nothing on it.

CNN helpfully explains: "There's certainly no evidence that anyone barbecued or lounged on the house's deck; it seems to be entirely empty."

Yes, yes it does.
*Either eloquently or ridiculously. You decide.

May 3, 2010

In which I talk trash (mildly) with Jack Welch

How bad are my beloved Baltimore Orioles this year?

I know we're only 25 games into the Major League Baseball season, but the O's have a .280 winning percentage, which is the worst record in the American League, and bad enough that it probably can't reasonably be called a "winning" percentage.

To help put that in perspective, the team with the worst record in the National League, the Houston Astros, began the season by losing eight consecutive games (which is a winning percentage of roughly .000) and have now lost their last six games... and they are still doing better than the Orioles.

This has made me a little defensive about my Birds.

So on Friday, I took umbrage when I saw that Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric and (as his website notes) the man Fortune magazine called "Manager of the Century," was using his Twitter account to talk smack about his favorite team's upcoming games:

Unfortunately, I was pretty sure he was right: The Red Sox probably would do what they usually do when they come to Baltimore, and beat the tar out of the Orioles. But still, I made a mental note

And then, something magical, nay, miraculous happened.

Friday, the Orioles won, 5-4.

Saturday, they won again, 12-9, for their third win of the season against the Sox and sixth win overall. (Sort of a good news-bad news situation when you're a month into the baseball season and half of your wins have come against the Red Sox.)

And then, Sunday, the Birds completed the sweep, winning a 3-2 extra-inning thriller.

Which immediately reminded me of Jack Welch's tweet. So just for fun, I got on my BlackBerry and wrote:
I normally don't engage in trash-talk with corporate titans, but how often would I get a chance like this? (The last time the Orioles swept the Sox in Baltimore was 1998.) And, to my credit, I thought I showed great restraint in not pointing out that he spelled the word hapless with an extra s. Besides, what are the odds the great Jack Welch would even see my tweet?

Pretty good, as it turns out:
Thank you, Mr. Welch. And, may I just say, Orioles Magic! Feel it happen.

April 25, 2010

Missed metaphors, part 2

(If you missed SFTC's groundbreaking Missed Metaphors, part 1, feel free to either scroll down a bit or click here.)

I realize that because of the iPad and Kindle - and, frankly, because we as a society just keep getting stupider - the good old hardback book is quickly becoming obsolete. Which probably means that book-inspired metaphors are also becoming more and more archaic. Soon, I would venture to guess, the very concepts of "judging a book by its cover" or "throwing the book at someone" will be nearly meaningless.

I think that explains why the good folks who edit Associated Press sports articles failed to catch a botched attempt at turning such a phrase. Trying to explain that the UCLA gymnastics team's two most recent championships occurred immediately before and after a string of five straight championships by the University of Georgia, an AP writer offered:
The Bruins won the title for the first time since 2004, bookmarking the Gym Dogs' five-year run.

I don't read a whole lot, but I'm pretty sure a bookmark is something you stick in the middle of a book, not on either side of one. It would have been nice for the editor to realize that UCLA's 2004 and '10 victories bookended the Georgia wins.

This sentence also reminds me of one of the main reasons I never tried out for Georgia gymnastics: the name Gym Dogs.

April 22, 2010

Missed metaphors

Rod Blagojevich kicks ass at several things - selling Senate seats to the highest bidder, styling his hair, assessing and then reassessing his place on the racial continuum and getting booted off of Donald Trump TV shows among them.

But one thing at which he does not kick ass is understanding the meaning of common metaphors. Consider, for example, his explanation in this piece of what he thinks will prove to be "the smoking gun" in his corruption trial:

During his news conference Tuesday, Blagojevich repeated that he was innocent and that the tapes of his conversations would prove it. "It is because there is a smoking gun in those tapes, and the smoking gun is that the government is covering up the big lie Mr. Fitzgerald gave to the world when he had me arrested," Blagojevich said.

