Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How true it is...

My parents rock - yesterday's post was courtesy Mom, and today's is courtesy Dad.

  • There is no North or South - it's "uptown" and "downtown." East or West is "cross-town."
  • You're 35 years old and don't have a driver's license.
  • You ride in a subway car with no air conditioning, just because there are seats available.
  • You take the train home and you know exactly where on the platform the doors will open that will leave you right in front of the exit stairway.
  • You know what a 'regular' coffee is.
  • It's not Manhattan...it's the 'city.'
  • You cross the street anywhere but at the corner and you yell at cars for not respecting your right to do it.
  • You move 3,000 miles away, spend 10 years learning the local language and people still know you're from Brooklyn, Long Island or the Bronx the minute you open your mouth.
  • You return after 10 years and the first foods you want are a 'real' pizza , a 'real' bagel, and 'real' Chinese food.
  • A 500 square foot apartment is large.
  • You know the differences between all the different Ray's pizzas.
  • You are not under the mistaken impression that any human being would be able to actually understand a P.A. announcement on the subway.
  • You wouldn't bother ordering pizza in any other city.
  • You get ready to order dinner every night and must choose from the major food groups which are: Chinese, Italian, Mexican or Indian.
  • You're not the least bit interested in going to Times Square on New Year's Eve.
  • Your internal clock is permanently set to know when alternate side of the street parking regulations are in effect.
  • You know what a bodega is.
  • Someone bumps into you and you check for your wallet.
  • You don't even notice the lady walking down the road having a perfectly normal conversation with herself.
  • You pay 'only' $230 a month to park your car.
  • You cringe at hearing people pronounce Houston St. like the city in Texas.
  • The presidential visit is a major traffic jam, not an honor.
  • You can nap on the subway and never miss your stop.
  • The deli guy gives you a straw with any beverage you buy, even if ! It's a beer.

That's New York, baby! Ya gotta love it!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

He's just funny... that's all there is to it

When he's good, he's very, very good (see what he has to say about the game of golf):

And yes, it's another video. Can't see it? Click here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The day my jaw dropped

I'll grant that the original may be dated. You may not like it. It may not really stand the test of time. Fine, I gotcha.

So, let's take the remake on its own terms. No problem.

This about sums it up—when we walked out, my friend turned to me and asked, what made them decide to cut the story out of the movie? That's a damn good question, friend.

Actually, if you turn the movie into a game, "name that scene," it's kind of fun. There's the truck being buffeted on the highway scene ("Twister"), the major building disintegration scene ("Independence Day"), the alien curled up in human form scene ("Terminator" crossed with "The Matrix"), to name a few. Not to mention, whoever decided to dress Keanu Reeves like Agent Smith has a wicked sense of humor (or is clueless).

I don't think this is what the producers intended—but I walked out of the movie cracking up. I just couldn't stop laughing. After all, who needs story in a movie?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just my kind of inspiration

Hollywood sure knows how to get you going...


(and yes, it's another VIDEO! Can't see it? Go straight to the source. Well, almost.)

Extra points if you get them all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Down with Tollhouse, long live Torres...

It's true.

The tollhouse recipe has been toppled.

Which is a shame, because I know that one by heart. And now I have to learn a new one. Which has more ingredients. And takes more time. But... and it's a significant but... which makes a better cookie.

This past summer, The New York Times ran an article on the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Maury Rubin, Jacques Torres, Shirley O. Corriher and Dorie Greenspan all weighed in. Two types of flour. Sifted. Baking soda and baking powder. Light brown sugar, not dark. 36 hours of rest time. Okay, to be honest, I skipped that part (we couldn't wait). Point is, they were way better than the "original recipe."

They say love makes the world go round...that's possible, but I think it might be chocolate. Then again, maybe love is chocolate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coooookie!

Oscar, shmoscar.

Everyone knows the Cookie Monster is where it's at.

I mean sure, Oscar gets the best lines. But the Cookie Monster gets the cookies! No contest.

Today, I found a new cookie—a little wafer, a little hazelnut creme (shades of Nutella), and a layer of dark chocolate. Wham! And what's it called? "First Class." Does that have my name written all over it or what?

Go on, try one. You know you want to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Four peaks and a shopping bag

I don't ordinarily discuss (my) life events here (this just isn't that sort of blog), but as the song says, it's my party, and I'll write what I want to.

Lest this has escaped your notice, I am not what you'd call Miss Pro Athlete, Miss Marathon, or even Miss Athlete or Miss Half-Marathon.

I am, however, Miss "Sure, I'll Try That." Which is how I ended up doing the Summit Challenge in Phoenix, AZ this past weekend with my friend, LW, who will forever more be known as Little Goat.

The Challenge kicked off for us, who were doing the Four Peak Challenge, not the Seven Peak Challenge (are they crazy?), at 8:00am Saturday morning. Luckily, the Challenge was a challenge not a race—at least for us—because Little Goat and I left the house a tad late, then noticed we were low on gas, and then the low-air-in-tyre (my car is German, so, yeah, tYre) alarm went off. Would you believe, not one, not two, but THREE tyres were low? I kid you not. $1.50 worth of air later (and some gas)—we were finally on our way.

We were only perhaps 10, okay maybe 15, minutes late to the starting line, but we didn't let a little thing like that deter us from recognizing that we really couldn't begin our climb before partaking of the complimentary coffee and pastries provided. Breakfast was had. We did truly want to start, however, so we also recognized that walking all the way back to our car to stash the fancy bag of samples and pamphlets we'd been given wasn't the best use of time. We kept the bags and off we went to hike Papago Butte, looking for all the world like we were about to stroll down Fifth Avenue, shopping bags in hand.

We strolled, I mean hiked, around the base of the butte, up the back and down its front. One down, three to go. Turns out navigation is part of the challenge—we had to make our own way to the next peak. Auto GPS, bada-bing, bada-bang, and we were there. And making up for lost time too.

But then, oh dear. Somehow between the second and third peaks, bada-bing, bada-bang, we got lost—we were at the bottom of Phoenix (South Mountain) instead of the top of Phoenix (North Mountain), which sounds like a much dumber move than it was, because we did input the correct intersection into the Auto GPS—but, as it turns out, there are TWO places in Phoenix where 7th Street and Thunderbird Road cross. Who knew? That little boo-boo cost us about 45 minutes of drive time. Still, even with all that, we started at 8:30am and were done at 1:45pm. And the allotted time is from 8:00am to 4:00pm, so Little Goat and I feel pretty good about that.

And Miss "Sure, I'll Try That?"—she's agreed to do all seven next year. What was she smoking?!

Laughter really is good medicine

You know, JT has some moves.

And he's funny. No, really.

