Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Welcome to "What Were They Thinking?"

Hello everybody, and welcome to an exciting new feature here at OBPOPCULTREF entitled "What Were They Thinking?" Basically, I mock people who have recently messed up in a big, stinking public way.

Today, we're going to look at five events that demonstrate people who OBVIOUSLY weren't thinking.

Number 5 - This guy in Glen Burnie, Maryland, walks out of the fast food restaurant's bathroom and into the middle of a robbery. Two men robbing the place have pistols and a shotgun. He gets into a fight with one of them, and ends up getting shot in the face several times, but none of the wounds are life-threatening. How on Earth those guys can shoot a dude in the face and not kill him is beyond me, then again, the same can be said for picking a fight with dudes with guns.

Read about it on The Baltimore Sun's Website.

Number 4 - Our wild and zany friends in Iran. Those wacky goofballs got a little carried away in their hijinks and shenanigans and seized a British naval vessel in Iraqi national waters, kidnapping the sailors. All this has done is moved the Middle East into a much larger war zone, only this time with a much-angrier United Kingdom, and more European support. What is it with Iranians and kidnappings? Apparently they had so much fun holding US diplomats as prisoners for 444 days just before the Reagan Presidency, they decided it'd be fun to do it again. I mean, UK, US? What's the diff?

Number 3 - Tony Snow, White House Spokesman and Cancer Patient. Please, Tony, you've done an admirable job. Just get healthy. Republican, Democrat or Independent, cancer sucks. Anybody who wishes anything else but his recovery is a sicko.

Number 2 - Eddie Griffin and movie producer Daniel Sadek combine to form a $1.5 million dollar "What Were They Thinking?" moment. Sadek, an exotic car collector, let Griffin drive a $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo in a charity car race to promote their latest film, Redline.

So Eddie crashed the car into a Jersey Wall.

He'd have been better off letting Griffin drive something a little...oh, I don't know, less rare? Only 400 Enzos were made, and two of those have now crashed in spectacular manner.

And, number 1


What did I do that was so horribly embarassing? Nothing yet, nothing like my dear buddy Jefe' who decided to pirouette in gym shoes on asphault, and now has a torn meninscus. But, I signed up to be part of the Washington Post's Datelab. I'm getting set up on a blind date by the paper. They pay for dinner, and I get to meet a new woman. All I have to do is go on the date, talk to the woman, and do an interview afterwards. No big deal, but what kills me are the past Datelabs. There seems to be no middle ground there - either the people hit it off and get married in two months, or they never talk to each other again. At the least, I can write a nifty DCFUD article about the meal.

Now, I'm not expecting love at first sight, though that would be something to write home about, but I'm curious as to who they're going to fix me up with. Cute? Pretty? Plain? Tall? Short? American? Foreign? Girl-next-door or exotic woman of mystery?

If they could swing the unengaged Bush twin Barbara, I'd be a big fan.

Anybody but Jessica Cutler, please. Only one blogger per household.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

From DCFUD - A Rant by the Five Paragraph Bitter Food Critic

cartman yelling.jpg
This weekend marked the 34th anniversary of my expulsion from my mother's womb. Friday and Saturday night were set aside for my friends; Sunday was reserved for my mom and uncle, neither one of whom can do shots like my buddy Jeff at the Science Club. My family took me to an anonymous suburban chain restaurant. No sooner did we enter when all the servers gathered together, began clapping semi-rhythmically, and sang their restaurants' version of "Happy Birthday" to a large group gathered for a child's birthday. I shuddered in the same way that I shuddered when I watched the movie Saw - I knew it was fake, but I was scared anyway. My uncle, never an example of tact, tells our server at the anonymous suburban chain restaurant that it was my birthday, and asked what treat I'd get. The young lady, barely college-aged, went into some script I'm sure all the servers there had to memorize, asking me "So, how old are you on your big birthday, big guy?"

Lady, I'm 34 frickin' years old. I've been able to drink legally for since you were in kindergarten. My insurance rates don't get any lower, and I've been able to rent a car without a parent's signature for nearly a decade. My next "big birthday" doesn't come for another 21 years when I'll be able to get cheaper coffee at participating McDonald's.

