Saturday, January 31, 2004

In case you've seen ESPN's new ads and wondered, yes, they're real. But I wish I went to the high school where they'r the huge atom-smashing machines...

Friday, January 30, 2004

Question: If you could make one relatively small change to a fast food restaurant, what would it be? I'm not talking something like, "I hate Wendy's--they should all close, or burn," but more subtle things.
Here's my list:

  • KFC: All KFCs would be required to carry Mean Greens as a side, not just the ghetto KFCs.
  • McDonald's: You'd think I'd go with Shamrock Shakes year-round, but then they wouldn't be special. But I would go with maybe three months spaced out--say March, July, and November. Oh, and again, they wouldn't be optional.
  • In 'n' Out Burger: Add some sort of pickle product--either slices or relish. A stunning absence from an otherwise great product. Also, instead of giving you the salt packet, they'd just salt the damn fries.
  • Arby's: Easy one--go back to RC.
  • Taco Bell: I'd add something under 50 grams of fat per serving to the menu.
  • Carl's Jr.: Stop putting mayo on everything. Oh, and stop selling the half-pound burger with mayo and cheese as "health food" because it's low-carb because you wrapped it in lettuce instead of a bun.
  • Long John Silver's: Facilitate the long-awaited name alteration to include "Dong".
  • Burger King: You know, I can't think of anything. I don't like BK that much, but I can't think of anything I'd change about the things I do like.
  • Burger Chef: Resurrect from the dead. I don't remember much from when I was 4, but I remember being really upset that Burger Chef died. Not that I could even tell you why anymore...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I saw a couple of the type of movies Joe Mulder described to me as "homework" this weekend: Mystic River and 21 Grams. Both were well-acted dramas, and I'd give an edge to Mystic River, with the slight caveat that I'm perfectly content with the fact that Naomi Watts has taken off her top in every movie I've ever seen her in. Tim Robbins is really fantastic in Mystic River. I also was intrigued by the scene where the film got all out of focus, then jumpy, and then melted--but that may just have been the cheap-ass Academy 6 theater in Pasadena. I don't think I'd ever actually seen film melt on the screen before, but it looks pretty cool, even if the spontaneous "intermission" was pretty annoying.

Jeff also rented Bowling for Columbine and we watched it on Saturday. While it was certainly worthwhile, I'd actually recommend instead the book that seems to inform much of the movie--Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear. The basic premise is that, thanks largely to sloppy and/or misleading journalism, Americans are constantly getting worried about problems that are either unreal, grotesquely exaggerated or unlikely to affect any given person. Examples include razor blades in Halloween candy (no actual documented incidents, ever), child abductions, Gulf War Syndrome, and road rage. Furthermore, all the focus on the problem of the week distracts us from the real problems of society, which tend to be structural (poverty, lack of health care for all), or which don't reinforce what we like to think about ourselves (that most abductions, and most violence, are against family members, not random strangers). Glassner's pet statistic becomes one of Moore's in the movie: the murder rate has declined 20% in recent years, while TV news coverage of murders has increased 600%.

I also wanted to say a few things here about the Democratic race. I guess we have to look at John Kerry as the frontrunner now, and I have mixed feelings there. I'm glad the party is actually trying to stake out separate ground from the GOP by getting away from the Clinton-Gore Republican-lite mold, and I am currently dancing on the grave of the rotting corpse of the Joe Lieberman campaign that exemplifies it.

I'm not sure what to make of Kerry exactly--my senior history seminar paper was on Vietnam Vets Against the War, and I found Kerry to be something of an opportunist who tried to speak for the movement and in some ways lead it without really being of it. He certainly didn't represent the proletarian, angry constituency personified by a Ron Kovic, for instance. I'm not sure what to make of the "electability" question--yes, nominating a Massachusetts liberal may mean giving up the South, but is the South truly up for grabs anyway? What states do the Dems have to win to take the election? I'm really not sure. I also think, though, that "electability" is a weird self-fulfilling prophecy--in the end, electability will have a lot to do with whether the press deems a candidate as electable or not.

