Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Killing Time in the Courthouse

This is going to be a long post, because I have jury duty today and I need something to do. I hope you’re ready and resilient.

Gratuitous music quote of the day:
(Don't you just LOVE those people who put "meaningf
ul" music quotes on their Twitter feed or Facebook status? I want in on this bandwagon! But I'll tell you what's better than something "meaningful"--something completely random, nonsensical, or taken entirely out of context.)

“Johnny Twobags doesn’t have the blues and it makes him sad, brings him down…but not down enough to have the blues.” The Vandals, “Johnny Twobags”

Beard of the day:

See below.

Something I hate that most people like:

Applause. Man, it’s really annoying when people applaud for something that doesn’t deserve it. My most recent experience happened just a few minutes ago. I’m currently sitting in the Leon County Courthouse, doing my civic duty as a potential juror in what I hope is an awesome felony trial. The county judge came in to explain the process to us and mentioned that today is her granddaughter’s third birthday. That’s cool, it really is. I hope she gets to spend some time with the little girl tonight. But when she told us, a few people decided this was worthy of applause and clapped for her. Fact: needless or over-indulgent applause will take up about nine months of an average person’s life. That’s enough time to grow a baby. (For the record, I made that statistic up. But I’m 99% sure it’s accurate.)

This happens all too often. It’s my birthday! Applause. I got out of a speeding ticket! Applause. The library waived my late fees! Applause. Just…stop. It’s truly not appropriate behavior. A public speaker can solicit applause without even trying and it’s annoying. People need to save their claps for when they’re really needed. I declare shenanigans.

As a musician, I have a special hatred for inappropriate applause. Nothing is more annoying than going to a concert and having some wiseass (or dumbass) decide that it’s appropriate to clap in between movements. This is another situation where it becomes clear that people are all too willing to jump on the applause bandwagon. If one guy claps between movements, even people who know it’s not appropriate will join him. I’m not going to lie, I’ve joined in once or twice myself. It's tough, because if people are going to clap, you don't want the performer to think that only half the audience appreciated the piece. But mostly, I fume. I fume because they’re wasting my time and, consequently, wasting my life.

Also annoying is the standing ovation. Standing ovations are appropriate when something is really, really good. But it’s been ages since I’ve been to a play, concert, or any other event with a curtain call that hasn’t invoked a standing ovation from the majority of the audience. I’ve seen some great shows in my time and I’m the first to stand when it’s deserved. But, from my perspective, people are getting frivolous with their bipedal accolades. It’s much harder to resist the swell of a standing ovation than an inappropriate applause moment. Many times I’ve thought something was worthy of vigorous and hearty, but seated, applause. However, when everyone in my section stands, it makes me look like a negative jerk if I don’t also rise from my seat. It’s a very tricky social situation, especially if you’re among friends. There’s nothing I love more than when three or four guys stand (and it’s almost always guys) and no one else follows suit. You only see this on rare occasions, but it does happen. And when it does, it’s beautiful.

Delicious food of the moment:

Pizza. I really prefer a New York style pizza, but when it comes down to it, I’ve never found a pizza that I truly hated. The closest is Domino's, but even that will do in a pinch. I have a lot to say about pizza, so if you don’t want to read the adoring rants of a foodaholic, it is best to scroll down. Way down, because this is going to be a veritable dissertation.

I went to college in a town that had a multitude of pizza options. There were four independent shops there. I’m going to take a moment to reminisce about all of them.

The worst of the four was Arcata Pizza and Deli. They had some pretty good stuff at APD, but it was generally overpriced and not as delicious as the other options. I may have only had their pizza once or twice, to be honest. Usually, if I went to APD, it would be for the cheese fries, not the $5 slices of pizza.

Live From New York blew APD out of the water. Huge slices for under $2 and no need for toppings due to the amazing cheese and sauce combination. Due to the size of the slices and the thinness of the crust, the best way to eat a slice from LFNY was to fold it in half and eat it like a pizza taco. Delicious.

