Tuesday, December 11, 2012

10 reasons why New York is better than Chicago

OK, OK, all you New Yorkers who were outraged by my love letter to Chi-town: your city is nice, too.

1. Its grid system. Ask anyone in the world to meet you at the corner of 48th and 8th and she'll likely find it with no problem. Ask someone to meet you at the corner of Wabash and Wacker and it's time to bust out the Google Maps. (Also, Wabash and Wacker sounds dirty.)

2. It's an archipelago (except for the Bronx). This is cool because archipelago is not a word one gets to use every day.

3. Its pizza. Deep dish? Please.

4. “New York, New York” is a more rousing Sinatra anthem than “My Kind of Town.”

5. Its record low temperature is a mere 15 degrees below zero. Compared to Chicago's minus 27 it looks like the Equator.

6. It doesn’t call its metropolitan area “New Yorkland.” Seriously, “Chicagoland” is embarrassing.

7. The Times wipes the floor with the Tribune. To be fair, the Times wipes the floor with every paper in the universe. Not that I'm biased.

8. It has world-class restaurants in spaces the size of walk-in closets.

9. Its department-store Christmas decorations are much more attractive. Really, Marshall Fields Macy's that's your best effort? Come to Lord & Taylor or Barneys or Bergdorf's and see how it's done.

10. It's closer to mountains. The Midwest is unnervingly flat.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

10 reasons why Chicago is better than New York

Chicago and New York: two major American cities with abundant culture, interesting architecture, fine cuisine, and excellent mass transit. But only one can claim the title of best metropolis in the U.S. (Why? Because it's my blog and I call the shots.) Having spent a total of four nights in the City of Big Shoulders, I feel eminently qualified to list the reasons why it has it all over the Big Apple, my home of more than two decades. (Before you freak out, Gothamphiles: I'll make the case for NYC later this week.)

1. It doesn’t smell like B.O. or pee. (I have verified this with someone who actually lives there.)

2. Everyone loves an underdog.
The place calls itself the Second City, for Pete’s sake. And the Cubs suck even worse than the Mets.

3. Its downtown streets are broader and sunnier than the ones in midtown Manhattan. Or at least they seem that way.

4. Lake, big lake. That lives up to the name Great. And has an 18-mile biking/walking/jogging trail along it.

5. It’s a one-seat ride from the airport to the heart of the city. When is New York gonna get it together and extend the subway lines, or even the commuter rail, to the airports? The Air Train is bogus and the M60 is total BS. And speaking of the Chicago Transit Authority...

6. The L system has a Pink Line. Much more festive than the 4/5/6.

7. Its restaurants give free refills on drinks. Coming from a town where the mayor wants to limit soda sizes, this excites me. And speaking of mayors…

8. Rahm Emanuel. He’s a pottymouthed former ballet dancer with a cool name and a partially missing middle finger. Mike Bloomberg is just a short billionaire.

9. It's not quite as crowded. 2.7 million people is a lot fewer than 8.2 million people. Something like 5.5 million fewer, in fact.

10. WBEZ's This American Life is way more entertaining than WNYC's Selected Shorts.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Random things I don't like

1. Pencils. They make my hand hurt. Also, the pencil sharpener near my desk at work is REALLY LOUD.

2. The phrase "from ordinary to extraordinary." It's the same damn word, only with "extra" in front of it.

3. Whistling. Except when I'm the one doing it.

4. Marzipan. Never mind that you can mold it into whimsical shapes. That stuff is repulsive. 

5. Seann William Scott. I've said it before but it bears repeating.

6. Febreze®. It doesn't make motel rooms smell clean. It makes them smell... Febrezy®.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clothing names that make me laugh


1. Hogwashers. When I came across this term in a David Sedaris essay, I needed Mr. SZ (who comes from a part of the country where people wear them) to tell me it meant overalls. Months later, Mr. SZ made me laugh by gesturing to a toddler in a coffee shop and saying, "That baby is wearing hogwashers." (Trust me, it was hilarious.) Hogwashers are even funnier when they're made by Dickies. Speaking of...

2. Dickeys. No explanation necessary. The item of clothing itself makes me chuckle, too.

3. Highwaters. Subject of the timeless elementary-school chant, "Highwaters, highwaters, can't be beat/24 inches above the feet." See also: floods (and the couplet "The flood is over and the grass is dry/Why do you wear you pants so high?").

