Friday, February 27, 2009

What's with this sex press you keep telling me about?

Here in Connecticut, I tend to watch WFSB, channel 3, when I'm looking for local news. Yes, the same WFSB that ran an image of a hamster with a film slate instead of that of a suspected murderer on a recent broadcast. I don't know why I gravitated toward them. It just happened.

Anyway, one thing that always makes me laugh in a completely juvenile way when watching channel 3 is their use of a company named Aerials Express when they cut to a satellite map of a region (for whatever reason, they do about four or five times a broadcast). You see, Aerials Express has the unfortunate web address of, which, for the teenagers and childish adults out there, reads as something very different than a satellite map company. Now, this wouldn't be a problem if channel 3 wrote "Image courtesy Aerials Express" when they used one of these maps, but they always use the web address. So every time they cut to a satellite map, I start laughing. 

And then I start to wonder why Aerials Express doesn't change their name to Aerial Express, or why WFSB doesn't just sign a contract with Google Maps? 

The mysteries of life . . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Okay, enough with the Obama poster parodies! We get it!

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Shepard "Obey" Fairey must be feeling pretty good right about now. The street artist's portrait of President Obama is not only hanging in the Smithsonian, but it's also being parodied to the point where the joke has gone from being funny to not funny about fifty times.

Here are just a few examples of what I'm talking about:


What's next, Rope? Mope? Cope?

Something needs to be done here, or else we're going to be caught in another bad pop culture craze like "Baby on Board" signs or those pictures you have to cross your eyes to see. Fairey is a great, inventive artist (I have a beautiful print of his on my living room wall)! He shouldn't be turned into a joke!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another sign of our failing economy

There was a flyer in today's mail for Jackie Chen Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant here in West Hartford. Nothing special, I thought, until I took a good look at the picture printed on the front of the menu:

Isn't that the guy from every pizza box in the world? Did he shave off his mustache and start posing for other cuisine's menus? Has the poor guy lost so much in his 401k that he's taken up a second job?

What is this world coming to?

The Emperor has taken a lady . . .

The Emperor, our upstairs neighbor, has a girlfriend. This, as far as I can tell, is a new phenomenon. If she existed before last night, she certainly hadn't been to our building.

How can I tell he has a girlfriend? Let me run down the list:

1. There was some sort of disco dance party at around 8:45 p.m. I initially thought this was in excitement for Obama's speech to Congress, but when they seemed to be wandering around at 9:15, I realized I was wrong.

2. The "guest" had a high pitched cackle. They demonstrated this often, as if they were rehearsing for an audition. Perhaps the role they are trying to get is "Horrible, annoying laugh lady."

3. It sounded like the person wore high heels. They seemed especially proud of this, as they walked back and forth, from kitchen to living room to bedroom, about 750 times (I lost count after 725).

Of course, thanks to Tim and Eric, we know that such noise doesn't necessarily mean the visitor is of the female species, but I'm still sticking with my theory of the sex of the guest:

4. Oh yeah, and there was the HORRIBLY LOUD SEXUAL INTERCOURSE! The HORRIBLY LOUD SEXUAL INTERCOURSE THAT LASTED FOR TWO HOURS, taking a pause only for cackle breaks and possible re-hydration (Interesting side fact: I learned that the Emperor must have a fetish for women in heels, as, between grunts and cackles, I continued to hear the clip-clop as the rabbits walked back and forth from the bedroom).

Ugh. We need to find a new place to live. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is it bad when it feels like jury duty?

Yesterday, I took my first trip to the state capitol. I attended a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building where, among other topics, a proposed cap on Connecticut's motion picture tax credit system was being discussed.

I know, I know, slow down, Ben, this is WAY to exciting for me to read.

I was sitting in on the hearing for a short article I'm writing, though, in secret, I was also there to support the current tax credit system. I understand the state's fear of an uncapped system, but I don't think a cap as small as the governor is proposing ($30 million/year) will do any good for the infancy of the motion picture industry in the state. There are $114 million in currently unused pledged credits already distributed. Such a cap would essentially be pulling the rug from under these people.

I won't get too deep into this. I realize it gets boring. I will just say that most other states with similar programs are making between $1.50 and $1.90 for every dollar the state pledges in tax credits. 

Anyway . . .

I arrived at the capital at around 10:15 and was lucky enough to find a visitor's parking space (the last in the lot!). I made my way underground from the main Capitol to the LOB and took a seat in the room reserved for the hearing. I had my pad and digital voice recorder ready.

