IN NEW YORK, WCBS-TV recently aired a mildly disapproving story about a Long Island restaurant with the audacity not to serve parties with children. It's not exactly clear from the story why exactly the restaurant in question, the upscale Luigi Q in Hicksville (!), doesn't serve children, other than that it's "not a children type of place." However, it is clear the station doesn't like the practice much.
This was made eminently clear through the presentation of the story, which is actually billed as an "exclusive" to the newscast. No, really. Oh, and it gets better. The station actually used a hidden camera in its reporting, because restaurants that don't serve kids are as nefarious as three-card Monte dealers and corrupt politicians.
I mean, for Christ's sake, they actually put up the "CBS 2 INVESTIGATES" graphic. What, was the storm center down for maintenance? The traffic report not exciting enough?
But anyway -- to bolster their case that Luigi Q's is supposedly doing something wrong, they turn to a Cornell University professor who goes on about how society is becoming less kid-friendly:
"I've been kicked out of stores, seminars and restaurants,” said Cornell University Professor and author, Meredith Small.
Small says it’s all part of a growing anti-children trend. "When they make a policy that no children are allowed, it's a little Draconian, why not say if there is a screaming child and the parents don't get up to leave the waiter can come over over and say take your child outside, I think everybody would be happy with that," said Small.
No, everybody would not be happy with that, particularly those of us who would like a nice evening out without screaming toddlers within earshot, or worse, screaming toddlers within earshot whose parents are mouth-breathing, inconsiderate, churlish buffoons.
That, in reality, is the true problem these days. People can deal with children crying a little, but they can't deal with the increasing number of parents who lack all manner of social graces and let their children ruin everyone else's evening out. Besides, it seems hard to believe that a parent clueless enough not to take their crying child for a walk would do so because the waiter told them to take a hike. It's far better to leave the kids at home and prevent problems rather than wait for things to get out of hand at the restaurant. Hire a babysitter, for God's sake.
That said, I do think restaurants which forbid children (or minors in general) should make a point of mentioning this up front, so you don't have the type of disagreements and squabbles which undoubtedly prompted the WCBS story. After all, that's just good management. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to think restaurants could do also promote family-friendly dining hours (say between 5 pm and 7:30 pm) while not seating minors at a later hour. This would let families enjoy an evening out without worrying their children would cause a ruckus, and ensure the adults eating later had a bit of peace.
You see, I don't want to sound entirely unsympathetic to parents who may just want an evening out. After all, let's say it's been years since you've gone out to eat, and you go to a great little Italian place, and instead of eating his french fries, your young toddler son picks up each one and drops them from his high chair to the floor below. While not disruptive or alarming to other diners, that's an uncomfortable situation; somewhat embarrassing, and there's not much one can do about it. But it does show that many children, no matter how wonderful and nice, sometimes need to do a little more growing up before going out again. It also shows that children can, if properly trained and educated over the years, eventually become fine companions with whom to dine, even when still teenagers.
Still, as an adult who prefers to dine out with friends or with a copy of The Wall Street Journal, the idea of a child-free/minors-free restaurant seems really appealing at times. The trouble is that the places available now, at least around southern New Hampshire, tend to focus more on drinks than the food. But were any restaurant to declare itself off-limits to children, I'd definitely put in for a table, say around eight o'clock.
FOR THOSE OF YOU who were wondering, here it is: my 2006 Ford Taurus!
FAR TOO OFTEN IN LIFE, one finds oneself confronted with tough decisions, decisions which frequently result in wildly different outcomes. For instance, let's say one is in the market for an extremely nice watch. Generally speaking, a watchbuyer may spend his money on a flashy design, even though the watch's guts are nothing special; or he may buy a very nice complicated watch which gets little notice at all, even though it is far superior to the flashy model.
On another level, let's say that one is in the mood for a light dessert after a simple meal, and one can have either pudding or Jell-O. The Jell-O is the flashy and retro and ironic dessert, even though one would rather not know how it is made, whilst the pudding is a God-fearing, Depression-era sweet: it does the job, but it's boring.
The music business, to my mind, doesn't seem much different these days. Generally speaking, one can choose to listen to the catchy pop standards mass-produced in Los Angeles, and live vicariously through the wretched antics of their singers; or one can choose to listen to quality, hand-crafted music not designed with demographics in mind.
But then, once in a while, there comes along music which has the potential to change the landscape; music which takes the quantity v. quality argument and boils it down to dialectic harmony. It is music which stirs the soul and gets one moving and which stays with one, but also has the potential to reach a wide audience on the radio. Simply put, it is music with which clever industry people would do really well if they made certain investments in it. It is proof that one can find well-made and slick-looking watches, and proof that one can have pudding and Jell-O at the same time. (Here's other proof, but I digress).
Through way of full disclosure, I ought mention that Simon From Jersey, whom Loyal Rant Readers know is one of my best friends and a guy I've known for more than two decades, is Mouth of Wilson's drummer. That makes this post even more cool, because one of my best friends is the drummer for my favorite band. That's like crazy good karma, if you ask me.
To be blunt about it, Mouth of Wilson is the best album I've heard in a long, long time. For one thing, it's actually an album. You can put it in the CD player and -- wait for it -- listen to the whole thing without skipping around trying to find the album's one good song. That's because all the songs are good on the album, while four of them are downright great. The four great songs on the album -- "Heavy," "Goodbye Hello," "Anything and Everything," and "Not All in Vain" -- have real radio potential and are just downright fantastic.
Loyal Rant Readers know I'm in no way a music critic, but I do like to think I know a winner when I see it, and Mouth of Wilson's album falls into this category. I mean, I've been listening to this CD in my car for the past three days, and I've also been playing it at home. There are points on this album where you're grooving along with the music and you think, "Boy, did they hit a home run with that." Not only is the music good, the lyrics are fantastic too.
In sum, Mouth of Wilson's debut is just an extremely good record -- a record one can listen to again and again, and as such receives The Rant's Quality Seal of Approval. I think my readers would really, really like it. Also, given the state of the record industry these days, clever A&R executives also might really, really like it. In my view, the product is certainly strong enough so that listeners would actually, you know, buy the CD as opposed to going online and stealing the one decent song from some pop starlet's sophomore offering.
