And for no other reason than that the Internet is fueled by nipples and adorable animals ... here's a photo of the latter.
Little Rock's finest hipster-leaning after-work coffee/beer/burger dispensary, The House, is closed much of this week for some sort of renovation. They're adding wines and beers and entrees, all of which I'm sure will be delightful. The only thing I've had there that didn't meet muster was a portobello that should have been retired and turned into Soylent Green about three days earlier. But c'est la vie: The House is, for a lot of us social workers, a fine office away from home. The service has always been exceptional, the occasional live music delightful, the scene indispensable. I'm the sort who finds it difficult to work alone in a quiet room largely because I worry that somewhere a brainy dame is sitting in a coffee shop waiting for me to walk in, and because there's no other way to write a ballet review than with a draft pint at hand, and the House is positively lousy with pints and dames. Plus it's about four minutes away by bike. This, friends, is why people live in town.
Not that my two cents is worth a nickel, but while the House is closed, I could offer one suggestion for an upgrade: Change the name. For the love of Pete, change the name. I've actually had the following conversation on the phone while sitting there:
"Hello. Yeah, I'm at the House. With a capital "h." Right, not at home -- at the restaurant confusingly named after my place of residence."
My friends and I have taken to calling the place "the fork house," which I assumed was the name of the joint when I saw its logo. Because who would name a restaurant "the House"? That's the name of the place where everyone spends at least half their time. The place where we tell people to come over to, to meet us. It's a name so blatantly confounding that it got me thinking of suggestions for a little switcheroo.
The Restaurant. This would be a terrible name, yes, but a marginal improvement. Because then the friends you're trying to meet wouldn't accidentally come over to your house when you're not there.
On the Job. Fun only when friends ask you where you're drinking.
On the John. Fun especially when asked where you're having dinner.
The Fork House. They can keep the same logo, at least. And "fork" is fun to say.
Some photos may not be the most amazing the world has ever seen. But you shoot 'em, and they sit around, and then you notice them again and think, Well, that sure was a fine day, wasn't it?
The new camera here. It's a sexy beast. Pictures again are being taken. All's well.
Until I get around to processing the new shots, however, I'm just going to post this picture of my paternal grandmother, Lucille, that I snapped Gino's East in Chicago back in May. Something about my 79-year-old teetotaling Nana getting comfy at a neon-lit, graffiti-soaked bar (WE'RE GOOD TO GO!) tickles me.
Dammit, we all make mistakes, and the Worldwide Leader is no exception. Some of its employees can barely carouse the English language, but they tend to be future Hall-of-Famers in sports that can reduce a 40-year-old man's brain to cheese curds.
Then there's this frame, screen-grabbed during motion video in a promo that must run on ESPN.com several thousand times a day. That rogue apostrophe makes me wonder whether Bristol really is staffed by guys with 12th-grade educations.
I can't remember the last time I spent $500 on something other than auto repair. I've never spent that much (non-company money) on a plane ticket; even going to Haiti was only $375 round-trip. (Though, to be accurate, Spirit did see fit to charge an extra 25 bones each way for the right to molest my luggage.) Hell, my rent is only $475 a month.
But today, with the body of my trusty 30D still in the shop ($301, incidentally) I plonked down half a G on a camera that came highly recommended by a friend who described its predecessor, the G10, as the smallish companion to a full-sized SLR, the photojournalist's equivalent of a dagger secreted away in a boot sheath. The G11 has a swiveling LCD and drinks in light up to 3200 ISO. It shoots video, of the non-HD (just D?) variety. It'll fit in a pocket, which'll be a nice change of pace from the 30D, which for its formidable display of sheer bulk, is rarely stealthy. Lugging a huge camera into a situation is like wearing a giant sign that says "get some attention here." Girls talk to you. Drunks talk to you. Babies realize it's their time to shine. But sometimes it's nice to sneak around, so hurry your ass, UPS Ground.
Mostly my hope is that will take pictures that match the images I see in my head when I survey amazing things. As this one did:
Fun glitch-filled few minutes on motherjones.com this afternoon. Here's a screen grab of part of the homepage:
Occasionally I contribute movie reviews, among other articles, to the Arkansas Times, the AAN weekly here in Little Rock. Because the generally haphazard nature of the venture and the inconsequential size of this media market, I'm often a week behind, forking out a high-single-digit ransom to see the likes of "Slumdog Millionaire" or "Religulous" or "Vicky Christina Barcelona" or “The Informant!” and then pounding out 400 to 500 words on whether the movie is worth your money and time. Often as not, it is: Met on their own terms, most major releases tend to hit the same comfortable middle ground that most consumer goods do - similar, say, to a restaurant meal.
