Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rainy day ...

It's the last day of 2005, and it's raining in Los Angeles. If not cats-and-dogs, it's definitely a puppies-and-kittens type of rain, and the forecast is that it will span the gap between years, ending sometime on the second day of 2006. Which means that the hallowed Rose Parade is likely to get a bit soggy for the first time in a long while. But water is supposed to be good for roses, right?

In a way, it's nice that it's raining here today, even if the vast majority of Los Angelenos are either shaking their fists at the sky in fury that their plans to hit the beach have been foiled - or, more likely, are wondering in terror where the bright yellow light they've grown so accustomed to has gone. But for me, it's kind of symbolic of the washing away of the residue of a year that was pretty rough on a lot of people. Or maybe just Mother Nature's last raspberry toward the human renters of her planet, another reminder of who's really in charge - as if we needed one after all of the hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and Nick-and-Jessica stories that invested the Earth for the past 12-plus months. Either way, the rain kind of justifies my time-honored decision not to venture out into the drunken pathways that mark the New Year's Eve festivities. I'll be sipping my non-alcoholic sparkling cider, on my balcony, bidding 2005 a proper adieu.

Happy New Year, suckers!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas with a twist

I have very talented friends and family. My brother is an artist. Many of my chums are writers, which makes sense considering I am as well. And my dear friend Rachael, my first college buddy, is not only an excellent singer, but a budding filmmaker as well, thanks to her boyfriend Brendon. The two of them just sent me a Christmas-themed short that Brendon directed and Rachael contributed to, and I thought I would share it with my audience, all four of you.

Click on the subject line to get a smile to put on your face.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Baseball, gentleman! Baseball!!

Since I launched this blog several months ago, I purposely have steered clear of political matters, mainly because I have observed that in these days of division and polarization, little often is accomplished by airing one's political opinions on such a public forum, other than preaching to the choir and/or bruising fragile egos. This self-imposed embargo, however, does have room for exceptions, and this entry is one of them.

I go into this potentially sensitive area because the issue at hand deals not just with politics, but also one of my big loves, baseball. Some of you may be aware that Major League Baseball, in its continuing mission to garner positive public opinion from the masses, as well as promoting the world's greatest sport to the world itself and acknowledging the growing international presence in the U.S. leagues, will stage the inaugural World Baseball Classic this coming spring. Sixteen nations are scheduled to be represented, including Canada, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, and a myriad of squads from Latin America, where baseball has never been more popular. One of the countries in the region that has been invited to take part in baseball's equivalent of the World Cup is Cuba - a natural choice, considering the powerhouse Cuban teams that have been sent to the Olympics and other international tournaments. The prospect of a U.S.-Cuban matchup at some point during the WBC surely had baseball fans salivating at seeing Cuba's best players take on the likes of Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens.

Well, those fans had better towel off, because as of now Cuba is out of the tournament. This is the decree of our friends in the U.S. government - specifically, the Treasury Department, and even more specifically, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which has denied the Cuban team a permit to play in the WBC, citing the embargo status the U.S. has against Cuba's Communist government.

This is crap. The whole idea of international athletics is to keep the politics at home in the name of sports, competition, and peace and harmony. And while the previous statements turns out to be bunk more often than not, that doesn't mean it's time to stop living up to it. It's extremely disappointing that the U.S. government, which currently is run by a self-described baseball fanatic, has seen fit to put the kibosh on what was designed to be a glowing example of how a game can bring people and nations together. Major League Baseball and the players' union already have pledged to try to get a reversal of this decision, and I expect politicians on both sides of the Cuba issue to have their two cents' worth before all is over, but considering the stubborn streak in the current administration, all that huffing and puffing may not be enough to convince the powers that be to chance their minds. If that doesn't happen, maybe the organizers of the WBC should consider playing the games based in the U.S. - and the potential millions of revenue the tournament may earn - to a more hospitable location. I hear Havana's lovely in the springtime.

Click on the subject line for an article about the situation - that is, if you haven't stopped reading out of patriotic disgust or something.

Speaking of commercials ...

Here is an example of a commercial gone terrible, terribly wrong. It's another ad from our friends of Carl's Jr., best known for heart-attack-inducing cheeseburgers and a commercial in which Paris Hilton all but had sex with one of the oversized sandwiches. Their newest TV spot endorses what they say are sensational, great-tasting milkshakes. But I'll never know, 'cause after seeing this on the tube the other day, I will never be able to consume a Carl's Jr. shake without possible barfing it back up with this thing going through my head.

Besides, Hersheys Creamy Chocolate Milkshakes, availble in your grocer's dairy section, are cheaper and fantastic, and don't use pseudo cow sex as part of their marketing campaign.

Click on the subject line for the icky sights, if you dare. Moo.

