Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fear of Skeletors

Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I'm afraid I'm starting to look a little like Rumsfeld.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What a Country

Yesterday, we spent a few hours wandering around San Francisco, on a quest for Japanese snack food. You see, we went to Japan on vacation a few weeks back, and now we miss being in a country whose obsession with soft drinks and snack foods borders on the insane.

San Francisco's Japantown, in case you're wondering, is pretty much exactly like being in Japan. There are a couple of big buildings there that house large indoor malls that are chockablock with noodle shops, bookstores, video stores, and craft stores where you can buy the ever-important tiny glass animals. And I don't use the word chockablock lightly, so you know this is true. Just like in Shinjuku in Tokyo, the big stores are Kintetsu and Kinokuniya.

Anyway, Japan was a crazy good time. I ate fried crickets, raw horsemeat, grated mountain yam which is frankly hideous and Lovecraftian in its snottiness, and (accidentally) whale. I hiked the old Nakasendo Road (which, in the 16th century, nobles would travel yearly from Kyoto to Tokyo at the behest of the Emperor) between two towns restored to their Edo period appearance. I went to a Yomiuri Giants vs. Yakult Swallows baseball game in the Tokyo Dome, where the singing and dancing fans put our own baseball audience to shame.

In Kyoto, I saw the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel about a deranged Zen acolyte; the Zen rock gardens at Ryoan-ji and Daitoku-ji, which are so austere and beautiful I couldn't believe I was seeing them; the eighty-foot giant Buddha at Nara, where sacred deer roam the temple complex grounds and surround you if you show the slightest inclination to feed them; and the Rashomon Gate at Tijo (it rained just like in the story and movie.)

Anyway, I'm trying to write a travelogue about the vacation, but we miss it already, and we were in Japantown trying to recapture some of the tastes and feel of the country.

We ended up finding a good place stocked with rice crackers, cold green tea, Pocky, and shrimp chips. The best moment of the day by far, though, came when we were walking by a tea shop next to a Japanese video stall. An elderly Japanese man was proudly brandishing a new VCD to show to his family, and as we passed I glanced down to see what his prize could be:

Yakov Smirnoff on Broadway.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Honestly, I'm a little tired of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Pirates have overstayed their welcome. I don't mean my pirate houseguest who's been staying with us since early June, infecting us all with beardmites and eating all our limes. No, you're fine, Blind Pete. I mean conceptually.

Every once in a while we must, as a culture, reexamine the hierarchy of these core comedy concepts, presented here in random order, and judge which will reign supreme for the coming year:


The top three are the comedy premiership, if you will. The lowest three are relegated to the conceptual second division, where they must fight it out with newcomers, or risk falling forever into comedy limbo, where it is only a matter of time until they are referenced on a family sitcom.

Pirates, as I said, are pretty much crapped out. As enjoyable as The Pirate Movie was, let's put away the shiny pants for a while. Monkeys, much as I hate to say it, are too easy. Even when they're smoking cigars. And aliens. Well, how many times can you make probe jokes?

I propose the comedy trifecta for the coming year:

Zombies, Robots, and Salad.

These three concepts grow all the more impressive when combined. Thus: "Jesus Christ, get a load of that robotic salad zombie!"

Sorry, pirates.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


If you're anything like me (and I hope for your sake that you're not), you spent a large portion of your formative years playing Nintendo. Not Super Nintendo or your Wii. No. Nintendo, with ROB your Robotic buddy and Duck Hunt and Gyromite and Oktoroks. That Nintendo.

We didn't have eighteen buttons and a magic wand. We had two miserable buttons, one of which didn't always do anything.

To tell you what a hep cat I was in high school, I would get together with my friends, go to Blockbuster video, and rent a Nintendo game that we would play slavishly for hours, with only a twelve pack of hyper-sugary soda to sustain us.

And what was the game that ate so much of our time? Black Bass. That's right. A fishing game. Black Bass was great because everyone could sit around and root on the person holding the tiny, uncomfortable, non-ergonomic Nintendo controller as they tried to land a video fish, fighting with both the A and B buttons...OK, just the B button...to bring that baby in. You'd hold that B button for all you were worth, until the pleasing reeling sound changed to the hated, grating your line is going to break! sound (the two sounds were, in fact challengingly similar.) Then, you'd have to hold off on the reeling for a while and wait, while that beautiful pile of pixels sat there in the video water, mocking you.

And then, if you were lucky, you had that pile of pixels in the net, and the moment of truth would arrive--TOO BAD! IT'S SMALL! Words that the video fisherman (and most other kinds of video men, obviously) spend their lives hoping not to hear.

