Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rent A Rover, Rent A Politician

For any of you who missed the recent news of our new addition, Dexter (shame on you). There is an interesting development -- or, rather, two -- that pertain to our little green offspring.

First, through a friend and some good fortune and some sheer word-of-mouth blabbering (is there any other kind?), we are pleased to welcome a second addition: his name is Brooklyn and he's as friendly and happy as his brother, Dex. They look very much alike so I suppose I should wonder what Kaia's been doing while I'm off at work every day ;-)

Onto more somewhat serious business. In the past, I've waxed philosophical -- at best -- about the government's interference in our daily lives. At some point in time, I've gotten on the soap box regarding marijuana, seat belts, and, after watching "Super-Size Me" (the Morgan Spurloch documentary about the fast food industry) I weighed in on governmental restriction and/or supervision of big (crappy) food chains like Mickey D's, Wendy's, Burger King, etc. And let's not forget the whole trans fats debate (New York City and now California -- the entire state -- is going trans-fat free).

However, while I could directly address Barney Frank's recent suggestion that casual marijuana users not be penalized, I'll hold off doing so because there are still some issues to be ironed out in that regard.

There is, however, something which caught my eye -- and my ire -- that tangentially speaks to our new houseguests, Dex and Little B...

Apparently, not to be outdone in the realm of overzealous legislators with far too little TV time under their belts, this story floated in Newsweek about "Pet Rentals."

The concept of pet rentals is simple: you contact a pet rental agency and subscribe to the service. They screen you to make sure you're not a psycho or a nut and will be able to care for an animal, and then, once you are approved, you choose from the selection of pets and pay for however long you'd like to rent a pet.

Essentially, it's sort of like Zipcar except the hourly rentals aren't cars but instead are dogs, cats or other animals.

Kaia and I talked about doing a pet rental to get a cat. She can't have pets in her building in SF, so once she's a full-on New Yorker the first thing she'll likely do is get a kitten. We haven't spent much time worrying about who will watch the kitty when we/she hits the West Coast, but overall that kind of thing isn't too worrisome; things have a way of working out. But as for the concept of pet rentals, I have been thinking a bit about the whole concept and, I must confess, it pisses me off just a tad.

Aside from "testing the waters" like we were considering, ie doing a pet rental for a day or two to see how it would go having a cat floating around here, there are some people who either can't keep a pet long-term (their buildings prohibit pets) or their lifestyle (work or travel or travel for work) prevents them from being full-time pet owners. So, in theory, the concept of pet rental makes it so these people too can have a furry friend without the furry hassle of full-time ownership. The plus is that many of the "rentable" animals are otherwise likely to be euthanized or abandoned, so in theory the concept of pet rental may help save the lives of otherwise forgotten animals.

The negative side, of course, is that "renting" an animal, to me, seems really crass and low-end. What we were looking to do was simply to get a sense of how I would deal with having a cat around: we're talking not simply about whether I would enjoy having a cat (I would, so long as the dog can hang with him/her). The main issue, beyond allergies -- which I have -- is whether having a cat would be too much beyond having a dog as well.

However, for people whose lives -- whether by building policy or their jobs -- prevent them from owning a pet, I would suggest making changes to allow for a pet if it's that important. The problem, at least for me, is that pet rental is almost like prostituion. Granted, I'm not suggesting that people are doing anything improper with the rented animals; however, the whole idea of having a pet is to enjoy the companionship and the sense of responsibility that you get taking care of another living entity. The concept of "renting" something that has a soul just bothers me, even if it is for pure, positive reasons. If you really want a pet, keep in mind that change affects animals much in the way it affects humans; consider how you'd feel being shuttled from one place to another with regularity without having any control over where you were going or with whom you were going to spend time (sort of like freshman year in college, only with less sex). You never have a place to call home, and you never get to spend enough time with anyone to get comfortable with anyone, so you might as well be a living, breathing fashion accessory or optional add-on to someone else's life.

Not good.

The answer is, of course, for anyone that really feels the need to have a pet, get a roommate to insure someone can look after your pet when you're working late or in another city; or get another gig where you're not spending five days a week in other places. And if it's a matter of living in a building where you're prohibited from having a pet, the solution is simple: move.

