Monday, February 26, 2007

I Would Like To Thank The Academy

In the interest of not having the motivation to string several coherent paragraphs together that convey one common theme or idea or life lesson (because really, isn't this the first place you turn when looking for life lessons? thought so.), I give you bits and bytes of randomness from last night's Oscars:

• I realize that Jack Nicholson was in "The Departed," which won Best Picture, but doesn't it seem like even during a year in which he doesn't make a movie, he'd still get a reserved seat in the front row, center? He's like a fixture there. And what was up with him making Diane Keaton read all the nominees for the award they presented together? Was his vision a bit blurred, perhaps? Hmm.

• Joan Rivers had a Red Carpet Pre-Oscar special on the TV Guide channel, or whatever it's called, which I unfortunately caught a few minutes of as I was channel surfing. Will Smith was very gracious while being interviewed by her. (He gets extra-credit Oscar points for that.) If Joan has one more facelift, her ears are gonna touch. Someone should really tell her that her 15 Minutes were up twenty years ago.

• Ellen

• Will Ferrell and Jack Black were hilarious in their song about why comedians like them are never noticed for an Oscar, and John C. Reilly (who was in "Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny" with Black, and "Talladega Nights" with Ferrell) joining in to tell them to broaden their acting horizons was a classic touch. Reilly was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his supporting role in "Chicago" in 2002.

• Al Gore looked about as comfortable as Al Gore can look as he schmoozed with the Hollywood A-Listers and shared in the Best Documentary Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth."

• Speaking of which...the highlight of the night for me (I even gave it an audible "Yesss!" and a fist pump if I remember correctly) was when Melissa Etheridge won the Best Original Song Oscar for "I Want To Wake Up," which appeared in "An Inconvenient Truth." Etheridge performed an abridged version of the song during the show, and really put herself into it. Up against three different songs from "Dreamgirls," and a Randy Neuman/James Taylor song from "Cars," I figured her to be the underdog. Good for her. Great song.

• I will not rent "The Departed." I will buy "The Departed." (Nicholson, DiCaprio, Wahlberg, Damon, Baldwin, Sheen. How can you go wrong?)

• While Forest Whitaker deserved to win for Best Actor, from nearly everything I've read and heard, I really wanted to hear Will Smith's acceptance speech. Will Smith has more style than any one human being should be allowed to have.

• Other acceptance speeches I was hoping to hear were from Mark Wahlberg, and Meryl Streep. No matter the awards show, no matter the award, when Meryl Streep gets up to speak in front of a group like that, you just know you're gonna laugh. She's subtle and smart and ridiculously witty.

• You know that Oscar has some pull when he can get Jerry Seinfeld out from whatever rock he's been hiding under to present the award for...(wait for it)...Best Documentary. (with a few minutes of stand-up thrown in as a bonus.)

• You know how else you know? Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg all appeared on stage together to present Martin Scorsese with his (finally!) Best Director Oscar.

• Serious "Hubba! Hubba!"s go out to Reese Witherspoon and Portia de Rossi, and to Emily Blunt, whom I didn't know before the show began, but I certainly noticed during the show. She's Brih-ish, and gorgeous, and was in "The Devil Wears Prada."

And the fact that I can rattle off this many random Oscar notes and know that the show was only fifteen minutes shy of FOUR freakin' hours long proves that I spent way too much time on my couch last night in front of the TV. I'm so ashamed.

"Whoever invented the meeting must have
had Hollywood in mind. I think they should consider
giving Oscars for meetings: Best Meeting of the Year;
Best Supporting Meeting; Best Meeting Based On
Material From Another Meeting."
—William Goldman

Saturday, February 24, 2007



Not so much with the posting lately, huh?

When this brand new year began, I set myself a couple goals for what I wanted to do with this blog (those goals including: a) write something in this blank white composition box; and, 2) hit that cute little orange "Publish" button from time to time), and as is illustrated by these 12 days of silence, I'm failing miserably in achieving those goals this month. However, in my defense, February has at least 2,880 (and sometimes as many as 4,320!) fewer minutes than all the other months on the calendar. So time was most definitely working against me.

I'm in a bit of a February funk, and every evening when I thought maybe I should sit down and put some words here, I pondered the self-indulgence of this blog project...always talking about "I" and "me" and "my" and more with the "I" again...and my mind always flashed to the catchy title of that fun grammar book, "Woe Is I."

Instead of focusing on the "I" part of that title—"I like chicken wings," or "I think Matt Millen's a big goofy clod," or "I wish coffee grounds would stay buried in the, um, ground"—I spent more time focusing on the "woe." I've had a February filled mostly with woe. And I figured no one really wanted to read about the woe, I didn't feel much like talking about the woe, so my solution was to stay away from the blog so as not to reveal the woe.

