Monday, November 20, 2006

And Such Small Portions!

Last night, my friend Joan and I saw Randy Newman perform here in town. Randy, as you may know, is the guy who sang "Short People," "I Love L.A." and "You've Got a Friend in Me" (from Toy Story). Before the show, Joan and I had dinner at a very nice restaurant near the theater (Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A.). But some other friends of ours opted to eat at this really expensive place called Patina, located in the theater complex. They have the kind of menu that may require you to take out a second mortgage on your home. It made the upscale bistro we ate at look like McDonald's in comparison. Because I'm more of a lowbrow kinda guy, Joan and I did not join our other friends at Patina.

However, we were understandably eager to compare notes, and later asked our friends about their dining extravaganza. As we fully expected, the word "overpriced" came up a lot. Well, sometimes a picture says a thousand words, so here's a photo of our friend Jacques posing with his Patina meal. It certainly sums it all up very nicely...both the look of the meal, and the look on his face.

Sometimes you don't really get what you pay for....

Friday, August 25, 2006

15 Things I Learned in China

This summer I visited China for the first time in my life. It's a country that has always fascinated me. So now, after a week's vacation in Beijing, I'd like to share some little nuggets of information I have come away with.

1. The word "hamburger" refers to any sandwich consisting of meat between two buns—mainly fish, chicken, pork or ham. But almost never ground beef. Ground beef is not sold in stores. The only place that sells beef burgers is McDonald's (and it did not seem to be the most popular menu item there).

2. By and large, people in China are very friendly and complimentary. Although I was stared at almost constantly while walking down the street, when I actually engaged someone in conversation, I was flattered and told very nice things.

3. Everywhere you go, signs—including names of parks, stores, places, etc.—refer to Happiness, Joy, Good Health, Dreams, Luck, etc. I visited the Wonderful Supermarket, located in the Pretty Department Store. None of this nomenclature is intended to be even slightly ironic.

4. Lay's Potato Chips are extremely popular. Flavors include Lemon, Cool Cucumber, Green Tea, Texas Barbecued Ribs, Steak, Peking Duck, Chicken, Hokkaido Grilled Crab and, of course, Crisp Hokkaido Seaweed.

5. It is summer, and the cicadas are in the trees everywhere, buzzing loudly. My Chinese guide said she liked the sound. "They are singing for joy," she explained (again, without irony).

6. They're still using the old-fashioned pop-tops on soda cans over there—the old pull-off, removable kind. Using them gave me a little nostalgic kick; I haven't seen them in about 15 years.

7. There is no part of the chicken or the pig that Chinese people will not eat. In addition to cow's hearts, chicken feet and pig heads, some of the stuff I saw in the marketplace was appalling to my Westernized sensibility.

Most disturbing: a table full of silkworm pupa. This would have been a serious matter for the health department in the U.S., not a typical dinnertime alternative. Also, as a rule, Chinese cuisine bears little or no resemblance to the Westernized Chinese food they sell in the U.S.

8. It was a revelation to finally see how the Chinese language is typed using a standard "QWERTY" keyboard. Chinese characters are entire words in themselves, not "letters" used to form words. Therefore, using special computer software, a letter of the Roman alphabet is clicked to bring up a menu of Chinese words to be selected. I also learned that most, if not all, Chinese words are one syllable.

9. There are no clothes my size available in China. An XXL shirt in Beijing was roughly equivalent to our "large."

10. Chinese tastes are reflected even in the flavors of their toothpaste. I brought home a tube of Crest toothpaste—Green Tea flavor!

11. Welcome to a whole new world of fruits and vegetables. Taro, durian and haw (see above) seem to be as common as apples and strawberries are here. But watermelon seems to be the most popular fruit in China by far. I lost count of the different kinds of vegetables, but cucumber is staggeringly popular. Oh, and three words: CORN ICE CREAM!