Copies of Mouth of Wilson's CD may be bought on-line at CD Baby, the independent record store. The cost is $12 each (shipping a wee bit extra).
I JUST ABOUT FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR:
For those collegiate journalists out there now, don't be too upset: you'll understand soon enough!
MATT WELCH, the newsman and blogger, recently wrote a fascinating essay in the Los Angeles Times in which he revealed immigration problems pervading the charming Southwestern city of San Miguel. Apparently, Mr Welch reports, illegal migrants have been found working in both service jobs and professional occupations. Not only do they do a lot of work without first getting the required papers filled out, their off-the-books work is costing the city at least $360,000 per annum.
So what's unusual, you ask? Well, the city of San Miguel de Allende is in Mexico. The illegal migrants at issue are American. It's an interesting essay and what Mr Welch describes certainly rings true with my own experience in the city.
I was, however, disappointed to also learn from Mr Welch that stupid turista gringos are griping and moaning about development in the area. In a blog post accompanying his essay, Mr Welch notes the opening two paragraphs of a column in Atencion San Miguel, the local English weekly. The column in question is from Atencion writer Joseph Dispenza, who complains about recent San Miguel developments in general. Mr Dispenza writes:
In this South of the Border Brigadoon, the recent appearance of monolithic supermarkets, multiplexes and fast-food franchises has many of us wakening to the sober realization that our idllic bubble may have burst. If one more superstore moves in, we may have to leave here and move to the next good place that still retains its enchantment -- its soul.
But what is happening here may not be merely a local issue. Towns a cities everywhere, it seems, are in the process of an inexorable debasement, a crumbling of culture under the weight of overdevelopment and overpopulation to the point of a bleak and depressing blandness. There may not be a next good place.
While Mr Welch's response to this is classic, I personally get very frustrated with these types of comments. As such, I'm going to borrow a phrase from the Minimum Leader and declare Mr Dispenza "a pendejo* from the p to the o."
Mr Dispenza surely knows that even relatively well-off Mexicans living in San Miguel only earn $10,000 to $20,000 per annum from their work. For those who aren't skilled workers, or who don't have English skills, or who don't have the luxury of formal jobs in the Mexican economy, their incomes are considerably lower. As such, it is foul and wretched to gripe and moan that supermarkets and other large stores are entering the area. Not only will the stores provide lower prices for their customers, thus raising the customers' standards of living, they will also help dent the exploitative commercial relationships which now exist on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. It is hard to see anything wrong with market forces creating a better life for those who could most use it.
Mr Dispenza's comments are especially frustrating given that he knows full well the historic center of the city is protected from such development and will always be protected. It's a national historic monument, for Pete's sake. As such, it seems farfetched to argue the city's character will be all that changed as larger stores appear on the town's outskirts -- and it further shows Mr Dispenza's position on the matter is amazingly self-centered and gauche.
* In English, this word may be politely translated as "dummy," although I am using it in the more accurate sense of "blithering idiot fuckwit."
WELL, HERE'S AN enlightening story which should once again remind the rest of the world Not to Screw Around with the United States. In Costa Rica recently, a group of muggers tried to hold up a tour group of American retirees. Although the muggers were armed -- and one had a gun -- the senior citizens fought back, killing one mugger in the process and sending the other two fleeing for their lives.
Even better, the Costa Rican authorities were cool with this. So again, to recap the lessons from this story: Americans can get really angry if attacked and will make a point of fighting back.
NOW WAIT A MINUTE, The Rant’s readers are exclaiming over their eggs and coffee. If Ben Kepple got rid of his precious Los Angeles Clippers bumper sticker – proudly affixed to his car since the late Nineties – that can only mean one thing: Kepple went out and bought himself a new car!
I’m pleased that I can confirm such speculation: I went out and bought myself a new car. Well, technically, I bought myself a slightly-used car, which is nine years younger and has 116,000 fewer miles on it than my previous vehicle. It’s a fourth-generation Ford Taurus, a less-stylish update from my previous car, a third-generation Ford Taurus. But this car has plenty of premium upgrade options, such as a compact-disc player, a working transmission and an interior which hasn’t been ruined through years of cigarette smoking. But perhaps the best thing of all about this car – aside from the fact I can again drive in the freeway’s passing lane – is how much it cost me. Dear readers, I can assure you I made out like a bandit financially. Well, maybe that’s a bit enthusiastic, but I do think I did as well as could be expected.
I suppose I’m pleased because I ended up paying about half of what the car would have cost new. That’s not bad for a one-year-old car with 15,000 miles on it. I’m also happy because I got twice what I had expected to get for my trade. The dealer will turn it around and auction it for several hundred dollars more, but it was a hell of a lot easier to let the dealer deal with the old truckster, particularly considering that it burned oil, had an iffy transaxle control, and had an interior that was falling apart, among other issues.
But anyway. The new car drives like a dream: everything works the way it is supposed to work. It even gets up to nin … er, a comfortable cruising speed, quickly and competently. It’s just slick and I am thrilled with it.
Also, as an added bonus, I was able to get ALL the paperwork done as of 3 p.m. today – including the registration, the license plate transfer, the parking sticker for my apartment complex, the little sticker thingies you put on the license plates, and the tax payments. Oh, yeah. The tax payments. Oooof. But now I’m good to go -- except for one little thing. Where the hell am I going to get a new Clippers bumper sticker?
I mean, I can’t have a car and not have a Clippers bumper sticker on it. That would go against decency and tradition. My former Taurus had been adorned with a Clippers bumper sticker ever since a fateful evening in 1999, when Simon From Jersey and I watched the Clippers lose miserably to a much better opponent during a Clippers “home game” in Anaheim, Calif. Putting a Clippers bumper sticker on my car wasn’t simply a sign of loyalty; after all, it was the best auto-theft deterrent in all of Los Angeles County. But it was also a sign of devotion and commitment. Amazingly, though, they don’t seem to have Clippers bumper stickers up here in New England.