Don't get me wrong, I like talking about "I" and "me" as much as the next guy, and more of that is soon to follow, to be sure. And I've been doing a few things that needed doing in order to say "Whoa!" to the woe, and get back to rambling about odd topics and attempting to invent B-grade jokes to include in these paragraphs.

Went and spent some "just hangin' out" time with some of my very favorite people, and saw life from a 5-year-old's perspective. You know what's important to a 5-year-old? Duck Duck Goose, hopping around on one foot, and playing tic-tac-toe. (Or should I say...winning at tic-tac-toe. Because every time we played, she'd start, and I'd always block her first attempt at three X's in a row, and then she'd creatively add an extra row to the grid, or sneak an extra X in there somehow, or erase my O. Little did she know that I would have let her win a couple moves later. But the game never seemed to advance far enough for that.), I've just been out to run a few errands and gather some essential supplies—bread, water, duct tape, roll of 6 Mil plastic sheeting, beer, pork rinds, 55-gallon drum of cooking lard, red felt-tip markers, one gross of AA batteries, and the entire Britney Spears discography—and plan to spend the rest of my weekend hibernating and watching it snow.

For now, I'm going to go and organize my bookshelves. (shut up. it's therapeutic.)

"Whoa! to the woe."

Million-dollar mantra that will one day be the cornerstone of a motivational speaking empire rivaling that of Tony Robbins? Or ridiculous use of homonyms that'll never even sell a dozen bumper stickers?

(Don't answer that.)

"Talk happiness.
The world is sad enough
without your woe."
—Orison Swett Marden

Monday, February 12, 2007

Buffaloes Have Wings?

I'm getting pretty well-versed in the language of chicken-wing lingo. And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I can throw around ordering terms like "wet" and "sloppy" almost like a pro; you can put the hottest flavors of sauces in front of me and I won't flinch or request an emergency beverage; and I've just recently done the research to discover what the mysterious third "W" stands for in the nickname "BW3" when referring to the popular national chain, "Buffalo Wild Wings."

This is a bit too much time spent on the subject of chicken wings, I fear. But yet...they're ohh, so gooood.

I first got the taste for chicken wings maybe a few years ago, but it wasn't until the last year or so that I think I've become addicted. If there's a place with wings within a few miles, I say let's go!

BW3's is gaining greater popularity, and is a cool place to go and hang for a sporting event, with their big-screen TVs and 23-oz. beers. And the cute waitresses aren't exactly a deterrent, either.

The hottest flavor at BW3's is called Blazin'. And they used to have a Blazin' Challenge, where if you could eat a dozen of those wings in six minutes or less, you'd get, like, a t-shirt. Alas, that challenge is no longer available at most locations. So I'm unfortunately sans free bright orange t-shirt.

A buddy and I were at the B-Dub's in Green Bay last fall, and I told him I thought I'd order a few Blazin' wings just for fun. And his response was, "You're not gonna eat thooose." Which, of course, made me more determined to order them. Our waitress, who was clearly being extra flirty to secure a bigger-than-20-percent tip at the end of our stay (which she got...I'm not saying, I'm just saying), saw that I was handling the Blazin's quite well, and told me about their "Atomic" wings, which weren't on the menu, but were even hotter than the Blazin'. I told her I'd keep those in mind for next time.

Next time came, and while the lovely Elizabeth (yes, I remember her name) wasn't working that night, I asked our waitress if they still had Atomic wings. And she told me they stopped serving those because of the lawsuits that had been threatened. Don't know if I believe that or not, but who am I to argue, right? I asked her, "If I promise not to sue, can I get some Atomic wings?" She, of course, said no. But she said she could serve me some "sloppy" Blazin's, which is just wing-speak for slathered around in the sauce a little bit more than normal.

Speaking of cute waitresses (scroll back's up there somewhere), I haven't been to Hooter's since I've been on my wing kick, and I think I've only had one or two of their 911s in my life, many many years someday I'll have to stop in there and compare Blazin's to 911s. Yeah, that's why I'll go in there. For, umm...research.

Down here near the end of this post, though, I'll share a little secret with you all. If it's the best wings you're after...not big-screen TVs, not a distracting waitstaff, but just plain ol' great wings...then Legend Larry's is the place to go. With locations in Manitowoc and Sheboygan, their wings are almost twice the size of BW3's. They don't have as many different flavors as B-Dub's, but if you want hot hot hot sauce, order the D.O.A.s, and get 'em "wet." And have a beverage handy. Or a sno-cone. Or a piece of dry ice.