I hate that fake birthday singing in restaurants. I was in kindergarten when the old Farrell's ice cream parlor in Tyson's Corner had a bunch of singing servers, fireworks, a possessed player-piano and circus sound effects go all Britney Spears-crazy for kids' birthdays. I watched a poor little 3 year-old soil her new dress in fright and embarrassment on her birthday. I felt so bad for that little girl, and while I knew nothing of post-traumatic stress syndrome at the time, I knew a girl who'd need therapy when I saw one. Therefore, on my list of Top Three Annoyances in Restaurants, it ranks up there with Nextel phones going off and screaming, sugared-out kids with no parental supervision. For the record, "food poisoning" and "bad food" would be #4 and #5, respectively. I can understand why Chuck E. Cheese does it, and talented singing is part of Mimi's in DuPont's charm. But when I was a server, bartender and ultimately manager, my one consistent question during job interviews was "is this a restaurant that sings for birthdays?" If so, I moved on. A free dessert or a small discount is one thing; making a public spectacle and whittling down my dignity is quite another.

Is it just me? Do people actually go to anonymous suburban chain restaurants specifically for the birthday singing? What are they thinking? "Nothing reasserts my status in the universe than having a motley group comprised of 19 year-old single moms too naive to use birth control, 21-year-old college students worried about midterms, jailbait hostesses wearing slutty dresses that'd make Lil' Kim blush and table bussers who aren't 100% sure of the song or the language, sing a corporate version of 'Happy Birthday' that really doesn't sound like the real song and includes more hand-clapping and some sort of embedded advertisement to me in an anonymous suburban chain restaurant decorated to resemble either a yard sale gone mad or a Gulf Coast beach because I'm too lazy to actually travel to a real yard sale gone mad or a Gulf Coast beach and receiving a complimentary calorie-laden dessert?" It's about the best I can come up with...unless these are the same people who delight in camping out for tickets for the inevitable "American Idol All-Stars" tour because they really felt their phone calls made a difference whether or not that plucky young hillbilly from Kinhump, Tennessee, with the 36D's and the 36 IQ got propelled into the Top 8.

By appealing to her logic - spending time singing that song to me wastes valuable minutes better spent at other higher-maintenance tables and thereby increasing whatever tips the generally-weaker-tipping-Sunday afternoon crowd offers - I was able to ward off her underpaid cult of clappers. And, given the mega-portions of food the anonymous chain restaurant served, there was no need for the complimentary calorie-laden dessert. Truthfully, I think she enjoyed not singing almost as much as I did. I know it was only one restaurant on one day, a small victory, but a victory nonetheless for those of us who like to dine in relative peace and anonymity.

Normally I assign Whammy! points in this space, but the anonymous suburban chain restaurant is exactly what it is, the food is exactly what can be found at any other anonymous suburban chain restaurant, and the food tasted exactly what you'd expect from an anonymous suburban chain restaurant. No Whammy! was earned; no Whammy! will be given.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Another year older and deeper in debt

Not exactly the birthday weekend I had planned.

I'm now 34 years of age. Mid-30s. Wow. Don't look it. Don't feel it. Don't act it. Need a nap, though.

The weekend started off with a rousing trip to Bravo Bravo for the monthly MeetinDC Happy Hour. I got to see some friends, and I got to cock-block this little bugger named Michael. He was hitting on some girls, so I decided to be a royal arse and tell them the story of how he was so intent on hitting on a very uninterested MiDC girl that he ignored everybody else, to the point of forgetting that he'd met me 5 times in 3 months. I should have told the ladies about how he only dates women with Master's Degrees - I wonder if TESST College has a graduate program.

The night turned quickly sour when Jeff took me to the Science Club. Couple of drinks later, and I was done for the night. Thank God John found me and was willing to take my suddenly-non-rockstar ass home. I also found out that somebody I had always rather liked was a bit of a bitch. Actually, a lot of a bitch. I'll chalk it up to her having a bad night, but I'm also not above thinking that "she's changed, man."

