Thursday, July 30, 2009

Arizona, We Hardly Knew Ye

Visiting Las Vegas means you bear the plus one hundred degree heat as you casino-hop with yard long margaritas in hand and digital cameras in pocket. During most heated travels you're rewarded with countless entertainment within walking distance that helps you soon forget your back is sweating. Old people rule the day, young people the night. Phoenix is not Las Vegas. There is no reward for your sweaty back. There are no yard long fruity drinks and every hotel isn't a casino. There's no trams or moving walkways. At night, the streets are empty since it's hard to have fun when your hair is on fire. Phoenix was a boring dump.

I deviated from my group of coworkers so I could enjoy happy hour while they did nothing at the hotel. Turns out I had some engaging conversations with passionate sports fan transplants at Uno's Chicago Grill. The waitress was a Cubs fan from Chicago, the bartender was a Red Sox fan, the guy sitting next to me at the bar grew up watching the Reds who were playing the Dodgers that day. We talked baseball for a good while and I was fortunate enough to see the look on the waitress' face when Jeff Samardzija lost it for the Cubs in extra innings. Before I left I asked if there was anything fun to do in Phoenix to which most of them replied no and directed me to Tempe and Scottsdale, both superior bar/party scenes.

No late fees here in Tempe, AZ. The Library was the best decorated bar I've ever seen, complete with an actual library, pool hall, arcade, second floor, and smoker's porch. It was dead empty obviously since we were there on both a Sunday and Monday night. The well drinks were dirt cheap and the appetizers were fresh. Downstairs was a piano bar called The Big Bang and nobody has any video of me doing anything at any time so you'll never see it. Piano bars are awesome and the guys here were on par with anything I'd ever seen in Vegas. All of this was happening in Tempe, miles and miles away from Phoenix.

Before I get to Scottsdale I have to ask: what's with all the thunderstorms and lightning during summer, Arizona? The state is one giant flickering mosquito lamp. Also, where were all the Matt Lienart, Kurt Warner, and Steve Nash jerseys? All I kept seeing was tons of white kids in ASU shirts with that devil that doesn't look nearly as cool as the New Jersey Devils' devil. (Featured on the right: devil in one-piece pajama outfit).

Scottsdale, AZ was just as fun and lively as Tempe with tons of bars and white college kids to keep things interesting. Old Town Scottsdale looked like every old town city you've visited recently with quarky shops, wooden posts, white people, and those guys on bike taxis, or taxi bikes. For some reason there's a giant mountain in the middle of this city, a confusing sight to see unless you're a local whitey. Did I mention how many white people there are in Scottsdale?

I'll never forget the last dinner we ate at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Phoenix's Copper Square town center. Everyone's enjoying their meal and all of a sudden someone offers me a generous portion of ouzo, the most disgusting liquor on the face of the earth. How could anything that tastes like black licorice be anything but terrible?

Phoenix, AZ is the black licorice of America.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Get Out The Rye Bread And Mustard, Grandma!

I'll be out of town for four days (read all about it) which means it was time to hit the dollar store and see what travel sized necessities I could score before hitting CVS or Target. Now normally I avoid these places since everything is trashed, from the products on the ground to the customers in wife-beaters, but I received a tip from my sister that this one was the exception to the rule.

While this place was incredibly cleaner than any other 99 cent store I've ever seen, I still didn't find much of anything I really needed other than a toothbrush/toothpaste combo pack from everybody's favorite doctor, Dr. Fresh.

What I did find though was tons of other dumb crap to distract me, such as an entire four-by-four section of sports brand talking bottle openers. Sure, none of them featured Los Angeles based teams, but who needs that when you can buy an Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, or Ariza Wildcats bottle opener. My goal is to collect one per week and this time it was Dave Niehaus' time to shine via a Bret Boone grand salami call for the Seattle Mariners:

(I did not buy that beer, it was given to me by my neighbor. I didn't even open it. I swear.)

Still shopping for collectibles on a budget? Here's a few other things you get for a dollar:
  • Plastic plates with Clippers, UCLA, or Braves logos
  • A 3D poster of Priest Holmes (to burn)
  • An Atlanta Braves World Series highlight reel or Wayne Gretzky's Winning Techniques also on VHS

Apparently there's a million Braves fans in L.A.. I love Tim Hudson too but they should get some Dodger things in stock since the store is in Los Angeles.

Talking bottle openers and anything with that "plays when you push it" button usually break within a few days so if you want to have a beer with me and enjoy a Mariner's call you'd better act fast. Next week: Florida Marlins talking bottle opener.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What To Mute: The Nissan Cube

It's time to trade up.

