Monday, October 31, 2005

Real-Life Moe's

Friday night I went to a dark, divey bar in L.A. called the Fireside. The place wasn't especially memorable, but I learned today that it was the inspiration for Moe's Tavern in "The Simpsons"!

According to "Moe's Tavern is based on a real bar called Fireside. It is located near Loyola Marymount University where David Mirkin [a writer/producer on the show] went to college."

I wish I had known this when I was in the bar, because I would have explored it more thoroughly. But I guess the layout is roughly similar.

Sadly, there was no one like Moe there. In fact, all the bartenders were fairly young. One of them liked to juggle bottles "Cocktail"-style, and the other boasted about all the teen idols he used to roll with ("back in the day").

And they did not receive a single crank call the whole time (I know this because I was sitting across from the phone). Alas, life does not imitate art.

L.A. Radio

Just got back from a business trip to Los Angeles. As always, I was impressed by the dazzling array of cool radio stations in the City of Angels:

--The hip-hop variety is better (with such rap stalwarts as Power 106 and 99.1 FM). Big Boy is still doing the morning show on 106, with his distinctive cow bell, but I've heard he's lost a lot of weight (possibly due to stomach stapling) and is no longer so big.

--Unlike San Francisco, they have a country station (K-FROG).

--There are two classical stations, one commercial and one public. The commercial station -- K-Mozart -- is nearly as cheesy as our own KDFC, but in a different way. Rather than playing Baroque white noise, they load up on Romantic and post-Romantic's kind of what I think classical stations probably sounded like in the '50s and '60s. Old school.

--I was perhaps most delighted by a new station called Latino 96.3. Instead of the usual Romantica you hear on Spanish stations, they focus on Latino hip-hop tracks. (You definitely won't hear this stuff in the Bay Area.) And the DJs speak English (mostly). What's really fascinating about this station is I think it replaced a Spanish-language station. It really shows the progress L.A. is making in transforming Spanish-speaking immigrants into English-speaking urban thugs. Bravo!

Shockingly, none of the people at our L.A. office had even heard of Latino 96.3!! They clearly don't appreciate their own good fortune.

Monday, October 24, 2005

'Oh Boy'

Sorry to hear that Cam'ron was shot over the weekend by would-be carjackers.

Apparently he was leaving a club in his Lamborghini and thieves tried to seize the car at a stoplight. Cam'ron refused and drove away, which is when they shot him once (and the bullet went through both his arms -- how weird is that?).

But maybe it's heartening that a rapper was shot in a non-feud-related incident?

I also liked his quote: "People are foolish if they think I'm going to lose my head and give up anything to anyone just because someone threatens me."

NOTICE: In case any carjackers are reading this blog, if you threaten me and subsequently shoot me, I *will* lose my head and give up anything to anyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

List Mania!

San Francisco is at or near the top of a couple recent city-ranking lists lately.

The first, by the consulting firm Runzheimer International, found that San Francisco was the second-most expensive city in the U.S. (after Manhattan). They calculated that the average family of four would need $122,007 a year to have a fairly comfortable lifestyle with two cars. (Hmm... as a family with no kids and only one car, I think maybe that's optimistic.) It would take $146,060 to do that in Manhattan, the study found.

1. Manhattan: $146,060
2. San Francisco: $122,007
3. Los Angeles: $117,726
4. San Jose: $108,506
5. Washington, D.C.: $102,589

The second, by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, named San Francisco as the No. 1 tourist city in the U.S.:

1. San Francisco
2. Santa Fe
3. Charleston, S.C.
4. New York
5. Chicago

Also, San Francisco was the No. 2 tourist city worldwide, beat out by Sydney. (I'm kind of surprised Santa Fe scored so high, but I guess some people like that sort of thing.)

Apparently the survey's respondents said they were fond of the city's "only in San Francisco" quirkiness. So it's good to see people enjoy being heckled by crazy shirtless men.

We had a bit of a "only in San Francisco" moment last night. Kelly and I were walking home (not even holding hands or anything), and some truck driver shouts out, "Your happiness is an example to us all!!" But he said it in kind of a harsh way, like maybe he was being sarcastic. Who says that?

Monday, October 17, 2005

De Trip to the De Young

The de Young art museum officially reopened on Saturday in what was probably the biggest museum event in the U.S. this year. To mark the occasion, they had free admission and stayed open all night.

So I devised a plan: We would show up around midnight and beat the crowds. Boy, did I miscalculate! When we got there, the line to get in was still stretched out the door and around the side of the museum. People said it was taking hours to get in. (It makes me wonder what time of night we would have had to show up to beat the crowds... 2 a.m.? 3:30?)

We gave up on the main line and decided we would visit the tower instead, which had a separate line. The de Young has this cool twisted tower, which was quite controversial when it was first proposed (people said it would make the museum look like an air-traffic-control building). Anyway, I don't hear much criticism now -- I think it works pretty well.

