Monday, December 31, 2012

TK's Year in Review

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Here are the problems with Les Misérables the movie

1. It's way too fucking long.
2. Literally almost every line is sung, even just incidental conversation.  Like one guy says to another guy "Are you looking for that horse?" and he has to sing it without any particular melody or tune.
3. Russell Crowe singing.
4. Anne Hathaway doesn't look so great with her hair cut off.  Also - SPOILER WARNING - she dies, but it's never clear exactly what she dies from, unless you can die of Bad Haircut or Being Poor.
5. The dude that plays Marius looks like he just wandered in from another film, maybe something about surfing or smoking weed.
6. It's way, way, way too fucking long.  Like when you think you see a glimmer and we're starting to wrap shit up BOOM here comes another hour.
7. Samantha Barks has like an 8-inch waistline.  It really looks weird.  She looks like you could disarticulate her and pack her torso and legs side by side.  In fact, that would make the movie much better.
8. The Marius dude tries out being a poor revolutionary and when that doesn't work out it's all WHOOSH BACK TO THE ONE PERCENT with no apparent misgivings or guilt.  Hey, I don't blame him for it.  Being fabulously wealthy and banging Amanda Seyfried is way better than being poor and not banging Amanda Seyfried.
9. MORE SPOILERS HERE - Hugh Jackman also dies for no apparent reason.  He doesn't look particularly ill or old.  He's got baggy eyes but that's about it.
10. Sacha Baron Cohen is in it.
11. The guy in front of me in the theater audibly went "Hm" after every scene as if he was reflecting on what just happened.  He "Hm"d about 200 times over the course of 6 or 8 hours or however long it was.
12. Why does everybody have an English accent? They're French, not English.  Even the Americans have an English accent.  It would be way better if everyone did a French accent and they whole cast sounded like Pepe Le Pew.  That would rule.
13. It's too long.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The miniature oranges that WOULDN'T DIE

You know Cuties, right?  They're like miniature oranges that are really easy to peel.  Like somewhere between ping pong ball and cue ball size.

So I'm going to the grocery store and The Wife says "Hey, pick us up some of those Cuties. I want Cuties." So I was like sure and I got a bag of Cuties.

FIRST OBSERVATION:  There are a LOT OF FUCKING CUTIES in a bag of Cuties.

This picture doesn't even do it justice.  There must be 30, 40 Cuties in that bag.  THAT'S A LOT OF MINIATURE ORANGES.

I hate to see things go to waste, so now my life is all about How Many Cuties I Can Throw Down in One Day.  Now, admittedly, they are small - you can eat one in 3 or 4 bites - but it starts to get to be a slog.  Like, I had 5 yesterday and I feel a little guilty.  HAVE ANOTHER CUTIE SON. I'm actually eating one right now.

Things have gotten a little tense.  The Wife is leaving for work and I say, "HOW MANY CUTIES ARE YOU TAKING WITH YOU?"  She looks a little startled.

"Um, three Cuties?"


She didn't eat any Cuties yesterday.  Situation grim.

UPDATE: I had two this morning.  Seven left.  Going out for a while.  When I come back, EIGHT LEFT, I bet. Cuties are the endless menorah oil that keeps refilling itself of fruit.  (Isn't that the story? I'm not clear on that story. Help me out, Jews.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How an REM tribute band (temporarily) changed me from a bitter cynic back to a bright-eyed youth

Regular readers of this space may be under the impression that I am an angry and bitter crank, content to hurl invective from underneath my bridge.  I can see why you'd get that impression!  It's only partly true.  People who know me in Real Life sometimes report that I can be charming and friendly.  Anyway, point being that yes, I am not the wide-eyed youngster I once was.

But then last night I was at the Makeout Room in the Mission District of San Francisco watching an REM cover band (or tribute band, I guess - the taxonomy, I think, is that if you play only songs by one band, you're a tribute band, whereas if you play cover songs by a number of different bands, you're a cover band) called Chronic Town absolutely TEAR IT UP and suddenly I was 17 again and seeing REM at the Mosque in Richmond Virginia and never had been in an unsuccessful first marriage and 9/11 had never happened and the only thing I had to worry about was how much Milwaukee's Best cost and whether this girl I knew liked me.

Typical crappy iPhone pic.  Sorry.
They started with a great one-two, "Begin the Begin" and "These Days," the first two songs off of "Life's Rich Pageant," one of my favorite REM albums (except for the treacly "Flowers of Guatemala," but let's not get bogged down).  I should probably pause here and explain the REM thing.

