April 2005 Archives

We looked at cars. We looked at Lexuses (Lexi?), Toyotas, Volvos. We drove a Prius. (Really) We looked, we thought, we're still confused. Bought none.

We looked at plasma TVs. We looked at the Panasonic, the Pioneer, an LG. We looked at LCD TVs, too. We kinda know what we want, but picking the right time to buy's a little troublesome. Bought none.

We looked at wine. Which one? Dunno, but there were a million people in the Beverages and More store in Torrance, the Grand Opening. Lotta alkies around here. Great beer selection, beer from all over the world, some surprising stuff and difficult-to-find imports and regional craft brews. I bought Newcastle Brown Ale, as always. No time for experimentation.

Total haul: beer. And some candy, a bottle of chianti, some mustard, some cookies. Two puzzle magazines, Entertainment Weekly, a car book. Cheap headphones and underwear.

Another successful Saturday in America.

TAKE ME HOME... PLEASE

You think I'm making this up.

10:14 am, fiddling with the Walkman, hit 100.7, it flicks from KHAY in Ventura over to San Diego's Jack-FM, and who immediately pops on?

The Bald Satan.

"Take Me Home." His lament that being an insanely rich pop star on tour staying at the finest hotels, being served the finest food, and being transported in limos and first-class plane seats is like a twenty year stretch in Abu Ghraib.

Maybe this Jack-FM thing is indeed Phil Collins' plot to take over the world one failing radio station at a time, but I refuse to surrender.

And you wonder why I haven't written much lately?

I MISSED AGAIN

The curse continues. I opened a bottle of Pepsi Cherry in the car and it exploded all over me. A large portion of tree crashed onto our deck at 4 am. My sinuses felt like sulfuric acid was coursing through them all day. And worst, by far...

...that's right. I punched up Jack-FM on my Walkman and they were playing Phil Collins.

Again.

Jack-FM, where you're never more than 20 minutes away from the bald guy.

I'm going to go burn my radio now.

DAWN OF THE SHRED

Got me a shredder.

Oh, I can't wait. I'm gonna shred everything. Gonna shred those Capital One and MBNA credit card blandishments. Gonna shred junk mail, random scraps of paper, magazines. Gonna shred all day, shred all night, shred for five minutes at a time and then not shred while the shredder recovers (that's how these things work- you shred too much, you burn 'em out). I Ihaven't been this excited about adding a new piece of technology since we bought our first color TV in 1971, just in time for the World Series.

Got me this shredder.

Shreds like the dickens, shreds into confetti. I can shred and shred, then take the results and throw 'em in the air like the Yankees are parading down Lower Broadway after winning the Series. All those useless stacks of paper in the office? Gonna shred 'em.

(Is it Friday yet? No? Damn. I am SO burned crispy. Can you tell?)

QUOTES FROM MYSELF

My spontaneous Line of the Night, blurted during a discussion of Mitch Albom's little problem at the Detroit Free Press, when someone mentioned "Tuesdays With Morrie":

"Actually, Morrie wasn't there on Tuesdays. Mitch wrote it in advance."

(rimshot)

Hey, it's late and I took some Benadryl. This is what you get.

STOOD UP, LONG DISTANCE

You make an appointment and you get delayed, you call and you tell the other party that you're running late and you'll be calling as soon as possible. And then you do that. Right?

I had a call set up with someone for this afternoon. His office called to tell me he was stuck with a client but was wrapping it up and would call in "fifteen to twenty minutes."

Forty-five minutes later, no call. So I called and the assistant said he was escorting the appointment out of the office and would call in minutes.

That was forty-five minutes ago.

You cancel other appointments, you clear out your schedule, you make sure you're sitting there in the office ready for the call, and they don't call. And you end up sitting there for a few hours like you're waiting for the cable guy. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking, you realize you're already after hours where the guy's office is, and they haven't had the courtesy to call you.

I never know what to do in this case. It's supremely aggravating and it's really inexcusable, and this was going to be my first contact with him, too, so I don't necessarily want to go off on him before we even start, but if I'm going to go out of my way to be available for a call, I expect the call. Five, ten minutes either way, I can understand; this, I can't.

And this is how things are in business: customer be damned, client be damned, relationships be damned.

Pleased? No.

OK, I'm done venting. And if you're eager to point out the times I've stood people up, please don't. I'm in no mood to be labeled a hypocrite, even if I AM a hypocrite.

A SORT-OF CELEBRATION

My dad would have been 74 today.

This is the first April 25th in my life without my father, and for weeks, I've found myself thinking about what to get him, followed by that sinking realization that the USPS and FedEx don't deliver wherever he may be. (The USPS has a difficult-enough time delivering where he used to be in Florida) Last year, I got him a Barnes and Noble gift card, because he loved books, the B&N was closer to his house than the Borders, and I figured he could also use it online if he couldn't get out of the house- we knew his time was limited, and his condition had been rapidly deteriorating. He did get to use the card- he drove to the store and picked up some books, and it was apparently his last solo driving trip anywhere. About a month later, he was gone.