The whole damn skit from SNL is hilarious. Sadly, NBC has been doing a systemic sweep and purge of the WWW, so although I think I posted it here, it may be gone. In which case, I'm sorry.

(oh, and Paul Rudd? He's kinda funny too.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seven hours flies by when...

...you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Well that, or your own and your friend's life and romantic travails to solve.

In that case, seven hours seems like barely enough. We were still fighting for air time when we pulled into the driveway. It was a good drive.

There's nothing like spending hours upon hours driving through nothing to bring out the inner philosopher, sage, counselor and magi in all of us.

Here's to auto-therapy—Henry Ford style.

“One’s destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things.”
- Henry Miller

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where o' where have all the cowboys gone?

You're supposed to be able to count on certain things. Not on all things, and not on other things. But definitely on certain things.

This year, not so much.

You're supposed to be able to count on the Yankees making it to the playoffs—but no, all that money and they still can't get the job done? On Spielberg and Indiana Jones—but, aliens? Really? You're going with that? On Starbucks—except, automated espresso machines that don't smell like coffee? Whose brilliant idea was that?

And seriously, you're supposed to be able to count on a warhorse steakhouse knowing how to cook you a steak. "Pittsburgh." "Black & blue." I didn't make these terms up. They should mean something to the kitchen. I mean, other than a city and a mouse.

I know most of you will be shocked, shocked!, to learn I had a five minute confab with the waiter regarding the temperature of the steak we ordered. Five minutes is a long time to discuss a steak. Nonetheless, after all that, and despite being at The Palm in WeHo, an establishment boasting 33 years continuous operations (don't ask me why), our steak arrived over-done. Back it went and came back, I kid you not, frozen in the middle. Honestly, what restaurant takes their meat straight from the icebox and puts it on the grill?

So, from me to you, skip The Palm and head over to Wolfgang's (not Puck) on Canon, or Boa on Ocean. Better yet, hop a plane to NYC...Keens anyone?

Monday, November 03, 2008

This is how you get from A to someplace that's just not B

So, I start to blog about mint chocolate chip ice cream because, well, because.

And I go searching for the right image, which you may or may not realize is something into which I put a fair amount of time and energy. I want that image to sing to you, fair reader. To catch your eye and speak to you, even before my well chosen and witty words. And lo and behold, I find the perfect image—a marriage of my favorite ice cream flavor with my favorite ice cream brand (see fig. A at left).

But, when I go to source the image, I stumble on something even better—a blog post entitled "Forget Milk—Got Xanax?" It reads as follows:

(Scene: SC, MW, and JS are lunching at a restuarant with an outdoor patio)

JS: Do you know what I wanna do?

(SC and MW are afraid to ask)

JS: I want to get a whole bunch of Xanax and crush it all up and put it in people's drinks so that they can calm the f* down.
Forget the milk—let's just dump it in the water supply.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sometimes life just gets you

"The blues are because you're getting fat or it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of."

The thing about the mean reds—you can't talk them away. You can't even cry them away. You just have to wait them out.

Sometimes you think they're going to beat you, but they never do. You'll always win. You just have to wait long enough.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chinese movie torture

I swear, I went in to this movie (W) on October 23rd, and I felt that by the time I was let out, it was November. The only good part about that is that it would have meant it was that much closer to the time our president is no longer our president. Alas...

How this movie got a 56 on RT I don't know—but I do know that score seriously shakes my faith in that vaunted site, not to mention the critics it relies upon. Because, and I'm not alone on this, I have seldom seen a worse movie. I think The Hottie and the Nottie might be better. Honestly.

Okay, Josh Brolin gives a tour de force performance—something I find hard to imagine ever saying about Paris Hilton. But I bet Hottie had a plot. Maybe a thin plot. Maybe absurd. But a plot nonetheless. That would give it one up on Dub. This was allegory to a whole new level.

But, and here's the thing that got me the most—because I was prepared to be sickened by this film, by the depiction of the man who led the ruination of this country over the last eight years, and the cabal behind him (and, to be fair, in a few scenes, I was)—for the most part, I was just nauseated by how lousy the movie was... and that really ticked me off.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

an iPhone for Crackberry users

I admit it—the iPhone is très appealing. It's cool. And slick. And does some nifty stuff. And let's even assume I could get used to that pane of glass touch screen.

Still. There's NO CUT AND PASTE. And here's the thing—if that complaint doesn't make sense to you, then, well, it doesn't make sense to you. But if it does—then you, like me, couldn't and wouldn't contemplate using the iPhone for all the tea in China, or Carter's liver pills, or salt in the ocean, or whatever. Not to mention the other various and sundry complaints (that's for you, Mel and Lynn)—such as non-removable battery, SIM card, slow internet connection, yadda yadda yadda. I gotta admit that after the no cut&paste revelation, I stopped paying attention.

Mind you, this is not to say that for the people who love it, the iPhone isn't great. It's simply not all things to all people. And in my world, I'm the only people who count.

So where does that leave me and my people? Happily anticipating the Blackberry Storm. First off, that "pane of glass?" Not a problem. According to Gizmodo, the Storm's entire screen is a giant button. You have to press it—no "click it"—to make anything happen. Now, Gizmodo also says it's likely people will either like this or loathe it. Fair enough. Engadget is a fan of what RIM is calling the Clickthrough interface, which, unlike the iPhone, turns with the phone when you turn to portrait or landscape mode. Nice.

And of course, most importantly... the Storm has, yep, you got it in one, CUT AND PASTE. Not to mention the whole host of Blackberry features that us crackberry fanatics are so addicted to.

Stay tuned, next week I might be so motivated as to investigate the G1 phone featuring Android.

Okay, so we can't get her on the pronunciation, still...

Evidently, noo-kyu-lar, as a pronunciation of the word "nuclear," is a form of something called "metathesis." Not a form of ignorance. Damn.

My gold medal winning Ikea shopper (she's quite handy) sent along the following from Slate, Wiki, and this article in The New York Times (I have to mention that The New York Times article misquoted Merriam-Webster's form letter on October 13th , corrected itself on October 20th, making another error, which it then corrected on October 27th. That's both thorough and... not.)

Okay, back to metathesis—the transposing of two sounds. The examples given include "iron," which we all seem happy to pronounce "eye-ern" as opposed to "eye-ron," and "comfortable," which we hear just as often pronounced "cumf-ter-bul," as we do "cum-for-tuh-bul," without wincing.

There appears to be both a definition of metathesis (on Wiki, it is considered a speech error consisting of swapping phonemes) and a sort of an explanation—that is to say, some words get distorted because certain sounds occur more frequently than others. In the instance of our good friend "nuclear," the argument is that the "u-lar" word ending is much more prevalent than the "lee-ar" word ending.