It's clear that while a former governor awaits his fate, logical rhetoric is also on trial.

April 16, 2010


In the past 24 hours, SFTC has logged hits from two people - both of whom, I'm certain, are brilliant and exceedingly good-looking - from Scandinavia.

Now, we here at SFTC don't get too many clicks from nations with offset crosses on their flags - which, I know, is probably a shock to longtime SFTC readers - so this development caught my attention.

I can only assume that this exciting trend is occurring because Finns and Swedes are staying inside more than usual to avoid being overcome by all of that volcanic ash blowing in from Iceland, and they're profoundly starved for entertainment.

Anyway, I really appreciate the hits from overseas, because I know this blog is really out of the way compared with all of the Scandinavian blogs you have to choose from. Just want to say to our friends across the Atlantic: Välkomnande! And mieluinen!

April 14, 2010

Writing a check is time consuming

I've had my share of complaints about Sprint in the past - notably, this one - but I have to admit, ever since the company's CEO started wandering aimlessly through Central Park or Impressive Office Buildings in black-and-white TV ads, I think the customer service has actually gotten better.

Now, for example, when they lie and tell me that since I just renwed my contract for two years through a special promotion, they won't make me re-renew it again when I buy a new phone three weeks later... and then they make me re-renew my contract when I buy a new phone, I can actually get them to honor their commitment by badgering a customer service rep on live chat for about 10 minutes. (I love live chat.)

And, now, when they charge me an $18 "upgrade fee" for - I think I have this correct - the right to buy a new Sprint phone that cost more than my last three phones combined, I can get the nonsensical charge reversed by calling customer service and asking them three times to reverse the charge. (The first two times I asked, I was told there was absolutely, positively, no way they could change it, because it was their policy. Apparently, the cliche is true: The third time really is the charm.)

And, now, when the Fancy New Phone I've bought is eligible for a $100 mail-in rebate, I get an confirmation email from the company a scant five weeks after sending in my receipt, telling me that the "rebate is in the final stages of processing and should be mailed to [me] within the next three weeks."

If whatever they're doing to "process" a check is going to take three more weeks, I'm thinking that they're still a little closer to the preliminary stages at this point.

April 8, 2010

Separated at birth, black cassock edition

This was the front page of the New York Times website a few days ago:

The dude in the main photo is a Vatican priest who landed in some matzoh ball soup* for comparing the criticism of the Catholic Church's latest sex abuse scandals to persecution of the Jews. Which, as you might imagine, didn't sit too well with a whole lot of Jewish people. And, apparently, it wasn't particularly well received by advocates for sex abuse victims, either. I have to imagine that's a pretty rare double-whammy in terms of groups being offended by a single comment.

Upon reading the story, I had two main thoughts:
1) That was sort of a dumb thing to say; and
2) I'm almost sure I've never met Raniero Cantalamessa before, but, golly he looks familiar.

And then I thought: Sure! I know where I've seen this guy before! The short white hair, the close-cropped white beard, the glasses, the black turtlenecky thing, the somewhat imperial stance behind a lectern on a stage. Why, that's not Raniero Cantalamessa at all! It's Steve Jobs!

Well, I guess if the priest gig doesn't work out, Raniero could always move to Cupertino and hawk iPads.

* That's Jewish hot water. 10 points if you figured it out without checking this footnote

April 2, 2010

I think it's "i before e except after gg"

Whoever edits the Los Angeles Times website is doing such an awesome job these days. To wit, an excerpt from a police blotter item posted last night on the always-fascinating L.A. Now page:

The attacker is described as Latino, 20 to 30 years old and unshaven. He was wearing a baggie black hoodie and baggy black pants, police said.

I feel like that description is really going to help narrow the suspect list a lot. Also, nice to see that "hoodie" is now acceptable newspaper writing.

March 23, 2010

The 11th plague: Preschool assemblies

The Cadbury Creme Egg commercials are on TV again, and that can only mean one thing: Passover is almost here.