I take comfort in the fact that he had 73 good years- actually, more like 71 good years, one and a half anxiety-filled years, and six months you wouldn't wish on anyone. On Saturday evening, I lit two Yahrzeit candles, for my mom and my dad, and I cried and I talked to them and I mourned as if they were only gone a week instead of eleven years and one year. It still hurts, and it always will, but it especially hurts on occasions like birthdays, when I realize I can no longer celebrate with them.

But I can still celebrate. I think I'll go buy some books today, because that's what Dad would have done. Somebody's gotta keep the faith.

Happy birthday, Dad.

My initial reaction to the news that Maggie Gyllenhaal said in an interview that, basically, America deserved what it got on 9/11 because we've done some "reprehensible" things and therefore was "responsible in some way," was to be outraged. Why, how dare a Hollywood star be...

,,,Hollywood star?

Wait a minute.

I know who Maggie Gyllenhaal is. Sister of Jake. But what the hell has she done to be enough of a star to be quoted about 9/11? I remember she was one of the many cast members in the execrable "Mona Lisa Smile," and she was in "Secretary," which nobody saw, and... and... what HAS she done?

I looked it up. She was in "Donnie Darko," which nobody saw but a lot of people like to mention it as a "cult film," whish means that nobody saw it but some people have heard of it. She was in "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," which I saw, but for the life of me I can't remember her in it at all. Same for "Adaptation." And that's it. There are other movies listed, but you haven't seen them.

Hollywood star? We've devalued the meaning of that term.

That's not to say that one needs to be a Hollywood star to make a stupid, self-hating anti-American comment. But it means I really can't hate her for it, because, really, she shouldn't have microphones stuck in her face, not unless it's one of those "Man on the Street" things the Onion parodies every week. It really doesn't matter what Maggie Gyllenhaal thinks about anything. It's not like she has any influence on anybody. Okay, maybe on Jake, but, for God's sake, he was "Bubble Boy"- how can anyone take HIM seriously, either? He was the star of a movie co-starring Beetlejuice from Howard Stern's show.

How about this rule?: If you're a celebrity, people have to have HEARD of you before you get to make stupid political pronouncements.

Or you just go get a blog. Like me. Although I'm certainly no Gyllenhaal.

PASSOVER, EXPLAINED

Tonight begins the solemn yet festive holiday of Passover (from the Hebrew term for "I really don't want to eat this"), which we of the Jewish faith celebrate every April, except when it falls in March. Or May. (It actually falls in the Jewish calendar month of Nissan, formerly Datsun) The holiday, best known by Gentiles as the holiday involving the practice of not eating bread or cake, commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, which culminated in a big dinner, or "Seder," which includes the youngest family member at the dinner table gamely attempting to ask the Four Questions, which are:

1) Where the hell are we going?
2) Anybody got water? It's hot out here in the desert.
3) What's "gefilte"?
4) If you're the Lakers, do you throw bundles of money at Phil Jackson until he returns or is that team a lost cause for the next five years anyway?

(The answers, chanted by the rest of the family: "Dunno," "No," "Dunno," "We're Miami Heat fans now")

The Seder itself involves the Hagganah (literally, "a booklet with lots of Hebrew prayers and stuff designed to make you wait to eat the good stuff"), which is available at any supermarket with purchase of the appropriate Maxwell House product, and the family faithfully follows for about two pages before the kids start to whine that it's boring and taking too long while everyone but Mom starts to count the pages left before it's over. Mom is always the one taking it seriously. Everyone else is there for the food.

And what a banquet it is! The centerpiece, of course, is the Seder plate, which is arranged with several special foods steeped in huge sloppy piles of symbolism:

Charoset- symbolizing the mortar the Jewish slaves used to build for the Egyptians. It is made, literally, of cement.
Baytzah- hard-boiled egg, symbolizing hard-boiled eggs.
Zeroa- shankbone. Symbolizes the inedible.
Karpas- parsley. Represents the useless.
Maror- bitter herbs. Symbolizes the old fart guys in Florida adult residential communities who complain about everything. Many of these gentlemen are named "Herb."
Chazeret- celery. Represents the stuff you have to eat on a diet.

The actual eating starts with the matzoh (unleavened bread, also known as "tasteless flaky cracker things"), and then the Maror (charoset sandwich on matzoh), followed by the matzoh ball soup and the gefilte fish (gefilte being the Yiddish for "fish-flavored Jell-O mold") and the main course, usually turkey or chicken or brisket or pork chops. Oh, and there's lots of wine, generally Manischewitz or Mogen David of the sweet, syrupy variety, often the first alcohol children try, and the reason that Jewish kids tend to avoid drinking longer than other kids. Afterwards, a dessert is served, usually a cake that looks delectable but tastes much like wood shavings bound by mucus, because it's made from wood and mucus.

And then everybody sings "Dayenu" ("It Would Have Been Enough For Us"), which includes the rousing chorus "Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu- Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu! Dayenu-Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Dayenu, Dayenu!". sung while swaying back and forth until Grandpa, who drained several bottles of Mogen David even before the evening started, flies off his chair and lands face first on the floor, immediately bouncing to his feet insisting he's "okay, goddammit, I'm fine, get your hands off me."

And then everybody goes home and Mom opens all the windows to get the gefilte smell out of the house.

Truly, this night IS "different from all other nights." We can all take comfort in that fact.