If you value your lips and your tongue and would like to keep them a while longer, try their medium or hot flavors, and you'll be hooked.

It's kind of a sad commentary that I can write this much about...chicken wings...isn't it?

"Living at risk is
jumping off the cliff
and building your wings
on the way down."
—Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sometimes New & Improved...Isn't

I've had about enough of "new and improved."

So many things tout themselves as "new and improved" these days, that the phrase has lost its meaning. Instead, some should be advertising, "slightly different, but not quite as good as it used to be." But marketing like that isn't gonna move a lot of product, now is it?

Case In Point No. 1:
Diet 7-Up has recently given a slight modification to its plastic bottle labels, adding the phrase, "Now more Lemon Lime taste!**" And if you twist the bottle around, eventually you'll find that the "**" in that phrase refers to a, "**New Formula." Pardon me, guys, but did you consult your regular drinkers before you went and messed with a good thing? Maybe some of us don't want more lemon-lime taste. Maybe some of us were perfectly happy with the way the taste was for years and years. If we wanted more lemon-lime taste, we'd drink Sprite!

I can see Sprite's new marketing campaign coming a mile away.
"Now tastes more like 7-Up than ever before!"

Needless to say, I'm not entirely pleased that some suit who probably sits around drinking Tangueray and tonics all day instead of the soft drink that made him filthy rich has decided to fuck with the formula of one of my regularly consumed carbonated beverages.

And it's not the first time. Oh, no. Which leads me to...

Case In Point No. 2:
Several months ago, Diet Mountain Dew started adding the slogan, "Tuned Up Taste," to its packaging. Not to beat a dead horse, but...the taste wasn't broken, so why fix it?? Why take a perfectly delicious citrusy beverage, and tweak it so that when people crack one open and take a drink, they stare at the can and say to themselves, "Hmph. What did they do to that?"

Please leave my soda pops alone!

(Neurotic Grammatical Aside: If Diet Dew is gonna advertise its new taste, shouldn't it be written as "Tuned-Up Taste"...with hyphen inserted as such? I mean, a "small, green ball" can be broken down into a "small ball" and a "green ball," so no hyphen is necessary. But it's not "tuned taste" and "up taste". It's "tuned-up" taste. Compound modifiers, people. Let's use them correctly, shall we? Alas, no hyphens on their packaging. Perhaps the people at Dew would like to hire me in a newly created position as Aluminum Can Proofreader.)

If you think this rant is limited to only carbonated beverages, read on.

Case In Point No. 3:
Several years ago, I wrote a column on mustard. (believe can be done.) A well-known mustard brand that shall remain nameless so as to avoid scandalous defamation lawsuits (French's) advertised on its yellow mustard bottle a "new stay-clean cap!"

Hooray! said I. No more molten lava mustard ooze from the old-style, cone-shaped, twist-up caps (that's three compound modifiers in a row!! stop me before I modify again!) where after squeezing some onto your brat or burger and placing it back on the counter in the open position, whatever residual mustard that was left in the tip would creep out of the top and down the spout.

This new cap has a concave shape and looks better suited to teeing up a golf ball than it does to dispensing a condiment. And it might be a "no-more-ooze" cap, but it's far from "stay-clean."

Inside of that concavity are four flexible plastic flaps that direct a stream of mustard toward its intended target. However, after the first use, it forms that dry mustard "skin" thing that awaits you on its next use. So you're forced to break through that barrier with an extra-firm squeeze, which can throw off your mustard aim by several inches. So instead of Mustard On Rye Bread Awaiting Summer Sausage, you've got Mustard Art On Microwave Oven Door, or Mustard Stain On Shirt Previously Being Worn To Work.

I firmly believe that the people at French's are in cahoots with the people at Bounty paper towels. Because any day now I expect to see Bounty's new slogan:
"Now able to tackle more mustard spills than ever before!"

Look. All I'm saying is that if all you marketing and R&D geniuses out there want to spend your workdays "improving" something, concentrate on the things that need improvement. If you're stuck for ideas, I've got a few to get the ball rolling:

• The current White House administration. While a new one won't effectively take office until 2009, that gives you plenty of months to work on improving the one we have now. Please work quickly...for all our sakes.

• My salary. This one should be easy. Simply take any old spare zero you have laying around somewhere, and insert it immediately to the left of the decimal point. And take the rest of the day off for doing such a good job with that one.

• My golf swing. (FORE!!)

• The Detroit Lions. (uhh...this one may take some overtime.)

• My internet connection. The only reason I still have dial-up is to afford myself the opportunity to use the verb "slog" on a regular basis.

"Marketing is the science of
convincing us that what you get
is what you want."
—John Carter