Friday, June 29, 2007

Time has not been kind, Sporty Spice

Tell me what you want what you really really want. If it's a Spice Girls reunion, your wish is my command.

After many years of false promises and vicious reunion rumours (British spelling out of respect), the Spice Girls now say they'll get back together for a world tour in December and January.

It's been a long time since their breakup (in 2000), even longer since they were kind of a big deal in the U.S. (in 1997). Let's see how father time has treated them.

Well, it's hard to say how well time treated them, on account of all the plastic surgery. Might Victoria (Posh) Beckham nee Adams be the fakest woman on earth? And what happened to Melanie (Sporty) Chisholm's face?

I'd have to say that Geri (Ginger) Halliwell looks the best. What does it say about the evolution of my own tastes over the last 10 years that she went from my least favorite to my No. 1 spice?


Thursday, June 28, 2007

And the door is thrown open to a new generation of competitive eater

Takeru Kobayashi's staggering streak of six straight Coney Island hot dog eating contest victories is in serious jeopardy.

He's listed as day-to-day with a strained jaw he suffered in training for the annual 4th of July contest.

"Some days ago, my jaw ceded the front," Kobayashi intones on his blog. "It is the fatal wound. In order to cure, repose and long-term remedy are necessary."

(His English may be better than that. I lifted those words from a google translation of his web site.)

If Kobayashi is scratched from the hot dog contest, it leaves the door wide open for a new champ to be crowned. Joey Chestnut has proved a tough competitor in recent years, and Crazy Legs Conti is a dark horse in the race. But my money is on The Black Widow, Sonya Thomas.

She was feted in this space about a year ago, and this 4th of July may be her day to shine.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Annual ugly dog appreciation

A Chinese Crested-Chihuahua mix with an abnormally large tongue has been crowned this year's ugliest dog in an annual competition in California.

It's true that two-year-old Elwood, seen at right, is a vast improvement over last year's champ. But the victory must be bittersweet -- not only because he's so ugly but because even despite his hideous appearance he is probably only about one-eighth as ugly as Sam the Chinese Crested who won the contest three years running before dying of fear after he spotted himself in a mirror.

I respect you, Elwood, but you'll never be as great as Sam.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You are the Decider: The line between fact and fiction

Actor Sam Waterston of Law & Order, the fictional underling but real-world coworker of former Senator/former actor/current presidential candidate Fred Thompson, is pushing for a third party candidate to win the 2008 election. (He hasn't said which one(s)).

Waterston is with a group called Unity '08 and said the other day that the race this time around is "unlike any in almost 100 years."
The basic thing to insist on is that the system for choosing is broken, and that the people who have helped this system to evolve to the place that it is today are not well-placed to clean it up.
Can't you just hear him saying something so inspiring in front of a fictional judge and jury, before the trademark Law & Order "Bong-bong" noise sounds and the jury foreman reads a guilty plea?

I'm just worried that with actors in politics and politics in acting, I'm going to get confused about what's really real, really fake, and fake-looking but real.

And that has me thinking, should I go ahead and buy that robot insurance from Old Glory?


Monday, June 25, 2007

Rod Beck has died; status of mullet unclear

When I remember former Red Sox relief pitcher Rod Beck, I will remember the way his right (pitching) arm would swing lightly back and forth from his shoulder while he glared in to the catcher to get the sign.

Well, that and the mullet.

He's dead at 38. It's unclear why.


Friday, June 22, 2007

NaturalBlog News Update: Picture Pages Edition

There's a thing called World Naked Bike Ride Day, which was held last week in Vancouver, British Columbia. I've been riding a bike lately, and I have to say that I don't think this method of travel would be very comfortable.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Long Overdue Props, Vol Lucky 7

It's taken me a long time to come around on Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez, and an even longer time for me to give him the props he so sorely deserves.

How do I prop thee? Let me count the ways.

Could it be your footwear? Your friendship with our enigmatic slugger? Your childhood ambition?