EXCUSES FOR PESACH

Tomorrow evening's Passover, so I'm far too busy to post anything meaningful. Why, it's practically a full-time job to get good and revulsed over the food.

No, I don't touch the gefilte fish. Or the horseradish.

THE 2,800 CALORIE PYRAMID

They came up with a new food pyramid the other day, more like 12 of them, as if anyone ever followed the old one. I know I didn't. It was the kind of thing you'd see tacked onto the bulletin board in elementary schools. We didn't have a food pyramid when I was a kid, but we had some sort of food group recommendation thing on the bulletin board next to the Civil Defense instructions. We didn't follow that, either.

My food groups were the Cake Group, the Candy Group, and the Snack Bar Group. The Cake Group had strict guidelines: no Hostess stuff except for Sno Balls. Anything Drake's was acceptable. Anything Tastykake was acceptable. Scooter Pies were acceptable- not cake, but in the ballpark. Cookies were to be Nabisco or Burry's, Keebler's in a pinch, never A&P or Pathmark or ShopRite or Foodtown brand. The ranking went like this: the top level were Ring Dings, Yodels, Butterscotch Krimpets, and Chocolate Juniors. Next level: Scooter Pies, Oreos, cookies. Next level: Sno Balls, those fruit pies with the flaky sugar coating, and maybe, maybe, the occasional Twinkie. That's all you needed.

Ring Dings ruled- they came as either full-sized (massive disc of chocolate cake filled with cream and coated in chocolate-flavored icing) or Ring Ding Jr. (in a box, little hockey pucks of the same ingredients). I think all they sell is the Jr.s now. Yodels were exactly the same ingredients, but in the form of a roll; I was not into unit pricing back then, so I didn't realize that you could get more chocolate cake-cream-icing goodness if you compared ounces and prices. Yodels had one advantage over Ring Dings, too, that extra hard edge along the end of the roll. It had a crunch the hockey pucks didn't. Tastykake was up there, too, for the Chocolate Juniors and the Butterscotch Krimpets that came in wax paper to which the icing would stick. Eating them was a two stage affair: the cake came first, then you sucked the icing off the wax paper. Nowadays, they come in plain old cellophane, and it just isn't the same.

I wasn't big on Twinkies or Devil Dogs. Twinkies were too sickly sweet. They had the Twizzler Effect: you'd always eat three or so beyond the point where you got sick of them. The first bites were great, the second really good, the third OK, and then you got queasy but plowed ahead looking to recreate the magic. I understand crack's like that, too- maybe they got the idea from Twinkies and Twizzlers. Devil Dogs were dry other than the cream- without the icing, the cake reminded you that the individual parts of the Drake's cakes kinda sucked. You wanted the package.

If all they had was Dolly Madison stuff, you moved on to the Candy Group.

The Candy Group involved the classics: Hershey and Cadbury, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews/Chew-Ets (great for emergency removal of fillings or even whole teeth), Baby Ruth and M&Ms and Clark bars and Zagnut. Anything chocolate was A-OK, except for Passover candy they- we, actually- sold at Hebrew School. That stuff LOOKED good, but ugh. (The exception to that is the line of Joyva chocolate candies, like Ring Jells and Joys and thise marshmallow sticks that, along with Chuckles, were my mom's favorites. I had a Joyva Joys bar in Vegas this week when we stopped at Bagelmania for breakfast- Mom, this sugar bomb's for you) We had Twizzlers, not Red Vines- that's East Coast vs. West Coast for sure. We had Pixy Stix- the challenge was to get as much out as you could before your saliva clogged the end of the tube. And we had Nik-L-Nips. I was shocked to discover they're still around- the Cost Plus World Market near us carries them. They're wax bottles in which radioactively colored sugar water has been sealed. You bite the top off and suck out the crapwater. My sister, on the other hand, liked to eat candy she knew would gross me out. On top of that list were two bizarre products, C. Howard's Scented Gum and C. Howard's Violets. Both came in packaging from the turn of the century and smelled and tasted like perfume. She could not possibly have enjoyed the flavor, so she was probably getting off on my reaction

There is absolutely no nutritional value to the Candy Group.

You got your nutrition, such as it was, from the Snack Bar Group. This involved the kind of food you could get at a department store or five-and-dime snack bar- pizza, hot dogs, ice cream. I'd eat most any snack bar food, even those hot dogs rotating on those roller-bar grills since the Hoover administration at the snack bar downstairs at the Stern's store in Bergen Mall. I'd eat almost anything remotely related to pizza. There was one exception, which became a major controversy in my family: Topps pizza.

Topps was a short-lived discount store, the east coast and midwestern division of California's White Front stores ("White Front"? Sounds Klan-like), and they had a store in Totowa, New Jersey, where the snackbar had the world's worst pizza. Believe me when I tell you that Topps pizza had sauce that tasted like cherry cough syrup, sparse cheese of the rubber variety, and a crust with no taste at all. It was awful, and I hated it- I preferred the Italian ices from the cart outside- but my sister seized on the concept of grossing me out by insisting that she loved it and couldn't wait to have more. And that would have been the end of it had my father not misremembered the story- to his final days, he thought I liked the vile concoction. My sister, ever gleeful at stirring the pot, agreed with him- yes, Perry loved Topps pizza, of course he did!