12. No matter how crazy or irresponsible you think American pedestrians are, I assure you, they are not. People on foot in and around China's highways are all suicidal, every single one of them, including people on bicycles. As a passenger in many Chinese taxis, I was sure I would witness a killing about every 10-20 seconds. People step right in front of speeding cars in this country, totally devoid of any kind of fear. Bicyclists too. Watching cars and pedestrians constantly play games of
"chicken" was one of the most amazing and horrific things I have ever seen. Side note: The entire time I was in China, a Communist country, I never once saw any police or any police cars. By comparison, the USA is much more of a "police state." When I asked where all the police were, my Chinese guide said I could find them at the police station. "If you need them, you call them," she shrugged.

13. I came down with strep throat in China. Lucky for me, antibiotics were cheerfully sold over the counter, and my condition cleared up after a couple of days. (Side note: virtually everything in China is dirt cheap.)

14. It is not unusual to see cars with one wheel in the front of the vehicle instead of two, like a giant gasoline-powered tricycle. Same with three-wheeled motorcycles. There are many motorcycles in China that have a kind of auto-body structure built around them.

15. Toilet paper in public lavoratories is NOT a given. You would be very wise to bring your own.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Friday, May 19, 2006

God Unwilling

The recent film United 93 tells how the action might have unfolded aboard that one 9/11 flight that failed to reach its target. Any American will have the same reaction to this story—it is a mixture of horror, sadness and patriotism. In the movie, and in other accounts of Jihad, we see that the terrorists frequently utter the phrase “God willing” or something equivalent:

“I have not killed, but God willing, I soon will.”

“Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood.”

“Praise be to God, I have completed 25 operations up to now. God willing, more are to come.”

So here’s what I’m wondering: How do the terrorists rationalize the fact that United 93 did not reach its intended target? Do they believe that, indeed, God was not willing in this example? Evidently, God was willing to let the World Trade Center and Pentagon be hit...but for some reason, God was unwilling to let the White House be destroyed. Does this give them pause? Why would the Almighty give the thumbs-up on only the first three sites, but not the fourth? I know my answer to this question. But how do the terrorists answer?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why I'm Great

Just as the cost of living continues to increase, the power of certain words inevitably diminishes. One such word is awesome. You used to be able to convey something uniquely grand with it; now it is reduced to being a slang word reserved for one's rating of a grilled cheese sandwich. Another such word is great. No longer does it mean what it once did, as exemplified by this oft-heard figure of speech:

"If you could ________, that would be great."

In these kinds of ordinary requests, it is insufficient to simply say, "May we have some more mustard?" or "Could you take another look at my radiator fluid?" No, when it comes to getting what we want, we now resort to unnecessarily obsequious bribery, as if adding a second roll of stamps to our order will be in the same league as discovering the cure for lupus. "Really?" I want to exclaim. "It would be great if I got you a new fork? Wow! I always thought my meager fetching and carrying were just routine tasks. And now I know I'm great! Maybe I can be president someday!"

Judging by how fast our language changes, it is only a matter of time before we begin to hear the following:

"If you could email me the recipe, that would be worthy of a Pulitzer."

"If you would grab us some napkins, I believe humans of whatever gender you are attracted to will strip themselves naked and beg you to have sex with them."

"Stop fantasizing about single-handedly locating the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. If you could make sure we have fresh towels, your act will impress me far beyond the act of bringing down the world's most notorious convict."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Goofy Sex

Everybody knows who Donald Duck is, and by extension, his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. I am not sure whether Donald is technically married to Daisy Duck, at least within the confines of the fictional Disney universe, nor am I sure how these ducklings are technically related (are they his sister's kids? Brother's?). I suppose it does not matter much, but what does matter to me is who sired Max, the dog I have been assured is Goofy's son. I am unaware of any female counterpart for Goofy. And I just can't picture Goofy humping another dog. Or maybe I just don't want to. And yet, the identity of Max's mother continues to elude me, much like viable topics for this blog.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hell Plaza Googleplex