I can't say for certain. Maybe it's just the way you roll.

Whatever the reason, I am glad to finally give you your long overdue props.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vous etes le decider: French Edition

Say what you will about the French, but they do have a better sense for the dramatic than Americans. Vanguished socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal is splitting up with her long-time live-in, Francois Holland. Holland is also the head of the Socialist Party in France.

They have four children together, never married, and recently were sniping at each other's public policies.

Am I alone in wishing the Clintons were this exciting?


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'll do anything if you can get Journey out of my head

The boys from Journey have been holding my brain hostage now for about eight days. "Don't Stop Believin'" has been in my head pretty much nonstop since it featured so prominently in the Sopranos finale, two Sundays ago. I can't go a half hour without the record player in my head hitting me with that unmistakable "Just a small town girl..." prompting me to sing a few bars myself.

Don't believe me? Ask my coworkers. Steve Perry is my mental jailer, his searing vocals my prison bars.

Apparently I'm not alone. The 1981 hit has made it to No. 1 on the iTunes music rock chart.

Kind of fitting, I guess, since the Sopranos finale has been kicking around in my head for more than a week now, too. It says something when a TV show is so rich and complicated that it leaves you thinking about it for days after.

At first, I thought Tony was dead. Then I said in this space that he was alive. But now I'm certain that he's dead, in part because of show producer David Chase's post-show line "It's all there," and in part because of this incredibly well reasoned and well researched piece, which the author has considerately whittled down to a manageable 5,000 words.

In case you don't have the 20 minutes to read the link, I'll summarize: It was Tony's last supper.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Separated at birth

You might remember actor Joshua Malina from The West Wing. You probably don't remember Jamie Gold, last year's World Series of Poker champion. These guys are a legitimate separated at birth duo, unlike most of the people who appear in this series.

Keen-eyed reader Cedar suggested this pairing. Not so much a separated at birth, she said, as much as a father/son body-swap sort of thing. Both played doctors, both are gay. That's enough similarities for me.

I admit this is kind of a stretch, but how about New York Mets outfielder Endy Chavez and New York Mets mascot Mr. Met. They both always seem so happy. Also, those eyebrows.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Random childhood memories: Vol. II

Since I've been riding a bike regularly for the first time in more than fifteen years and since Sunday is Father's Day, I thought this might be a good story for the second installment of my occasional series Random Childhood Memories.

I got a bike for Christmas when I was six or maybe seven. It was about the coldest day I ever remember from the nearly 10 years we lived in Florida. Probably mid 50s.

My dad took me out in our neighborhood so I could learn how to ride. He ran on my right-hand side with one hand on the handlebars and the other on the back of the bright-green seat.

The first time he took his hand off the handlebars, I checked to make sure his other hand was still on the seat, and as long as it was, my balance was fine.

A couple trips around the block later, his hand left the handlebars and I was steady, until I turned around and saw that he wasn't holding onto the seat either.

I started to wobble almost immediately, but he was able to steady me before I fell. I think it's strange that it was him actually supporting me that mattered, just that I thought he was.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

NaturalBlog News Update: Too good to be true edition

Thanks to my well-read regulars who sent in these news items.

I thought dropping the gay bomb meant something else entirely. Back in the early 1990s, right around the time Bill Clinton and his right-wing cronies enacted the don't ask-don't tell policy, the military flirted with building a "gay bomb" that would turn enemy troops homosexual. According a BBC report, it would strike a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale. Also discarded: The plan to make a bomb that would make soldiers fart. I'm not making this up.

I always knew Seymour's daughter would end up in trouble. A woman in Iowa is facing a few years in prison for allegedly stealing toilet paper from a courthouse. I can't imagine it was two-ply, so I have no idea what her motive was. The woman's name was Suzanne Butts. I'm not making this up.

