30 July 2009

More Chicken, Anyone?

A while back I mentioned our visit to the Revere Chelsea branch of the chicken chain El Pollo Loco. We've been back a couple of times since, and it's definitely some of the best-tasting fast food you can get.

We tried to go on Sunday, but they had closed early for a staff outing. We were trying to figure out where to eat, then the Mrs. remembered that we hadn't yet tried the Guatemala-based chain Pollo Campero that opened in Chelsea a few months back. I'd read a Globe article that claimed their chicken was causing something of a sensation, so we headed over.

The line wasn't too bad, only about eight people ahead of us, and it moved pretty quickly. I ordered three pieces, two legs and a thigh, with a side of cole slaw. (There are also beans, rice, fried plantains, and for you true gringos, fries.) The Mrs. got two pieces and rice. The chicken is delicious, living up to the hype. They also offer grilled chicken, if you're feeling guilty.

Is it the best around? Who knows. That's a mighty big gastronomic project, but I welcome suggestions for other places in the area we should try. By the way, there's also a drive-through, which can be handy for those late-night cravings.

Pollo Campero is at 115 Park Street in Chelsea (if you've been around here a while, it's where Riley's Roast Beef used to be). El Pollo Loco is at 1014 Revere Beach Parkway, also in Chelsea.

29 July 2009

Emmys 2009, Part 2: Make Me Laugh

This part is going to be a little easier. Best comedy: 30 Rock. Best actress in a comedy: Tina Fey in 30 Rock. Best actor in a comedy: Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock. Best supporting actress in a comedy: Jane Krakowski in 30 Rock. Best supporting actor in a comedy: well, Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer are going to have to slug it out. Yes, both of them are on 30 Rock.

Okay, I'm kidding. Sort of. Fey, Baldwin, and the show all won last year, and expectations are going to be high for all of them to repeat. Looking at the competition, I'd say it's possible, though not a foregone conclusion. Let's look at the other nominees.

Comedy series: The Office had what I thought was an uneven season. The writing is still good, but some of the situations are wearing thin, and it won three years ago, when it definitely deserved it. Weeds: I have to be honest, I've never seen the show, but it looks like I'd enjoy it. Gonna beat 30 Rock? Not this year. Entourage: zzzzzzzz, enough already. Flight of the Conchords: I love this show, and I love that it got nominated, but it's even more loopy and out there than 30 Rock. How I Met Your Mother: four seasons in, the show is starting to get some deserved recognition. but in this race I'd call it a long, long shot. Family Guy: huh? Who does Seth MacFarlane have dirt on? It isn't even that funny anymore.

Comedy actors: heaven help us if Tony Shalhoub wins again. Charlie Sheen, Jim Parsons, Jermaine Clement: all of you play your characters well, but that doesn't mean that any of you should be nominated. The one factor that may keep Alec Baldwin from repeating is that Steve Carell has yet to win an Emmy after five seasons of playing Michael Scott and four consecutive nominations. I thought he really delivered some great performances this season, especially in the stories involving Holly and in Michael's attempt to start his own paper company. Let's give this one to Steve.

Comedy actresses: looking at the five women besides Tina Fey who are nominated--Sarah Silverman, Mary-Louise Parker, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Toni Collette, Christina Applegate--there was excellent work by all of them (some of whom I admit I've only read about). I feel about Sarah and her show the way I feel about Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm: it's a kind of humor I just don't get. Mary-Louise: see Weeds above. Julia won three years ago, and I enjoy her show, but she wasn't up against Tina at the time. Toni: I have no idea. Christina: ABC treated her show horribly, yanking it for several weeks in succession in January, in favor of extending Dancing with the Stars to two hours, but each time they did so it was so last-minute that my TiVo still thought it was recording Samantha Who? There's a slight chance she could get this award as a sort of consolation prize.

Comedy supporting actors: almost the same as last year's group, except 30 Rock's pair knocked Jeremy Piven off the list. Once again, most of them don't make sense: guy from Entourage, again; Jon Cryer's one-note whiner, again; Rainn Wilson over Jon Krasinski, again. As much as I'd like to see a 30 Rock sweep (I'd give the edge to Tracy Morgan), I really think this one should go to Neil Patrick Harris for Barney on How I Met Your Mother.