New Young Pony Club's "Ice Cream" plays for thirty seconds in the latest commercial for Nissan's Cube, a new car that looks like the retarded half-brother of the Toyota Scion xB. You've heard of punch buggy? How about every time you see someone driving a Nissan Cube you pull as close as possible light a ciggarrette and flick in the direction of the driver's eyes.


IEC Needs A Sponsor

When I signed up for Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que e-mail newsletter I expected more coupons and special access to a secret menu. Instead I'm one of the first to know that Chicken Sassafras and Hickory Smoked Salmon are part of a summer specials menu. Me and Andre Ethier will be reviewing those dishes for the next blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Artwork, Liner Notes, and Thank Yous: A Look Back At Tha Dogg Pound's "Dogg Food"

November 17th, 1995 - Entertainment Weekly, p.79: "...a dictionary entry for `Long Beach rap.'....anchored by familiar, rib-shuddering Jeep beats and eerily dazed synths, buckshot rapping spices up the album's predominantly loping gait, and soulful R&B swing, touches of dancehall, and old-school vocals look beyond So-Cal..." - Rating: A.

I'll try to reconstruct this memory as best as possible. When I was eight years old I got a hold of Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle cassette tape which had just been released and featured an elaborate fold out comic strip smothered with profane artwork and language. A few listens later coupled with the edited replays on local radio stations some lyrics were not making sense. Sure I figured out "dat" meant that, "tha" meant the, and "niggaz" meant preferred acquaintances, but when it came to the line in Lodi Dodi, "Cause you took your dope away from me", I honestly had no idea what that meant. Snoop would never bring some moronic friend (a dope) to spoil a rowdy party and even if he did why would that person be missed when taken away? I was eight, my sister was just as clueless, and I didn't have any older brothers so that meant I went to mom for some clarity. Soon after the tape was gone, destroyed, ripped apart and thrown in the garbage can. The worst part is I didn't learn my lesson since it was three years later when I was again confused by Howard Stern's use of the word douche bag and once more sought parental insight.

That memory got me thinking about albums, past and present, that I'd heard but didn't bother really looking into the liner notes or booklets. Earlier today I was going through my CDs and found Tha Dogg Pound's Dogg Food and decided it was time for some deconstruction. Instead of reviewing the music (After all, Entertainment Weekly giving it an A pretty much somes things up, right?) I'll instead take a look back into the artwork, liner notes, thank yous, and gratuitous vulgarity that gets funnier each time I read it.

Above is the fifth page of the album's booklet which features a touching thank you from Kurupt to his beloved mother. It reads: My Momma (who always got my motherfuccin' bacc, no matter what the fucc happens. "I LUV U!"). In fifteen words Kurupt has summed up the feelings for his momma that echo the sentiments we have towards our own mothers. In contrary to all this love, the second to last line on the page showcases a stern warning from Daz to his enemies. It reads: Fuc all you bitches with 500 dollars worth of shit on your heads. Since four hundred dollars worth of shit on your head wasn't enough he had to throw in ANOTHER hundred just to teach you a lesson. Daz really doesn't appreciate your hating.

Page three pictured above. Unfortunately for us Sam Sneed and Danny Boy were only given the opportunity to release an EP and not an LP. We're still waiting. Speaking of waiting, Michel'le made us wait nine years to follow up her self-titled debut with the sophomore release of Hung Jury that had favorites like "Hang Tyme" and "Can I Get A Witness". And I won't get into the history of Club 662 but Wikipedia says it's now called Club Seven which I cannot find any information on. Somebody help me out before my next Vegas trip.

Tha Lass Supper? Da Lazt Supp'r? Thanks for not putting the name of the painting in the notes fellas. I really am curious to find out if Da or Tha was used to title this painting and what rules apply in figuring that out. Hopefully there's a clever way to remember the rule. Da before Tha except after... - Whatever the title is, I'm still trying to name everyone in it. I'm assuming the ones I can't name are the ones who were never famous, like Sam Sneed and Danny Boy. Also, The Lady of Rage looks like Princess Leia.

