Sunday, December 30, 2012

California Adventure scores points over Disneyland

Back on December 7 my wife and I went to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure—which, for those of you keeping score at home, was our third visit in 2012 (but prior to that we hadn't been since March of 2010, so it's not like we frequent the parks with such regularity). In the past I would have referred to it as merely a trip to "Disneyland" without specifying the other park, but this time we spent more time over on the latter so it seems unfair not to mention it as well. This was, in fact, the first time we've ever selected C.A. as our initial point of entry (rather than going to the Disneyland side first), and the only ride we rode multiple times was over there.

There has been something of a changing of the guard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Conjunctions of Doom

Now that we've survived to see another week, I'm reminded of something thematically similar from the day before the election...

While walking back from lunch I noticed several individuals standing on a street corner in downtown L.A., holding large signs that read:

God will destroy Los Angeles

And I couldn't help but think: Despite the exclamation point, there needs to be some sort of conjunction between those clauses. Was it "Repent OR God will destroy L.A." or "Repent AND God will destroy L.A."?

The structuring of the sign left it somewhat unclear as to whether they wanted the City of Angels to be saved or to be smoten by the Almighty. One would think it's the former, but I don't like to be presumptuous.

I can say one thing with certainty: I am not going to change my behavior. I'll keep interpreting the world through this rhetorical perspective, even if it damns this town into oblivion.

Sorry, Angelinos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waiting for the End of the World

(Going with the Elvis Costello song rather than R.E.M., because, really, who feels fine?)

It's the 20th of December in 2012 and that means one thing: We've grown weary of hearing about the impending "fiscal cliff" and are focused on the so-called Mayan-predicted end of the world (which, if that comes to pass tomorrow, then it won't really matter if the government fails to reach agreement on our nation's financial future, so there is at least that much). That doomsday thing has reached the point where even the local news was poking fun at it yesterday in their 6 a.m. weather forecast:

A few months ago this was cause for rumination, with the premiere of the show Revolution and its premise of a world plunged into chaos after the total loss of electricity. Its popularity may suggest we have a bit of an apocalypse fantasy, with an unconscious desire for The End. (For millennia religions and mythologies have stories of colossal termination that have filled people with a longing of sorts, generally based on the promise of paradise afterward, but for our purposes let's pretend now it's some mediocre adventure show on NBC.)

The premise of the show does raise the notion of the apocalyptic fantasy. The cessation of putting up with the bullsh*t of life cannot help but seem kind of worthwhile in the context of still putting up with it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Was Not Written Out Longhand: Thoughts on the end of pen and paper

On a recent Slate Culture Gabfest they touched on the death of composition in longhand, based on Julia Turner's piece about Philip Hensher's book, The Missing Ink), which asked "It's 2012. Do you know what your handwriting looks like?" and ponders whether we've lost something in the era of word processing. The closing line of the article's opening paragraph asks: "When was the last time you used pen and ink for writing, and not just for jotting?"

I do know the last time I wrote something with actual paragraphs with a pen: Monday, June 26, 2006.

I looked.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Google Kinks It Up for Chromebook

I Will Dare's Jodi recently lamented how the Kinks' song "Father Christmas" was used in a commercial for Google's Chromebook (their foray into the world of notebook machines). It's not about the now outdated notion of selling out by the artist, but the egregious misappropriation by the advertising agency that made the ad. The lyrics even in the chorus are not something that could be interpreted as upbeat; it's all about the underprivileged mugging a street corner Santa, telling him to give all his toys "to the little rich boys." Here, listen for yourself:

And now, listen to how that was surgically butchered to hawk the computers:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12: Finally, it's over

It happened first January 1, 2001, then again February 2, 2002, and throughout the first dozen years of this century we have endured something over and over one day each year, and that all comes to an end (until next century) today.

This twelfth day of the twelfth month of the year ending in the number twelve is here and people have their last opportunity in our lifetimes to make a big deal about this repetitive numeric triptych. Get it out of your system, folks, because whether you place any importance on days like 1-1-01, 2-2-02, etc., or not, I think we can all agree: We've had enough.

We need another 88 years for this to have any renewed novelty.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sidewinding with the Sand Rubies, twenty-three years later

A tale of discovery in the digital age

The late '80s through the mid '90s was the period I'd consider my music heyday, when I was buying CDs by the dozens, reading the magazines, going to concerts and shows, and keeping up with the goings-on of the business more than at any other point in my life. It wasn't an obsession, by any means, but it was where a good portion of my disposable income went at the time. However, we didn't have the internet back then, so finding out things about more obscure bands did take some digging, and in many cases the way I learned a band I liked had a new album was to see it in the bins while at a store. There was no checking Wikipedia for their discography.

Anyway, enough of the you-kids-don't-appreciate-how-good-you-have-it-these-days. I mention all that merely to identify that even as into music as I could claim to be, there was still plenty I didn't know, even about bands I'd discovered and liked, often because the bands I discovered were ones that got played on L.A. radio three times and then disappeared from the local airwaves.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homeland in our home

Over the long weekend my wife and I finally got around to watching most of the first season of Homeland (which we had recorded some months back during a free Showtime weekend). We did so after finally catching up on the first half of this final season of Breaking Bad. That may have been a mistake.

Given that Homeland essentially swept the recent Emmys we may have held tacit expectations about its quality that we might not have held had we been watching it as it initially aired, but that's not how things worked out. We're not quite through all of them, but we have only two episodes left to watch so we think we have a reasonable sense of the show. And we both have the same opinion: It's good, sure, but there's no way it is superior to the remarkable fourth season of Breaking Bad.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stoned after all these years

With their upcoming shows in London (the first tomorrow) and the New York area, with the possibility of more not ruled out, it seems an opportune time to ask: Should the Rolling Stones still attempt a tour in 2012, fifty years into their career? Artistically, probably not; their best songs and performances are well in their past. But is there something vaguely optimistic about the notion that somehow they not only lived long enough to still tour but have their faculties sufficient enough to at least perform on a tour? I suppose I have to think there is.

