Monday, January 28, 2008

Too good to last

When the Heath Ledger media circus was just gaining some steam last week, early guesses were that he committed suicide because the crush of starpower was just too much for him.

It's a shopworn storyline that the small town boy (or girl) works hard, gets discovered, is well-respected for doing what they do well and eventually can't take the 24-hour scrutiny that comes as a nasty side effect.

As near as anyone can tell, some party too much in order to keep things at bay (Chris Farley), some can't imagine continuing in the new world that has sprung up around them (Kurt Cobain) and others just burn out and disappear. (I honestly can't believe how many Cobain action figures show up during a simple Google search for the guy's name. Wow.)

Not that this is a new phenomenon as Ernest Hemingway proved to us decades ago, but it's still disturbing.

The reason I even bring it up is because as the reports came in from New York, Discovery HD re-ran Motorcycle Madness 3, the third in a series of specials that I never miss. Especially in HD.

The show was driven by Jesse James' desire to get back to work after becoming a household name. At one point, he's beside himself because he can't get much done at his shop in Long Beach and refers to it as "Graceland for bikers."

Much like the questions surrounding the expectation of privacy when it comes to public photography, the lines drawn for who should expect to be left alone and who should accept the intrusions are pretty arbitrary.

What makes it acceptable to hound starlets and not to run up with cameras when it comes to custom bike builders - aside from the obvious invitations for bodily harm from harassing the builders?

I guess that even when it comes to career choices, there's no great reason to expect anything other than controlled media exposure on a daily basis. By that, I mean that bike builders are not inherently required to face their public, like an actor or a musician. In theory, they could hole up near the Canadian border and ship new bikes down on a semi every week.

Still, while actors and singers are expected to perform - and would seemingly enjoy that part of the social contract - I don't see any reason why they couldn't expect to be left alone when they don't choose to be on stage.

The variable with that of course, is that people want to see them in their off hours. Supply and demand is a dangerous concept when it comes to privacy.

Still, the day to day nonsense of stars crying about their privacy only goes so far. If you choose to live in Los Angeles and then complain, there's not a lot of room for sympathy in my book. It seems that stars who want to stay away from California aren't hounded to the extent that those who live in town do - this, of course, makes me wonder what would happen if John Mellencamp had a viable career at this point. Would people flock to take his picture in the middle of Indiana?

Still, it can't be an easy thing to get to the top of the heap only to have the sweetness of that accomplishment taken away because you can't enjoy your money or the free time that comes with making thousands of dollars for a few weeks work.

In another section of the special, James talks about how he's doing so well that no one will give him the time to work anymore. At that point, he buys a new shop that he can shut the doors to more easily in the hopes of getting back to being creative.

I have to say that I actually believe the guy when he grumbles. His web site has cut back on the merchandise and he makes a more than honest effort to keep working on his metalworking skills instead of just taking the easy path to superstore bike builder. When I compare his works to those that are turned out by the guys at Orange County Choppers, I see more outlaw spirit and old school metalworking. I love the bikes that OCC produces and the now intentional comedy that comes from their show, but if the cameras would be turned off tomorrow, I believe James would be a happier man.

This is the long way around to the point that while some people enjoy performing (or producing) for the public, that it doesn't necessarily mean that they enjoy that attention in their off hours. It's a distinction I had a hard time making before last week, following the conventional path that singers and actors were natural attention junkies who needed to quit bitching.

Just for good measure, the next crop of starlets might want to get some really aggressive pit bulls, a series of tattoos that seem to result from a series of bad decisions and weeklong benders and a chestful of cast-iron tools at arm's reach.

I'm betting the paparazzi would think twice about baiting Britney Spears if she was ready to hurl a five-pound wrench towards their skulls at a moment's notice.

(Image from:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Well, that's strange

Funny, I don't remember anyone speculating that Jim Henson died of a drug overdose when his body gave out from pneumonia.

Do I just not remember this because I was 12, or is the world a little more cynical now?