And then I realized I was going to be sitting for a very, very long time.

I can only equate the experience as wasting away a day at jury duty. The seats were uncomfortable. People were there out of obligation. Folks were nodding off in the corners.

But this was more like jury duty if everyone in the room decided they had something to say and were all deaf to the fact that what they have to say was exactly the same as the person who spoke right before them. Yes, I realize this was a public hearing and the fact that these exist shows how wonderful our democracy is in this country. But when 3/4 of the state representatives and senators leave as the meeting begins, does it matter that 100 people want their time to talk?

The meeting lasted 7 hours!

I ended up leaving at about the 3 1/2 hour mark. My butt had fallen asleep and I had gotten enough of the "experience" to write my piece. I made my way home. 

Turns out the entire event was being broadcast live on the Connecticut News station. I could have gotten everything I needed and never stepped out my front door. I could have worn pajamas all day!

Oh well. I suppose the television broadcast wouldn't have given me the scope of the hundreds that showed up in support of the tax credit. Nor would it have made me weary of ever attending such a hearing again without a good book to keep me company.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday ramble

* Have you seen Coraline yet? If not, check it out before the Jonas Brothers gobble up all the 3D screens in America. 

The use of 3D is excellent and is in no way obvious, the stop motion animation is beautiful, and the story is pretty touching (and creepy).

* I learned a valuable lesson from a crazy homeless lady yesterday. If you want a sandwich shop's undivided attention, walk in through the front door and find the loudest thing possible to kick, then run out the door. Scared me out of my seat.

* Regardless of what one thinks of UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun and his (rather large) salary, I think we can all agree that he could handle himself with a bit more poise when he's rattled by pseudo-journalists:

* Is it necessary for Oscar coverage to start 6 hours before the award ceremony begins? Do we love celebrities THAT much? On the same point, do we need live coverage of Red Sox spring training EVERY day? I mean, I like the Sox as much as anyone else, but I find watching men stretch, oh, I don't know, dull.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Last late night

Last night marked the final episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien. As a fond farewell, I found the clip of one of my favorite moments from the show, the "Clive Clemmons Inappropriate Television Station." I don't know why, but this sketch has stuck with me for over a decade.

I once got to see a live taping of Late Night, and I even got to sit in Conan's personal set of reserved seats, but that's a story for another day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fuzzy faces

As a kid, I was always amazed when my parents fumbled stories about their younger days. It just didn't seem possible that one could forget the name of a high school classmate or a childhood friend. Of course, I was in the middle of high school at the time. It was easy to remember every classmate I ever had.

Fast forward 13 years and I'm beginning to know what my parents were struggling with. And I owe this crippling annoyance to Facebook.

I really need to go to my parents' house and dig out my yearbooks. Who would have thought that social networking sites would make one want to dust off the old, hardbacked green and gold, the "stay in touch" messages and awkward senior photos? 

What's happening is I'm beginning to get random "friend" requests from people I'm pretty sure I've never met but, apparently, I graduated with. Is my mind that fuzzy? My graduating class was not that large. I would think I'd remember at least MOST of the people.

I think there needs to be rules for these kind of random blasts-from-the-past. The person requesting should, at the very least, provide some sort of relationship recap in the form of a message. Something like, "Hey, remember when we worked together that one summer?" or "Remember when we hid from that giant sloth monster in that old windmill together?" 

I'm not asking for much. Just something to jog the memory.

I realize I could just accept these people and figure out everything later, but then you end up as one of those Facebook whores that has hundreds and hundreds of friends (I'm pretty sure there are competitions out there regarding this phenomenon). No, with each request, I need to unravel the mystery. Who are you? How do I know you?

Are you really "friend" worthy?

I'm such a snob.    

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ask and you shall receive

Updated Update: Maybe I'm right, after all . . . Nice detective work, Amy!

Update: After reading the comments from some smart West Hartford residents who have been around town longer than I, it appears my concerns expressed in this post are for naught. So, basically, you can just ignore the following ramble . . .

We have in West Hartford what I like to call a "Sleepy-Giant problem." What is this problem? Well, it stems from the fact that, whenever you're out shopping and see a Mattress Discounters, there's always a Sleepy's or a Mattress Giant across the road, giving it the finger. I suppose this could also be called a "McKing problem," as the same thing tends to happen with McDonald's and Burger King. Or a "Walmart-Anything else problem."