I've never seen the Stones live, and there's no way I will go see them for this latest effort (even if I could afford it). It's not that I dislike their songs; I was more of a Beatles fan, but I enjoy many of the tracks they put out, with Exile on Main Street and greatest hits discs plus assorted other tracks in my collection; I just downloaded some of December's Children last week as a matter of fact. (The opening of "Gimme Shelter" is undoubtedly the greatest beginning to any rock song ever, and the rest of the song is fantastic.) They absolutely deserve their spot in echelon of rock history.

If I could go back in time and see them in their heyday, I might consider doing that, but to see them now doesn't interest me. But do I begrudge any fans who want to go see their favorite band, presumably again, and quite possibly for the last time? Absolutely not. Had I seen the Stones back in that aforementioned heyday and had those fond memories I certainly can understand wanting to ride that nostalgia train one more time. And it's not like the band is oblivious to what they're providing nor that the fans are oblivious to why they're going.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Remembering (vaguely) James Bond

The cover of last week's Entertainment Weekly declares in 2012 "Bond at his best," touting the latest Bond film, Skyfall, as the "most thrilling since Goldfinger."

I don't know that I'd go that far. (My brief take on it is below.) When someone asked me what the best Bond film was, my response: There is no best Bond movie (although if there were one, it would star Sean Connery as 007, of course), at least as far as I can recall.

Despite having seen and enjoyed most (if not all) of the James Bond movies—many more than once, thanks to the frequency they're aired on TV—I must admit I have some difficulty remembering the full plot of any given film. I recall scenes, but sometimes I cannot recall in which particular movie they appeared.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

College football redraws the map

I must admit: It seems kind of wrong for West Virginia to be in the Big 12 conference with teams from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That northeastern state seems too far away from the southern middle states. However, looking at a map, the distance from, say, Manhattan, Kansas (home of Kansas State) to Morgantown, W.V.--981 miles--and comparing that to the distance between Los Angeles (USC, UCLA) and the Seattle (Washington)--1,135 miles--it's actually closer than those universities who have been facing each other as part of the Pac (now) 12 for decades, and they don't seem odd.

Thus, it's probably more a matter of getting accustomed to the Mountaineers facing the teams from the flatlands. Years from now a rivalry with the Red Riders of Texas Tech may seem perfectly sensible, despite the 1,465 mile trek.

Things that we consider the standard now at one point were new and weird. Take how in the NFL the Cowboys have made their rivals teams from even farther to the east than West Virginia; in the pros, Dallas is an "eastern" city, and after 42 years no one blinks an eye.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The people who wish they spent more time with their families are the people whose work takes up the majority of their time; people who spend a reasonable amount of time with their families are plenty satisfied with that amount.

People who spend too much time with their families wish they had more demanding jobs.

There is a balance to be struck even in the best of circumstances.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DVR post-election commercial trauma: the horror, the horror

This may sound odd, but sometimes when we watch a show recorded within the week or so we forget that we're watching a recorded program and don't reach for the remote to fast-forward through the commercials; those ads often are the same ones we see when watching live programming, and it doesn't strike us right away that we don't have to sit through them. (I'm sure advertisers would be happy to hear that.)

When we record something and don't get around to watching it for a few months (those shows that stacks up in the queue because we are interested but not enthusiastic) the commercials tend to be obviously different than the sort that are airing currently; an ad promoting a Presidents Day mattress sale is particularly blatant, but something slightly more subtle, such as an Old Navy spot where they're pushing short pants, proves equally distinct when watched well into autumn. There the flags to push that remote control button are up quickly. But generally with something that aired only a little over a week prior to actually watching it the commercials don't tend to be that different.

Of course, there are notable exceptions to that rule, and they are very much in effect.

Friday, November 09, 2012

State of our nation: You're okay, but look at these idiots

The latest This American Life episode (which I didn't listen to until yesterday) talked about the "Red State/Blue State" divide. It featured a story about friendships that ended due to political differences, and focused at the end on two sisters who barely had a relationship because one was a Democrat and the other a Republican. The correspondent found two friends—one liberal and the other conservative—who wrote a book together about not so much bridging that gap but coming to grips with it. The method was to sit down and try to understand the other person's point of view and not seek to persuade that other person to yours.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Some election day thoughts

Above is a shot of all of the election-related mail we received just over the last couple weeks. Regardless of which candidates and propositions get the most votes, the winner is the print shops who were hired by the campaigns.


Get out and vote. You only get so many opportunities for your ignorance and personal biases to influence the running of the country; don't squander them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Frink'ed up

This year's Halloween costume: Professor Frink.

Yes, I did cut my hair  really short on the sides and back of my head.

My wife put this together. It lights up.

Here's the inspiration for the prop.

Monday, October 29, 2012

World Series Wardrobe

As noted in this post I have adopted the Tigers as a team I root for, so for the recent World Series I had a clear preference. And to do my part, I tried to spur the team to victory in the following way.

Game 1: I wore a Tigers shirt. They lost.
Game 2: I didn't wear any Detroit gear. They lost.
Game 3: I wore a Halloween costume (as we were going to a party anyway). They lost.
Game 4: I wore a blue shirt in the Tigers color scheme but with no specific reference to the team. They lost.

I am coming to the alarming conclusion that my wardrobe had no effect on outcome of sporting events, particularly ones in which I am not participating or even attending.

This is most disturbing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Propped in the mail

It's good that the proponents and opponents of the various ballot measures keep sending more stuff in the mail each day; I might have forgotten what the thing they sent yesterday said.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The coming World Series

Earlier this evening the Tigers finished off the Yankees in the ALCS, sweeping them in four straight. Over in the NL, the Cardinals lead the Giants in their series, and with a 3-1 advantage I doubt anyone would be too surprised if St. Louis advances there. The thing about all that which strikes me as interesting: Of all the teams that qualified for the baseball postseason this year, the Tigers and the Cardinals had the worst regular season records, each winning only 88 games while every other playoff team won at least 93.