I passed out in John's car. They say tolerance is the first thing to go...great.

Saturday was a waste of a day. It was supposedly gorgeous. I have no idea. Maybe it was. I didn't leave the house until I got dinner at 8:30pm.

Sunday was a hoot. Mom and Uncle Larry wanted to take me out for my birthday, so we went bowling. Mom didn't reserve lanes, and she chose an alley that's 1/2 duckpin, 1/2 ten-pin. So, you know what that means?

KIDS! Everywhere! Sugared-out, screaming and kicking, and running with abandon.

And, here's what I don't get - you ever heard of a bowling alley that doesn't take credit cards? In 2007? Of course, mom forgot to hit the ATM beforehand, so...I had to pay for my birthday bowling.

Uncle Larry, not to be outdone, tells the waitress at the tacky suburban chain restaurant we went to apres-bowl that it was my birthday, and asked what treat I'd get.

Um...Larry. Let me apply this lesson with a Cluebrick.

I hate birthday singing in restaurants.

Despise it. Rank it up there with Nextel cell phones going off in Church and screaming, sugared-out kids in bowling alleys.

Fortunately, I was able to prevent the server from gathering the rest of her cult and singing Happy Birthday to me.

Is it just me? Do people actually go to wacky chain restaurants for the birthday singing? What do they think? "Nothing reasserts my status in the universe than having a group comprised of 19 year-old single moms too stupid to use birth control, 21-year-old college students worried about midterms, 16 year-old hostesses wearing slutty dresses that would make Lil' Kim blush and 17 year-old busboys who can't wait to become waiters to earn the "big bucks", all of whom secretly hate me, sing 'Happy Birthday' to me in a suburban strip mall painted to resemble a Gulf Coast beach because I'm too lazy to actually travel to a real Gulf Coast beach for the real thing and too lonely to have any real friends sing for me?"

It's about the best I can come up with...unless people who enjoy the singing are the same people who delight in camping out for the inevitable "American Idol All-Stars" tours because they really felt their phone calls made a difference whether or not that plucky young hillbilly from Kinhump, Alabama with the 36D's and the 36 IQ got her propelled into the Top 8.

In any event, I managed to avoid the singing and the free calorie-laden dessert that comes with it. Some people like free desserts, but I won't suffer through the indignity of having a bunch of Sunday afternoon diners geegaw at me because 34 years ago today, I escaped from my mother's placenta-lined Gulag like a Stalingrad intellectual during Stalin's reign.

And, to make matters worse, Larry left my birthday gift at home.

*sigh* I guess I'll have to wait before I get a cast-mold statue of Eva Gardner made from old Campbell's soup cans.

My birthday proper was a cause of great joy. Awoken by chirping birds about an hour earlier than my normal wake time, I stumbled into my 34th year on the globe tripping over the ironing board, stubbing the hell out my toe and wondering what else could possibly go wrong?

How about a 30 minute traffic jam on my way to the property manager's office to drop off my rent check?

How about a basic "F-You!" letter from my very bitter ex-girlfriend, who has essentially figured out that all blame in the relationship lies on my shoulders? NOTE - I'm not perfect by any stretch, but to ignore her own failings in the relationship - and to drop the note in my inbox on my birthday - seems a little classless. I'll forgive her, but only because I expected some sort of vitriol from her sooner.

How about a whiny P-gon official who complained that we didn't have enough wireless microphones for everybody in the conference center? I did get an "atta boy!" from an Army LtcCol who heard my quick explanation that "we might have to wait until next fiscal year as the war budget is a higher priority than soft-talkers."

How about a nice letter regarding the outbreak of the Norovirus in Crystal City...after eating a catered lunch from Crystal City?

I did get some nice phone calls and e-mails. Gabe dropped a note on Myspace, as did Stef from NYC. Dana called, Melody in L.A. showed off her craptacular...I mean, SPECtacular singing voice. Notes from Brian, my dear friends here in NoVA, a call from Heath in NYC, Scottie K sent some love.