As much as the concept of pet rental seems really superficial and plastic to me, the other aspect that seems as ridiculous as pet rental is crass is the potential interference from legislators. I understand legislators need to justify the fact that the majority thereof are inept buffoons whose lives are largely unfulfilled and empty; however, the proliferation of invasive laws -- including mandating seat belt usage -- is a problem for me. Do seat belts save lives? Sure. Is wearing one a good idea? Absolutely. Should the government force us to use them? Nope.

As for pet rental, as much as I think it's a shitty way for a dog or cat to live his or her life, I also think the government is, yet again, spending time meddling in the affairs of people who can handle their own lives without government interference.

Part of the process is for us to communicate with one another; I am sure some people reading this will not hesitate to tell me to mind my business. But I'd much rather share my opinion with other people than for all of us have to listen to some egalitarian, anal-retentive representative from Iowa telling me what I can and cannot do. There's nothing wrong with governmental restriction and protection; but all I want from the government is to be protected from maniacal escaped lunatics, crime and aggression from other nations. I think I can and should be allowed to decide whether or not I want to rent the Taco Bell Chihauha.

In other words, it's not that I disagree with the government's position, I just resent the fact that we've got so many issues to be addressed and pet rental is what our elected representatives have chosen to discuss.

Put another way, as Andrew Dice Clay once opined, "Nobody tells me what to do. Not even me."

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Next Food Network Star -- Oy


If you've been watching this mini-exposition on The Food Network and missed the finale, please be advised that you should be somewhere else until you've seen it. It's actually entertaining up until the very end until ***** wins, in which case you, like most viewers, will be alternatively shocked, disappointed and left shaking your head.

Last night's finale, like that of the last three years, produced a "winner." But the truth is I think this blatant Top Chef rip-off is a sham. The first year went to a couple of guys (they were a cooking tandem) called "The Hardy Boys" -- the name referred to the type of food (hardy) they produce for entertaining and home-cooking. Of course you've probably never heard about these guys -- because their show was awful and no one watches The Food Network at 5AM on a Wednesday.

The next season went to Guy Fieri, the freaky-looking tattoo-fest that's concurrently on TGI Friday's commercials (the guy who slips into a booth while a woman on a date -- at a Friday's -- sneaks off to the bathroom). Guy seems like a good guy, but it's painful watching him because he's freakshow first and cook second. On a side note, it sort of disturbs me that he's raising kids because of the various tattoos he's sporting all over the place. It doesn't make him a bad father or a bad guy, of course, but I just think he looks like a complete douchebag, and it always bothers me when I see an apparent douchebag reproducing and passing along those douchebag genes to little people.

Nevermind that last year's NFNS winner, Amy Finley, filmed six episodes and then split -- or so she claims in her Food Network blog (she claims that because of family issues she couldn't remain an on-air personality). So over the three seasons of NFNS, two of the three chosen "stars" are no longer on the network, or if they are, it's a toss-up between their shows and mattress infomercials (guess which is more exciting and produces more revenue for the network).

So last night, the three finalists for this year's NFNS were Lisa Garza, a restaurant owner/caterer from Dallas, Adam Gertler, a cook/former restaurant owner from Philly, and Aaron McCargo Jr., a hospital cook from Camden, NJ. Each of them was talented but, frankly, I thought Lisa Garza had it in the bag. When you watch each of these three people on-screen, you like each of them. However, in terms of authority and who I'd actually watch, I'd probably watch Adam Gertler's and Lisa Garza's shows. Adam is entertaining without being over the top and Lisa seems like she knows what she's doing and, more often than not, makes things/dishes I'd actually want to learn how to make. Aaron, conversely, makes basic foods -- pork loin, chicken, steak -- and shakes red pepper flakes and brown sugar on them. Yawn.

The problem, of course, is that *** SPOILER ALERT *** Aaron won. What bothers me about this is not that they gave him a shot. He's a really nice guy and this is something that will really make a difference in his life and his family's lives. I'm completely happy for him and if he were a personal friend of mine I'd be the first one congratulating him.