Ultimately, though, there's one lesson I hope the American public has learned from 2000 (though I doubt it)--presidential elections are not and should never be about two individuals. OK, maybe you'd rather sit down and have a beer with W. than with Al Gore. Great. But you don't get to have a beer with the president, so that's a stupid criterion. Electing Bush was not just electing Bush--you elected Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Norton, tax cuts for the rich, drilling in Alaska, the "Patriot" Act, pre-emptive war, and a scary number of federal judges. If that's not a zillion times more important than whether you personally like the guy at the head of the ticket based on his TV appearances, then my compass is just totally disoriented.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I just realized that I meant to link to this column about 3 weeks ago. Oopsie. Every year Pittsburgh newspaper columnist Gene Collier awards his Trite Trophy for the worst sports cliche of the year. It's inevitably my single favorite sports column of any given calendar year.

You'd think my silence here would have something to do with, you know, being busy getting a life or something, but you'd be wrong. I do have some books to talk about at some point, but I'm not in the mood. Suffice it to say that the most exciting thing happening to me this week is: new Scrubs tonight. Of course, I could say that of most weeks in which there's a new Scrubs...

Saturday, January 17, 2004

For my money there have been three brilliant movies made in my lifetime that are basically just one person talking:

  1. Eddie Murphy's Delirious
  2. Julia Sweeney's God Said Ha!
  3. Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia

If I had to choose one from amongst the three, I'm pretty sure I'd go with #3.

All this is to say: if anyone out there has borrowed Spalding Gray, please return him.

I saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 today. Why didn't anyone drag me three months ago?! At least that's three less months of anticipation.

I also saw the movie Chillicothe. I took it out of the library because, well, it's called Chillicothe, and that's where the Paints come from. Duh. Turns out it doesn't even take place in Chillicothe--it takes place in Tulsa, and there's just an anecdote that takes place in Chillicothe, presumably only so that they could call the movie that. It actually had some funny moments, but I'm pretty sure I'm swearing off movies I'm watching only because they sorta vaguely have something to do with something I might have read about on oursports.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I forgot to mention a key part of the enjoyment of last weekend's football extravaganzer. During the Fox early game, they had this ridiculous graphic they kept showing that said, "The Voice of Tony Siragusa," with a lounge singer type pose from the man. What made it especially funny, though, was that it looked a lot like Fox's graphical promos for its other programming. So Joe Mulder and I started inventing the plot for a "Love-Matic Grampa" meets "Quantum Leap" style Fox series called "The Voice of Tony Siragusa", where each week the voice of Tony Siragusa would inhabit a different inanimate object in a neverending quest to get home to Tony's body. I think it's ratings gold. Also it would leave the sideline reporting to, well, people who aren't Tony Siragusa. You know, hot chicks and actual reporters--the people who actually fit the job description.

Congratulating myself on writing the first fat joke-free Tony Siragusa-related paragraph written in the last eight years...

Thursday, January 15, 2004

So, like, an hour after my last post, Jeff, Sara (his grilfriend) and I went to the New Beverly for a Marx Brothers doubleheader (A Night at the Opera--good, A Day at the Races--somewhat less so; Groucho's better after dark). The movies were not the story, though. We had an exciting B-/C-level celebrity sighting. Among our fellow patrons, we noticed Eddie Kaye Thomas. OK, actually we noticed "the dude who made it with Stifler's Mom", but we looked it up and it turns out that's Eddie Kaye Thomas. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I was going to blog about The Surreal Life--specifically that I'm seriously wondering whether Ron Jeremy and Tammy Faye Baker will be getting it on--but now I've got a repeat episode of Celebrity poker on, and Shannon Elizabeth, Kevin Pollack, and Coolio are hanging out in the loser's lounge. I'm not sure which is weirder. My weirdness glands are overloading between the two, and I may have to lie down for a while.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

DEK and I had talked a while back about a revolution in football broadcasting. HDTV apparently allows about 6 tracks of audio along the lines of Spanish-language SAP that is currently available. So we thought one of those channels would be well spent as the "Two guys in a bar" track. Think Statler and Waldorf or Crooooow and Servo, except with beer. And football. The only drawback is that the most common thing to make fun of is the actual commentary, so that might be dicey. But I think it could be made to work.