I might argue that this particular corruption of enunciation is merely a spectacular example of a candidate hopefully playing to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to distinguish herself as the most unique. But that's just me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I don't think that word is pronounced the way you think it's pronounced...


Yep, it's a video. Can't see it? Click here.

The only actor I ever had a crush on...

This may come as a surprise, but I wasn't really your typical teen-age girl (shocking, I know). I didn't have crushes on actors—I didn't quite get that. I mean, you didn't know them. They weren't real, not really. I don't know, it just seemed sort of silly to me. But then, I was the girl who raised her hand in 7th grade social studies and asked the teacher what "petting" was. Yeah—that was me.

On the other hand, I could see having a crush on a character in a movie... I mean, what girl didn't have a crush on Joe Fisk in Fire with Fire? or Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles? Or Loudon Swain? Gib Gibson? Looking back, 1985 and 86 were pretty good years—Some Kind of Wonderful, St. Elmo's Fire, Sixteen Candles, The Sure Thing, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Vision Quest, Real Genius, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, About Last Night, The Color of Money—you have to admit, those were some good movie going years.

But, and here's where I fell of the wagon but hard (albeit I was in college by this time), I did have a crush on one actor. And on the characters he played. As far as I was concerned, Christian Slater was the be all and end all. Pump Up the Volume, Heathers, The Legend of Billie Jean... you name it... I just thought he was the coolest of cool, the hippest of hip.

And, I've got to say, his je ne sais quoi is the only saving grace so far of his new TV show, My Own Worst Enemy, which should be just so much better than it is. But... it's early days yet. And he is, after all, Christian Slater. Enough said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Baseball is to money as...

I like baseball as much as the next person, assuming the next person isn't a rabid Yankees or Dodgers or Sox or Mets fan. Or semi-rabid for that matter.

But several years ago, at a sponsorship conference in Chicago, I heard Billy Beane speak. Who is Billy Beane you ask? So did I, rather prepared to be bored out of my skull. Well, more fool I. I was riveted. It turns out that Michael Lewis, of whom I am a semi-rabid fan, had just published a book all about him. Billy Beane is the man who turned baseball on its head by treating it not only like a business, but like a science.

Moneyball is Lewis' book about Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's—one of the lowest funded teams with one of the best records. Beane didn't do things the way they were always done. He did them his way. Beane hired brainiacs from Harvard and Yale, not baseball insiders (does the name Theo Epstein ring a bell? No? He's the GM who, two years after being hired, steered the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series Championship in 86 years—but first he worked for Beane). Beane drafted players no other team wanted, and drafted them early. Beane rejected the sacrifice bunt. Beane ran more statistics, and paid attention to them, than any other GM in the game.

As much as it is about baseball—and I would imagine the more you know about the sport, the more you would enjoy the book—this book is about using your brain and following your gut, not the herd.

Pretty good story, right? Evidently Hollywood thinks so too—I hear Steve Zaillian is on board to adapt the book and that Columbia is pitching Brad Pitt to play Mr. Beane, with David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) to direct. I'd see it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It may not be pebbles on ice

I spent half a day at Ikea yesterday—which started me thinking... what's the process for nominating a sport for Olympic consideration?

If curling—a sport entailing sweeping (albeit rocks on ice)—is a sport, and has been since 1924, it seems to me shopping should be as well. It is, after all, an endurance sport like no other. I'd like to see 10 grown men make it through that electric blue box, without a list, after lunch, before dinner, sober.

I went with a friend yesterday. I had one item on my list (yes, I had a list)—one set of table legs. She had a purpose, and something of a list. Three hours later, as we neared the finish line, pushing a cart and a flat-bed, weary and pale, my friend looked at me in alarm. "Table legs!" she cried.

She definitely took home the gold.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Making sense of the insensible...

This came through on VSL: a great site on, well, the economy meltdown—The Money Meltdown—"everything you need to know about the global money crisis of 2007-?"

From the Motley Fool: Why the bailout solves nothing ("you've just been sold an extremely expensive pig in a poke that you'll be paying for throughout the rest of your life").

Paul Krugman (who just won the Nobel Prize in Economics) in the New York Times: last Friday, ("Lehman’s failure caused the world financial crisis, already severe, to get much, much worse") and Monday, wondering if Gordon Brown, "the British prime minister, saved the world financial system?"

On Salon.com—check out their list of "indispensable blogs"—including The Big Picture and Calculated Risk.

I'm reading as fast as I can—and, is it just me, or does anyone else think maybe Chicken Little wasn't so crazy?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'm no David Pogue, but I have my moments

David Pogue posted a great column last week in the NYT with basic technology tips—the things you think everyone knows and you're shocked (SHOCKED) to find out they don't. Or as he put it..."everybody knows 40 or 80 percent of what there is to know—but everybody knows a *different* 40 or 80 percent."

Fair point.

Evidently Pogue's was the most emailed article on the NYT for two days straight, and provoked over a thousand reader responses with even more "basic" tips.

Here are a few more from me to you (PC based only this time around):

  • You can hit Ctrl-X to cut something or Ctrl-C to copy it, and Ctrl-V will paste it—this is not that hard, and soooo much faster than using the mouse. Trust me on this.

  • More importantly—hit Ctrl-Z to undo whatever you just did that you really didn't mean to, you know, like that time a whole paragraph disappeared and you have no idea how? (And... it's iterative—it will keep skipping backwards—so if you don't see what you expect the first time, try, try, try again.)

  • If you click in the space over or under the vertical scroll bar on a window, it will jump up or down in greater increments than clicking on the up or down arrow, and faster than dragging the bar. Again, can I say "faster?"

  • Ctrl-T will open a new tab in most current web browsers—of course, if you're like me and a tab-abuser, knowing this is not necessarily a good thing.

  • You can add a new number on most cell phones by entering it (usually, you don't even have to complete the call) and then pressing the option or menu key and selecting Add to Address Book/Contacts—this is often faster (huh. there's that word again) than finding the Address Book application on your phone and adding a new person.

  • The dot in gmail addresses is optional—jane.smith@gmail.com and janesmith@gmail.com are equivalent (the dot in .com is NOT optional).

  • Putting your phone on vibrate generally shortens the battery life faster than having it on a regular ring (it takes more power to actually move the phone than to generate a sound—kind of like you'll lose more weight walking than talking on the phone).

  • Pressing F1 will open Help in most applications; there is sadly no real-life analog for this.

  • Almost every email that exhorts you to forward it to 10 of your closest friends or to "everyone you know" is a hoax—don't do it! More tell-tale signs: if the email doesn't include a link to reputable website, if it doesn't come from a credible source, or if it warns of dire viruses or consequences. Still not sure? Check out Snopes or Hoax-Slayer. Whatever you do, don't send that email to ME.