Then you had Smug’s. Smug’s was amazing. They had no tables, so you either picked up your pie or grabbed a couple slices to eat on the street. You got two slices for $3 or $4, but they were not nearly as big as the other three places in town. Still, they couldn’t have tasted any better. What I really liked about Smug’s is that they sauced their pizzas all the way to the edge before folding the crust over. The delicious result was that the crust was filled with sauce. Occasionally, if you were lucky, they had slices sauced not with marinara, but with pesto. Heaven.

Finally, you had Big Pete’s. This shop opened after I had been in Arcata for a year or two, but it grew closest to my heart. (Long parenthetical aside: Smug’s was arguably better pizza, but Pete’s was in a better location, had places to sit, and was just a generally more fun, open atmosphere. Most important were the televisions. I went to Pete’s several times a week to have a slice while watching baseball. Good times.) Pete’s featured New York style pizza with an array of toppings and sauces. My favorite was a slice with marinara, fried eggplant, and huge smears of ricotta cheese. I’m not even a fan of eggplant, but this pizza was amazing. I also recall a pizza sauced with ranch that had chicken and other goodies topping it. There were barbeque pizzas, buffalo pizzas…so many good kinds of pizza. Oh, Pete’s how I adore you. How I miss you.

In my current town of Tallahassee, good pizza isn’t nearly as prevalent. The two best places in town are Brooklyn Pizza and Momo’s. Brooklyn has some great prices for whole pies, which makes it my usual preference. Momo’s features “slices as big as your head,” and their catchphrase is not an exaggeration. I like the atmosphere at Momo’s, but the pizza is more expensive and the sauce is thin and somewhat tasteless. I generally prefer their cheese bread.

Let’s move on to corporate pizza (I told you this was going to be long, didn’t I?). I’ve already mentioned that Domino’s is the absolute dregs, but what about other places?

Pizza Hut is serviceable because of the stuffed crust. Period. I have some dear friends that invited me over to share some Pizza Hut slices recently…and they didn’t get stuffed crust. I mean, it’s only $2 extra and it enhances the experience exponentially. If it’s a matter of cost, I will pay for the stuffed crust. If it’s a matter of taste, I may have to reevaluate my friendship with this particular couple (just kidding, guys!). Pizza Hut also fails to come through on its variety of toppings. They have pepperoni and sausage, which takes care of my meat preferences, but there is literally not one vegetable on Pizza Hut’s menu that I enjoy on my pizza. I generally get only one topping anyway, but when they have a three-topping special or whatnot, I’m generally left confused and alone. And they don’t allow for extra cheese to count as one of the toppings. Tragic.

Papa John’s used to be my favorite corporate pizza. I think it was due to the buttery garlic sauce that probably packs calories more densely than cheesecake. However, Papa John’s and I have grown apart in recent years. My last several experiences there have been average at best and bland at worst. Whereas Pizza Hut serves thick, cheesy slices filled with moisture and a delectable soft texture, Papa John’s is dry and crispy. In general, soft and chewy always wins out over hard and crispy.

Hungry Howie’s and Little Caesars (yes, I checked. They don't use the apostrophe like everyone else!) are both niche places that fill the need of cheap pizza fast. It’s a tough call to declare a superior of the two. Hungry Howie’s features flavored crusts and a $5.75 pizza ready in about ten minutes. Little Caesars, on the other hand, charges only $5 and the pizza is ready the moment you walk in. The 75 cents is basically inconsequential, but the convenience of Little Caesars goes a long way. Hungry Howie’s probably tastes a little better, but Little Caesars has a delicious buffalo ranch, which is a significant point in its favor. I declare this one a draw.

This brings up another important point. Pizza is perfect on its own, but in the last five years I have discovered the wonders of ranch or bleu cheese dressing as an enhancement to the experience (also buffalo sauce!). On the surface, this is innocuous, but at a deeper level, I’m concerned. A creamy salad dressing adds way more calories than an already calorie-loaded pizza provides and may just be distracting from the flavor of the combination of ingredients that make up one of man’s finest accomplishments. On the other hand, it tastes good.