Detroit qualified not by having one of the five best AL records but by being better than the rest of the AL Central; both of the wildcards as well as two teams that didn't even make the playoffs (the Rays and Angels) had more wins than the Tigers, but those teams all had the misfortune to be located closer to either coast instead of being more geographically in the middle of the country. Going by record alone, disregarding divisions, the Tigers weren't particularly close to the top five in the AL, but nonetheless they will be the league's representative in the World Series.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Debating the debate... in theory

I didn't watch the presidential debate last Wednesday night. I think watching the debates is akin to watching the Oscars; for those who are rooting for one to win they have a vested interest, but for the rest it's a long, mostly boring event where it's mostly worthwhile to have seen only to get the jokes people make on Twitter. The debates lack attractive celebrities in designer wardrobe, so it lacks that angle of appeal, even if one is indifferent about the outcome.

I already know who will get my vote next month, so it's not as though I need any convincing (and it's not like there's any question about which ticket will take the electoral college for the state where I live, even if I was undecided, but let's not digress to that), and I'm emotionally distanced from politics such that I don't need to see in its entirety how well or how poorly that person does; the reality is these days there's plenty of sources for getting the highlights and the gist in capsule form after the fact, without devoting 90 minutes to it.

Hold on. Why do I need to justify not watching the debate? People who did watch it should have to justify that.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Baseball's new playoffs

Hang Up and Listen started off a recent episode with talk about the baseball season in the midst of the pennant race, with only a couple weeks left before the end of the season. This year's postseason will feature the first time 10 teams will qualify for the playoffs, up from 8 (as it has been since the last expansion in the mid-'90s). The difference is this year in addition to the six division winners there will be two wildcard teams in each league who must face each other in a one-game playoff, vying for the opportunity to then face the team with the best record in a best-of-seven series.

When the leagues realigned into three divisions rather than two, they had to include a fourth non-division winner into the playoffs to have an even number. Previously there were only two division winners per league, so it was already even, but an odd number of divisions necessitated a wildcard. Fair enough. But now expanding the field to include a second wildcard puts MLB in the same position the NFL faces in its postseason: some teams have to play more games in the playoffs than others, which seems categorically unfair.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three riffs on that Monday Night Football game--you know the one

2012: The year the entirety of the NFL season will be featured in a future "Football Follies" series.


The NFL has been too predictable, what with all the following of the rules the regular refs had been imposing.


That Green Bay/Seattle MNF game has already sewn up next year's primetime Emmy for Best Comedy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Drinking it in: Thoughts on the NYC soda ban

On the subject of the large soda ban in New York City (which has been passed by the city Board of Health now), even though I live all the way across the country, I suppose I should have an opinion. I mean, I am one who has consumed more than his fair share of carbonated beverages over the course of my life—and still do, in large part because I never developed a taste for coffee; when we go out to breakfast, my caffeine fix comes with bubbles in it.

When I was in my 20's there were days when I probably consumed more than 100 ounces. It wasn't every day, but it wasn't necessarily a rare occasion either. I'm not suggesting this is laudable in the slightest; I'm merely admitting my connection with the item.

Should anyone actually drink that much soda? Of course not. But did it do me in? Thus far, no. Clearly my body was able to process it without making me diabetic. However, we're talking about me doing this when I was already an adult; I didn't drink that much pop when I was a child, so perhaps by shifting my time of indulgence to when I was not developing I avoided the worst of it. Or perhaps it's mere dumb luck. I'm not suggesting my experience would be representative of most people.

I cannot drink anywhere near that much anymore (my body will make me regret it), and I know better than to, but it's not as though I gave up drinking pop altogether. The reality is I like the taste of it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why Museums Confuse Me

Earlier today my wife and I visited the Getty Villa, seeing (among other things) their exhibit on Pompeii. Afterward we stopped in the museum gift shop, and I noticed this book on a shelf on that topic, called Pompeii: The Living City:

Okay. Fair enough.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Kauai Pictures

For those of you haven't visited the photo site since the last time I mentioned it, be advised that if you click on over you'll see more spiffy photos from last month's trip to Kaua'i, including such subjects as:
Spouting Horn

A bit of Kalalau Trail

Snorkeling at Ha'ena Beach

Waikanaloa Wet Cave

North coast mountain (and a rainbow... again)

And if you don't then you'll miss out, so do it.

Later? Sure, later is fine. They're not going anywhere.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

IKEA's alarming prophecy

IKEA has this commercial wherein a child ("Leo") is placed on "time-out" by a mother who then disappears from the room, and the boy then proceeds to crash himself into the kitchen cabinets repeatedly. The tag line offered in voiceover at the end: "Some things won't last 25 years. Some things will."
While I presume the implication of that statement is touting the durability of the cabinetry offered by the Swedish-based furniture store, I cannot help but think the flip side is suggesting this sort of absentee parenting will prevent the child from reaching his 25th birthday. Although I don't necessarily disagree, based on what we see in the ad, it does seem a rather morbid take on trying to sell affordable home products.

It even backfires on that. Heck, in that scenario there's no point in saving for college, so you may as well go buy better cabinets than would be offered at IKEA. 

This shows why watching DVR'ed shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials is actually better for advertisers; there's nothing to over-analyze at double-speed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mix discs and milking that Rhett Miller story a bit more

I've already written about my wife and I running into Old 97's front man Rhett Miller at a burger place before the band's recent L.A. date. The part I didn't mention in the post was a moment between Rhett and me as my wife fumbled to get her phone to Rhett's friend for a photo. Rhett asked if we lived in L.A., and I responded that we did, throwing in how I used to see him in his solo shows at Largo. In that moment I recalled that over a decade ago at one such show I gave him a copy of a mix CD I'd made, and I mentioned that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I-beam recovered from the North Tower, taken last month at the Orange County Fair (taken by my wife).