  • You can text the name of a store or restaurant (and city) to 46645 (GOOGL) and get the address and phone number. Or a movie and zip code for theaters and times. Or "1.6 million dollars in yen" when your friend's boss is in Tokyo bidding on... something.
That's all for now. When I think you're ready... I'll be back.

Fill in the blanks

I sorta wish Obama and the Queen of England weren't in the same bracket...









Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote of the day

“George H. W. Bush was born on third and thought he hit a triple. George W. Bush was born on third and then stole second …”

--- Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland, at the 2008 Democratic Convention

(thanks, Dad!)

"Almost" only counts in horse shoes and...

I want it, I want it, I want it - but I don't want this one!

Is it just me, or does the Kindle seem like a real tease. So close and yet so far?

What I love: The idea of being able to get a book I want, wherever I am, without having to wait or shop (I really, really, really don't like to shop). The idea of being able to travel with 5, 10, 20 books all in the space of one. The idea of being able to read my favorite newspapers and blogs on the same device.

What I don't - (full disclosure - this is all hearsay based on multitudinous reviews) - the ill-placed buttons, the slow screen-drawing, sluggish interface, disconcerting browsing experience, the steep price tag.

So, where does that leave me, inveterate reader, intrepid gadgeteer? Waiting, of course. There are rumors abounding that Kindle Next Gen, Kindle 2.0, re-Kindle (that one's mine), will be out soon - in two versions, in fact. A student focused version out this fall, and another, generation skipping (not us, but itself, as in going from version 1.0 to version 4.0 in a single bound, the Superman of consumer electronics) version in early '09.

I can hardly contain myself.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Had to share

This is a post from 23/6:

McCampaign do-overs: Did we say $500 FOR every rape victim? We meant FROM

Let's just pretend the last three months didn't happen, cool?

Looks like there was a little typo in McCain's new mortgage plan when he put it online Tuesday night. At the end of the first paragraph, the document included the line: "Lenders in these cases must recognize the loss that they've already suffered." Which means the lenders would have to suffer and the government would purchase the mortgages at discounted prices.

Yeah, that was a misprint. Turns out, McCain wants to buy the mortgages at face value, protecting lenders from losing a dime and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. A McCain campaign official explained:

"That language was mistakenly included in the initial draft and it's been corrected...a simple mistake."


Of course. Considering that sentence completely redefines the entire plan and its effect on the economic crisis, we can understand how that's where you might get a little sloppy. It wouldn't have had to do with the fact that every conservative pundit in the nation pissed their blogs the minute you made your little announcement would it?

Looks like we're at the point where McCain just starts responding to criticism by asking for a do-over. The only question is, what will he try to weasel out of next?

I rest my case

I've been known to be a bit of a stickler when it comes to grammar, typos, punctuation, etc.

No, really, it's true.

So imagine my glee when I stumbled across the story of the $2.1mm comma. Yep, one superfluous comma cost a company over two million dollars.

This is how it went down:
A Canadian communications company made a renewable deal with a strategic partner; the key clause in the deal stated that the agreement “shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.”

Lo and behold, not even three years after signing the deal, the partner gave written notice it was terminating the agreement. Communciations company cried foul—we've locked in our rate for five years from the signing date! But no... eighteen months of sentence parsing later and the judge ruled: that second (do you see it?) comma clearly allows for the agreement to be terminated at any point with one year's written notice. Ah, if only...

Never underestimate the importance of grammar (or a good editor, for that matter).

It's a car thing

Tony Stark, this one's for you.

For those few who are willing and able, Bugatti has just introduced the Veyron Grand Sport, a convertible version of the Veyron. The Grand Sport features a removable hard top of transparent polycarbonate - that's right, the top is clear - and evidently Bugatti took its time releasing this bad boy to keep the original's speed, dexterity and safety uncompromised.

What's more amazing? The Grand Sport makes the Veyron look like a veritable bargain at $1,500,000 - the first convertible was auctioned in August for - are you sitting down? - $2,900,000. And I bet it doesn't even have cup holders.


Because they don't allow pets in dorm rooms

I have a friend, who shall remain nameless (but she knows who she is), who's a professor at a, shall we say, highly esteemed institute of higher learning.

Graduate degree... $200,000
Tie on the doorknob... $25
Saying the following to your professor with a straight face... priceless

"Sorry my paper is late, I was sexiled yesterday - my roommate was using the room to have sex. So I had to spend the night on the couch in the dorm lounge."

Brings a whole new meaning to sexile dysfunction.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Mavericks are NOT his friends

Thanks to my brother for sending me this tidbit published in the NYT today:

There’s that word again: maverick. In Thursday’s vice-presidential debate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican candidate, used it to describe herself and her running mate, Senator John McCain, no fewer than six times, at one point calling him “the consummate maverick.” But to those who know the history of the word, applying it to Mr. McCain is a bit of a stretch — and to one Texas family in particular it is even a bit offensive... [the Maverick] family has been known for its progressive politics since the 1600s...

Well, my friends, it appears McCain and his Pal have co-opted a word with no regard for its history, meaning or accuracy. Quel surprise.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kid, the next time I say, "Let's go someplace like Bolivia"

...let's GO someplace like Bolivia!

I'm trying to remember the first movie I saw with Paul Newman. I can't. I can't even remember if I first saw him in one of the later movies - "The Verdict" and "Absence of Malice" - or one of the earlier ones, "The Long Hot Summer," "From the Terrace," "The Young Philadelphians."

I do know I remember them all, even "A New Kind of Love," a romp he made with his wife, which I always liked, though evidently most critics didn't.

Of course you've got "The Hustler" and "Cool Hand Luke." And I loved Newman's version of "Sometimes a Great Notion," with Henry Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. And all the rest...

Everyone has their favorite memory of Newman, I'm sure. Maybe it's just me - though somehow I don't think so - it just seems that Paul Newman means Robert Redford. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Remember? "Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you."

So for me, nothing, but nothing, so clearly encapsulates the sheer effortlessness of spirit Newman brought to his roles than the moment he gives Redford the high sign in "The Sting." It just doesn't get better than that.

RIP Paul Newman. 26-Jan-1925 to 26-Sep-2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Now you're cooking with... ?

Just when you think you know what you need to know to make a decision...

You buy olive oil, you know to look for "Extra Virgin," right? The ubiquitous Rachel Ray even goes so far as to call it EVOO (because, evidently, those extra four syllables are four too many). Well, "extra virgin," which refers to the acidic level of the oil - less than or equal to .8% (you know, if you were wondering) - is only part of the story. Turns out, you also want to look for "first cold pressing" - "cold," because if they have to heat the olives to expel the oil, it, as you can only imagine, changes the flavor, and "first," because, really, who wants seconds from tired, already pressed olives?