I did manage to get a nice little Pittsburgh Steelers decal for the back window, which here in New England I believe will serve much the same purpose in terms of theft deterrence. After all, no self-respecting New England car thief would joy ride in a car proclaiming loyalty to the Steelers, as his fellow partners in crime would beat him about the head and neck for even suggesting such an idea. Plus, some people around here have Yankees bumper stickers (boo) and if there’s going to be trouble, they’ll get it first.
Still, it’s just not the same not having a Clippers bumper sticker. So I’m going to do some on-line searching to see if I can get these things shipped Back East, plus some other required mementos for the vehicle. Once I get those in my hands, this new car of mine will really and truly start to feel like my own.
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED
An occasional Rant feature
WHILE RESEARCHING an earlier post about bad disco songs from the Seventies, I stumbled across some interesting information about Donna Summers' infamous 1978 rendition of "MacArthur Park." Many people have made fun of it for its nonsensical lyrics, which famouly discuss the inconsiderate antics of a buffoon who leaves a cake out in the rain. The loss of the cake, as readers will recall, sends the song's singer into hysterics and despair.
Much to my surprise, though, the clumsy and stupid analogies used in these lyrics actually referred to romantic love. Like most reasonable people, I had simply assumed that leaving "the cake out in the rain" referred to a narcotics bust, in which a sizable quantity of methamphetamine was abandoned in hopes of escaping the police. How else to explain the singer's wailing over the cake, for which she would never again have the recipe, written as it was on flash paper and fast-food napkins? But as it turned out, I was wrong.
Romantic love has been on the minds of many people arriving here at The Rant this month, due to the high profile of the Valentine's Day holiday. It's safe to say that many of them, based on their incoherent and downright weird searches, will never have that recipe again. Yes, these sad and desperate individuals are almost certainly sleeping out on the sofa due to their mistakes. But without further ado, let's start the show:
QUERY: sweet love is the answer
ANSWER: That might be so, but it's still not going to solve Venezuela's inflation crisis or its confiscatory scheme of price controls for basic staples.
QUERY: how is poverty bad?
ANSWER: As a famous philosopher, Young MC, once said: "Got no money and you got no car -- then you got no woman, and there you are."
QUERY: eugene oregon cheap romantic outings
ANSWER: Ah, Eugene! I once spent a weekend in Eugene. It rained the entire time, though, so I didn't really get to experience much. Then again, maybe I did.
Anyway, the good news is that you're in Eugene. As a result, there's an extremely good chance you're a college student and/or dating a college student. There's also an extremely good chance you or your date: a) has a thing for patchouli; b) has an unhealthy interest in the outdoors; c) is on some weird organic/macrobiotic diet; and/or d) believes in economic theories which make Hugo Chavez look innovative.
These parameters will almost certainly mean you'll be able to cut corners somewhere along the line, particularly if you can argue that buying flowers oppresses Third World families and drinking expensive wines would mean further oppressing farm workers. And if that fails, remember, they could be tainted with pesticides! Before you know it, your date could be downright happy with a whole-wheat spinach and hummus wrap from some vegetarian place.
Of course, I said could. The far better idea would be not to be cheap in the first place. Flowers are always a good bet, particularly because buying them from a local florist helps strengthen one's local economy. Oddly, there are no local alternative currencies trading in Eugene -- you'd think Eugene of all places would have one -- but it's the thought that counts.
QUERY: burger king commercial crossanwich french things
ANSWER: Now look. The Croissan'wich IS NOT FRENCH. The Croissan'wich -- and its cousins, the Double Croissan'wich and the Enormous Omelet Sandwich -- are products devised to sate the morning hunger of Americans in as little as one minute. They are not designed for gourmet consumption, for lingering over a cup of coffee with. They are designed to deliver meat and cheese, and meat and cheese, quickly and competently.
Also, those who would serve their Valentine croissanwiches are engaging in conduct just as creepy as the Burger King ... um ... King mascot. Creepy is not cool.
QUERY: I want my wife to wear more revealing clothes
ANSWER: So you want your -- wait, you want what? OK. Um. OK. Well, I have no idea HOW to answer this, but I suppose you could address it in one of two ways. First, you could just ask. Second, you could just buy your wife the revealing clothing and suggest she wear it to, I don't know, the office St. Patrick's Day party or something. I have no idea how this would turn out, and for all I know you'd get slapped for it, but -- well, let's move on.
QUERY: eharmony disasters
ANSWER: Well, how about its commercials, with that loathesome fuckwit spokesman eHarmony had? What's that? I don't care if he founded the company. He's as irritating as that guy in the Bob's Discount Furniture ads. Well, actually, he's even more irritating. I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm going to trust the guy who tells people up front he'll charge them for furniture delivery, rather than the guy telling them he'll find people happiness.
QUERY: wedding registry and upper middle class
ANSWER: Crate and Barrel! Williams-Sonoma! Restoration Hardware! Hell, anyplace that throws around words like "premium" and "upgrade" will work. (For an excellent look at these types of things, The Rant would refer readers to Silverstein and Fiske's "Trading Up: Why Consumers Want New Luxury Goods and How Companies Create Them." I got these examples off page 62.)
QUERY: britney spears a good role model
ANSWER: Oh, God, I can't believe people are still asking this. NO.
QUERY: did wilbanks and mason get married?
ANSWER: Oh, God, I can't believe people are still asking this. NO.
QUERY: tent with all the names of past lovers on it
ANSWER: The tent with all the names of an artist's past lovers painted on it, which the decadent English art world actually proclaimed an important work, may sadly have been destroyed in a 2004 fire. I do not know for sure; but in any event The Rant would offer its condolences to the art's insurer.
QUERY: lyrics she said she'd like to score some reefer and a 40
ANSWER: Ah, that would be Bowling for Soup's "Girl All the Bad Guys Want." The Rant would like to offer its condolences to the young man who entered this search string, as he is undoubtedly trying and failing to impress the girl all the bad guys want. (Confidence, my son, is good).
QUERY: southeastern michigan and honeymoon suite
ANSWER: Ooh. I haven't the foggiest on this one. But the Atheneum in Detroit might work. So might the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
QUERY: christian meaning of sayings on valentine conversation heart candy
ANSWER: I don't think they had theology matters in mind when they dreamed up those things.