You see, back in the 80's, growing up far from any kind of "scene," music seemed kind of stale and lifeless.  What you got on the radio was lots of classic rock (and country, I guess, if you wanted that). When we discovered REM, it seemed like a revelation - here was something different, something interesting.  And it was like our secret!  We were in a special club. 

Of course, REM, and what was then called "alternative music," blew up after that.  REM went on to become huge and maybe The Most Important American Band of All Time (there can be a debate, but seriously? Who else?).  But you know what?  REM will always remind me of a certain time when I was growing up and figuring out how to be an adult and the world was full of promise and things didn't seem as shitty all the time.  And last night, Chronic Town kind of took me back to that age.  It was pretty great.

And the kids!  There were kids there dancing to this stuff who weren't even born when Murmur or Fables of the Reconstruction or, from the looks of them, even Green came out.  I guess REM to them is what the Byrds were to me when I was their age - a Very Old, very influential band from before I was born.  But hey, more power to you, kids.

So thanks, guys.  You sounded great, and maybe made me less of an asshole for a few hours.  (I would like to extend a special shout-out to the singer, also named Michael, who my friend Stephen described as the "Daniel Day-Lewis of REM cover bands" for his complete immersion in the role of Michael Stipe.  Voice, moves, everything.  Great job.)

ANYWAY, as luck would have it, I'll be back at the same venue tonight for the annual "Parker's Holiday Craptacular," a shambling, hours-long Christmas party that's also a benefit for the SF Food Bank at which a number of people I know will be playing music - some of them backing up John Doe, for Chrissakes! - getting drunk, and basically having a good time.  I go pretty much every year and it's a blast.  If you wanna come too, look for me - I'll be the old guy.  HA!  Kidding.  Everyone there is old.  Anyway, Kelley Stoltz!  Paula Frazer!  Mark Eitzel!  Playing Christmas songs!  What else could you ask for?

Friday, December 14, 2012

I don't even like fish, but this is ridiculous

The only thing San Franciscans hate worse than iceburg lettuce is change, so we get really upset anytime someone tries to do something different that wasn't there before or change something to something else.  Case in point: the brewing opposition to a new restaurant on the Marina Green.

[DIGRESSION #1: I know, it's the Marina, who gives a fuck what they do over there?  But it's such a perfect little example of what happens every time anyone tries to do anything in this town.]

[DIGRESSION #2: I will valiantly attempt to get through this post without using the term "NIMBY."  I'm tired of NIMBY.  I'm a NIMBY for the term NIMBY.  "NO MORE NIMBY!!!", that's what my yard sign/bumper sticker/oversize novelty button would say.]

Let us visit the Marina Green, where we might find the Marina Degaussing Station.  I don't know what gauss is or why you don't want it on you, but whatever.  "The Marina Degaussing Station is a vacant, fenced-in, 720 square-foot building with a 450 square-foot patio located on the northern edge of the Marina Green on Rec Park property," according to the Marina Community Association. Apparently it has something to do with ships.  Possibly some kind of cool Philadelphia Experiment shit, I don't know.  Anyway, this abandoned building has sat vacant and fenced-in for like 30 years.

This is it. Photo from the Marina Community Association website. Thanks, MCA! Not the record label, the Marina Community Association, I mean.

 So the proprietors of the Woodhouse Fish Co. said "Hey!  Let's turn it into a little seafood restaurant!  Everybody wins.  The neighborhood will get a cute fish boutique instead of a seagull shit repository.  Visitors will enjoy seafood, as much as that's possible, because seafood is pretty gross.  We'll make money.  Who wouldn't like that?"

MARINA SHITBAGS, that's who.   How dare you take away our rotting empty degaussing station and try to put a productive, happiness-creating business therein?  WHAT IF WE NEED TO DEGAUSS?  WHERE WILL WE GO THEN?

Look at this shit:

This one I stole from SFGate. They'll probably be bankrupt soon, so I kinda feel bad.  Sorry, SFGate.  Oh, those signs read "I AM A DOUCHEBOX WHO HATES THE MUPPETS AND LIFE."  No, not really, they say "STOP RESTAURANT ON MARINA GREEN," but you get the idea.
Why do they hate freedom and good things in the world?  I don't know, something about traffic or noise.  It's a fucking fish restaurant, not Shoreline Amphitheater, you dorks.  Anyway, the upshot of all this is, the whole project has to go to some subcommittee in January and a bunch of Thurston Howells are going to show up and talk about how it's going to bother them.  That actually might be fun to go to.