He did not. I am setting the record straight right here. My sister was the Topps pizza lover. Write that down.

I don't think Topps pizza is on the new food pyramid, or on any of the food pyramids, because they don't include an Inedible Group. Here's what my personal pyramid from the government website says I should eat:

10 oz. of grains.
3.5 cups of veggies.
2.5 cups of fruit.
3 cups of milk.
7 oz. of meat and beans.
426 calories of "extras," 2800 calories total.

I must be missing something. Where are the Ring Dings and the Nik-L-Nips?

NAB2005: CODA

So, now that we're home, what have we learned from NAB2005?

Not much that we didn't already know. But what's interesting to me is that content, which was once said to be king, then said to be secondary, may now be king again, because the technological convergence that's taking place is making the delivery system ultimately irrelevant to the end user- cable is broadband is satellite is broadcast. What matters is that there's going to be your handset/phone, your big screen TV/computer, and your car radio/appliance, and through all of them will come whatever content you want, when you want it. Music? TV show? Movie? Call it up on your cell phone, your TV, your car screen, and there you go, courtesy of whatever wireless broadband there'll be, or fiber right to the point of connection. Whatever you want- that's content. Whenever you want it- TiVo, DVR, any hard-drive-based system or on-demand deal. Wherever you want it- that's already happening with things like Orb or Sling Media, which take whatever you have, TV, music, radio, anything, and send them to whatever Net-enabled device you have, wherever you have it.

Which means that content IS king again.

Hey, I create content.

OK, I'm happy.

And tired. After two work-intensive days and the long drive back, it'll take me a good week to be back to normal, if that's even an option anymore.

NAB2005: THE CONVENTION WORKOUT

I didn't have time to run or hit the gym today. Didn't matter.

From parking garage through Hilton to ballroom, 7 am: 3/4 mile.
Ballroom through skywalk to press room to meeting room: 1/2 mile.
Meeting room to press room to meeting room for press conference: about 50 feet.
Press conference through skywalk and Hilton to garage: 1 1/4 mile.
Garage to Hilton cheesesteak place for lunch: maybe 150 feet.
Pizza steak and Mountain Dew: deduct several miles.
Cheesesteak place to slot machine: about 100 feet, deduct several dollars, add more dollars. (!)
Slot to ballroom: maybe 1/2 mile.
Ballroom door, argument with guard who insisted I couldn't enter without a ticket despite holding a media pass, escort to "press area": 30 feet.
"Press Area" to another ballroom: maybe 1/8 mile.
Ballroom to press room to meeting room: 1/2 mile.
Meeting room to press room to garage: 1 1/4 mile.
Huge dinner with dessert: deduct all remaining miles plus several more.

Net result: like any other day.

Bud Walters stuck his ass in my face.

Okay, it was not deliberate, but it stood to reason that a radio station owner would decide to stand directly in front of me, a few millimeters from my face, in order to talk to someone seated next to me, someone named Steve Langford. After all, at the Spring NAB convention, I barely exist. This is the convention for two categories of attendee, the station owner and the engineer. Neither has much use for me. As far as Bud Walters was concerned, I'm vapor.

More than the Fall radio convention, this show is white-bread to the core- middle-aged guys in ill-fitting suits and pasty* pale complexions, slick but empty politicians drifting through, speeches introduced and ended by the same generic music used on awards shows. It's where the broadcasting industry gets to show that it's a business, a somewhat poorly run business but a business nonetheless.

I sat through the Congressional Breakfast listening to Our Elected Representatives railing about the evils of indecency and how we just have to stop it. They never said why, or what exactly happens when a poor defenseless kid is exposed to, say, Janet Jackson's breast or the F-word. I tried to ask, but Sam Donaldson cut the panel short before I could ask, and I couldn't grab any of the Congressmen as they bolted from the stage. Joe Barton stopped to answer questions, but a phalanx of TV trade magazine reporters got to him and peppered him with questions about the analog TV cut-off date until he slipped out. The answer to my question, of course, is nothing happens and the "why" is that it's politically expedient. But I wanted to hear some blowhard politician say it in person.

NAB2005, THE PREQUEL

Made the long drive across the desert in near-record time- less than the usual 5-plus hours- and the check-in was incident-free, so I'm in a reasonably okay mood considering that a) I'm unbelievably exhausted, and b) I have two days of nonstop convention tedium ahead of me. The Spring NAB drains me- a lot of running around from one end of the massive convention center to the other, too many things to cover and not enough me to do it, no time at all for fun, and that long drive to and from- but I gotta do it, because, well, it's my job.

So I'm going to rest up, then do my job. Coming up: why the word on the strip is "pasty," and more from the Bad Entertainment Capital of the World.

YOU PLAY WHAT I DON'T WANT

If, indeed, "Jack-FM" means, as they say, "we play what we want," I suppose they want to play Phil Collins. I swear, every time I put either the Jack in L.A. or the Jack in San Diego on, I'm never more than three songs away from Phil Collins. This morning, I hit 100.7 Jack-FM from San Diego on the Walkman while running and within 30 seconds, I got "Throwing it All Away," a horrible Genesis song which has been stuck in my mind all day.

Damn you, Jack. Damn you all to Hell.