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Hope and sleep

Sometimes I think the reason we humans require sleep is not so much that we need rest but because that delineates time into distinct parts (i.e., days). Why does that matter? It facilitates the delusion necessary for existence: that tomorrow could be better than today.

Experience instructs us that some tomorrows will be better (even if only by relative standards) and many will not, but we require that period of unconsciousness to give us the opportunity to awaken and feel like there's some greater chance for change than there was at the end of the day before. Also, going to sleep provides that conclusion to a day that, whether it was good or not-so-good day, needs to conclude; any good day that drags on longer than it should turns, and any bad day isn't worth staying awake to wait for it to improve.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Waterfalls of Kaua'i

Attention reader of words: If you could use a break from all this text, be advised that over on the photo site I have added posts featuring waterfalls on Kaua'i, taken during our recent vacation to the island.

Click on over to have a look at these sights:
Ho'opi'i Falls

'Opaeka'a Falls

Wailua Falls

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The night my wife told Rhett Miller about our first date

Last night after work my wife and I headed to the mid-city part of town; the Old 97's were playing a show at the El Rey Theater, and we had tickets for the show. We got there well before the doors even opened so after we parked we went across the street to the Five Guys Burgers for dinner. After we ordered she went to the restroom on the way and from across the dining area she started gesturing toward the corner. It wasn't   an open table, but the band's front man Rhett Miller and a friend eating there. No one else in the place seemed to recognize him, but such is the thing about the band's popularity is such that only fans would spot them off-stage.

I used to see Rhett perform solo acoustic shows with some regularity years ago when he lived in L.A., and talked to him on occasion afterward. He's almost ridiculously friendly, and happy to talk with fans. Still, I wasn't going to bother him while he was eating, and I figured my wife would be too nervous sitting near him. (She can get a little... how to put it?... awkward around celebrities she likes.) However, when she emerged from the ladies' room she motioned for us to sit at the open table right next to where Rhett was sitting.

Before we even got our food, she simply could not control herself and politely interrupted Rhett, because she had to tell him the story of the role he played in how we are married today.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paul Ryan's musical limitations

Last night I happened to hear part of Paul Ryan's speech at the RNC on the radio. Toward the end he made a little joke about the music that Mitt Romney preferred was the sort he tended to hear in elevators, and then he distinguished his tastes by noting his iPod "starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin."

And my brain, being the way it is, thought, His collection doesn't have any artists alphabetically after L?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Replacement official spelling

Tonight on SportsCenter there were some highlights of a pre-season NFL game where the officials calling the game were replacements, being that the regular refs are out due to a dispute with the league. After that they cut to analyst Merril Hoge to comment on how those replacement refs likely would do when the regular season begins in a week.

However, I was distracted by the lower portion of the screen, which appeared to have been typed by a replacement graphics person:

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Aloha spirit from a can

Before our trip to Kaua'i last week my wife went through the best guidebook about the island (known colloquially as the "blue book") and highlighted and bookmarked a number of places and restaurants she thought looked interesting. On our first morning on the island we went to breakfast at a place called the Kountry Kitchen—a little diner in the town of Kapa'a (on the east shore). Although the island isn't that big,  two lane roads, 25 MPH speed limits, construction, and morning "rush hour" made it take 40 minutes to get to the town where it was, Kapa'a. The wait at the restaurant was over half an hour (in part because of its popularity and in part because there were only about 15 booths in the entire dining area).

While we are far from natives, this was our third Hawaiian trip, so we were experienced. Of course, to the eye of the locals we certainly appear to be pure Haoles (and I suppose, technically, we are). Although I am not the most adventurous eater there are moments when I adopt a when-in-Rome attitude, and when I ordered my simple breakfast of eggs and hashed browns, for the accompanying pork product I chose an option popular on the islands that I never see on the menu back home: Spam.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The sad reality is, in the eyes of others, every minute of every day we are all, on some level, representing some perceived group based on the way we look or the thing we're doing or some other means of being observed.

All of the time we are undoubtedly fucking it up for others with whom we share some ostensible quality, without even realizing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I have this vague recollection of some international event in the recent past that caused me to be emotionally invested, but now I cannot quite remember what or why.

You'd think that something that so dominated my attention for a couple weeks would have a lingering effect, but apparently not.

Only the stakes of nations competing can draw us in to obsessively follow the sports that lack powerful organized leagues. The rest of the time it's merely athletes trying to do their best for themselves, and how can we care about that?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Showtime smokes Mary-Louise Parker's bosom

For some time now I've been noticing the billboards for the new season of Weeds featuring this picture of the show's star, the lovely Mary-Louise Parker:

However, every time I've noticed it, rather than inspiring me to subscribe to the premium channel and watch, I've had the same reaction:

Showtime really should be able to hire someone to do a better airbrush job to enhance her cleavage.

Although she should be plenty attractive as she is (and let's face it, our eyes would drift to that anyway), clearly they felt compelled to play up the mammary curves when trying to draw attention from passing motorists. But still it shouldn't look so egregiously fake, right?

Probably looks better when you're high...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How I can still make jokes about dragon boating not being in the Olympics

Two weekends ago I again co-emceed the opening ceremonies of the Long Beach Dragon Boat festival, and coming right on the heels of the start of the London Olympics I couldn't help but make a quip about how our little event was more important because, unlike the Olympics, ours had dragon boating.

Another year of exciting clipboard holding.
Despite that denial from the IOC, having participated in a sport that most Americans not only don't follow but don't even know exists does give me a certain appreciation for those athletes who work hard and who are only acknowledged every four years when their competition is shown. Frankly, it's the way the audience not only watches something they ordinarily would ignore but get passionately involved in rooting for that makes me certain if dragon boating ever gets into the summer games it will be embraced by a viewing audience on whatever channel it airs, almost certainly at 3 a.m.; the Olympics demonstrate not only we do have a certain appreciation of what the human body is capable of doing, but when those bodies are competing in the name of nations we'll passionately follow.

