Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Update: Billy Joel's New Single To Be Released Soon

Earlier this month I posted news that Billy Joel had recorded a new pop song for the first time in 13 years, and I also espoused my hateful (and, to date, unsubstantiated) theory as to why it's been so damn long. Today we learn that the new song, titled "All My Life," will first be heard on Feb 7th, exclusively and inexplicably on, followed by its release for sale on iTunes on February 20th.

Billy Joel will sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday, kicking off a tour on which he'll perform the pop music he'd become "weary of," I guess until now?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why Yes, Perhaps the Pen IS Mighter Than The Sword, After All!

From the BBC:

US woman fights off lion with pen

A 65-year-old Californian woman has saved the life of her husband, 70, by fighting off an attacking mountain lion with a small log and his pen.

Jim and Nell Hamm were walking in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park when the cougar wrestled Jim to the ground.

Nell started hitting the animal with the log but it kept hold of Jim's head. She then tried to stick the pen in its eye. The cougar eventually let go.

full story

Hell Cat!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Greatest Inventions Of All Time

The four greatest inventions of all time are, in order:

1. Fire
2. Internet
3. Wheel
4. Sandwich

An excellent website all about sandwiches is The Sandwich Project. If you add it to your Google homepage, you'll get updated on the "Sandwich Of The Day"

Today's Sandwich Of The Day (sounds delicious!):

The Notch

What’s in it? Garlic and herb cream cheese and slices of really rare roast beef, red onion and juicy, ripe tomatoes. Oh, and a liberal sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

What should we know? This sandwich is sold at the Tailgate Picnic deli across the road from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Variations of the sandwich using ham or turkey (or alfalfa sprouts and cucumbers for a veggie version) are also extremely tasty.

Bread Type? Crusty rolls or baguette

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Gift That Says "I Hate You"

The Staples Easy Button, the gift that says "I Hate You."

I should have posted this during the holiday season, but we were in Staples this weekend buying some cable and they had their "easy button" on sale.

I was trying to think why someone would buy it. Then I realized, it's a great gift to give someone you hate. You spend five bucks, give someone the "easy button," and you instantly tell them you despise them, without doing so overtly. You are telling them, "I know you have a stressful job that you hate, so the next time you are faced with a difficult stressful problem at work, just hit this button, which will say 'That was easy,' and instantly your problems will be exactly as stressful and unresolved as before, but now you will think of me and how much I hate you."


And you thought it was a useless product.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Little Something To Help You Sleep Easier...

Just in case the return of 24 didn't have your heart pounding in fear before you went to sleep Sunday and Monday nights, here's a real world news item that might do the trick. Here's the full article, but here are my favorite excerpts:

Venezuela, Iran to finance opposition to U.S.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- fiery anti-American leaders whose moves to extend their influence have alarmed Washington -- said Saturday they would help finance investment projects in other countries seeking to thwart U.S. domination.

"Death to U.S. imperialism!" Chavez said.

Iran and Venezuela are members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and Chavez said Saturday that they had agreed to back a further oil production cut in the cartel to stem a recent fall in crude prices.

"We know today there is too much crude in the market," Chavez said. "We have agreed to join our forces within OPEC ... to support a production cut and save the price of oil."

Chavez and Ahmadinejad have been increasingly united by their deep-seated antagonism toward the Bush administration. Chavez has become a leading defender of Iran's nuclear ambitions, accusing the Washington of using the issue as a pretext to attack Tehran.

Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, has called Chavez "the champion of the struggle against imperialism."

U.S. officials have accused Chavez -- a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- of authoritarian tendencies, and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said recently in an annual review of global threats that Venezuela's democracy was at risk.

The U.S. also believes Iran is seeking to use its nuclear program to develop an atomic bomb.

OK, if that doesn't want to make you want to run out and buy a hybrid or a thermal blanket for your hot water tank, I don't know what will...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

My Review: Rocky Balboa

Caution: Spoilers follow...

Rocky Balboa is not a great movie, or even a really good movie, but it is not a terrible movie, or even a really bad movie, so it is not hard to draw the parallels between the character Sylvester Stallone plays in the sixth installment of the Rocky franchise and Sylvester Stallone himself, a character who was successful in getting this movie made, sixteen years after the last one was released.