You know what the rule should be?  You get to protest one thing every 5 years.  If you use your protest, and then something else comes up you don't like, tough.  You blew your wad on protesting the Crippled Child Bike-A-Thon because it started at 8 am and now you can't protest the Free Medical Care and Cotton Candy For Sick Poors because poors are loud.  You're out of luck.  I guarantee you these AmEx Black Cards have protested something else in the last 5 years, so they'd be SOL.

[Update - I wrote and posted this before I learned about the horror in Connecticut.  Obviously, this seems incredibly trite and stupid now.  I would hope beyond measure that maybe - just maybe - an incident like that might spur a rational conversation about reasonable gun control in this country, but I somehow doubt it.  But God, how awful.  Children.]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Debra J. Saunders is up to her old tricks again!

And by "her old tricks," I mean "being an idiot."  LET'S CHECK IT OUT. Yesterday's column was called "Airburshing an impeachment" in the print edition of our beloved SF Chronicle and "First lady, second impeachment," which is even more nonsensical and meaningless, in the SFGate. Here's how it starts:

It has been a banner year for Bill Clinton. The former president delivered a galvanizing speech, deemed by many on the left to lay out the best argument for re-electing President Obama, at the Democratic National Convention. During the Republican primary, Newt Gingrich and other GOP hopefuls frequently talked up the Clinton-era economy and the former president's ability to reach across the aisle. The Sunday New York Times ran a front-page story on whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will run for the Oval Office in 2016 - and it didn't even mention Bill's 1998 impeachment. 

WHAT!?!? There was a story about Hillary Clinton's possible run for office in four years and it didn't mention the completely irrelevant fact that 14 years ago, her husband was impeached in a transparently political ploy, was then found not guilty by the Senate, enjoyed continuously high approval ratings during as booming economy and left office with a surplus, which was promptly squandered by his successor?  HOW COME THE NEW YORK TIMES DENIES THE TRUTH?

Of all the inane, laughably pointless columns Debra J. Saunders has written, this has got to be one of the silliest.  So, Deb, we aren't allowed to write about Hillary without mentioning an unrelated political event that took place over a decade ago?  Isn't that going to get old?  "Secretary of State Clinton, whose husband was impeached in 1998 and was later found not guilty, traveled to Bangladesh today to participate in a trans-Pacific summit."  "Hillary Clinton, whose husband was impeached in 1998 and was later found not guilty, spoke with Extra! about her favorite cookie recipes." I mean, after a few thousand of these, wouldn't everyone just be like "I KNOW, IMPEACHMENT ALREADY."

Besides that, there's also the problem that Debra's premise - that nobody talks about Clinton's impeachment anymore is completely false.  Here's a few examples, just from the last several weeks:

Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 2, 2012: "But doesn't that also describe the election of the reckless and underqualified playboy Jack Kennedy in 1960, and serial sex assailant Bill Clinton, since impeached and disbarred but still a great hero even to the feminists of the left?

New York Times Magazine, November 25, 2012: ". . .  he insisted I reach out to Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian who, owing to his strident defense of Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings . . ."

Here's one that SPECIFICALLY MENTIONS HILLARY, along with the impeachment, Chicago Sun-Times, October 17, 2012: "I’m also hearing that a number of people who feel very protective of both former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have quietly reached out to Lewinsky, asking her to drop those plans. While my sources stress that neither of the Clintons are involved in any contact — of any kind — with Lewinsky, they, like everyone, know the impeachment scandal will never be forgotten."

I could go on, but you get the point.  Debra's fear that the national press has somehow forgotten that Bill Clinton was impeached, or there is some great Conspiracy of Silence to suppress that fact, has no basis in reality.  It's OK, Debra. You can sleep now.

Her column goes to meander through her risible theories about how the Clintons are responsible for the current divisive political environment - surely Newt Gingrich bears no responsibility - before ending with this little gem:

"You'll never see a story about (President Richard) Nixon that doesn't say he resigned in disgrace," former Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian observed. There's a double standard so it's bad form to mention that Bill Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 11, 2012: "All of the police powers that the local, state and federal government have accumulated since President Richard Nixon fired the first salvo in the War on Drugs are directly threatened by the public's weariness with this farcical, losing campaign." Wait, I thought I heard something about this Nixon guy getting impeached? Huh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What if all the stars in the Milky Way were the size of ping pong balls and dropped into San Francisco?

