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 MSNBC.com (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, CNN.com:
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.