While that might bring joy and excitement to most of North America, my younger nephew seems rather nonplussed. But still, he was required to celebrate the holiday during some kind of wacky preschool song-and-dance-and-sit-in-a-chair routine.

When I saw this photo, I was immensely proud. It's clear he's way too cool for this nonsense:
Actually, I think he was just ticked off that he had to wear a green, frog-related hat that read (and this is too good to be true), Hoppy Passover.

March 12, 2010

Mississippi learning

I still don't get why the U.S. doesn't have a minimum IQ requirement for people interested in serving on school boards.

I'd certainly support some kind of federal legislation in that area. It might minimize the chance for morons to be in positions where they can teach children that it's a good idea to hate people for being gay.

Imagine the message it sends - and not just to the students but to the entire town - when a Mississippi high school cancels a senior prom because a female student wants to bring her girlfriend and (gasp!) wear a tuxedo. I know, soooo dangerous.

Seriously, I don't get it: What do they think is going to happen when two girls show up at the dance together? Why does a school board even have a policy against same-sex couples at a school event?

The new law - could we call it All Morons Left Behind? - would also help prevent Texas science teachers from having to instruct their students on the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolutionary science (which I wrote about here). It might help us avoid the awkwardness of reading - in a New York Times piece on curriculum revisions being pushed through by the Texas Board of Education - quotes like this one:
"I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state," said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. "I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution."

Yep. It's 2010 and that dude is a member of a state board of education.

March 8, 2010

Wow, that must have been one fabulous arrest

To the growing list of Republican legislators who have consistently voted against gay rights measures despite eventual revelations that they are gay, we now add the name of California's distinguished Roy Ashburn.

You can get the details here. Mostly, though, I just want to call your attention to the strangely composed headline, which - for a moment - led me to believe that the arrest itself had somehow changed his sexual orientation:
Calif. State Senator Says He's Gay After DUI Arrest

Best in show

Without a doubt, the best part of the Oscars telecast - better than the crazy lady in the purple tablecloth channeling Kanye, better than RDJr. channeling Chris Kattan (sartorially, anyway), better than Sandra Bullock's best-acceptance-of-the-night, better even than Christophe Waltz's invention of the word "uber-bingo" - was a commercial.

Specifically, a commercial for My New Favorite TV Show, Modern Family. Because nothing during the Academy Award ceremony was better than watching Sofia Vergara blurt out, "Cloudy with a chance of the meatballs!"

In case you missed it:

March 4, 2010

One word more or less

I found two eye-catching headlines on Yahoo! News this morning. Probably because they were so eye-catching and all.

For the first one, it occurred to me that if an editor had accidentally dropped a word (in this case, "vote"), the headline would have been overly logical and, at the same time, shockingly stupid:
White House discourages Armenian genocide vote

And for the other, I actually thought the inclusion of one specific word ("temple") made the story seem much more interesting than it would have been without it:
63 die, dozens injured in Indian temple stampede

Speaking of India, have you read about this monkey-man crime spree in Delhi? Not kidding: There's even an article about it on the BBC website.

I don't really even have anything funny to say about it, although I think this line from the article speaks for itself: "One theory is that a rogue male monkey is causing the panic."

March 2, 2010

Job stress

(No, this isn't about me.)

I'm just concerned that the world of international diplomacy is taking its toll on Secretary Clinton. She looks so much older than she did when she was appointed. For comparison, here's her official portrait from early 2009:

And here's a headline and photo from the New York Times website, apparently showing her after her arrival in Chile today:

Also, for someone offering lots of financial aid for disaster relief, she doesn't look especially pleased to be making a difference.

March 1, 2010

Not so fast

Yesterday, driving through the mind-numbing Los Angeles traffic on the 10 (or the 110 or 101 - Angelenos are nothing if not creative with the numbering of freeways), I spotted a billboard that looked something like this:

Except a lot bigger. And without the drop shadow.

Point is - and I should have thought of this about five months ago - amid all of its, um, "unplanned acceleration" issues lately, wouldn't you think that the geniuses at Toyota would have come up with a slightly less dangerous-sounding tagline by now?