Actually, heat (and other far more obscure sounding technologies) are only used on the sad and mangled remains of the olives after they've been pressed - sad and mangled remains technically called "pomace," in case, you know, you were wondering. What is produced from these second, third and subsequent pressings (hot or otherwise) is generally not edible and should be used for things like soap and candles.

But, and this is where it starts to get scary, it turns out that olive oil is to the E.U. what cocaine is to South America. No, really. Except sort of backwards. Instead of pushing the real thing (I'm talking about the white stuff - not the secret formula soft drink, which supposedly once had the white stuff in it, but that's a story for another blog), oil producers pushed anything but. There you are, in the kitchen, happily pouring what you think is extra virgin olive oil from the hills of Puglia, but instead you're pouring hazelnut oil from Turkey. Nice.

The New Yorker published an article (which I read, even though it wasn't written by Malcolm Gladwell) last summer about the olive oil trafficking in Europe, most of which filters through Italy, though I suppose it's technically "anti-trafficking?"

You've got Greek and Spanish olive oil being shipped to Italy for packaging and being sold - this is legal, mind you - as Italian olive oil. You have other oils entirely (soy, canola, hazelnut) being treated and colored and then flamboyantly packaged and sold as EVOO, at EVOO prices - and, in the best scam of all, low grade Italian olive oil being doctored, altered and sold as the highest quality oil - the hardest ruse to uncover even with chemical analysis of the "oil." These last two are not considered legal, even by the friendly consortium that, well, regulates would be a stretch, the olive oil trade in the E.U.

So, what are you cooking with? Well, if it tastes peppery, bitter and fruity, it's probably good quality olive oil (though whether it's Italian, Greek, Spanish, Moroccan, or... that's anybody's guess). When it comes to EVOO, being label conscious just won't do you a lot of good. Oh, and the big brands? Colavita, Bertolli, Nestle? They've all been peripherally touched by scandal - in fact, Unilever just unloaded the olive oil and vinegar portion of the Bertolli brand to Grupo SOS. Hmmm. Fancy that.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Too Close for comfort

Few actresses do calculating, cold and ruthless as well as Glenn Close. There's a reason she was cast as Cruella De Vil, the ne plus ultra of female evil doers.

In Patty Hewes, Close's character on Damages, we get Close at her despicable, devious best. And that makes for some seriously addictive TV.

Thank the heavens above Damages wasn't made as a movie, offering only a scant 60 minutes of Patty Hewes; as a television series, we get to wallow in hour after hour after hour of pitiless manipulation, relentless ambition, and Machiavellian scheming on a scale seldom before seen on screen (large or small).

Rose Byrne, Ted Danson, Tate Donovan--they all more than do their part--but this is Glenn's show. She runs it, she owns it, she chews it up and she sword swallows it whole.

Suffice it to say, I'm glad that I didn't find this show until this summer, because had I found it when it first aired last summer (as in oh seven), and then had to wait until sometime next year (as in, hello?!, oh nine??), I'd be foaming at the mouth. Seriously, even now I can't believe that I have to wait four to six months before Season Two airs. Four to six, I say, because I can't find a clear answer anywhere as to when FX is going to air Season Two--January, April, January, April? Somebody tell me, please? I think I'm going through Hewes withdrawal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Real Lit

Consider this minor redemption; I may read Crack-lit, but I also read Lit-lit (if there can be net-net, there can be lit-lit).

In addition to my foray into fervent teen-aged vampire romance, I also recently read Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a book I read both as fast as I could and as slowly--wanting as I did to know more, more, more about the characters and the story and also dreading turning the last page to see no more words, to find no more revelations.

Improbably peopled with characters from around the world, Bel Canto somehow weaves a mesmerizing and believable tale of discovery and romance, growth and friendship, and of course, life and death. Kidnappers and hostages, opera singers and tycoons, politicians and villagers -- all tossed together like a mixed salad. And once you toss a salad, you can't untoss it.

Patchett has a way with words that shapes each of her characters particularly; her language shifts to suit them. Sharp and clear or lyrical and a bit blurry, her phrasing offers as much insight into her characters as a singer's phrasing does into a song.

Of course, me being me, as I was reading the book, I couldn't help but notice that it's tailor-made to be adapted into a movie (other than the limited scope of the location), and lo and behold, it appears as though the team behind Capote (RT:91), which garnered Phillip Seymour Hoffman his Best Actor Oscar, is preparing to make the movie. Finally. The book was published in 2001.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crack-lit?

Okay-I should be embarrassed by this, and maybe I am, a little-but you know, I've talked about "CrackTV," now I'm talking about "Crack-Lit" (chick-lit? ha! that t'aint nuthin.)

I read four books, totaling over 2500 pages, in four days. Now, I'm not making a claim that these books are Dickens or Dostoevsky, but they are addictively readable (I'm becoming something of an expert on addiction these days - take it from me, this is a beneficent form of the problem).

The series, by Stephenie Meyer, about vampires, werewolves, and one likable but ordinary girl, has hit the female tween market like a tsunami. Not since the Harry Potter series (400 million copies and counting) or The DaVinci Code (40 million copies) has a book garnered such fervent fans and readers.

The series may not be for everyone, from a purely plot and character standpoint, and hence may not reach as wide an audience as HP or DVC (I've read them, I'm entitled to take liberties). But let me tell you, it's a good lesson in readability and story-telling.

The movie comes out in November-and, well, if you read this column at all regularly, you know my feelings about adaptations. And I'm particularly torn about my expectations on this one. What do you expect when you learn that the same writer responsible for adapting the book wrote the movie "Step Up" AND the Showtime show "Dexter"? No, really. Melissa Rosenberg wrote them both. On the other hand, Meyer's book is a story about vampires and a 17 year old girl. Huh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Four percent is NOT a solution

Wow. This is not a review to be proud of:

A poorly constructed, derivative sci-fi stinker with a weak script and poor action sequences.

Ouch. Rotten Tomatoes says... 4. Yep. 4%.

That actually takes some doing. Paris Hilton's latest movie got a 5.

According to The-Numbers.com, Babylon A.D.'s production budget was $45,000,000 and its first weekend take was $12,000,000. That's not pretty. On the other hand, Speed Racer, although it managed to wrangle a 36 on RT (don't ask me how), supposedly had a $120 million production budget, and only brought in $18 million its opening weekend. So, maybe $12 million isn't looking so bad.

Still, Vin, take notes. In Hollywood - it's better to blond than bald.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not exactly the Hound of the Baskervilles

Some "good" books are so "good" they seem impossible to read, have you ever noticed?

