Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I DIDN'T THINK I WAS GRAY DAVIS, but David Broder is apparently trying to convince me otherwise:

SPEAKING OF REALITY TV, the watch-him-put-his-new-knowledge-into-practice portion of the Alan Corey episode of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" made me laugh out loud more than anything else I can remember. Watch for reruns.

Here's the asterisk: Some of the more hilarious portions of the episode (as when Jessica Simpson declined the offer of a buffalo wing, saying "I don't eat buffalo") seemed too good to be true. And if you look up Alan Corey, you find that he is indeed a real estate success story and practicing skinflint, as portrayed on the show, but mainly -- in a twist not portayed on the show -- he's a comedian. I don't think he's a good-enough comedian to have faked the making-himself-look-dorky moments on "Queer Eye," but I do have to say: Hmmm . . .

GREAT NEWS for fans of top-notch reality TV.

Monday, September 29, 2003

DOES IT MAKE ME A BAD GUY if I suspect that some important details are usually missing from this kind of story?

(My apologies for whatever jumping-through-hoops Salon makes you do for a free peek, but I think the site is worth the subscription price.)

Friday, September 26, 2003

I LAUGHED when I heard that the first judge was deluged with angry phone calls at home. But I'm afraid the second judge makes a good point. If we have the right to block certain tactics for soliciting our money, what difference does it make whether telemarketers want it in exchange for actual goods and services or in exchange for warm, fuzzy, charitable feelings?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A STORY ABOUT (a) my favorite New York City hotel, and (b) yet another self-parody brought to you by the U.S. legal system.

Also, a pretty nifty headline. (NYTimes.com registration required.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

THE OTHER SHOE drops for Madison . . . Michelle.

Monday, September 22, 2003

" 'AWESOME DAWSOME,' ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, hee," said the man in line in front of me at McDonald's, and everyone else but me seemed to agree that those were the funniest words ever uttered.

When I say "line," of course, I mean "amorphous mass," because standing in line is yet another of those basic skills that people don't seem to have a grasp of anymore. I groaned when one of the cashiers told the leader of the laughter that her register was closed, but then the mob thinned out -- apparently most of the others were there only to laugh at the first guy's spellbinding storytelling, not to order food or anything. Once we had a reasonable semblance of a line in front of the one open register, a second register opened. Suddenly everyone acquired flawless line-forming skills and two distinct lines formed; why settle for boring first-come, first-served meritocracy when you can turn the waiting experience into a little slice of Vegas?

"Hee, hee, 'Awesome Dawsome,' " he continued.

Is it over yet?

"Yes, sir, ha, ha, ha."


"Heh. Too much."

Let it die.

"Can you believe it? 'Awesome Dawsome.' "

Shoot me now.

I finally got my No. 1 Meal, in the usual haphazard fashion that characterizes the Ray Kroc-is-long-gone McDonald's experience, and I walked over to fill my cup with Diet Coke. My new favorite people had grabbed a big table, and they continued to say "Awesome Dawsome" approximately every 1.5 seconds. This was a double-decker McDonald's, and I hurried upstairs in an attempt to get out of range. It seemed to be working, and then . . .

[Indistinguishable crowd noise] " 'Awesome Dawsome'!" . . . [Indistinguishable crowd noise] " 'Awesome Dawsome'!" . . . [Indistinguishable crowd noise] " 'Awesome Dawsome'!" . . .

Eventually it subsided, and I moved one Big Mac closer to the sweet, sweet salve of death.

REALITY-TV ALERT. I think the new "Survivor" is going to be good, especially if Rupert sticks around. But I still think the gold standard is "The Amazing Race," which won a surprising but well-deserved Emmy last night. Let's hope they decide to make another season or nine.

But my current favorites are "Joe Schmo," Spike TV's mean but brilliant look at a guy who thinks he's in a reality show but is actually surrounded by actors playing reality-TV stereotypes, and MTV's "Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica," in which Jessica Simpson makes Ozzy Osbourne look like Carl Sagan.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I HEAR "Isabel" and I think "Annabelle" and how a poor Spanish guy named Anibel gets called that by the hooligan male friends of his blind date, the chocolicious Barbara Hershey, in the wonderful and shocking 1969 teens-can-be-mean film "Last Summer."