Maybe placing two nearly identical stores side-by-side is a marketing technique, but it just seems kind of dumb to me. And it often ends up with one champion and one empty shell of a store.

A while back, I wrote about missing my old Boston Mexican restaurant haunt and lamented about the lack of Mexican options in West Hartford. Of course, several of you were quick on the keys and were kind enough to point me towards some of your local favorites, which have been wonderful.

But now West Hartford has two new South of the Border eateries! And they're across the street from each other!


Why do two Mexican places have to battle it out on the same block? Why can't they be separated by at least a quarter mile, thus allowing each to develop their own clientele? Then they'll both have a decent chance of surviving.


The first is Los Adobes. It's more of a take-out place, though there are a few tables and seats. The Professor and I ate there shortly after they opened and were a little underwhelmed. I'm chalking the experience up to new restaurant jitters, however, and plan on stopping in again soon, especially after reading the glowing words over at the Greater Hartford Real Estate Blog (man, I wish I got to wear the poncho and sombrero).

Across the street from Los Adobes, in the empty space next to Plan B, is the second restaurant. It isn't opened yet, but there is a mysterious sign over the door that says "Mexican Restaurant." So, technically, I guess I can't call them a Mexican restaurant quite yet, though I assume they will be a restaurant that serves Mexican food. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's some high end lip balm boutique that I just don't understand. 

"Where'd you get that awesome lip balm, Stacy?"

"Mexican Restaurant! That's where I get ALL my lip balms!"

Okay, I'm pretty sure it's just going to be a Mexican restaurant.

And once this "Mexican Restaurant" opens, there will be two restaurants with similar offerings duking it out. They may be different enough to both survive, but I'd venture a guess that one will probably be gone within a year, which is a shame. 

Until then, I'll be having to eat twice as much Mexican food.   

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A matter of opinion

At what point did we and our opinions become the news? I ask this in the wake of a tense police standoff involving a suicidal man that occurred on Interstate 84 yesterday morning. Every local news source was covering the story, and all were posting live updates on their websites. And, at the bottom of every web update, were the long, preachy, and downright mean "reader's comments" that have become all the rage:

He's in my prayers.

Let him pull the trigger!

To those who lack any compassion . . .

Our world has become obsessed with instant, knee-jerk public reaction. We thrive on having the ability to pump our own opinions into news and events as they unroll before our eyes. I suppose the dawn of this came when television news began devoting as much time to slack-jawed neighbor footage ("All I heard was a noise.") as they did to actual crimes and incidents. Add in the internet, and the world, as they say, became the public's oyster. Now places like CNN have "I-Reporters" to do their work for them. Let's hear about that great story from East Nowhere one more time!

But why do we matter when it comes to news? Why should we be allowed to express our opinions so bluntly and anonymously on these news websites? Shouldn't there be some kind of separation here? Isn't that what the opinion page in the newspaper is for? Isn't that what Twitter and obnoxious blogs like the one you're reading right now are for? When did the news decide to hand over the reigns to public opinion? Is this how news outlets think they'll get us to care about our world?

I don't know. Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion. Maybe we DO want to read the opinions of someone named "SoxFan69" when it comes to a desperate man holding a gun to his head on the highway.

All I know is, I'd better not see anyone call "firsties" on a story so sad.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Presidents' Day, especially you, Mr. Lincoln

C-SPAN, riding the hot, hip bandwagon that is Presidents' Day (a holiday that all the cool kids in television's coveted 18 to 34-year-old demographic are digging), today released the results of their "2009 Historian Presidential Leadership Survey." Never heard of it? Neither had I. Then again, I couldn't tell you what station C-SPAN is on my cable, either. 

Regardless, the results of the survey, in which a group of important American historians ranked the nation's 42 completed administrations on 10 different topics, were unleashed like a screaming banshee, exactly as you'd expect from a wild child like C-SPAN (if you don't get it, I'm trying to imply that C-SPAN is dull and does little to make itself, and politics in general, interesting to young people . . . I know, I'm clever). Not shockingly, Mr. Abraham Lincoln was the belle of the ball, scoring the highest point total overall. In a shocking twist, however, George Washington usurped second place from previous number two, FDR. Snap!