This week I reviewed “Zombieland,” which was unusual for a couple of reasons. First, I was able to see it Monday night at a promotional screening here in Little Rock, something apparently arranged by a radio station. Knowing that the theater would be lousy with people who’d gotten free tickets, I tried arriving almost 20 minutes early. But when my friend Kyle and I pulled into the cinema parking lot, we saw no more than a dozen cars. “This doesn’t look like free anything,” I told him. Sheepishly I phoned my editor, who informed me that I had the wrong theater. We jumped back in the car and drove at the sort of clip that inspired Kyle to reminisce about curb-hopping, parking lot-cutting races across his college town when he was a student. We arrived at the movie after the title credits, to a packed house. Funny thing: For a fat, shiny gumball like “Zombieland,” you wouldn’t want it any other way. Woody Harrelson’s character, Tallahassee, has an ongoing jones for Twinkies (ironic, maybe, given Harrelson’s own raw food diet; explaining this to "Esquire" he said, “To eat only raw food, you've got to love a salad. You've got to just love a salad."). A little girl (6 or 7 years old) sitting next to me kept asking her mom, “What’s a Twinkie?” Sitting a couple of seats away, the girl’s dad, I presume, threw in a couple of wisecracks, calling the protagonist (whom I described as a “a germaphobic ‘World of Warcraft’-addicted wiener") a “sissy” when he snuggled with a girl on a couch, and remarked, when a Humvee makes a timely appearance, that “every man needs a Hummer,” perhaps lowercased. A friend told us afterwards that the father next to her spent time scrounging the theater floor for an errant Adderall while his child bounced and chirped for all to behold.
But “Zombieland” wasn’t exactly “The Pianist,” and a little rowdiness doesn’t hurt. Yelling at the screen during a horror/action/comedy is no more disruptive than dancing at a concert. Which goes to the other unusual aspect of the “Zombieland” review: I didn’t say it explicitly, but that movie is pretty damn funny. Harrelson is the sort of knowing stupid-funny that makes me want to invite him over for a salad. On the way home I realized my abs felt like I'd been doing crunches; that's laughter, kids, and it's as healthy as fresh air. I stand by the closing of the piece: “You'll maximize your entertainment buck by seeing it with the largest, loudest, drunkest, dumbest audience you can find.” Sooner, then, is better.
When I told my friend Robert last night that Haiti has about 9 million people, and the Dominican Republic about 10 million, he asked in astonishment, “How big is that island? Like, as big as what state? South Carolina?”
Uh, actually, yeah, almost exactly as big as South Carolina – only 10 percent smaller, in fact. (Helluva guess, man.) But South Carolina contains just 4.4 million people. If you want to get a sense of the population density of Hispaniola, it turns out you have to put the population of Texas into a space as big as Indiana, or cram every Californian into something Iowa-sized, or just take South Carolina’s current populace and add everyone who lives in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Colorado. Then throw up a big ol' fence, ratchet the unemployment up to 83 percent, steal all the trees and let the good times roll.
I wonder whether it’s a factor of the late-night audience for prime-time football games – a pliable, slightly boozy demographic, given to rushed judgments and home-team jingoism – but I’ve noticed two borderline insulting TV spots in the past week after the pigskin is put to bed.
The first, in which a soccer mom with two strapping children unloads groceries and gives “Washington” what-for about a proposed tax on soft drinks. She looks like a mother lion about to claw the eyes out of an approaching hyena. “Families around here are counting pennies to get through this economy,” she says. “So when we hear about another tax it gets our attention. They say it’s only pennies. Well, those pennies add up when you’re trying to feed a family. Washington, if you’re listening, what doesn’t seem like much to you can be a lot to us.”
Here’s the video. Note that its comments and ratings have been disabled:
Take a guess who’s sticking up for “families around here.” Why, it’s a friendly group called Americans Against Food Taxes! Who is this coalition of concerned Americans? Well, they describe themselves as “responsible individuals, financially strapped families, small and large businesses in communities across the country [who are] opposed to the Government’s proposed tax hike on food and beverages, including soda, juice drinks, and flavored milks.” The American Beverage Association is leading the charge; regional chairs include representatives from the likes of the National Supermarkets Association and the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. I guess “Americans With Deeply Entrenched Financial Interests In Maintaining the Pipeline of Cheap Sugary Drinks Against Food Taxes” didn’t focus-group as well.
I grant that any trade organization worth its salt (and caramel color, and high-fructose corn syrup) isn’t doing its job if it doesn’t lobby against proposed taxes on its constituents. But the AAFT’s particularly specious arguments come down to two main points: the ludicrous “feed a family” line from the ad, and the claim that the tax would be, effectively, regressive – that it would disproportionately fall on the lower and middle class. If you’ve ever looked at the grocery aisles in low-income neighborhoods, this rings true: poor children in America are fueled by generic sodas and juice drinks that contain less than 10 percent juice. But therein lies the scandal. If parents do decide (please, God) that an extra nickel on a bottle of Coke is too much, they’re free to downgrade to R.C., and if that particular extravagance breaks the bank, there’s always Sam’s Choice. If that, also, is too high, then let me suggest tap water and other sources of calories. Meanwhile we’ll use the nickels to help treat type 2 diabetes.
The other ad doesn’t raise my hackles as much. Just check out this power executive’s speed-blinking when she mentions the environment 22 seconds into the video, and tell me if you believe what she’s saying: