Friday, May 30, 2008

What to make of this?

Mrs. N-B and I got our government relief check in the mail this week. It's $1,200 since we're married. Not a bad take for doing nothing.

I can't help but think back to the stimulus check I got at the beginning of the Bush Administration. It was $300 back then, and I used it to pay City of Boston parking tickets.

So now it's $600 apiece. Does that mean things are twice as good as they were in the year 2000 -- or twice as bad? You are the Decider.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

You can't make this stuff up

Both of these stories come to the NaturalBlog via friends who are soon moving away. Hopefully they'll keep reading even after they vamoose.

First up: Baby jumping. In Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, the men jump over babies in order to keep evil at Bay. This doesn't seem safe (see picture at right), though the BBC cautiously notes, "Nobody appeared to get hurt in this year's festive event."

The fella in the picture is supposed to be dressed as the devil. Who knew the devil wore Addias sneakers?

And speaking of Spain, how about a helpful lesson in how to speak its Romance language:


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Unbelievable but true

I'm pretty sure I've hit my high-water mark of fantasy NASCAR, so I'm going to brag about it.

I'm in the 95th percentile nationwide, and I'm leading two of my three leagues. What's my secret? I call it the Fixodent Strategy -- "Set it and forget it."

If only the same plan would yield success in fantasy baseball.


Friday, May 23, 2008

You are the Decider: VP Edition

Did you know that presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's house in Arizona is known as Hidden Valley Ranch? Who knew he was a salad dressing magnate?

I read the name earlier this week when I saw that McCain is having some people over for the Memorial Day Weekend. It seems like he might be test driving some potential running mates -- including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

It sure seems like Romney would bring McCain more baggage than benefit, especially given the open hostility that McCain and the other GOP presidential candidates showed to Romney in the winter campaign.

But what do I know. My vote stopped mattering after the February Massachusetts primary.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

If Bill Belichick coached the Red Sox

On the suggestion of a co-worker, I thought about a world where Bill Belichick was not the notoriously tight-lipped head coach of the New England Patriots, but the manager of the Boston Red Sox. How might he have reacted to Jon Lester's no-hitter Monday night?

Let's imagine it together.

Q.: Bill, what did you think of Lester's performance tonight?
B.B.: Well, he walked a couple guys. He made an error in the field out there. There was a real lack of focus at times, and that's something that we'll look at when we go back over the tape.

Q.: Bill, you seem perturbed at Lester.
B.B.: Well he threw a lot of pitches out there. I think there's improvements he be making with his efficiency. That's all I'm saying.

Q.: When did you notice he had a no-hitter going?
B.B.: I didn't. That's something you guys keep track of, not me. I'm not interested in that stuff.

Q.: Can you talk about some of Lester's history -- coming back from cancer, winning the World Series, now a no-hitter.
A.: I can't comment on any medical issues. Ok -- no more questions.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Free Cheese!

It's a sign of the sad state of the Boston mafia, er, the alleged Boston mafia. The purported boss, who reports to guys in Providence, has the super scary nickname "The Cheese Man."

That's right. Carmen "The Cheese Man" DiNunzio is the man the FBI says runs the Boston mafia. What happened to the days of The Rifleman, The Animal, and Cadillac Frank?

The Cheese Man is in the news today because a federal judge has agreed to let him have house arrest. The judge shot down his request, however, to work in his North End cheese shop while he awaits trial on bribery charges.

No word on whether he can keep eating cheese.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

At home on the stage

I did karaoke for the first time last week. This is as bad an idea as it sounds. How bad? I finished my night with a solo rendition of George Michael's "Kissing a Fool."

You probably haven't heard of it, and neither had my audience, so they had no idea how bad I botched it. Well, they probably had some idea.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Another reason to love Jason Giambi

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has been through a lot of slumps in his career. Like all of 2004, for example. He opened up to Conde Nast's about his magical salve for breaking out of a slump: a gold lamé, tiger-stripe thong that he wears under his uniform.

As if that isn't digusting enough, Giambi says that over the years he has shared his thong with teammates Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Johnny Damon, Robin Ventura, and Robinson Cano.

"The thong works every time," he says.

Giambi is batting .193 through 35 games this season.


Friday, May 16, 2008

I say Cubs by four

Take a look at this picture of the Chicago Cubs online schedule, and tell me who you think they're playing on May 22.

Are they facing Indiana Jones on the road between trips to Houston and Pittsburgh?

I can only assume it's a marketing ploy for the new Indy movie, which debuts next week, because Harrison Ford has been popping up on many teams' baseball schedules lately.

I can't imagine him as a baseball player. Since he's an archaeologist, he seems like the kind of guy who'd be good at cricket.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

This week in booze

Don't you always mean to plan something for World Cocktail Week, but just never get around to it? Happens to me every year. Probably because I'm too busy enjoying cocktails. In a celebration's sted, I'll pass along this drunken news.

An Australian man driving near Alice Springs, known for its chicken, was cited for failing to properly buckle in a five-year-old passenger. The little kid was crawling around on the car's floor. In a seat where the child might have been belted, there was a 30-pack of beer that was secured by a seatbelt. I have been unable to find out what kind of beer.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You are the Decider: Photo Op Edition

Apparently there's still an election going on, so I can fire up my long-dormant election series You are the Decider. Let me dust off my trademark graphic.