Oh, and our most recent failure, George W.? He came in at number 36 overall. Though he scored in the middle of the pack when it came to topics like "Vision" and "Crisis Leadership," he was second to last when it came to "International Relations." William Henry Harrision and his 32 days in office took last place in that category. Man, how pathetic must you feel when the only person you beat in a category never even held office long enough to ATTEMPT to create such relationships?

You can read the entire list over here at C-SPAN's website.   

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mmmmmm . . . cupcakes

This month's issue of The Atlantic has a drool-worthy article by Corby Kummer about cupcake perfection. Mr. Kummer's arguments about the tiny sweets are spot-on, from frosting preferences to disappointment in how often the actual cake in cupcakes is regarded as an afterthought:
Cupcakes may be largely icing-delivery vehicles, but the cake shouldn’t be cardboard and the icing shouldn’t be grease—twin concepts few artisan bakers (artisan being the new word for homemade) seem to get. Cooked French buttercream, which many of them choose (it shows off Technique), is not a suitable cupcake icing. It’s oily. It smears. A simple glaze—think Hostess, but with good chocolate—is. And best is the simple icing that for many people evokes childhood: butter beaten with confectioner’s sugar and milk and vanilla, light-textured and creamy but with a satisfying snap when you bite into it. Because this icing, when made with shortening, says “cheap supermarket cake” to artisan bakers, they shun it.
You can read the full article over here.

Busy weekend

Sunday morning. 8:45 a.m. I'm tired, but the cat was insistent. He always is when we're trying to sleep in a bit.

I'm halfway through a busy weekend, and none of it has been Valentine-related (The Professor is VERY anti-Valentine's Day, and, I must admit, so am I). 

Yesterday, The Professor and I headed up to Massachusetts to take my parents out to lunch. Today marks their 40th anniversary and, though I wanted to throw them a party, it just wasn't in the budget right now (Maybe they'll get a 41st anniversary party next year. That'll confuse them.). So, lunch it was. We went to a teppanyaki restaurant. My father is quite fond of these places, especially the show that is the chef, watching the onion volcano, trying to catch vegetables in his mouth, that sort of thing. He's as entertaining to watch as the flames shooting from the hibachi.

After lunch, and after driving my folks back to their house and visiting for a bit (And by visiting, I mean talking for twenty minutes and then watching as everyone began to doze off.), The Prof and I shook the sleeps out and got back into the car. We pointed it toward Boston. Two more stops awaited our arrival.

First was seeing our friend's new apartment in Newton Corner. Second was our other friend's 30th birthday bash in Newton Highlands. Both were enjoyable, but exhausting. Watching buzzed Ph D. candidates (and those already through the system) sing karaoke to "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and "9 to 5" takes a lot out of a man. Add in a rum-spiked fruit juice and hors d'oeuvres for dinner, and you get tired. Quickly. But it was fun. It was nice to see friends and faces that we haven't been near since moving.

40 years of marriage. 30 years of life. All in one day.

Driving home, we joked that we needed to find a 20 and 10-year milestone somewhere between Boston and West Hartford to complete the rundown. Maybe even help in the birth of a child. Then, we'd really be cooking. But it was late. The highway was quiet. We'd just have to settle with participating in a 40th and a 30th. That was enough for one day.

Sleep this morning would have been nice. But, again, there's this cat that we have . . .

It actually works out well. We need to be up. We have another friend to visit today. This time the visit is down here. We need to do a little cleaning. They'll be here in a couple of hours.

And so it goes . . . 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pawn shop turf wars

As if the ubiquitous Cash4Gold nonsense plaguing television ad space isn't enough, here in West Hartford, we have a bevy of local "celebrities" that, more than anything in the world, want to buy our old jewelry.

Didn't you hear, we're in a recession! You HAVE to have gold and jewels you want to sell, right? Right?

For those from out of the area, let me give you a quick rundown of who I'm talking about. First up is our heavy hitters. There are two, with the most famous being "I want to give it to ya" Tom from Good Ole Tom's:

What a creepy man. He just has that dead stare. It gives me the shivers. 

Moving on . . .

The second of the pawn shop heavy hitters is Fast Eddy, a guy who really likes making movie parodies in his ads:

He does another one inspired by The Godfather in which you can barely tell what anyone's saying. I find Eddy entertaining, if not annoyingly ubiquitous.