NOT TONIGHT, DEAR, I HAVE A HEADACHE

No shootings on the 110 today, no real reason for me to do what I did, which was to make it all the way to San Pedro on the way up to Dodger Stadium and think, you know, I'm tired, my sinuses hurt like hell, I... just can't imagine spending the evening at the ballpark tonight. And I turned around and here I am.

The game's on the monitor here- Jeff Kent just hit one into the left field boxes, and now Milton Bradley just went back-to-back with a shot over the left field wall, and I'd like to be there but I just don't have the energy tonight. I'd rather not make the drive; I'd rather be home here with Fran and Ella taking it easy. The long drive to Vegas is Sunday, I gotta clean the office and pack and then drive up there and experience the annual Two Busiest Work Days of the Year, and as much as I love the ballpark and the people there and the Dodger Dogs and Nancy Bea at the organ, I... need... sleep.

And that's what I'm gonna do.

ASSUME FETAL POSITION

As if the freeway freakery isn't enough... and adding today's thing-through-the-windshield incident on the 5 freeway...

I'll have to be in a hotel next week, and, just in time for that, this happens in Paris, as if I'm not paranoid enough as it is.

You can't live life afraid of everything, but it's not like there's no reason to do so.

THE ROAD TO, FROM, AND IN HELL


Someone got shot on the Harbor Freeway. Again.

How DARE they interfere with my ability to get to the stadium!

So I'm not going to make it to the Dodger game tonight. It could be worse. And it's all because of the Hell Freeway. Consider these stories from the last few weeks:

March 27: Eight car pileup, followed by fistfight between drivers.

March 29: Student shot and killed while he drove.

April 13: Shooting. Broad daylight again.

Am I worried? Hell, yes. That's my only reasonable route to downtown, to the ballpark, to a lot of places. Whether this is random or not, it's scary.

Think that maybe, just maybe, there ought to be police cameras on this road? Constant police cruising? Wouldn't that make some sense?

But we're probably all on our own.

It was Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, and life begins anew.

Yeah, yeah, new hope, fresh start, the promise of Spring and all that, George Will planting begonias in Roger Angell's yard, whatever your pleasure- Opening Day is still fun, like seeing an old friend after a long absence. I could even overlook the pre-game Lifehouse concert. You remember Lifehouse, the band that did "Hanging by a Moment," and... er... did we say "Hanging by a Moment?" That's what they performed at the park, with the volume turned waaaaay down halfway through for some unexplained reason. Fine with me. Besides, they set the band up in deep center, where nobody could actually see them to confirm that it was indeed Lifehouse and not Lifehousemania ("Not the original, but an incredible reproduction!"). Here they are:

And then the teams were introduced and "God Bless America" was sung and the anthem was sung and rockets blown up and doves released...

...but then there was something else. See that diagonal mark in the sky to the left of the right field scoreboard? It's hard to see, but if you get REAL close to the monitor, it's the tiny gray smudge...

That's when the entire crowd muttered variations of OMG and WTF and Holy S, as the stealth bomber swept right into the park.

I didn't get the best shot, when the thing flattened out as it scraped the top of the park over our heads, but everyone had the same reaction that Rick Monday had: "Goosebumps," he said, pointing to his right arm, "that gave me goosebumps." They've been flying the stealth over major events for a few years now, like at the Rose Parade, but it gets you every time.

I spent the day eating, schmoozing, and hanging out, and I guess I should (WARNING: Here Come the Plugs!) give a link to the fine benmaller.com and the Tony Bruno Show at KMPC (AM 1540 The Ticket)/Los Angeles and, of course, KFWB, home of the Dodgers and Tom Boman and David G. Hall. Make sure to patronize all of these fine establishments, early and often.

And it was a fun, sloppy game with a lot of scoring early and a furious Dodger last-minute comeback, and even the SIG-Alert on the way home couldn't dampen my mood. I mean, when you've just been in the middle of this:

...how can you come away feeling bad? (Okay, if you're a Giants fan, maybe....)

PROOF

No time- running behind on deadline.

This'll have to do:

Told ya.

Another weekend day, another sidetrack, this time into the singles pile. Both Fran and myself amassed a load of 45 rpm singles over the years, and while talking to a friend on the phone, the topic went from concert promoters to Talking Heads- I have no idea how, I think it was part of a discussion of the unique sound of the band's rhythm section- and when Johnny brought up the fact that the band was a trio (sans Jerry Harrison) before the release of the first album, I remembered that I have a rarity- a picture sleeve single for "Love Goes To Building On Fire" from 1977, a promo single released by Sire in the waning days of that label's distribution deal with ABC, and it happens to show the band as a trio.

Here ya go- imagine what they were thinking at the time:

(Picture Credit: Jimmy deSana)

And the other side:

And the label:

Between the two of us, Fran and I ended up with some cool rarities on vinyl- a lot of UK punk/new wave 45s from back in the day, a very strange collection of albums including the one where the 1969 New York Mets sing- and we still have 'em all. Many are in decent shape. We've carried them around with us from Philadelphia (me) and Miami (Fran) to Jersey to Philadelphia to Long Island to Los Angeles, and they've been a consideration in home decorating- where do we put the records? And in what?- but there's one catch: we don't even have a functioning turntable, At least, I don't THINK we do. We have an old Technics turntable circa 1980-something, but it's not hooked up and there's a layer of crud on it. I've promised several times to clean that thing off, but haven't gotten around to it. Maybe I should. Maybe this time, I'll be motivated to get that thing working and even hook the receiver up to my computer and rip them onto the hard drive so we can actually listen to the things.