Like, maybe, braking appropriately?

This post written by an increasingly nervous Prius driver.

February 18, 2010

Up, up and away

Maybe I'm missing something, but I think my not-quite-favorite online news source could have removed the word "apparent" from the phrase "apparent stowaway" in the headline for this article.

Usually, it's a safe bet the passenger has not bought himself a ticket when he's (1) a passenger on a cargo jet and (2) trying to fly in the wheel well.

February 15, 2010

PC squared: Phil Collins and the evolution of politcal correctness

Occasionally - usually while I'm supposed to be doing something productive - I wonder whether we're all way, way, way more politically correct than we were when I was a kid or it's that I've just been listening to Bill Maher too much.

This afternoon, I think I answered my own question, thanks to, of all people, Phil Collins. (Well, Phil Collins and the other guys who were in Genesis after Peter Gabriel left.)

Mike, Phil and Tony in matching sombreros.

And I'm pretty sure my answer is, that, Yes, PC has reached levels we couldn't have imagined in 1983, which is the year Genesis released a song called Illegal Alien. Because today, it's equally impossible to imagine a Top 40 music act recording a song and appearing in a video, complete with sombreros and tequila and vaguely Mexican facial hair, like this one. Or, if they did those things, not getting absolutely slammed for it.

A slightly related thought: I wonder if California could find a way to use this song as a PSA.

February 10, 2010

Easy answer

Joanne Herring: Why is Congress saying one thing and doing nothing?
Charlie Wilson: Well, tradition mostly.

- portrayed by Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks
Charlie Wilson's War, 2007

R.I.P., Congressman Charlie Wilson (1933-2010).

February 5, 2010

If eating you is wrong, I don't want to be right

Perhaps I have a very very very very subtle death wish. But any time I see a list of "worst foods" or "unhealthiest meals" or "snacks that will kill you dead as soon as you take your first bite," I immediately want to eat most of the foods on that list.

When I saw the latest such countdown of the worst artery-clogging, blood-pressure-spiking cuisine, courtesy of Yahoo! and Men's Health, I also felt a sense of pride. Because I'm pretty sure that during my 13 years in Chicago, I ate about 794 Jimmy John's Italian Night Club subs (oh, the bread!), also known as Number 8 on the list.

So, let's see: 794 sandwiches* times 2,165 grams of sodium means I might have consumed something north of 1.7 million grams of sodium during that part of my life. That sense of pride has just ballooned. Kind of like a cardiac catheter.

* It's possible it was somewhat less like, say, 780 sandwiches.

January 31, 2010

But I sent you away, Oh, Grammy

The Grammys have sort of sucked since at least 1967, when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was beat out for the Best Performance By a Vocal Group award by that timeless Fifth Dimension masterpiece, Up Up and Away.

The awards' suckiness was reconfirmed the year that Lionel Richie won 394 awards and kept saying "Outrageous!" every trip up to the podium, and more recently when Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wasn't even nominated.

But this? This is the last straw.*

A quick side note:** As I was researching tonight's post, I came across the roster of Best New Artist winners and nominees. And I guess the Academy sometimes gets those awards right. For instance, I don't really care about Marc Cohn's music that much, but the mere fact that he beat out Boyz II Men, C+C Music Factory and Color Me Badd is somewhat redeeming. (On the other hand, if you're Marc Cohn, do you keep that Grammy hidden so you can avoid having to answer the question, "So, who else was nominated that year?")

Perhaps the strangest two-year stretch in Best New Artist history was 1970 and 1971.

