Mar. 29, 2007

There’s no question that we live in the Age of Abbreviations. The once-funny Saturday Night Live is a mouthful, so now we simply call the show SNL. And some focus groups felt that the name Kentucky Fried Chicken sounded a bit too unhealthy, so we’ve shortened it to KFC.

But the abbreviation craze has finally gone too far. The phenomenon known as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a cartoon whose popularity has always puzzled me) has been rebranded as TMNT, ostensibly in an effort to distract moviegoers from the ridiculous full name.

I guess it was a smart move, though — TMNT was the top-grossing movie last weekend, raking in over $25 million. God help us all.

[ No. 326 ]

Mar. 25, 2007

Here’s a site that you simply must visit: Shorpy, which describes itself as a “100-Year-Old Photo Blog.” (The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a young “greaser” who worked at an Alabama coal mine in 1910.)

It’s amazing that I haven’t seen a site like this before, but the combination of modern technology with photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s is truly remarkable. Shorpy is wonderfully rich with detail, from its high-resolution photos to the insightful captions that accompany each picture. And I absolutely love the design — the sepia background and vintage typography are nice touches. (The Google ads are a bit distracting and out-of-place, though.)

The next time I get frustrated over a tough day at the office, I’m going to look into the eyes of these young coal workers to get some perspective:

Breaker Boys, Pennsylvania Coal Co., 1911

Perhaps those TPS reports aren’t so bad after all.

[ No. 325 ]

Photo credit: Shorpy

Mar. 17, 2007

Not only had nearly 2½ years passed since the last big party at my house, but St. Patrick’s Day also happened to fall on a Saturday this year. So, really, there was no excuse for me not to host another get-together.

First, the official logo that appeared on the Evite and directions:

St. Patrick's Day party / 3.17.07

Hosting a party always involves a great deal of preparation, but I’m relatively convinced that a higher power was trying to thwart my plans during the week before the big bash. On Wednesday evening, a five-hour power outage (as well my foolish decision to briefly peek inside the freezer) required me to completely replace the frozen Costco appetizers I had purchased the night before.

If that wasn’t enough, I took a vacation day on Friday so I’d have plenty of time to pick up a bunch of things in advance. But naturally, my day off coincided with a nasty late-winter storm, complete with sleet, snow, and freezing rain, and my productivity suffered greatly as a result. In fact, my car barely made it out of my neighborhood the following morning, long after the storm had passed, and I wound up running around like a madman for most of Saturday anyway.

But in the end, everything came together quite well. A total of 44 (!) guests — family, friends, friends of friends, and a handful of new, gossip-inducing significant others — arrived with more than enough additional food, beverages, and laughs to go around. And many thanks go to my parents and my sister Jen, who were a huge help throughout the evening.

By the way, my Magnetic Onion Headline Kit was a big hit in my kitchen. Here are just a few of the headlines that were anonymously strung together on my freezer door:

And yes, I will host another party within a reasonable amount of time. At this rate, the next gathering wouldn’t take place until August 2009!

[ No. 324 ]

Mar. 13, 2007

Last night, five artists were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York. Among the class of 2007 were Van Halen, who were rock gods in their day, and R.E.M., a truly talented and influential band.

However, the induction of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is pretty baffling to me. Sure, they were a groundbreaking rap group, but they’re basically known for one single (“The Message,” from 1982). How on earth can they be considered Hall of Famers while Genesis, an enormously successful band with decades of contributions to music and roughly 150 million albums sold, is still on the outside looking in?

* Update: Thankfully, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame came to its collective senses and inducted Genesis in 2010.

[ No. 323 ]

Mar. 7, 2007

In late December, I had expressed cautious optimism about the Penn State men’s basketball program. At the time, their season was off to a decent 9–4 start in non-conference play, and PSU even set a new all-time scoring record (129 points) in a single game.

Well, forget I said anything. After their promising start, the Lions posted a miserable 2–14 record against their Big Ten opponents, including a 13-game losing streak that spanned seven weeks. Penn State’s last-place tie with Northwestern marks the fifth time in six years that the Lions have finished their regular season in the Big Ten basement. (Better yet, PSU will face Illinois, a heavy favorite, in the first round of the Big Ten tournament tomorrow.)

It bears repeating: there is no excuse for such perennial failure.

To make matters worse, after my friend Brian attended the Lions’ blowout loss to Michigan State in late January, he alerted me to a troubling movement at our alma mater. In an effort to encourage support of the struggling hoops squad, the university now officially recognizes an on-campus student club called, of all things, the Nittwits.

OK, the cute name is derived from the word Nittany; I get it. But it also readily admits that our student section is full of idiots — and given Penn State’s horrible performance on the court over the last several years, maybe their remaining fans really do need psychological help.

[ No. 322 ]

Mar. 5, 2007

I had heard that one of my favorite bands, Fountains of Wayne, will be playing a show in late April at one of my favorite Philly venues, the Trocadero. So, in order to avoid outrageous service fees, I decided to drive into the city on Saturday morning to buy the tickets from the box office directly.

But when I arrived at the small Chinatown venue, the guy behind the ticket window mumbled to the sole customer in front of me, “Uh, the Ticketmaster service is down right now, and we probably won’t be up and running again for, like, at least 15 to 30 minutes.” After the first customer stepped aside to make a phone call, I asked the guy behind the glass for an explanation. He repeated that their Internet connection wasn’t working while his equally hapless coworker stared at their latest Verizon bill and fiddled with some computer cables.

Incredulous, I shook my head while muttering, “I can’t believe this,” drove home, and ordered the prized tickets from Ticketmaster after all. Predictably, the original charge of $56.00 for four tickets ballooned to $82.70 with the egregious service fees — that’s a markup of nearly 48%.

I’ve already drafted a letter to the venue’s manager, and I plan to ask for a refund of the extra $26.70. (Seriously, have you ever heard of a place that was completely incapable of selling tickets at the very minute they went on sale?) And I really wonder if the well-timed Internet outage wasn’t just a coincidence but a conspiracy — after all, no matter what I do, Ticketmaster always wins.

[ No. 321 ]