Thursday, November 27, 2008

Three things I'm thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving, turkeys. Here are three things for which I give thanks this year.

1. The tireless diplomatic efforts of Sean Penn, who is trying to broker a summit between Cuba's Raul Castro and President-Elect Barack Obama. This series of events has only one conclusion: Susan Sarandon as Secretary of Defense.

2. Official Red Sox caskets, which you can get at the Magoun-Biggins Funeral Home in Abington, Mass. As a long-time reader who called this item to my attention said, "Gives new meaning to the term 'die hard fan.'"

3. John Cusack's protrayal of Martin Blank in 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank, which will inspire me when I attend Mrs. N-B's high school reunion tomorrow night. "I am at home with the me, I am rooted in the me who is on this adventure."


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Long Overdue Props, Vol. XIV

If you were to assemble a summit of the acting superpowers of our lifetimes, the roster, by simple definition, would have to include Robert Loggia, Hector Elizondo, Kathy Ireland, Jason Bateman, Sen. Fred Thompson, Scott Bakula, and of course, Sinbad.

What if I told you this ensemble cast had already been assembled?

That's right. All those amazing actors, plus Rob Schneider, appeared together in 1991's hysterical powerhouse Necessary Roughness. It's a classic "gang of misfits" tale, and it delivers on its low expectations. So well, in fact, I'm offering it up in the fourteenth installment of Long Overdue Props.

Bakula et al., I salute you and the rags-to-riches story of the Texas State University Fightin' Armadillos football team.

As a related aside, the numbering system on this series may soon be out of control, like the Super Bowl, which could hit SB LXXXVII in my lifetime.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pole not included

If you're shopping for the NaturalBlog this Christmas, please consider the many products made by Hotwicks, the candlemaker for men.

They say their mission is to make candles that "remind you of good things," and relay the company's founding this way:
Two guys were walking down the street one Sunday morning and caught a whiff of that awesome outdoor smoky fire smell. One guy said to the other guy, "wouldn't it be great if there was a candle that smelled like that?"
So what's in the lineup?

Beer candles, hippie scent ("smells like pot, but it won't get you high"), and my favorite: the stripper candle.

The manufacturers say it's inspired by the smell of a perfume counter mixed with glitter. I can only imagine it smells like shame.


Monday, November 24, 2008

ENTJ, actually

There's a new web site that's making the rounds on some of the blogs I read, and it promises to anaylze the way you write on your blog and tell you about your personality. I plugged the Ol' NaturalBlog into the Typealzyer, and this is what I got.

Natty B is an "ISTP" (presumably a Myers-Briggs designation, though the web site doesn't come out and say that), a "Mechanic" who is the "independent and problem-solving type."
They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
Um, keep trying.
They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
Getting warmer.

The best part of the site is the noggin map (above), which (allegedly) shows the parts of my brain are firing while I prepare your quotidian entertainment.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Jobs I Wouldn't Mind, Vol VI

I'm back with the very occasional series, Jobs I Wouldn't Mind. In our sixth installment, I present an occupation that Mrs. NaturalBlog suggested: Military operation namer.

I can only assume that there's a guy who sits around the Pentagon all day long thinking about how he can top "Operation Enduring Freedom" and "Operation Infinite Justice."

I could definitely swing this job. Even on an off day, I'd still be able to throw out gems based on the songs in my head. For example "Operation Taking it to the Streets" or "Operation Final Countdown." That second one almost sounds legit.

Naturally, people have been trying to automate this occupation for years.

Be sure to check out other jobs I wouldn't mind.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Give me my smooth back!

We're in the fourth week of Christmas music on some of the radio stations in my area. I don't so much mind the early arrival of Christmas. I've accepted that it is a pivotal front in the culture wars, which I enjoy watching from afar.

What does bother me is that it's WROR (105.7-FM) that has gone all-Christmas, all-the-time. That's because WROR is my smooth music station, bringing me the hits of the late '70s and early '80s sometimes known as Yacht Rock.

