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Archive for February, 2010

Thanks for the update

While I’ve been known to say disparaging things about Facebook, I have to admit that it does provide its share of unintentional comedy.  Yesterday, I saw this piece of “news” and chuckled:

“(Name of ‘friend’ with whom I have zero contact) became a fan of Ari Gold and Maya Angelou.”

Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense.


My kind of place

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cloon dogI love Burbank airport.  (You’re right: why don’t I marry it?)  In truth, most of my affection comes from the airport’s stark contrast to LAX, but it’s more than that.  Its ease and my familiarity with its layout and standard operation procedures make a world of difference to someone like me.  I can get there and work through everything quickly enough that I can sit at my gate for 45 minutes (or more) before boarding.  Like sitting in an empty movie theater well before the film starts, I find that extremely comforting.  (I briefly thought about calling my need to get to an airport early my “terminal illness,” but ultimately deemed the pun not quite strong enough to carry that phrase.  Good call, no?)

I tried my normal route to Burbank this past Saturday, but construction signs forced me into another direction.  If I had already felt short on time, this might’ve been a very unwelcome sight, but I was fine with it.  I pulled into my lot of choice and emailed myself that I was near shuttle stop 6.  While still in my car, a shuttle bus roared by.  Again I was fine, knowing that they come fairly often and that I had plenty of time.  (I like the phrase “plenty of time.”  I find it very enjoyable; in fact, just saying it might lower my blood pressure.) 

So after having a few more sips of coffee from my travel mug, I got out with my bag and walked to the shuttle station.  A minute later, a husband and wife joined me there.  We exchanged brief salutations and then went back to being strangers.  Maybe two or three minutes later, we saw a shuttle coming our way and instinctively grabbed our respective bags and took half-steps forward.  It didn’t sound like it was slowing down as it neared us, and my ears didn’t deceive me; it kept going at its normal speed right past us.  “Hey!” the man next to me yelled before flailing his arms a bit.  The shuttle came to a halt a couple of hundred feet away and began backing up.  “Jerk,” the man said, and then he looked at me for support, but I left him metaphorically hanging.  I thought “jerk” was too strong for something that looked to be just a mental lapse or missed sighting, but maybe that’s just me.

We got on, and the driver apologized.  (See? My non-jerk call might be right after all.)  At the next stop, a feeble old man got on with a long carrying case. He sat next to a woman who had been already established herself as the talkative one on our little ride.  She turned to the old guy and said with a little laugh, “I’m guessing you don’t have a snowboard in there (cause you’re old as shit)!  Hahahaha.”  “Pardon?” he said.  She repeated her statement, complete with the exact same tone and number of laughs. “Skis,” the old man replied while gesturing toward his bag.  “Oh,” she said, before shutting up for the rest of the ride.  I spent a minute or so wondering how best to describe that “Oh,” and I settled on a combination of crestfallen, defeated, and embarrassed.  Crestfeatassed? Defrestfassed? Embarfeatfallen? Nevermind.

Thanks to the ease of Southwest (if you’re not fat, that is), I already had my boarding pass in hand when I entered the terminal.  Security only took a couple of minutes, thanks to the minimal line, the “express lane” for seasoned travelers, and my Clooney-esque ability to do everything asked of me a step ahead of time.  (I put my phone, watch, wallet, etc. in my bag’s front compartment while walking to the security area so that I only had to slip off my shoes, take off my jacket, and lay the bag flat before walking through the metal detector.  I imagine people glanced over and thought, “Wow, he really knows what he’s doing.  I hope to be that awesome of a traveler one day.  And boy does he look like a young George Clooney!”)

From that point, it was continued smooth sailing.  The only hitch in the entire process from pulling into the parking lot to lifting off the ground was that I didn’t find the right kind of puzzle book at the magazine/book stand in the terminal.  That’s ok; my iPod more than occupied me during my soothing extended-waiting period.   All told, my Burbank Airport (or technically Bob Hope Airport) experience was predictably easy and worry-free.  And if you think it’s weird that I’m writing a modified love note to an airport, then you clearly haven’t been to LAX in a while.

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Market conditions

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la storySunday was not only the day that greeting card companies tell us to say “I love you” to one other, but also a day in which I received an unexpected present.  I’ll begin with some backstory:

I went to Trader Joe’s to get a few items while my lovely wife and the two babies inside her did some things around the house.  I’ve gotten to know this TJ’s well, and so I’m able to look at the list handed to me and plan my course of action.  Anything in or near the produce section is in Area A (which I sometimes physically write next to the items), the meats/cheeses/frozen stuff is what I call Area B, and so on.  I’m pretty damn efficient there, as long as there isn’t a new item on my list that throws me off. 