We made it up into the tower, where we suddenly found ourselves in a confined space with an a capella group (the horror!). This was one of many cultural activities under way at the time -- we were later trapped in a stairwell by an African tribe that I believe was sacrificing a goat.

After we came down from the tower, we found a way into the main part of the museum -- without waiting in line. Ha! I was tempted to shout "suckers!" to everyone there, but I didn't want to give away our status as interlopers (since we didn't have the green wristbands they had given to everyone else).

By that point, it was getting late. So we didn't see that much of the actual art. But I liked what I saw. I recognized some of the pieces from the old museum, but they arranged the works in new and interesting ways -- like a section devoted to trompe d'oeil works. I also enjoyed the collection of Wayne Thiebaud paintings (and I learned today that he was in attendance Saturday night. I should have harassed him).

When we left, people were still streaming in. In fact, I've never seen Golden Gate Park so active -- at night at least. Hopefully the museum will be able to maintain this level of interest when people actually have to pay to get in. Suckers!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Just To Be Clear

The sideshow photo below was only meant to give an example of what sideshows look like. But apparently this has caused some confusion.

To set the record straight, I did not take the photo and that is not me in the car.

Thank you.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sideshow Nick

I was thrilled and delighted yesterday to see an Oakland-style sideshow in my very own neighborhood!

A Jetta-driving impresario pulled into a parking lot at the end of Langton, started blasting music and doing some serious doughnuts. (Sadly, the music wasn't hip-hop and in fact was quite possibly "Sweet Child O Mine," which made it hard to pretend I had been transported to Oakland.)

I had to watch this by hanging out our window ("227"-style), so I couldn't really see too much. When I vowed to run down there and officially become a sideshow spectator, Kelly objected. Something about "not encouraging him." Then the whole thing ended abruptly.

Ah, but next time this happens, I will definitely be down there (avec boombox) to lend moral support -- and possibly suggest more appropriate music.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Album Review: Kanye West's Late Registration

I've been listening to tracks from the new Kanye West album for months now, but it was only last week that I sat down and peeped the whole album. My verdict: first-class banger.

The album isn't a creative departure from Kanye's first album, "College Dropout," which I think was the best hip-hop record of 2004. And there aren't quite as many standout tracks. But it seems more refined. For one, there's nothing like "Last Call" (the closing number on "College Dropout"), an indulgent, 14-minute track in which Kanye details how he broke into the rap game — including such details as what furniture he bought at Ikea when he and his mom moved to New Jersey. (Kelly is especially unfond of this song and usually demands that I "change the music" when it comes on.)

Instead, the tracks on "Late Registration" are tight and focused. (Production help from Jon Brion apparently helped with this.) And the skits in between songs are better as well. They're funny without being silly — unlike say, "Workout Plan" from "College Dropout". And it's nice to hear Bernie Mac reprise his uncredited performance as the disgruntled school administrator. Just hearing him say "Kahn-yay" cracks me up!

As was the case with "College Dropout," most of the best songs on "Late Registration" will probably never get played on KMEL. Not because they're especially profane or controversial — they just have a different vibe than most of what you hear on rap radio. His songs rely heavily on soulful R&B hooks (typically sampled from works from the '60s and '70s) and they tend to haunt you.

Take one of my favorite tracks, "Touch the Sky," which uses a snippet of "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield. The sample is so effective, I will probably never be satisfied listening to the original song again. "Crack Music" (featuring The Game) is another exhilarating work, as is "Hey Mama." And a track called "Gone," which features an Otis Redding sample and fine work by rapper Cam'Ron, has already created a catch phrase in our Household: "We strive at home, I ride on chrome." (Not sure what this means, but I feel like I should be doing it.)

Bottom line: "Late Registration" isn't quite as exciting as "College Dropout" was, but it's at least as good. Right on, Kanye. I knew I was gonna see ya, I knew I was gonna see you again.

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Book Bonanza

I got to experience the Annual Big Book Sale on Sunday for the first time. Wow, what a scene! For those of you who don't know, this is a HUGE used book sale -- the largest on the West Coast -- held in a warehouse at Fort Mason. It raises money for the San Francisco library.

The people there were pretty aggressive. Some of them were filling supermarket shopping carts with books. And if you didn't move down the stacks fast enough, they would start bumping you. By the way, there are about a billion copies of "Lonesome Dove" floating around. Just so you know.

We went Sunday -- the last day -- which meant every book was marked down to $1. Even though things had been picked through, there were still some definite finds, such as a first edition "Something Happened" (not in perfect condition, though).

Kelly, meanwhile, picked up some old cookbooks -- like "Sunset's Best Recipes of 1993." Hello, is she trying to kill me? What did they know about food in 1993? I don't even think they knew what carbohyrdrates were!