I know it's not the case, but I have these visions of the WROR program director standing watch in a gulag while smooth music all stars like Michael McDonald and Peter Cetera sing from darkened jail cells.

Keep the fire, boys, keep the fire.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Short guys everywhere, rejoice

Boston's Dustin Pedroia has become the first second baseman to win the American League MVP since 1959 and the first midget to do so since its inception in 1931.

Pedroia is listed at 5'9", which probably makes him more like 5'6 or 5'7". When he batted cleanup for five games earlier this year, he went 6-for-18 and had an OPS of 1.889. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen ordered him intentionally walked and later lamented, "I never thought I was going to walk a goddamn jockey."

I want to say thanks to Pedroia for striking a blow for short guys everywhere. It's enough to give me hope that, even at 5'8" and 175 lbs., I could spike on my volleyball team or homer in softball.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The future, foretold

I tooted my own horn earlier this month when I wrote about how I had correctly identified Barack Obama's greatest strength as a candidate way back in December 2006 -- that voters could "project their hopes and ambitions" onto his candidacy.

What I didn't realize until this week is that I predicted Obama's rise to power a full year earlier, in December 2005.

Well, not exactly. But get this:

In December of 2005, I did a post about stuff I expected to be really big in 2006. The third item on the list was a joke so subtle that no one got it. I picked Texas Rep. Matthew Santos as "a liberal with broad appeal," and said you should "look for him everywhere this fall."

Rep. Santos wasn't real, but the character played by Jimmy Smits on NBC's "The West Wing."

As it turns out, the fake Rep. Santos was modeled on the real Obama. Former West Wing writer Eli Attie says, "When I had to write, Obama was just appearing on the national scene. He had done a great speech at the (2004) convention and people were beginning to talk about him."

So there you go. In late 2005, I read the political landscape so well that I saw through NBC's subterfuge and correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.

Toot toot.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Kevenza ties the knot

I've been a fan of woman-about-town Enza Sambataro for about four years now, ever since she gallavanted with Ben Affleck at the end of his Bennifer Era. Those were heady days, when Ben and Enza combined to be Benza, however briefly.

So it warmed the cockles of my heart that Enza and her boyfriend Red Sox 1B/3B Kevin Youkilis got married earlier this month in Cabo San Lucas.

Enza runs Youk's charitable foundation, which makes her something of his own personal Slump-Buster (tm).

Each time I've written about Enza in the past, her many critics appear and tear her apart in the comments. Have at it, haters.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Where's the hate?

I think one of my favorite memories of last football season was after the New England Patriots win on the road over the Chargers in week two. That's when ESPN's Chris Berman first floated the idea of the Patriots going undefeated on the season.

Week two, and the drumbeat had already begun. No wonder everyone was so sick of it by the end of the season.

Is it just me, or has the national sports media not fixated on this year's 9-0 Titans with the same hysteria that gripped us a year ago?

For proof that this year is somehow different, let's look to the biggest Patriots hater of them all, former Miami Dolphin Mercury Morris. He was on the 17-0 team in 1972. Here's what he said when the Titans were 5-0:
I’ll be watching the Tennessee Titans, and I hope to see them go unbeaten. We’d like a little company.
Talk about a flip-flopper.

Here's a guy who spews hatred every time a team gets to November without a loss and now he says he wants some company?

Whatever. I pick the Titans to finish 12-4.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red and Blue all over

Journalists like to use the shorthand of red state/blue state to talk about the political leanings of different areas of the country, but I've always objected to the terminology.

It's a shorthand that doesn't respect the broad middle that makes up most of the political spectrum.

That's why I like this map so much, which shows 2008 county-by-county election data. Red is 100 percent Republican, blue is 100 percent Democratic, and purple is everything in between.