Maybe. Or I can go buy a new one. I'd save myself the trouble and just download everything, but this is not the kind of stuff you find on iTunes or even through PtoP. Especially not the New York Mets singing "You Gotta Have Heart" off key. I think I've given myself a new project.

FLAT RATE FLOOGIE

The Postal Service wants a two cent increase for first class letters and hikes across the board for other services. They can ask for all they want, but, judging by my continued experiences with the USPS, it's academic, because I'm doing everything I can to avoid using them if at all possible. Take my Express Mail situation- this week, I had to send an important package of paperwork to New York overnight. I used the USPS. Mistake. It was supposed to be delivered by noon- nope. 3 pm- nope. I called and got hung up upon once, then I got a contract worker named Eloise who kept repeating the stock phrase "I understand, but..." before everything she said. Where was the package? She understood, but she didn't know. Why wasn't it delivered? She understood, but she didn't know. What can I do to track it? She understood, but I couldn't. What can I do, period? She understood, and I could wait 24 hours, then call again. And what happens when I call? She understood, but I could call in 24 hours and they'd research it. Research? What does that mean? She understood, but I could call in 24 hours and they'd research it. I don't understand- if they can't find it, what recourse do I have? She understood, but... sorry, what do you mean by recourse, sir? Recourse- if your carriers screwed up, wha...

And this is where she departed from the script book, or at least she resorted to a trick I've heard bad customer service reps use when there's nothing left in the script book to say and they don't want to send you to a supervisor: "Sir, stop yelling at me."

But I wasn't yelling.

"I'm going to have to ask you to stop yelling at me."

I'm sorry, but I'm not... what did you say your name was?

"You're yelling at me."

No, actually, I'm not. Name, please.

"Eloise."

Do you have an ID number?

She gave it and hung up.

Yes, this is worth the extra money.

As it happens, an actual Postal Service employee in the L.A. Express Mail office named Maudie came through big time after I tried yet again and called local post office numbers to find someone who could answer me without a script. Maudie was extremely helpful, called the New York facility with me on the line, determined that the package was on a truck and inexplicably was running late, and helped me until the thing was finally delivered late in the afternoon. And here's something the Postal Service should understand- when you have people like Maudie directly dealing with the public, you will keep customers happy and you'll get a more sympathetic ear when costs go up and you have to raise rates. Had I talked to Maudie first, I wouldn't be as dissatisfied, because I'd know that the USPS at least cares about making things right. Instead, I got Eloise the call center worker, who couldn't care less whether that package got there or not.

That's a lesson for business in general (Dell? Are you listening?)- it's not just outsourcing out of the country, it's hiring independents to "represent" your company, period. If the person taking a complaint call for a company doesn't even WORK for the company, he or she sees no benefit in doing a good job. They don't care. And you lose a customer. Whatever additional cost there is in hiring and keeping CSRs rather than contracting the work out is worth it. If companies weren't so panicked about this quarter's earnings and Wall Street's reaction, they'd understand this. (If Wall Street hadn't turned from analyzing companies based on past and current performance into a pack of would-be Criswells trying to predict the future and setting stock and commodities prices based on wishful thinking and a desire to bet on a winner, we wouldn't have this problem. We also wouldn't have $2.79/gallon gas, either.

All right, enough economics, it's Saturday. At least the Phillies looked a lot better, blasting St. Louis and featuring an impressive performance by Gavin "Uncle" Floyd. ("Pink" would be too obvious, "Raymond" too obscure, "Flat Foot Floogie With a Floy" too stupid. Please don't breathe a word of this to Chris Berman.)

OFF THE BANDWAGON IN RECORD TIME

Sometimes, you want to wait until you've had a good look at a team before declaring them winners or cooked. And sometimes, you just know, right away. I don't want to jump to conclusions, and, believe me, I'm not, not yet, but after four games (yeah. I know), yuck.

Today, the Phillies blew a lead in that most painful of ways- the bases-loaded walk. They were up 5-1 at one point, but then the bullpen couldn't get anyone out in the 8th inning. They can hit, but Madson and Fultz looked embarrassing out there and that's three straight.

I'd hate to think this Phillies team's best shot is past, but, man, they do not look good right now. If Bowa was still there, you'd be able to hear the screaming everywhere after this one.

(No, I'm not giving up- it's April 8th. But... yuck.)

BREAK

After several late, late nights finishing taxes and stuff, I'm finally free. But I need to wind down, so forgive me for taking a break. I'll be back tomorrow. Probably.

SURRENDER

So the great column thief admitted to stealing my writing and took the stuff off his website. He did not apologize, though, which means I will not let the guy off the hook. He knows who he is. Maybe you should know, too. Haven't decided yet.