Along those lines--and in furtherance of the long-time thesis that graduate school ruins you for real life--here are some of things you would've heard over the last several weeks if the "Two former grad students, one of whom is a current law student, sitting in their living room" audio track had been pumping commentary to your TV during recent football games:

  1. You know, people didn't really like the halo rule, but what's nice about it is that it was a bright line rule--you either did it or you didn't. There's no judgement call really. You may not like it, but you either did it or you didn't do it. The ref doesn't have to arbitrarily make a decision.
  2. You know, if you wanted to explain space-time to someone, you could start with the notion of "four-down territory". It's not exactly a time, and it's not exactly a space. It's the conjunction of time and space in a particular way.
  3. You know, it would be kind of cool if, instead of instant replay, when there was a controversial play you had a hearing and argued both sides. And instead of a written rulebook per se, it could be like common law where you could say that a situation hasn't really come up before, so you would make a decision and it would then be binding. A decision in a playoff game would override a decision in a regular-season game, and a decision in the Super Bowl would trump everything else.
  4. Do you really want a Super Bowl decided by judicial review?

Trust me, it would be better with the beer...

Friday, January 09, 2004

Free at last, free at last, oh lord I'm free at last!

With the completion of Carolyn See's Making History, I have hit the 50 mark with The List, which is now officially retired. I don't have much to say about the book--it's about Southern California yuppies and the women who pulled themselves out of lower middle class life by marrying them (and who may actually love them), and their kids, step-kids, and the people who raise them. Oh, and lots and lots of car accidents. I will say this: if you're narrating part of a book from beyond the grave, your retarded son had better think you're a fish. If you ain't Addie Bundren, I ain't interested. But it's over! Yay!

Two quick classic country music stories:
1. Tim and I share a love of story songs, and I played a new one for him while he was visiting. I had been intrigued by the 5-second clip of "Saginaw, Michigan" on the Time-Life Classic Country Story Songs commercial, so when I saw a Lefty Frizzell's greatest hits collection at the library, I had to check it out. (Literally.) I enjoyed it, so when I saw it again, I got it out to play Tim. Collectively, we enjoyed it way too much and are probably the two biggest 20-something Lefty Frizzell fans in America right now. Or at least, certainly, among those living within 25 miles of a non-gulf coast.
2. I was playing a compilation at work the other day when Tammy Wynette's D-I-V-O-R-C-E came on. For those of you who don't know, the concept is that this splitting-up couple always spell out words that they don't want their precocious 4-year-old to understand. There's a part where she gives some examples, and as I was listening I got really confused; after listening 5 times, the closest I could come to figuring out the examples were "D-O-I" and "S-U-R-A-R-I-S-A". Neither of these, as far as I could tell, is a word to hide from your toddler--or, for that matter, a word. But luckily the public library again came to my rescue: at lunchtime I checked out (again, literally) the best of Tammy Wynette, and when I popped it into the computer, this toned-down-twang version showed that Wynette and hubby actually wanted their son not to understand "T-O-Y" or "S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E". That makes a lot more sense.

Finally, I saw Wonderland last night. It turns out that if you do enough drugs, you can actually screw up a life of having sex with lots and lots and lots of hot women as a career, and being synonymous with the phrase "enormous penis". Who knew?

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

With the year turning, I didn't exactly make New Year's resolutions, but there are some things I've been thinking about trying to do or trying to do better. First and foremost has been getting back into the gym routine, which sat dormant for 2.5 weeks over the holidays. I've been back the last two mornings and will be there again tomorrow. Since my workout is on a 3-day rotation, that means that by this time tomorrow every part of my body will be hellaciously sore. Good times.

The other thing I'm trying to do is a multi-tiered quasi-resolution with several degrees of specificity. In order from general to specific:
1. To get out of the house more.
2. To get out to more movies.
3. To see more movies at the New Beverly Cinema.

The New Beverly is L.A.'s only (believe it or not) full-time revival house. Here is their January/February schedule. I may be there 5 or 6 times by the middle of this month alone! Every night is a double feature, and the program changes three times a week. Last night I saw Bullitt and didn't stick around for the original Thomas Crown Affair. Tomorrow night I'm planning on catching Wonderland and possibly sticking around for The Doors. There has been some talk that the New Beverly is in trouble; if anyone in L.A. is reading this, please check out their schedule, try to take in some great older movies on the big screen, and tell a friend.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Busy week. Let's hit some of the highlights...