QUERY: intentional tort damages kick groin
ANSWER: Well, not knowing anything else about the case, I suppose I'd have to say a reasonable award would be ten million dollars. Plus $100 for me, because I winced at the very thought of the searcher getting kicked in the groin, and I think men everywhere can agree that should be actionable too.
QUERY: someone left a cake out in the rain
ANSWER: Yes, someone left a cake out in the rain. But the good news is that the cake CAN be made again, through mixing generous portions of humility, fidelity, and tender loving care. For this recipe WAS sanctioned through the letter of PAUL to the ILLYRIANS, and Paul SAID to those who would chastise him, "You trying to flex on me? Don't be silly."
Well, that's it for this edition of YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED! Tune in next time for answers dealing with health issues, financial matters and the lameness of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who despite his Super Bowl victory still stinks. Until then!
AH, VALENTINE'S DAY! A day for lovers, a day for passion, a day for joy! It therefore should come as no surprise that your humble correspondent is sitting at his work desk in his living room, typing away on his computer and listening to moody music. Also, he is eating a small bag of chicharrones*, which he really ought not eat but because it is Valentine's Day night he feels absolutely no guilt about doing so. Yeah.
But anyway. Past Valentine's Day posts of mine have been rather, oh, I don't know, sour. Yeah, I like that phrase, sour. They weren't really bitter, I don't think, even though I made mention of these most times. Nor were they all that jaded or cruel, even though I would make smart remarks about St Valentine, the patron saint of love, affianced couples, greeting card manufacturers and -- my personal favorite -- against the plague. After all, as I wrote a few years back, one could only imagine the prayer for that:
St Valentine, the saint whom love hails
Last night I had much wine and ale
This rap let me beat
The clap let me cheat
It's my ass on the line should you fail.
St VALENTINE: Go ahead and laugh! You're not leaving Purgatory 'til the Lions win the Super Bowl!
This year, though, things are different -- even if I'm yet again earning an extra three millennia in Purgatory for poking fun at St Valentine, who is also a patron saint of beekeepers.
Part of this is because this year, I actually engaged in what can loosely be termed Zany Romantic Hijinks, and in a couple of days I shall learn if said hijinks actually worked out great. As a result, I'm in a pretty good mood, despite having Flower Delivery Anxiety. Also, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home and found many of my fellow men aimlessly wandering its aisles, which makes for a good Valentine's Day post.
Generally speaking, the supermarket in which I shop is very busy on weekday nights, but today's blizzard made the 6 p.m. crowd about as large as a typical 10 p.m. crowd. To me, most of the shoppers appeared to be men, and were apparently picking up last-minute Valentine's Day things. That they were doing so in the grocery was a sign of things either very bad or very good.
I actually felt a twinge of pity for the backward-cap-wearing guy in his early twenties, who looked forlornly over a display of inexpensive grocery-store flowers before selecting a sad-looking bouquet of perhaps half-a-dozen roses wrapped in plastic. This was primarily because the man had absolutely no hope of getting through the night emotionally unscathed. After all, if it's 6 p.m. on Valentine's Day, and one is reduced to getting a small bouquet of flowers from the grocery, there's a good chance one will get in serious trouble for not making a proper effort, and for all I knew the poor bastard had intended to do better.
However, the man did not look as if he couldn't afford a proper bouquet, which explains why I only felt a little pity. After all, Valentine's Day is one of three key dates in the romantic year (the other two being the spouse's birthday and the anniversary) which all men shouldn't forget. It also doesn't take too much time or money to go to a proper florist and select a proper bouquet, or have one designed -- and although I admit I am a stickler on this, it also seems a more important purchase than one of a hundred things a man might buy for himself during the year.
I was much more impressed with the man in his later twenties who was actively quizzing one of the produce workers over near the fresh vegetables. This was partially because I looked in the man's cart, and noticed that he had a variety of fresh herbs and various other gourmet food products in it. A few minutes later, I saw him place a call on his cell phone. This, therefore, suggested the man would soon be cooking dinner for his beloved, which meant he would gain bunches of style points. Furthermore, any man who would harangue produce workers about the various offerings at the grocery either A) is Chairman Kaga or B) wants to make damned sure he has done everything he can to make for a good evening on Valentine's Day. I certainly can't disapprove of the latter option.**
So I suppose I'm looking at Valentine's Day this year with a bit more ... I don't know ... tolerance? respect? cheer? Oh, my God, cheer. Well, I guess it happens to the best of us once in a while. On a serious note, I do hope all of my readers had a happy and joyful Valentine's Day of their own, or at least celebrated in a manner befitting one's own situation.
* Padres: No pregunte a Marco lo que significa esa palabra, por favor.
** We know Choice B applies because the man did not bite into a bell pepper, despite approximately 700 close at hand.
HERE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, I know we've had a winter which even I would describe as mild and bucolic. We've only had one real month of cold, and the snowfall has been practically nonexistent. However, I would note the weather forecast for this time tomorrow contains the following phrases:
"areas of blowing snow"
"chance of light ice pellets" (i.e. sleet)
"chance of thunderstorms" (i.e. thundersnow)
These weather phenomena are expected to happen with the air temperature around 20 degrees and sustained winds of about 25 miles per hour, resulting a wind chill of about zero. Given this, the idea of looking into air travel for slightly warmer parts of the country -- Lake Havasu City comes to mind -- seems better and better with each passing moment.
THE SAN DIEGO CHARGERS have cashiered head coach Marty Schottenheimer, according to various wire service reports.
The Chargers claim this was due to a breakdown in the relationship between Schottenheimer and A.J. Smith, the team's general manager. However, I personally suspect it was because the Chargers head office realized they were tainted with the Curse of Martyball, and had to act before the curse tainted the 2007 season beyond all redemption.
This leads us to the most alarming thing about this development: the prospect of a revived, Martyball-free San Diego Chargers organization. Clearly they will be the early favorites to win Super Bowl XLII and all the other teams can only hope the Chargers find an even worse coach than Schottenheimer to run their show. You know, like Tom Coughlin. Oh, if only they'd pick Tom Coughlin.