Rocky V was an awful, forgettable film. It tainted the legacy of the franchise, and as the years passed, helped turn Sylvester Stallone into somewhat of a joke. Not since 1997's Cop Land has Sly starred in a film of much consequence, and we all laughed whenever we heard rumblings that he wanted to revive Rocky, as he neared closer and closer to age 60.

Sylvester Stallone turned 60 in 2006, and indeed saw the release of Rocky Balboa in the same year. My friends and I made plans to see it, as an excuse to get together and laugh, the same way we laughed at Snakes On A Plane a few months earlier. Tentative plans to see it opening weekend were pushed back, and then firmer plans to see it last week fell apart too. But this Saturday we did make it to the theater. On the way, we talked about how we heard it had surprisingly been met with good reviews.

The dialogue in Rocky Balboa is a bit silly at times - you're never more than a few frames away from an inspirational if comically ineloquent speech by Rocky - and by the time the fight sequence finally came around, you almost didn't care anymore. Rocky doesn't win the fight, but he silenced the peanut gallery and put together a solid, inspiring effort for boxing fans. Rocky Balboa won't take home any Oscars, and may not be as inspirational as Stallone pictured, but the story of Sylvester Stallone defying those who poked fun, creating a solid, credible picture, may be inspiration enough.

Grade: B-

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sign That Wal-Mart Isn't Evil?
They May Go Solar!

It's not often you can write something nice about Wal-Mart, but when an opportunity comes along to give them credit, it's only fair to do so. According to an article in this week's issue of Business Week, the mega merchandiser is taking steps to "go solar," to install solar panels on the roofs of many of it's warehouse stores.

The retail behemoth last month put out a request for proposals to install solar panels at stores and distribution centers in five states, according to people who have seen the RFP. The project could take into account as many as 300 buildings and produce 150 megawatts of power, making the Wal-Mart (WMT ) installation the largest in the world, according to a solar industry executive who is one of the bidders.

installing panels on just 40% of company buildings would... dwarf other corporate solar installation efforts, including the biggest in the U.S.: Google's (GOOG ) 1.6 megawatt project.

It doesn't take much of a cynic to suspect that Wal-Mart's efforts are purely a public relations move, but ulterior motivations or not, this would be a commendable thing to do, and a good example-setter for other corporations. With all the available space on roofs of buildings just going to waste, just imagine all the energy that could be produced if other companies followed suit. Great idea, Wal-Mart. Now all you need to do is follow through and maybe we won't hate you so much!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Meeting The 2007 Mets

I was in a great mood yesterday, because I scored tickets to Opening Day at Shea Stadium. I know in some corners of the world "opening day" refers to something related to shooting deer, but for me it only means one thing: The first day of baseball. The Mets kick off the 2007 Major League Baseball season with a Sunday night game on the road in St. Louis on April 1st (sadly, seeing the Cardinals raise their 2006 World Series Champions banner isn't a joke), and their home opener is Monday, April 9th, hosting the Phillies. I don't even remember the last time I didn't go to Opening Day at Shea.

Opening Day is a hard ticket to come by, and so for the last two seasons my friends and I have had to purchase a multiple-game package, just to ensure getting into the home opener. Yesterday I bought a seven-pack of games called the Opener Pack, a group of seven games pre-selected by the Mets, even though I in all likelihood won't be able to go to any of the other six games (living in Greensboro, and all).

But as soon as I got the confirmation from, I put in my request to HR to take Monday, April 9th as a "Floating Holiday." Not a vacation day, and not a personal day. Opening Day is as big a holiday as it gets for me. And lucky for me Opening Day falls the Monday after Good Friday this year, so I'll be able to make it a four day trip up to New York to see the Mets play the Phillies in Shea Stadium's penultimate home opener.

By the way, penultimate is my word of the year for 2007.

