Friday, January 31, 2014

Why the Denver Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVIII

Why do I think that the Denver Broncos will defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII? I'll give you three (3) reasons.

1. Peyton Manning, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Denver Broncos, who holds the record for both touchdowns and passing yards this season. And happens to be very funny (though I can't stand those Papa John's commercials).

2. Puppies. As we all know, puppies are hardly ever wrong when picking the winner of the Super Bowl. (They are also incredibly cute.) And this year, both Jimmy Fallon's puppies and Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl X puppies BOTH went for the Denver Broncos.

3. It is the Chinese Year of the Horse. Broncos. Year of the Horse. Enough said.

UPDATE: Who knew puppies could be so wrong? Worst Super Bowl ever. So disappointed. Though the Bruno Mars halftime show totally rocked. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best in-flight safety video ever? Like totally.

For those of you who haven't flown on Delta recently, the airline has been trying to endear itself to passengers -- and get more people to pay attention to in-flight safety protocol -- by producing whimsical in-flight safety videos, like this one which we saw multiple times as our plane had to make an emergency landing at JFK after burning off fuel for two hours and then being held at the gate for several more hours:

Now Delta has released a new safety video that pays homage to the 1980s, titled "Delta's 80's In-Flight Safety Video" (seriously, couldn't they have come up with a more creative title?), because "being safe never felt so Rad." (Gag me with a spoon.)

Clearly, Delta is making a play to old (or middle-aged) farts like myself, people who "came of age" or were "totally awesome" in the 1980s. But if Delta and the other airlines really want to endear themselves to customers, they should provide better service and stop nickel-and-diming customers with fees.

Also, Delta really should have used "Safety Dance" as the backing track.


Friday, January 24, 2014

For anyone who's ever been on a conference call

For anyone who has ever been on a conference call, this video, titled "A Conference Call in Real Life," is MUST viewing. So true.

(I laughed so hard, I cried, and they didn't even show guys watching porn or YouTube videos during the conference call!)

Makes you realize how much more efficient and productive a face-to-face meeting is* -- and how technology has made us (or some of us) a bunch of slackers.

Now excuse me while I jump on this call.

*in theory

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I know how Google feels

People type a lot of crazy sh*t into Google. But watching this funny College Humor video titled "What if Google was a guy?" makes you realize just how crazy (or stupid) some search requests are -- and how incredibly patient Google is.

Indeed, I doubt if you or I was Google we'd be nearly so patient or accommodating. (Indeed, I'm pretty sure my standard response to most search requests would be "F@ck you" or "Are you effing kidding me?!" Which is why I am not a search engine, though some people think I am.*)

And now, without further ado, I give you, "What if Google was a guy?"

*To which I would reply, lmgtfy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

American Idol S13: I'm just wild about Harry (Connick, Jr.)

Congratulations, American Idol (and Fox). I'm back. Maybe.

Like so many other early American Idol fans, and Simon Cowell, I had become bored and frustrated with the show and had stopped regularly watching (and living blogging) it years ago. Indeed, last season was so painful (I'm talking to you, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey), I couldn't even watch five minutes (though I wish Candice Glover well).

And then along comes Harry, and he wants to set them free, and let them see reality.*

FINALLY, a judge who is judgmental -- and honest. A judge who actually has the guts to tell singers "you're not the greatest singer" or that it's not just about the voice but about the whole package or that he loves their voice but they're not right for Idol. Wow. Harry, you got my vote.

Already, in just four hours worth of audition shows, Harry Connick, Jr., has earned the monickers Harsh Harry and Hatchet Harry. To which I would like to add Honest Harry and Hilarious Harry.

Maybe the producers should change the name of the show from American Idol to The Harry Connick, Jr. Hour. (Though if it did, it might lose the treasured 14-34 crowd, which it may have initially lost anyway as ratings for the premiere were the worst ever, down by around 20 percent from Season 12's premiere.)