This was a weird one. The stuff I write for All Access is like my personality in small doses, and seeing it on someone else's site, with him taking credit for it, was like identity theft, or, more to the point, personality theft. My words out of the mouth of someone else, a white-haired, grizzled conservative talk show host halfway across the country. You know those credit card commercials where someone's speaking in an entirely different, inappropriate voice to illustrate how identity theft can affect you, the ones where a middle-aged suburbanite male has the voice of a young Valley girl who stole his card? Like that. Creepy.

So the stealing's over. I'm not sure, however, that I'm through with this. I know I'm owed an abject apology. I haven't gotten one yet. I know, I know, I should let it go, but this just pissed me off. Dude, if you're out there, don't think I'm through with this. Not yet.

ADVICE SOUGHT

I discovered that some radio guy's website is "borrowing" my All Access column.

More specifically, he's just copying and pasting the Talk Topics column. Verbatim. My writing, my jokes, my commentary, everything.

Theft.

What would you do?

GREATER ISSUES AT STAKE

Eric Slater of the L.A. Times is apologizing to friends and colleagues for writing that error-filled story about the frat trouble at Chico State. L.A. Observed has the e-mail mea culpa.

This is the problem with the news media: he's not apologizing to the readers.

It's typical behavior from the news media- Slater, and the Times, are far more concerned with their reputation within the news industry than whether the readers get served. Screw the subscribers- there's a career at stake here!

I keep renewing that Times subscription. Every month, I seem to have fewer reasons to do so.

I CAN SEE MY HOUSE FROM HERE

I was gonna write something else tonight, but I got caught up in this.

Yes, it's Google Maps. But enter your address, click the satellite link in the upper right, and zoom in. MapQuest has had this for a while, but Google has it beat on detail. It's scary- I found our house, and could even see the pool in the backyard. I found our old house in Pennsylvania, our apartments in New Jersey, the house in which I grew up, all easy to make out. It's addictive.

Well, yeah, it's a time waster, but a cool one.

Here's a CNN article about the thing, in case you care.

NON-STANDARD DEVIATION

Small changes in routine seem to throw people beyond comprehension. Today at the Y, they changed to a requirement that members bring their own locks to the locker room. Before this, you'd hand them your membership card and they'd give you a key to a specific locker; now, you use any locker and lock it with your own lock.

Needless to say, it was slightly chaotic in the locker room.

Some people forgot locks; the Y sold them cheapo combination locks for three bucks. Some people brought locks that didn't fit. There was a lot of puzzlement, a lot of "hey, how do you open this one?," general confusion. I wasn't confused- naturally suspicious, I always used a combination lock on top of the regular key lock, assuming that the regular lock was way too pickable- but I understood. I get- everybody gets- thrown when routine is disrupted. At the gym, it's when I have to go out of order- it should be lifting, free weights, cable pull, sit-ups, chin-ups, rowing machine, chest press machine, lat pull machine, leg press, two more leg machines, shower, done. If I walk in and someone's using the Smith machine, or someone's using a machine that's next on my schedule, I go into a deep sour mood. How dare anyone else want to work out when I want to work out? It's just wrong.

Of course, it isn't, but it FEELS wrong, because the world revolves around me. Dry cleaning's not ready? Bad mood. Traffic delays me for 30 seconds? Bad mood. Ralphs is out of the brand of tortilla I like, or the particular tuna I favor? Bad mood. There's a different brand of bottled water in the fridge, or, worse, there's no bottled water in the fridge and I have to go to the garage and get a warm bottle? That'll throw me for hours. I have a schedule in my mind; it starts at about 4:30 am when I glare at the clock radio before it clicks on, and it lasts through work and running and eating and gym workouts and more eating and more work and all the way until around 9 at night, when I might be able to join Fran for some random TV watching before losing consciousness. Along the way, there are things I have to do and eat and see at specific times, some for a reason (there's a deadline for columns, a deadline for sending out a daily e-mail for All Access), some for practical purposes (I don't like to eat after 7 pm because that's not good for weight watching), and some for no good reason at all (this thing gets done by a certain time because... well, because I say so). But I like having the routine. I hate when it's disrupted. It's not rational, but it's how I am.

And I suspect it's how most people are, which is why you get road rage incidents, why people can't see their way through adjusting their timing for their own good (like going to the gym, or to the grocery, or anywhere, at a time when the crowds aren't at their peak), why you get naked older guys wandering around a locker room hoping they can somehow recall the numbers that will magically grant them access to their clothes. It's completely understandable. Life gives you a lot to process, and routine reduces the number of things with which you need to deal. And when there's disruption, there's additional information, there's less time to handle other things. Hey, I'm old enough, I've earned the right not to have to change my ways. And now I understand how those guys with their waistbands up under their armpits in Florida feel. When my Dad was still alive, in his later years, he wanted certain things certain ways, and he became more inflexible and more set in routine. But in routine and inflexibility, there was certainty and comfort. I think I get what Dad was thinking now.

I'd feel old, but that's not next on my schedule.

It's been a strange weekend for me, and it hit home while compiling news items for All Access. The dominant news story has, of course, been the Pope's passing, and it was all over TV Saturday- even on the Final Four telecasts, every pause seemed filled by Thalia Assuras with more on the Pope, his life, his death, his impact. And a lot of people I respect are brimming over with their thoughts on how important the Pope was to the world, his impact on each and every one of us incalcuable.