For more on the Mets, please visit my other blog, Tales Of A Transplanted Mets Fan.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wanted: Ideas For Film Title

My buddy Ralphy is making a movie, and he's set up a blog to tell the story of his progress. Thus far the movie has no title, so he looking for suggestions. Help him out by posting a comment! Or, help him out even more by donating some funds! Oh, and tell him I should be in the movie, too!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Kottke: Distant Sequels

Jason Kottke posts a hilarious list of some upcoming and recently released sequels which are released a long time after the previous movie in the series, some real and some imagined. My favorite: Beverly Hills Cop IV. Axel does paperwork at his desk all day. Eddie Murphy does double duty by playing a elderly, sassy, obese black woman.

Men: Get Ready For A Coke Zero Blitz

Attention Men:

Coca-Cola has decided to try and make Coke Zero the cola of choice for us, and they are going to spend big over the next twelve months in advertising to make it happen. Look for Coke Zero ads during shows we watch like 24 and NCAA basketball. They've convinced White Castle to dispense Coke Zero from their fountains, and they've changed the packaging to a male-friendly black with silver accents.

When Coke Zero launched, many people wondered what the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke was. What's the difference? The answer is that when Diet Coke was launched, it was flavored to be the diet version of "New Coke." Remember New Coke? Even though New Coke failed and was replaced by Coke Classic, they never changed the flavor of Diet Coke. But now, Coke Zero is the true diet version of Coca Cola Classic. The question for Coke is if they can make Coke Zero the diet soda for dudes. Diet Pepsi has been hitting us pretty hard with their NFL-themed ads. It's Cola Wars all over again.

V at The Movies

This weekend I took my little brother to the movies. I gave him two choices, two kids movies that started at about the same time at the theater: Charlotte's Web or Happy Feet. He didn't seem thrilled with either choice. He said his teacher read part of Charlotte's Web and he would wait for her to finish it next week, and he thought he already saw Happy Feet. I think he was thinking of March of The Penguins, but whatever. I didn't want to see either movie myself, but what options were there for an eight year old?

He wanted to see Eragon, but it wasn't playing until much later. So, we saw Night At The Museum. Turns out we had company, as it was the #1 movie for the weekend. I won't bother giving it a full review (Grade: B), because it was a kids movie, and it was OK as a kids movie but I wouldn't rush out to see it if you don't have a young kid in tow. Ben Stiller and Robin Williams were fine, and it was funny enough, so if you have to see a kids movie, it's not abad choice.

he best part of the experience was something seen in a the previews though. Apparently they are making a sequel to Bruce Almighty, this time with Steve Carell, who we all know is hilarious. It's called Evan Almighty. Morgan Freeman is back again as God, but this time Steve Carell suddenly realizes he is Noah, and needs to build an ark. It looks really funny, especially when he tries to convince his wife that building a giant boat is a good idea. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Got A Fat Dog?

Drug companies are running out of ideas to help us lose weight, but they've come up with a drug that could help your portly pooch.
[The FDA] approved the first drug for obese canines on Friday. Called Slentrol, the Pfizer Inc. drug is aimed at helping fat Fidos shed extra pounds. The liquid drug appears to reduce the amount of fat a dog can absorb. It also seems to trigger a feeling of satiety or fullness

Or, you could take your dog for more walks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Subscribe To This Blog

Every month or so I send out a "Best Of" newsletter for this blog. If you're interested in receiving it, just send an e-mail.

Headline Of The Month

From Yahoo News, we read this headline:

Bush to name retired admiral as top spy

Isn't one of the requirements of being a spy having nobody know your true identity? Way to blow his cover, President Bush!

SHOCKING News item of the day -
Billy Joel to release new song

My buddy Scott sent me this news item from the New York Post:

January 3, 2007 -- BILLY JOEL fans will be happy to know that on Dec. 29, the Piano Man recorded a new song, "All My Life," with legendary producer Phil Ramone at Legacy Studios here. Joel wrote it for his wife, Katie, for their second anniversary last October. "All My Life" is the first pop song Billy Joel has recorded since "River of Dreams" in 1993. In other Joel news, he will be performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl next month.