You can applaud recent movie biographies like Walk the Line and Capote if you wish. I was totally bored by them, but it doesn't matter. It's easy to show us a biography of someone's life. Here's my point: Movies don't challenge us anymore. They don't grip our national consciousness and dare us to look at ourselves and say, "My God, look how screwed up we are." Movies don't mock us—they don't shake us up. I remember the last great film that made me feel like that 10 years ago: Citizen Ruth. I can't think of anything more recently that made a social comment or that really blew my mind. And now is the perfect time—when states are banning abortion and politics are steeped so highly in religious ideals. We're becoming the same kind of nation we purport to despise, where fanaticism rules the roost, and religious smugness turns dangerous. Have we all gone insane? But our movies don't reflect it anymore, and that's OK, because finally we have a big-screen version of Bewitched, with I Dream of Jeannie coming right down the pike. Where are the Cuckoo's Nests, the Rockys, the Godfathers? While Hollywood cranks out sequel after sequel, remake after remake, trotting out tired cliches and warmed-over scripts and idiotic star vehicles, the only place to find fresh, dramatic, funny and genuinely engaging stories is on TV. How motherfuckingly ironic it is that the movies have become TV, while TV has become the last bastion for original thinking?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Am Doing "It" Right Now!

Oh my God.

This is incredible.

I am doing "it" right now!

Can such nirvana be possible? I never knew the human brain was capable of experiencing pleasure like this.

Seriously, this is the manifestation of every positive feeling I've ever had, combined into one vortex of climactic wonderfulness.

It's as if every synapse in my head has suddenly exploded into an orgasm of unearthly delights. And here I am, right now, doing "it" and writing to you about it simultaneously!

Holy Christ, how can I possibly describe how totally awesome this is? Unless you've done "it," you couldn't possibly understand. Furthermore, the combined act of doing "it" while writing about it only serves to enhance the overall experience. I could literally do "it" and write about it all day long!

Man, and "it" just keeps getting better and better. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, yeah.

So freakin' righteous.

Aw, shit.

I just stopped doing "it"!

Now I gotta start over again.

Later, dudes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's Official: I Love Myself!

Last night, following dinner, I made it very clear: I am completely and totally in love with myself.

After work, I went to dinner, alone, to a fancy restaurant. Following the meal, I surprised myself with a gorgeous bejeweled ring. It was at this point that I expressed my deepest and most genuine expressions of affection. I left no room for doubt—it's love!

It hardly goes without saying that I loved myself well into the night.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I don't mind doing favors for people. This automatically puts them in the position of owing me a favor, and trust me, I'm a big believer in payback.

Lately I've been been asked to do quite a lot of favors for people, and I find it hilarious that the word "wondering" is, without exception, one of the main ingredients of asking me do a favor.

"I was wondering if you could proofread my letter."

"I was wondering if you wouldn't mind helping me with this project."

"I was wondering if you might contribute to this charity."

Why can't they just say:

"Would you proofread this?"

"Can you help me?"

"Could you give me some money?"

Why can't the subject of the sentence be more about the favor itself, and less about the act of wondering? One of the main differences between the first clutch of sentences (the "wondering" ones) and my revisions is that the original ones avoid asking a question. Examine each of those opening salvos, and you'll notice that the speakers are merely making a statement—they're giving you some information about themselves, not actually asking you anything. It's really an act of cowardice. Grow some cajones. If you want something, don't sit there wondering. Just ask!


For some reason, I always hear the stupidest things on TV right before I go to work. This morning's atrocity was a commercial for "Dr. Dolittle," the musical starring Tommy Tune, which is apparently coming to L.A.'s Pantages Theater. The voice-over announcer instructed me to "get ready for family entertainment beyond your wildest imagination!"

Now, I think it's important for this TV announcer to understand that while my imagination may not be as versatile as, say, Stephen Hawking's, it's reasonably spiffy. I can imagine a kind of family entertainment that would, for example, encompass the euphoria of being on heroin and crack cocaine while having unprotected sex with Heather Locklear handcuffed to the bedposts after breast-enlargement surgery. I can imagine a kind of family entertainment that would be like taking a five-hour ride on a roller coaster that starts at the top of the Empire State Building in New York and ends in Atlantic City, with 5,001 upside-down loops along the way. Somehow, I don't think Tommy Tune singing, "If I Could Talk to the Animals" to a guy in a Pushmi-Pullyu costume is going to transcend my wildest imagination. It might—and I'm being very charitable here—might be beyond my imaginative capabilities at 5 o'clock on a Sunday morning after I've taken a sleeping pill and was just awakened by the sound of a ringing telephone. But probably not.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Actual phone conversation I just had:

Me: Hello, I was calling to check the status of my credit-card application.

