Friday, January 30, 2009

Write Your Own, Pt. 1

Thomas L. Friedman column (circle your choices):

The other day I (had lunch with/was thinking about/was skiing with/saw) (King Abdullah/Henry Kissinger/a homeless man/ a fuzzy bunny) and he was (talking policy/eating an eggroll/wearing a tam o’shanter).

Suddenly I (realized/discovered/remembered/imagined) that (the Bush Administration/Barack Obama/the economy/the entire history of mankind) could be (explained/wiped out/summarized) by (a childish scribble on a napkin/a billboard in the background/drinking heavily).

See? It's so easy a child could do it!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I know what I am giving for Christmas

From Chronicle Book's description:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.

Release date is sometime in April.

Curse that spam filter...

My Spam Filter informs me that it has spiked perhaps the most important email of my life.

You have received a message that is probably SPAM.

From: ""
Date: Thursday, January 29, 2009, at 07:30 am
Subj: Re: Message from President

I am so sorry I missed the president when he needed me. I ought to give Barack a call and see what's up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Things I think about, Pt. III

I felt compelled to look this up today.

The U.S. accounts for more than 48 percent of all defense spending in the entire world, if you take into account the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the cost of maintaining nuclear weapons, which is not paid for by the military (who knew?).

In 2008, the whole world spent $1.43 trillion on military stuff. The U.S. spends $711 billion of that.

If you add up our spending and that of our NATO allies, that comes to something like 72 percent of all military spending on the planet.

I also wanted to look this up:

The U.S. operates about two thirds of all the aircraft carriers in the world. We have 12 active super-carriers (with at least two more inactive but fit to recommission quickly), plus at least 10 of the smaller amphibious assault ships, which are effectively aircraft carriers. Even using a fairly generous definition of "aircraft carrier", there are only 13 active non-American carriers on the whole planet and only England and France have more than one (the Royal Navy has four, the French have two).

This leaves me with an important question:

Shouldn't we be kicking butt somewhere or something?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do I know how to pick 'em or what?

My mother has long said that every time she finds a food or beverage she really likes, the company discontinues it. I'd think she was making it up, but I have watched it happen many times.

Seems much the same is true for me, but more on the career track.

When I was a teenager, I developed a passionate interest in rock music and set about collecting as much new and classic vinyl, both 45 and 33 rpm, as I could get. This interest led me to a passionate interest in radio. I grew my hair long and set about to play Led Zeppelin deep cuts late into the night.

That didn't work out so well. Not only did CDs kill my beloved vinyl, Clear Channel and others killed my beloved radio. Within a couple of years, I was playing pop songs by Debbie Gibson and Tiffany and wondering if it was possible to be any more bored on the air.

So I tried newspapers. That worked out pretty well, until everyone decided newspapers were dead. And now it doesn't work so well any more.

Simple, I thought, I'll switch to magazines - they've got deep pockets. And that worked really well for four or five years.

And then this: magazine ad pages down 12 percent last year. My formerly lucrative clients at Time and People magazines were down 19 and 12 percent.

And in the meantime, I have developed a number of hobbies, all which could have been good career paths. Early in my newspaper career, I developed a passion and modest talent for Photography. My particular favorite was Kodak slide film.

Sensing a pattern?

Lately,I have gotten terribly interested in brewing beer at home. I joined just in time for a horrifying crisis in the supply of Hops and soaring prices for commodities such as Barley.

Sean strikes again.

So now newspapers are dead (but just haven't stopped kicking) and magazines are dying, and film-based photography is a historical curiosity and radio is both painfully dull and automated and beer is too expensive to drink.

Any suggestions on my next career move? Anyone have an industry you'd like to see collapse within the next decade? I'd be willing to take a job there and work my usual magic - for a small fee.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Save Top Chef

I'll admit it - I love Top Chef on Bravo. I never miss an episode. My wife and I sit glued to the tube dissecting dishes the way football fans analyze the minutia of every play. I try to skim over the obnoxious product placements and the sometimes completely demented challenges that would try the skill and patience of many a professional chef. I just like it because it is about cooking. And I love to cook.

So I was completely dismayed to find that the producers of Top Chef have abruptly replaced judge Gail Simmons with someone named Toby Young. It's not that I miss Gail so much (I found her cranky and rather difficult to look at; she appears to have some odd plastic surgery. Just my layman's opinion). It's that this Toby Young guy is a complete jerk, at least based on the opening episode last week. He seems predisposed to hate everything. He talks about himself incessantly (I don't care that he ate real German food while living in an isolated shack in the Alps). He makes glib, shallow pop-culture references constantly (comparing an avocado sorbet to the performance of Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Spare me).

I didn't know who this guy was until I saw the episode last night. I am reliably informed today that he is modestly famous for having some sort of book about Graydon Carter and Vanity Fair, which in itself tells me as much as I need to know about how seriously to take him.

I want him gone.

So I voted on Bravo's dorky little online poll on the show's site, checking the box that suggested I want Gail Simmons back, which isn't entirely true, but she's certainly better than this obnoxious twit. But I fear that the poll is just part of a conspiracy to make Toby Young some kind of cult hate figure - the judge we love to boo. This would be a great pity - I do not want to boo Toby Young; I want to have him to disappear so we can talk about food instead of some literary C-lister.

Perhaps it won't help, but I did find that Bravo has a "contact us" link hidden carefully at the bottom of the site. So I sent them a note:

Dear Bravo,

Please ask the producers of Top Chef to take Toby Young away as abruptly as he came. He is irritating beyond endurance and seems mostly interested in discussing himself and demonstrating his considerable, but gratingly shallow, knowledge of pop culture. If I wanted a glib, self-centered Englishman to comment cruelly about food, I would invite Simon Cowell to dinner. As it is, I just want to watch a show about cooking.

Contact Bravo and complain about Toby Young.

Are you with me? Can we get this guy exiled for the finals? Can we guarantee that he does not return next season? Join me in my cause. Save the show I like, despite itself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

My brother, my uncle, and me, sometime around 1973. Doesn't seem that long ago, does it?