Archive for September, 2006

Some Toys Scare Me: TMX

September 26, 2006

I’m a huge fan of toys. At the very least, I’m a huge fan of toy stores. The novelty of most toys wears off for me after a few minutes, so rather than spending my money on an Easy Bake Oven I can go to the store, stare at the box for a few moments, and leave satisfied. Those few toys that I do buy usually end up on display in my bedroom, although that’s not really an option for my current living situation. One day I tried bringing a Batman Lego set to the apartment, and Aaron made me put it together in the closet.

Anyway, my outrageously heterosexual friend Steve came over the other day, claiming he had something that he needed to show me right away. Me, fearing for the worst, figured it was a new addition to his vast gun collection, or some kind of annoying Flash animation.

Sadly, this was much worse that I could have possibly ever imagined.

For some reason Steve was walking through the toy aisles at Target when he stumbled across a large crowd of parents lining up to get a copy of the new Tickle Me Elmo 10th Anniversary Doll, Codenamed “TMX.” Seeing an opportunity, he lined up with the group and purchased two of the dolls on the spot. From there he went straight to my apartment to show the dumb thing off.

I can’t really explain why Elmo frightens me, but I think a big part of it is the full range of movement it has. When I was a child I had a Teddy Ruxpin doll; although it was a Great-Grandfather to TMX in a lot of ways, all it could really do was move its’ mouth and read a story.

Elmo is smart — really smart. Also, a bastard. If you ignore him for a few minutes, he will ask why you aren’t tickling him. Then when you do tickle him, he begs for you to stop! He can’t make up his mind, and it drives me insane. Growing up I was never concerned that Teddy might start a machine uprising against me and my loved ones. With Elmo I think about it constantly.

Thankfully Steve auctioned off both of these monsters online for a tidy profit, and with them sold out across the country I won’t have to worry about the invasion for a while at least.

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Word Games

September 22, 2006

I’ve been obsessed with word games lately.

Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession

That’s not to say there was ever a time in my life where I wasn’t interested in word games, but over the Summer things have gotten much, much worse. It was during July’s family reunion cruise when I picked up a copy of Marc Romano’s ‘Crossworld,’ a quirky and interesting read about the history and current state of America’s crossword puzzle scene.

Yes, America has a crossword puzzle scene and yes, I read a book about it.

Anyway, crosswords are generally too difficult and time-consuming for me, so my games of choice are USA Today’s Quick Cross and Up & Down Words. I usually play these at work, where the slow autumn shifts give me an exorbitant amount of time to fill between waiting on tables. What I enjoy most about them is that they are short, sweet, and trivia based, which is a speciality fo mine.

Every so often the references are incredibly dated, and I have to ask around for help. On more than one occasion I’ve asked my tables for help with a certain word clue, and the guests seem more amused by this than anything else.

Surprisingly, my love of the USA Today puzzles has spread onto my co-workers. Each day the complimentary newspapers the Macaroni Grill receives are torn to pieces, with every server taking a copy of the puzzles section for themselves.

I have a feeling this is going to get me into trouble down the line with my managers, but as far as I can tell they’re just upset that they aren’t smart enough to solve the puzzles themselves.

Try them for yourselves online!

USA TODAY Quick Cross

USA TODAY Up & Down Words

Good for a Laugh

September 13, 2006

Show us a picture of someone that can always makes you laugh.

Sunglasses

This is me and my token Jewish friend, Andrea. We were once co-workers at Disneyland, but have grown distant in recent months due to dramatic tension with myself and our mutual friend (ex-friend?) She is one of the brightest, funniest and most genuine person I know, and I’m genuinely concerned I’m not going to be able to reclaim said friendship to the way it once was.

Anyway, this photo is from my camera phone, taken in Long Beach sometime last year. Us and another co-worker had decided to visit the famous luxury liner, The Queen Mary, and an authetic Russian submarine which is docked nearby for tourists.

This was the first time we had hung out with just the two of us, and any awkwardness there was quickly vanished when we started talking about Saved By The Bell for one reason or another. As it turns out we are both huge fans of the show, and nerds, so much so that we held a Saved By The Bell-themed costume party several months later.

Someone who volunteers to throw a Saved By The Bell-themed party at their home is okay in my book.

What’s Wrong With Wendy

September 8, 2006

I’m truly blessed to live in an age with fast food restaurants.

I recently discovered that human beings were once forced to gather, hunt, and prepare all of their own meals! Aside from kings and plantation owners, there were few who did not know to do these very basic things. I, despite my most recent attempts, am forced to add this to my list of things I have in common with kings and plantation owners. If all of the fast food restaurants on Earth were to suddenly close, it’s entirely likely that I would either A) Be forced to move back home where my family could feed me properly, or B) Die.

Unfortunately, the more time I spend away from home the more I rely on these terrible establishments for my nutrition. After only a few months we have already developed a junkie/dealer relationship: my tastes have gotten more refined to satisfy my hunger (I only eat Taco Supremes now,) but in the process things are much more expensive. Whether it be Carl’s Jr., Arby’s, or Hardee’s, there isn’t a single drive-thru in the tri-country area where I can’t list off my favorite combo meals by rote.

Milk

In the past few years a massive push to make fast food healthier has resulted in the removal of Super-Sized combo meals, and especially fattening items from the menus of restaurants everywhere. Wendy’s, and a handful of others have taken great steps in adding more health-conscious choices, going so far as to let customers substitute their french fries and soda pop for milk, juice, orange slices or celery stalks (yum!)