4. Dungarees. That's what we called jeans when I was a kid. I am quite old.

5. Rubbers. I am old, yes, but I have the sensibilities of a sixth grader.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Things about which I am squeamish

1. Eye surgery

2. Sweetbreads

3. The word "squeamish"

4. Thrift-shop shoes

5. The topless-women-in-New York City trend (Google it if you must; you'll get no link from me)

6. Okra

7. Scooping out the inside of a pumpkin

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Movie trailers I have recently seen

Movie trailers never suck. Even if the film itself is destined to be terrible, the trailer shows only the funniest and/or most exciting parts of it, making for a highly entertaining two-and-a-half minute experience. Here's a recap of the trailers screened at my most recent trip to the movies. Never mind what picture I saw. (OK, it was Hope Springs. Yes, I am in fact a 68-year-old retiree. IF YOU MUST KNOW.)

1. Alex Cross

What's this? Tyler Perry, the Madea dude, wearing men's clothing and playing a detective? I am intrigued. But now there's a crazy guy! Who is crazy about torturing people! And seems to be preparing to extract some lady's teeth! Uh, I'd rather see Patch Adams, the perennial loser of a game Mr. SZ and I like to play called "What Would You Less Rather See, Patch Adams or (Insert Name of Bad Movie Here)?"

Trailer rating: A
Odds that I will see the movie: 15 to 1

2. Playing for Keeps

300 star Gerard Butler appears to keep his shirt on in this one, in which he plays a washed-up former soccer player in the midst of a divorce from Jessica Biel. Don't worry, they'll get back together (despite the best efforts of that tart Catherine Zeta-Jones). Also, he drives a convertible.

Trailer rating: A
Odds that I will see the movie: 5 to 1

3. Trouble with the Curve 

In a shocking development, Clint Eastwood plays a cranky old man. In another shocking development, Amy Adams says the word "farted." Added bonus: Justin Timberlake! And that American Idol song they used to introduce the 2012 U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics team the one I refuse to admit gives me chills.

Trailer rating: A
Odds that I will see the movie: 5 to 2

4. Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

I can't fairly evaluate this one because it was in 3D and I didn't have 3D glasses. I will, however, say it made me carsick.

Trailer rating: N/A
Odds that I will see the movie: 15 to 1

5. Skyfall

No. No more James Bond. Quantum of Solace (what does that even mean?) bored me to tears. I'm done with 007 and his stupid car chases and explosions. But wait he's dead? This could get interesting. And whoa, there's Javier Bardem! Hola, friendo.

Trailer rating: A+
Odds that I will see the movie: 7 to 2

6. This is 40

Oh, Judd Apatow: you will never again achieve the brilliance of Freaks and Geeks. Certainly not with a "sort-of" sequel to Knocked Up, a movie I did not care for. But dammit, I am a sucker for that dreamy Paul Rudd.

Trailer rating: A-
Odds that I will see the movie: 3 to1

7. Zero Dark Thirty

I'm pretty sure this is about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, mainly because some male voice yells, "When was the last time you saw bin Laden?" not once, but twice. It is by the director of The Hurt Locker, a film that made me rethink my knee-jerk dislike for war movies.

Trailer rating: B (docked one letter grade for inscrutability)
Odds that I will see the movie: 2 to 1

8. Won't Back Down

Oh, great, another movie about everyday heroes who save underachieving schools. But hey, this one stars Academy Award ® nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal and Academy Award ® nominee Viola Davis and Academy Award ® winner Holly Hunter. Plus, it features Kelly Clarkson's rousing Nietzsche-inspired anthem "What Doesn't Kill You." And it's set in Pittsburgh! (I like Pittsburgh.)

Trailer rating: B
Odds that I will see the movie: 7 to 1 (if it's on TV on a Saturday morning) 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Songs that make me laugh

1. "Brick House" by the Commodores. Everything about this song is funny, from the opening wolf whistle to "lady's stacked and that's a fact." Its over-the-top sexism is funny. Even the name Lionel is funny.

2. "Chevy Van" by Sammy Johns. Who doesn't love a tune about a slutty hitchhiker? Sammy gets extra points for not using the line "If this van's a-rockin'...." Amazing restraint, that.

3. "I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene. The song itself is not particularly amusing. "By Charlene," however, is.