And then I think of "The Incident," another late-'60s mean-people movie that I love.

When my wife hears "Isabel," she thinks of more normal things, but to a supernormal extent.

Speaking of Barbara Hershey and Jacqueline and All the Girls I've Loved Before, here's my attempt at saying something intelligent about the aforementioned "Lost in Translation": You look at the publicity stills and you think, wow, good for them, they cast a plain-looking actress as a quasi-romantic lead for a change. And then you watch the movie and Scarlett Johansson's character emerges and she never stops getting more beautiful, though nothing has really changed.

Also, her voice is exactly the same as Mariel Hemingway's in "Manhattan."

Monday, September 15, 2003

I MIGHT have something intelligent to say about "Lost in Translation" later. For now, though, just see it. Wow.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

NOW, TO SOME MUSIC I know a little about. Simon and Garfunkel was the first act I fully embraced, in the easy-listening phase of my musical awakening. Garfunkel's "Watermark" was the first actual popular-music album my brothers and I owned, if you don't count the "Rocky" soundtrack. Later, as Paul Simon's genius became more widely recognized, I was less sheepish about this phase. I came to realize that Paul Simon was the famous person I'd be, if I were a famous person. The very, very verbal view, the seeming emotional detachment, the approach-avoidance conflict when it comes to performing. (First runner-up: David Letterman.)

On last night's Letterman show, I saw the reunited Simon and Garfunkel for the first time.

Their choice of a first song was a good one: "America," from the "Bookends" album. It's a fairly well-known song, a greatest-hits selection, but not one that has been played into the ground. Unfortunately, the performance didn't start well. Garfunkel was solid, but Simon (surprise!) was emotionally detached. His phrasing was posturing, mugging, arch, to use a word I never use. He was making fun of his own material, singing in the exaggerated fashion that joiners-in in a "Happy Birthday" chorus use to emphasize that this isn't really the way they sound when they're doing some serious singing. (He stopped short of swaying to and fro and wielding a pantomime conductor's baton.)

Simon's mood changed, though, somewhere in the middle. After the extended Paul-Kathy-banter sequence that didn't use to be a Garfunkel solo but is now (ending with I said, "Be careful: His bow tie is really a camera"), Paul continued his phrasal mugging on the Toss me a cigarette/I think there's one in my raincoat line, but from We smoked the last one an hour ago on, he was a changed man. Really. It must be true; I'm just not that perceptive.

The Nina Blackwood head-shake that accompanied the lyrical mugging returned, though more subdued, with So I looked at the scenery/She read her magazine. Simon started to surrender when he and Garfunkel let loose in the full dual release of And the moon rose over an open field, and after the affectation saw its death throes with
"Kathy, I’m lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping, the rest was flawless:

"I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why."
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.
They’ve all come to look for America.
All come to look for America.
All come to look for America.

At first, I thought the other song choice wasn't a good one. I love "The Boxer." I was a boxer. But this is one of those played-into-the-ground songs, and without the iconic quality of "The Sound of Silence" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water." (On-topic note: That's Sound, not Sounds -- though the album title was sans The and avec s -- and Water, not Waters. Everybody gets those wrong.)

I was wrong. It was perfect. Simon's head was still shaking a bit, but his voice was sincere. Lie-la-lie. Where do I buy my $200 tickets?

Oh, by the way: Congratulations, Dave!

SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS SOMETHING about music probably wrote something yesterday about how the sparse instrumental accompaniment showcased the instrument that was Johnny Cash's voice. Because it did. I envy those people who can listen to a song and identify the components. What is that anyway on "I Walk the Line"? A bass fiddle and a couple of maracas?

I barely deserve to talk about Johnny Cash. When I was little and hated basically all music (Dad said they were all hippies, damn hippies!), I held a special disdain for Johnny Cash, who was the favored entertainer of our neighbors, the Ball-Plunkett family (Dad said they were all hillbillies, damn hillbillies!). I smiled at the part his name played in my favorite "Bob Newhart Show" episode, though. And as I gradually eased my way into music fandom, although I long steered clear of anything that could be called country, I quickly added Johnny Cash to my guilty-pleasures file.