  • Tim was supposed to fly in from New Hampshire last Saturday when I was. But he couldn't get on a flight over the weekend, so he came in on Monday and I was playing host all week, which was fun. I worked Monday and Tuesday and half of Wednesday. We went through the standard litany of old standby restaurants, some of which I hadn't been to in a year and a half.
  • New Year's was extremely quiet. We had The Parallax View on DVD, paused it for a few minutes to watch the ball drop, finished the movie and went to sleep. That was all good; in my experience a placid New Year's works for me and an active New Year's tends to go badly.
  • I am finally officially a guy--Tuesday night, for the first time, I watched Caddyshack in its entirety. It was funny, but probably less funny than if I hadn't heard or seen just about every gag somewhere else before.
  • New Year's Day was a double triumph. First was USC pulling the "Ric Flair enters the WWF carrying the NWA World Championship belt and calling himself the Real World Champion" bit. (Sorry, Craig. OK, not really.) Secondly, it was the first time I tried cooking* a traditional holiday family meal: our annual New Year's Day pork and sauerkraut feast. It went in immediately after Parallax and roasted until the end of the Rose Bowl. It was very very yummy.
    *In the interest of full disclosure, Tim did most of the cooking. But it was my idea, I hosted, and I helped.
  • Friday night I went to see American Splendor, which was very enjoyable, if not necessarily a great great film. I've enjoyed Paul Giamatti's work before, especially as Bob Zmuda in Man on the Moon, and he's excellent here. The film has a lot of extra-narrative touches, some of which work and some of which don't; specifically, we meet just about all the real people portrayed in the film at some point, and the footage for instance of uber-nerd Toby Radloff on MTV was unnecessary, as was the recreation of Harvey Pekar's retirement from his day job. I will say, though, that the spate of good and interesting movies based on comics in the last couple of years is threatening to actually get me interested in them, which I would've bet heavily against for the last 20 years.
  • I watched a good bit of today's playoff action at Hooters, because I knew I could count on them having the games. I wasn't really planning to go out for the games, but my cable was out this morning, so I figured I'd enjoy some wings (and, yes, breasts and legs) with my football. I'm always amazed at how many female customers there are in that place; I assume their boyfriends owe them big-time afterwards.
    I was generally happy with the way this weekend's games went, except that I was pulling for Seattle. I was only pulling for Seattle, mind you, so I could be spared at least one more week of hearing football success attributed to the zombie corpse of Irv Favre. The dead have better things to do than manipulate football games--for instance, rotting. It's hard to be an agnostic sports fan at times, and harder, as one, to listen to post-game interviews, pre-game interviews, interviews in general, and certain announcers.
  • The other movie I watched on video last week was Notorious C.H.O. Given the trailers on the tape and the crowd members interviewed, Jeff and I may be Margaret Cho's only straight male non-Asian fans, but I'm cool with that. It's raunchy hilarious fun. Do NOT watch it with someone who would feel awkward about highly personal and explicit sexual humor. Just trust me on this one--I'd give examples, but my memetracker is weird enough as it is.
  • Great ambiguous fortune cookie I got while home in Pittsburgh: "If you promise someone something, keep it." My common sense knows what they're going for, my grammar snobbery knows that this actually commands me to keep the thing, not the promise. I do wonder, though, if the ambiguity was intentional or accidental.
  • Two more books down on the Western 100 (/50): F.S. Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon and A. Huxley's After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Last Tycoon is an unfinished novel that apparently only gets read because of its complex portrayal of a Hollywood mogul. It's kind of cranky, but certainly more fair-minded than most of those kind of books, such as Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust. Huxley's book is part California satire, part early Huxley foray into mysticism, and part pretentious Brit prep school show-off. It has some entertaining parts, but the "novel of ideas" parts just get really tedious. I'd recommend Fitzgerald over Huxley, but wouldn't recommend either to most people.
  • Tomorrow is back to work full-time and back to the gym. I expect to be really tired a lot this week, but I'm also hoping to get to some movies because there are a lot of them out there right now that I want to see. With football winding down, I'm hoping to get back into a lot of movie-going. We'll see how that goes.