Just a little more hunger-inducing prose, I promise. My current favorite place is Flippers Pizzeria in Orlando. They have several locations in the area and I’m down there for work and recreation often enough that I’ve had their pizza at least six times in the last six months. It’s not New York style, but the crust is the perfect texture and thickness to not overwhelm the rest of the formula. The sauce is flavorful and delicious, the cheese is applied in just the perfect quantity, and the toppings. Oh, the toppings. My wife and I have found that we prefer the shredded sirloin steak and chopped hot Italian sausage, but they have numerous other mouth-watering choices. Pesto, artichoke hearts, multiple kinds of sausage and meatballs…so many choices, so little opportunity. Finally, their bleu cheese dressing is the best I’ve ever had. I kid you not. Flippers Pizzeria, at least for now, wins the heavyweight championship belt of BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER.

First song to come up after pressing “shuffle” on my iPod:

Today, I’m going to cheat. I’m trying to give myself plenty to write while I have time to kill, and the first random song is one to which I’m not sure I have ever listened. So I’m going to remove superfluous junk from my iPod right now so that a song about which I actually have something to say will be selected. Aaaaand…done. This is the only time I’m going to cheat. Promise. (At least until another day where I have hours and hours to kill arrives. Then I’ll probably cheat again.) Let me just say, I’m not cheating to avoid embarrassment—I just don’t have anything to say about a lot of the stuff on my iPod.

“Polly” by Nirvana.

This is one of the first songs I learned on the guitar and perhaps the first that I was able to sing and play at the same time. Like all Nirvana songs, it’s incredibly easy, so it’s not surprising that this would be the case.

I missed Nirvana by about five years. At the height of Kurt Cobain’s fame, I was only eight or nine and hadn’t really been exposed to any pop music, much less Nirvana. I wrote here about my experience of hearing “Rape Me” for the first time. However, between 1999 and 2001, I made up for missing Nirvana’s heyday in kind. I got all of their albums and listened to them incessantly. I learned all of the songs on my guitar. I even read a biography of Kurt Cobain.

Nowadays, I barely listen to Nirvana, but I still keep them on my iPod. Hence, “Polly.”

Current album, book, video game, and TV show:

Album: The Decline by NOFX

I’ve really reinvigorated my love of punk rock lately. NOFX is one of my all-time favorite bands and I had about ten years of catch up to do. I was familiar with The Decline at the height of my punk obsession, but I’ve really grown to love it lately. From the opening lines, “Where are all the stupid people come? | And how’d they get to be so dumb?” to the final fadeout, this 18-minute song (the only song on the album) hits on just about everything wrong in this country. While I don’t agree with every stance NOFX takes, I am impressed by their dedication to their beliefs. These guys don’t half-ass anything and it shows. Hence, they’ve lasted for nearly 30 years and are still going strong.

Book: The Book of Lights by Chaim Potok

This is the third Potok book I’ve read in a row and fourth overall. I’m only about 60 pages in, but I’m not enjoying quite as much as The Chosen, The Promise, or My Name is Asher Lev. That being said, it took me a while to get into the story of Asher Lev, so we’ll see where this book takes me.

Video game: Lego Harry Potter

My wife doesn’t play a lot of video games with me, but she enjoyed (or at least claimed to enjoy) playing Lego Star Wars. Given that Harry Potter is better than Star Wars (BLASPHEMY), this seemed like a no-brainer. And it has certainly been fun so far.

(Hey, just a quick aside. The Star Wars movies are infinitely better than the Harry Potter movies. But the Harry Potter books absolutely dominate the Star Wars movies. Still, comparing books to movies is an unfair comparison, since movies are, as a rule, inferior to books. Just had to make that clear.)

TV show: Dexter

I’ve been hearing buzz about this show for a while, so I watched the first two seasons over the last couple weeks. BAD. ASS. This show is not for the faint of heart, but I hardly fit into that group. After all, I AM A PRODUCT OF THE LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND HAVE BEEN PROPERLY DESENSITIZED TO VIOLENCE AND DEBAUCHERY. Being that I’m from the computer era, I should also know better than to type a sentence in all caps. I apologize. No, hold your applause. Seriously.