Then we have the dark horse of this pawn race. There's a place called Silas Deane Pawn. It's an outfit in Wethersfield that, instead of having an actual website, offers up a blogspot page that contains photos of friends and music playlists (what this has to do with making the public confident in a business, I have no idea. "Come sell us your old watches, and while you're at it, listen to this hot Rage Against The Machine track I got on my store's blog!"). 

I guess they're trying to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger in this ad, though it's kind of hard to tell:

So, there's the quick rundown. And, all things considered, these three guys seem to stay pretty clear of each other. You don't see Tom bashing Eddy or Eddy bashing Tom or Torn-Jeans-Arnold badmouthing either Scarface or the Cowboy. If there is a rivalry, it seems fairly friendly.

Or so I thought.

There's another pawn shop in the area, and they're looking for a fight. They're called EZ Money, and this is the ad that they ran in the newest issue of the Hartford Advocate:

Not the cowboy hat! That's Tom's image, like Elvis Costello's glasses or "The Shark" from local NBC affiliate reporter Mark The Shark! 

A gauntlet has been thrown. The war has begun. Just wait, next we'll see EZ Money calling Eddy "slow" and the Silas Deane guys "not Austrian" or "inappropriately dressed for a television commercial." 

This is not going to end well. I can feel the terror building. This must have been what New York felt like in the movie The Warriors.

"Good Ole Tom . . . come out and playyyyyyy."

(I think this is the second blog post I've ended with a rendition of that quote)

Windsor movie studio

I recently contributed an article to Imagine News, a monthly publication dedicated to the film and television industry in New England. The piece concerned a proposed $110 million movie studio complex up in Windsor, CT. Yes, I realize that mentioning this here is shameless self-promotion, but the project sounds pretty interesting. To begin, it's being built from a massive motocross facility. Plus, when complete, it will offer about 400 full-time jobs to local residents. With our economy floundering, that sort of number sounds pretty fantastic.
The hum of high performance engines. The thick, dust-laden atmosphere. This is what greets visitors entering Mototown USA, a 200,000-square-foot indoor motocross stadium in Windsor, Connecticut. The arena has become a haven for riders during the winter months, an escape from the snow and ice. The air may be cold, but the course is in excellent condition.

Thomas DeFranzo, developer and proprietor of Mototown USA, built this facility to satisfy his life-long love of motocross racing. But this year, once the riders take to the hills outdoors, DeFranzo and his staff will not be grooming the tracks in preparation for their return.

“Once everyone goes outside for motocross in March, this building will cease to exist as a motocross facility,” DeFranzo explains. “We’ll begin to move the dirt out, power wash everything, and start putting down touch-up paint.”

Mototown USA is in its final season. Come spring, it will be converted into film and television sound stages. DeFranzo’s plan is to eventually find a new location for the original operation, one where he can build both an indoor and outdoor course.

Until then, it’s goodbye, motocross, hello, motion pictures.
If you're interested, you can find the full article in Imagine's "eEdition" over here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hiding the emperor's clothes

I think I've mentioned this before, but I live in an apartment. This apartment is in a house with two others.

My immediate upstairs neighbor, let's call him The Emperor, is frequently out of town. I rejoice in this. It's very lovely to not hear anyone stomping around 80% of the time. However, when he is around, that 20% of the time, he's a laundry fanatic.

We all share laundry machines in the basement. And this isn't much of a problem. We all have our own schedules. But, and here's the thing, The Emperor likes to start laundry at night. He'll start around 8 p.m. or so. Wash, dry, wash, dry, wash, dry.

And during that last dry cycle, he falls asleep. The next morning, he gets up, gets dressed, and is out the door. His clothes remain in the dryer. Sometimes for days until he remembers.

So I've begun to plot out how to break him of this habit. Thus far, I have two possible plans:

1. I take the laundry left in the dryer and hide it in the basement (our basement is huge, with evidence of at least 25 years of tenants cluttering the walls and corners). Then, when he eventually looks for it and realizes it is gone, act completely dumbfounded. Join in the search. When he does find the laundry, convince him that he sleepwalks ("You know, I can hear you stomping around at, like, 4 a.m. sometimes . . . Oh, you don't remember doing that? Huh."). He then becomes very self-conscious and never makes the mistake of leaving laundry in the dryer again.

2. Leave the laundry in the dryer, but take every matching sock from the pile. Then, the next time this happens, return all of the matching socks but take all of the NEW matching socks. Continue this cycle until he goes crazy and moves.