For two weeks. Every four years. And that's two weeks more every four years than dragon boating gets now, so we'd take that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

TV in the Olympics

Watching the Olympics on Sunday meant watching the women's marathon. For distance events like that there's a difference in how they're covered for television from swimming or track or any event held in a specific venue: the place where the athletes are performing also has motor vehicles on it, driving right near the athletes as they are competing.

I don't watch these distance races much, and I'm sure that the athletes get used to it, but it seems like running 26 miles is hard enough on its own without a motorcycle speeding along a few feet away with a guy on the back pointing a camera at you. The motorcycle in front of the pack spewing exhaust is probably unavoidable but it seems like that is hardly ideal for performing physically demanding feats. (Of course, that's probably no worse than how the air is in Beijing most of the time, but we digress.)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

(The Predictable) Fast food Firestorm: Chick-fil-A'd

Yesterday the fast food chain Chick-fil-A was the site of counter protests to the protests that erupted in the wake of remarks made recently by company president Dan Cathy regarding his strict views on traditional marriage, which was leapt upon by activists and then by politicians claiming the chain would be unwelcome, and then that leapt upon by opposing pundits who made Wednesday "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

So, in short, it's the standard backlash-and-then-backlash-to-the-backlash sequence for just about anything these days where anyone could have a strong opinion one way or the other, with the typical surfeit of media outlets turning it into a kerfuffle because that's what they do.

We're never happier than when we're up in arms about something.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Problems of the internet age: Olympics humor edition

At some moment over the weekend, after seeing my wife search on our TV box for Olympics coverage by typing in the term "XXX" and noticing the results in the guide were listed as "XXX Summer Olympics" I'd been meaning to make the rather obvious quip about that on the blog/Facebook/Twitter. In fact, I likely would have conceded it as being so obvious that I'd have phrased it thusly: "I'm not the only one who looks at 'XXX Summer Olympics' and thinks the events should be ones unfit to be shown on network TV, right?" However, being one who doesn't live on those sites (and who had his computer die a week ago and has had to devote time to getting a new one up to speed), that thought merely ran through my mind, escaping out the other side without inspiring me to actually go to the computer and put it out there.

(As noted in the last post, this is an era when such things must be shared, mustn't they?)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Something I must share with you

The other day I saw something posted by a friend, which was a graphic with the text "I always wanted the power to read minds, then I joined Facebook and got over it."

It's nothing new to suggest the various online outlets allow for no shortage of "over-sharing" where a fair number of thoughts that perhaps would have been better kept to oneself get aired in a public (or at least semi-public) forum. It seems pretty clear that genie is out of the bottle, and short of unplugging the entire internet we're not going back to some world where that isn't the norm. Obviously that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, for a problem that is only a problem if one chooses to engage in the social media/blog/comments realm. One can turn off one's devices or not go to particular sites (or not scroll down to the comments section) to avoid that if one so wishes.

The thing is: We don't.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The first topic on last week's Pop Culture Happy Hour was the new Spider-Man movie and in a nice little coincidence we saw that over the weekend (as mentioned in Sunday's post). Not that there was an in-depth analysis of the plot during the discussion, but I had a informed opinion on what they did talk about, which is somewhat rare when it comes to current movies (given that even when we do go we do not tend to go opening weekend, when everyone's talking about it; I think this topic was delayed due to the group being out for vacations or something).

We went more because my wife had an interest in the film, but I certainly was open to seeing it; my nerd card is far from up-to-date but I still have it, and after seeing Avengers earlier this year and planning on seeing Dark Knight Rises later, Amazing Spider-Man fills out the superhero trifecta.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paying for music

From the finally-getting-around-to-it department...
A few weeks ago I read a Flowering Toilet post that touched on a (at the time) internet hot topic (that I hadn't heard about, because I don't live online enough) where an NPR intern wrote a post for the NPR website wherein she admitted to having bought 15 CDs in her life but having 11,000 songs in her iTunes—mostly not from illegal downloads , but partially from ripping discs borrowed from her college radio station. Further she admitted that having grown up in the internet age, she believed her generation was disinclined to buy albums but was willing to pay for convenience (such as the all-you-can-listen-to-with-access-to-everything model of Spotify). She knew this wasn't the best for the artists she loved, but the genie was out of the bottle.

David Lowery posted a lengthy response on another website where he took the opportunity to not lambast her personally but to show the flaws in her thinking. Being the front man in Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, and now a professor in Georgia, he knew well how the game works. He identified how the college-age generation are willing to pay corporations for their computers and devices, and to pay corporations for their monthly internet or cell phone plans, but when it comes to the artists themselves the kids are fine with screwing them over by not paying for what they download with the paid access to the paid-for device.

It's really the dilemma for music in the digital age: how artists can get fairly compensated. Well, it's not so much of a dilemma when one thinks about it: As Lowery posits, you pay them for their product, the same as you pay for your iPhone. You don't go to file-sharing sites to get their product for free even though you can. You make choices that support them rather than taking money away from them. You don't justify your actions with excuses that suggest record companies are already screwing-over the artists and thus it doesn't matter.

It's not convenient, but it's right.

You didn't come out of the womb believing everything on the internet should be free; you "learned" that from your peers, so you can learn how to adjust your thinking and your actions.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Asshats at the movies

I've finally figured out how it works: There's a secret union of asshats who must send at least one representative to every movie we see in the theater, who will sit in the row behind us and talk during the film.

This afternoon it seemed like we were off the hook, but then 30 minutes into The Amazing Spider-Man he and (I must presume) his girlfriend finally arrived. We suspect they were stoned, and that would explain their tardiness.

I'm not sure if there's any sort of administrative body for the union to whom I should report this, but I'd imagine that sort of indulgence is not only tolerated but probably encouraged. But it is worth noting that when we moved to another row your asshat didn't follow us, so he was too out of it to fulfill his annoying duties to the fullness implied by your implicit credo.