Then again, some books are so bad they are also impossible to read. (Calling Robert James Waller? But that's just my opinion, and there are millions of readers, and he has millions of dollars, that speak to the contrary. But seriously, that man has never met an adjective he didn't like-and someone really should lesson him on the use of verbs. And what Robert LaGravenese and Clint Eastwood were able to do with that book. Well, they redefined genius in my opinion, but that could clearly be a whole other post. Hmmm.)

But back to good books, and specifically, good books that are easy to read. A joy to read in fact. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is one of those. I picked it up and didn't put it down until I was done. I sped through the story told by Christopher, the 15 year old narrator, transfixed. Only Christopher would conclude the following after translating Occam's Razor from the latin: "a murder victim is usually killed by someone known to them and fairies are made out of paper and you can't talk to someone who is dead."

Although his world has different boundaries, and different rules, than the world most of us are accustomed to, Christopher's is a rich world nonetheless. His rules--if he sees 4 red cars in a row it's a Good Day; if he sees 4 yellow cars in a row, it's a Black Day; if he sees 3 red cars in a row, it's a Quite Good Day--organize his world, and the discoveries he makes while investigating the murder of his neighbor's dog reorganize that world.

Navigating one's way through the discovery of new information--that's one way to look at the process of living. Christopher's method of navigation is unique and fascinating. I highly recommend the journey.

Balloon high...

This was too good not to steal--I mean share.


Check out the video. No seriously, if you're reading this in your email, you're missing out on the whole point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Weirdest headline ever?

So, in my inbox yesterday, I see this headline: Angelina Jolie to replace Tom Cruise as Salt.

Run that by me again?

I mean, I know we've been hearing some weird stories, but, really.

Never fear... yellow journalism strikes again. Salt is Edwin A. Salt, a character in an upcoming spy movie (music to some people's ears...). He's accused, or should I say, she will be accused, of being a Russian sleeper spy, and goes on the run while attempting to prove his, or her, innocence.

Kurt Wimmer, who wrote the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, which is one of the few remakes in my opinion that did just what a remake should (that is, get the spirit of the original, and then go off and be an entirely new--and good--movie on its own), wrote, and evidently is re-writing the screenplay for the now female lead.

Jolie has earned a rare place in Hollywood, not only as a star who can open a movie (with or without a can opener), but as a female star who can open an action movie--Wanted raked in over $130 million domestically, on a $75 million production budget. Nice.

Oh, and by the way, Tom Cruise's MI:3, at twice the production budget, pulled in $133 million domestically. Hmmm.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Spilling the beans...

So yet again, I find that Starbucks is offering something great, and telling no one.

Can someone explain that to me?

And this one's a doozy. A double doozy in fact - maybe even a triple. As I've told you here, if you have and register a Starbucks card, you get complimentary drink upgrades (e.g., syrup and milk), and a free tall drink when you buy a pound of coffee. This all for taking your $20 bill, buying a piece of plastic , and then buying your drink. Well, okay, buying the piece of plastic, giving up your email address and then buying your drink. (Not to mention, in return, Starbucks guards that piece of plastic... Lost? Stolen? Dial 1-800-STARBUC and presto! Old card deactivated and a new one issued. Try doing that with a $20 bill.)

But if you really prefer soy to regular milk in your latte, and you're a S'bux regular, that's two bucks a week. That adds up. And if you're a grande vanilla soy latte kind of a person, well I don't know exacly, but I think that's at least another $2 a week - we're talking a pound of coffee you just basically got for free this month (plus that free tall drink).

But that's old news. It turns out that back in April, when these benefits started rolling out, Starbucks upgraded the card program to the Starbucks Card Rewards Program (I'm going to call it "SCRAP")--not that they told anyone about the name change, of course.

And the latest, or maybe the first (even I can't untangle the chronology--and honestly, I really do have better things to do today), benefit is two hours of free wifi access daily if you register a Starbucks card that you use or reload once every 30 days. That's pretty sweet. Starbucks partnered with AT&T, and when you register your card, you can sign up for an AT&T wifi account that gives you 2 hours a day free, regardless of who your wireless carrier is.

Oh, and did I mention that SCRAP holders also get unlimited free brewed coffee refills while they're in the store? How perfect does that sound? Mosey on in, get a cup of joe, log on, and drink on up--the refills are on Howie. Not that he'd tell you or anything.

Friday, August 08, 2008

If you're not going to watch the Olympics?

Nancy Franklin, TV reviewer for The New Yorker, had this to say about ABC's new hit "Wipeout:"

While watching the ABC competition show “Wipeout” when it premièred six weeks ago, I became at moments a truly happy idiot, and I could hear my brain cells, one after another, packing their suitcases and walking out of my head, saying regretfully but firmly, “I’m sorry, I just can’t live here anymore.” Well, fine. Go, then.

Well, you know, it is that time of year--summertime. August is rather a dire month, especiallement if you are not an Olympics fan (like moi). Which means, on the other hand, it is DVD time...

I just started Mad Men with my erstwhile roommate--she is still unconvinced, I am falling for it. The clothes, the patter, the paternalism; on the other hand, I think my roommate may watch for the vicarious joy of nicotine fixes if nothing else. "In the office," she sighs. "In therapy..." "at the doctor's," "on the elevator," those were the days, all right.

And Spaced, the UK show with a rabid cult following, came out on DVD a couple of weeks ago. As that cult following includes not only Diablo Cody (who, I believe, had something to do with the intro or something else on the DVD edition), but also my own personal TV guide (who shall remain nameless, but he knows who he is), I do believe that Spaced is high on my TV DVD list.

Very high.

Maybe August won't be the cruelest month after all. (Yeah, yeah, I know, T.S. Eliot said it was April, but he'd never lived through re-runs of October Road. Cruel and unusual.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

All rumors, all the time

Information overload. Analysis paralysis. Data deluge. Celebrity saturation point.

Whatever.

Check out Truemors, "NPR (or CBC) for your eyes in the sense that it contains unusual breaking news, stories, and rumors like what you'd hear on NPR." At least that's how it describes itself.

I'd say, any site that reports on all of the following: ComCast's $125 million purchase of Daily Candy, Shia LaBoeuf's possible pinky amputation, Got Milk? Yes, in 6000 B.C. and Miss New Jersey's crabs, is the perfect site to check out before heading to any dinner party, bar or other event requiring small talk. Business, celebrity, science, and the just-plain-strange with one click--what more could you ask for?

It's not McWrap... but

On Grub Street today, they commented on Copyranter's blog--they were going on about cannibalism--on Subway's Australian ad campaign (see pic on left). Grub Street just had to one-up them (because you know, that's just how New Yorkers are) by posting about Chickpea's new logo on the front of its store on Houston Street in New York (see pic on right).