More "fun" with freaky commercials

Click on the subject line for another example of weird-ass marketing. You'll never listen to Lionel Richie the same way again.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

That mutha was crazy!

"I think he's the most influential comedian of the half century."
- Bob Newhart on Richard Pryor

Rest in peace, Richard. And thanks for the laughs.

Friday, December 09, 2005

In the year 2005 ... fresh pepper for everyone!

Remember that creepy song, "In the Year 2525?" No? Well, why don't you?

"In the Year 2525" was a little tune from the summer of 1969, when the Cubs were hot, the moon was a travel destination and Charles Manson had abandoned his musical career for something more hands on. The song, which hit #1, was basically how man was slowly going to grow obsolete as technology, which was supposed to make things easier for us, did just that, with ominous effects on our lazy asses. Of course, it was just a song, right?

Well, yeah. And yet ... what do I see on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" this afternoon but a sign that, in fact, we are running out of things to do with ourselves. Because Ellen is doing her annual Christmas thing of giving her audiences cool and snazzy gifts to give to their loved ones, or just keep themselves. On this day she presented a bunch of stuff courtesy of your friends at the fancy cookery company Sur la Table. And one of those items was ... wait for it ... the electric pepper mill.

That's right! No more of the fun twisting and turning required to coat your delicious salad with the bright taste of fresh ground pepper! Now you're just one button away from peppery goodness!

Personally, I think it looks like a glistening, cutting-edge sex toy, but that may say more about me than anything else.

Oh, by the way, Ellen is setting herself up to be the heir apparent should Oprah ever throw her hands up and decide that we as a people just aren't worth it. In fact, they're almost twins, except that Oprah isn't white or gay or a sneaker aficionado. I say that because they're both nice people, they both give away lots of loot to the less fortunate, and they both have audiences that go absolutely apes*** whenever they get free stuff for just being there. Honestly, there were times this week that I feared for Ellen's life, with the way her fans were whooping it up. Shades of "Day of the Locust" went through my mind.

P.S. Still don't believe me about the pepper mill? Click on the subject line for the cold hard truth.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Coke heads

In case you have forgotten - and why would you have, never mind Iraq, political scandal, the BCS and Jennifer Aniston topless - the Cola Wars continue to rage on in the supermarkets, restaurants and schoolyards of the world. We were reminded of this today with word that Coca-Cola is changing advertising slogans as part of their eternal struggle with Pepsi for the blood-sugar levels of our young:

Coke to retire 'Real' with new tagline in 2006 - Dec. 8, 2005: "Coca Cola, threatened with becoming second in market value to archrival PepsiCo for the first time, will debut an aggressive marketing push next year that begins with a new global slogan -- 'Welcome to the Coke side of life' -- to replace its current 'Real' tagline."

Yep, the "Coke side of life." Eric Idle should sue, along with the drug dealers of America. Also, this proves that the marketing team at Coke Central could use a dose of creativity. I mean, get "real," already.

In other news, Coke is preparing to market a new beverage targeed for older consumers, a cola-coffee combo entitled "Blak." The name tested better than the original choice, "Crude Oil."

Imagine ..

... a world where this man wasn't senselessly murdered 25 years ago today.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And the Jon-Erik Hexum Memorial Marksmanship Award goes to ...

Pen Gun Accident Kills Budding Rapper - Yahoo! News

This is a sad story, of course. But, honestly, what was this guy thinking? Or not thinking, as it were?

What do those bumps mean?

Clicking on the subject line above will hurl you through cyberspace to one of the more unusual sights on the pop culture horizon, even though it actually isn't. Yes, Virginia, they do publish Playboy in Braille.

Now, the first question that may come to mind upon hearing such a fact is, "Why?"

Why, indeed. It seem absurd in the face of it. "Uh, isn't Playboy famous for its pictures of nude women?" And you would be right. But there are words in there as well. And if nothing else, look at this as proof that some people do read Playboy for the articles.

Besides, Playboy in Braille has been a staple of the visually-impared market for 35 years - and, yeah, it is indeed published by the Library of Congress, part of a publishing program for the blind that includes Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Ladies' Home Journal, Popular Mechanics and Martha Stewart Living. And those without sight have the best of both words - they can appreciate Playboy's fine journalism, and they've never seen La Toya Jackson naked. (Not to mention what the Chicago Bulls were wearing last night!)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Sting of Progress

Click on the headline above to go to an article about how-bomb sniffing dogs may soon be replaced by - wait for it - trained, non-stinging wasps. The rationale is that the wasps are more easily trained than our four-legged friends, at a savings of lots of time and loads of money. The article itself isn't funny, but one must feel bad about the impending loss of employment by the brave and loyal canines that have kept us safe through the years. But fear not for them - word is that dogs may be replacing airline pilots. After all, they have no union and will work just for kibble. All they have to do is keep the mutts from sticking their heads out of the windows of the cockpits.