SOME YEARS AGO, Digby Anderson -- founder of The Social Affairs Unit think-tank and a food critic for several publications -- wrote one of the most brilliantly nasty essays I have ever read in my life. The subjects of Dr Anderson's considerable ire were vegetarians and their social graces, or what Dr Anderson charged were their lack thereof.
More indulgent souls might not, for instance, share Dr Anderson's tongue-in-cheek contention the only fitting social relationship between vegetarians and non-vegetarians is apartheid. One might also not agree with Dr Anderson's complaints about vegetarians, whom he described as rude, ungrateful scoundrels. But there's no denying the man skewered his targets as thoroughly as any cook lances shish-kebabs before the grill:
But whether they are vegetarians or other sorts of food cranks, they show the same characteristics of ingratitude, bolshieness, rudeness, and lack of taste. They are ungrateful to the Almighty, spurning all the good things He has showered upon them. They are bolshie in their contempt for all the wonderful recipes tradition has found for the good things. They are rude in their insolent expectation that normal hosts should lay on abnormal food for them while they never lay on normal food for us. And they lack good taste. Fancy putting a boring quiche in the rightful place of a roast goose.
I thought of Dr Anderson's long-ago essay when reading this just-published article in The New York Times, in which the paper describes insufferable young people who are planning to subject their guests to ecotopian weddings. These wedding ceremonies -- one hesitates to call them celebrations -- will involve fun and exciting activities, such as environmental tours around an organic farm.
You know, because dodging piles of horseshit and being eaten alive by mosquitoes is what everyone wants to do when sacrificing vacation time to attend a wedding. Christ. But lest my readers think I am kidding, let us examine the opening paragraphs of the Times' report:
KATE Harrison’s idea of a fairy tale wedding goes something like this:
Gather more than 150 friends and relatives at an organic farm for a prewedding day of hikes and environmental tours.
Calculate the mileage guests will travel and offset their carbon dioxide emissions by donating to programs that plant trees or preserve rain forests.
Use hydrangeas, berries and other local and seasonal flowers for her bouquet and the decorations, instead of burning up fuel transporting flowers from faraway farms. Design an organic autumnal menu (same reason). Find a vintage dress to avoid the waste of a wedding gown that will never be worn again.
“It’s well worth it to start your life together in a way that’s in line with your values and beliefs,” said Ms. Harrison, 28, a graduate student at Yale, who is to marry in October. “You don’t want this event that is supposed to start your life together to come at the expense of the environment or workers in another country.”
At this point, it's worth stopping for a moment to reflect on a few things.
The first thing I would note is that, as a man, any ideas I have about how weddings ought be conducted can be considered secondary at best. Women have mastered the art and science of the wedding process, and as such, the idea of a man actively intruding on this process is silly and laughable. If he is consulted, that is fine; if his advice is asked, he can give it; but the idea a man would actively direct the process is ridiculous.
I'd also say I'm not necessarily opposed to the principles the couples in the story follow, and I'd say there is much to be gained from having a smaller wedding. I myself tend to look at things through an economic prism, so I'm naturally sympathetic to any wedding plan which keeps the guest list and festivities reasonable.
What gets me about these ecotopian weddings, though, is that they seem pretty ungracious when it comes to one's guests, for the reasons which Dr Anderson described in his essay. For instance, in the Times article, there is mention made of a "vegan" menu, in which all the dishes are prepared to strict uber-vegetarian standards. The way I see it, it is one thing if the bride and groom eat vegan, but guests should at least have the option of eating dishes which don't require a stop at McDonald's on the way home.
Also, there is talk in the story of having guests, in lieu of gifts, sign up for things such as renewable energy projects. This seems gauche at the least and insulting at worst. After all, if a guest has spent considerable time and money just to make it to one's hippie wedding, and one is not even going to give him a dry breast of chicken during the reception dinner, one ought not hit up the guest for donations to this or that cause. That just seems like good manners -- or at least it's just not rubbing salt in a wound, which is also a good thing.
The Times notes that the ecotopian trend is spreading beyond weddings to private parties, but I would argue this trend is not nearly as worrisome. After all, it is much easier to avoid private parties than a family wedding, and there is far less guilt associated with doing so. Still, it is somewhat disconcerting to think private parties are becoming an exercise in finger-wagging. After all, both private parties and weddings are meant to be fun.
SO ON FRIDAY I went out with some work friends to celebrate my recent -- God help me -- 31st birthday. On this night, I learned a few things. For instance, I learned I am truly an incompetent pool player even when I am completely sober. I also learned that for some strange reason, my body is impervious to the ravages normally associated with drinking large amounts of tequila. Even though I had about half-a-dozen shots of tequila during the evening, I was entirely sober by the time I left the bar, and woke up the next morning feeling great. It's really all very strange.
Although for some reason, it was incredibly difficult for me to wake up this morning. This may have been because it was Sunday morning (and for me Sunday is a Monday, due to my work schedule). Still, I think that's as good a reason as any to trot out the "Happy Morning!" Folgers commercial again:
You can sleep when you are -- happy morning!
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I had a great time on Friday night, and I'm glad my friends were able to join me during the evening. Also, I'd like to thank them for buying me all that tequila, because there are few better ways to celebrate a birthday than with the noble product of the blue agave plant. That goes double if one is actually near tequila's ancestral home on one's birthday.
So if any of my readers should find themselves in such a situation -- he writes completely innocently -- I would encourage them to have a neat shot of the stuff, even if it is served during breakfast. Particularly if it served during breakfast. If I hadn't had to work on my birthday this year, I might have done just that!
REASON NO. 6,234,993: Someone, somewhere, actually paid money to secure the domain name for this site, which solely exists as an inside joke for science fiction fans (warning! sound! but the sound is good!)
STARRING THE TEAM FROM "24" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."
(via Steve Silver)
CLEVERLY-NAMED KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports New Mexico authorities have come up with a clever way to deter drunken drivers. Namely, they're installing talking urinal cakes -- yes, you read that right -- which will deliver an anti-drunk-driving message when, uh, you know.
I don't know about you, but I think this will prove effective. I mean, if I was out at the bar and I went into the men's room and the urinal suddenly started castigating me about the idea of driving, not only would I not drive home, I'd give up the bottle completely.