Just FYI.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic Con's good old days

There was a time when the only people who attended the San Diego Comic Convention were the fans of comic book, sci-fi, fantasy; the only people featured there were the creators, publishers, and retailers of what those fans consumed. I know. I went a few times back in the late '80s, as I worked for a retail store selling comics and collectibles at the time. As such I could get in with a retailer badge for free (it was one of the few perks the job offered). There were creators of some small press titles who I enjoyed meeting, and they didn't have massive lines to wait in to do so.

(Let's be clear: I was never enough of a diehard fan to be inclined to actually pay to get in; I went because it was only an hour's drive, and as my mom lived down there at the time I turned it into a visit to her. I'm not putting down those who paid to get in [they were our customers, after all]; I'm merely clarifying that I was not in that category of nerd. The people who get all decked out in costumes are magnificent, and I dare not sully their efforts by conflating how I was with them.)

Back then, saying you were going to a comic book convention was looked down upon by "civilians"; the mainstream press would not report on it, or if the local press did mention it the story was buried on back pages.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Baseball: Family Ties

A little rumination on our national pastime during the All-Star Break...

As I young child growing up Southern California I rooted for both the Angels and Dodgers, but eventually I became aware that my family was Angels' fans, and for reasons I never entirely determined they didn't root for the Dodgers and without specific reasons my affinity for the team playing in Chavez Ravine fell away and preference for the team playing at "the Big A" was set. It made no more sense than that. And although I went to games for both teams it was only the team in Anaheim that had my heart.

Should family ties have held such sway over me? Perhaps not, but I imagine that's how most sports affiliations start; either one is indoctrinated into rooting for the team one's family roots for, or one goes contrarian and specifically goes against that team—perhaps to spite the family or merely to forge one's separate sports identity. I had insufficient reason to rebel at that tender age, so there you go. Then my family had a share of Angels season tickets and we went to numerous games each season (and Dodger games were only once in a while) things in my mind were set.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Eating or cheating

For months (possibly a year) my wife and I had gone out to breakfast at a particular little restaurant. Typically at least two (sometimes three) weekends a month we'd go to this coffee shop, either Saturday or Sunday morning. Prior to that we'd sampled other places around town but not found any worthy of frequenting, but then I think she saw this one get good reviews on Yelp so we tried it. The food was pretty good, the prices reasonable, and the service very friendly. Part of what I liked was the pancakes, while not spectacular, were a consumable size, not behemoths that eclipsed the plate; I don't order pancakes with some implicit dare to the cook. The other dish I'd order was enchilada eggs (which, as it sounds, is scrambled eggs rolled in tortillas with a Spanish sauce). My wife often went for the Eggs Benedict. But from her perspective the best thing about the place was the coffee, which while waiting one could pour for oneself from a container up front.

As we became regulars all the servers recognized us, and it was the service that surpassed the food or the coffee as what drew us there. However, if we didn't get there early the wait could get pretty long—which was fine if we didn't mind a bit of time standing outside to chat, but if we were really hungry we'd often just figure it was better to fix breakfast at home.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Broken news

About CNN's rush yesterday to be the first to report the Supreme Court's ruling about the Affordable Care Act, declaring the individual mandate initially unconstitutional and not getting around to revealing that the justices actually voted to allow it as a tax for seven minutes:

That's the kind of crackerjack reportage that will keep me not watching CNN.

Or Fox News. Or MSNBC.

And the way journalists on NPR kept talking about how they themselves did not see this result coming rather than about the story itself show why I don't support my local public radio station either.

Attention media: You don't have to make it so easy for The Daily Show to make fun of you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Three years ago today...

...she became my wife.

And every day since the best part has been the time spent with her.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The everyday, every day

Saturday we went to an ice cream shop where its slogan on the sign read: "Handmade Ice Cream.  Everyday."  It was pretty good so I don't see why they'd tell everyone it was run-of-the-mill, pedestrian, commonplace, "everyday"; they should tell people they make it fresh every day.

But hey, it's not up to me to tell them how to promote their business.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

House Hunters in the Outhouse

My wife and I are people who keep the TV on more than we should. Allow me to concede that right up front. We watch (as in, actively choose to pay attention—or as close to that as anyone does in this era of Twitter and iPads and the other diversions that can co-exist with TV viewing) a fair number of shows, but there's also times when we put something on that's mostly just background—well, more pseudo-background, as it can prove to be something that gets as much attention as the shows we actively sought (and probably recorded) but without us having the specific intention of devoting ourselves to it in any way. It's something to have on while, say, making dinner, or cleaning up after dinner, or after going to bed as something that won't be disturbing and where it doesn't matter if we fall asleep part way through the episode.

Over the past couple months we've switched over to making HGTV that just-throw-on channel. People buying houses or fixing up houses or designing houses is innocuous enough to not be disturbing, but can still be compelling enough to sometimes make us back up and watch the beginning again if it gets interesting later. And we figure it might help motivate us to get back on the hunt for a property and stop renting.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Note to the writer of the plot synopses for DirecTV: Nailed it

IFC's offering at 9 a.m. today: the 1958 camptastic horror flick, Blood of the Vampire.

The IMDb plot synopsis: "A man and wife are terrorized by Mad Scientist Dr. Callistratus who was executed but has returned to life with a heart transplant. Along with his crippled assistant Carl, the 'anemic' Mad Scientist, believed to be a vampire, conducts blood deficiency research on the inmates of a prison hospital for the criminally insane to sustain his return to life."

The DirecTV info plot synopsis: "A couple enters the asylum of a mad vampire doctor and his one-eyed assistant with bangs, Carl."

Nothing sells the movie like very specific details about the henchman's hair style.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Story of the fire

Tuesday night my wife and I were lying in bed, watching the 10 p.m. episode of House Hunters, when we heard beeping noises outside our condo's window. At first it sounded like a truck was backing up, over and over, but it quickly became evident that no truck could be backing up that long.

Then we heard shouts.