Beard of the day/Obligatory photo of gorgeous starlet:

This may not be the best picture of Natalie Portman ever (far from it, really), but she's standing here with a Hasidic Jew and it is awesome. I really like Jews. I'm not Jewish myself, but there's something about their culture that really appeals to me. It could be the beards.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Music, Beards, and Something to Make Hippies Angry

...come to think of it, there's a lot of things I do to make hippies angry.

Nothing extra today, just a list-style post.

Gratuitous music quote of the day:
(Don't you just LOVE those people who put "meaningf
ul" music quotes on their Twitter feed or Facebook status? I want in on this bandwagon! But I'll tell you what's better than something "meaningful"--something completely random, nonsensical, or taken entirely out of context.)

"Oh, the snot has caked against my pants...it has turned into crystal."
Love, "Live and Let Live"

Beard of the day:

Let's continue with the baseball beards. Bruce Sutter, the grandfather of the splitter, was also an impressive connoisseur of facial hair. While he lacks the good fortune to be wearing Giants gear, his beard is no less impressive than that of Brian Wilson. He pulls off the impressive trick of having a thick beard without looking sloppy (some may argue he needs a haircut, but how could one argue against such finely-honed facial hair?). This is a guy you look at and say, "I bet that guy gets some serious tail with that beard." I'm sure he did. He's Brucefreaking Sutter. Note his dazed look. He's clearly tired from being up all night doing it with beard groupies. What a man.

Something I hate that most people like:
Flip-flops! Or sandals of any kind, really. I just don't find it comfortable, man. I've tried to like flip-flops at various times in my existence, but they tend to hurt the top of my feet and in between my toes. The flapping around bugs me b
ecause my mobility is hindered, and I can't stand my feet getting super dirty. Also, I don't know how anyone could walk into a bathroom with flip-flops on. I'm surprised most of the people in California, Florida, and Hawaii haven't acquired major filth-borne illnesses (not that I'm particularly squeamish, but it's just gross). Flip-flops will never be my friends.

HOWEVAH, I do like shoes that go on quickly and easily. I've worn Vans for years, even though I've never owned a skateboard. It's just that you can tie them once and then just slip them on and off easily. My last four or five pairs of shoes have been the exact same all-black Vans. I wear them for work, play, church, and everything else I have to do. People probably think I'm really disrespectful, but I just don't believe that we should be judged on clothes. The problem with my Vans is that I have to wear them with socks,
which is fine except if I just want to go out to check the mail or whatever.

I'm thinking of getting a pair of crocs, as they can be worn sockless and offer more support than stupid flip-flops. Also acceptable would be a pair of slippers with a hard sole. I had these memory foam slippers with a hard sole once. They wer
e heaven. I was a grad assistant at the time and I even taught class in them. So very nice. Then I wore them in the rain and they got ruined. I miss those slippers.

Delicious food of the moment:
Chipotle burrito bols (sic, in case you doubt my awesomeness). I take my Chipotle very seriously, but I've only gotten a burrito there twice. Both times were a disappointment. The proportions are just all wrong and they don't mix it up at all (yes, I know they will, but it wouldn't help enough, anyway).

For years I got the soft tacos. I would always get f
our so that I could get one with each type of meat. Then I got a bite of the hard shell tacos and I was temporarily converted. Then last year my sister introduced me to the glory that is the burrito bol. I have a very specific formula: rice, two scoops of black beans, a scoop of pinto beans, half barbacoa, half carnitas, hot salsa, enough sour cream to drown a squirrel, and cheese. Get some tortilla chips with which to scoop it all up and you have a masterpiece of faux-Mexican perfection. Also, an extra thing of hot salsa to dump on it when the sour cream is gone. I have one complaint: the corn has little chunks of onion in it. Otherwise, I'd totally add the corn to the epic goodness. As is, Chipotle is the food of the gods.
First song to come up after pressing "shuffle" on my iPod:
"When It Comes Down To You" by Against All Authority.

Despite a great band name, I don't know enough about this to really comment. I decided to try out their music recently and while I don't hate it, I haven't felt particularly compelled to continue listening. In listening to this song, I can say that I like the horns.