I blame the Internet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Things can always be worse

We watched God Grew Tired of Us tonight and it's one of those documentaries that you pick up for the novelty of it and it ends up grabbing you and making a real impact. This would be exactly the opposite of Reversal of Fortune which was essentially a homeless circus and left me feeling somewhat dirty after I saw it.

The quick rundown on God Grew Tired of Us is that the filmmakers followed three young men who were part of the Sudanese "Lost Boys" who fled Sudan during their civil war and wandered Africa without help for years until they settled in a Kenyan refugee camp.

From there, three of the young men are given their tickets out and to the United States, where the next few years are documented as they try to find jobs and build new lives for themselves in New York and Pennsylvania.

Keep in mind that these are guys who have never seen electricity, running water or any of the thousands of little things that we take at face value. Early in the film, the new Americans are being shown around their apartment by an aid worker in the United States and are told not to throw trash out the windows and are given short instructional talks on how to operate the lamps.

Honestly, this is why I picked the film out of the lineup on Netflix (and also how it's billed there); the whole fish out of water story about how strange the United States is seemed pretty interesting.

While there is plenty of this storyline throughout the film, it also focuses on how inhospitable the United States truly is, how much these men had to go through as children and their amazing sense of community and what is owed to their other brothers who were left behind.

One of the three young men, Daniel, took it upon himself to form a parliament in the the refugee camp to make sure everyone had a voice and to give them things to do during the long, boring hours spent behind the camp's fences.

As the lost boys in America worked two and three jobs and tried to get an education, they lost touch with each other, even while sleeping under the same roof. After spending years relying on each other for safety as they crossed Africa to escape the civil war and then spending every hour together in the camps, this turned out to be a major problem for those who made it to the U.S.

In all, the movie is one that shouldn't be missed, especially when you consider what an underplayed piece of world history their exodus was. It's also interesting to contrast their experience in the U.S. with what most of us are accustomed to in terms of the American Dream on living just beyond your means, stretching that credit limit and robbing Peter to pay Paul at times.

When you're willing to work two jobs and squirrel away every extra cent to send it to others, it's amazing what you can accomplish.

Go add this movie to your Netflix queue or bug the local Blockbuster to stock it, it's worth the trouble. At the very least, you'll start to see just how isolated Americans are. I'm still stunned at how myopic I've been about that point.

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See, there's still joy from football

I'm not going to get into the postmortem on the Packers/Giants game... well, maybe not yet, it's just too soon.

Instead, enjoy this - from - and remember that someday football might be fun again. Until then, just take it one day at a time until you get the satisfaction of seeing the 1975 Dolphins forced to shut up and the 2007 Giants are shamed during the biggest television event of the year.

Eli Manning is a sad little man forced to live in his brother's shadow... OK, I feel just a little bit better now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Montana goes into overtime

Let's start at the end and work our way back, shall we?

Me: "Hi, honey. I'm just getting back to the hotel and you'll never guess what I ate for dinner."
The Girl: "Um, I don't know... Country fried steak?"
Me: "Keep the last two words."
The Girl: "Chicken fried steak?"
Me: "No, just the last two words."
The Girl: "Fried steak?!?"

Thank you, Notorious N.A.D. After spending time here, he was able to point me in the direction of Sir Scott's Oasis in Manhattan, Montana. No, they didn't throw Jane Fonda out of the place. That doesn't make it any less cool.

Here is the basic breakdown - they have dinners with a ton of stuff included and most of those dinners revolve around steaks and seafood. There's one gem on the menu, though - fried steak strips.

From the gamebreaking e-mail exchange:
Sir Scott's Oasis in Manhattan - about 20 miles down 90 is world renowned for their steaks. It's worth driving there. Plus, they're the only place in the world that has fried steak strips. They sound disgusting, but taste amazing.

So, so true.