However, he's the wrong choice. In fact, he's the last choice I would have picked. Lisa knows her stuff and makes dishes that I'd be interested in eating and, therefore, preparing. Adam is completely familiar with dishes I've tried and things I would probably want to learn to do in the future (ie barbecue, grilling, smoking and adding new facets to dishes I've made in the past). To wit: last night had Lisa preparing Black Cod, Adam preparing Beer Can chicken and Aaron prepared a steak with plaintains and collard greens. I'm not sure if I would ever do a beer can chicken -- the recipe has been in my virtual recipe box for a number of years -- but seeing him prepare it was a reminder that one of these days I should do it. As for Lisa's prep of Black Cod with a zabaillone sauce, that's something I could see preparing at home. Aaron, however, made a steak, plaintains, and collard greens. I'm sure they're good, but that's pretty much what I do right now in my 3x2 mini-kitchen. I don't need 12 people with cameras, clipboards and 500-watt highway-lights filming me to make a steak and greens.

As per usual, they got it wrong. Not because Aaron is not a good guy -- he seems to be a great guy. But unless their aim is to get a "star" to film a dozen episodes and then disappear -- which has occurred two out of the last three seasons -- they seem to have really screwed the pooch on this one yet again.

Oh well. Better luck next year, folks.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The House That Rage Built

So several years later, during a pro basketball game in Detroit, another big-time brawl erupted. This time ten players were suspended for a varied number of games, plus a former NBA player, now an assistant coach, also got suspended for his part in the brawl.

So what's the catch? The brawl happened at the tail end of a WNBA game -- a womens' pro basketball game.

Lots of opinions will spew forth over the Internet, radio talk show airwaves and across shiny, polished desks in the ESPN and ESPN2 Studios. Most of those opinions will focus on the fact that the female players that were suspended acted as badly as their male counterparts who lose their cool. Many pundits, observers and mouthpieces will trumpet or mock "Girl Power!" depending on his or her perspective, but for the most part, a brawl during a pro basketball game, whether involving men or women -- or both -- is an ugly, unfortunate spectacle.

One of the reasons why I stopped watching basketball, for the most part, is it became more thuggery than sport. By the time Tim Donaghy, the referee who admitted fixing NBA games, was outed, I was disinterested in the sport for at least five years. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact the Knicks are about as qualified to play basketball as most WNBA teams (and that's probably an insult to the WNBA, not the Knicks). But neither here nor there. The fact is that this brawl, like the one several years ago in Detroit (between the NBA's Pacers and Pistons) is an ugly, unfortunate side of pro sports. Let's face it, since Danica Patrick began showing up on Maxim covers, people watching racing (Nascar, Indy, and Drunken Pickup Races) have already seen three flare-ups involving her. And any publicity, even if it's shitty publicity that exemplifies Danica's diva-esque immaturity, is a good thing for racing sports that barely even qualify for TV ratings.

Thing is, however, we can talk about the upbringing and the culture of the players of the teams involved in both this week's Detroit brawl and the one in November, 2004. We can review all the cultural moires, issues and problems inherent in the sport. Or we can come to the logical conclusion:

It's all Detroit's fault.

Clearly, we should be blaming the arena and the City where all the bad shit happened: the Palace at Auburn Hills. It's not like all these brawls are happening at Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center in LA or the Bell Centre in Montreal (well, there are brawls but they happen between toothless white dudes on ice). So it's got to fall squarely on Detroit's shoulders for creating this animosity-riddled tempest of anger, bile and frustration.

Never mind that WNBA games are less exciting than watching the lottery numbers being announced -- in Spanish.

Never mind that most people would rather watch that "Sleep Number" infomercial than a WNBA game.

Never mind that I couldn't name three teams playing in the WNBA this season, or -- worse -- even if there are more than three teams in the league.

Never mind that the "PEANUTTTTTS!" guys walking around Madison Square Garden probably earn more annually than do the WNBA players.

Never mind that pro wrestling is more exciting to watch than WNBA games, even for the people who know what the outcomes are going to be before the matches are over.

And finally, never mind that if my only choices for televised sports were a WNBA game and a pro bowling tournament, I'd probably choose instead to go play in traffic.