Comedy supporting actresses: Vanessa Williams, Amy Poehler, and Kristin Chenoweth all repeat as nominees. Elizabeth Perkins is nominated for Weeds; maybe she'll be the one to snag a win for the show. I think most people are familiar with at least one of Kristin Wiig's Saturday Night Live characters; the problem is that if you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all. I think she can be genuinely funny, but isn't given enough of a chance to do so; the show's quest for laughs causes them to keep going back to the same shallow wells over and over. If this one is not going to Jane Krakowski, it should go to an SNL actress, and if that's the case it should be Amy Poehler. Still, Wiig winning here might be preferable to William Shatner winning in his category.

28 July 2009

Retroize Yourself

Time for a little Tuesday morning fun: the countdown has begun to the third-season premiere of Mad Men on August 16 (10 PM Eastern time on AMC), and over on the show's official site, you can "Mad Men yourself." This is sort of like that "Simpsonize yourself" thing from a couple of years ago when the Simpsons movie came out, but in this case you don't have to upload a picture of yourself first, because the configurator supplies a number of body types, head shapes, noses, and such.

After you've finished the physical characteristics, you can dress yourself in one of several period outfits and add show-appropriate accessories like cigarettes and drinks, or more traditional accoutrements like a cup of coffee and a newspaper. When you're finished you can paste your groovy MM avatar into a scene with other cartoonized characters from the show, then download it as desktop wallpaper, or grab a cropped head shot for a chat icon. (You'll notice that I've updated my profile picture over on the right, at the risk of revealing the closely-guarded secret of my identity...)

27 July 2009

Emmys 2009: More Nominees, More Griping

The 2009 Emmy nominations were announced recently. Maybe two or three of you were wondering why I didn't do a big critique like last year. I admit that I spend far too much time watching and thinking about TV for someone who doesn't get paid to do so, but the fact is, life intruded: I was a little too wrapped up with my monthly deadline stuff at work to comment at the time, but I'm not going to do another elaborate four-part assessment. While it was a good exercise for me, it was also really time-consuming, and I don't think I want to get that deep into it anyway. But I will run through the highs and lows of this year's choices.

First, the television academy did a very smart thing by selecting Neil Patrick Harris to host this year's ceremony, especially after last year's disastrous tag-team reality-show-host clusterfuck. (Hopefully, the loud and clear message from that was "NEVER AGAIN.") NPH has been on a bit of a roll the past few years, with his hilarious appearances as a funhouse-mirror caricature of himself in the Harold and Kumar movies, his role as Barney on the genuinely funny CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, a respectable turn as guest host of Saturday Night Live during this past season, and his recent gig hosting the Tony Awards, which I didn't see (I'm sure you're shocked) but was well received. He is the perfect choice to host the Emmys this year.

Now, the nominees: it seems like the majority of the academy has finally gotten access to a full package of basic and premium cable TV service, or maybe its membership is just getting a little younger, but the nominees are skewed even more toward non-broadcast channels than previously. I don't necessarily consider this a bad thing, because it reminds the broadcast networks that they aren't getting the job done well enough, which will hopefully spur some of the genuine creativity and risk-taking network TV so desperately needs. (Oh, who am I kidding, they'd just end up canceling it.)

The categories have been expanded to allow for six nominees instead of the previous five, and in the best drama and best comedy series categories, there were ties so there ended up being seven nominees each. This resulted in oddities like Lost getting a drama nom. As much as I love Lost, I don't think this season was quite as worthy; the time-travel business that dominated the season's storytelling was confusing and ultimately became tedious, and I think it detracted from the show's impact. Maybe the academy was trying to make up for last season, which I thought was superior to this one, but that sort of strategy usually doesn't work. If the academy really wants to show Lost the love it deserves, they need to start nominating the actors, like I said last year. (At least Michael Emerson got another nod for Ben, but that isn't really enough.)

Same goes for House. This season's "Wilson de-friends House, then they kiss and make up" and "Cuddy realizes her dream of being a mom by adopting a baby, then stresses out from trying to balance work and motherhood" storylines just didn't equal last season's "House gets a new team" (I think I'm in the minority on this one, but I thought those were great episodes) and "Wilson's true love dies a horrible and tragic death" arcs. The academy was probably responding to this season's Kutner suicide story and its aftermath; after all, shows don't get nominated based on an entire season's body of work, but rather on a kind of highlight reel.