I call ahead and hear they can't get me in until 8 or 9 p.m. I decide to say, screw it, it's not like I have much else to do until my morning flight. I get there and Manhattan is a little one-street town like many other one-street towns.

When I head inside the restaurant, there are three options: dining room, bar area (with slots and a chain-smoking section!) and three tables right up front that are for walk-ins. I opt for the tables and again, more options: table for two, four or six.

All by my lonesome, I'm told to take the table for six. Even when the table for four opens seconds later and I offer to get out of traffic and take that one, the hostess insists that I stay put.


So, aside from a bowl with an ice cream scoop full of butter, dinner is fairly uneventful. A comically proportioned gentleman with his wife sit down and order drinks before they choose dinner - he opts for a double Jack and Coke and she gets a water with a side of tequila shot.

I've never seen someone order a shot as their dinner drink... and I lived in Green Bay for four years.

At one point between bites of fried steak and baked potato, I see what I assume is a home sale taking place on the log bench for those waiting for tables. Apparently, it's two grand more than the possible buyers wanted to pay, but the hot tub is back on the table.

This takes ten minutes to try and talk the buyers into the idea. I have no clue how that ended because they all went to the bar.

Boys and girls, never walk into a bar with papers that will lock you into a 30 year mortgage in your pocket. Just a friendly tip.

So, I'm there with five empty seats and I'm nearly finished up with dinner and invite a family of three to sit with me and take over the other side of the table.

In my mind, this works much like urinal math. Ladies, there is a world-respected and complex mathematical equation for which urinal to take when you walk into a restroom. Men don't walk in all willy-nilly and pick a random urinal. You must leave a buffer urinal empty if possible - I assume so you don't catch gay - and if there is no urinal available that fits the bill, there are a series of check-downs that you have to work through. This is more difficult than it sounds.

It must be done at full speed as you approach. Forget harnessing the power of the atom - if you can capture the brainpower of the walkup to the urinal, you'd shut out supercomputers at chess for the next 50 years.

Back to Sir Scott's, where there are three chairs on the north side of the table and three on the south. Without getting too involved here, I assumed they would fill in two seats on the other side and one person would sit on my side, but leave the gap between us.

I was half right.

The couple's daughter sits next to me, with the gap and dad sits down right across from me. This is all sorts of wonderful. I now have a stranger who needs space where my Coke and half my dinner is sitting.

I'm OK with this, but it strikes me as a little strange and a lot of uncomfortable. I'm not that territorial, so I scramble to move things out of the way. It's still a weird setup because I'm close enough that it's strange if I don't react to what they're saying, but really, it's none of my damn business when this guy is headed to Canada or who will feed the horses in his absence.

So, we chat a bit as I get my check and work on my sherbet. Big surprise, he's been to Chicago, it was too big and he hated it. His daughter informs me that she thinks she might have seen the Holy Spirit in the backyard (no lie) and the new, God-fearing me tells her that with the Holy Spirit being everywhere, that sounds about right. She smiles and I feel like a good person.

I'm ready to go, but Sir Scott's has one final surprise for me - the takeout arrangements are a paper bag and a plastic bag - I shit you not, it says, "Fruits and vegetables, 5 a day for better health."

Enjoy your leftover fried steak (available in 14 or 20 ounce servings), sir!

So, you head home with a paper bag, stuffed with a plastic bag and that plastic bag is stuffed with fried steak. USA! USA!

So, if you find yourself in the greater Bozeman area - refer to the link above, track this place down. It may sound disgusting, but it tastes amazing. I'm thinking of opening the Chicago branch.

Other bits of random:

* To explain the picture above, that's my phone in my room tonight. One-touch connection to the Country Kitchen. Three dollars for delivery, knock yourself out.

* I saw the mountains today, briefly, as I made an emergency sheetrock anchor run to the hardware store. In short, it was amazing and totally explains why people rave about Montana.

For 98 percent of my visit, it's been dark or snowing or dark and snowing. Without the mountains, I honestly can't tell this place apart from Minnesota. That's a statement to be taken at face value.