Before too long I realized his greatness, though I'm ashamed to say he wasn't a part of my large CD collection until Jacqueline got me one of his recent releases for Christmas last year. And I'm ashamed to say I don't think I even knew that was "Folsom Prison Blues" that the Phantom Limbs covered in most of their sets in my college days in the '80s in Tucson. But there's Johnny, at least, on my hard drive, from the glory days of Napster. "I Walk the Line" and "Folsom Prison Blues" and, on the recommendation of my Vegasphile friend Matt, "I See a Darkness."

I'll be buying more Johnny Cash CDs soon. (Morbid bandwagon? Guilty as charged.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I LIKE the Baja Fresh chain. Yes, it's a chain, but if your senses aren't impaired by resentment at that fact, the food tastes pretty good. Put it in a plain wrapper and say it came from a little shack south of the border and you'd fool most anti-chain snobs. The Baja Fresh people make a big deal about how their kind of food takes a little while to prepare, but I think they take that idea a little too far for what is essentially a fast-food operation.

One other thing: Stop it with the sweeping already!

Maybe that's why it takes half an hour to get your taco: Most of the employees are buzzing around like gnats. Gnats with huge brooms, sweeping sweeping sweeping every minute the place is open, brushing the soles of your shoes and making you wonder what kind of airborne contaminants are being launched toward your food.

I admire your dedication to clean floors, Baja dudes, but once every hour or two would fulfill your sweeping obligations just fine.

SPEAKING OF RESTAURANTS, an interesting thread on the Chowhound.com message boards began with a complaint about a Japanese restaurant's inability to handle a request that a large check be split among six credit cards.

My first reaction was the same as most: How obnoxious to even ask such a thing! But the fact was that the diners did ask before presuming it would be OK, and the staff assured them that it would be fine -- but then found themselves unable to do it. My reply, in part:
Using that many credit cards at one table is excessive, embarrassing, out-of-the-ordinary, and I'd never do it, but the advance-notice part is a mitigating factor.

And, when you think about it, what's so hard about charging x amount (or even x/6 amount -- calculators are easy enough to use!) to as many cards as there are diners? Is solo dining with a credit card prohibited if there are too many other solo diners at the sushi bar at the same time? What is sacrosanct about a single "check" that would make this impossible?
The only reply to my reply so far illustrates something I already knew: Reading comprehension isn't most people's strong suit.

Friday, September 05, 2003

I HAVE THIS PROBLEM where my reactions to unpleasant events are inversely proportional to the unpleasantness of said events.

Real scenario: (Pencil rolls off desk.)

My reaction: "Jesus Fucking Christ, fucking gravity, fucking incompetents designing fucking pencils, fucking Isaac Fucking Newton -- I'll beat the shit out of him. . . ."

Hypothetical scenario: Grandmother falls into Grand Canyon.

My reaction: (Looks down, shakes head.)

Thursday, September 04, 2003

DON'T MISS Lileks, the Target loyalist, weighing in on retail aesthetics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The nice version:

THERE WAS A MADISON MICHELLE on some stupid TV show, and suddenly there are all sorts of Megan Micheles and Amber Michelles and the like, but where are the Tom, Dick and Harry Michelles?

What I meantersay is: Does "Michelle" really exist as a last name, or is it exclusively the province of breast-implant recipients reinventing themselves to take Hollywood (or at least Swank magazine) by storm?

The not-so-nice version:

ATTENTION, BIMBOS. "Michelle" is not a last name.

Monday, September 01, 2003

A PORCINE PIZZA PRIMER. I'm not a pizza snob. I think Domino's is just fine. I think Bertucci's is pretty darn good. But I do have some standards.

I'm as demanding about vegetable accompaniments as I am picky about the pig products that fit them best. What a shame that green olives are rare and pepperoncini practically unheard of in the D.C.-area pizza world. As it happens, though, I publish this as I'm on a plain-pizza kick, having had gen-yoo-ine New York pizza, which is best plain, last week during our U.S. Open jaunt. (Notice that I said plain, not cheese. Pizza with toppings has cheese, too!)

I apologize in advance for sanctioning the use of pineapple chunks and artichoke hearts on pizza. Please forgive me, Chowhounds. (And I have no idea why Blogger mandates a mile of space between a table and the preceding text, so please keep scrolling .  . .)

Green olivesHam
PineappleCanadian bacon
Artichoke heartsProsciutto
NothingNothing, pepperoni, or any of the above.

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