House will likely keep getting nominated as long as it's on the air, unless the quality really tanks, but it's a different playing field. Ten years ago it would have cleaned up, but I think it's always going to be a bridesmaid in the best drama category as long as it's up against top-quality cable shows like the rest of this year's nominees: Big Love, Breaking Bad, Damages, Dexter, and Mad Men. (Damages wasn't as compelling this year, might have been nice to see The Wire get some respect on its last time around instead.)

In drama acting, no offense to Simon Baker (nominated for CBS's cutesy crime procedural The Mentalist), but you don't deserve to be in the company of your fellow nominees. I watched your show a few times, and it's popcorn, pure and simple. My mom likes it. I call this Patricia Arquette Syndrome, after her puzzling nomination (and win) for Medium in 2005. It's an okay show, but I actually find Ms. Arquette to be a rather poor actress, so I wondered what the academy was seeing that I wasn't. Same goes for Baker, who is certainly TV-pretty and has clearly found the right vehicle, but his performance on the show is style over substance. Will Bryan Cranston win again after his surprise upset last year? Will Jon Hamm get the nod instead? Will both of them be overshadowed by Gabriel Byrne? I think it's got to be one of those three.

Turning to the ladies, this year's group of nominees is exactly the same as last year's, with one notable difference: the expansion to six nominees allows the addition of Elisabeth Moss, who plays up-and-coming copywriter Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Peggy is the dark-mirror doppelganger to Don Draper. She's every bit as ambitious, and in the structure and context of Mad Men's changing workplace milieu, it's clear she represents the future. As the show progresses, I'm finding her the most interesting character, and she was truly amazing in a couple of scenes last season. But I consider Peggy a supporting character, and I don't understand why January Jones, who plays Don's increasingly aggrieved and unhinged wife Betty, wasn't given this spot. (Again, I said this last year, and if anything Jones was even better this year.) I think Ms. Moss would have been a front-runner in the supporting actress category, but up against an entrenched crop of leads, her chances are slim.

Supporting actors: good to see John Slattery get noticed for Mad Men; although Roger doesn't seem to do much besides drink and philander, Slattery embodies him in a thoroughly entertaining way, plus he's been around and paying his dues as an actor for a long time. William Hurt on Damages: sort of obligatory, had a couple of nice moments. Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad: nice job. Wait, two nominations from Boston Legal? TWO? Jesus Mary and Joseph on a sesame seed bun, what is wrong with these academy voters? Michael Emerson, it's on you to put a stop to it.

Supporting actresses: what's interesting here are the nominations of Rose Byrne, who plays Patty Hewes's young protege on Damages, and Cherry Jones as President Taylor on 24. Interesting because I didn't think either of them did an especially good job, but sometimes that doesn't matter. The competition is from Grey's Anatomy (Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh, just like last year) and In Treatment (Dianne Wiest, nominated again, Hope Davis for the first time). Wiest won last year, and is probably the front-runner to repeat.

Okay, I guess comedy is going to have to get its own post. But just two parts this year, I swear...

25 July 2009

This Week in Awesome (7/25/09)

Hello, and happy Saturday. I should probably be out doing something fun, but instead I'm home posting this, because I care.

Here's a retro-future rendering of what Apple's home page might have looked like circa 1983. Take a moment to absorb and process the implications of that statement... (Flickr, via Cult of Mac)

If you don't think Alec Baldwin is funny, or Tracy Morgan is funny, or if you don't watch 30 Rock, you may not care about this one. If you do, then click away. (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, via Hulu)

This one is old by now, but if (like me) you didn't watch the MTV Movie Awards, then you didn't see it. And no, it's not the Bruno thing. It's Andy Samberg, with Will Ferrell as Neil Diamond--really, that's all you need to know, right? Trust me, it's good. (Lonely Island)

And finally, this is one of those instances where reality is just so much better than anything you or I could come up with ourselves. (Photobucket, via Jalopnik)

23 July 2009

Wretched Excess Unit

Sometimes I see things that are just so completely insane, I have to make note of them. This is a perfect example.

I collect watches. I've talked about this before; I have a particular fondness for mechanical (winding) watches from the 1960s. At the beginning of that decade, that most likely meant a watch you wound by hand every day, but within a few years automatic models, which are wound by the motion of your arm, became popular. Unfortunately, within a few more years they would be rendered technologically, if not functionally, obsolete by quartz watches, which are far more accurate than mechanical watches.