On the other hand, they have a point. It does kinda look like a, well, as they put it, "it's cool and all, butt..."

Honestly, this is not a contest I'd want to win.

Oh, McWrap? McDonald's latest marketing brainstorm? Go ahead--say it out loud.

Conversely

By the way, it turns out that salted water boils at a (ever so slightly) higher boiling point than plain water.

Yep, salted water gets colder and hotter--it'll freeze something or boil it faster. It's like those words that mean one thing and also the opposite (you know, like livid?). Though evidently, the impact on the boiling point is not nearly so impactful on your cooking time as on your cooling time. Oh well.

So, if it's pasta for dinner--salt the water and cover the pot (which can cut boiling time by as much as half).

If that's not enough, the Salt Institute (did you doubt it?), has a veritable plethora of tips on the uses and benefits of salt, including:

Improving coffee - A pinch of salt in coffee will enhance the flavor and remove the bitterness of over-cooked coffee.

Testing egg freshness - Place the egg in a cup of water to which two teaspoonfuls of salt has been added. A good egg sinks; a doubter will float. (If we could only try this with our dates.)

Preventing mold - To prevent mold on cheese, wrap it in a cloth dampened with saltwater before refrigerating.

Color-matching nylons - Good nylons that don't have a match can be made the same color by boiling them a few minutes in a pan of lightly salted water. (Which begs the question of what to do with bad nylons. Put them in the corner?)
Salt. Is it in your kitchen?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cold is the new heat

No, really. The New York Times said so. And I thought beets were the new spinach.

Evidently the new must-have appliance is the Antigriddle by PolyScience, which freezes things instead of cooking them. Kind of like a freezer, but not. Now you too can have ice cream pancakes for breakfast. Or something like that. Although the Antigriddle page on Polyscience's website is currently broken, I'm sure every household will soon have an antigriddle parked between their microwave and the toaster.

No article on cold cooking or freezing would be complete without mentioning the Mpemba effect, of course, whereby hot liquids were observed to freeze faster than cold ones. I'm not going to go into it again folks, but wrap your heads around it, it's a fact, Jack.

What about making the simple act of making cool things cooler? The trick to that, evidently, is salt. (And you thought it was ice. Ha!) Ice water, my friends, can only reach 32 degrees--you know, water's freezing point?--and still be liquid, which limits how fast it can cool something down. Salted water, for molecular reasons I am definitely not going to go into here (read the article for the details), has a lower freezing point, so it gets colder without getting solid, meaning it can cool things down faster. According to the NYT, a warm bottle of wine in a regular ice bath chills in about 30 minutes, while in a salted ice bath it chills in about 15 minutes. Nice!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'm baaaack...

{Well, that was rather an unplanned break... but here we go, back on track, as they say.}

Let's talk Batman--The Dark Knight, which is breaking all sorts of movie records...
1. biggest opening weekend: $158.4 million
2. fastest movie to reach $100 million (2 days)
3. fastest movie to reach $200 million (5 days)
4. fastest movie to reach $300 million (10 days--6 days faster than "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the previous champion)
5. fastest movie to reach $400 million (18 days--25 days faster than the previous record holder, "Shrek 2")
6. best first 4 days: $182.9 million
7. the opening $67.1 million Friday broke 3, count 'em three, different records: the biggest ever opening day, single day and Friday on record
8. best Sunday ever: $43.6 million
9. best non-holiday Monday gross ever: $24.5 million
10. best midnight sales: $18.5 million (handily beating 2005's Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith at $16.5 million)

But, really, let's talk the Joker. Heath Ledger's the Joker, to be precise. He's much more interesting--more interesting than the broken records, and more interesting than Batman. Ledger's performance is the linchpin of the movie; he is mesmerizing. He is irrational, unpredictable, psychopathic, insane and he is coherent, enthralling, nearly hypnotic. He is villainous in a way that defies reason, slippery and amoral, and also intelligent and crafty. He is the darkest reflection of the dark side of Batman; and for that alone he must be vanquished.

Batman has always been a cipher. And the movies about Batman either played to the inscrutability of the figure or the easy camp of the story's characterology (TV's Eartha Kitt and Cesar Romero come to mind, let alone Jack, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jack, Jim Carrey, Jack - I rest my case) or both. Except for "Batman Begins." What made that film different, and so good, was the window, or glimpse, it offered into Batman--and Bruce Wayne's--soul. Christopher Nolan created a real person, with real demons, albeit a real person who just so happens to be a billionaire with a secret identity. Still.

In the Dark Knight, this middle chapter, there is not much story for Bruce. From that standpoint, the movie is not terribly interesting. It serves, it seems to me, for Batman, simply as a set up for the third, and, I would assume, final chapter. But there is plenty of story for the villain (and for the audience)--and Heath Ledger in that role sinks his teeth into the story without chewing up the scenery. Impressive.

The legacy that he leaves, that the Joker leaves, scars Batman. Although the Joker is apparently defeated, it's at a cost to Batman. Christopher Nolan doesn't take the easy way out, and he doesn't let his heroes take the easy way either. And that makes for good movies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The sands of time

Whenever I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I visit the Temple of Dendur. Every time.

There's something about the sheer age of the building - and its completeness - that awes me. Every time.

The temple, a tomb for two brothers, is built of massive bricks of sandstone and covered in detailed carvings. Its accessibility - in its own glass temple - is extraordinary; you can walk up to it, around it, into it.

The temple is over 2000 years old - an almost incomprehensible length of time. I mean really, what were they doing 20 centuries ago? What were they wearing? But the Temple of Dendur, given to the USA in the 1960s and first exhibited by the Met in 1978, also shows another timeline. One that brings that timeline of centuries to a tad more human scale.

Carved into one of the pillars of the wharf in neat Roman capital lettering is the name "LEONARDO 1820" and over on the walls of the temple are the names "Belmore" and "Madox" carved two years earlier.

Almost 200 years ago, some young toughs were standing on the banks of the Nile, scratching away at the walls of the temple, leaving their mark. And they were not the first. There is a trail of graffiti on the temple that evidently dates back to 10BC - just 5 years after the temple was built.

Looking at the Temple of Dendur, I see not only the amazing - and it is amazing - sight of a massive and beautiful building constructed long before the time of cranes, engines and concrete mixers (and hard hats), I see the stream of regular people, like me, who have stood looking at the same walls with some degree of the same wonder. Every time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ich bin ein... spargel?

Will our fearless leaders never learn?

George W. created a stir complimenting German asparagus, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal - to the dismay of domestic asparagus growers, who responded by sending 10lbs of good ol' red, white and blue stalks to the capitol for his delectation. (Though, honestly, can't we all just get along? Do they want an asparagus tariff now, for crying out loud?)