The answer, then, is to either move the Detroit team to a more calm city, like somewhere (anywhere) in Nebraska or Iowa or Idaho, and tear down the Palace once and for all. It's just not safe for anyone, even players on team called the "Shock."

By the way, if you're wondering whether these sentiments are sincere, let me interest you in a season ticket subscription for the soon-to-be relocating Detroit Shock.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hell Hath No Fury

Every time I see a semi-significant news story with “YouTube” in the title I know the shit’s about to hit the fan. However, in today’s story of the moment, I was wrong. The shit already hit the fan, sprayed around the room, and hit everyone in the room; there’s a bit of it melting on the speeding fan blades and it’s about to go flying off in the distance.

Enter the story of a duplicitous, conniving shrew named Tricia Walsh. This lass, a former Broadway actress and playwright, married Philip Smith in 1999. Philip Smith is the head of the Shubert Organization, which – if the words “Schubert Theater” don’t strike a chord for you – is the largest Broadway theater entity in New York City. If that isn’t clearing things up, suffice to say Mr. Smith is pretty well-to-do.

Subsequently, Ms. “Walsh-Smith” and her husband apparently achieved something less than marital bliss. As a result, this past week, the judge in their divorce case granted Mr. Smith’s petition for divorce. So what’s the big deal? Why has this story of love-gone-bad landed here?

Ms. Walsh, while she was still Ms. “Walsh-Smith,” decided to take her displeasure with her then-husband public, so she opted to make a few YouTube videos. Among them, the preliminary video has garnered over 3,000,000 hits (and we can expect lots more after I’ve linked it here). In said video (as well as in the follow-ups), she bemoans and discusses their sex life (a lack thereof), belittles her in-laws, and then calls Mr. Smith’s secretary and discusses their non-existent sex life with the secretary.

The rationale – if one can even use the word appropriately in this particular case – is that Ms. Walsh was upset because the prenuptial agreement she and her ex-husband signed three weeks before they married stipulates that upon their divorce, he will give her $750,000 and she must vacate the couples’ residences. That means she has to take the $750k and get the fuck out of their Park Avenue digs.

Apparently, she opted to challenge this agreement by taking her case to YouTube. Unfortunately, by going out of her way to taunt, insult and belittle her husband so publicly, the judge was appalled and granted Mr. Smith’s petition. Assuming she takes her case to YouTube yet again, I expect Mr. Smith will bury her legally for defamation of character (especially if she opts to discuss his sexual prowess). However, the interesting twist to this particular story is that Raoul Felder, a notable divorce lawyer, has been representing Ms. Walsh since she became a YouTube star (she has ceased making any further videos since Mr. Felder came on board).

Inasmuch as this story, on its surface, is comical and entertaining, it’s somewhat disconcerting. I’m not sure of the ages of Mr. Smith and Ms. Walsh, but it seemed to be pretty clear that Ms. Walsh wasn’t in it for the romance, if you know what I mean. He looks like he’s her father, if not her grandfather. And I’m sure that multimillionaires marry women that make good impressions. She might be a great Canasta partner, but if she’s not a supermodel or doesn’t, at the very least, dazzle in an evening gown, she can go back to 11th Grade and take the SAT’s with her fellow high-schoolers.

The point is: the prenuptial agreement they both signed, I’m sure, is ironclad, so despite the mouthpiece (ie Mr. Felder) and his various strategem, it’s likely Ms. Walsh will see little, if any, benefit to Mr. Felder’s involvement (other than the ultimate achievement of continually belittling her ex-husband publicly).

I suppose my point, other than sharing a good chuckle over this disingenuous situation, is that if you feel you need a prenuptial agreement with your spouse, you’re wrong. You simply shouldn’t marry him or her in the first place. If you have reservations or concerns, you shouldn’t be considering marriage; if you’re willing to overlook the obvious facts – that your spouse-to-be is a raving, money-grubbing bitch, a psychotic two-faced she-devil, or, as was in my case, a pathetic, OCD-riddled, dishonest, clinical freak – you lie in the bed you make. In my case, I got lucky – her parents were even more fucked up than she was and they did me a huge favor by demonstrating how big a mistake I was making getting involved with that whole, fucked-up clan in the first place. Imagine if I hadn’t seen the writing on the wall sooner?