Hell, even my roommate's cat let me pet him.

And, my friend Gina, whom I haven't seen in nearly 18 months (something else happened 18 months ago...can't remember what...), took me out for a celebratory cupcake at Cakelove/LoveCafe' on U Street in the District. I can only describe Cakelove's offering as this - it's like dating somebody WAY too hot for you. You know you won't last long-term, but God they're fun to eat.

So, all-in-all, it was a birthday. I survived another year on this fragile globe, and despite my best attempts, am still optimistic for 34 and beyond.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More on XM + Sirius

From the fine folks at Engadget:

Apparently when the former Attorney General of the United States is begging you for work, you may want to take it. Otherwise, he turns against you.

So it looks like controversial former Attorney General John Ashcroft is using his remaining influence in the Justice Department to lobby on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters against the proposed satellite radio merger -- though it seems that he's acting more out of self-interest than anti-trust ideology in this debate, as the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Ashcroft's consulting firm initially approached XM before eventually being hired by NAB. As you might imagine, then, Ashcroft's letter the House and Senate Judiciary Committees was decidedly anti-amalgamation, concluding that "the proposed Sirius/XM merger, which reduces the number of competitors from two to one, raises most serious competition concerns." Of course, now that everyone knows Ashcroft originally intended to shill for XM before NAB "opted to pay him to parrot their views" (according to an XM spokesperson), his "professional opinion" on the matter will probably hold decidedly less weight.

If Ashcroft is against the merger, I am even MORE for the merger than ever before. I am practically oozing XM/Sirius merger vibes.

Yes, folks, the man who brought you the Patriot Act and detained American citizens without due process is against XM and Sirius...though he wouldn't have been had XM paid him.

The man is, for all intents and purposes, a liar, and cheapens the law. A fine example of what happens when people vote for a ticket and a party instead of a person.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Today's Washington Post has yet-another-story about the proposed merger between XM and Sirius. Apparently Congress is real skeptical of a combined XM/Sirius being able to keep prices low and programming fresh.

What I can't understand: Why is Congress only JUST NOW looking at the possible ramifications of a monopoly in broadcasting? Clear Channel, Chancellor, Bonneville, CBS, et al... could buy as many stations of terrestrial radio as they wanted in as many cities as they wanted, eliminate thousands of jobs, stifle innovation, limit format choice and program diversity, and they, along with the FCC, turned a blind eye.

But just because XM and Sirius want to merge, and possibly *need* to merge, suddenly they're looking out for the consumer.

I am a proud XM subscriber. I chose XM over Sirius because I liked the overall music choice and baseball package on XM much more than Sirius' fewer musical offerings and football. However, a combination of the two companies would offer football and baseball, Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony, Oprah, Bob Dylan, Eminem and Little Steven and countless other benefits to the market. Many people who truly enjoy listening to the radio have already switched over - take a look at satrads' TSL (time spent listening) over traditional radio, and terrestrial radio has not improved enough or responded to the changes in the marketplace to win back many converts. HD radio is a nebulous, expensive proposition for many consumers.

Both companies are bleeding money. They both are going to have to either:

1) cut back on talent expenses
2) operating expenses
3) satellite and ground-repeater maintenance
4) increase licensing fees to hardware manufacturers
5) raise monthly subscription fees
6) a combination of any or all of the above to survive.

I fail to see how the consumer suffers any more or less if some of these actions are taken by the individual companies or merged company.

To me, the whole issue is a living monster created by the Dr. Frankenstein of the Telecom Act of 1996 and the electrical storm of an FCC without proper focus. They care more about exposed boobs than the competitive marketplace. The record labels complain about falling sales, and radio - still the recording industry's best way of distributing new music - is as stagnant as a dry lake bed. Radio listenership is declining, and the advent of iPods make it easy to listen to music you already own, and hard to find new music to like.

It's the Perfect Storm, but without George Clooney.

Perhaps a more dynamic traditional radio would help the record labels if they had a stronger, more viable competitor in a merged XM/Sirius?

There's more than one way to look at this, Congress.