Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Datelab is up

Read it here

Fairly accurate, but, wow...she thought I had a bit of a pudge? Good thing she didn't see me in February, when I weighed 220. I was 200 on the day of the date. Only because she's damned near anorexic. Seriously...Ms. Duffy was really trim. Athletic, so she was still healthy, but she was quite small.

Anyway, I like how she says I didn't listen. Honey, I listened - you went off on a half-dozen Republican National Committee talking points throughout the date. You flat-out said you were a Republican twice, if not three times. I can't get over what a little fibber she is! She held up the bag, and when I said "Oh, you're a Republican?" she did a 3/4 wink at me indicating that I got it. She proceeded to ask a few questions about the war in Iraq, and my stance on it. She clearly supports a continuation of the war, whereas I'm of the opinion that we needed to get out of there shortly after we entered.

Was I not listening, or did I just tune out? She was incredibly interesting when she wasn't doing her best Tony Snow impersonation.

The rub is that she's an incredibly interesting person otherwise. If she'd left the politics at home for one night, it might have gone better. How emotionally and developmentally-stunted is this area that so many people not even in the political arena feel the need to cram it down a first date's throat?

By way of admission: yours truly was a registered Republican in the state of Maryland and Iowa. However, I never voted a straight GOP ticket, and actually voted Libertarian in the last election. However, I supported former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich completely. Why? Because as Maryland has been ruled by a near 40 year reign of Democrats, a sense of entitlement has grown in the Democratic Party in the Old Line State. Abuses of power, from zoning violations to tax laws to environmental controls to school districting, has done nothing but create a Tammany Hall in Annapolis, and a Republican vote in Maryland is actually a vote for responsibility. The same was true in Iowa, but with the Party's reversed. Tom Vilsack, the Democrat who beat long-time Republican leader Terry Branstad ended a nearly 40-year cycle of Republican tax increases and failing infrastructure. Iowa is in better shape now, and I was sad to see Republicans become so entrenched and abusive in Des Moines. That experience led me to look long and hard at the Whig Party. Pro-industrialism, anti-Andrew Jackson. I take a stand.

I did not tell Anne that I was actually a Republican as her conversation was too political as it was.

She DEFINITELY said the urban legend story was about her aunt and uncle. Way to lie in an INTERNATIONAL NEWSPAPER!! Now, I'll kindly note that I also let Ms. Duffy off the hook, letting her screed about how black people play the victim card at the Brickskellar go unmentioned to the Post. We'd had a couple of beers at that point, but my state of "pudgy" allows me to drink a lot more than she can. A simple mention of O.J. Simpson on the bar's television caused her to go off on "the victim card" and "playing race again." I attributed it to diarrhea of the mouth, but I wonder if there's not something nastier lurking inside her cranium?

Otherwise, great date... at the time. The aftermath clearly indicates the beer and marscapone influenced the date far more than I ever expected.

Please read what I wrote to Post writer Gene Weingarten about the date. This is what happens when you look for the good in people, and ignore the 800 pound gorilla.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

I can't believe what I just saw

So, it's pretty obvious from my Myspace page that I am a fan of Lost. I was a little concerned as the first few episodes from this season were fairly mediocre. However...after tonight's season finale, the writers could devote an episode to reading telephone books in Esperanto. This was, simply, television at its finest.

More twists and turns than L'alpe D' Huez (Tour De France thing, Google it you lazy bastards. I don't have time to explain all of my witty references.)

I won't give anything away as a courtesy to those who haven't seen it, or are waiting for the Season 3 DVDs to come out, to get caught up. I will say this - The Sopranos *was* the best-written show on TV.

"Lost" used this episode to say "uh, not so fast, HBO."

In other news...The Milltown Brothers and Power of Dreams have Myspace pages. Two of my favorite Britpop bands from college...wounded, but not forgotten. PoD has disbanded, but Milltown's still kickin', and I downloaded their newest album from iTunes. I'll give it a listen, but I have to use this to point out the absurdity of the label system. Both of these bands had college rock/alt rock hits here in America. Both bands got caught up in label issues, and were regulated to smaller status in the U.K. 15 years later, I can listen to them online, see where and when they're performing and buy their newest music without one hint of label interference.

Not to get all Agent Smith on your ass, but that ticking you hear in the background, RIAA and your kin spread throughout the planet, is the sound of your impending doom. Record sales in `07 are off 20% from last year's dismal sales figures.

Evolve into promotion, not distribution companies, if you want to live.

(Heh, that was kinda Terminator 2-ish there...had to spell out that witty pop culture reference.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thanks Gene!

Gene Weingarten knew what I meant, what I was trying to say. He gets me. He's my dream woman (just fuzzier, too old, and frankly, a dude). The Datelab isn't a matchmaking service; it's a lab.

From today's chat with Gene...

More on Date Lab: I remembered the comment in last week's updates when I read Date Lab this past weekend. Not only did this couple seem to hit it off, they were practically having sex on the dessert plates by the time the date was over. And then...nothing. What is up with these people? Is it pressure to have a cute story to report the next day, or relief that the other person isn't a freak, or what?