But I digress.

The point of the matter, in no uncertain terms, is there are far too many marriages that end in divorce because people plough ahead without thought. You can have a tattoo removed with lasers, you can have a vasectomy reversed, you can replace a car that’s been totaled in an accident and you can get divorced if the former object of your affection turns into the current object of your hatred. The best way to not have to go through these types of procedures in the first place is to use your head as much as your heart when dealing with these types of situations before the shit hits the fan and not once it’s been flung about the room.

Granted, my ex-fiancĂ©e never – to my knowledge – went on YouTube to bitch about me. Even if she did, no one would pay much attention to her anyway. More importantly, knowing I got out before it was too late is reward enough for me. However, as much as we, as public observers, watch this entire Smith-Walsh-YouTube saga unfold, we should learn from others’ mistakes, if not from our own:

Hell hath no fury like a woman with a YouTube account.

Here are some links for the Google-challenged...

Go here or here or here or here or here or here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pick A Link

Got this link from a friend...very interesting and very disconcerting.

As a preview, it's a "factual" look at the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. It runs about 10 or 15 minutes, so if you've got little or no attention span and you don't care about politics, voting or the future of the nation, check out this clip of Robot Chicken spoofing Law and Order. It's a pisser, and it's a lot more entertaining than anything having to do with politics -- unless you're talking Italian politics.

Incidentally, I wasn't sure for whom I'd be voting come November; after seeing this video, I'm sure now.

See for yourself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Week in Paradise

Sorry, been so busy with work and sleep, I've been completely-ish lax in stopping back in. Hope everyone's Fourth o' July was awesome...for those of you who missed the fireworks, here you go, you tardy bastage(s)...

In all seriousness, I've been spending a lot of time working on a writing project, so by the time I'm finishing up at 1 or so AM, the last thing I want to do is stop in here and rehash how I'm trying to delicately skirt around the CIA's use of water torture in The Bullpen (the name of the rooms where they typically hold interrogations in Langley and elsewhere) and what it smells like when a hollow-point bullet enters and exits a shoulder blade. And to answer your next question, the writing project is indeed a political/spy thriller (it ain't limericks).

Meanwhile, in other news...despite the fact that it's been in the high 80's/low 90's this entire week, I'm not depressed. Granted, I've been drinking water non-stop for the past few weeks -- taking time out for meals, of course -- but the weather (in which I've been running around, natch) hasn't got me down.

Nor has the plight of the Yankees, who continue to be a bastion of mediocrity despite their payroll exceeding that of the GNP's of most nations on the American continent. That doesn't really upset me -- after all, the YES Network shows Yankees Classics so I can watch, with some regularity, Yankee teams win rather than lose with consistency.

My iPod is still functioning, so knowing the new iPhone is coming out to ravenous waves of rabid, surging Apple fan-boys is a non-issue. I've been pondering getting an iPod Touch but we're trying to save money for our trip to Mexico next month. Plus, since I got rid of my first iPod, I've been nothing but happy. This one, a 60GB Video, does pretty much everything necessary to keep me and my attention span on the tunes and nothing else. And the nice plus is it hooks into my Denon 3808CI, which IMHO is the best piece of audio/video equipment I've ever owned. The Denon cleans all the HD signals pouring into my home theater system (from cable, DVD players, my PC and soon, my home media player) and spits out a pristine, shiny, perfect 1080i signal. And the nice thing about the Denon is it lets me play the iPod through an integrated dock that allows me to control everything on screen.

So what is bothering me? Not much, actually. My grandmother's doing well -- in fact, my entire family's doing well -- and Kaia is due in early next month prior to our Mexico jaunt.

Perhaps, then, what is bothering me is that I don't know how long we'll have to wait to see this.

We both loved Cloverfield, especially because the home theater system brought it to life (nothing like a giant monster movie on a big screen with an equally big soundtrack). But methinks this new one ought to be experienced live, in the theater, where people might poop in their pants from excitement, just like at Shady Pines (only without that crazy-people smell).

More later.