Now, the building next to ours (which is literally 15 feet outside our bedroom window) has occasionally had some loud conversations late at night—thankfully not very often, but shouts are not entirely unprecedented. However, the shouts weren't between two people arguing or something; they were panicked.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to never fail

Even if you don't succeed in achieving your intended goal you've only truly failed if you didn't at least get a good story out of the experience.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Smile Game

I'm not yet a father, but here's a tale of me and a child for Father's Day:

The other evening while riding home on the train the seat in front of me was filled with two brown eyes and a pacifier; a little cutie who couldn't have been more than a year old stood on the seat (balanced by mom in the seat next to her) and she found me as fascinating as the world passing by out the window. Or perhaps she merely found facing toward me to be a more stable posture for her.

At that age obviously they have no grasp of social convention and don't balk at staring. And staring. And staring. There's a reason infants strike us as so adorable; otherwise they'd be annoying as heck.

So I smiled at her, and behind the pacifier I could see the corners of her mouth curl up in a smile. I did this with her as long as I could feel comfortable with engaging in a staring contest with a stranger's child (so I wouldn't cross over into creepy territory), then glanced down at my iPod or out the window, and her mom or slightly older sister would point her toward the window. However, it would only be a matter of time until she was facing me again, and we'd play the smile game again. Then we'd all take a window break.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Protecting Americans

There's a greater chance you'll be killed by a driver who's texting behind the wheel than by a terrorist. So when do the drone attacks against distracted motorists begin?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Woo, Kings fans, woo

Last night the Kings won the Stanley Cup championship*, the team's first NHL title in its existence. Angelinos were thrilled. They were not, however, eloquent.

It's one thing for fans at the game to be reveling in a way that limits their responses when reporters stick a microphone in their faces to "woo!" or something that deep. It's another thing when they call up the local oldies station, presumably sit on hold, and then when they finally get on the air and they have nothing more than "woo!" paired perhaps with stating the obvious (e.g., "Kings are the champs!"). While the enthusiasm is commendable, and the sentences uttered are factual, it does seem like one might wish to take a moment to consider what one would say before dialing the radio station.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Danger behind the wheel

I saw a little part of a piece on the news the other morning where the Transportation secretary was again talking about how people think they can drive safely while texting or using a device but they can't.

I'd argue that people cannot drive safely. Period.

Allow me to elaborate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Go, Kings, go.

Working late this evening (because the wife wouldn't be home until late due to a work function) I was walking through downtown to the train after the Kings' Stanley Cup final game had finished. Had they won it would have clinched the franchise's first title. I'd looked up the score on my phone, but even if I hadn't I could have told from the solemn looks on the faces of those in Kings' jerseys that the Devils had taken game 4.

Of course, the Kings are still up 3 games to 1 in the series, and need only win one out of the next three to hoist the Cup. Now the series shifts back to New Jersey for game 5, and as they're undefeated on the road in the playoffs this year, so it's cause for cautious optimism.

Still, to have won it in front of the long-suffering home crowd would have been pretty awesome. But the fans were out in force tonight.

And people say L.A. doesn't get excited for its sports teams.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Democracy inaction... in action

Today was California's primary election, and aside from the pointlessness of voting for an already-decided presidential candidate there were a number of local races and a couple state-wide propositions on the ballot. They're expecting low turnout at the polling places, and as usual that's considered cause for despair among those who report on such things and those who pay attention to those who report on such things. If only 35% of eligible voters bother to cast a ballot that's viewed as a bad sign for democracy.

While I understand that sort of sentiment, and as hard-fought as were battles in the distant past to get everyone the right to vote, I also think in a state this large, getting roughly one out of three to do anything is phenomenal, and to be dispirited about that is probably holding the population to a standard that's unrealistic in this day.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Tiny triumph: New towels

Last weekend we were in Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up some items, and wanted to get some new hand towels for the guest bathroom, as we were to have guests later that day. While in the towel section we realized that the fancy bath towels we got for a wedding gift were now nearly three years old, and between those and one other set of towels that we pretty well alternate using and washing, using and washing, week after week, it may not be out of the question to consider some new bath towels for our own purposes.

We didn't get the really fancy ones; we didn't get the cheapest ones either (they were $15 each). We aren't living high on the hog but we can afford $30 in new towels.

It's funny how extravagant new towels seemed before we got them—or at least, how out-of-mind buying new towels was. But after getting them and drying off after showering… it's amazing how wonderful they are!

So, do yourself a favor: Buy new towels every year or two. Even if you're on a budget, it's worth the investment.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The futility of surveys

On the Political Gabfest they cited a phone survey conducted last year where Americans were asked whether they would vote for a theoretical presidential candidate who had a specific non white heterosexual Christian male aspect. If the person were qualified but were African American, or Latino, or gay, or atheist, etc., would that prevent voting for that candidate. And the results apparently were such that only 94% responded they would vote for a qualified black candidate—that there were 6% who would admit in a non-anonymous survey to another person on the phone that no matter what they'd never vote for someone on that racial basis. As an aside, the host pondered aloud who, in 2012, says that openly?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ending (on) Television

Pop Culture Happy Hour discussed TV finales, and how it's a tricky balance to strike when ending a series (assuming the creators know it's the end, which often isn't known ahead of time), having that last episode be satisfying in the moment and also when reflecting back on it. The noted a particularly good finale was that of Six Feet Under, which I've heard about but haven't seen (I didn't have HBO at the time, and as with many shows of quality like that I've never made the time to go back and watch it—especially given that my wife has seen it all, so it's not something she'd be as interested in doing… but like we have that kind of time). However, it's probably less common for intentional series finales to be really good than for them to be disappointing, and that's probably the flaw of TV as a medium.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Over on the photo site there's shots taken at the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens during last month's trip. Here's a few to tantalize you to click on over.
Hey, wait a second...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grading the TV season

I wouldn't want to be a TV critic because I'd want to be able continuing to just enjoy it, not have to view it with one eye on what to say about it. Still, as the shows I watch have narratives and characters, I do still have opinions. (Perusing the number of my posts over the years by category, "TV" has the second highest total. Granted, I'm not always writing about TV in the way you'd be thinking, but it is a relatively common topic in one way or another.)