Apocalypse Soon. The Rev. Jerry Falwell once told me that God is expressing his anger at liberals by turning lobsters all colors of the rainbow.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

R.I.P. Mr. Wizard

I'm sorry to report this morning Don Herbert, the lovable grandfatherly figure better known to thousands of people in my generation and in others as Mr. Wizard, has died. He was killed in a tragic baking soda-volcano accident.

Just kidding. He died at age 89 in Los Angeles, after having cancer.

For some reason, I thought his only incarnation was on Nickelodeon in the 1980s, but he was apparently prolific before he went grey, with a show on NBC as early as 1951.

Though I was never once able to duplicate his amazing experiments, he did make me feel like junior scientist. I like to imagine that he is explaining to God right now why it's impossible for angels to walk atop the clouds.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mayor Thomas Michael "Big Daddy" Menino

Boston's first Italian mayor Tom Menino was dubbed "T. Mizzie" at a hip-hop summit a little while back, but he's apparently settled on a different nickname.

He appeared during the Red Sox-Rockies game just now to promote a summer jobs program and mentioned a public service announcement he did with David Ortiz last year.

"How many takes was it for you," asked Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy.

"Just two takes."

"Really? Two takes?"

"When Oritz and I are together, hey, y'know. Big Papi and the Big Daddy."

Even stranger was when he said goodbye to Remy later; telling him "Gimme a call" as he took off the headset. Maybe they're going to swap fashion advice.


Don't Stop Believin'? Really? Was Born in the USA too cheesy?

I'm going to talk about the Sopranos now, so if you don't want to know the series ending, go play this addictive little game for a bit and check back tomorrow.

I guess the smart money is on Tony getting killed by the dude wearing the Members Only jacket at Holsten's. That's where the dramatic tension in the scene was heading. (I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest every time Meadow's sweet car bumped the curb.)

But I have three good reasons that I don't think he was killed.

1. With his Brooklyn rival Phil Leotardo dead (and the member's of Phil's crew giving tact approval ahead of time -- "You gotta do what you gotta do."), who needs Tony dead so much that they'd shoot him in front of his family?

2. In this half season, each time the tension has built and made you think someone was going to die, it hasn't happened. There was Bobby with Tony in the car, after their fight at the lake. There was Paulie with Tony on the boat during their Florida vacation. And when Tony did kill Christopher, it came out of nowhere. No dramatic buildup at all. If that pattern were to hold true, the gut-wrenching scene at the diner would end not with a bang.

3. There's an argument to be made that when the screen went black, it was Tony dying. But that isn't what happens when Tony dies. When he was in the coma, his heart stopped; the afterlife was a warm and bright house where his mother and cousin were ready to greet him.

I rewatched the episode yesterday and was struck by how short the final scene was. The first time around, it felt like a lifetime. It was actually only two or three minutes.

But what do I make of Sopranos producer David Chase's decision to leave the show up in the air? I guess it shouldn't be a surprise. None of the previous 85 episodes conformed to what you usually see on TV, so why would episode 86 be any different.

Take a look at this quote from Chase from a few years back:
I don't think art should give answers. I think art should only pose questions. And art should not fill in blanks for people, or I think that's what's called propaganda. I think art should only raise questions, a lot of which may be even dissonant and you don't even know you're being asked a question, but that it creates some kind of tension inside you.
He certainly thinks of TV writers as artists. How else would you explain the Twilight Zone scene he chose to put on in the background at Tony's safehouse. The dialogue went like this:
--Julius, what do I have to do? What do I have to say to get you out of here?

--Gimme a chance. Gimme first dibs at this television series thing or whatever it is. Lemme do the pilot, please.

--Julius, my boy Julius. I'm not a hard man, I'm not a mean man. But the television industry today is looking for talent. They're looking for quality. They're preoccupied with talent and quality. And the writer is a major commodity.
Somebody should've told Christopher that before he whacked Joe from Wings.