Perhaps the best part about Black Bass was that you would play for hours and hours and, well, hours, and finally get to the highest level of the game. At this level, the fish were huge. Half the size of our 19" portable screen. And from what we could tell--and I want to emphasize here that my friends and I played this game probably more than anyone else on the planet...possibly more than the developers--there was no way to land them.

You'd get them so, so close to your video net, and those bastards would jump, and they'd fight, and OH! THE FISH GETS AWAY! I tell you, it brings tears to my eyes.

And now, I pass this gift on to you.

Black Bass on everyvideogame.com

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Lion Content

I just saw a headline on CNN that said Mountain Lion Bursts Into Man's Home. Besides the obvious "well, we probably have been bursting into that mountain lion's home for years now," I kind of hope the guy was sitting around watching teevee in his underwear and the lion came crashing through the window.

"Hotcha!" it would say. "Get me! I'm a mountain lion! Raar!"

Cheetos would be spilled.

Also, I heard NPR babbling away today about lions. I don't remember in exactly what context, but I know they mentioned lions. Lions are on the rise. They're bursting into people's homes! There could be one under your desk right now! A small one!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Poo Brew Review

I found out a few weeks ago that a coffee shop near my work sometimes stocks the rare and expensive Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak, in case you've never heard of it, is sometimes known as Civet Coffee. What makes this coffee different?

It's pooped out by a small mammal. Here's a picture of the pooper now:

Luwaks eat coffee berries at Indonesian coffee plantations, selectively choosing only the ripest berries. The coffee berries pass through the luwak, where they are partially digested. The luwak then excretes the berries, as small mammals are wont to do, wherever he feels like. Then, some fortunate soul harvests the nuggets of luwak feces. Through some esoteric process, the beans are (hopefully) cleaned, and ready to be roasted and brewed.

I convinced a few coworkers that it was essential that we try this coffee, so we cruised down to the cafe and shared a fifteen dollar cup between four of us.

The ordering process was less grandiose than I had anticipated. I was hoping there'd be a luwak hanging out on the counter and, when he heard you place your order he'd sigh, grab a newspaper, and trudge off to the toilet. Instead, the owner made a nice drip cup for us.

The coffee is very good. Maybe not fifteen dollars a cup good, but good. The (erk!) digestion process removes much of the acidity of the beans, so it's very smooth. I am in recent years a wimpy milk-in-the-coffee type of guy, but I drank this black with no ill effects on my stomach. It was rich and aromatic and, I have to say, not terribly reminiscent of jungle animal poo.

I did have a moment's doubt. I mean, there was no certificate of authenticity presented to us before we took a sip. I mean, anything could have digested the beans. A cat, a dog? The owner's infant child? But what can you do? Something ate and partially digested that stuff, and I say more power to it.

As one of my coworkers pointed out, it seems OK to eat the excreta of a cute and unfamiliar Indonesian animal. "Dog shit coffee," on the other hand, doesn't sound nearly so appealing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Half a Decade of This?

Yes, it's true. My Life As An American Gladiator, the site that capitalizes everything, even the small words, has been around for five years. True, the last couple of years have been no great shakes, but let us not reflect on that.

Let us think, instead, of all the good brought into the world through the possibly tireless efforts of this blog. Did you know that this blog has, of its own accord, been saving clams from linguini in the long stretches between posts? It's true.

OK, that's not true.

But still, five years, that's pretty good.

The blog's old and cranky now, at five. It's the dog that's not a puppy anymore, and passes gas unexpectedly when company's over. It's the can of potatoes that you're pretty sure has botulism since it technically expired three years ago, but you're reluctant to throw it out since you've never seen something burst from a botulized can before and are watching it in the interest of science.

And yes, things have been lean here at the blog for the past, oh, eighteen or twenty months. The blog is busy, what with the clam saving and the staying out all night drinking with Steven Seagal and Anthony Michael Hall. But this blog promises to try harder in the next five years. It promises to deliver more Jurgen Prochnow content, more three-quarter-screen diatribes about trivial and unimportant things, and of course, carefully hidden typographical errors that you can note in your journal.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

The World Cup Report

So, we're into the second round of the World Cup, and I'm enjoying it with a gravity that makes people really regret talking to me at work.

I've watched all but about two of the games. I even made it through Tunisia v. Ukraine, a match in which two guys were carded for slipping into comas on the pitch, such was the blistering pace of the contest.
The USA is, of course, out. And frankly, they deserve to be. Bruce Arena, the coach, is soon to become the only man ever fired for not knowing how to use his Johnson. In fact, I'd say the USA played like eleven guys without a Johnson between them.

OK. Five people got that joke.