The reason I call this shocking, is that Scott and I JUST had a conversation last weekend about how I felt personally insulted as a fan that Billy Joel had not released any new original material since River Of Dreams. At the time, Joel said he was retiring from pop music to concentrate on classical music. However, in the past 13 years he's released just one classical album but gone on numerous tours performing the music he had supposedly retired from. He's also released two box sets, two live albums, and a couple greatest hits collections, all with the songs he'd retired from. No music has been released with lyrics by Billy Joel since River Of Dreams. I have suspected for a long time that there must be some reason for this that we don't know about. The real money in the music business comes from publishing deals, and I suspected that Billy Joel, who'd found himself in a couple really bad management contracts, had gotten himself into a deal where any new Billy Joel material (with lyrics) would earn someone money that he didn't want money going to. A wild theory? Perhaps. But the timing of this announcement is suspicious to me, coming right after the new year. Could the bad publishing deal I theorized about have run out at the end of 2006?

I grew up with Billy Joel's music. I remember listening to the Innocent Man album as a kid, riding in the back seat of my mom's old Chevy Nova on the way to my aunt's house. I'm thrilled to hear that he'll be releasing a new song, and I can't wait to hear what it sounds like. I respect his decision as an artist if he was just "Movin' Out" to another stage of his career, but it is tougher to take if it was all about money, instead of "All About Soul."

Music Find - Regina Spektor

I might be a little late to this party, but I heard this song on someone's myspace page, and thought the song was just terrific. Here's the video on YouTube for Regina Spektor's song, Fidelity:

Check out Regina's website where most of her music streams for free.

I mistakenly thought she must be related to music producer Phil Spector (Ronnie Spector's sister or daughter perhaps?), but it turns out she is a Russian-born songwriter "associated with the anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village," who spells her last name with a k.

After hearing her song "Fidelity" on myspace, I thought I had "discovered" someone. Then on my flight back from New York on jetblue Tuesday, I saw the song playing on XM Radio's channel 20, where XM's Top 20 songs play. I guess I discovered something already discovered by many others. It might be new to you, though, like it was for me?

I've never been a big fan of Tori Amos's, but I could see where someone might draw comparisons. Like Amos, Spektor is a pianist who seems to march to her own beat, with a musical range that really transcends any one genre. She's got a wonderful, soulful voice, and while it's difficult to foresee such an eclectic musician really achieve mainstream status, her songs have already been heard on some TV soundtracks. I could almost see her career mirroring Bjork's, another person who is hard to pigeonhole, but whose talent is so massive that she is impossible to ignore. Hopefully Spektor won't show up somewhere dressed like a swan though.

On a side note, Regina Spektor is separated from Tom Petty by just two degrees; his daughter Adria has directed many of Regina's music videos.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Story For Those Of Who'd Lost All Faith In Humanity

Just when we thought humanitarianism was a relic of the past, we read about a true hero, Wesley Autrey, a man who risked his life to save a teen who had fallen onto the New York City Subway tracks.

NEW YORK (AP) — Trying to rescue a teenager in a subway track as a train roared in, Wesley Autrey faced a harrowing choice: Try to pull the young man to the platform, or push him down and hope to find a safe harbor between the rails.

"I tried to pull him up, but I had to make a split decision whether or not to struggle and maybe end up getting us both killed," Autrey said later. "So I just chose to dive on top of him and pin him down."

Autrey's quick-thinking move worked. The train passed right over them, saving the 18-year-old who had fallen, police said.

The teenager had a medical problem around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday and tumbled onto the tracks at a station in northern Manhattan, police said. The tracks are a few feet below the platform.

Autrey, waiting for a train with his two young daughters, saw the teen fall. He jumped down to the tracks and rolled with the young man into the trough between the rails as a southbound No. 1 train came into the 137th Street/City College station.

And you thought New Yorkers had no heart.

Hat tip to Dethroner for the link.

Losing My Religion lyrics

Oh, Life is bigger. It's bigger than you, And you are not me.