I loved Simon Cowell, for his brutal honesty (and, okay, his British accent), but he wasn't a musician or a singer. Harry Connick, Jr., is -- as well as an actor. And he knows what it takes to make it in show biz -- and understands that being able to sing or play the piano or the guitar, even if you rock, is not enough.

To be an American Idol, you need charisma. And he's not afraid to tell contestants that they just don't have it. Connick is also not afraid to zing it to Jennifer Lopez. (Jen, I am impressed by the rocks that you got.) Or to Randy Jackson. (Jazzy and pitchy are not real words. We all know what they mean. But they're not real words. She was sharp.**) Hip hip hooray for Harry! Let's hope the honesty, hilarity, and chemistry (between the three judges) continues.

But the addition of Harry Connick, Jr., to the judges panel is not the only change to American Idol. While the contestants who received those yellow or golden tickets think they are off to Hollywood, they may not be -- thanks to the new Hollywood or Home round. A kind of pre-Hollywood Hollywood first audition, the contestants will have to sing for their airfare one more time before being admitted into the Emerald City. (Excuse the mixing of metaphors.) And there will be a couple more twists before American Idol goes live on February 26, which you can read about here.

If all goes well (i.e., the judges and contestants don't totally piss me off), I'll be back live blogging end of February (or beginning of March).

Until then, J-TWO-O out.

*Bonus points if you get the reference.
**Not an exact quote.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is your man a man of action?

Does he require an, uh, extra large snack sack*? If so, he needs Action Pants! by Sansabelt, "the only slack with the patented Action Zone**!"

Yes, Sansabelt, ladies (and gents). The most comfortable pants a man can wear without (or sans) a belt! "Worn and beloved by celebrities, including Johnny Carson, Dick Van Dyke and Mike Ditka" -- and Ron Burgundy.

[I bet that poodle ain't the only bitch checking out his Action Zone, if you know what I mean.]

Makes me wish I was a copy writer back in the 1960s. Though if I was, no way would I be allowed to write copy for such a masculine, manly product. (Oooo polyester.)

Btw, that is, or was, an actual ad -- and you can still buy Sansabelt pants, in polyester or wool blend, at Sansabelt Pant World. Snack sack not included.

[A big tip of my chapeau to Gary for sharing this on Facebook.]

*Snack sack? Like for carrying, um, lunch meat?

**I don't know about all of you, but I would love to see the patent filing. Also, and I could be wrong here, I'm guessing that guys who would wear Sansabelt polyester pants probably did not see a lot of action.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Finally, an honest (+ very funny) movie trailer

Ever wonder, how is it that a movie that hasn't even opened yet managed to get so many great reviews? Or squinted at the television screen trying to figure out who exactly uttered or wrote (or tweeted) those laudatory words (because the film's promoters purposely made the attribution so tiny no one could actually read them)? Or wished that some movie studio would have the guts to promote its films honestly?

Well friends, that day has finally come. I give you the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted (opening in theaters March 21st!), which wasn't nominated for a single Golden Globe or Academy award (because technically it wasn't eligible, though that is entirely beside the point).

As for whether Muppets Most Wanted is actually any good (though I will probably rent it regardless), I will leave the last word, or words, on that to those unassailable critics, Statler & Waldorf.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Books to warm your imagination

Ah, the power of a good book. It can transport you to faraway places and faraway times -- a good thing when you are stuck inside for days on end dealing with freezing cold temperatures and snow. Or even if you are in sunny California and can't remember what cold and snow feel like.

A writer myself (though not of books), I am constantly in awe of those who create eloquent long-form prose. Which is why I like to take the time every month or so to praise those books and authors I have recently enjoyed -- and share them with all of you.

If there is a book you recently enjoyed, please share it via a Comment.

Herewith, a list of what I've been reading lately -- divided into Fiction and Nonfiction and listed alphabetically by author, with a link to a lengthier description on Amazon. (To see previous book recommendations, click here.)