As I walked in on Sunday and proceeded to Area A, a display caught my eye with a bunch of bottles of wine.  I recognized it immediately, for I’d seen it there once before many months ago.  The wine, a red blend with a label that said “Chariot,” was highly praised by the TJ’s staff.  I was told at the time that it’s only available every so often, so people usually grabbed two or three at a time.  It was a good enough marketing ploy that I snagged one for the low low price of either $3.99 or $4.99 and planned on finding a time to try it out.  Well, those times didn’t really present themselves, and I soon found myself in need of a bottle of wine to bring to someone’s house as a gift (where it remained unopened).  Like that, the Chariot had passed me by. 

Though the display certainly grabbed my attention, I pushed on to Area A.  After B and C, I was near the cash registers and ready to check out.  But like Steve Martin’s car in “L.A. Story,” my shopping cart magically guided me back toward the Chariot display.  (There was no sentient freeway sign though imploring me to, “Sing Doo Wah Diddy.”  Oops, spoiler alert.)  I grabbed a bottle, and then went back to the register with the shortest line.  To my right, a TJ’s employee stepped toward me and said, “I can help you over on this one.”  I looked up and saw that he was indicating the express lane, expressly serving those with a maximum of ten items.  I tried quickly counting what I had since I knew it would be close, but he was waving me on and so I just went with it.  Hey, he’s the one who suggested it.

Here’s where the unexpected gift came: “Can I see your ID?” he asked.  “Yes please!” I answered.  “It’s been a while, so I appreciate it.”  He took a look at my birthday on the license and said, “Oh yeah, you’re good.”  Ladies and gentlemen, on February 14, 2010, I had been legally able to drink alcohol in the great state of California for 11 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days.  Since this is currently the oldest I’ve ever been, that’s a personal record.   (It’s hard for me to get too excited about this since my fellow blogger MC Squared will probably get carded until he’s 45.) 

When we opened up that bottle of wine later that evening with some friends, it was indeed tasty.  Maybe I’ll go grab another one or two before they’re gone to see if they age well…since I apparently do.

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You What?

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ScreenHunter_03 Feb. 15 22.50

The other day I was driving to work and Porsche Boxster drove by me during my commute.  I noticed this personalized license plate and immediately my brain forked in two different directions, multi-threading.  At the same time I thought, “That’s a Porsche, and Porsche makes a Cayman, but that’s not a Cayman.  Porsche also makes a Cayenne, and sometimes I confuse the two, probably because they start with the same three letters, but that’s also not a Cayenne.”  At the same time I brain wrestled with that, the other half said “Heheheh, he said Cayman U.”

Hands down this is the most vulgar license plate I’ve ever seen, but I’d like to hear your close seconds, or even contenders for first.  Mostly I’m impressed he was able to get this by the DMV.  I picture the groups of snickering prison inmates pressing this plate.  And then I try to stop picturing them as they point to the more timid, mousy, even pretty-mouthed inmates and quote the plate at them.

Did this Porsche owner tell the DMV he went to Cayman University?  Is it a paired plate with his wife who drives a Cayman, whose plate says BOXSTR U and he’s totally unaware?  Finally, is he claiming to have culminated inside of everybody he comes across?

Comes across.

Because the second-person is a cavalier choice. It’s not CAYMNHR, it’s U.  So that’s anybody who reads the plate.  It’s pretty aggressive and also not very picky. It’s far better than BINUPIT.  Does he never take that car when he visits his mom?  I doubt I will ever see a more vulgar plate, so I feel a sense of accomplishment having eye-witnessed it.

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An open letter to country musicians

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usa usaPsst, you there.  Yeah, you with the twang, come here for a minute.  It’s ok to put down your American flag; I promise not to call you a Socialist or anything.  I have your next hit song here waiting for you to record.  Ah, you’re interested now, eh?  No, that wasn’t a Canadian “eh,” don’t worry.  Are you ready?  Check out this premise:

Even though life is pretty good right now in 2010, I can’t help but have…2020 vision.  That’s right, we’re getting ahead of the curve with a catchy theme that will not only resonate well in this year, but it’ll be played non-stop in the latter part of 2019 just like Prince’s “1999” was all over the place in ’98.  Not sold yet?  Check out how many country music staples can be worked into “2020 Vision”:

1. Even though you broke my heart, by then I should be over you.  Maybe I’ll have a family of my own and only remember the good times we once shared.

2. America will be stronger than ever.  (“I think of the ways that our country is failin’/That ship will be righted by President Palin.”)