I'll take their word for it, and I do respect the Pope and what he accomplished, but as far as my own commentary's concerned, I got nothin'. I actually SAW this Pope live in Philadelphia, and I STILL have nothin'. I'm not trying to be irreverent, I do understand his importance, I'm sorry he's gone, and my condolences are genuine. But I feel like I'm on the sidelines for an event that's profound for everyone but me.

And then I read other blogs and columnists, and there's a level of emotion and respect and sorrow that rarely surfaces these days. So I'm going to let them communicate the meaning of the Pope's life and passing, and I'll step aside for it. It's just like me to encounter what appears to be a defining event of life for millions of people and come up empty.

LAMENT OF THE PROCRASTINATOR

Let me assure you that there is nothing quite like discovering you're missing one minor but necessary form when trying to complete your tax return.

The good thing is that it can be faxed over on Monday; the bad thing is that it means the exercise is not quite finished. It's like a rain delay in the bottom of the eighth.

And that's why I didn't get to watch the basketball games today.

IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY

The sofa came today, in good shape, on time, no problems. I suppose I DO love it at Levitz. (Hey, they had a perfectly sized, perfect color couch available for delivery in two days at a fair price- so it ain't fancy and the salespeople descend on you like locusts or Ford dealers, the deal was still good and the sofa works for us) It was a gorgeous day but the winds were bringing the allergens in, and I ended up sinking into the new couch and flipping on the TV, and remembered that I'd recorded the new HBO documentary on the Villanova-Georgetown NCAA championship game of 1995, so I put that on.

The big game was, of course, 20 years ago today. 20 years! And seeing my contemporaries- I was a law student at 'Nova back then, and watched the final in a friend's dorm room on campus- depicted as they were then and then as they are now reminded me of one thing: man, am I old. The players were all two or three years behind me, and some of them look positively middle-aged. Am I that old? Yep. Wow.

20 years means that the events of the time, still clear in my memory, now appear through the gauzy haze of the HBO-Stone Canyon documentary style. It's not like watching the videotape I still have of the game, recorded (ona Betamax!) that evening by my dad back in New Jersey (I did not own a VCR yet). In this documentary, the games, shot on videotape, now have a softer look, and they're accompanied by the tones of Liev Schreiber's narration and the kind of music that normally accompanies footage of the recently departed- heart-string-tugging music, music I'd associate with footage of the Melbourne Olympics. The music is especially emptional in the last segment, which deals with Gary McLain's drug expose and more recent reconciliation with his coach and teammates at the big 20th reunion. The producers clearly want you to cry over all the emotion.

But then I remembered it was hardly that kind of event. When it was happening, it was more of a fraternity kegger atmosphere, with the campus overrun by puking, yelling, dancing engineering students. Flaming mattresses flew from sixth-floor dorm windows, people dangled from street lights and tree branches, Lancaster Avenue was wall-to-wall people dotted with cameras from channel 10 and channel 6 and channel 3. The sad, emotional music wouldn't go with that. "Louie Louie," yes. HBO documentary music, no.

And I also learned from the show that Villanova was, apparently, the uncool school. Georgetown was the one everyone was SUPPOSED to root for, unless you were a racist. See, Georgetown represented hip-hop, the underground. All the cool people- Spike Lee, Chuck D.- were Georgetown fans, because Georgetown represented Black America, never mind that Villanova's three stars were all black and Memphis State had Keith Lee and Georgetown was prone to punching and shoving and pushing and blaming it on the other guys (it was just reaction, naturally, even if those instigating actions by the other team appeared to be invisible to the rest of the world). And while I'm sure that some people who didn't like the Hoyas WERE racist, a lot of folks- most folks- who didn't like Georgetown felt that way because they just didn't like all the punching and shoving and pushing and blaming it on the other guys. Or, and this might seem like crazy talk, because, like me, they were fans of another team in the conference. You could admire the Hoyas and think Ewing was great without liking them. That's the way I felt- good team, Ewing was special, Thompson was paranoid, I hoped they'd lose because I wanted Villanova to do better. I guess maybe I should have consulted with Spike Lee first. (Then again, how have his Knicks fared since he started occupying the front row? Have they won any championships? Let me check...)

But it's still fun to remember how low the 'Cats were after that miserable Pitt game where Rollie pulled the starters for the second half, how until the Dayton game showed up on the board that it was very unclear whether they'd even make the field of 64, how they just kept winning and then played the Perfect Basketball Game. The show does an admirable job of condensing the game, but you can't condense the astonishing procession of shots, how Harold Jensen just. Wouldn't. Miss. and how everything Villanova threw up, no matter how off-balance or how well the Hoyas were covering them, went in. And I remembered, when they showed that last two minutes of the first half when the Wildcats spread the floor and the Hoyas let them and ended up with Villanova grabbing a halftime lead, that I was watching on a little black-and-white set with about a dozen others crammed into a tiny dorm room and I said "you know, there's a possibility we can win this game" and half-believing it. And I remembered when the last inbounds pass went to Harold Pressley laying face down on the floor and staring at the screen and thinking "is it over? Was there a foul? Is it a walk?" and then seeing the zeroes on the clock and hearing the sound of screaming and celebrating and horns erupt in the night.

Good show. Nice way to break in the new sofa.

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