4. "Closer to the Heart" by Rush. No, it's not Geddy Lee's tortured soprano, or even the pretentious lyrics. It's the bell solo (at 1:03 if you're inclined to listen). Just what the hell is going on here?

5. "Heartlight" by Neil Diamond. I'll be the first to admit that Neil is a musical genius. But this song is about E.T. You know, the extraterrestrial. And that, my friends, is hilarious. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The 10 best New Jersey town names

1. Ho-Ho-Kus. Of course this tops the list. The hyphens really make it. If you're interested in the derivation, go here. (Spoiler alert: NOBODY KNOWS.)

2. Moonachie. I have no idea how to pronounce this and I refuse to look it up.

3. Carteret. A small Carter.

4. Hazlet. A mini-hazard. 

5. Cinnaminson.This appears to be misspelled. I enjoy that.
6. Colts Neck. More towns should be named after parts of baby animals. Me, I'd like to live in Kittens Head.

7. Mahwah. Wait, what's the name of your town? I can't understand you. Mumbler! (Here, somewhat gratuitously, is one of my favorite scenes from the excellent film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

8. Peapack. Try to say that aloud without smiling.

9. Elizabeth. Not Elizabethtown, not Elizabethville, just Elizabeth. I wonder why they didn't go with Jessica or Diane.

10. Sea Girt. Girt: it's a word you just don't hear every day. Unless, perhaps, you are the mayor of Sea Girt.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Things for which I routinely overpay

1. Taxis. Let's just say I have an interesting relationship with math, especially in such high-pressure situations as paying a cabbie. Sure, I could take a minute to calculate a 15% tip (there's an app for that), but generally I just guess. I hope the drivers enjoy the extra fiver I give them on a $7.90 fare.

2. Lunch. Leftover chili, made at home: $2.50 a serving. Mediocre veggie sushi with side salad, bought at a midtown deli: $10.

3. Races. Several times a year I shell out $23 or so to participate in a New York Road Runners race. Why exactly do I pay for the privilege of running four miles? Well, there is the "free" T-shirt.

4. Cat food. My first cat, Otis, dined exclusively on Meow Mix. When he died at age 14 of pretty much every ailment a feline can get, signs pointed to his crappy diet. Thus, the new kittens are livin' large on Merrick's Five-Star Entrees, including such varieties as Cowboy Cookout and Grammy's Pot Pie. Total retail value? About $42 a week. These guys damn well better live forever.

5. Netflix. On the face of it, eight bucks a month for unlimited DVDs seems like a pretty good deal. When you consider, however, that I hang on to movies such as The Wackness for five weeks before watching them, it's a little, uh, wack. (For what it's worth, I gave the film three out of five stars.)

6. Greeting cards. No joke: I just spent $6.48 (including tax) on a wedding card. And it wasn't even musical.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Random things I like, redux

1. Poached eggs

2. The moment when the lights start to go down in the movie theater

3. Hearing David Sedaris's voice in my head when I read his books

4. The expression "race to the bottom"

5. London plane trees

6. The way Vampire Weekend pops into my brain whenever I see a mansard roof, ride the M79 bus, use an Oxford comma (like the one coming up), or hear a news story about New York City schools chancellor Dennis Walcott

7. Tights

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Things that are really sort of weird when you think about them

1. Sneezing. Something gets stuck in your nose and it makes your head explode. Why are sinuses so desperate to get stuff out that they expel air at 75 mph? (Come to think of it, all bodily functions are pretty bizarre. Ever watch someone eat? It's disturbing.)

2. Cheech and Chong. These guys made a career out of being completely baked. Please watch the following clip and explain the appeal to me. (Do it. It's only 6 seconds long and since you're reading this blog, you clearly have nothing better to do.)

3. Confetti. Raining tiny pieces of paper down on people's heads is somehow considered festive. Even stranger: it gets shot out of a cannon. 

4. Work. Time was, people spent their days gathering food and building shelter to stay alive. Now we sit at desks to earn money to pay people to gather food and build shelter for us. Why not cut out the middleman?

5. Mushrooms. Ah, fungus. When it's covering the grout in our shower, we spray the hell out of it with Tilex. When it's on pizza, we can scarf down half a pie (I can, anyway). Some 'shrooms would kill you as soon as look at you. And then there are the kind that make you smell colors and taste sounds. That's weird, people.