3. I’ll still have my best friend… (“By then my pup/Will be all grown-up.”)

4. …And the things that matter most to me. (“And with any luck/I’ll still have my truck.”)

5. And each chorus can end with a variation of the title.  (“My twenty-ten fears and indecision/All melt away with my 2020 vision.”)

Seriously, what are you waiting for?  This is country gold!  Time is of the essence, so get to the studio now.  And when you’re up on stage accepting your four or five CMA awards, just give a shout out to the good people at Nothing to Read Here.  (Oh yeah, and whatever percentage of your royalties that you deem fair would be nice too.)

God bless America,


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Stacy and Julia

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So like every other unoriginal person out there, I decided I wanted to buy Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” after seeing the movie “Julie and Julia.” While I found Julie to be almost unbearable, Meryl Streep made Julia Child look lovable and cooking her way seemed to be joyous in a way that “Joy of Cooking” cooking never has been for me. Child put so much of herself into her food and her ground-breaking cookbook that I was sure it was going to be just the thing to inspire my own inner chef.

I’m not a terribly hopeless cook like my sweet mother is, and in fact it is my mother’s lack of culinary ability that inspired me to learn to cook in the first place. Though I found my steady diet of microwave French toast, deli sandwiches, and mac and cheese just dandy, I was always surprised when I would go to a friend’s house and see that their moms made pancakes for breakfast and sometimes would start preparing dinner right after lunchtime. LUNCHTIME! How long could something possibly sit in the microwave? When I was 14 and eating at my friend Shannon’s grandparents’ house, her grandma asked me if I liked pork chops and I told her I didn’t know because I had never tried them. Everyone looked at me like I had just told them I preferred to eat babies for dinner. It was then that I decided I would learn to cook so that my future children would not receive similar horrified looks when they ate at friends’ houses.

My attempts at cooking have generally gone pretty well. I feel confident in my ability to make a good lasagna, my parents love how I cook salmon and asparagus, and for three years in a row now I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner by myself. But Julia Child’s boeuf bourginon was certainly my loftiest endeavor to date.

Apparently it’s the first dish from her then-manuscript that the publisher tried to cook and was the recipe that made the publisher realize what a special and unique cookbook it truly was and prompted her to offer Julia and her comrades a book deal. It’s also the dish that Julie Powell ruins in the movie…and I would assume real life, but seeing as how I found her so irritating in the film, I couldn’t bear the thought of reading her book and/or blog. Blogs are just so self-indulgent.

I had to go to three stores to buy all the ingredients and dropped a pretty serious chunk of change doing so. I went to the butcher counter to get a six-ounce SLAB of bacon with the rind on. Prior to reading the recipe, I didn’t know you could purchase bacon by the slab, or that it had a rind, but rest assured you can, and it does. I sliced onions until my eyes stung and at one point had three of my four burners AND my oven going all at once. I was wearing an apron that was covered in flour and tapping a wooden spoon against the cookbook absent-mindedly while consulting the recipe for the 18th time. I was cooking!

Now I would never call myself any kind of authority on cooking whatsoever, but in my limited experience, I’ve never connected with what I was doing and saw myself on a path to an outcome like I did with my first Julia Child recipe. Usually I feel like I am blindly following random instructions in the vain hope that when I’m done there will be food. My dad likes to say “that’s not cooking; that’s reading.” But this time it really felt like cooking and I’ve never been more proud of something I’ve made.

Up until a few days ago, I really thought Julia Child was just a tall lady with a funny voice who people happened to trust with their dinners, and when the post-script of the movie claimed that her book “changed the world” I rolled my eyes. But if I can happily spend 3+ hours in the kitchen, feeling confident that I am doing everything right, and have something delicious at the end, my world is definitely better.

That’s bullshit: Band name edition

That's Bullshit!I was hanging out with someone recently when the song, “Up On the Roof” came on.  I said, “Who sings this?  Is it…” “The Drifters,” he said.  “Ah,” I replied, “I couldn’t remember if it was The Drifters or The Platters.”  He nodded, as if to say that it was a reasonable memory lapse on my part.  I then made a confused face.  “Wait a minute,” I said, “That other band’s name is The Platters?”  He thought I was still disputing the original song’s artist and told me that The Platters sang, “Only You,” “The Great Pretender,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and other hits.  “No, no, I got that part, but what kind of name is The Platters?  Could they have chosen a less interesting inanimate object?”  He stared at me for a couple of seconds before saying, “Yeah, I guess that’s kinda boring.”  “Kinda?  What’s more boring than a tray used to bring other, more interesting things from one room to another?”   He saw my point, but wasn’t nearly as perturbed as I was and quickly changed the subject. 