1970 Winner: Crosby, Stills & Nash ... Nominees: Chicago, Led Zeppelin, Oliver, The Neon Philharmonic
1971 Winner: The Carpenters ... Nominees: Elton John, Melba Moore, Anne Murray, The Partridge Family

Has ever the musical tide turned so dramatically for the worse? I'm a big fan of early '70s Elton John, so his nomination in '71 seems warranted, but otherwise that 1971 list is astonishing - particularly coming on the heels of a year in which CS&N, Chicago and Zeppelin were contenders - isn't it? Plus, wouldn't you have guessed that Elton would have won if for no other reason than The Carpenters, Murray and the Partridges would have split the ballots coming from the fluff-pop voting bloc?

* In case you missed it, I really hate Kings of Leon.
** It turns out the quick side note is longer than the main subject of today's post. These things happen.

January 28, 2010

I'll take "No shot in hell" for $400, Alex

I just took the online test to try qualifying for a Jeopardy audition. How'd I do?

Well, let's just say you probably won't see me standing behind a video-monitor-equipped podium, with a signaling device in hand, asking Alex Trebek questions like, "What is the Venus de Milo?" (er, actually, I mean this one) or, "Where is Lake Titicaca?" anytime in 2010.

I think I acquitted myself fairly well, but in the immediate aftermath of the 50-question test (15 seconds to answer each one), the only thing I'm confident of is that I've got almost no chance to make it to the next round. I'd guess I got about two-thirds correct, but I can think of too many I flubbed. For better or worse, the website doesn't recap which ones you got right or wrong, or even give a score, and I don't even know if there's a preset minimum number of correct responses to qualify for the next round, but... eh.

A few quick highlights and lowlights from the test:
  • The first question was about a Dr. Seuss character - child's play! was my first thought - who has some thing or other to do with trees. Argh! Pretty sure that ruled out The Cat, Horton and Sam He Is, and for the life of me, I couldn't think of The Lorax.
  • My mom always used to tell me I should read more books, and although I usually do alright on trivia questions about novels, even when I haven't read them, tests like this are pain-in-the-ass reminders that my mom was probably right. One question referred to a Faulkner novel with a title that repeats the same word twice. As time ran out, "Absalom, Absalom" came to mind, but literally only because it was the one two-repeated-words title I could think of. Except that I was completely sure it wasn't a Faulkner work, so I left that one blank. Um, oops.
  • I always like ending on a high note, so I was glad that the last question was about a pro tennis player born in Basel in 1981. A cinch for an incurable sports fan.
  • My wildest guess that actually worked came on a question about a Supreme Court justice who, from 1801 to 1804, wrote a biography of George Washington. Thought process: "Marshall sounds like an early 19th century judge kind of a name.... There was another Marshall besides Thurgood, right?... Oh, whatever, I'll go with Marshall."
  • ZenMom is going to absolutely murderize me for missing the question that sought the name of the TV show whose theme song includes the line "Our whole universe was in a hot dense state" and is performed by the Barenaked Ladies. I knew it was "that show with three science dorks and a cute chick that I watched once and swore never to watch again," but I think the judges were probably looking for The Big Bang Theory.
  • I did, however, guess right on another pop culture question, figuring that it was Penelope Cruz who played "neither Vicky nor Cristina, but Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
  • I got the one about Ben Franklin's 1784 invention that was probably a result of his advancing age and increasing trouble reading - bifocals - and I dug back into the recesses of my 11th grade chemistry knowledge and remembered that the chemical symbol for potassium was K. (Fist bump!)
  • The one that really fried my brain was a geography question having something to with Albania and a large lake and some peninsula. (Possibly they were going for the Balkan Peninsula - I don't know.) I couldn't even discern the question what the question was asking because as I was reading it, all I could hear was a hilarious scene from a 1985 Cheers episode, with Coach and Sam studying for Sam's GED exam by singing, "Albania, Albania. You border on the Adriatic."
Go figure. Normally, my vast knowledge of Cheers dialogue comes in handy in everyday situations, but this time it was merely a distraction. Maybe if I had been reading Faulkner in 1985 instead of watching Cheers, I would have gotten two more questions correct. Well, at least my mom can say she told me so.

January 27, 2010

Today's main course? Inspiration

It's going to be very difficult for me to post a feel-good, sunshine-and-happiness kind of story without making some kind of snarky comment, but I'm determined to try.

