Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tiny Fucking Pants, Big Fucking Price

Last weekend in Santa Monica, the special lady and I dropped by this store she reads about in all of the celebrity gossips magazines called Fred Segal, which is apparently really popular because lots of movie stars shop there. (To its credit, Fred Segal lived up to the hype and we had the unexpected privilege of shopping next to Ray Liotta!)

Prices of good and services approach the astronomical when you're competing with the likes of Courtney Cox for children's clothing. The pictured True Religion jeans for a 4 year old would set you back $155 US Dollars! That's more than I like to spend on adult jeans, which I can wear for more than a few months, even if I did get the added pleasure of buying them in the presence of Ray Liotta.

So what were we thinking?

It turns out having nephews, and recently a niece, becomes an excuse to burn cash on stuff you'd never, ever consider. Even when I become a parent myself I doubt I'd be motivated to buy unless I'm pulling down $100,000/episode.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tracking Dolla Dolla Bills Yo!

Over the weekend I noticed a bill in my wad that was tagged with a stamp from Where's George, the US Currency Tracking Project, that lets you enter a bill's series (2003 A) and serial numbers (L72612279H) to track is travels around the world.

The theory here is a little bit like chain letters, in that whoever receives the bill has to be lame enough to go to the website and enter in the numbers to contribute to the documented history of the bills' travels. I don't normally go for chain letter type ideas, but Saturday as Michigan was losing 42-7 to finish the worst season ever with a particularly tart cherry, I was needing a pick-me-up of the 'you're part of something bigger' variety.

So here we go. I got this bill as change from Za Pizzeria in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood. Upon entering it into the Where's George database, I found that my bill had one previous entry 8 days earlier from the Chancellor Hotel bar near Union Square. In the interim, the bill hadn't gone very far, but if I was going to do this, I wanted spectacular results.

I was already in LA for the weekend, this was a good start and got me thinking about vectors for redistribution that could further accelerate the travels of my bill. I considered a panhandler in Santa Monica, but thought that would just be a short and untrackable trip to the local liquor store. A dead end.

Then I thought a cab driver, or somebody at LAX, but I didn't make it that far. This bill was burning a hole in my pocket. I settled for the bellhop at the Huntley Hotel, who got the bill as a tip for his fine service. From here, who knows, but you can view the bill's tracking report here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whale Wars and Megadeth, an Analogy that Makes Sense

I'm bubbling over with analogs lately and yesterday while taking my first taste of the Discovery Channel's latest extreme, reality documentary series, Whale Wars, I came up with one I felt worthy of sharing with ETS:

Sea Shepherd : Greenpeace :: Megadeth : Metallica

It's a well known fact that Megadeth was started when Metallica ousted founding-member Dave Mustaine for being too hard core for Metallica.

Similarly, Sea Shepherd (despite the wussy name) launched when Greenpeace-founder, Captain Paul Watson, was ousted from the organization for being too hard core for Greenpeace.

I was familiar with Mustaine, his diet of intravenous drugs, booze and power chords, his blatant disregard for James Hatfield's feelings. But Captain Paul Watson was still a bit of an unknown 'til I saw his show, his death-metal black ship (The Steve Irwin), his face-slap and grenade fights with Japanese whalers, taking bullets for Minke whales. This sonofabitch is bat shit crazy!

Now, like Mustaine, Paul Watson's got a less well-known, less-successful, but harder core organization that's making some serious 11-level noise of its own. Another eerily similar element drawn from the Metallica/Megadeath diaspora is the brewing blood feud between Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd which laces the Whales Wars episodes with a second or third layer of political intrigue (simmering just below the East vs. West - you're whale eaters, yeah, but you're racists subtext.)

Dave Mustaine and Captain Paul Watson: kindred spirits, soul twins, mavericks, mad geniuses hell-bent on rocking their chosen-fields harder than anyone else ever has!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quantum of Solace = The Empire Strikes Back

I have never been prepared for complexity when sitting down to enjoy a James Bond film. If you recall anything leading up to, and arguably including, Casino Royale, you were reliably indulging in a popcorn-fueled voyage through a non-thinking, shoot-first fantasy land with cinemas most vapid hero and comically ridiculous villains. Each James Bond installment was cinematic comfort food - discrete, ephemeral and unambitious, not drawing on the past or expanding the narrative into the future.