* This is one of the few places where I can see the justification for all-wheel drive and nature-violating SUVs and pickups. After driving a Toyota minivan for two days and trying to enter traffic that is really clipping along, I long for a vehicle that would make Al Gore swear vengence on my family.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Montana, huh?

Random thoughts from a day of travel, eventually ending with an evening in Bozeman, Montana:

* I flew fake business class - so, what would that be? Money-laundering class? Vandelay class? - which meant travel in the two rows technically in business class, but without the tech-heavy armrests or the service enjoyed by the other passengers.

I honestly never really knew what I was missing in terms of leg room by sitting with the cattle. The topper was my seatmate - a small woman, who even if she wanted to talk, didn't speak much English. Quiet, sleepy and tiny are my new favorite traits in a seat buddy.

* Montana is not what I'd expected. Of course, it's been grey and snowy the entire day - thus blotting out views of the mountains - making driving a real treat.

Honestly, unless the weather clears tomorrow before my flight, I'll remember one thing above all. Primarily, that I've been unable to stay clean, no matter where I've been in Bozeman. Between road grime caking the windshield and tailgate on my rental and the usual job site filth, I'll have laundry to do this weekend.

Still, I'll take the fall for getting chocolate chips all over my hands. My bad. Still a messy place.

It would be perfect for a Lysol commercial.

* Honestly, I'd like to come back at some point when it's warm. I hear there's grass and all sorts of things to see. Also, the state is just huge, so I imagine there's a lot of things to see.

When I was getting my rental car this afternoon, they asked if I planned on taking the car out of state. I asked if I'd be able to even make it out of the state in 24 hours. They didn't seem to think so.

Saying you're from Montana is like saying you're from Australia. I think it takes several hours to fly from end to end. (Sorry, I come from a tall state, so this is kind of new for me.)

* My hotel has no wireless internet. I'm not sure how this happens, but I have a wired connection. I'm searching the room for a few AOL trial discs, with 1,000 free hours.

* Finally, I'm not sure if people are just screwing with me, as I'm staying pretty close to a few small communities where people seem to know each other - or if they're just very friendly, but damn, is this a "nice to see you" kind of town.

Like, above and beyond what I'm used to. They put Minnesotans to shame.

(Image from:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wait, we're the dumb ones?

When the Girl was studying in Ireland, I got a lot of mileage from making all sorts of cracks about her new hometown of Dublin.

Drunk jokes were just too easy, so I went the way of Lucky Charms, Leprechaun Presidential elections and worshiping the Pope-tato.

So, when it's time to take my lumps about being an idiot who was a product of the American educational system, I usually just suck it up and prepare my next round of ugly Americanism.

So, when I see that this is still happening, it drives me nuts. The international community thinks that we're a downtrodden, blue collar violent cesspool of stabbings and despair?

Who do they think we are? Detroit?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Two Mannings enter, one Manning leaves

What makes today outstanding? Two Mannings were playing football this afternoon, and the right one lost.

I'm near the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to the line of succession for the Peyton Manning fan club, but this means I possibly get to indulge myself when it comes to another offseason of reports that Peyton is sulking, Peyton is being snippy to his wife and Peyton is drowning his sorrows with the teamsters at one of the 40 to 50 commercials he's filming for the Super Bowl.

My favorite of these stories was an AP report that he was acting like a child while on vacation with his wife months after the Colts were bounced in 2004. A co-worker cut the story out and put it up in my cube and I'm pretty sure I still have it in a box from when I packed up my desk in Minneapolis.

I've settled down a bit since Manning did me a solid and bounced the Bears from the Super Bowl last year, but I'm really disappointed that there won't be a Pats/Colts showdown next week. That game would have been better than the actual Super Bowl, as it has in the past - thanks for nothing, Indy.

Regardless, here on Upset Sunday, the Giants and Chargers both won on the road. I have no idea how this happened. I'll leave the obvious shots to the Monday Simmons column, but I can barely contain myself after watching the Cowboys bow out tonight.