Every time I pull into a Wendy’s restaurant I make a point of taking advantage of this luxury; not only because I would prefer milk to soda with my meal but also because I know that a lack of customer support will kill off movements like these. By ordering milk and orange slices I feel progressive and trendy; for a brief moment I’m one of those people who drive around in their hybrid vehicles with the windows rolled down so that the world can see them behind the wheel.

Last night the unthinkable happened. I was at Wendy’s fighting for America’s youth when the lady behind the counter refused to give me my milk and orange slices(!) She claimed it “wasn’t an option” with the combination meal I had ordered, and that I would have to choose between a chili bowl, or french fries. The milk and orange slices, as I was told, were only available with the kid’s meal, and were not available for individual sale. In the past other Wendy’s employees had made exceptions for me. but apparently the policy had changed. I found myself no longer able to treat myself to the healthy, god-awful orange slices I grew so fond of over the months.

It was at this point I snapped, and felt overwhelmed by an ethical dilemma generally reserved for solders at war or women about to shoot their abusive husbands. Did I dare make a scene of this, and if I did, how far could I take it? No doubt I would get my orange slices after shouting at someone in a position of authority, but would that satisfy me? Perhaps this was my calling. Much like the documentary filmmakers who kick-started this “fast-health” campaign, it was up to handsome people such as myself to keep it going.

After a few moments of awkward silence, the cashier, who I eventually came to know as ‘Bitch,’ tried forcing me into choosing french fries as I ran the various scenarios through my head. It became increasingly obvious that she was hoping to pressure me into a choice, but I’m from Disneyland, and I’ve learned the fine art of being an obnoxious-jerk through thousands of hours of interacting with real-life obnoxious jerks.

I’M CHANGING THE WORLD, DAMMIT, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU AND YOUR OPPRESSIVE FAST FOOD OLIGARCHY HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT!

That’s what I wanted to say, but I instead suggested a compromise. I would order a kid’s combo, and “upgrade” my food to something that would satisfy my adult-sized hunger. Not only was this more complicated to order, but I imagine it was incredibly annoying to ring up as a cashier. Now instead of my usual order:

I WANT A NUMBER NINE WITH WHITE MILK AND MANDARIN ORANGE SLICES PLEASE!

I had to order it like this:

I NEED A KID’S CHICKEN NUGGET COMBO WITH WHITE MILK AND MANDARIN ORANGE SLICES. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO UPGRADE THE CHICKEN NUGGETS TO ADULT-SIZED, WITH 12 PIECES PLEASE!

This may not sound like much of an inconvenience, but in my personal experience I have found that despite glamorous stereotypes reinforced by popular media, the intellectual quality of fast-food cashiers leaves much to be desired. As a result, making even the most simple changes to a food order can end in disaster. Now not only was I gambling with my meal even suggesting to make an unusual order, but I was doing something that required a moderate amount of skill and precision on the part of the entire Wendy’s restaurant staff.

On the off-chance that Bitch had entered my request correctly into the computer, it would then be up to her co-worker, the cook, to make it righ. Remember, these are people who for one reason or another, were deemed unqualified to deal with other human beings directly at a fast-food restaurant.

Dave-thomas

For want of whole milk and frozen oranges, I was putting my life on the line.

Bitch stared intently into the computer screen, scratching her brow as she tried to figure out what to do. She punched in several seemingly random buttons on the screen, and within a instant had disappeared deep into the restaurant’s walk-in freezer, only to return moments later with a bottle of whole milk and a cup of oranges in her hands. She looked at me nervously. I smiled, and nodded with approval as she stuffed them into a paper sack containing the rest of my dinner.

After several long minutes my adventure was over, and I felt proud of all that I had accomplished. If Dave Thomas were still alive, I imagine this is the type of joy and satisfaction he would have wanted all Wendy’s customers to have felt when leaving his successful chain of eateries.

I placed my bag into the seat of the car next to me, and sat there for a moment to reflect on all that had just happened. Before starting up the vehicle my curiosity finally took over, and I opened it.

Stuffed just below my milk and oranges was a jumbo container of french fries.

My Favorite Movie: Network

September 7, 2006

Many people I know, if not everyone I know has those movies they can’t help but watch over and over again. These are the ones that connect with you at a visceral level, and instantly draw your full attention as you’re flipping through the channels on a late night. Despite being a great fan of the medium, I’m generally not the type of person who can do that. My short attention span makes it difficult for me to see a movie more than once, and for that reason alone I usually rent the films I claim to love instead of purchase them.

Tonight I was on the phone with a friend and ‘Network’ went on the air. ‘Network,’ for those of you unfamiliar, is a satirical film from 1976 about the downfall of American society, as told through the story of a struggling television network. About ten minutes into watching it tonight I realized that I was still on the phone, although my friend had hung up long on me out of annoyance.

‘Network’ is hypnotic, brilliant, passionate and above all, relevant. Every time I see it the ideas and themes behind it seem more important than ever; it’s about the dumbing down of America, it’s about media becoming the new God, it’s about how cold and impersonal the power of communication has made us.

All of these are emphasized, and almost overshadowed by the powerful acting of everybody involved. Peter Finch gives his greatest, and final, film performance as the mad prophet of the airwaves, Howard Beale.

Not only that, but ‘Network’ serves as proof that Faye Dunaway can do a lot more than telenovelas and ‘Dunston Checks In.’ She won the Academy Award for a reason, you know.