Or, I suppose I can just continue to do what I've already been doing: placing his clothes on top of the dryer.

I'm such a chicken.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My iTunes is trying to say something . . .

Does it mean anything that, more than two or three times a week, my iTunes insists on playing The Ramones' "It's Not My Place (In The 9 to 5 World)"? There are 3800 songs for my computer to choose from. That comes to almost 10 days of music.

Yet, Joey Ramone talking about not fitting in with corporate life keeps popping up.

I sometimes wonder if Apple scans my brain at night while I sleep. If so, should I take Hayden's "The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees" as a warning?


Someone recently told me that this blog was kind of all over the place, as in, not at all focused. It was strange. I hadn't really thought of the fact that, yes, this place is often completely random. One day I'm talking about food, the next zombies, then something as mundane as sidewalks. Not being a huge blog reader, I guess I didn't know that, most of the time, people stick to certain topics on blogs.


But that doesn't mean I'm changing format. After all, the subtitle for OOTTS is "a resource of interesting sights and sounds from West Hartford and beyond." It's like flipping stations on television. You never know what'll pop up next.

Though, I assure you, it won't be anything like Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Holy cow!" he exclaimed as he stepped foot into Stew Leonard's

Stew Leonard's, where have you been all my life?

You combine three of my favorite things: food, animatronic figures, and employee distributed free samples (Sorry, Le Gourmet Chef, but I just don't dig on your germ-infested bowls of nachos that are left out for customers to try. Too many snotty children with snotty fingers.).

You even have a decently stocked wine shop!

And your pies! Your pies!

If you can't tell, I recently visited Stew Leonard's market for the first time. The Professor and I stopped in because the store was having a good deal on vegetables and cage-free eggs. We didn't know anything about the market before pulling into the lot in Newington, but judging by the amount of cars already there, we figured Stew's wasn't your typical grocery store.

And it isn't. It's far more of an event than I expected. There aren't aisles. Instead, you're corralled through one master path, like at an Ikea. Along the way, there are plenty of strange animated characters that sing and dance for children (and adults like me). There are also plenty of tasting stations, which lead to traffic snarls left and right.

But no one inside seems to be bothered by the slow pace. We are all having fun tasting sushi and chicken sausage and watching a gigantic piece of cheese talk to us. We aren't there to just pop in for a bottle of Coke. That's what Stop and Shop is for.

No, Stew Leonard's is like a bizarre Chuck E. Cheese for adults. 

That being said, I wouldn't go to Stew Leonard's for all of my grocery needs. It's just too chaotic. I had a hard time carrying a basket through the store, never mind a push cart. Plus the prices on items like cereal seemed a bit high. But Stew Leonard's isn't a place for cereal. It's there for specialty items. The meat section is massive. The bakery is enormous. And the line at the ice cream stand, in the middle of February, assured me that Stew Leonard's knows a thing or two about making sweets.

And the place is so darn cute. I mean, look at the company logo:
How can you resist? The cow's just happy as a clam, saying, "Hey, come on in! Buy the milk that came from me. Or the cheese. Then, while you're here, why not pick up a part of one of my brothers and grill it for dinner?"

Okay, cute lil cow. I think I will!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

WFSB makes it on "The Soup"

Local news station WFSB, Hartford's (well, Rocky Hill's) own channel 3, made an appearance on last night's episode of The Soup. Though I couldn't find the actual clip from the show, here's the original WFSB newscast segment that was used:

Having grown up near Warren, MA, the Molly Bish story is truly sad. I'm hoping that there will be closure soon, for the sake of her family. That being said, who was at the switch at channel 3 when this went down? That hamster couldn't have been a legitimate mistake, could it? This is pretty embarrassing.

On a side note, if someone did, say, lose their job over this . . . Hi, I'm Ben. I have a long history in the film and television industry. Oh, and I AM looking for a job!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Excellent things from my childhood: Boglins

I was in my parents' basement recently and came across a heap of my old toys. There was my Dukes of Hazzard race track, my container of G.I. Joe figures, some Voltron castle, and, at the very top of the pile, my Boglin.