Here's where I need your help. If you own the CD please remove it from your shelf and open the booklet to pages two and three. See Daz chilling in the car in the upper right looking like he just passed out? Good. Now take a good hard look at his attire. Sleak black jacket and slacks, check. Golden bracelet, questionable but appropriate. Newsboy cap, otherwise lame and douchey but permissible since it's Tha Dogg Pound and not you. Now, look at the tie Daz is wearing. Look really hard. That's right mothafucca, Daz is wearing a tie with a reindeer on it. Antlers, red nose, frolicking. Daz is sporting Rudolf running around in the woods on his tie. Here is the best scanned zoom I can get:


That about does it for deconstructing Dogg Food. I hope you've all seen the value of album artwork, booklets, liner notes, thank yous, and vulgarity. I'm working on the next album artwork deconstruction so until then try not to be a hater or you'll be swimming in five hundred dollars worth of shit.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

By The Time I Get To Arizona

In about a week I'll be flying to Phoenix, Arizona and staying there for four days. That means I have about 168 hours to mentally prepare for the flying experience and to convince myself that it's a million times safer than those rides at the Tweedy Mile street fair in South Gate.

To bring everyone up to speed, here's a quick look at my flight history:

As you can clearly see, there is a one in six chance (16%) I will be throwing up on myself, nearby passengers, or in a bag of carry on luggage filled with awesome Black Sabbath and LA Kings shirts that will have to be discarded suspiciously in an airport bathroom garbage can. The odds are clearly in my favor.

Quick fact: In Arizona, Arizona Iced Tea is just called Iced Tea.

Aside from the mental preparing I'll be doing before the flight, there's a few things I'll be on the lookout for at my hotel. Let's face it, the trip is business related and there's no real chance of me taking a This Is Phoenix tour, visiting Castles 'N Coasters, or having any real fun in general. So to pass the time and forget about it being eleven hundred degrees here's a list of what I'll be keeping score on with my predictions in brackets:
  • Number of towels in room [8]
  • Number of Rascals in use [5]
  • Number of Asian tourists, or Asian people in general [13]
  • Number of lizards in hallways of hotel [1, 1 and a half maybe. Those Rascals are fast]
  • Number of Renegade Border Patrol support bumper stickers or t-shirts [2]
  • Number of Augie Ojeda jerseys [23]
That about wraps it up. By The Time I Get To Arizona is one of my all time favorite Public Enemy songs so for the rest of the night I'll be listening to it while staring at an inappropriate picture of Jean Grey transforming into Phoenix.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Twix: Good Source of Copper.

Art immitating (my) life:

A regular sized two ounce package of Twix contains 7% of your daily Copper allotment.

This explains why pennies made before 1982 were made with close to 98% copper and why pennies made after 1982 are now made mostly of zinc. Screw pennies, we need our Twix!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Artest to Lakers, Ariza to Rockets, Bear to Sandwich

You're in a movie theater. Once you find the right seat and spill a little nacho cheese it's time for previews. In three minutes a number of studios will do their best to make you want to see the full length version of an upcoming movie by featuring highlights and one-liners. Some previews are memorable. Some you'll watch and know right away there's nothing in those three minutes that will in any way interest you in seeing the full ninety. No big deal, you're just not interested. You wouldn't review a movie you never saw, no matter how bad the preview makes it look, you just know it's not for you and that's fine.

I got home tonight and checked all my bookmarked sports blogs to find these comments from J.E. Skeets over at Yahoo!'s Balls Don't Lie:

The Lakers don't need [Ron Artest]. His off-court palatables hardly matter. The Laker offense begs for players whose hands don't stick to the ball, and Ron's hands stick to the ball like no other. He's the wrong idea. He's a wasted face. He's the wrong choice.

Let that sink in.

He's the wrong choice.

The wrong choice. Really?

Ariza declined an incredibly fair offer from the Lakers. The Lakers then have the opportunity to sign a player who Ariza can only hope to become over the next few years and should pass on it because Artest probably won't fit the triangle?

I'm sorry Skeets but you havn't seen anything yet. Predictions are fine, but this is one of the league's best defenders who will be joining a team filled with great leaders (Fisher, Bryant) and with a coach (hopefully) who is known for keeping guys like Artest (See: Dennis Rodman) under control. Give it a fucking chance. Artest has more than earned it.

On a lighter note, I am including a true story that will help cheer us all up about the departure of Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets. Abel, this is for you:

Jeff Kent Superstar

Jeff Kent is on ABC's The Superstars where both athletes and stars are paired up in a decathlon like competition. Never in a million years would I, nor any other person who knows of Jeff Kent, would guess he'd be paired with that girl from the Doritos Super Bowl ad for a reality TV show. Hard to believe it's all so very, very true:

Hopefully there's something motor bike related next week so he can leave Lisa Leslie in the dust.