March 2008 Archives

There's a Whole Foods Market half a block from my office. Nearly everyone in the office goes there a lot, but we know it's expensive. Someone is sure to chirp, "More like Whole Paycheck!" when you walk back to the office with your groceries, which is a totally original thing to say. Whole Foods disputes that their prices are high. Here's a display I saw at the store:


In effect, that sign says, "Don't believe the 'Whole Paycheck' lie. Think for yourself." So I looked around until I saw a good example of their everyday prices. And here's what I saw outside:


Six ninety-nine for a hot dog. Even vendors at AT&T Park are shaking their heads in disbelief, while somewhere in Berkeley, a Top Dog employee feels a great disturbance in the force, as if a million jars of sauerkraut were all shattered at once. Would I ever buy a hot dog from Whole Foods? You can make up your own mind about that one.


Tonight at the Dark Room, it's Subterranean Comedy: Where the Buffalo Roams. This is Amir Malekpour's monthly showcase. Amir is the host and producer, and back in November, I interviewed him about the legendary Baby Faces of Comedy Tour show. The subterranean part is because this show is totally underground.

This month features headliner (and Amir housemate!) Jason Wheeler, who "delivers fork tongued humor for the masses", Joe Gorman, founder of the Baby Faces of Comedy Tour and bitter beyond his years, and Joey Devine, a rising star on the comedy scene who still lives with his parents in Alameda. Oh, Joey!

There's also a sketch group called Omar & Rodrigo and possible surprise guests. Tickets are $7-15 (sliding scale), and the Dark Room is BYOB.

I have some experience writing about buffalo, though it's mostly the football team, and in the context of the Music City Gambling Miracle. The song "Home on the Range" has made me sympathize with the buffalo, because of the false picture it paints of their relationship with the deer on the range. Supposedly, the range is the place where the buffalo roam, while the deer and the antelope play. But not with the buffalo, of course. Apparently deer only play with the svelte hoofed mammals. Some blame the excessive hunting of the 19th century for the American bison's near-extinction, but I think we have to consider the effects of negative body image issues on the buffalo population. Antelope aren't even native to North America, but they're still more acceptable than the fatties of the Plains. It's just sad.

I'm not sure the song is totally accurate, however. We know from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that deer are quick to exclude even members of their own species from playing reindeer games. If a red nose disqualifies a deer from playing, are we supposed to believe they're totally cool with hanging out with antelope? The line should be, "where the deer and the antelope play, in species-segregated groups, because deer are a bunch of assholes".

Finally, Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo.

the ed forman show, live, march 19th


The Ed Forman Show tour comes to the Dark Room tonight at 8 PM. It's a live, '70s-style talk show, an era where it was perfectly acceptable for a motivational speaker to wear a shirt unbuttoned to the navel along with a chain that spells out, "Terrific" in diamonds. The show is a mix of sketches, standup, and interviews. guests include comics Brent Weinbach, Julian Vance, a journalist named Shaun King who is probably not the former Tampa Bay quarterback, a pickup artist named Dan McDonnely, and a standout shooting guard from Sf State named Alex Thomas. In addition, there's been talk of a round table discussion of basketball with assorted local comics, if you didn't find my sports commentary insufferable enough already.

Ed Forman is the creation of Aaron Ross, a Portland-based improv comic and creator of the one-man show, Al Gore Memorial High School. Ed is based on a real-life motivational speaker, the author of Happy, Healthy & Terrific, and Laughing, Living, Loving, and many other success guides. The show includes segments, In Bed With Ed (interview, taking place in a bed), QuEDstions (audience members ask Ed questions, I think), and A Match Made in ED, where Ed sets up two audience members on a dream date.

Honestly, I have no idea what this show is going to be like, but I am intrigued. Tickets are eight bucks at the door, and as always at the Dark Room, it's BYOB.

aunt agnes: local celebrity


Agnes Farrell, my great-aunt and birthday twin, was recently profiled in The Noe Valley Voice. Now she can add "local celebrity" to her resume, along with "great-grandmother", and "bingo champion". Here are some highlights from the article:

Both of Farrell's parents were Irish immigrants, and her dad was in San Francisco for the 1906 earthquake. He often regaled the family with stories of watching the city burn from a perch atop the Noe Street hill.

My great-grandfather and I had a similar mindset. You could argue that this blog, and perhaps my life in general, are a modern-day equivalent of sitting on a hill and describing the wreckage I see below me. Probably while also drinking gin.

Wonzod's was the place for candy "and other necessities," according to Farrell, and Marguerite's was the local ice cream shop, The local butcher gave all the local kids slices of baloney.