If you're the sort of person who cares about this type of thing, chances are you have more than one automatic watch (I have a few myself), but I mean more along the lines of Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega, Breitling, etc. Fancy stuff. Spendy. You get a few of those, you'll want to keep them wound, because if left unworn (and thus unwound) for long periods of time, the precision of the moving parts can suffer.

It's also a huge drag to contemplate your vast collection of luxury timepieces, trying to decide which one you feel like wearing on a given day, only to realize that the one you're in the mood for hasn't been worn recently and therefore has to be wound and set to the correct time and date. Sigh...

To alleviate such stress, someone invented this thing called a watch winder. It's typically a box made of wood or leather, with a little stand where you park your watch that's attached to a motor that simulates arm movement. These things typically run at least a hundred bucks apiece, but can cost a lot more. Of course, if you can afford a $4000 watch, you can afford the gizmo to keep it wound. (It's analagous to the idea that people who can afford $100,000 cars can also afford to insure and run them.)

Eventually the watch winder people figured out that people with collections of fancy watches might be interested in winders that could hold multiple watches, which led to things like this, and this, and ultimately this: a free-standing floor cabinet for winding up to 56 automatic watches.

And it's only $166,000.

I guess there really are some people who have so much money they don't know what to do with it. If you are in fact the sort of person who has a genuine need for an item such as this, you could pay someone $40K a year, not even one-fourth of what this costs, to keep your watches wound for you. I suspect that person would feel fortunate to have a job, and you'd be doing your bit to boost the economy.

By the way, I don't own any watch winders. Maybe I should, if only to take better care of my vintage pieces, but seeing things like this makes me kind of disgusted by the whole idea.

22 July 2009

Fashion Violation

On my way home tonight, I got on the bus and noticed that T-Mobile guy I talked about yesterday, only it must have been his day off, because he wasn't in his fuchsia shirt, so it took me a moment to realize it was him.

Then I got a look at what he was wearing: a long-sleeve knit top (kinda warm out for that, maybe?) that had a pattern that reminded me of a sponge-painted wall, very light-blue jeans with rather wide legs (possibly a thrift-shop find?), and shiny silver sneakers. If this is what he chooses to wear on his day off, maybe he should just stick to the uniform.

21 July 2009

Color Keyed

About a month ago I noticed a guy on my morning bus wearing a fuchsia shirt. I'd read a lot of stuff recently about how bright pink was going to be a hot color for guys this year, so I thought he was just being fashionable. He had a shaved head, funky rectangular glasses, and just had a general look of being trendy.

On a different day I noticed he was again wearing the fuchsia shirt, with a black jacket (it was one of those damp days before it got hot) that set it off nicely. I thought, good for you, not afraid to dress sharp. I imagined that he worked at an ad agency or was some sort of web developer.

Yesterday I saw a coworker on my way into the T station, and we started talking. When we got down to the platform, I noticed the guy was standing next to us. Then I noticed that his fuchsia shirt had a big "T-Mobile" above the pocket. Suddenly it all made sense, just not in the way I'd thought.

I think what threw me off was that it was a button-front shirt, because when I think of a typical cell-phone store guy, or even a typical electronics-store guy, I always think of someone wearing a polo shirt. It is kind of the default uniform; for a while I even worked at a such a job and had them. But we also had long-sleeve, button-front shirts with the brand logo embroidered above the pocket, and I'd simply forgotten about that. (Well, let's face it, I've tried to block as much of it as I can.)

18 July 2009

This Week in Awesome (7/18/09)

I had a very hectic week at work, more so than usual, but never fear, I still have the goods...

I'm tempted to just post this clip without saying anything else about it. Near the end there's a shot of what looks a lot like the Zakim Bridge, which doesn't make any sense. (Very Short List)

This one is slightly more self-explanatory... eventually. (EA Games via YouTube via Jalopnik)

What is it about road signs that attracts those with mischievous intent? Oh, Canada! (Jalopnik again)

And finally, I'd like to introduce you to my new favorite snark site, The Hater, brought to us by the folks at The Onion's AV Club. It is to pop culture what Go Fug Yourself is to celebrity fashion commentary. Be sure to read the story about how Jon Gosselin is pimping out his kids to Ed Hardy...

17 July 2009


I hope all of you people who were bitching about the weather are happy with today, because I'm miserable, and so is the dog.