The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I normally shy away from books that win literary awards, especially British literary awards such as the Man Booker (I have become increasingly less fond of British literature and humor over the years), and even more so if the book is over 800 pages. But for some reason, despite all that, I decided to check out The Luminaries, a novel set in a remote part of New Zealand in the 1860s during the gold rush there. And I confess, I was spellbound by Catton's prose/story about a series of mysterious yet connected events involving a fortune in gold, the death of a lonely prospector, the disappearance of another, and the lives of 13 men and one prostitute connected to all three, told from several different angles or narrators. That is until about 700 pages in when I felt Catton lost patience and hurriedly wrapped things up, in to me an unsatisfactory way. However, some (or all) of you may disagree and be fine with how she concluded the tale, which is why I decided to include the book here. (And if any of you do read The Luminaries, all 830 or so pages of it, please let me know what you thought of it.)

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg. Who would have thought watching Match Game all those years ago that Fannie Flagg would become a beloved, best-selling author? Though I guess I shouldn't be that surprised as she was always funny and clever. But as we (I) know, being funny and clever does not necessarily translate into being a great author. And I think Flagg is a great author. Loved The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion (as I did her other books). And I learned something, too -- about early female aviators, the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots), who helped America's World War II effort. At the risk of sounding cliche, I laughed and I cried (albeit mostly to myself) all throughout this tale of a kindly but much put-upon Alabama homemaker (and her domineering mother) set in the mid-2000s and a family of pioneering female aviators from Wisconsin in the 1930s and 1940s. Highly recommend (albeit mostly to women).

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle. Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, and Tudor fans will (or should) enjoy this novel about Henry VIII's sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, who I, at least, knew nothing about. Fremantle has clearly done her research -- and gives us a glimpse into life at court during Henry VIII's final years and the political and religious intrigue(s) that went on during that turbulent time.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I could not stomach Eat, Pray, Love, and it was only at the insistence and promise of several people whose opinion I trust reassuring regarding books that "this book is totally different" and well worth a read that I checked it out. And I am glad I did. It may well be -- or become -- one of my favorite reads of 2014, and it's only January. That's how much I enjoyed it. Though maybe "enjoy" is not the right word, as I found much of the book sad and depressing. But Gilbert's prose are so eloquent, and her story of botanist/heiress Alma Whittaker so compelling and inspiring, I could not put the book down. (I particularly enjoyed the section about Roger the dog.) As for how to describe The Signature of All Things, you could say it is a book about mid-19th century botany and botanists, which it is. You could also call it a novel of adventure and self discovery. Which it also is. You could also call it the tale of a dysfunctional family and of love and loss. And it is those things, too. It is all those things, and more.

The Case of the Love Commandos: A Vish Puri Novel by Tarquin Hall. I am big fan of Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator, series, which is set in and around India. The Case of the Love Commandos is the fourth book in this series of light-hearted detective novels or mysteries. If you have not read the previous three novels, I suggest you start with The Case of the Missing Servant, the first one, though it is not essential. (Hall writes the books in such a way that you do not need to have read the previous ones to enjoy the latest, but it helps if you have.) This book tells the tale of the Love Commandos, a group of young Indians fighting the rigid Indian caste system by helping lovers who hail from different castes to marry in secret. Though mainly it is the tale of one specific couple being helped by the Love Commandos and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the young man, a bright university student from the Dalet or "untouchable" caste who has fallen in love with and plans to marry a Brahmin girl (though there is also an entertaining side story regarding the detective abilities of Vish Puri's mother). Cleverly written and highly entertaining.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak. The often funny, often sad/tragic story of two young women (and their families), one Turkish, living in Turkey, and one Armenian-American, whose father's family fled Turkey during the Armenian Genocide of the early Twentieth Century. Beautifully (and wryly) written, Shafak made me want to visit Turkey (more than I had already) and explore its streets and bazaars and food. (The only downside: now I can't get this song out of my head.)


This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral – plus plenty of valet parking! – in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich. An often fascinating, often funny, often painful look at political life in the nation's capital, with a heavy focus on the late Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press, and the media who live in and cover the political goings on in Washington, D.C. Recommended for political junkies.

Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. If there was ever a book that made me glad to be an American or have grown up in this country -- as opposed to China -- in the 1970s, this is it! That is a rather self-centered view to take, but it's what I kept thinking as I waded through the first third of so of this memoir by Li Cunxin, who went from a life of severe hardship in rural China to becoming a principal dancer in the Houston Ballet after defecting to the United States in 1981 during a stint as a guest dancer/exchange student at the Houston Ballet, causing an international incident (that I don't remember despite being into ballet at the time). A fascinating story, which you don't have to be a balletomane to appreciate (though if you have taken ballet classes or ever aspired to being a ballerina, you will appreciate the book even more).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bring on the adorable penguin and polar bear videos!

Greetings from the Polar Vortex*!

I am too cold and numb (from drinking red wine to ward off the cold) to type anything even mildly intelligent, so instead I give you...

Adorable penguin and polar bear videos! (That is, videos of animals that actually like, or well tolerate, or look warm and cute in, the cold.)

You're welcome.

I will now hibernate until Easter -- or until we have at least three consecutive days of over 50-degree weather (without driving rain) here in the Northeast.

*Does the Weather Channel have someone on staff whose job it is to name sh*t? Sure seems that way.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And now a word about nude sunbathing

And that word would be "don't."

I get that Europeans (namely the French) have a more laid back, non-prudish attitude regarding the human body. And I say bully (or whatever the French word for "bully" is) for them. But the last thing I want to see on a relaxing family beach holiday is some guy's twig and berries out foraging, especially when I'm strolling down the I-swear-the-sign-said-"no-nudity" (in English and French) beach in pursuit of a cow. And by "cow" I mean member of the subfamily Bovinae, not cow, as in an extremely unpleasant or overweight person. (I have no desire to photograph that subspecies.)

And yes, you read that right. I said cow. On the beach. (Which, alas, is also not the name of an alcoholic beverage, though maybe it should be.)

Sigh. Just thinking of how awesome that photo would have been -- a tan cow, hanging out on the beach! -- makes me a little giddy... and sad.

But I was not able to get that photo. (Though I got this one, sans cow, or vache, a bit later.)

And do you know why I was unable to get my awesome tan cow on the beach photo? Because just as I was about to get in range (I had brought only my little Canon PowerShot, not my Nikon with the zoom lens), some skinny pasty white dude stands up right in front of me -- and the cow -- and proceeds to remove his swim trunks and free willy.

The cow didn't seem to be the least bit bothered. In fact, she seemed rather nonplussed, and began grazing right next to the nude sunbathers. (There was another nude male there as well, at least I think he was nude. He was lying down, and I didn't care to look.)

I, however, was greatly annoyed. I really wanted that photo, but that would have required either a) being photobombed by a penis, or b) asking naked boy, probably in French, to kindly move so I could take a photo of the cow.

Neither option was appealing. So I quickly did an about face and stomped back down the beach, past the guy with swim trunks taking a photo of the cow -- and the nude guy -- with his DSLR with the zoom lens, frustrated that I had not gotten my cow shot and, okay, I admit it, wondering a) Isn't nude guy worried that thing will get burned*? And b) It must have hurt like hell having all (and I mean ALL) your hair removed. (On the positive side, at least he didn't have a hairy beer gut and man boobs, which can be equally traumatic.)

When I informed the spouse that some naked guy totally ruined my cow shot, he was blase. I'm not even sure if he looked up from his Kindle. Indeed, he went on to inform me that he thought he read somewhere that Happy was a clothing optional beach (despite the large sign in French and English at right before the path to Happy Beach that clearly said NO NUDITY) -- and went back to reading his book. (Unlike me, the spouse has no problem letting it all hang out.)

So no, I am not a fan of nude sunbathing (or guys in Speedos, but that is a different post), with or without cows.

The End

*Let us, please, consider that a rhetorical question and save the comments.