"Wonzod's" is a phenomenal name. Sadly, this interview is the only mention on Wonzod's on the web. Still, I trust Aunt Agnes's memory. Even though she visited the local butcher a lot as a kid, she is not at all full of baloney.

The more adventurous of the children hitched a ride on the produce truck, and would continue on their merry way until the driver started pelting them with potatoes.

Some ethnic stereotypes are rooted in fact. I like to think that the kids weren't hurt by the flying spuds, and only jumped off because they were so excited to collect the potatoes, take them home, and boil them up.

"We'd do dances like the Stack of Barley, the Hornblower, and the Highlander all night long."

Aunt Agnes can still do a mean version of the Highlander. Other relatives occasional try to outdo her at the annual New Year's party, but we all know there can be only one. When I put together my own squad to compete in America's Top Dance Crew, I am going to call them Stacks of Barley.

I hope the sudden fame doesn't go to Aunt Agnes's head. If you see her around the Noe Valley area, feel free to stop to say hello or take a picture, but please, no autograph requests.


my sister is not dead


Since it's St. Patrick's Day, I thought I should update everyone on our favorite pint-sized Irish girl with a plus-sized liver, my sister Molly. She's in Guatemala, where they celebrate El Día de Santo Patricio. Everyone wears verde, and they eat carne del misterio de vaca salada, probably cooked in a big vat of lard, because that's how they do it at the orphanage. I am also guessing that Molly is spending a lot of time kicking a soccer ball, and watching She's the Man with her young charges.

The reason i am giving this update is to reassure people who read the tragic story of a different Molly Keane, a woman from Berkeley who drowned last month trying to save her dog. It was a very sad story, and my condolences go out to the other Keane family. The story has reverberated with people in the Bay Area, and it has spread far enough that people at our church have been asked to pray for Molly Keane.

Since our Molly has been out of the country for months, this has understandably worried a lot of people. My parents pretty much only attend church for weddings and baptisms, so parishioners can't get in-person confirmation of my sister's aliveness. And, since they rarely answer the phone at home, no one can get telephonic confirmation either. Perhaps we need to ask the priest to clarify that they're praying for Molly Keane, but not that Molly Keane. Or hell, pray for both. Molly seems to be OK, but you really never know when she'll accidentally flood the orphanage bathroom, or misplace her softball socks.

In the interest of full clarification, I will note that the Keane family now has a dog again, a shitzu/lhasa aphso mix named Snickerdoodle. She's seven weeks old, and I'm sure she and Molly will get along famously.

snickerdoodle 001.jpg

baseball takes the bus

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When my friend Mike B told me about his new job editing online sports video, I saw an opportunity. Yes, the web is awash with sports commentary of all stripes - but does any of it take place on public transportation? With our niche firmly in sight, "Baseball Takes The Bus" was born.

So far, there are four of these in the can, and, dare I say it, they just keep getting better. They all come at the tail end of "MLB Roundup", a short baseball commentary show, with "Baseball on the Bus" coming last, and least informatively. For your enjoyment, the videos can be found after the jump.

Oscar season ends just as baseball season gets going. Pitchers and catchers reported on Valentine's Day, just as voters received their promotional DVDs. Hitters were taking their first swings as actresses were getting their hair styled for the big night. And just as I embarked on a 48-hour binge of nominated films two days before the ceremony, this weekend I will embark on a 48-hour binge of preseason baseball down in Arizona. Much like the movie Atonement, Giants games are sure to be overlong and somewhat disappointing, even when you go into it with low expectations already.

So who are the equivalents to these Oscar nominees on the Giants? Let's find out!

No Country For Old Men = Barry Zito

Because Barry Zito is stealing millions of dollars. He's also known for long, girlish hair.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly = Ray Durham

Diving Bell is about a man who has a massive stroke, resulting in near-total paralysis. He can only move his tonuge slightly and blink his left eye. Still, he'd have more range at second base than Ray Durham.

Juno = The Giants' Youth Movement

Much like Juno, the Giants' youth movement is overhyped, and when you look at it, all of the references and visual evidence indicate someone who was a teenager back in 1993. Also, Dan Ortmeier used to be a stripper.

Atonement = Randy Winn

Atonement got many nominations, but only won Best Score. Randy Winn has played on many teams, but only one of them has finished with a winning record. Also, 70 times a year, Randy Winn scores elegantly, and it sounds like a typewriter for some reason.

Michael Clayton = Aaron Rowand

"I'm not the guy you pitch to! I'm the guy you walk, and then pitch to Aurilia!"

