The only Michael Jackson song I ever bought

July 5, 2009

image Ask my brother.  I was never, ever, ever a Michael Jackson fan.

Not during Thriller.  Not during Black or White.  Not during Bad.  Yet, I went out and I think during college bought the single, many years ago, of “Scream” when it came out.

I buy all my music.  Always have since before CD duplicating, before ripping, before downloads.  And I’m pleased to still own that copy of “Scream” on a CDsingle.  Just dug it out of my CD rack this evening.

Man, I loved this song.  Don’t know why really.  Probably because the song is so primal in it’s expression of sheer frustration.

Y’ever been that frustrated?  I have.

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A tribute to ‘Snuggle Puppy’

July 5, 2009

imageI suspect every parent in this generation knows about this song already but I really don’t care because it’s the first time I’VE ever heard it and ever since my wife and I started reading the book to our newborn son, Kyle, we can’t get it out of our heads.  It has us giggling like little elementary school kids in a really nice way.

OOO, Snuggle Puppy of mine! Everything about you is especially fine. I love what you are. I love what you do. Fuzzy little Snuggle Puppy, I love you.

Here’s a sample if you’ve never heard it, as sung by Eric Stoltz of movie fame:  LISTEN

I went through a bunch of the songs from the album where Snuggle Puppy came from, (Called Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton) and it turns out there’s a bunch of funny songs for kids on the album including “Pig Island” sung by Scott Bakula, of Quantum Leap & Enterprise fame.

Anyway, I just thought I’d mention that, as we used to listen to “Linkin Park” & “Audioslave”, we’re now listening to “Snuggle Puppy” & “Pig Island”.


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On meeting Georgia Tech guard, Drew Barry, in Italy

July 4, 2009

image One of the things I always remember back before getting married was a trip to Italy where I sat down to breakfast and met Drew Barry, all-time assists leader from GeorgiaTech and son of NBA All-star and legend, Rick Barry.

A friend and I were on a trip to Cervinia, Italy to ski/snowboard (Italian Alps/”The Matterhorn”) which was a trip that I’ve taken many times before, but we had taken a detour from Milan and stayed one extra night in a city called Varese which was a little out of the way but whatever.  We arrived at a hotel that was quaint, quiet, well kept but very very very old. 

You could tell the hotel had stood the test of time by the architecture, the narrow hallways, the decor, and the furniture.  I saw items with descriptions near them written in Italian that I couldn’t read but I certainly understood the dates:  Stuff like 1729 and 1863.  With the ambiance of the dimly lit room and the antiques that populated each room, I got the feeling that I was surrounded by the ghosts of European wars past and couldn’t help wondering who’d visited these halls over the past 2-3 centuries.

Did I mention there was, like, no one there?  Seriously – we were the only ones in the hotel.  Besides the innkeeper, the place looked completely deserted.  If not for the lights, one might have thought the hotel had been closed for the ‘off season’.  (During the winter, I guess, Europeans don’t stay in places like this… probably for good reason.  It’s very dreary, cold, and quiet.)

I sat in the dining room with my friend and as we were being served salami, cheeses, wine and other items, we listened to the most obnoxious silence one can imagine.  It was really uncomfortable speaking in the room because when you said something it echoed and was the ONLY thing you heard.  There wasn’t any background noise… there wasn’t even that “high pitched screeeeee’ that you hear in America when everything is quiet.  (I think people’s brains block out that screeeeeee sound it’s so common)

So anyway, while were sitting there, the silence was broken by some other people walking in!  A very attractive couple trotted in and sat at the table next to us.  They looked very young and appeared American.  I remember looking at the guy and thinking he looked a little familiar.  His girl was, well, really beautiful… I mean, she wasn’t over the top ridiculous-superstar attractive but she had a grace & style that was very down-to-earth, inviting and was a very good match for the guy who was tall, athletic, and well-groomed.  Especially for Italy where we’d seen a lot of guys that could use a shave, haircut, makeover, and for God’s sake, a bath.

With nothing better to do, I spoke up and asked them where they were from.  The guy said they were travelling for his work so I asked him what he did.

“I play basketball.”

Bingo.  Being the collegiate basketball freak, I immediately blurted out, “Whoa – what’s your name?”  He said, “Drew Barry”.  I stammered, “Drew Barry?  As in Drew Barry of Georgia Tech, son of Rick Barry, brother of Jon & Brent Barry?”  His girl’s face lit up from my recognition as he smiled meekly and said, “Yeah.  You remember me?”

Drew Barry played for Georgia Tech and was the school’s assists leader.  I saw him play a few times and really, you can’t help but watch a kid play when his genetics lead to one of the greatest NBA players in history.  We talked a bit and I found out that Drew was with a European team now.  I guess the NBA hadn’t panned out for him but he was playing for a team (Poland, I think?) that had been travelling to play someone in Italy and his girl was travelling with him. 

I had to believe that that must have been hard on her but I couldn’t say anything because I figured she was just being supportive of her guy and man, there’s something in my heart that chokes me up a little when I think about that level of loyalty:  Going to countries that don’t speak your native tongue, not being employed, not even being able to watch English language TV other than BBC World, watching your guy play basketball week after week (especially Eurohoops which is less than spectacular compared to the NBA) to make a paycheck?  That’s amazing.