Now, with Quantum of Solace, they're coming at us with a different, more layered approach to Bond (as he assumes the darker, post-modern manifestation of a Jason Bourne) that relies on the viewer remembering plot elements that surfaced in Casino Royale.

I didn't know this going into the Sunday matinee (how could I have, as a pre-conditioned Bond film fan) but wished I'd been given the heads up on this abrupt and needed change of viewer behavior. A pre-Quantum viewing of Casino Royale is highly advised if you wish to make holistic sense of this latest Bond film.

Still I can't tell if it's a good thing for the franchise or just evidence of Hollywood's calculated, ROI-driven infatuation with the trilogy. (Per the popular critique of this film, there were times watching it I could have sworn it was a Bourne series film.)

In either case, Quantum is the middle chapter of a continuous three-part narrative and per trilogic dictum, the most confusing and unsatisfying of the lot. Quantum avoids the lack of climax and downward overture of Empire Strikes Back, as trilogic sina qua non, but similarly leaves the audience with more questions than answers.

Of course, you'd expect a Bond film to feel familiar and formulaic. What you don't expect is it to taste like someone else's sauce.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Open Table Appetite Stimulus Plan's Appetite Stimulus Plan kicks off today with specially-priced pre-fixe dinners and lunches ($35 dinners, $24 lunches) at participating restaurants in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

In San Francisco it's a premium list of restaurants. I got my Luce reservation on Friday night already, a restaurant Esquire magazine recently listed among America's Best New Restaurants, and as if that wasn't enough motivation to eat there, OpenTable's offering double rewards points for seatings.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tim Lincecum is Big News in San Francisco

I had the privelege of seeing Timmy Lincecum pitching in-person in San Francisco 5 times this year. It's funny what a baseball town is even when the Giants are so terrible. Lincecum winning the National League Cy Young is front page news on today's San Francisco Examiner!?!? (Maybe after a tedious and depressing election news cycle, we're ready to concern ourselves with some light-hearted fare.)

Anyway, I'm glad for Tim getting this recognition. He was lights-out in all but one of the games we saw (giving it up to Detroit's Marcus Thames on June 16), but often would miss the win and come out with a no decision thanks to the Giants anemic run support. Given all that his 18-5 record is a campaign worth celebrating. With a better team it could easily have been over 20 wins.

Disabled Security Protections on Commenting

It was brought to my attention by my lone dedicated reader, Keith Sanderson, that I was preventing folks from commenting on the blog without first logging into their Google Accounts (if they had them).

I realize this is a pain in the ass, and partly responsible for the reason I was feeling so lonely out here. But hey, I've taken down the lame security protections and am now welcoming all challenges!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bay Bridge from the Camera Phone

The really bad thing about cell phones' built-in cameras that is also incidentally great is that they have no advanced features that would equip them to deal with anything more adventurous than posed photography in broad daylight.

So anything in lowlight or at high speeds is going to produced unexpected effects, such as the streaking lines of traffic in this photo. Funny thing is, with a more technical camera, I wouldn't have had as much luck producing the effect by trying to do so. In this case, I was the incidental beneficiary of the slow ass shutter speed of my camera phone trying to compensate for the fact that is has no flash.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pictures of Rockstars: Aerosmith with Chris Cornell

To kill time on the Internet, I'll often use Google Image Search* to browse pictures of my favorite rock stars. Looking for Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame the other day, I found this unexpected gem which prompted my next rock star image search for the eternally captivating Steven Tyler (what a weird-looking dude).

*One caveat on Google Image Search, check your filters and be careful about ambiguity in your search terms if you're in a visible place or a position to be judged for your decorum or discretion. NSFW** content abounds in the algorithmic interpretation of double-entendres, as I discovered innocently enough when I ran an image search on the term 'junk.'

** Follow up thought: NSFW = 'not safe for work' a common tag denoting 'adult' content on the Interwebs. Having tagged my blog with the keyword 'nsfw' will that tell the search engines that my blog is vaguely about NSFW or will that tell them that there is 'nsfw' content here?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mad Men: A Taste of the '60s

I think one of the reasons Mad Men has been so successful is that it taps into a widespread, innate curiosity about the 1960s held by my generation as the children of the Baby Boomers. We've always regarded the '60s with a bit of grass-is-greener envy of the cultural mystique it had and now wields like a hammer over those born later on. I missed the decade by a decade and still somehow feel beholden to its cultural superiority, reverential of its icons and nostalgic of the good times all the same.