There Will Be Blood = Former Giant Armando Benitez

Because Benitez clearly drinks a lot of milkshakes.


(Simulcast on Humm Bloggy)

There's two additions to the Zembla sidebar today. One is Hitsville, a blog about music and pop culture written by journalist Bill Wyman (Not that Bill Wyman). Mr. Wyman has written for The Daily Californian,, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and once when he visited my office, we tricked him into getting fingerprinted as a security measure. He may have less to write about now that The Wire is over, but I trust he will continue to provide relevant pop culture observations, particularly now that John Cougar Mellencamp has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

(Digression: I think Mellencamp's induction means that Kevin from The Office is one step closer to beng very rich.)

The second site is Dolores Park Couture, a site devoted to cataloguing the ridiculous fashion choices made by visitors to SF's Dolores Park. Now that it's getting hot, the popularity of DP is only going to increase. I can't wait to see what hipsters bring out for the new season, and what DP Couture's anonymous author has to say about the whole thing.


Ebony & Irony happens TONIGHT at Julie's Supper Club, on Folsom Street near 7th. The lineup is all follows:

Kevin Munroe (Ebony)

Joe Tobin (Irony)

Reggie Steele (Also Ebony)

Brendan Lynch (Also Irony)

Jeff Cleary (Boston)

And yours truly, hosting and keeping everyone in perfect harmony. $7 in advance, $10 at the door, and a steal at any price.

This year's Academy Awards roundup sets itself apart from the other post-Oscars reports by coming out over a week after the show ended. This should allow for proper meditation on the award-winners and fashion trends. If we'd had this kind of time to reflect back in 2006, we could have all realized that Crash was not an abominable choice for Best Picture, and that jokes about gay cowboys would never, ever get old.

The monologue

It's not really his fault, since the writer's strike didn't give him much time to prepare, but Jon Stewart's opening was pretty weak. Last time, he leaned on some pre-taped bits, which there was likely no time for this year. Stewart's default instinct is to go for political jokes, which meant the monologue felt like old Daily Show jokes slightly tailored to mention Hollywood. His joke about how having a black president usually meant an asteroid was about to hit the Statue of Liberty was fine. Of course, my friend Reggie Steele had a joke with the same premise of "black president = movie disaster" more than six months ago, so it wasn't exactly novel territory.

Really, Jon Stewart is too good for the self-congratulation and rah-rah, Go Movies! feel of the Oscars. The Whoopi Goldberg-style, "Here's this nominee. How good was that performance?" sounds awkward coming from Jon Stewart. He should be making fun of the Academy Awards, not celebrating them.

Rooting instincts at this party

The crowd hated the songs from Enchanted, to the point where we muted the TV and listened to old Oscar-winning songs during the musical numbers instead. Some people seemed to hate Amy Adams and her strange-looking forearms, but everyone who admitted to actually seeing the movie seems to have liked it. There was some low-level resentment for Juno as well, though it was hard to tell if that was regular indie backlash or genuine hatred for lines like, "Honest to blog?"

Best Costumes

Alexandra Byrne, designer for Elizabeth 2: Electric Boogaloo, modeled her speech on her film's theatrical release: Brief and forgettable. Much like Cate Blanchett's Best Actress nomination, this award was all about Oscar's shame at giving Shakespeare In Love so many awards back in 1999.

Best Supporting Actor

Javier Bardem won for No Country For Old Men and sealed his place in future Oscar telecast montages by finishing his speech in Spanish. Meanwhile, Hal Holbrook's impending death was not enough to get him a statue, and Casey Affleck will soon learn, one Oscar is all his family is ever going to get.

Best Actress

Julie Christie was the betting favorite, but in hindsight, Marion Cotillard should have been the overwhelming choice. The three best ways to get Oscar's attention:

1. Play a real person.
2. Play a drug addict.
3. Make yourself ugly via weight gain, weight loss, or prosthetics.

Cotillard did ALL THREE. No contest. Her speech was endearing, but I felt it reflected her lack of vocabulary more than anything. She gushed, "Thank you, life! Thank you, love!", and, if the orchestra hadn't been about to play her offstage, she'd have finished with, "Please sir, where is bathroom? More cheese, s'il vous plait. " Just like when I win my first Mexican Oscar, my acceptance speech will likely contain an extended discussion of mi color favorito.

Heath Ledger shoutouts

It was a foregone conclusion that he'd anchor the "In Memoriam" section, but we wondered, would anyone make reference to Heath Ledger during the show? No one did, though I am counting Owen Wilson's presenter gig as an implicit Ledger shoutout.