It's from Robert Vanderbei at Princeton and shows that even starkly partisan places like Texas are deeply purple. Sure, there are wide swaths of Utah, Nebraska and Kansas that are bright red, but the neither red nor blue dominates.

One more note: Barack Obama's win over John McCain is sometimes called a landslide in the press. Sure, the electoral count was lopsided, but the popular vote was about 52 percent for Obama and 46 percent for McCain.

That's like inviting 50 people to a party and having 26 say they like gin martinis and 23 say they like vodka martinis, with one left over who doesn't drink.

That's no landslide. That's an even split.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flus, booze, and the news

I submit they should brand this service as "Flugle." Google says it can tell where flu outbreaks are happening, as they're happening, based on what people are searching for. Check out their U.S. flu map here. The company says it's able to pinpoint outbreaks about two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention realizes there's something going on. This is simultaneously interesting and terrifying. I'll reiterate my April 2006 claim that people will one day learn to loathe Google and all its power.

I bet these people are a blast around the holidays. A state trooper in Indiana arrested a woman for drunk driving and called her husband so he could come pick up the couple's one-year-old son. Turns out the husband drove to the station drunk, so the cops arrested him and called the grandparents. Do you see where this is going? The grandparents had also been drinking. But somehow the grandma was still under the legal limit. So not only did she avoid arrest, she also got to drive the little boy home.

Sure he was ugly, but he was no Sam. The reigning ugliest dog in the world, Gus the Chinese Crested has died in Florida. It's unclear if the World's Ugliest Dog Contest organizers crown a runner-up each year so there can be a dog to step into the busy schedule of charity work and appearances at golf tournaments.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bond Appreciation

In the NaturalBlog's early months, I got a lot of mileage out of criticizing the moribund James Bond franchise and its choice of Daniel Craig as the new Bond. I'm ready to now admit that these criticisms, however founded they seemed at the time, were misplaced given Craig's success in the role.

As long as I'm doing Bond-related mea culpas, I wanted to say I was wrong for never giving George Lazenby a chance. He played Bond in just one film, 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, in the brief interregnum of Sean Connery's reign as Bond.

I finally caught On Her Majesty's Secret Service on cable a few weeks back, and it was worth the wait.

It's kind of fitting that it was Lazenby's only turn as Bond, because the film stands on its own. It has a conventional story arc, a twist at the end, and no wink about what's to follow in the next film in the series.

The biggest change from the typical Bond film is the strong female lead, Diana Rigg as Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (left). She was smart but almost disaffected at times, and she didn't fall for Bond right away. She held her own in a fight, drove Bond in a getaway car instead of vice versa, and even did some of her own stunts.

I wasn't the only one who was taken with her -- she and Bond were married in the film, though she quickly met her end. I suppose that's the way it had to be, since a married Bond pretty much undercuts the entire Bond franchise.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Did I dream this?

Is it just me, or did the 2008 election seem like a movie, or maybe a dream?

It's hard to believe the narrative arc of the Obama candidacy, but it's harder to believe all the things that are coming out about the failed Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Have you seen this Fox News clip, where the reporter alleges Palin thought Africa was a country, not a continent made of many countries? For the record, I don't believe any of it.

This is as good a time as any to say I've gone from hating Fox anchor Shep Smith to having a begrudging respect for him.


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Mac is back!

The headline refers not to failed Republican presidential nominee John McCain, but the late star of the big and small screen Bernie Mac.

Bernie Mac died back in August, but he has a new film called "Soul Men" that comes out today.

I won't use this space to ponder how he was able to film this movie after his death. Instead, I will come clean about the role I played in his death.

Doctors say he died from a lung disease, but I still feel guilty. See, back in early August I wrote a piece for a humor newspaper about Bernie Mac, and the next day he was dead.

Since I can't kill him again, here's what I wrote:
Bailout for Bernie Mac Doubtful on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON -- The leadership of the House Financial Services Committee says it will reject a plan to amend a bailout plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to also include Bernie Mac.