Because I can tell: You could use a pick-me-up today.

So here's a big ol' heart-warmer, courtesy of that newspaper in Chicago (where, as I write this, it's 19 degrees with flurries, but I'm not gloating). It's about a woman who's been blind since infancy being offered a job as a chef at a world-class restaurant in the Windy City.

The whole story is impressive enough on its face, but to help put it in perspective, here's a sample menu for the restaurant where she'll be working. N.B.: You get to eat everything on the menu for dinner.

Ah, damn. Five minutes ago, I was feeling very inspired. But after looking at that menu, now I'm mostly just hungry.

January 21, 2010

Castle burger

If you've got a sec, follow me over to World's Best Burger, where I'm doing a mini-rant about an article I just read about beautiful European castles.

Be sure to leave comments, too, because if I get enough traffic over there, I'm in line to win a castle of my own.*

* Maybe.

January 20, 2010

Shine, the weather's fine

In the past two days, I've received emails and texts from East Coast friends, hoping to make sure I was OK. Well-meaning relatives have called to express their concern. My sister asked if I was thinking about moving back home. A colleague offered to cancel our lunch meeting yesterday so I wouldn't be put out by having to walk outside.

No, I'm not sick.

It is - as you might have heard on national newscasts - raining in Los Angeles.

"When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads"

In all seriousness, there are going to be real problems caused by the rain - mudslides and erosion and stuff like that - and there have been tornado warnings within a hundred miles of where I'm sitting. And apparently it hailed for a minute yesterday. But you would think that it's armageddon, the way the natives are reacting to this weather. (Also, you would think that more people would understand that hooded cotton sweatshirts don't really protect you from getting wet, even when the hood is in the upright position.)

But for the most part, it's rain.

So I just want to assure those of you west of San Bernardino that, yes, I am OK. Although if you want to send hot chocolate, feel free.

January 14, 2010


I don't have children, but I think it's fair to say that I've learned a thing or two about kids over the years.

For example: It can be really really hard to just look at one of 'em and know whether or not you're staring at a terrorist.

I'm not the only one who's having this problem. There's the Transportation Safety Administration - better known as the government agency responsible for not letting me travel with salsa or pomade for my hair* - which apparently is finding it difficult to grasp that an 8-year-old Cub Scout from New Jersey doesn't need to be molested by security officers every time he gets on a plane. (Thanks to Highland Park Attorney, once again, for the news item.)

Mikey's mom gets the award for best quote of the article. "It’s quite clear that he is 8 years old, and while he may have terroristic tendencies at home, he does not have those on a plane." Touche, terror-mom. Touche.

You might laugh about this, but clearly, it's not as easy as it sounds, separating the pre-teens who terrorize their parents from those who might actually pose serious threats to our lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness.**

Like, for example, this seemingly cute and innocent Irish lass.

* The pomade is for my hair; the salsa just tastes good on chips.
** I guess the Founding Fathers had it right: Sounds weird with plurals.

January 11, 2010

Putting lipstick on a Fox

It simply cannot be a coincidence that I became aware of these two news headlines today, and that I learned of them in the same sequence in which I'm presenting them to you.

First, from (courtesy of the world's most wonderful wife):
Sarah Palin gets deal as Fox commentator*

And then, from the news site I love to hate,
Too much TV may mean earlier death

Anyone else thinking we have the cause and effect here?

* The article's subhead is, purportedly, a quote from Palin: "It's wonderful to be a part of a place that so values fair and balanced news." Yes, I get that she cleverly incorporated the network's mantra. But when does Fox give up that joke? I'm going to go work at Coca-Cola and tell people that it's wonderful to be a part of place that never sells any kind of liquid that contains sugar, chemicals and bubbles.

January 8, 2010

Endorsement burger

It's not that I actually care that St. John, the women's clothing brand - er, excuse me, luxury knitwear brand - dropped Angelina Jolie as its lead endorser. Truly, I don't. But I did think I'd be able to get a blog post out of it. And, so, I have.