Monday, June 11, 2007

NYT Magazine: The Repeats

The New York Times Magazine, which I readily admit is not targeted at slobs like me, seems to be stuck on repeat, at least when it comes to the cover art. At least once a month, they employ the same portraiture motif. I think it's tired. Decide for yourself.


Friday, June 08, 2007

NaturalBlog News Update: Where are they now edition

And they thought Gere was bad. He once famously said after a loss in the ring that he would "fade into Bolivian," but it appears Iron Mike Tyson meant to say "into Bollywood." There's a report that he's interested in a movie career, thanks to the energy he felt on a music video shoot for a new Bollywood comedy. The film is called "Fool n Final." I'm pretty sure Tyson is both.

Where do you suppose Paul is? Danica McKellar, the actress who tugged at my heart as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, has written a book "Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail." She studied statistical mechanics at UCLA and has a theorem named after her. It's unclear when she turned trashy (at right).

How can I miss you if you don't go away? Jessica Simpson wants advice from Mariah Carey on how to make a comeback. No joke needed.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

The decider is you: Picture pages edition

Let's have some fun with photos of Tuesday night's debate among the 3,218 Republicans running for president.

Mitt Romney tries unsuccessfully to get Rudy Giuliani to engage in a game of pull my finger. Giuliani learned his lesson in an earlier debate, when John McCain took his nose.

Nobody expected McCain to throw paper, least of all Giuliani, who went with a weak-wristed rock. The former New York mayor should've thrown Barack, which beats everything.

And finally, this must have been the spot they left open for Senator-turned-actor-turned possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson. He couldn't make the debate because he was chastising Jack McCoy for grandstanding before a jury.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Barcelona retains its title

The organizers of the 2012 Olympics in London have kept alive the tradition of creating stupid logos and mascots. Here's what they were able to come up with:

And as if that wasn't bad enough, now the Olympic Committee has had to remove the animated version of the logo from it's web site because it was triggering epliptic seizures.

The upshot is that those cute little Barcelona dogs remain as the best Olympic mascot or logo of my lifetime.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kiwis, unite!

With summer unofficially upon us, I am ready to declare this the Summer of Sauvignon Blanc.

This is the first time I have designated an official drink of a season since Shiraz as named the official beverage of summer 2003, following close on the heels of Slurpees as the official beverage of each season in 2002.

The early front-runner for the official label of the Summer of Sauvignon Blanc is St. Supery, though all comers are welcome and will be tried in turn.

Your Sav Blanc suggestions are welcome.


Monday, June 04, 2007

It feels good to be sore

It's hard for even me to believe that I ran a 5K yesterday, though I suppose it's less surprising if I tell you it was part of the "Pub Series" of races in the Boston area.

Even more shocking is that I beat my personal best for that distance, despite a complete and total lack of training. I finished at 33:30, about three minutes ahead of my pace the last time I ran three miles, of 36+ minutes.

That 36+ time was waaaaaaaay back in 1992, when I was 14 and had to run three miles in the final preseason practice for my soccer team. Who knew present-day NaturalBlog (5'9" 175 lbs.) could beat youthful NaturalBlog (5'3" 153 lbs.)? I'm shocked. Shocked!

But will it stick? Who knows. For what it's worth, I rode my bike to work this morning.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

This post is my formal notice that I no longer have a crush on Lindsay Lohan

When I look back at the thick and thin (rail thin, really) of my long celebrity crush on Lindsay Lohan, I have to wonder why it lasted even this long.

There were the bizarre injuries, like slipping on some tea. The bizarre behavior, like telling the family of the late Robert Altman to "Be Adequite." And of course the rehab stints interrupted only by trips to nightclubs.

My heart was hers because she was something of a tragic figure, what with the acne and the bizarre confrontation with that guy Brandon Davis.

But now that she's been arrested on suspicion of drug possession after a suspected drunk driving crash, I think I'm gonna call it quits with L. Lo.

I'll remember the good times, but she'll no longer have a home on the blog.

Goodnight, moonbat.