Remember Boglins? If you weren't a nine-year-old boy in 1987, I'd venture a guess that you don't. They were these rubber puppets that came out during the Critters and Ghoulies craze of the late eighties (which, incidentally, was a craze spawned from the popularity of Gremlins a few years earlier). What was cool about the Boglins, at least what I thought was cool about them when I was a kid, was the fact that, besides allowing you to move their mouths, the good folks at Mattel inserted switches to not only shift the creature's eyes back and forth, but also blink. Oh, and the eyes glowed in the dark, which was pretty darn awesome.
The toys were designed to make boys scare little girls, but, since I didn't really have any little girls regularly at my house, my Boglin scared my cat. Pumpkin was a worthy adversary. He'd often give it a run for its money.
My particular Boglin was named Vlobb. Ah, Vlobb, I remember you well. You were the one that was advertised as the "smartest" of the Boglins. How you were smart I was never able to figure out. You didn't come with a diploma from Harvard or anything, so I always assumed you were street smart. You could get the other Boglins out of a jam if they, let's say, crossed the wrong wizard, but you probably couldn't handle doing their taxes. And you now sit in the basement. I should bring you down to Connecticut. My cat Tuesday could use a new sparring partner.

Here's a Boglins commercial:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Yellow book fever

Today, I realized that all of my recent reads have had yellow covers. Does this mean something? Am I attracted to yellow book covers? I suppose if this was true I'd be spending a lot of time reading the phone book. Or, is there just some new tendency to use yellow in book covers? Has there been scientific research on this?

Here's my list:
Tree of Smoke - predominately yellow cover

The Best American Short Stories 2005 - entirely yellow cover

No one belongs here more than you - entirely yellow

The Subject Steve - orangy-yellow cover

Strange . . . And look at how similar the layout and font is in both No one and Steve.

That's all. Nothing else.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I smell of exclusive mall stores . . .

I needed pants, so the Professor and I took a drive to Westfarms Mall this afternoon (we're both free on Wednesdays). As luck would have it, I found a decent pair at Macy's. I already had a $25 gift card from Christmas so, after discounts, I only had to pay 99 cents out of pocket. It couldn't have been easier.

Which made it a bit unsettling, to tell you the truth.

See, shopping for me is a love/hate experience. I don't mind going to stores, but I usually can't find anything worth buying. Then, I get tired and cranky. It can be a sight.

So finding something with relative ease was both refreshing and somewhat awkward. I had planned a long ordeal, and now I was free. I hadn't planned on having the extra time. What was I to do with myself?

The answer? Explore one of those "other" stores the mall offers. You know the ones. They don't have the big, wide windows that the other stores have. They're the ones with loud, trendy music pumping through their speakers. The dark ones that don't even have a sign on the front.

Yes, the Professor and I ventured into Gilly Hicks, the "Australian" underwear store owned by Abercrombie & Fitch.

We had both read a very funny (and also thought provoking) opinion piece on Gilly Hicks several months ago in the Hartford Courant (find it here), and we've joked about the establishment ever since. With such a goofy name, it was easy to turn anything into a Gilly Hicks-related punch-line.

And today, with extra time, we finally stepped foot inside.

I can only describe Gilly Hicks as a high end bra and underwear general store/museum. It is very dark and contains several small rooms and narrow passages. Like a museum, it leads you from gallery to gallery. It even has strange artwork of half-naked men with their hands yanking down their underwear for shoppers to admire. Honestly, I felt like I was in the masked party scene from Eyes Wide Shut as we tiptoed from one room to the next. I was waiting for the bizarre around every corner, faintly visible in the dark, pumping to the rhythm of the beats from the sound system.

Like any terror ride, you can't jump ship at Gilly Hicks. Nope, once you're in, you're in for at least a half dozen rooms. There is no escape. You are filtered from one space to the next until you reach the midpoint, a large area full of drawers of bras that reach to the ceiling, where those faint of heart can take the chicken's way out. And the place has a clingy smell of perfume that lingers on you for a good hour or two after leaving; a calling card, perhaps, telling everyone within ten feet "Hey, I just checked out expensive underwear in a dark room."

It being a Wednesday, the store wasn't busy, which was nice. Even with my wife by my side, such a store makes me feel very uncomfortable. There's something potentially pervy about a man surrounded by thousands of undergarments (though maybe that's just my Catholic upbringing lashing out).

And, after leaving, I still can't say for sure if I think a trendy, exclusive-feeling store like Gilly Hicks needs to exist. It is obviously targeting a teenage audience, and I think that is a bit troubling. The main vibe I got from Gilly Hicks was sex. The dark corners. The music. The perfumed air. Should teenage girls be coaxed into such a place? I suppose I wouldn't know, nor should I say one way or the other.