Boring one this time, but not quite embarrassing. Get ready. It will come.

Current album and TV show:
Album: Everything Goes Numb by Streetlight Manifesto

I'm not going to lie. This album rocks my socks. And as you can probably tell from above, I am usually wearing socks. Guys, ska is really, really good when mixed with punk rock. It's just the way of the world. If you can't accept this, then you really need to review your priorities in life.

TV Show: Glee

Look, I'm not going to lie. I love Glee. How can I possibly deny something so good? Tuesday's episode featured Gwyneth Paltrow, to which I say "meh." Her character isn't as great as everyone seems to think. In fact, she's rather one-dimensional and not particularly likable in her single dimension. She also failed to be sexy in an episode entitled "Sexy." That's a problem. She pulls off pretty, but doesn't really have any appeal beyond that.

What was awesome was the treatment of Santana and Brittany's relationship. Kurt has always annoyed me. I feel like they've dealt with his homosexuality in a preachy, stereotypical, and sometimes offensive way. Santana and Brittany were dealt with in tenderness and something with legitimate feeling (especially surprising, given the characters).

Also, "Landslide" was really, really good. I just wish Gwyneth Paltrow hadn't been involved. Of course, she's better than Stevie Nicks. I hate Fleetwood Mac.

Obligatory photo of gorgeous starlet:

I used to like Rachel, but the more I watch the show, it seems like Quinn is the best looking one. Or maybe Santana. Hard to say.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Good Husband/Bad Husband and Other Randomness

So, I went to the chiropractor today and I realized something random about myself. This incredibly good looking girl was giving me a massage and I started having this fantasy of her propositioning me. Now, you might think that I'm a terrible husband, but the thing is this: in my little daydream, I chuckle and say, "Well, I'm very flattered, but you see, I'm married and I totally love my wife. I'm sorry to deprive you of the awesome that is me, but you're a pretty girl and I'm sure you'll find someone whose beard might someday have the potential to match my own. Now, continue rubbing me in a sensual but non-erotic way. Thank you!" When I really take a close look at it, I realize that I do this all the time. I'm constantly hoping hot girls will hit on me so that I can flash my left hand and shoot them down (gently, because I'm not a jerk). Of course, in order for girls to hit on me, I would need to have something that appealed to them. An epic beard only takes one so far. So am I a good husband because I fantasize about breaking girls hearts on behalf of my wife or am I a bad husband because I fantasize about other girls, never mind the capacity?

Guys don't generally get hit on, anyway. I'm pretty sure the only time that I have been hit on was a joke. I was at this sports bar, not to socialize or drink or really do anything except watch the MLB playoffs (I didn't have cable, you see). Of course,it was a Friday night so the bar is packed, so I find a chair, plant myself in the middle of the floor with the best view of the TV, and ignore everything going on around me. (I'm pretty sure it was the 2007 NLCS, because I remember the Rockies were playing. I'm too lazy to look up who they beat, but this is all beside the point, anyway.) This cute brunette came up to me and said, imitating Austin Powers, "Do I make you horny, baby?" I looked up for a couple seconds, shrugged, and said, "Yeah, a little." Then I turned my attention back to the game. I expect her girlfriends dared her to come over to talk to me as a gag. I mean, I was sitting in a chair by myself in a crowded bar watching TV with no food or drink. I don't see how I could have been particularly alluring. I hope I didn't ruin her night by making her think she got shot downby a loser. It's just...baseball!
Now for some more randomness.
Gratuitous music quote of the day:
(Don't you just LOVE those people who put "meaningful" music quotes on their Twitter feed or Facebook
status? I want in on this bandwagon! But I'll tell you what's better than something "meaningful"--something completely random, nonsensical, or taken entirely out of context.)
"The corner store sells finer scotch...but who's got uncut powder?"
-NOFX, "Herojuana"

Beard of the day:

As this is my first "beard of the day" feature, I have to start with the man himself, Brian Wilson. Look at those connectors. Those are manly connectors. The thickness, the texture...it's all just so good. He is also wearing the orange-billed Giants hat, which earns him extra points of pure awesome. Does he dye or does it just adapt? Who cares?! This is a perfect example of a perfect beard. End of story. You're welcome.