Gene Weingarten: The poster from last week kind of nailed this. You're trying to adapt to an experiment; it's a lab. You're trying too hard to make it seem to work, but by week two you're focused on all the things that WEREN'T quite right.


Monday, May 14, 2007

from DCFUD - Review of Bloom

Come in, shop happy! After spending the past few weeks trying to get their too-catchy-to-be-ignored, too-kitchy-to-be-respected reworking of the Partridge Family's "Come On, Get Happy" removed from my conscious, I finally broke down and went into a Bloom grocery store. Since it was Mother's Day, it only seemed fitting for the Five Paragraph Bitter Food Mother to tag along as well. After a relaxing day of pancakes in Rockville and coffee in Frederick, we spotted a couple of Blooms, and the two of us went in to see if the most annoying commercial song since "Empire Today" was worth the pain. We didn't see any choreographed dancers, and no background music, but we did find a lot to like about the store.

From the folks who brought you Food Lion, Bloom's goal is to concentrate on freshness, offering an easy-to-shop, upscale layout. To call Bloom upscale, though, is a bit of a misnomer - this is not even close to the gourmet mass of Wegman's, or the organic sensibilities of Whole Foods - though it is better looking and better stocked than parent Food Lion. The store offers a good-sized prepared foods section for the busy shopper on the go. The basics - chicken, ribs, cold cut sandwiches, mac & cheese - are next to the more sophisticated - paninis, salads, sushi - are all displayed next to a nice, if not spectacular, deli. The bakery is loaded with surprises, featuring dozens of muffins, breads, cookies, no-bakes and fudges. The 5PBFM was shocked to see potato candy, a beloved fixture of her youth, made fresh in the store.

The produce section shines with a dazzling array of vegetables and fruits, many from local suppliers, arranged in well-labeled bins. Nearly a dozen different types of apples sit near such oddities like brocoflour, and a mix-and-match area of chili peppers. The whole produce area is washed in a Rainforest Cafe'- inspired environment. The walls shimmer with lighting effects, and small speakers pipe in the sounds of nature. It's supposed to give the effect of getting the produce straight from the farm, but the constant sound and impression of water just triggered my bladder response. Wisely, there's a clean restroom right around the corner. Apparently, I'm not the only one susceptible to such stimuli.

The meat section was pretty typical, with prices about 80% of Harris-Teeter, 90% of what Giant and Safeway offers, and roughly the same as Shopper's and Magruders. The seafood section was nicely stocked, again at 90% of Giant and Safeway prices, but with a higher quality and better selection than the typical Shopper's. The wine and beer sections were quite large, with special end-caps for local vineyards and breweries - apparently Bloom is trying to be a good corporate neighbor. The international sections were solid, and the baking supplies section showed their Southern roots with all sorts of fillings, chips, glazes and sweeteners. The spice section was as loaded as any store I've seen, and barbecue fans will love the range of sauces, rubs and supplies.

Basically, Bloom is a cleaner, newer Food Lion. It has some great touches - portable price scanners, online shopping lists, hand sanitizers for the grocery carts, recipe stations - that other stores will no doubt incorporate. Those who view Club Discount Cards like John Goodman views salad will like Bloom's lack of of them. Buy One, Get One Free discounts and savings are open to all shoppers. The store has some drawbacks, though. The low aisle height makes the bellowing of screaming children reverberate in the store like The Three Tenors in a shower stall. In an odd design twist, the store aisles are mostly run north-south, and then several turn 90 degrees, creating plenty of hot cart-on-cart collisions. Plus, Bloom seems to view The Beltway as its 38th Parallel, refusing to enter the urban landscape as the closest stores are in Rockville, Accoceek, Laurel, Fairfax and Chantilly. However, given the amount of advertising they're spending on the market, I can't imagine it won't be much longer before those of us inside 495 will be wandering the aisles, trying to get that damned song out of our collective head. Come in, shop happy... *grumble*

Bloom earns 7 out of 10 possible Whammies!; a solidly above-average score for being a solidly above-average grocery store. It's clean, reasonably priced, great produce section, and it's got some nice consumer touches. It's also not nearly as upscale as its marketing would lead you to believe, and it doesn't have the large amount of loss leaders that smart shoppers know to target. It's not worth the drive like a Wegman's or a sweaty Metro haul like Whole Foods, but it's definitely a nice touch for our ex-urban neighbors, and should provide a real challenge to established chains like Safeway and Giant in the region.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Rock and Roll Hotel Rawks Hard

I dragged Jan Louis and Dana to the Rock and Roll Hotel the other night to go see three bands, DC's Cedars, Chicago's The Changes and Glasgow's The Cinematics.

Ironic that I had never heard Cedars' music, even though they're the local chaps. The Changes hit my radar a couple of years ago from Pop Candy, and The Cinematics were the iTunes single of the week last month.

I didn't know the bands were performing in town until I read it in DCist that night. And to think I consider myself culturally literate about DC. Amazing how priorities change...a few years ago, I knew every single band, comic and show coming to Des Moines, but can't even keep track of three or four sweet venues in DC. Bad, bad Ray...I'm getting too fud-centric, perchance? I've got a fever, and less food, more rawk is the cure.