But the store is an experience. I'll give it that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No Chow?

If you've been to Blue Back Square in our lovely town, you've seen the signs: Chow . . . Coming Soon. The Professor and I noticed these when we first came to look for an apartment back in April of last year.

Chow . . . Coming Soon.

I had no idea what Chow was, but I assumed it was some sort of Asian eatery. Some quick web searching confirmed this notion. And, on the site, I learned that the operation was slated to open in September . . . of 2008.

Well, it now appears the eatery may NOT be coming to BBS after all. Curious, I sent an email the other day to the Chow/Zinc restaurant web master (there is another Chow in New Haven), asking when these signs were going to come down? When was "coming soon"? 

Here's what I received:
We have had to suspend development of CHOW West Hartford due to economic circumstances. It is on hold right now.
This is really a shame. Blue Back is a decent little shopping area, but having a gigantic restaurant space empty is kind of an eyesore. This makes me wonder what's going on with the Green Tea store across the street. Are they ever going to open?

Monday, February 2, 2009

I love gimmicks

You know what I liked most about the Super Bowl last night? The 3D commercials at halftime. Why? Because they were 3D! Duh!

Make anything 3D and I'm interested. As a kid, I'd buy 3D Gumby and GI Joe comic books. Were they any good? I have no idea. I doubt I ever read them. I'm sure all I did was stare at the pages with my 3D glasses.

I paid to see Freddy's Dead, the 3D Nightmare on Elm Street installment, when it first came out. I had never seen a Freddy movie in theaters, but . . . this one was in 3D! Well, not the WHOLE movie, but we got to see some 3D during the last 15 minutes. And it was horrible! But I still have the glasses.

I drove in a snowstorm a few years ago to try to see the Polar Express in 3D IMAX when it was released, only to find that every screening was sold out. Did I care about the Polar Express? No. But it was in 3D, so I had to risk life and limb to make the attempt.

I haven't gone to see the new My Bloody Valentine 3D . . . yet. 

Anyway . . .

When I heard that they were going to run an ad during the Super Bowl in 3D, I made sure to pick up some glasses at the grocery store. Of course, I did this while remembering the pathetic Diet Coke "Be Bop Bamboozled" 3D halftime show from 1989 (A sad, sad halftime show), so I wasn't putting much hope into this year's events.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The amber and blue glasses, using a technology developed by ColorCode 3D, actually seemed to pop the colors more than the traditional red/blue lenses. I always wondered why people bothered with the red lens for television events in 3D, as that channel always seems to be the wonkiest when it comes to color balance. The people at ColorCode must have thought of this, as well. Their amber lens made the effects look pretty convincing.

But the contents were lacking. Monsters vs. Aliens seems pretty dumb, and those Sobe lizards are lame. Even 3D couldn't make them interesting. Why couldn't we see Bruce and Little Stevie in 3D? Now that would have been a show!

If you're interested, the website for ColorCode has some cool stuff to check out. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lucky no more

Lucky, the oddball mascot of the Boston Celtics, has left the team. Whether or not he has been fired is still up for debate. The Boston Globe ran an article on the matter the other day:
Damon Lee Blust, the gymnast who plays the acrobatic leprechaun, has parted ways with the Celtics. According to a statement released last night by his agent, Blust and the Celtics "mutually agreed to relieve Damon from his contract as the team's mascot for the remainder of this season and next."

Celtics president Rich Gotham declined to say whether Blust quit or was fired. "It's a private employer-employee matter, something I can't talk about right now," he said. The team also declined to say whether or when Blust might be replaced.
I always found Lucky to be a strange mascot. Call me old school, but I like my mascots to wear big costumes. The mask-less Lucky was kind of strange. In person, he always looked a bit unshaven and gave off a gruff vibe. But he did do some great dunks during half-time.

I actually had a phone conversation with Blust once. He was trying to figure out a way to put a tiny video camera inside a basketball for a stunt he was trying to develop. He came off as a nice enough guy, though he did seem to think that there was some sort of cache by saying he was "Lucky." It was as if my co-workers and I would be bowled over by the celebrity that we'd want to bend over backwards to find a solution for his dilemma (what he was trying to do, in the long run, wasn't feasible - a super-lightweight, wireless, lipstick HD camera for a ball just doesn't work for no money). 

You can read the Boston Globe article, along with some really brutal reader comments, over here.