Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Linkage XXXIII

"Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level." Via BoingBoing, M-Law's Wacky Warning Label Contest. I also liked the Lotto ticket which said "Do not iron".

Surge Protection You can stand up to The Man with the latest "No Surge" Bush Surge Protection t-shirt. (Via Matt Yglesias)

Write What You Know A real live medical journal article from 1956 in which William Burroughs writes about his experiences with drugs "Letter from a Master Addict to Dangerous Drugs". (Via BoingBoing)

Handbags I love English sports commentary. Here's just part of an account (the whole thing is here) of a fight between two soccer players in the Spanish league: "In the final minute, Carlos Diogo trod on Luis Fabiano's hand, sparking a bit of head-rubbing, a lot of bad-mouthing and then a proper bout of fisticuffs, full of comedy windmilling and a superb right hook from Diogo that left Fabiano sprawling across the turf like Bambi on ice." Now that's good writin'! (Via Deadspin)

So Elvis, Darwin, and Nefertiti Sit Down at a Bar... is not the beginning of a joke but a real life meeting in Venezuela, where people seem to like to give their kids funny names, so says the NY Times. (Via Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Two Wrongs, Finally, Make a Right

Nine years ago, I was the last person under the age of 50 and older than 18 to get a cell phone. I got it through Costco, following the logic that anyone who can sell you a really good hot dog and a soda for $1.50 must know something about cell phones. But then my service - I forget who it was - was bought by Cingular, and so my service was not very good.

Flash forward to a couple of years ago. I'd been vaguely unhappy with my service and since numbers were now portable, I resolved to get a new phone with a new service. And so I walk into the Cingular store, not realizing that the service I am about to sign up for for even a longer period is the same service I'm trying to get rid of. Whoever that guy was who wrote about how there are several different kinds of intelligence and how none of us have all of them must have followed me around for awhile.

Except today, I find out that maybe I was right all along, because while Cingular may have awful service, they're also the only service on which you can use this:

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Parent's Dilemma

My wife and I both grew up in SoCal and the Rose Parade was a part of that. We both spent the night on the parade route several times, and Wendy even worked on floats. The generational circle closed this year when Katie helped out with float decorating.

This means that for the first time in a long time I watched the parade on TV - at least until the brilliant Newcastle/ManU match came on. Priorities. We saw Katie's float and several others she contributed to. But then we saw this:

This, our course, is photo of the 501st Legion of Storm Troopers, nicknamed Vader's Fist.

My thoughts as I watched these guys walk by: 1. No Way! 2. They've gotta be actors - man, it must be tough to be an out of work actor. 3. They're not actors - their fans who paid their way here from all over the world to do this. 4. I wonder what their parents think.

Imagine you're the parents of a 32 year old who lives at home with you and whose Star Wars obsession has already caused you to set aside your hopes for grandchildren. And now his commitment to Star Wars has landed him a spot in the Rose Parade - clearly the peak of his fan boy career.

And so as a parent, does it make you happy that this makes your son so happy, or does it make you sad that this makes your son so happy?

Parenting can be hard work.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Review: El Cholo

So, I finally loaded all my cd's into iTunes, which of course means my iPod is now too small. Ah, the petty discontents of a suburban life. Anyway, I like to use the shuffle - it's like a radio station that only plays stuff I like, and the other day iTunes gave me one by Neil Young. I thought the next song was by Young, too, since it began with a jangly, slightly messy guitar riff. That was, at least until the singing began, and then I realized it was Radiohead's "The Bends".

It's an easy mistake to make. Just as there would have been no hip-hop without James Brown and no internet without Al Gore, there would have been no early 90's guitar rock without Neil Young.

I was thinking about this last week on my way home from El Cholo Spanish Cafe in L.A. on Western just south of Olympic.

El Cholo is the original Mexican restaurant. I mean, obviously, there had been restaurants owned by Mexicans who served the food of their home country or heritage, but El Cholo was the first restaurant that made its bones selling mild Mexican inspired food to white people. If you've ever enjoyed a meal at Chi-Chi's or Acapulco or any other chain Mexican place, almost every element of your meal got it's start at El Cholo.

They keep it old school here. Like many L.A. restaurants, the walls of the waiting area are covered with head shots. The servers wear guayabera shirts or full, off the shoulder dresses in a floral pattern. The salsa is the weak, spicy ketchup style favored by generations of white people, and the chips were such a throw back that they were fried in lard. (I'm just now getting the coating out of my mouth).

I ordered the oldest item on the menu (everything is listed with the year they first served it) - the Sonora Style Enchilada (1923). Rather than rolled, this is a stack of tortillas with chicken and cheese in between, with sauce, black beans, and a fried egg on top. Completely old school and really good. As a plus, it's goodness helped make up for the time I ordered something similar at La Fiesta Grande or some such place in Grand Junction, Colorado - the worst Mexican meal of my life. Wendy ordered - to make "a proper comparison" she said, the Number One Combination (1938) - which as always, was a beef taco in a hard shell and a cheese enchilada with rice and beans. She gave it her approval.

At the end of the day, it was better than the chain restaurants and so if you can just think of Mexican places like this as a distinct cuisine from that served by taco trucks, carnicerias, or even King Taco, it may be one of the best. It's definitely worth the trip at least once.