CSR: May I have your Invitation Number?

Me: Sure. It's 425-6668-5332.

CSR: Thank you. Just a moment. (pause) I'm sorry sir, that application has not yet been decisioned.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Here's something that never fails to bring a quizzical expression to my face:

"God helps those who help themselves."

Do people genuinely find this bit of wisdom inspirational for some reason? Does this mean that God doesn't help those who don't or won't help themselves? What if the guy can't help himself? What if he has no arms, and the help he needs is to open a door? God can't help that guy?

I'm told the expression came from Aesop. "It's one of those circular logic things that Bible thumpers like to trot out," my pal Cindybear says. "Essentially God can help you, but he won't; when things work out, he'll take credit for it. Kinda like a conservative, I guess."

To me it's like saying, "The candy is free to those who pay for it." Actually, I've seen pretty much that exact thing while shopping. The other day I was in a mall, and there was a sign in a store window that said, "FREE EAR PIERCING with $3.00 service charge." Excuse me, do I have the word idiot tattooed on my forehead? (Before you respond to that, let me assure you that the answer is no.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Non-Good English

Heard on the local news not more than three minutes ago:

"The three passengers of the car were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries."

I would have prefered to hear "with injuries that were not life-threatening."

But people seem to like saying the "non."




And so forth.

I call it nonsense.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tiny Time Wasters, Part 1

If you're using the Internet, and you click on a link or type a URL into your browser, I'm fairly sure you like to get to the meat right away. Is there anybody who actually enjoys the treacle? Earlier today I went to a website for work...and the introductory page provided the name of the company and a button that said, "Enter." What's the point exactly? Why aren't we automatically directed to the place we want to go? Why must we "Enter"? It's not a building. It's Is there one person on the planet who wants to go through the hassle of a superfluous mouse click? If you're a webmaster with an "Enter" page, you must have this sign on your wall.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Attention Dead People

It's not that I don't believe John Edward can communicate with the dead.

I'm sure he can.

The problem is that he fails to ask the right questions.

All we need to know from the dead are the following:

1. Where is the gold buried?

2. Where is the treasure hidden?

You may now resume your haunting activities.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Another Goddamn Blog

Dueling blogs! Turns out I have so much to say that I can't possibly say it all here, so I've started an alternate blog on MySpace. The other one is little more abstract. Not that anybody is reading either one. Still, I suppose I could have fans out there in cyberspace. Or maybe I will die in some horrific manner, and the blogs will achieve notoriety simply by being there. Well, now things will be twice as creepy with this other blog, which you can access with this link:

Brett's MySpace Blog

Have a Lou Bega day!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

How Great Thou Aren't

It was the kind of tragic event that distracts an entire nation, and in this case, much of the world waited in horror.

Thirteen miners a mile or so beneath the ground in West Virginia were trapped following a deadly explosion. For 42 grueling hours, a rescue workers tried to reach and save the men. And then, last night, came word of a miracle.

All but one of the men were found alive.

Before I went to sleep last night, I watched a news program that showed numerous people, including friends and families of the 12 men, gathered in front of a church and singing a gospel hymn: "How Great Thou Art."

But when I woke up, the news reports were solemn -- due to a miscommunication, all but one of the men were dead.

Tragic news, indeed. But all I can think about is the song. "How Great Thou Art." Do the people singing the song still believe in the message? And if so, isn't it a different message -- not how great God is for helping to save their loved ones, but how truly great his wrath is?

Why do we always make it about God? There was a terrible incident and several people died. Credit God, if you must, for creating the Heavens and the Earth, but why invoke his name when something like this happens? I guess we feel we must thank someone. Still...what song are these people singing now?