When I was little, I lived in Germany, across from a spargel (German for asparagus) field. And being the odd little creature that I was (and I am), while I liked asparagus - I only liked the bottom part of the stem, which made me quite popular at the table, I assure you. These days, I like all of it, and in fact, just the other night I had the most scrumptious asparagus risotto at a restaurant with the most ridiculously long name (Gordon Ramsey at the London West Hollywood). I don't know if the spargel was domestic or imported - but it was out of this world.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CrackTV

I know I have my list...

The first one - and I can so totally blame my sister for this - was Alias. A few years ago, my sister told me I'd like Alias, that I should rent it. Well I did.

I ended up in a room, shades drawn, watching until I couldn't keep my eyes open, pasty white from lack of sunlight - it was not pretty. But I watched two seasons.

My point is - there's good TV, great TV and CrackTV. Which is not to say that CrackTV is not sometimes good or great - Deadwood is great, fantastic, superlative CrackTV. Friday Night Lights, season one - definitely crack. Veronica Mars - the first season? CrackTV, fo sho.

Right now, I'm watching Heroes, and it's up there on the Crack-0-meter, lemme tell you. Even better, for those Netflix-subscribing, PC-owners out there, you can watch for free. Yep, that's right, free. (Well, included in the price of your monthly subscription, anyway.) Check out the "watch instantly" tab up top - there're all sorts of movies and TV shows you can watch on your PC (in IE only, sad to say). For you Mac-users, there are digital rights management (DRM) issues they are still working on. Boo hoo. Heroes, my friends - check it out.

And, according to my dad, The Wire is CrystalMethTV - hence, I haven't dared start the habit (I do have a job, you know).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Smile...



This is a video you definitely don't want to miss. Click here if you don't see it.
(If there's no link to watch in "higher quality" - click here)

I read about it in the New York Times... then I clicked on it, and started smiling about 15 seconds in, and kept smiling all the way through. Now that's something.

and I am so not the sports fan...

Yet here I was again, for the second time in as many weeks, glued to the TV set.

This time, at least, was not quite as unusual -- I grew up watching tennis with my mom. I have incredible memories of watching Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Lendl, Nastase play and peppering my mom with questions - what's a break point? why do they get to serve three times? how can they hit a one-handed back hand? what's love? (Not, mind you, in the vastly existential meaning of the word.) And then later watching Becker, Sampras, Agassi - often on the phone with my mom from wherever I happened to be.

So here comes Sunday, the Wimbledon finals - and Federer's going for an amazing record - six straight Wimbledon championships. And you couldn't have moved me from in front of the television with a crow bar. Federer plays Rafael Nadal in what John McEnroe is calling "the greatest match ever seen," before ultimately losing it, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.

It is the longest match in Wimbledon history, at 4 hours and 48 minutes, with two rain delays. This was tennis like you dream about. Unreal. Unbelievable. Amazing. Honestly, there aren't enough adjectives. Not to mention, two of the nicest players in tennis history. But it was the tennis that was magical. This was a tennis match that was truly a thing of beauty - worth watching again and again.

Unreturnable serves? Returned. Unreachable shots? Reached. Aces pulled out of thin air at the last possible minute to save the day. Passing shots that must have felt like an assassin's bullet whizzing by. Cross-court shots that cut into the corners by inches. Overhead shots that dug some serious holes in the grass.

It was a tennis match that was as poignant as it was extraordinary - marking the end of Roger Federer's streak of 40 straight wins in a row at the All England Club and his record 65 straight wins on grass - and bringing to a crashing halt his bid to be the first man in well over 100 years to win six straight Wimbledon singles titles.

For the sport of tennis... well, Sunday's match works for me as a response to my question "what's love?"

High falutin?

The other evening, after a most satisfying dinner - burger, fries and a shake (a banana shake no less - seriously, did I die and go to heaven?) - anyway, after that, we decided we should walk for a bit. After all, as you can only imagine, we were a bit, ahem, stuffed.

It happened to have been July Fourth, by the by, a perfectly balmy night, and strolling down the parkway, having just watched several spectacular fireworks displays, I commented, "this is a perfect post-prandial perambulation."

Okay, maybe not the most pedestrian of comments - but it does have a certain mellifluous flow to it, dontcha think? Not to mention rather nice alliteration (to which I have a decided attachment).

I don't know where I first heard the phrase... but I know it means after-meal walk. I looked it up - just for you (okay, for me too) - "prandial" is from the Latin for late breakfast or luncheon - and means of or relating to a meal. "Perambulate" - also from Latin, from per (through) + ambulare (walk) - is to travel, especially on foot (and is also, if you were wondering, where "pram" comes from). So now you (we) know.

And next time you're lucky enough to stuff yourself silly and be in need of a little after-dinner exercise, well, indulge yourself in a post-prandial perambulation, friend, it's quite the perfect way to kick off a little extra digestive activity.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A hit, and a...


Oops. But they're allowed.

Amazon has been at the forefront of one-to-one marketing since the beginning of time, or at least since Al Gore invented the internet. Way back in the dark ages, when I think we still had to call up and give our credit card number over the phone (!), Amazon opened as (self-described) "Earth's Biggest Bookstore."

You know me - I never met a bookstore I didn't like - how could I resist that? I not only ordered a book from them, I also signed up for their "Eyes" service, which, as described in their 1997 SEC filing:

allow[ed] customers to specify an author, title or subject area and receive notice automatically when a new book is published that matches their criteria.

Sounds simple now, doesn't it? Ridiculously amateurish, almost. Almost. Back then, though - let me tell you, one small step for Bezos, one giant step for mankind. There wasn't anything like it - if your favorite author came out with a new book, no one was going to tell you - let alone if another author like your favorite author came out with a new book. Well, Amazon was going to tell you. Amazing.

We got used to that pretty darn quick - and one-to-one e-marketing became rapidly and significantly more sophisticated. You may not even think twice about the little lists you see as you shop online - "Customers who looked at this item also looked at... " or "Customers who bought this also bought these..." It's a whole lot of brain-power spinning somewhere trying to wring every last penny out of you - I mean make your shopping experience as fulfilling as possible.

Every now and then, though, those automated marketing algorithms throw out a suggestion that makes you remember that HAL is just IBM shifted one letter backward in the alphabet and Dave is actually human and still has the advantage (if only by a hair).

Such as... this morning in my inbox, I received an email from Amazon with "recommended add-ons for" the neoprene iPod nano armband I recently purchased. Want to guess the top recommended accessory? I'll give you a minute. Yup, you got it. An iPod nano. Ya think?