Anyway, despite that I find myself inclined to assess the TV season that is coming to a close. Luckily for my readership, I have the good sense not to want to compose essays about each show, and figure grading like on EW/AV Club reviews should suffice.

It's worth admitting that these grades are based on my general sense of watching the series' episodes week after week, not based on a thorough analysis; at the end of each show I had a feeling of how well it entertained me, and that's the real assessment. Also, I'm only grading the series I watched from the premiere through to the finale; it's not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination.

(Shows are listed roughly in order of the nights on which they aired, starting with Sunday, in case you're wondering.)

  • The Simpsons B
  • Bob's Burgers A
  • Once Upon a Time B+
  • The Good Wife A
  • Mad Men (so far) A
  • How I Met Your Mother B-
  • Terra Nova D [yeah, I cannot believe it either]
  • New Girl A-
  • Raising Hope A
  • Suburgatory B-
  • Modern Family B+
  • Happy Endings A-
  • Revenge B
  • The Big Bang Theory C+
  • Community A-
  • 30 Rock A-
  • The Office C
  • Up All Night C+
  • Parks and Recreation A
  • Scandal A-
  • Chuck A-
  • Fringe B+
  • Nikita [incomplete] [still have 7 episodes on the DVR]
  • Saturday Night Live C+
  • Psych B
  • In Plain Sight B+
  • Fairly Legal B
  • Portlandia A

  • Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    When it's too late for the Avengers

    The Avengers has dominated the box office since its opening three weekends past. It was also the dominant pop culture topic back during that week it premiered, and I even wrote about that at the time (mostly in response to the Culture Gabfest discussion) where I had to more or less reflexively defend the comic book medium (despite not having been part of it for 18 years). It wasn't so much that I thought Avengers looked all that phenomenal but there's something about people who go in with a condescending attitude about "comic book" movies jumping on the bandwagon of what's the hot subject only because it's the hot subject rather than having a worthwhile opinion about the subject.

    (I'm not pretending I have a worthwhile opinion, but I choose on what I comment rather than pretending I'm keeping up with all the big topics.)

    I don't consider comic books to be something one outgrows, but fighting the crowds at the multiplex is something I have outgrown, so we didn't go that opening weekend. And last weekend my wife had to work on a project so we couldn't get to it then either. So although the pop culture world has moved on from actively discussing the movie, it is only now that I can speak to that specifically, as we finally saw it over the weekend.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Roaming to Roemer

    On a recent Common Sense podcast, host Dan Carlin interviewed independent presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, who talked frankly about the corruption in Washington and how campaign finance reform would be his primary issue if he were elected.

    It all sounded very good, but as one who was political jaded before I could even vote I am hard pressed to muster the belief that Roemer wouldn't be ripped to proverbial shreds by the campaign machines of both of the major parties—especially in light of how his campaign would be based on fixing the problems that are so beneficial to them. They'd find some skeleton (or merely concoct one that would prove effectively dissuading to the easily influenced). That I wouldn't want any decent person to have to endure.

    It's very difficult to believe that there are enough smart people in this country who aren't already in the pocket of the Democrats or the Republicans. It's nigh-impossible to think that people really want what's best for the whole country; they want their side to win and choose to believe that's what's best for everybody.

    Who'd want to preside over that?

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Getting artsy at the DIA

    Over on the photo site you will find a plethora of shots taken at the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) taken during last month's visit to the Motor City. What's almost as good as actual art? Pictures of it!

    Click on over to see the rest, and enrich yourself.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Open letter to the Spanish-speaking person who keeps calling my cell phone every so often and leaving a voicemail

    First, be advised that I do not answer the phone from numbers I don't recognize, so I'm never going to pick up. However, even if I were to, that likely would bring us to the larger issue: I took French in high school, and my Spanish extends only as far as ordering food or beer, counting to ten, and asking where the library is; I suspect that would be insufficient. Perhaps you'd recognize that I was not speaking the same language and would glean that I am not the party whom you are trying to reach, but based on a prior similar incident some years ago, I suspect you'd merely keep calling back for a while until it became clear you had the wrong number. And for that same reason that's why I won't be responding to your voicemail.

    I merely hope that you will eventually you will realize that your messages never get a response and verify with your intended party as to why that is, discover your incorrect number, and make the appropriate adjustments when you dial.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    How My Wife's Car Met 200,000 Miles

    On the 2007 How I Met Your Mother episode "Arrivederci, Fiero" the plot revolves around how Marshall's car is about to hit 200,000 miles on the odometer. Anticipating the milestone he had celebratory cigars in the glove compartment. As the odometer is on 199,999 he directs passenger Ted to get the cigars, but at that moment the car hits a pothole and stalls before the numbers roll over on the dash. With the car at the mechanic the episode explores the car's history through flashbacks, with the first one involving a cross-country trip Marshall and Ted took back in college wherein it's revealed that the only music they can listen to is a cassette-single of the Proclaimers' one hit, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," which is permanently stuck in the car's tape deck (and which they go through phases of loving and hating and loving again).

    I mention all that as a preface for the story of the last Sunday in April. As we were driving back from a birthday party for our nephew, my wife's '98 Volvo was bearing down on 200K. However, with maybe 15 miles until we got home it was only at 199,960; at that pace the momentous moment would occur on Monday as she was driving to work—a less-than-momentous scenario. She wanted us to be together when the odometer's first digit rolled from 1 to 2, not sitting in traffic alone on the 405, so we exited the freeway and headed down to the ocean around Palos Verdes (a peninsula jutting out from the line of the coast). However, even with that detour, when eventually we were close to home we still had 8 miles to go, so we proceeded past home and farther along the coast to the eastern part of Long Beach.