Something I hate that most people like:Olives. Their texture is gross. Their flavor is disgusting. Their ability to ruin otherwise wonderful Mexican, Italian, or Greek food is downright horrifying. How people can eat these little fruits of the devil is beyond me. Like with most food I hate, I want to like them. I see those bars at the grocery store with all the various spiced and stuffed olives and I wish that I liked them so I could get the ones filled with cheese. But I can't, so I don't. They are evil and they ruin some of my otherwise favorite foods. Down with olives!

Delicious food of the moment:

Cheez-Its! How is it possible for one cracker to pack so much cheesy punch? Other crackers are good, but they're better with peanut butter or gouda or some delicious form of soft cheese. Cheez-Its do not need help being delicious. They simply exist and it is deliciousness enough. Wash them down with a nice gold glass of milk and you have a snack that you will not regret. Goldfish never stood a chance! Viva la Cheez-Its!

First song to come up after pressing "shuffle" on my iPod:"Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin.

Besides "Stairway to Heaven," this is the first song that made me aware of Led Zeppelin. It's sad that, while a literally perfect song, "Stairway" managed to overshadow everything else the group ever did. When it comes to pure rock, Led Zeppelin is quite honestly the pinnacle of everything society has always worked toward. And yet, most people only know of them for one song that doesn't really fit in with everything else they did and perpetuates the problem of rock songs reaching past eight minutes. "Ramble On" is a better example of how much they rock at a more reasonable playtime, but it doesn't really show off their blues roots (See Led Zeppelin I for that).

Man, that's the second awesome song that's come up since I started doing this. I have way more embarrassing/lame stuff on my iPod. It's just a matter of time before I am forced to publicly humiliate myself. I can't wait.

Obligatory photo of gorgeous starlet:

Cobie Smulders makes Christmas in March possible. It's just what she does.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Angry, Something Sad

Something good:
I played catch for the first time in ages today. I intend to do it more often. It was really, really fun until the sun came out, at which point it became hellish. And it's only March.

Something bad:
It's only March. And when the sun is out, it's hellish. Gosh, I hate Tallahassee.
Something angry:
Gas prices magically jumped from about $3.15 to $3.50. I know I'm a spoiled American and Europeans pay way more, but the fact is that I'm an American and I deserve to pay less money. I think it's in the constitution or whatever.

Something sad:
Gaby Sanchez will not be joining my fantasy team this year. Thus far in the draft, I haven't really missed out on anyone I was targeting whom I also thought I had a chance to get on my team. Sanchez was the first. Let us all hope he will be the last.

Gratuitous music quote of the day:
(Don't you just LOVE those people who put "meaningful" music quotes on their Twitter feed or Facebook
status? I want in on this bandwagon! But I'll tell you what's better than something "meaningful"--something COMPLETELY EFFING RANDOM, nonsensical, or taken entirely out of context.)
"Your skin is something that I stir into my tea."
Joanna Newsom, "Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie"

Something I hate that most people like:Pink Floyd. I can't really enunciate why I dislike them so much, but I really do. I guess the fact that I've never tried acid has something to do with it. One time I was watching this animated version of Dark Side of the Moon with my way overboard hippie ex-girlfriend. Watching what I perceived as disturbing images while listening to music that was designed purely to be trippy was making me feel literally sick to my stomach. I asked her to turn it off. She was so freaking pissed.

First song to come up after pressing "shuffle" on my iPod:"Bob" from the NOFX/Rancid BYO Split Series.

I don't remember how I discovered this particular gem of brilliance, but can I just say that this is pretty much the greatest idea ever? Two great bands take six songs from the other group and cover them. HEAVEN. You don't have to actually like punk to realize that this is an epic idea. THINK ABOUT IT.

Current album, book, video game, and TV Show:Album: Energy by Operation Ivy
Book: My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Video Game: Mass Effect 2
TV Show: Parks and Recreation

Obligatory picture of gorgeous starlet:

Oh, Zooey. Your superiority knows no bounds.