It's not just because Brett Favre has a historically suspect record in Dallas, it's because I don't have to spend a week hearing and reading about how Favre has a historically suspect record in Dallas.

So, New York is headed to Green Bay next week to face the blatant rip off of Seattle's 12th Man, the G Force and, more importantly, nut-numbing temperatures usually reserved for theoretical physicists.

As we learned from th Seahawks this weekend, electric underpants are apparently not the answer. No we can get back to the business at hand and prepare for a week of criticism directed at Tony Romo and his Mexican vacations with Jessica Simpson and speculation about how badly the Chargers should get killed in Foxboro.

Maybe Romo can give Manning some vacation tips - I'm thinking double-dating in Acapulco?

Update: The poll on right now? What will happen in the AFC Championship game? Pats by more/less than 10 points or Chargers by more/less than 10 points. It begins.

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Free, free, free!

For those in Chicago, here's your official heads up that both the Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry will be free in the immediate future.

Gapers Block has the news on the Shedd, which will offer free admission through Jan. 18. Admission to the Wild Reef and the Oceanarium will cost you a few bucks more, but are totally worth it.

After locking people out last week - I assume to strike the Star Wars exhibit and to get some maintenance done - the Museum of Science and Industry will be free from Jan. 12 to 31. Sweet feet.

Apparently, there are no special exhibits that will be open during that time, but there's still a train model and the big ass submarine and the City of the Century architecture. Also, baby chickens.

The reason I bring both of these bits up is because they're both places that deserve a second look, especially for those who haven't seen them since field trips in grammar school.

The Shedd really surprised me this week as they built the new Wild Reef exhibit under the main level and did a nice job of cleaning up the rest of the space on the top floor.

I remember when the Shedd was run down and dark - it was cramped and ugly and wasn't on the top of anyone's list to visit after they'd been there once. It was like a dark alley that smeeled like dead fish. In 1991, they added the Oceanarium, which opened the whole building up and made the space viable again.

I'm not sure what it is about old aquariums, but they always look like run down pet shops. There's a little known National Aquarium in downtown Washington, DC, that is nothing short of awful. Worse yet, it's the only museum in Washington that charges an entrance fee.

It's out of the same Shedd mold of dimly lit, cramped and dated public spaces. The Shedd is seemingly turning a corner with regards to becoming a welcoming place again. The main atrium - home to the massive Carribean tank that everyone remembers from being sent to the Shedd on field trips - is now relit with spotlights, bringing out the architecture, which used to hide in the shadows.

It's pretty funny now because for a while the Shedd seemed determined to live down to it's failing reputation. At one point, there was a swamp exhibit in the front lobby - where the main desk is now - that was essentially a major mud hole sunk into the floor.

Apparently no one noticed when workers were walking off with pieces of the ironwork when the swamp was being filled in until years later when a Shedd employee came across sections of the gating for sale in the classifieds.

Suffice to say, the Shedd was always happy to be the ugly stepchild of the Chicago zoo/museum circuit. Now with baby whales arriving pretty regularly and much-needed upgrades taking place, the Shedd can at least be mentioned in the same breath with the rest of the tourist traps in the city.

The Museum of Science and Industry is another aging institution that is trying to reinvent itself for a contemporary audience. The parking lots have been sunk, funneling guests through a new main entrance below ground. The whole experience is simpler than it had been in the past.

With the building being the biggest final remnant of the 1893 World's Fair, there isn't much the museum's board can do in terms of major renovations, but they seem to be holding their own.

The ugrades to the U-505 are nothing short of amazing, taking the submarine from "1975 Camaro left up on blocks in the front yard" status to an actual museum piece. The big picture is still pretty interesting, as there are the old standbys - the giant human heart, the train models and an entire floor that hasn't seen as much as a paint job in 25 to 30 years - mixed in with newly renovated and technologically souped up exhibits.