TO: American Radio Personalities
FR: Benjamin Kepple
RE: On-air music descriptions
Dear Radio Personalities and Associated Personnel,
AS THE OWNER OF an older automobile, I don't have many of the newer accoutrements which come with cars these days, such as satellite radio, high-definition radio, or even a compact disc player. As a result, I rely heavily on my AM-FM radio for news or entertainment while I drive. (I also rely on a small and rapidly-decaying tape collection, but that's another post entirely).
Due to this heavy reliance on the radio, I have noticed over the past few weeks that you, the nation's radio personalities, are promoting weird and unnatural ideas in connection with the music of the Eighties, Nineties and Today. Specifically, I refer to the weird and unnatural idea that Oasis' "Champagne Supernova" is a "blast from the past," as well as the horrible thought that any S Club 7 song, much less "Never Had a Dream Come True," was something that would jog one's memory.
I mean, come on. "Champagne Supernova" was released in 1996, which was all of ten years ago. I was in college, for God's sake. Even under the most generous of circumstances, this is not what one would consider a "blast from the past." Oh, no.
Generally speaking, I think it's fair to say that "blasts from the past" have to have some age to them -- two to three decades' worth, at the very least. Not only that, but the songs have to rule -- and, as such, playing these songs must generate some nostalgia for them among listeners. "Champagne Supernova" wasn't a bad song, but there's no way that thing has the nostalgia power of ... oh, "The Power of Love."
What's that? Yes, I did just cite Huey Lewis & the News. Any song from Huey Lewis & the News counts as a "blast from the past" because Huey Lewis & the News ruled, whereas Oasis arguably hijacked the Beatles' legacy and cheapened it for their own material gain. But you can see, radio personalities of America, where this is going. So, let's review:
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Jefferson Starship
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Hanson
BLAST FROM THE PAST: early Bob Seger
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Blessid Union of Souls
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Crowded House
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: Third Eye Blind
BLAST FROM THE PAST: early James Taylor
NOT A BLAST FROM THE PAST: 98 Degrees
I hope this list proves useful going forward, particularly when faced with tough questions about whether middling stars should be introduced with the same respect and cheerfulness with which one would introduce, oh, shall we say, Springsteen.
IMPORTANT FINANCE TIP: Don't screw up your thirties, writes Liz Pulliam Weston on MSN Money.
DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES beyond The Rant's control, The Rant will be away on Wednesday, Feb. 7. The Rant will return on Feb. 8, or perhaps Feb. 9. Thank you for your continued readership and patronage.
FOR THOSE OF US interested in personal-finance matters, the tale of an adult college student planning to live on just $12,000 per year is pretty fascinating -- particularly given how she has figured out ways to cut out expenses and decided what exactly she must sacrifice to make it. MSN Money has the full story.
The only thing which somewhat bothers me about the story is that the student, who fully admits choosing the path on which she has embarked, said she relies on a food bank for assistance. Perhaps it's just me, but that seems like a resource which single folks ought use only in the most dire of situations. Food pantries never have enough food for the families who rely on them, and families would seem to need the assistance more.
Further, even if one must shop on the tightest of budgets, it seems like it would be possible to get the nutrition one needs to survive through eating a lot of vegetables, soups and standbys like rice and beans. But in the event money is running that tight for the student, perhaps she could work a few extra hours a week to close that budgetary gap. Even better, she might be able to get a job at a grocery and perhaps get an employee discount.
(via Boston Gal's Open Wallet)
A KEY QUOTE from Patrick "Bad News" Hughes' recent trip to a "Renaissance Faire:"
"I know! We’ll counteract the poisons with a little taste of something good from the mead vendor! And once again experience one of my least favorite aspects of the Faire, the fact that every merchant somehow feels compelled to constantly yell throughout the entire transaction: "MEAD! AH YES, MEAD! THIS GENTLEMAN WOULD LIKE A MEAD! ONE MEAD FOR THIS FINE GENTLEMAN ON THIS SUNNY MORN. ONE MEAD COMING RIGHT UP. YES, A FINE LORD SUCH AS YOURSELF MUST WORK UP A MIGHTY THIRST! NO DOUBT YOU'LL SOON ENJOY QUENCHING YON THIRST WITH MEAD. HERE YOU ARE, SIR! HERE BE YOUR MEAD! GOOD DAY, SIR! GOOD DAY TO YOU, SQUIRE!"
Go read the whole thing. It's alarming yet hysterical at the same time -- and it's even got pictures! Then, after you're done reading it, go read his entry from last year, which is perhaps even funnier.
(via Sheila O'Malley)
RECENTLY, I READ THAT Apple Corp.'s excellent "Get a Mac" television ad campaign was named Adweek's "Best Spots 2006 Campaign of the Year." I have to say I couldn't agree more with this designation. Not only are the spots funny and enjoyable to watch, I actually look forward to new ones. That's not something which happens a lot in advertising, and so I think the company and the creative team behind the ads deserve a lot of credit for their inventiveness.
Not only that, Adweek said the ads have apparently helped boost Apple's share of the total computer market from 3 pc to 5 pc, which is downright impressive when you consider the PC's dominance. After all, for years nobody used Macs except for graphic designers, journalists and college students. Now, even regular people are actually switching from PCs to Macs, even though Macs are generally more expensive than PCs.
Given this situation, it's only natural that I would dig in my heels and rant about things, even though this is a topic which generates a lot of heat. Why, right now, some Mac users and PC users are firing up their keyboards, ready to refute the most esoteric points of my bombastic screed. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but the comments don't work, and I don't know how to fix them, and it will be months before I can fix them. Besides, I don't have the bandwidth to play host to a flame-war between Mac and PC users, so carry on at alt-dot-whatever.
But anyway. I don't know if it's just because I identify with the PC character, or because I find him funnier, or what, but these commercials have actually made me more inclined to buy a PC. Here's just one example of the advertisements:
READER: Boy, that's downright alarming.
See! I told you! I identify with PC there, particularly because I'm prone to thinking and spitting out phrases such as, "It was nothing but pain and frustration!" Although I'm not as smooth, not by a long shot.