A rider filed by U.S. Rep. Don Cazayoux, the Congressman from Louisiana's sixth district and a member of the committee, seeks to extend billions of dollars in new government credit to not only the struggling mortgage lenders but also the 50-year-old comedian and star of Fox Television's "The Bernie Mac Show" from 2001 to 2006.

"The federal government must recognize the important contributions these three have made to the U.S. economy over many decades," Cazayoux said. "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the combined $5 trillion in loans they hold and Bernie Mac for his hilarious work in House Party 3, Booty Call, and as Uncle Bernie eleven episodes of 'Moesha' in the late 1990s."

But the leader of the House committee, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), said it was doubtful Cazayoux's amendment would gain enough support to make it into the final bill.

Frank drew a contrast between the battering that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have taken in recent weeks on Wall Street and the work that Bernie Mac continues to find in Hollywood, including a recurring role as Frank Catton in the Ocean's series of heist movies, as well as two films in post-production that are due out this year and next.

"I would also point out that he's the winner of numerous NAACP Image Awards and that he's been nominated for two Golden Globes," Frank said. "This is not a man whose humor and acting skill have gone unrewarded by Americans."

Another critic of the plan is Kevin J. Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Martin told reporters yesterday that the Bush Administration will oppose the Mac bailout because of the comedian's sometimes controversial stand-up routines.

"Bernie Mac's repeated use of the n-word and sexual references make him an inappropriate recipient of federal aid," Martin said. "Not to mention his truly offensive performance in Mr. 3000."


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Picture pages

My love affair with the Boston Transportation Department goes back to the late 1990s, when I started driving -- and more importantly, parking -- in the city. I'd conservatively estimate that I have paid Boston $2,500 in fees and fines for parking illegally.

And don't even get me started on Das Boot.

All of which brings me to this picture, which I took yesterday, showing a Boston Transportation Department van parked illegally near Kenmore Square.

If only I'd had my ticket book on me.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A bridge crossed

It goes without saying that something historic happened last night. It's the sort of thing that will change the way we see the world forever. I don't really feel like I can overstate it.

I'm referring of course to the debut of CNN's new hologram technology. As Wolf Blizter put it, CNN can now "beam" someone into the studio from hundreds of miles away and make it appear they're speaking face to face with an anchor.

I guess what I don't understand is why CNN would go through all the trouble to fly reporter Jessica Yellin to Chicago, then spend all this money to make it look like she's in the studio. Seems like they could've saved a lot of effort had they just kept her in the studio the whole time.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You are the Decider: Decide Already

I hope you vote today, so we can get this election over with and get directly to the recounts and lawsuits. If that's not enough motivation to get you to the polls, I'll unleash this untrademarked graphic. You know the one. It has the bulls pooping.

In preparing today's post, I decided to go back and read the first-ever You are the Decider entry on my blog, way back in December 2006. If I do say so myself, it was funny -- "I'm happy to usher in an occasional political series you'll see between now and November 4, 2008 (if the blog lasts that long)." -- and maybe even prescient.

Here's what I said about Barack Obama:
Illinois Senator Barack Obama's efforts to spell out an agenda notwithstanding, he does have the most powerful asset any candidate can offer: He is largely a blank canvas on which voters can project their hopes and ambitions.
Not bad, not bad at all.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Leap forward? I prefer to fall back.

Fact: People love to get an extra hour of sleep when daylight savings time ends, as it did yesterday.

Fact: Every four years we end up with so many extra hours we make a whole day out of them, as we did in February.

Idea: Instead of piling up those extra hours (six of them per year), let's roll back our clocks one hour every two months. It gives people a 49-hour weekend six times a year and eliminates the bizarre practice of leap day.

I know what you're thinking: Within two years we would have rolled ourselves so far back we'd be nocturnal. Well, I already work in the middle of the night, so that's not really a concern for me.