It's interesting to walk down the old stairwells with the same half-assed science experiments that haven't changed since I was in first grade and then to see the changes as you work your way through the museum.

So, for what it's worth, there are two major tourist sites open for free and on weekends, too. Totally worth it, if only to see what's changed since the last time you were there. This time, there won't be any nuns to smack you in the back of the head for acting the fool.

Not that you should now, or anything - you're a grown up and these are nicer places these days.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Making things right for the West Coast audience

I played two games of Madden.

I cleaned up the living room a bit, including vacuuming up two dozen rogue pine needles from a tree that was hauled out last weekend.

I walked the dog, ran to the mailbox on the corner and made lunch.

I still had two hours to go before the Packer game kicked off. Damn, did that suck.

With the games pushed back for the Saturday schedule - 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. for the Central zone - it was like killing time before an afternoon flight as I waited and waited for football today. You get really excited and can't really do much because you have this moderate event waiting later in the afternoon.

On the plus side, fans in the Pacific time zone must be eating this up. One of the big things I remember from a trip to San Diego was that the Red Sox were playing at the same time as Sunday football games were kicking up. There was a loud slice of Red Sox Nation in attendance to see the late-season game (2005) and more Charger fans in one place than I'd ever seen (previous record? Zero.) at that point.

The whole thing was moderately disorienting because we had to get to the bar at 9 a.m. to get seats. It was like being in college all over again, only with less murky-headedness.

I imagine this has to be somewhat comforting for California residents who are transplanted from the Midwest and out east. Still, if given the option, I'd totally opt for the West Coast schedule, which lets you get up and watch sports, no screwing around.

Sure, it'd suck for baseball season when the AL East games would be wrapping up when your lunch break ended, but still - football on during breakfast, how nice is that?

Enjoy, California - this is why the rest of the country is so chubby and pasty - by the time games end out here, you're too exhausted to head out and do anything productive.

That and every meal in Green Bay is served with a pound of fried cheese in lieu of a bread basket.

*Side note: Maybe I'm brainwashed after reading the Simmons column this week tonight, but how much better would this CBS Halftme show be if any of the color commentators were replaced by the smart-aleck Masshole who is on the NFL Network commercials at the diner?

A lot better. Much, much better.

(Image from:

The opposite of subtle

For those who don't live here in Chicago, you're missing out on a high-water mark of modern advertising.

I speak, of course, of the "Get Tested Chicago" campaign. Get tested for what? Genital-chomping STD's, silly!

At first, the ads were mildly shocking and kind of funny. Apparently, I've been missing the boat by not keeping a closer eye on the city's gay publications. I implore you to check out the full-sized version of the ad on the right.

It's only one ad campaign in a line of blunt force advertising here, which had expanded this week to include the automated voice on the city's bus and train lines telling riders that without help from the state, the bus they're on won't be operating at the end of January.

Right in between announcing stops and warning people about assaulting other riders or drivers is the announcement that the elderly should be prepared to start walking. I'm shocked that it's not coordinated to go off when the bus passes a shoe store or a bike shop.

It's something to think about as you're walking to the VD clinic.

What a total mess

There's a good column I saw today over at, regarding Britney Spears' meltdown and the ongoing media blitz as she falls apart in prime time.

Roy Peter Clark weighs in after reading a Pulitzer finalist about mental illness and then takes a stab at breaking down how the whole situation got to this point.

And here, for journalists, is the crux of the problem: While we linger beyond imagination on the dissolution of one young celebrity, mental illness is an almost invisible story in the American news media. I came to this conclusion after reading the book, "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness," a Pulitzer finalist. In it, Pete Earley, an experienced journalist, reveals the terrible truths that should be on the pages of America's newspapers every day: that we have not progressed as far as we think from Shakespeare's day when the mentally ill prisoners of Bedlam Hospital were put on display as public entertainment.