Which brings up the sensitive topic of ‘getting paid’.  I know a lot of ballers will go to Europe to make a living.  My favorite UCLA player of all time, Ed O’Bannon, played in Europe for a while and made a million or so bouncing around Europe before retiring to Las Vegas.  (DEAR ED – I know it was a long time ago, but you ever want to get back into hoops & if you ever read this, please, please, please come back to UCLA.  You mean so much to us that remember 1995.  Contact the frickin’ athletic department and come home… you’re a GOD here in Los Angeles.  Everyone knows your story already.  I’m sure the administration would love your involvement and we love seeing you at the games.  You’re more of a symbol of UCLA greatness to my generation than Bill, Kareem, Reggie, Kevin, Baron, or anyone else I can think of.) 

Anwyay, Drew said that Europe paid pretty well, and based on what I’ve read, players could make $100k-$300k annually.  But one thing he said surprised me because I hadn’t heard of it before:

“The pay’s pretty good… if you manage to get paid, that is.

I asked him what he meant and he said that sometimes, getting paid for your play was random.  Some teams would just “not pay you”.  WTF?  Yeah, I guess in Europe, teams might decide not to pay you for whatever reason and if they do, you really don’t have any recourse because hey – you’re not a citizen.  You’re a gun for hire and you have no backup or legal recourse. 

Man.  Can you believe playing an entire season and then someone says, “Sorry.  No soup for you.”

This is something I don’t remember reading elsewhere and it’s something that’s really stuck with me for a while.  In America – if someone screws you over, you always have recourse through our legal system and yeah, it’s not perfect but at least we have that level of fairness.

We went on to eat our dinners and said our goodbyes.  We hadn’t talked much but I knew that I’d talked to not just a skilled player and his girl, but a genuinely nice guy.  While one might thing he may have been a little humbled by the European hoops experience, I got the impression that he really didn’t have to be humbled much:  He didn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have a chip on his shoulder and was probably a nice enough guy before coming to play in Europe.

I hope he landed well.  Thanks, Drew, for the memory.

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On being nominated to the Yelp Los Angeles Elite Squad

July 1, 2009

image Last night I was notified that I’ve been nominated for the Yelp Los Angeles Elite Squad which got me excited just for the recognition but it also has me thinking a lot.

WAIT.  WHAT’S A ‘YELP’? is a web site that does reviews of restaurants, services, doctors, etc. and aggregates them.  It’s got a clean interface and generally tries to highlight the well done, detailed reviews and minimizing the bad, poorly written ones.

For the people that participate, it gives them a chance to either drool or vent on a business, and the site makes it possible for you to personalize your interface.  For example, my reviews are all located at  (That’s right – a vanity domain name for my reviews.  It only took Facebook 5 years to do something similar and they don’t even give me my own subdomain.)

Basically, for the people that contribute either a lot of detailed editorial content or a lot of in-depth reviews & descriptions (personally, I believe I probably fall into the latter category being that I’ve only got 80 some-odd reviews but they’re all ridiculously detailed… but I could be wrong) they have regional community managers online that read through stuff and occasionally ‘recognize’ these individuals by ‘knighting them’ with the label “member of the Yelp Elite Squad”.

image What does it matter?  Well, Yelp Elite Squad members have the dubious distinction of having an special logo/badge next to their name that reads, “Elite ‘09” signifying the recognition.  These folks are also given Yelp branded clothing from what I understand and are invited to social events, funded and put on by Yelp itself in the local geography that you were nominated in.

All it all, it’s kinda like being deputized as an OpEd Editorial Contributor in an online newspaper as well as a big ol’ “Look-it-me everyone – I’m special.”  And everyone likes a little recognition once and a while.

Especially me.

Here’s the thing I’ve been pondering:  I’ve read things about the Yelp business model and to some degree it’s always sort of worried me a little.  Basically, if I crap all over a business (which I do from time to time) Yelp may contact the business and say, “We can bury Kurt’s bad review if you pay us a fee.”  This fee amounts to something in the thousands of dollars according to one business I frequent quite a bit. 

You can see the dilemma.  I understand that Yelp needs to make a penny and I don’t fault them at all for that, but I also understand that this is effectively weaponizing my opinion, which by Yelp’s usage policy, they can in fact do.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m extremely flattered that I’ve been recognized by the community managers in Los Angeles.  And being that there’s no shortage of opinions here in Los Angeles, this is a really nice honor.  I just kinda wonder how it is my opinion is being used when I’m not around.

Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter much in the long run though. 

Yelp is easily the most credible online opinion site when it comes to restaurants.  Epinions, CitySearch, and even Chowhound just don’t come close.  And when I think about it, being that I’ve written so much into Yelp already, my opinion’s being used in this fashion regardless of whether I’m part of the Elite Squad or not, ‘eh?  Might as well attend a few parties as compensation for my labor.  Never mind.  Forget I said anything. 

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

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Carl’s Jr. Teriyaki Burger: The single best TV ad for the absolutely worst fast food product ever

July 1, 2009

This has to be the single best advertisement for the single worst product ever.

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Travelers Insurance Advertisement – “Prized Possession”

July 1, 2009

What a great commercial.

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