16 July 2009

A Piece of the Rock

I'm stuck in deadline week, but I do want to throw my $0.02 on the WBCN story, even though it's now a couple of days old. For those of you who are not in the immediate Boston area or who may not have heard for some other reason, CBS Radio has decided to pull the plug on "The Rock of Boston" after 41 years, replacing it with a sports-talk station as of August 13th.

(The situation is actually slightly more complex than that: the new station will take over the 98.5 FM frequency, and the CBS-owned "Mix" station currently at that spot on the dial, the one that plays music for people who don't really care that much about music, will assume WBCN's 104.1 frequency. Why they couldn't just put the new station at 104.1 is best left unasked, I guess.)

I first became aware of WBCN around 1979, and it was responsible for a significant degree of my adolescent musical awakening. As a bored teenager growing up in suburban Rhode Island, after seeing artists like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads on Saturday Night Live, and then discovering a syndicated show called Rock World, a late-1970s precursor to MTV that showed the early video work of groups like Devo and The Vapors, I was eager for an outlet that would expose me to this sort of new music for more than an hour or so per week (and, since Rock World aired after SNL at 1 AM Sundays, one that would allow me a little more sleep).

One afternoon after school, I was idly fiddling with the radio in my room, searching for something interesting. I have to be honest: given that it was 30 years ago, I can't remember what song was playing when I first stumbled across WBCN on the dial, but I am fairly certain it had to be something adventurous that other radio stations would not have been playing at the time. At first, I was actually a little more impressed with the fact that I was pulling in a Boston radio station from 50-some miles away.

I quickly realized that WBCN was just the sort of station I'd been looking for. There was a Providence station, WBRU, that played much of the same music, but what they were missing and 'BCN had in abundance was attitude: young, brash, rebellious, alluringly cool. Not only did I feel like it was my station, that it belonged to me, but I felt like I belonged to it, that I was part of a club, and cooler for being part of that club. When I decided soon after to go to college in Boston, I felt that listening to 'BCN gave me an advantage over the other incoming freshmen, because I was already tapped into the cultural landscape of the city that I was about to become a part of.

Back then WBCN was considered cutting-edge, and other stations around the country followed their lead. They were early supporters of acts that went on to become worldwide stars, including The Cars and U2. In the spring of 1981 I was one of three people in my high school senior class of about 260 who had heard of U2; I'd heard them played on 'BCN and rushed out to buy Boy.

I stuck with the station through college and the rest of the '80s. I remember they used to sponsor free lunchtime concerts. I went to quite a few of these, back when it was still legal, normal, and cool to do stuff like give away free drinks. You'd get free music, free hot dogs, and one free beer. I recall going to one such concert--the Del Fuegos, I think--before an afternoon final exam in December of 1984, and I went into that exam feeling like the beer had put me in a suitably relaxed frame of mind to properly focus on the test. It did.

Later on, under corporate ownership, WBCN tried being less alternative and more like a competitor to WAAF, the hard-rock station. That's about the time I moved on to WFNX. These days I hardly listen to radio at all. Perhaps if I commuted by car I might behave differently, but at work I'm more likely to open iTunes and fire up an internet streaming radio station. WBCN will continue to exist online in this form, so I'll give them another listen, but it will be more for the sake of nostalgia than anything else.

Radio has become much more of a business than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Everything is so packaged and focus-grouped, which may increase profits but also has the unfortunate effect of making it less interesting and appealing to listen to. I understand the business side of the decision, but emotionally it doesn't make the loss any easier to take. The WBCN I loved ceased to exist a long time ago, which is why I haven't listened in a long time.

Life is about change, and as we get older, the people, places, and things that mattered to us tend to go away, and usually they don't come back. But I'll always have great memories of the years when The Rock of Boston ruled the local airwaves.

14 July 2009

Annals of Flawed Logic

While reading the paper on my way to work this morning, I was a little confused to see this headline in the section of little one-paragraph stories: "Arizona: Gun Rules Eased for Bars."

Then I read the story, and went from confused to, well, kind of appalled and scared shitless at the same time, if that's possible: "Arizonans with concealed weapons permits will be allowed to take a handgun into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, under a bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. The measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, will require bar and restaurant owners who want to ban weapons to post a no-guns sign next to the business’ liquor license."