Two other comments, first, the crowd that night was amazingly diverse - Koreans, blacks, Latinos, white suburbanites, Chinese, USC grads in Hawaiian shirts. That was really cool. Second, Wendy and I shared a Margarita, a first for us. (We figured we'd have the whole experience). I'd never had any kind of distilled liquor before, and I can't say I'm fan yet. I suppose if I were ever in a situation where I had to have a drink I could have another, but after a few sips I was wishing I'd ordered iced tea. Pretty weak, huh?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Linkage XXXII

Hip-hop Lit 50 Cent has been a rapper, producer, actor and style maven. Now he's branching out into literature. Mr. Cent, as they would call him the NY Times, is the author of the recently released The Ski Mask Way: A G-Unit Book. I think this is cause for amusement rather than despair. I think. (Via The Hater)

Because Love Should Last Forever Via BoingBoing, How to Make a Rose out of Duct Tape.

Godfather to God the Father We lost a real treasure when James Brown died on Christmas morning. As you remember him, don't think of the drug addled man of his later years, but rather think of him like this: James Brown on the Tami Show. (Via James Demastus, who tells me he is named for JB)

She's Everywhere, Even the Future Via The Hater, I give you The Every Day with Rachael Ray Fortune Teller. No, really.

My Money is on "Hobbes" Tiger Woods will become a father for the first time this year, what will he name his child. A.J. Daulerio at Deadspin breaks down the odds (His favorite is Lil' Earl)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"The Ultimate Act of Hopelessness and Faithlessness"

Shane Claiborne, in the group blog God's Politics at Beliefnet, on the execution of Saddam Hussein:

"What do you think of that man?" the old guy asked in a raspy voice as I settled in next to him on the plane. He pointed to the face of Saddam Hussein on the front of his newspaper with a headline story of the looming execution. I gathered myself, and prepared for what could turn out to be a rather chatty plane ride. I replied gently, "I think that man needs some love." And the rather boisterous gentleman sat still, perhaps not exactly the response he predicted. Then he said pensively, "Hmmmm. I think you're right..." And finally, he whispered in a forlorn tone, "And it is hard to communicate love through a noose."

Sometimes we just need permission to say, "It's not okay to kill someone to show everyone how much we hate killing." As Christian artist Derek Webb sings, " Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication. It's like saying murder is wrong and showing them by way of execution." I am encouraged by how many Christians I hear voicing an alternative to the myth of redemptive violence in light of the recent killing of Saddam, folks who love Jesus and have the unsettling feeling that Jesus loves evildoers so much he died for them, for us. I have heard many evangelicals who see Saddam's execution as the ultimate act of hopelessness and faithlessness – after all it is humanity stepping in to make the final judgment, that this human created in God's image is beyond redemption. And for those who believe in hell, executing someone who may not yet know of the love and grace of Christ is doubly offensive.

(The entire post is here)

The hippies I read on the internets have been pretty bothered by the absolute fiasco of Saddam's execution: the mocking, the deed being done by Shiite militia members, the shoddy legality of the process, and the President's Orwellian praise for the way this has been carried out have all earned their ire. I merely chalked this up as one more botched and unintentionally ironic act by our leaders and their allies.

Claiborne's work brought me out of my cynicism. I find just a slight whiff of sentimentality in the post, but that aside, the idea of the execution as an act of hopelessness and faithlessness rings true to me.

We humans are called to be stewards of this broken and fallen world, and we are, indeed, our brothers keepers. This task is far too difficult to be carried out with merely human means. Ending violence with violence is an admission of our impotence, and so if Claiborne can really hear a rising tide of Christian voices proclaiming that love is more powerful than hate, and that self-sacrifice is greater than violence, then let me add my voice to that number.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Did He Say "nu-clee-ur" or "nu-cu-lur"?

Our old friend Pat Robertson recently went on a prayer retreat, during which the Lord revealed to him that there will be a major terrorist attack in the U.S. during 2007 that will cause "mass killing". (Link via several hippies) Robertson's death threat against Hugo Chavez got me going with public blogging a few years back, and even though I've tried to get out, Pat "keeps draggin' me back", and so I am.

With a true pastor's heart, Pat goes on to assure us, "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that".

I just love that last line - Pat presumes to read the situation better than God. Wow, I mean, wow - Robertson never disappoints. I imagine that looking at folks like Pat makes the Lord wish he could have a slight do-over with the Bible so He could include a specific warning about the dangers of hubris.

I was disappointed, however, that "The Lord didn't say 'nuclear'". I wish He (the Lord, not Robertson) would clear up the proper pronunciation of the word - does the middle syllable have a long "u" sound, like our President says it, or a long "e" sound, as those who live outside the states of the former Confederacy say it. Given the results of the recent elections and other Republican scandals, I 'd suspect that the Lord is saying it the second way these days.

I also spend an afternoon in prayer recently, and the Lord told me absolutely nothing about terrorist aims in 2007. He did tell me three interrelated things:
  • Depend on Me more. No, really.
  • That stuff about lilies and birds and focusing on today in the gospel of Matthew, I was serious about that.
  • You have been preaching over the past year about how the power of the Spirit should lead us to extend the horizons of our expectations - it's time for you to start believing this yourself.
There you have it folks - sorry to disappoint. If the Lord tells me something really important, like whether Chelsea will catch ManU or if Beckham will be coming to the Galaxy, I'll let you know. Until then, that's all I've got.

PS: a nice bit of serendipity - just as I finish this post, iTunes serves up U2's "Grace".