The brilliance is just a click away, on World's Best Burger. (Warning: Unveils my possibly half-baked Tiger-Angelina Endorsement-ending Tryst Theory.)

Weather forecast courtesy of that sensei from Karate Kid

Once in a while during the months of October, November, December, January, February and March - and occasionally April - I like to check in on the weather conditions in my former hometown of Chicago and gloat a little bit. (It's possible that I've blogged about this once before, like, say here.)

This probably makes me a terrible person, but being able to gloat about weather is one of the perks of living in Southern California, and I'm someone who likes to take advantage of the perks afforded to me.

I've been hearing about snow and arctic temperatures in the Midwest, so I thought today would be a good day to visit the Chicago Sun-Times website. I was not disappointed - and mostly because it seems that the two-word weather summary on the site's home page was written by the sensei from Karate Kid. (Did you know? The character's name was John Kreese! Thanks, imdb!)

Before I get to the forecast itself, please refresh your memory by reliving this relevant Karate Kid dialogue:
That's Martin Kove, left, as the immortal John Kreese.

Kreese: What do we study here?
Highly pumped up dojo students: The way of the fist, sir!

Kreese: And what is that way?
Students: Strike first, strike hard, no mercy!

Kreese: I can't hear you.
Students: Strike first, strike hard, no mercy!

Which brings me to the Chicagoland forecast synopsis that appeared on the Sun-Times banner this morning:

January 5, 2010

Grill burger

As I wrote in my very first blog post - two years and two days ago - a major reason that I started SFTC was that I was constantly posting comments on World's Best Burger, a blog authored by the witty and creative duo of Loree and Laura. So fervent was my commenting that I started to feel like a moderately deranged fan/stalker, and I was pretty sure that if I didn't just get my own damn blog, they were going to banish me from theirs forever.

So you can imagine my great joy when - after letting WBB lie dormant for most of 2009 - L&L announced plans to revive WBB. And then it got better. They invited me to be a WBB contributor! It was like being a kid who grew up watching the Orioles (which I did) and getting an invitation to play catch with Cal Ripken (which I haven't). In other words: Big time.

So I hope you'll go check out my very first post on World's Best Burger, the blog that got me into this whole blogging mess in the first place. It'll be worth your while - I'm offering up tips for saving big bucks on a propane grill.

January 4, 2010

The price of ice

Whenever my mom is considering a new car, she couldn't care less about whether it has four-wheel drive or traction control or ABS brakes - or, I'd guess, whether it has brakes of any kind. She doesn't care if the engine has four cylinders or six; or whether it comes with dual temperature zones or keyless remote entry.

Pretty much all she wants to know is that whatever car she drives is going to have a button on the air-conditioning panel that lets her see what the outside temperature is.

Which seemed pretty strange to me until last week.

Last week, the world's most fantastic wife and I became homeowners, and aside from the packing*, moving** and unpacking***, we couldn't be more thrilled. It's a great place - an upgrade in almost every way from the apartment we had rented for the past 18 months.

But what I had forgotten about our new apartment until we started unpacking our 694 boxes of kitchen stuff was that the previous owners left behind - for free**** - a refrigerator/freezer with one of those automatic water-and-ice dispensers. And not only that, but you can select ice cubes (more like crescents, actually) or crushed ice! Oh, and if you're getting water - or ice! - at night, the thing lights up, so you can be confident that the water you're dispensing goes right where it's intended. Amazing!

I've never had one of those things before - not growing up and not in any of the other apartments where I've lived. So when we walked in last week and I saw that snazzy thing on the front of our new freezer door? Well, that was the moment I knew: Despite the L.A. price we just paid for the place, it was totally worth it.

Now, if I can just find a contraption to tell me what the temperature outside the apartment is....

* Hated it.
** Really hated it.
*** Impossible to describe how much I hate it.
**** Yes, I'm kidding about the "free" thing.