Drinking and guns--what a superb idea, because clearly the bar fights out there weren't violent enough already. This is why I prefer to stay in our little ivory-tower corner of the country.

13 July 2009

Crumbling Façade

I managed to miss the excitement on Huntington Avenue this morning. I used to catch the 39 bus at Back Bay Station to get to my office near Brigham Circle, but now that I walk the dog in the morning, I leave the house a bit later and catch a later bus, and from past experience with the 39 it gets increasingly unreliable after 8:30 AM, due to increased traffic on Back Bay streets. So now I stay on the Orange Line and go to Ruggles, where any of five or six bus routes will get me close enough to the office.

A coworker came in around 9:15, having been stuck in the traffic backup caused by the debris, and explained what was happening. Strangely, there was nothing on boston.com at that point, and it took them a long time to post any information about the incident, compared to other local media outlets' web sites. I'm glad I didn't get stuck, and I'm also amazed and happy to hear that no one was injured by falling building chunks.

11 July 2009

This Week in Awesome (7/11/09)

Jalopnik gave us plenty of good material this week. First, there are these two videos of police chases (Dallas, then Houston, hmmm....) from Fox News Channel. The only reason they were posted to Jalopnik in the first place, and the only reason I'm posting them here, is because of the insanely surreal commentary by one of the anchor dudes. (Apparently this is his specialty over at the creepy channel.)

Moving on, we have this series of photos from an, um, unusual accident scene in Virginia, but what really makes this one special is the accompanying analysis from one of that state's transportation engineers.

Changing gears, so to speak, there's the story of a guy named Dave whose guitar was rather badly broken by United Airlines baggage handlers, in full view of him and many other passengers on his flight. His attempts to get United to own up to the situation and provide some recompense were unsuccessful, so being a musician, he wrote a song about it--a pretty decent song, in fact--and put it on YouTube. Of course, this got United's attention, but it's been more than a year, Dave doesn't even care about the money anymore. (Consumerist)

That's all for now. Enjoy the weekend.

09 July 2009

Act Now, Yesterday Only

You know how you sometimes make a purchase at a web site and then get emails from that site forever? That's how it is with me and Live Nation, the concert promoter/ticket seller.

I do tend to look at these emails, to see if there are any shows coming that I might want to see. This morning I found a message titled "Wed Only: $29.99 All-In Concert Experience." I had heard that Live Nation was doing a series of promotions this summer to try to make attending concerts less financially painful.

Out of curiosity I clicked on the message. "No Service Fee Wednesday. Lawn Ticket - Hot Dog - Soda All-In $29.99. July 8th 24 Hours Only." The time stamp on the message was 2:26 AM, today, July 9th., Oops.

Now, I don't care about seeing Toby Keith or Creed or, god help us, 311. And on the rare occasions that I've gone to the arena formerly known as Great Woods, I didn't sit on the lawn because, well, it rains sometimes, and who wants to sit with all the unfortunate plebes who couldn't afford better seats? I really prefer to sit on an actual chair, and I wouldn't be able to see anything from way back there anyway.

But it just looks bad, you know? It gives the impression that your big PR campaign for more affordable entertainment is just a load of crap. Maybe it's time to unsubscribe from those emails.

07 July 2009

This Week in Awesome: Bonus Bit

I don't know how I forgot about this. It was on The Soup last Friday, and I should have checked immediately to see if it was on their blog site so I could have included it over the weekend.

Anyway, it's way too awesome to wait until next week. This clip is from the MTV show 16 and Pregnant, which I've heard has been given a second season. Lucky us...

06 July 2009

Minty Fresh

I'm the sort of person who tries to have mints on me at all times. I hate the idea that I might be inflicting bad breath on someone, but I was never really much for chewing gum.

Over the years I have carried many different mints in various flavors. The main requirements are that they be easily portable, taste good, and not make noise when I walk. This means Altoids are out, and that's fine because I don't really care for them. They are certainly strong enough to eliminate odors, but their flavors are just so overpowering they are not enjoyable.

For a long, long time I bought multi-packs of Breath Savers wintergreen flavor mints. (The warehouse clubs carry these in packages of 24 rolls, which kept me minted for a couple of months.) Over a year ago, I found myself mintless in Santa Cruz while we were there visiting the Mrs.' sister. We stopped at a local market to get some lunch, and while wandering around the store I discovered cinnamon-flavored mints made by Newman's Own Organics.