I was uncannily accurate with my death montage prediction, correctly noting that Roy Scheider died too late for inclusion, and correctly calling the ending as, "Bergmann, random woman, random guy, Ledger." I was surprised to see so many agents pictured. Have there always been so many agents in the death montage? Was 2007 an unusually deadly year for agents?

"She's dead?" award: Suzanne Pleshette.
"She was still alive?" award: Deborah Kerr.

I also wonder if at any point in the editing process, an eager intern tried to sneak in a clip from Ten Things I Hate About You, before being overruled by a superior who insisted on Brokeback-only footage.

For my money, nothing beats the 2005 death montage, with live cello and a huge roster of deaths, including a Murderer's Row of Hollywood dead at the end - Rodney Dangerfield, Tony Randall, and Marlon Brando. You can also tell that Jerry Orbach's constant presence in Law and Order reruns made him more popular than producers expected, leading to an awkward early swell of applause that throws off the rhythmn of subsequent dead actor applause.

Worst Nominations/Best Speech

The Best Supporting Actress category continues to be a hodgepodge of questionable nominees. Precocious prepubescent actresses join old ladies who logged 5-6 minutes of total screen time to compete with the real, grown-up actresses. That may be why this category is usually fairly predictable (2000 was the only upset in the last ten years). Delightfully, Tilda Swinton won, and took the stage looking like David Bowie wearing garbage bag made of velvet. She said "nipples" and "buttocks", she made fun of George Clooney, and she acknowledged writer-director Tony Gilroy (who also wrote Bourne - good year for him). Then she went home with her 29-year-old Kiwi painter boyfriend. Tilda Swinton is a pimp, you guys.

Least Appropriate Heckle

Someone made fun of Miley Cyrus's inability to fill out the front of her dress (a common theme at this year's awards.) It wasn't me, though I might have made a followup comment about an achy breaky training bra.

The Editing Ultimatum

The Bourne Ultimatum won all three editing awards in what was somewhat of an upset. At recent Academy Awards ceremonies, it's been rare for a film to both win Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing (only King Kong has doubled since 1999), which might well be an Academy directive to make Oscar pools more exciting. Before that, films won both sound awards all the time, but maybe it was also still cool to wear a band's t-shirt to their concert back then, too.

Each winning sound team from Bourne featured a long-haired guy who didn't get to talk during the acceptance speeches. Sound Mixer dude was a hippie type, whereas the Sound Effects longhair looked more like a Vietnam vet. He visibly flinched when the orchestra began playing him off, possibly triggering his PTSD. Of course, few things would trigger one's PTSD more than trying to do editing for The Bourne Ultimatum. "Who's in the mall? Is that a sniper? Where's Bourne? Is that Charlie?"

Roderick Jaynes was denied an Oscar for No Country For Old Men, but that's probably OK with him, since he thinks the Coen Brothers are "clods".

Honoring/Demonizing the Troops

In a tribute to the armed forces stationed overseas, soldiers in Iraq read off the nominees for best short-subject documentary. They were introduced by Tom Hanks, because he was in Saving Private Ryan, and that basically makes him a veteran, just like Apollo 13 made him a spokesman for NASA, and Splash made him a marine biologist. The troops did their thing, and Middle America cheered. Middle America immediately stopped cheering when the award went to a documentary about same-sex couples and domestic partnerships.

Moments later, Hanks presented the Best Documentary Feature Oscar to Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about an Afghan taxi driver who was BEATEN TO DEATH BY AMERICAN SOLDIERS. You need at least one commercial break to cleanse the palate between the ovation for the troops' heroism and the ovation for the exposé of the troops' human rights abuses. Maybe that was the spot where the montage about bad dreams could have gone. Couldn't they have let the soldiers have done one of the sound awards? That usually goes to a movie with lots of shooting, and a big enough budget that it can't afford to be critical of the war effort. It'd be perfect.

Best Actor

The only mild upset was that Daniel Day-Lewis's clip was, "I abandoned my boy!" instead of the milkshake monologue. I also thought they'd use Clooney saying, "I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy!", but in hindsight, "Do I look like I'm negotiating?" was a fine choice. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp is laying the foundation for a future Oscar, but until he sucks it up and plays a real-life historical figure - preferably an alcoholic who's confined to a wheelchair - he'll be relegated to bridesmaid status on Oscar night.

Best Topping

Baked potato bar: Bacon. Who says the Jews run Hollywood?
Sundae bar: In a major upset, it was crushed Butterfinger bars.

Notable snubs

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eddie Vedder's music from Into the Wild, broccoli, Gene's insistent demands for a box fan, the Coen brothers in this writeup.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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