Cedars are quite good. Jan thought their lyrics were lousy, but the CD is quite good. I'm blaming the sound of the R&RH for that one - there were few people in the place at that time, and the band was playing too loud to hear the singing. By the time The Changes started playing, there was enough people in the place to make the sound appear a bit sharper. Part of it's also due to experience - Cedars sound good, but do that retro-alternative sound like The Killers or The Bravery. The Changes are more basic alternative, and don't need to rock out every song.

The Cinematics, though - they Britpopped the joint out. Think The Alarm mating with Franz Ferdinand. Not quite as jaunty as Franz; not quite as anthemic as The Alarm, but simply damned good. Their polished show belies their relative youth.

Plus - the guys from all three bands were quite nice. Good to hang out with; quite chatty and friendly. Much like dogs to Jules in "Pulp Fiction" - personality goes a long way. Guys who chat with the fans, make a point of having fun, not pretending to be the second coming of Jesus on stage - they get bonus points from me.

Saturday night, my favorite Pittsburgh band, The Clarks, are playing at the Birchmere. Always a good show - these guys worship The Replacements with a bot of Texas-twang (lead singer's from Texas) and Pittsburgh-volume, and I have no problem with that combination.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sent to Gene

As Gene Weingarten mentioned Datelab...

Hello Gene-

For most of Datelab's young life, I had been in a relationship with a young lady, and we read the feature together, laughing at those poor souls going through the dates and the tell-all interviews afterwards. We always found it hilarious that nearly all of the men would inevitably rate the evening a "4 out of 5" and never call the woman again. Another routine outcome is the man saying "it was one of the best dates of my life" but..."there's no chemistry." I could never fathom this outcome - how can a date be so amazing, yet, so fruitless at the same time?

Or, there would be sudden, amazing meeting of two souls, as the column has produced at least two engagements. No couple matched by the Post ever seemed to just "date." It's all or nothing for Datelab.

This year, my relationship ended and I found myself reading Datelab in a new light. I decided to enter, and was surprised to be picked for a date. The Style editor Jennifer Hudson Neal arranged the time and place, but wouldn't give me any hints about the victim...I mean, date. I was curious, seeing as how some Datelabs have been nearly science experiments in incompatibility - "She's a 35 year old thrice-divorced mother of three from Kinhump, Kentucky; he's a 24 year old Hill staffer from Highbrow, Connecticut" - I wondered what my date's fatal flaw would be?

So, when we met at the appointed time and place, I was surprised to find the date witty, bold, intelligent. Pretty in a very natural, easy way. I liked her. My initial wave of relief that she wasn't my Worst Nightmare Incarnate was quite powerful. She confided that she'd had similar fears about me before our meeting, and was relieved as well that I was socially presentable. We weren't 100% matches, but I'm not one who's interested in dating a female carbon copy of myself. I like some differences; makes life interesting. Our conversation flowed easily, and once the wonderful dinner was over, we continued the date at a nearby bar. At the end of the evening, we agreed to go out again soon.

The next day, I did my post-date interview with the Post writer, and exclaimed about what a good time I'd had. I rated it a fantastic date. The writer confided that my date had expressed similar thoughts. Datelab had scored a victory.

Over the next few days, I spoke to the writer a few times. Basic follow-up questions mostly, but there were a few things about me that had bothered my date. As the writer and I spoke about these issues, I suddenly was struck by some of the things my date had said that night that would have usually waved a big fat WARNING! GET OUT! RUN! HIDE! flag in my face. Sparing details for the article, I'll say that they are issues that are part of a much-larger national debate that should never be mentioned on a first date, but somehow became part of the conversation. I wondered why I had ignored my usually-flawless warning system.

After a couple of days, I finally figured it out - Datelab really is an experiment, not a custom match-making system as some would believe. The goal of the column isn't to make every single Washingtonian happy on a soma-induced date, but to take a more accurate look the dating scene; to gain insight on the elusive beast of compatibility. Why do some folks seem to hit it off instantly? Why do others who look like perfect matches fail to spark?

Therefore, I ignored the huge, 800-pound gorilla flaws in our worldview and activities simply because I *wanted* to. I wanted us to be compatible, though our differing views on The Big Issues of the Day would be hard, if not impossible, to mesh. Still, that initial wave of relief, that thought of "hey, this person's not NEARLY as bad as you feared!" is a powerful narcotic. It affects us all on those semi-successful blind dates, either set up by friends, coworkers, the Internet, or even major international newspapers.

Maybe I just wanted the Post to have a happy story to report. Maybe I just wanted somebody to go out with again. Maybe I was just so grateful she wasn't Medusa.

In any event, I can now understand how a date can be wonderful...and lead nowhere.

I'm told my Datelab will run on May 27.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That didn't take long

Datelab partner emailed me, said she didn't think we'd be compatible. No second date here, either.

I was suspecting that too, but figured we got along well enough for a second date.

Oh well...good meal.