Also, the US commentators need to be killed slowly, with the possible exception of Tommy Smythe, who says "Arr! There's the boolge in the ool' onion bahg!" which is really cool and weird. Number one on the hit list is Marcelo Balboa, an ex US defender who now commentates on the games and says one of the following phrases every three seconds:

  • I'm a fan/not a fan of...
  • Phenomenal!
  • I'm going to have to go back to...

Marcelo, you are awful. Please be quiet or at least less whiny. If I hear you complaining about the refereeing one more time, I'm going to put gum in your flowing locks.

One of the other ESPN commentators kept referring to a "row" in the England side, by which he of course meant a fight or disagreement. But he was pronouncing it like "roe", and therefore sounding like a complete turd.

My heart is really with England to win it all, but I don't see how they can beat any of the really good teams like Argentina or Germany. And god forbid, an England game should come down to penalty kicks. It's a well-known fact that English players cannot score penalties. So, they'll slog onward, in quiet desperation, and almost...almost win.

I must return to my TiVo now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tonight, our filthy television addiction will end. That's because The Amazing Race ended last week and 24 ends tonight. 24 is problematic, because it's frankly kind of Red Dawn-ish and implies that the entire fate of the country is dependent on one guy who likes to torture people maybe a little more than is strictly necessary, and on one sys admin who seems to be the only person with government clearance who actually knows how to do anything worth doing. But I am hooked on that show. They kill off major characters glibly, which keeps you on your toes. And get this: not only is the guy from Warlock in it this season, but Robocop and/or Buckaroo Banzai too!

This non-television-viewing will only last a couple of weeks, until the World Cup starts. Then, of course, I will be a permanent fixture on the couch, and will only rise for beer trips.

Speaking of watching, we went to the movies for the first time in what seems like months (because it actually was months) this weekend. And what did we see? What modern masterwork could coax us from the comfort of home? Why, Poseidon, of course.

We saw Poseidon because the other two movies we kind of wanted to see, The DaVinci Code* and Over the Hedge, were sold out. I suspect most people in the theater were there for the same reason, and were as a result marginally annoyed when no crazed Opus Dei members were hiding out on the Lido Deck, waiting to spring out and stab someone, and no huggable Garry Shandling-voiced turtles went ambling down the blood-drenched floors of the cruise ship's ballroom, which had so recently been the scene of New year's revels and was now turned into a hideous pile of limbs and sorrow.

Poseidon was not entirely unenjoyable as vacuous entertainment goes, though it is curious to note that Wolfgang Peterson, director of Das Boot, is now making remakes of campy 70s disaster movies. Here's a brief summary of the movie, for those of you who might actually get in to see a movie that you kind of wanted to see in the first place: a big cruise ship get hits by a big wave and flips over. Then, everyone dies but about seven people, and those people either die or don't die, depending on how much you want them to die. I will say that I didn't mind so much when most of the people didn't, in fact, die. This would have really bothered me in, say, The Perfect Storm, where I was definitely rooting for the storm five minutes into the movie. You get about five minutes of character development at the beginning of Poseidon, which is almost enough to make you really regret settilng for this movie, and then the wave hits, and people die. Kurt Russell is in it, too, and is surprisingly unannoying.

So, in summary, Poseidon is a movie.

*And yes, I hear your fevered cries: The DaVinci Code sucks! I'm sure it probably does. But I have to see it--it's got Jurgen Prochnow in it. And that guy from Bosom Buddies everyone likes so much.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Misanthropy in Small Doses

There's this show on TLC or Discovery or Home Surgery Channel or whatever called "Honey, We're Killing the Kids!" Being a supporter of well thought-out homicide in all its myriad guises, I was crestfallen to learn that this show is not actually about airlifting your children to a deserted desert island where you get to hunt them, Most Dangerous Game style. No, what's really happens on the show is that parents who let their kids eat big macs three times a day are given a frightening glimpse of how their children will look when they're forty if they continue down the road to gustatory perdition.

An elfin woman who looks like the kind of person who enjoys holding ding-dongs just out of reach tells them awful things until they cry, and then she sets about making their children eat cous-cous and wheat grass.

I think there are a couple of things that need to be discussed about this program:

one: These kids are horrific hellbeasts who really could benefit from a little killing, pimply little jerks who could be redeemed by the sorts of lessons that only the occasional cold-blooded murder can provide. They curse at their parents, cry when forced to drink milk instead of soda, and generally make a really good argument for sterilization.

two: The commercial for the show features a woman in line at the grocery store. She's complaining because her child won't eat anything but butter and gin. And hey, presto! the kid morphs into the forty-year old version of himself as he will appear if he keeps on eating and not exercising. The mother recoils from this hideous vision, this nightmarish visage before her, flabby and bald. Very effective for scaring parents, I'm sure, but what about the actor who's playing Cautionary Hideous Man in the commercial? How would you like to be that guy, whose very appearance can reform the eating habits of a generation, lest they swell and sweat into just such a shmoo-like atrocity?