I love anything cinnamon (especially cinnamon rolls), but the cinnamon Altoids had been as much of a disappointment as their other flavors. Still, I thought I should give these upstart mints a try, and I loved them. They are not particularly strong, but they do freshen the mouth. The only drawback was that, like Altoids, they came in a metal box (which, strangely, describes them as "hot" but they are the farthest thing from it) with an illustration of a ferocious tiger on it.

When we got home I found that the mints were available locally at Whole Foods stores. I also found that they sold a different variety of the mints in rolls; they are larger than the tinned mints and have a slightly different taste (also not hot). I've taken to buying both kinds; I keep the tin on my desk at work, and carry a roll in my pocket for mobile breath cleansing.

04 July 2009

This Week in Awesome (7/4/09)

In honor of our nation's birthday, I thought I'd post a sort of public-service TWIA today.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants you to use fireworks cautiously, and to that end they have produced some videos showing the potential dangers of being careless. (There were two more of these, but they aren't working now, bummer.) (Gizmodo)

And for all you dog owners, here's another in our ongoing series of bizarre commercials for bizarre products. Note: if you watch this video and might actually be considering buying this product, you should know that there have been numerous complaints against the company selling it; apparently they thought it was a good idea to take orders for the product before they had product to ship, and they are just now getting around to filling orders from six months ago. Way to go, Potty Patch. (Consumerist)

Have a fun and safe holiday, everybody.

03 July 2009

Dance Party in Aisle 5

A few days ago I was in the Whole Foods in Woburn, picking up coffee (you really should try the organic Mexican beans) and a few other things. The store's sound system was playing a fun mix of classic disco songs, like "Get Up and Boogie" (Silver Convention), "I Want Your Love" (Chic), "Boogie Nights" (Heatwave), "Let It Whip" (Dazz Band), even the instrumental "Love's Theme" by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and others I can't recall now. (I had to look up some of those artists, but being of a certain age, I remembered some of them.)

I grew up listening to these songs, because they were all over Top 40 radio in the 70s. The Mrs. is a bit too young to remember most of them. I don't know if this music comes from a compilation, a satellite music service, or if the store actually employs a DJ (not too likely), but I'd like to tip my digital hat to Whole Foods for not subjecting us to the "light rock" or "adult contemporary" that you're more likely to hear in a store. Someone is thinking about the shopping experience. (On a previous visit to the Medford store, they were rocking the 80's alternative: The Cure, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins.)

While we're on the subject, let's take a moment to acknowledge the place of disco in music history. Disco was certainly derided and even reviled back in the day, and I'm not sure it's really ever gotten its due, but I'm not embarrassed to say that as a teenager I was a big fan (at least until I saw Elvis Costello on Saturday Night Live and realized there was a whole other universe of music awaiting my discovery). In addition to Top 40 radio, I grew up listening to a lot of my dad's Motown, Sly & the Family Stone, Wilson Pickett, and other soul and R&B acts, so it isn't that surprising that I gravitated toward disco.

I'll be the first to admit that a lot of disco music was lyrically slight (as was, to be fair, plenty of other 70s music), but what I think people tend to forget is that many of the groups were formed around studio musicians and backup bands for solo singers. people who had years of solid playing and performing experience. Chic is an excellent example, as is KC and the Sunshine Band. "Get Down Tonight" is kind of silly, but if you listen to the instruments--the bass, the horns, the electric piano--it kicks ass.

The disco performers just wanted to make music that would make people dance and have fun. I'm going to head to iTunes to look over some disco compilations.

01 July 2009

How to Say It

Re: the previous post, be careful not to mispronounce "Oregon" in the presence of an Oregonian. You will be corrected, and quite possibly berated. It does not rhyme with "autobahn," but is almost exactly like saying the word "organ" except with an extra "uh" in the middle.

Similarly, a coworker who lived in Reno for 20 years informed me that the correct pronunciation of "Nevada" should rhyme with "claddagh" and not "armada."

Of Course It Comes with Fries

Kind of a quiet week, leading into the holiday weekend. Work has been slow, which gives me time to troll around the web and find little gems like this.

A diner in Portland, Oregon is serving a cheeseburger on a doughnut. I suppose I could be talked into trying that. Once. Reminds me of those mega-meals I linked to the other day.

And in the same vein, just in case you haven't seen it already, there's this frightening site.