So what brings us back? It's this photo-op with the Democrats' near-nominee Barack Obama. He's trying to prove he's a regular guy by trying this behind-the-back shot at a West Virginia pool hall.

You see the way the cue ball is nudged up against the one with the burgandy stripe? He has no chance of making that shot. No chance.

But at least he looks good, unlike Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in this ping pong photo-op yesterday.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The news? It makes me so hungry

The news out of Asia this month is bad. A cyclone hit Myanmar formerly Burma, and the reclusive junta there (great word, "junta") has restricted foreign aid. An earthquake hit China, and the death toll rises every hour.

It's probably inappropriate, but these natural disasters have really made me hungry for Asian cuisine. Mrs. N-B and I just noticed a Burmese restaurant the other day, and I'm craving -- just craving -- schezuan chicken.

Is that wrong?


Monday, May 12, 2008

Prepare to gladiate

Tonight, NBC brings back my favorite show from last season: American Gladiators. I'm unabashed in my love of this program, which helped the peacock weather the storm of the writers strike.

I would make one suggestion, though. I'd like less time spent delving into the challengers' motivations with mamby-pamby features and more time with them sparring against the gladiators.

Can you help me out with that, Titan?

That looks like a "yes" to me.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Prophetic, it seems

On this, Candice Bergen's 62nd birthday, I am going to give a shout-out to actor Grant Shaud, who played her frazzled executive producer Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown from 1988-1998.

Back in the early 1990s, my 7th-grade classmates joked that I was a little bit like Miles. Close, but no cigar.

He's was in TV; I'm in some other medium. He went to Harvard; I went to some other Massachusetts school. One thing they did get right: The glasses.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Drawing inspired by spam subject line

A few weeks ago I tried my hand for the first time at illustrating a spam subject line. With respect paid to Spamusement, I offer my second attempt

"Impress her with your giant!"


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NaturalBlog Recommends: Some other web site

I'm sometimes reluctant to send you to other web sites, because they're often funnier than mine. Case in point: They have greeting cards for every occasion, including but not limited to:
  • Graduation. "Congratulations on getting through college without getting pregnant."
  • Encouragement. "You do really well with chicks for one of my uglier friends."
  • Sports. "Wanting to make gentle yet impassioned love to Tom Brady doesn't make you gay."
Send one today.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

You can't make this up

Here's a pair of stories from the "Strange but true" file...

Prepared for that heart attack he's been saving up. Bill Bramanti, a 67-year-old from South Chicago Heights, already has his coffin picked out -- a giant Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can. When he's not hastening off the mortal coil, he's using the coffin as a cooler. Bramanti is sort of shaped like a beer can (5'9", 280 lbs.).

This is out of hand. A Yankees fan from Nashua, N.H., faces second-degree murder and drunk driving charges for running a man down with her car outside a bar late last week. She was mad that he and his friends were shouting "Yankees Suck." They're 17-16 right now, but "Yankees are slightly above average" doesn't have the same ring.


Monday, May 05, 2008

People I Like Inexplicably, Vol. VI

There is no reason in the world to like Ben Affleck.

You cannot like his work in Armegeddon, Reindeer Games, Boiler Room. You can maybe stomach his turns in Dogma and Good Will Hunting, but in both those cases he was elevated by Good Will himself, action hero Matt Damon.

You cannot like his tabloid magazine romance as the front half of Bennifer, nor his tabloid newspaper romance as the front half of Benza.

Yet in spite of this mountain of evidence against the man (Gigli, Jersey Girl), I can't help but like him. I think he's great, with his giant chicklet teeth, his interest in poker, his rumblings that he might one day run for Senate, his love of Jimmy Kimmel.

Ben Affleck, I salute you for reasons I just don't fully understand.


Friday, May 02, 2008

True picture

Mrs. N-B spotted a wild turkey walking in Cleveland Circle on the Boston/Brookline line. Take a look. I bet he'd been drinking at Mary Ann's and was headed to to The Eagle's Deli for some food.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

True Story

When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher was passing out an unexpected assignment and the cheerleader who sat in front of me muttered under her breath, "Oh great." The teacher wasn't quite out of earshot and she said, "Yes, it is great, and I'll tell you why...."

When she was done with her brief lecture, she told us about a short story she had read many years prior about a man who invented a machine that could hear the sounds of inanimate objects, like the screaming of a tree when it was cut down. She said she'd love to read it again but couldn't remember the story's name or its author.

I moved later that year, graduated from a different high school, and didn’t think about that story again until I came across it in a book of short stories by Roald Dahl, one of my favorite childhood authors. The story is called “The Sound Machine.”

I wrote to my teacher, care of my old school, to let her know I’d solved the mystery. It was more than a year later, and many months after I'd forgotten I'd even written her, that I got a reply.

The letter was long and handwritten and apologized for not writing back sooner. She explained that at the time she received my letter, she was grieving the sudden death of a three-year-old niece.

After reading her letter, I wanted to read "The Sound Machine" again, so I found it on my bookshelf.

I still get chills when I think about the first line: "The box was small and made of pine, about the size of a child's coffin."