I wonder what the audition was like?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Those Who Can't

When you're not updating your blog with japery and bonhomie of your own, remember always to link to the japery of others.

Case in Point: Tremble on balls

The mirror was an unnecessary extravagance, in my opinion, because I sincerely doubt I would need (or want) to see myself in a full-length mirror, wearing nothing but a hooded sweatshirt, t-shirt, and brown socks. It is not a good look. In fact, it's probably the second-worst look; add a wizard hat and it's officially the worst look. You should never be in a position where you're a wizard hat away from the worst possible look a man can ever present.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Words of Wisdom

When you're eating baby carrots, under no circumstances should you think about toes.

In fact, as a general rule, just don't think about toes ever.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Half and Half Nastiness

Is it so much to ask? I mean, I can overlook the fact that these half and half tubs mysteriously don't need to be refrigerated, and don't seem to go bad, well, ever. And the fact that they're called "Mini-Moos", while disturbing in the sense that it calls to mind liquefied baby cow, can be glossed over. But...I ask you,

Can we make a Mini-Moo that doesn't ejaculate all over my leg every time I open one?! For the love of God!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Leprechaun Ladder

I know, I know. I've been gone a long time. A really long time. Like maybe so long that you were searching around for me, and you almost went so far as to look in the freezer and in the sock drawer, but you drew the line, because that would be a little silly. But I wanted to wait until I had something really trivial to discuss before I broke my silence.

And the thing is The Leprechaun Ladder.

Now, I'm not big into St. Patrick's Day, though I can get behind any holiday whose general thrust involves drinking lots of Guinness and Shamrock Shakes. The whole pinching thing seems a little gratuitous, but who am I to judge?

One of my neighbors has taken St. Patrick's Day to a weird new level: he's installed a ladder from his lawn to the roof of his front porch...and it's got little leprechauns climbing it. At least I assume they're leprechauns. They could be little green-clad James Brolins for all I know. And the ladder is one of those rope ladder deals like you see in pirate movies. So maybe they're pirate James Brolin homunculi?

But there are several two foot tall bearded effigy persons scaling the ladder. One of them may or may not have a knife in his teeth. And the one at the top of the ladder is just cresting the gutter. Would that not scare the crap out of you if you were a kid living in that house? Totally leaving aside any association with the fine Leprechaun series of films, just knowing that several unheimlich little green freaks are climbing onto your roof could really do a number on you. Like every day you pull up to the house and from the back seat of dad's Volvo you steal a glance at the one at the top of the ladder, and you can swear that he's higher than yesterday.

But your dad allays your fears, possibly by telling you that they are tiny roofers, wanting only to shingle and dance, with a tiny hydraulic nail gun.

It's odd is what I'm saying.

I can't wait to see what he'll have out for Easter. Maybe an Easter Bunny drum circle or animatronic stone-rolling-away-from-the-cave-mouth display.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clockwork Dentistry

In my continuing quest to plumb the very depths of dental anguish, I visited my dentist to get three more fillings this weekend. Somewhere between novocaine shot 7 and 12, I noticed that the dentist was chatting with the dental assistant about music.

Apparently, the receptionist at the office had made some musical choices that were driving the dentist to distraction. He was telling the assistant how music these days is just noise, but he was quick to add that when he was a kid, his parents hated his music too. I thought that was well and good. After all, you want a rather staid, unhip dentist, don't you? I mean, you don't want a dentist who's going to be rocking out while he's repeatedly jabbing high-speed rotational devices into your gumline.

"Yes," he said. "The surest way to drive someone crazy is to play music they can't stand."

The assistant laughed.

"There was even a movie where they drove this kid crazy with music. He was a hoodlum. In a gang. And they drove him crazy by strapping him into this chair and playing music he hated. Beethoven. It's called conditioning. This gang kid would just freak out every time he heard Beethoven."

The dentist chuckled.

I was about to correct him, in spite of the fact that the right side of my jaw, my entire tongue, and pretty much all of my nose were completely numb. But, again, who wants a hip dentist? I don't want a dentist who understands Kubrick movies, or calls me his droog. I just want a dentist who's absolutely, and with no questions asked, going to stop drilling when I make a piglet sound.

That's the sum total of my requisites for the dentist-patient paradigm. Just stop drilling when I make the piglet sound.

Then, he dropped a drill on my head, and we all had a good laugh.


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