For me, it's become a love/hate relationship with the whole storyline. I'm OK living in a world without updates on what she's doing, but every piece of information that comes my way just makes me angrier and more frustrated that I get angrier and more frustrated.

It's a pretty nasty cycle.

When it comes to his idea that the media back away from the whole mess quietly, I think that's probably for the best. Maybe we can all get together in support groups to find new ways to spend 15 to 20 minutes each day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Identity thieves want your thumbs!

It's only a matter of time before those words start popping up in your junk inbox on your e-mail account. Start the clock.

I was reminded again of the oncoming wave of stupidity when I was at the grocery store yesterday and saw the thumbprint reader at the checkout line.

The idea is that you go to the customer service desk at Jewel, present them with your preferred shopper card and then they get you to provide a thumbprint. From then on, instead of having to carry your card on your keychain like a normal human being, you just do your shopping and thumbprint your way to health and happiness.

God forbid you have to carry a scrap of plastic the size of two postage stamps in order to save 10 cents on peas. What are we, Amish?


Plus, I could leave my wallet behind! (or so I'm told...)

The whole thing worries me on several levels, not the least of which is that I don't trust Jewel-Osco much, and by "much," I mean, "not at all."

My big concern is that if my identity is swiped today, I get some new account numbers, shut down a few credit cards and start the clean up process. Worst case, you have major problems with your social security number, but it's not like someone has access to a body part.

What happens if someone hacks your fingerprint? How do you reboot a hand?

This is all a moot point for me, as I spent five to ten minutes standing in line behind a woman who forgot her cash card and tied up everyone behind her as she left the store, headed to her car and took her sweet time wandering back in.

So for me, I can't imagine ever being in such a hurry that I'd a.) forget my wallet or b.) would need to leave Jewel 15 to 20 seconds faster than if I just used my check card.

Now, when Jewel develops the technology to implant a small transmitter in my forearm, we'll be talking. At least I can get rid of that with a cheese grater and some whiskey, right?

(Image from:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stop it, stop it, stop it

Watching the network break in with New Hampshire updates last night was bad enough - having to hear all of the permutations of "The Comeback Kid" made it unbearable.

The backstory refers to Bill Clinton, who rose from the dead in New Hampshire during his first campaign, earned him the "Comeback Kid" nickname and was used to springboard him ahead for the remainder of the election season.

Last night, I was told how John McCain had named himself "the Comeback Kid" as the results came in - instant disqualification for giving yourself a nickname - and later, Hillary Clinton was being given the nickname for her win over Barack Obama.

This is troubling on several levels.

Topping my list is the fact that these names are being recycled. There is only one Galloping Ghost, Splendid Splinter, Yankee Clipper and Gipper.

There should only be one Comeback Kid, and certainly not two in the same night and from different parties. Stupid nickname vultures.

As a bonus political link, here's a listing of campaign slogans compiled from I'm a big fan of the reannexation of Texas and Barry Goldwater's, "In your heart you know he’s right."

It makes him sound like a total jackass, but in a good way.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

American Gladiators is back, not that we needed it

I tried to warn everyone that this sort of thing would be what happens without writers, but no one wanted to listen. So, we get this - American Gladiators, hosted by Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali.


There was a two-hour special tonight to get everyone back up to speed with their favorite mutated humans and it's even more ridiculous than it was before.

Let me tell you, it's even creepier in hi-def.

The Girl and I remember this show from when we were kids, watching it on sketchy local television on Saturday nights when we were too young to be let out of the house after dark. This time around, it's kind of strange and I'm not sure if that's on purpose, a product of this weird resurrection (like animals buried at the pet cemetery in the Stephen King book) or because we're old enough to see just how crazy the whole idea is.

I can live without being told which events are new and which ones are classic events. Honestly, there's only one I can really remember - the one where they fire tennis balls at people as they scramble to find Nerf weapons and try to blow up the gladiators. That's about it.