I grew up a Catholic boy on Long Island, NY. Achieving the first two sacraments, I was Baptized, and made first Communion. Another milestone was penance, the first time you confess your sins to a priest. I remember I took Catechism classes one afternoon a week after school during elementary school and junior high. I couldn't stand going. I don't remember a lot about the classes, but I'm pretty sure I was in one of these classes when we found out the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

Around age 14 or so, Catholics will participate in the sacrament of Confirmation. It was explained to me that this is when you publicly affirm yourself for God. I remember the Sister who taught the class saying something to the effect of, if someone held a gun to your head and asked you to revoke the name of Jesus, you would refuse to do so, that you would rather die than say you did not believe in God. I wasn't sure about that, but then I wasn't too sure about my Catholicism in general. I never felt comfortable in church. My grandmother worked for the St. Boniface Church in Elmont, and as a child I would accompany her when she would go to work. I would play in the pews, and I remember actively looking for the "magic," evidence that God was present there. I think my expectations were too high - during mass, when a bell would ring I thought it must be God letting us know our prayers were being heard. I was disappointed when I stumbled across the bells one day, and realized it was actually an altar boy who was ringing the bells at the proper times during mass. When I saw the Communion wafers come in the mail in a plastic bag it wrecked the aura for me for some reason.

However, the real turning point for me in my Catholic lessons was when the aforementioned Sister told me that pets don't go to heaven. Dogs don't have souls, she said, and Heaven is only for people. I didn't like that at all, and pretty much decided then that I wasn't interested in continuing with this church. There's an article in Newsday this week that explores what apparently is a great debate among religion experts, whether animals go to heaven.

Some excerpts:

"The Catholic Church does not teach that animals have souls," says the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "However, if one broadens the definition of the soul to include some level of intelligence and the capacity to give affection and to bond with human beings, then to that extent that they do have souls."

"Aside from a few interesting exceptions, I don't think there is a view of an afterlife for animals in Jewish theology," says Eliezer Segal, a professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary in Canada. One of those exceptions would be the Hasidic tradition, which believes in reincarnation - hence its exacting laws of animal slaughter, to ensure that fellow souls are dispatched with care and precision. "You'd have to assume that any animal - even a gnat - that's around you could be an incarnation of someone."

Richard Foltz, an associa
te professor in the department of religion at Concordia University in Montreal... notes Islamic law forbids "all forms of animal cruelty" and mandates that thirsty animals be given water before humans. And certain Islamic traditions hold that the prophet Muhammad had a particular affinity for cats. But on the spiritual plane, the odds are again stacked against animals. "The classical Islamic intellectual tradition is that they do indeed possess souls, although there is disagreement on whether these souls are eternal or not," Foltz says. While the majority say animal souls will be "extinguished," a strong minority viewpoint, centered mainly in Baghdad from the sixth to the 10th centuries, "argued that animal souls are eternal, that animals can have eternal life and that 'good' animals can go to heaven."

Debra K. Farrington, author of "All God's Creatures: The Blessing of Animal Companions" (Paraclete Press, $14.95), says she believes that the issue remains open to debate. "I don't think God made a bunch of stuff and then decided he only loved us," she says. "I think after death, God continues to love all that God created. I have a hard time
with the idea of God quitting." In the end, she concludes, "We just don't know." As for whether she will see her dog and eight cats in the hereafter, "I'm willing to give God the benefit of the doubt."

As an adult now, I'm less concerned with whether animals will get to enjoy paradise in the afterlife, and more concerned with whether organized religion in general works for me. At this point, I would say I'm an agnostic, in that I do believe in a higher power, but unsure whether any church that purports to show the true way to God actually is in touch with that entity. I tend to believe that the essence of God is too complex for our mortal minds to comprehend, much less to explain and preach about. Of course, God is personal to each and every one of us, and I wouldn't tell someone who devoutly believed in anything that they were wrong. However, it is comforting to me that the debate over whether dogs go to heaven continues, and that I was not alone in my refusal to give up on my dog's chances of getting to heaven. Rest In Peace, Scruffy!

Link: The Rainbow Bridge

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tomorrow is "Be Nice To Your Mail Deliverer Day"

If you forgot to tip your mail-person for the holidays, maybe you can hand them a case of Tylenol or an ice-pack tomorrow. There will be no mail delivery today because of the President Ford funeral. That means your mailman or woman will be delivering three days worth of mail tomorrow. I'm sure their backs will be hurting!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! It's one of my New Year's Resolutions to post to this blog more often. My goal is 365 posts for 2007. And this one doesn't count. So check back daily!

All The Best in 2007!