Holy shit, this is going to come across as super Aspergy, but a while back, I read that the Milky Way galaxy has, at a minimum, 200 to 400 billion stars and I was thinking "That is an impressively large number.  So large that I can't begin to fathom it."  But then I thought "There has to be some way to fathom it.  How big is 200 billion?"


Then I took another hit off the bong.  JUST KIDDING.  It's actually fairly easy to figure out.  The volume of a ping pong ball, according to this dork at Physics Forums, is 0.0000335m^3.  That times 200 billion is 6,700,000.  So 200 billion ping pong balls take up 6.7 million cubic meters.

Still can't picture that?  I couldn't either.  So I plopped them down onto Civic Center plaza.

So imagine we have a clear plexiglass structure with walls along Grove, Larkin, McAllister, and Polk.  (It's plexiglass so you can see all the ping pong balls inside, duh.)  If we fill this behemoth up with ping pong balls, how tall is it if there are 200 billion inside?

ANSWER: About 582 feet.  Roughly the height of the Chevron tower at 575 Market.  You know the one.

Pic stolen from the charmingly named "Skyscrapers of World."
HOLY FUCK THAT'S A LOT OF PING PONG BALLS.  So imagine that Chevron Tower walked its way down Market (causing unbelievable destruction and death in its wake, natch) and also imagine it just happens to be the exact same size as Civic Center Plaza (which it may or may not be, I don't know) and planted itself there in the plaza and instead of being full of office drones and computers and novelty coffee mugs was instead full of ping pong balls.  That's the LOW END estimate for how many stars there are in the Milky Way.

CONCLUSION: There are a lot of stars in the Milky Way.

This has been fun!  Next time, we'll do evolution or something.

Monday, December 10, 2012

TK's Recipe of the Week: Guinness Beef Stew

Well, actually vegetable-beef-Guinness stew, but who's counting.  Beef stew is awesome for the winter but yesterday it was 70 degrees out.  I made it anyway.  I cobbled this recipe together from a Guinness Brewery recipe booklet I got somewhere and another beef stew recipe I got somewhere else.  All beef stew is built on the same premise - throw a bunch of beef and vegetables and broth in a pot and simmer for 2 hours - so it's not like I invented cold fusion over here.  Anyway, enjoy.

1/4 c olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 lbs stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces or however you big you want
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 c beef broth
4 c vegetable broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp butter.  Or more.  You can always go more butter.
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into like 1-inch pieces, or bigger
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped peeled carrots
Sale and pepper as needed
1 4-pack Guinness in cans with the thing that goes PSSSSSSSSSST when you crack it

Open one of the Guinnesses and begin drinking it.

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add beef, salt and pepper it, and saute until brown on all sides.  Add garlic and saute 1 more minute.  Then add all the broth, tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves.  Stir it all up and bring it to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Open another Guinness and drink it.

Chop up the onion, potatoes, and carrots.  Melt the butter in another big pot over medium heat.  Add the potatoes, carrots, and onions and saute until the potatoes are golden, about 20 minutes.  Add vegetables to the beef stew.  Open another Guinness and pour that in too.  It'll foam up a little, but that's normal.  You're normal.  You're fine.  Now simmer the whole thing uncovered for about 40 minutes. 

Put it into bowls and eat with some crusty bread.  It will be fucking HOT at first, so let it cool down, you idiot.  There should be one Guinness left, so go ahead and have that with it too.  Or red wine, whatever.

Delicious, and it reheats like a champ.  I just had some!  It kicked fucking ass.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Email Habits of the Tightly Wound

Hey, help me figure out if I'm way off here or what.  I never can tell with these kind of things.  I'm so sensitive that when the BART guy in the glass cube is a little rude to me when I ask him something I always go away like "Why does the BART guy hate me so much?  What did I do?" 

So today's problem in navigating our Strange and Complicated World has to do with emails and texting.  I know these people - NOT YOU, OTHER PEOPLE - who are what we might call Bad Responders.  That is, they're not so great at responding to emails and/or texts.  So I'm not sure if they're just not living up to my extremely demanding standards or if they're just being rude and I have to get used to it.

Let's baseline this thing first.  Here's my rule: if you email me, and the subject line isn't something like FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: RE: RE: RE: STATIC ELECTRICITY CAN KILL, I will most likely respond.  So EXAMPLE let's say you send me an email that's something like "Hey, check out this video of a cat watching a video of another cat."  Even if it's inane, which is totally is, and even if I've seen it before, which I assuredly have, I will still take 23 seconds and email you back and say 'That video is whack. You have to check out this video of an anteater watching a video of a marmoset, that shit is dope."