In any event, there are the usual crop of hopefuls - talking more trash than I remember, prompting several, "That's why television needs writers," comments - and the gladiators are now given distinct personalities - check here for Wolf, Toa and Hellga - which makes things better in a worse kind of way.

The house is laying odds here at possible hermaphrodites, former mental patients and people who owe money to bad people. Also, we had a spirited discussion about whether or not certain gladiators would be cool to hang out with or if they were just as psychotic when the cameras stopped rolling.

Try it, it's fun.

If you missed tonight's showing, you owe it to yourself to check in at least once to see people getting pelted with tennis balls and climbing up three stories worth of rope ladders. Plus, the contestants seem compelled to give themselves nicknames and personality, even if it's the last minute.

The fan favorite here was the undersized Asian guy who decided he was a "spider monkey" midway through the show.

Totally awesome in a "I'm getting dumber at an alarming rate" kind of way. What else are you going to watch with football relegated to Saturday and Sunday afternoons?

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A world without quarterbacks

Not for nothing, but today's games seem to be some sort of experiment in what the NFL would be like if the forward pass had never been invented. I like to call it "the day the forward pass overslept and missed the playoffs."

For our neighbors, this is more likely known as "the day those old knuckleheads upstairs got Rock Band and just pounded away on the floor all... damn... day..." Too bad for them. On the plus side, the dog won't bark when we're making an unholy racket with the drum kit.

So, there's that.

I'm not watching the San Diego/Tennessee game too closely, but you shouldn't expect much from teams featuring Philip Rivers and Vince Young (Rivers is actually having a good day on a couple of long plays).

The first game was just brutal to watch. Frankie and I were catching up with the game on in the background and we interrupted each other every few minutes as Eli Manning and Jeff Garcia took turns looking ridiculous on the field.

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that one of Garcia's retinas had been knocked loose, rendering him unable to accurately judge distances. But where would someone be exposed to that sort of force and/or blunt trauma? Oh, wait.

It was just ugly, like watching kids on a playground who had really good arms, but had yet to realize their limitations in terms of control. I suppose it didn't help that the Tampa Bay offensive line appeared to be in strike for parts of the second half - every replay was of Garcia throwing under pressure or while he was being wrapped up, leading to him trying to strongarm lame duck passes over the middle.

In San Diego, CBS is loving the stats regarding the Chargers' post season flops - they haven't won a playoff game since 1994, the year they were blown out by the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

If they could find some long-dead player to pin this on, they'd have a full-blown Curse of the Bambino on their hands. I'd prefer to call it, "the curse of shitty coaching hires in San Diego."

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Won't someone think of the tigers?

I knew this was coming, but didn't imagine it'd be so anti-climatic. The pro-tiger rally was held in San Francisco, with nearly as many dogs as people in attendance.

Still, the folks quoted were right - it was a tiger being a tiger and what do you expect of an animal that gets loose?

The folks at PETA really shit the bed on this one, by not latching on from the start. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there were four or five people who showed up for a bonfire and they put a happy face on the turn out by telling everyone how heartfelt their participation was.

The funny thing is that some poor reporter got shipped out to witness this on a slow news day. This had to be a new kid at the paper, working on New Year's Day and forced to come up with something.

It's amazing that I'm beating the bushes to get back with a newspaper, isn't it?

As a means of basic housekeeping, here are a few things that have been sitting around:

* There's a chart that has the remaining shows that were filmed before the writers' strike to help you figure out when TV will suck like crazy. With The Office already dried up, among others, it helps to know how many episodes are left around the dial.

Considering new shows like The Big Bang Theory are already on their third lap around with only six or seven episodes filled, I wonder when the networks will cut those off.

I'm most afraid of the new reality shows that are in the works. Most are very, very bad and run the risk of destroying any sort of watchable television.

* Finally, after catching up with my friend, Heather, over the holiday, I'm pretty sure I couldn't fill her shoes at a government think tank. I could, however, break down rap songs into their basics for graphical representation.

If econ had been more like this, I would have opted for a different major in college.

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