You see, at least with a PC, you know what you're getting -- an adequate and functional system that's relatively inexpensive and lets you balance your checkbook. I like that a lot about PCs. A Mac, on the other hand, is flashy and brilliant but it can cost considerably more, and users like me don't properly reap the benefits it offers, because we're boring.
Besides, I don't care if the Mac guy is nice and friendly and charming in the ads. The impression I have of buying a Mac is that it seems similar to the experience of buying a coffee from some overpriced, trendy cafe in which all the clerks sneer at the customers for taking a pass on the recently-overnighted fair trade organic coffee beans from Papua New Guinea, despite their heavenly drinkability and aromatic finish. Christ.
I gained this impression some time ago, during my one and only trip to an Apple retail store. In this store, the computers were made second to the alarmingly trendy decor and the staff, and all the clerks were seemingly clad in dark clothing. They were focused intently on their work, but in that way annoying people at dinner parties focus on pinot grigio -- you know, as if they've just received their sommelier's certificate. For someone like me, who considers situations like this nothing but pain and frustration, it was not a situation where I really wanted to inquire further.
Now, I'm fully willing to admit that yes, this was just one visit to one retail store, and it was a visit which lasted fewer than ten minutes. So consider that accordingly. Further, I admit I did not actually speak with any of the employees, I admit one can purchase a Mac online and cut out all the rigamarole, and I admit Macs are better for many users who need the high-end graphical power they provide. I don't want to deny any of those things. My point is simply this: the act of walking into that store was like walking into a fancy restaurant where one doesn't have a reservation. It just didn't seem friendly.
Thus, Apple might -- and I stress might, because things are going well for them -- want to consider tweaking things, or adding a less-intense shopping experience for those customers who are only interested in a computer and not a lifestyle. But, like I said, that's just me.
In the meantime, though, I'm certainly going to look forward to many of the Mac v. PC ads as they roll down the pike. Who knows? They might just convince me yet.
OVER AT Dean Esmay's site, Mr Esmay has posted a short item about a rather interesting poll -- a poll which lists, apropos of nothing, the worst songs of the Seventies. (I'd link directly to it, but the Internet is acting up, so just scroll down until you find it.)
Anyway, the poll understandably tags Paul Anka's "Having My Baby" as the decade's worst song, and it also highlights such wretched non-classics as Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love." **shudder** But amazingly, the poll made no mention of Donna Summer's 1978 rendition of "MacArthur Park," which has GOT to be up there. Oh, and while we're on the subject of 1978 disco releases, where's Alicia Bridges' "I Love the Nightlife?" I mean, come on. On general principle grounds alone, any compliation of bad Seventies-era songs has to include at least one of those two.
Also, for the record, I would include this post and the poll to which Mr Esmay linked as further evidence of my grand theory that July 12, 1979 -- the day of the "Disco Sucks Riot" at Comiskey Park in Chicago -- was the last major lowpoint in modern American history.
UPDATE, 9:49 p.m.: Internet's working again -- here's the post.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this long offseason. Electric phrase, the off-season, it’s like forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you, there’s seven months – until the fall. The fall of never-ending happiness; you can always watch a game, day or night.
So as our teams get ready for the coming year – you know, like Pittsburgh or Cleveland or New England – instead of asking how much they can win, ask them how much they can survive, baby. Because in football, things are much harder than in the off-season. In football, they’re on their own!
-- Prince, "Let's Go Crazy"
(well, OK, not really)
WELL, THANK GOD we finally had a Super Bowl where the teams were actually forced to compete out in the elements. While perhaps not as wretched as one might have hoped – although it doesn’t snow in Miami – the driving rain was a nice touch. For one thing, it made the game fundamentally more challenging for both sides, as the turnovers and occasional blown plays showed. For another, it meant Indianapolis was actually forced to play in the elements, something which they only face a few games a year.
Hmmm. Indianapolis. Well. I suppose the Colts deserve congratulations for their victory, although it feels more like the Bears lost the Super Bowl more than the Colts won it. The utter incompetence of Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman, plus the general malaise of Chicago’s offense, allowed the Colts to wear down the formidable Chicago defense. As for the Colts’ defense, they beat Chicago like a drum.
Before the game, many said the idea of Chicago winning the Super Bowl was unpalatable due to Grossman’s generally wretched play this season. But the game itself proved Grossman’s wretched play would preclude Chicago from capturing another Super Bowl ring. The Rant’s thoughts on Chicago’s play can be summed up in three words: put in Griese.
I was gratified to see that Peyton Manning, the Colts quarterback for whom I have nothing but loathing and contempt, did not shoot the lights out during the game -- although even I must admit he played a generally competent game, especially with those little quick passes over center that confounded Chicago. That said, I enjoyed seeing Chicago “sign Peyton’s melon” in the fourth quarter. Christ, I thought it was never going to happen.
But ah well. The Rant would like to offer its congratulations to Coach Tony Dungy and the entire Indianapolis Colts organization – except Peyton Manning – for winning Super Bowl XLI. Generally speaking, the Colts showed they deserved to win the game, especially considering the way they carried their lame, overrated quarterback throughout the post-season.
Also, I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Dan Kepple, my stalwart cousin and longtime fan of the Indianapolis Colts, on the occasion of his team’s Super Bowl victory. Despite Dan’s perfidious football loyalties and his clearly questionable judgment, this is his team’s year, and I must congratulate him accordingly. Besides, he’s not rooting for Baltimore, which really would have caused problems.
As for the rest of us, here’s the real thing we can all take away from Super Bowl XLI: while the Colts have captured the Vince Lombardi Trophy this year, they have about two weeks to exult in their victory. That’s because as of now, the slate is now clean, and all the teams in the National Football League will again be on an equal footing to compete for the trophy in Super Bowl XLII.
It will soon be time to get back to work.
P.S.: Do you like football? Do you consider spending seven months without football worse than fire ants attacking you en masse? If you answered “yes” to both these questions, dig my Handy Guide to Off-Season Football This Year.
P.P.S.: ARENABALL starts in 26 DAYS!
BECAUSE THE FIRST STEP is always a doozy:
Happy Groundhog Day, everyone!
BECAUSE THE FIRST STEP is always a doozy:
Happy Groundhog Day, everyone!