These people I'm talking about are at the other end of the spectrum.  Unless your email or text is something like "HEY WERE YOU ABLE TO GET THAT KIDNEY DONATION FOR ME I'M SCHEDULED FOR SURGERY IN 1 HR", it's likely that they will not respond. NOT 100% OF THE TIME, just most of the time. Sometimes they surprise me and respond. Life is mysterious.

So let's run through some scenarios and you tell me if a response is warranted or not.

SCENARIO #1: I email you and attach an article that is highly relevant to your interests and say "hey, whilst perusing the Internet I came across this article that is highly relevant to your interests and thought I'd pass it along."  MY RULE: I at least say "Hey, thanks."  Is a response called for in this situation?

SCENARIO #2: I email you and say "You're not going to believe who I ran into this weekend.  Our mutual friend Z.  He asked after you and I told him you were busy preparing for your backpacking trip through Ecuador/playing Call of Duty/maintaining your heroin habit. He's doing well."  MY RULE: Email response along the lines of "Huh, interesting, glad to hear Z has pulled himself together."  Is a response called for in this situation?

SCENARIO #3: I email you and say "I'm heading out to the bake sale/beer party/poetry slam on Saturday, if you want to come along."  MY RULE: This demands at least a "yay" or "nay."  Is a response called for in this situation?

What do you think, Internet?  Thanks for helping to calibrate my neurosis.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brief reviews of a few things

Lincoln is a movie about ex-Raider OT Lincoln Kennedy and his rise to fame on FOX Sports.  No, not really, it's actually a film about people talking in poorly-lit rooms.  Most of the film is Abraham Lincoln telling amusing anecdotes.  Daniel Day-Lewis plays Lincoln and is already a mortal lock for the Best Actor Oscar, and I have no idea who else will even be nominated, doesn't matter, he's like the five dollar bill came to life and started chatting.  When other actors heard DDL was going to play Lincoln they were probably like "Well fuck that, I'm just going to cruise through a romcom with Reese Witherspooon and pick up a check this year instead of doing that film where I play a retard whose Dad died.  No sense wasting Oscar bait this year if Daniel's playing a historical figure and/or someone with a grave disability."

But seriously, it's really good, even if it is a bit hagiographical.  Is that a word?  I guess that's a word.  Only one brief mention of Lincoln suspending habeas corpus and nothing about him, say, executing 39 Native Americans after show trials, but hey, nobody's perfect.  (And also the first scene is kind of a groaner, but let's overlook that.)  (Oh, also, the guy who plays Lena Dunham's boyfriend on "Girls" is in one scene and that was a bit of a record-scratching-sound moment for me. Luckily, unlike in "Girls," he wears his shirt pretty much the whole time.)

The Tee Off is a bar and grill on Clement Street across from the Lincoln Park golf course.  We had dinner there Saturday evening at the suggestion of some people we were meeting up with.  I didn't realize it when we made the plans, but the TO was featured on Guy Fieri's show on Food Network.  (Here's a video of the episode someone made by pointing a camera at the TV. In it, Guy Fieri uses the word "macerates.")

Anyway, it's got your usual semi-dive-bar clubby vibe.  The bartender and server were both super nice.  In fact, when I was having trouble deciding which beer to have next, the server brought me little shot glasses of a couple of beers she thought I might like.  That's pretty good service.  The food was fine-ish.  I had the fish & chips, and the fish had a nice crispy crust but it was pretty mushy in the middle.  The fries were excellent, though.  Also, it was $100 for four people including dinner and multiple drinks, so try beating that, French Laundry!

Last night was the half-season finale of Walking Dead (link contains spoilers, so LOOK THE FUCK OUT).  I have a love-extreme nervousness relationship with Walking Dead.  The disclaimer at the beginning - that some material may be too intense for some viewers? - that's me.  I'm some viewers.  Anyway, I can't stop watching, and this season has been a vast improvement over last season. (Side note: when did we start having half-season finales? Is this going to be our new reality now? Do we just have to live with that?)

I guess I can't say much about last night without spoiling it for all you people who haven't seen it yet or whatever, but I think the takeaway from this season so far is that if last season was like an extended therapy session, this season has been more like testing how much disgusting shit people can handle.  Saddam Hussein would watch this season and be all like "Ugh, that is REVOLTING, get that shit off the TV."  Anyway, it's a must-watch in our house.  There are still a lot of flaws, but it's always interesting.

Rain is a naturally occurring climatological phenomenon that causes local TV news reporters to don silly-looking gear and go outside and report that it's raining.