Call me crazy, but I’ll take strange names like “Strawberry Alarm Clock,” “Japandroids,” and “Frightened Rabbit” any day over dull and lifeless ones.  The Platters?  What, was The Drying Rack taken?  That’s bullshit!

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My honest opinion

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gervaisI was on a plane two nights ago, and I made an executive decision to watch the movie they were showing. I still had a bit of a headache after drinking too much the night before, so Sudoku didn’t seem like the best idea.  Instead, I listened to music during episodes of tv shows I don’t watch and tried closing my eyes for a bit.  When it was time for the feature presentation though, I was all eyes.  The movie was “The Invention of Lying,” starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner.  I don’t go to movies often, but I’d wanted to see this one when it originally came out.  I like Ricky Gervais quite a bit, and “Extras” on HBO was a great series (especially the second season).  I like Ms. Garner too, though most of that is due to her being really hot in the first couple of seasons of “Alias.”   The premise had intrigued me: In a world in which everyone has always told the truth, a man (Gervais) tells the first ever lie…and hilarity ensues.  In theory.

The first problem I had was not the film’s fault whatsoever.  The monitor that I was looking at had some weird color issues going on.  It was almost like I was looking at film negatives of the movie, where light colors were replaced by shades of purple.  This wasn’t as distracting as you might think.  Oh sure, it looked like the characters were wearing weird masks for most of the movie, and daytime scenes had artsy-looking purple skies instead, but I don’t think it got in the way of the story. If anything, it made it visually interesting, like some of the recent Dr. Seuss movies, Tim Burton films, or even “cool” credit card commercials.  It actually worked with the story, having a cartoon-y background matching an idealized version of society.

That said, lots of other things didn’t work for me.  Five big ones, in fact.  First off, I was initially pleased to see certain names in the opening credits.  Namely, comedian Louis C.K. is often hilarious, and Jonah Hill has had some good moments in his career to date.  However, Mr. C.K. was criminally underused here, to the point that I’m hoping there were some hilarious and vulgar scenes I just missed because they were edited out for the flying public.  And Jonah Hill wasn’t funny either, unless you find humor in someone talking about how horrible his life is and the ways in which he’s considering offing himself.

That leads nicely to my second gripe: it wasn’t funny.  The movie had an interesting concept and Ricky Gervais is likeable enough, but I can’t recall a single laugh-out-loud moment.  By that, I don’t even just mean for myself.  I’ve been on planes before where people are cackling like mad over “Four Christmases” or some shit like that.  No one in my seat’s vicinity laughed audibly a single time.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a problem when a movie’s billed as a comedy.

Third up: Jennifer Garner’s character was unworthy of the devotion heaped on her.  When we meet her, she’s extremely shallow and only cares about looks and wealth.  Since everyone’s always honest, she says as much to Ricky Gervais’s character.  Later, she gets to like him more, but still won’t be with him because his physical traits wouldn’t produce the best-looking offspring possible.  It’s during this time that Ricky Gervais tells her how wonderful she is and that she’s the sweetest person he’s ever met.  He means it, but the audience hasn’t been shown a single reason to agree with him.  That doesn’t make me want to root for them to be together, and if anything, the desire to be with her shows that his character also overvalues the importance of physical beauty.  (I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of one of the film’s big points.)

Problem number four is a doozy.  Without getting too spoilery, it’s safe to assume that things spin out of control once he gets the hang of lying.  In a plot point I didn’t anticipate, the entire second act of the movie is essentially railing against organized religion.  He makes some stuff up about a “man in the sky” who decides what happens to everyone, and we’re supposed to laugh (I think) at the idiots who blindly believe in that silly concept.  Personally, I’m not even close to calling myself religious, and I still found that whole major storyline to be mildly offensive.

Lastly, the ending kinda sucked.  Without revealing too much, there was a line that I fully expected to be said in a sweet moment because they so clearly were building up to it, but then it never was.  Also, at the very end, they totally glossed over something huge that needed to be addressed.  (If you’ve seen this movie and want to email me at pdawg@n2rh.com, I can be more specific about both of these things.)  Basically, it felt like they forgot that they needed to end the movie somehow and threw the last few scenes together in hopes that no one would notice.  Guess what – I did.

So I was pretty disappointed in the movie.  Part of that is due to my higher expectations before it began – after all, I didn’t even think about putting my earphones in for “Whip It!” on the flight out.  But hey, “The Invention of Lying” passed the time and made the plane ride go a little faster.  Maybe I’ll rent it, watch it again, and see if I enjoy it in a more comfortable setting and without a headache.  No, wait, that was a lie.

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