Mad Men works in part by giving us a glimpse into this important, golden age of art and politics that we missed. This is an amazing point of view for informing both the background of a pop culture movement that exists to this day and the social structure from which we've come and evolved so far. We feel at once attracted and repulsed by this sexy and backwards culture that is the immediate predecessor of where we are today as Americans.

We recently considered women in the upper echelons of both parties and elected a black President. This advertisement from 1970 is evidence of a time not so long ago where that would have been unthinkable but selling Winston cigarettes through Flinstontes cartoons was cutting-edge, widely applauded advertising.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Hate Toyota's Saved By Zero Campaign

You know how you occasionally have these thoughts so esoteric and strange that you think nobody else could be having the same thoughts? The kind you're sort of reluctant to share not just because people won't related but 'cause they'll think you're a freak?

Well there I was watching college football last weekend when I noticed the fucking Toyota Jingle in my head making me want to tear out my hair and chuck my TV out the window. It's on at least twice a commercial break during most football broadcasts this fall and it absolutely drives me nuts.

As much as I hate to contribute to the viral success of this (where any reference and repetition is considered good), I have to call this out for its absolute lack of imagination and terrible, terrible jinglephonicness.

I thought I was the only one in America's football-watching legion who payed attention to advertising and this one particularly and hated it for its talentless resort to low pricing, what Seth Godin calls 'a marketers last refuge' in the absence of other good ideas.

Lo and behold. I am not alone. With Leather agrees with me thusly: Get Bent, Toyota. Ad Rants comments on the phenomenon whereby viewers of the ad become victims and mentions a Facebook group dedicated to taking this turkey off the air.

Can you imagine the pitch meeting what approved this campaign? When the Toyota VP hears from his agency of record, okay, here's what we got, Saved by Zero, Saved by Zero, Saved by Zero, in a voice that sort of sounds like Neil Diamond.

At this point said Toyota VP should have interrupted the pitch with a bone-crushing right hook to the pitchman's jaw, fired the agency and buried the campaign somewhere it would never see the light of day.

Toyota, which spends nearly $5 billion per year on advertising expenditures, and lists BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi as agencies it works with, can afford better. Curiously, this time the powers that be at Toyota exercised no such taste or vision.

Miami on Election Night

For election day, I returned to the scene of the crime, Florida, where the 8 years of pain began in 2000.

Cruising the streets of Miami as the evening wore on and it became clear that Obama was winning, it began to feel like New Year's Eve. There were people everywhere in the streets , holding signs, chanting, clapping, eliciting horn honks from passing cars. It was a jubilant celebration in anticipation of good times to come.

So what an appropriate analogy New Year's eve turned out to be. We're at the beginning of something new and desperately wanted but uncertain and unfulfilled. We have a lot of hope and a lot of promise in Obama. I don't want to be so callous as to allow the seeds of doubt into my mind, but we are on a thin margin with failure a very real possibility given the enormity of what has been pledged. But I voted for Obama and appreciate the celebration of everyone else who did so in the hopes that change is the only way to bring improvment.

I want to believe 'Yes We Can!'

*By saying 'returned' I'm commiting something of a bald-faced lie for dramatic effect, since that would imply I was in Florida in 2000, when I wasn't. At all. I was in Scotland actually, but thought the rhetorical device of 'returning to the scene of the crime' was too brilliant to waste. Chalk it up to poetic license. At least half of my mission here is entertainment.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Week Endorsement: Yahoo's Political Dashboard

I'm pretty sure Yahoo doesn't need my help in getting people to use this new feature of their site, but I felt like calling them out for a job well done. (In light of recent events, if you can think of anything else that Yahoo does well, like Fantasy Football*, maybe you should let them know. They've been hurting for good news.)

In any case, Yahoo's Political Dashboard is a nifty place for those who love the omniscient anonymity of the interwebs to track the election results without having to put up with Charles Gibson or Wolf Blitzer or some other manicured Tom Brokaw wanna be (Brian Williams) talking head running his mouth.

*Please provide free live real-time scoring next year or I will officially be a devotee of ESPN Fantasy Football.