AS SOME READERS may already know, I am in the process of getting a new car, although to be more precise it will be a different and slightly-used car which will be a newer version of the car I have now. Anyway, as part of this process, I recently embarked on a deep-cleaning of my trusty Ford Taurus.
Much to my amazement, I found in the recesses of my trunk a plastic bag, which contained the owner's manual for an old Motorola mobile telephone, as well as handwritten notes from my mother. Along with telephone numbers, these notes contained calling rates to use the mobile phone in question. The existence of these things confounded me for a bit, but I eventually realized they must have been left behind from when I, with help from my father, moved cross-country from Los Angeles to New Hampshire in the spring of 2001. Readers, I can assure you this find is an amazing look back into the history of mobile communications.
First, consider the phone in question: a Motorola MicroTAC of indeterminate model number. This was a first-generation analog telephone using technology that Motorola first introduced to market in 1989. This phone weighed between 10 and 12 ounces and displayed all of one line of text. It also contained "exceptional features" like a "signal strength meter" and "battery meter," according to the instruction manual.
Next, consider this important warning listed in the instruction manual, which has a copyright date of 1996:
Do not allow children to play with your phone. It is not a toy. Children could hurt themselves or others (by poking themselves or others in the eye with the antenna, for example). Children could also damage the phone, or make calls that increase your telephone bills.
This warning shows the phone dated from a calmer age in our nation's history -- an age when people were still somewhat sane and wouldn't dream of letting their children even touch their mobile phones, much less actually give their kids mobile phones of their own.
Now, I don't know when exactly my parents bought the mobile phone in question, but I do believe it was some time in the mid-1990s. (Loyal Rant Readers know I held out until 2005 to buy one). However, I do know that in 2001, the mobile telephone market was not as developed as it is today. Further, it also cost more to make and receive calls. The following notes should prove of express interest to younger readers, as they will help show why your parents turn pale when you spend hours on the phone talking about nothing:
Charge to call Dad on cell phone is 50 cents per minute (roaming). Charge for all other calls is 85 cents/min. (50 cents roaming + 35 cents long distance).
EIGHTY FIVE CENTS A MINUTE FOR LONG DISTANCE. Good God in Heaven, how did we do it? I mean, this was back when 85 cents was ... well, slightly less insignificant than it is now, but you see where I'm going. And my God -- roaming charges? We paid extra just for the privilege of using our phones outside our local calling areas? What the devil was all that about?
Of course, I'm sure this will lead history-minded readers to recall that back in the day, there were no such things as area codes, and all calls had to be routed through operators, and it could take 15 minutes just to make the connections for a long-distance call. But if we're going to teach the kids about telecommunications history, we can't expect them to sprint before they can walk, now can we?
THERE ARE FEW THINGS in life more certain to bring doom upon a man than screwing up what should be a romantic occasion. The botched Christmas gift, the ill-conceived birthday dinner, the cheap anniversary celebration -- all will result in disaster for the unthinking man who didn't properly plan ahead. Furthermore, the consequences he will suffer shall prove severe and long-lasting. At the least, the man's ineptitude will end up becoming a frequent inside joke for the rest of his natural days. At the worst, the man will wake up alone the next morning.
Folks, the White Castle Management Co. has perhaps come up with the most surefire way yet to ensure that on Feb. 15, men across America will wake up suddenly unloved and alone. Consider the scheme the company is about to unleash upon the unsuspecting American people:
Make your Valentine’s day STEAMY! Take your Valentine to White Castle on Wednesday, February 14 between 5 and 8 p.m. and enjoy hostess seating, candlelit dining and your own server. Reservations are required, so check the list below for participating Castles near you!
Special this year, you can also treat your honey to a romantic White Castle dinner in your home! Cupid’s Crave Kits include eight cheeseburgers, one sack of fries, two regular soft drinks, coupons and keepsake items to heat up your homespun romance. Now, ain’t that sweet?
For more information or to make a Cupid’s Crave Kit reservation, call the phone number listed for the your city of choice below.*
* Cupid’s Crave Kits are not available at all locations. Reservations are required.
(blink)(blink) k wtf?
Oops! Did I actually type that? Sorry. Anyway, words simply can't express the shock and horror which entered my mind upon seeing this. I mean, my God. There are so many things fundamentally wrong with this promotion I almost don't know where to begin.
We can start, though, with the premise a Valentine's Day meal at White Castle will lead to "STEAMY!" behavior at some point afterwards. Dear readers, I don't know about you, but the last thing I feel after eating at White Castle is amorous. Bloated, yes; tired out, yes; nauseous; sometimes; passionate, no. After a full meal at White Castle, it's hard enough to move from those plastic chairs and booths, so it would seem impossible for any human being to then embark on a good bit of naughtiness.
Also, while I suppose "hostess seating," "candlelit dining" and "your own server" could allegedly be considered improvements over the typical White Castle dining experience, I suspect these things won't work out as well as one might hope. Consider this reasonable scenario:
FEMALE SERVER: Hi, and welcome to White Castle -- ma'am, I am so sorry.
UNLUCKY WOMAN: (sniffling)
SERVER: May I take your order?
MAN: Yes! I'll have ... let's see ... a crave case of cheeseburgers, three orders of chicken rings, and a diet soda.
UNLUCKY WOMAN: (sniffling) I'm not hungry.
MAN: But you always order a fish sandwich when we come here.
SERVER: Ma'am, there are extra napkins to your left there, and I'll be right back with some wetnaps.
MAN: Oh! That reminds me! Throw some chicken sandwiches on there too!
It's also worth noting the order size for the "Cupid's Crave Kit" White Castle is offering on the "special day." Those who have eaten at White Castle, and are familiar with the tiny size of their "slyders," will know eight cheeseburgers isn't the giant order it might seem. In fact, I daresay some readers looked at that list of eight burgers, one sack of fries and two drinks and thought, "Well, yeah, but what is she going to have?"
Of course, I write as one who only eats at White Castle perhaps once a year, which is perhaps about as much as one ought. That said, I would suggest if a man had to choose a day of the year to visit White Castle, Feb. 14 would not be it. Further, I would suggest those men considering a White Castle trip that day might want to reconsider the benefits of other foods -- like wine and oysters and chocolate.