June 30, 2002

This weekend I discovered that gyunikumaki is the wonderfully tasty bastard child of a sushi roll and Yankee pot roast (the former supplying the architecture, the latter the ingredients). I don't think the West Seattle restaurant Mashiko serves it, but I'm mentioning them anyway because they have a quirky little website at www.sushiwhore.com. Be sure to check out the webcam pointed at the sushi bar.

June 28, 2002
Meet my chums

When I was around nine, I read just about all of the Hardy Boys books, and I'm not sure it's possible to find more frequent or sincere use of the word "chum" (okay, Nancy Drew and the Bobsey Twins and every other Stratemeyer syndicate series). "Chum" wasn't a word I'd use, but it was a nice, friendly word to have around. Then in seventh grade everyone in my class was issued a Permabound copy of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", packed with editorial notes, most of them definitions. And that's when "chum" stopped being a pal, and became a noxious concoction of fish parts.

I'm not sure that's what the editors intended, but a new definition of the word "chum" is by far the most vivid thing I took away from the book. Yeah, sure, the power of the individual, following your heart, soaring above the masses, the avian Ayn Rand. Gotcha. But nearly twenty years later my revisionist memory insists that the transcendent flight of JLS was really motivated by the very appropriate desire to avoid chum.

And as disappointed as I am to have a such a sweet and silly word so irrevocably altered, there is some consolation to be found in the existence of The Chum-King.

June 27, 2002
Nothing like the Sun

Movie trailers aren't usually news (or at any rate good news) - with the web and print and conversations with friends and that whole pesky collective consciousness thing, I tend to know about the movies I want to see well before catching the preview for the first time in a theater. Until this week the most notable exception was "The Royal Tenenbaums"; the trailer was such an excellent surprise it had me whooping like a Star Wars fan.

Now I've got something new to hoot 'n' holler about:

It opened with a shot of a seething fractal landscape, blue and jagged and menacing and mesmerizing. As the POV pulled back it became clear that it was a planet, an ocean covered planet, and my inner geek dared to hope that it wasn't just an ocean, but an Ocean...



As in Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris". As in the "2001" of the Soviet bloc, only deeper, darker, and with an antagonist that makes the HAL 9000 look like a Fisher-Price crib toy.

(Hey trivia buffs: Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 production won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes!)

I do have mixed feelings about seeing it in multi-million dollar capitalist glory. James Cameron is producing , which is fine as long as he keeps Celine Dion the hell away from the soundtrack. But I'm not thrilled that George Clooney is the lead - he's a little too inclined to wink at the audience, and I don't know that director Steven Soderbergh can beat it out of him the same way Terry Gilliam and M. Night Shyamalan can beat it out of Bruce Willis.

I just want it to be good! Please movie deities, I promise if it's good I'll take back all the mean things I said about the Star Wars fans who whooped at that lousy - uh, I mean, great! - "Attack of the Clones" trailer.

June 26, 2002
Deja vu all over again

I saw Minority Report last night, and I swear to you I had some insightful commentary, but right now all I can think about is how cool it would be if there was some way to predict when someone was about to howl tunelessly along with a song playing on a Walkman, so jack-booted cops could swoop in and confiscate the headphones before it even happened.

June 25, 2002
Justice Gets a Slap on the Ass

I should save that title for a political tirade, but I just can't walk away from the chance to use it literally...

The Justice in question is David Justice of the Oakland Athletics, the slap from first base coach Mike Quade, delivered yesterday during a game at Safeco Field. I don't know much about this baseball business - as will become painfully clear - and I'm a little confused about what the slap is meant to convey. I assumed it was congratulatory, but Quade did it just about every time there was a runner on base. Doesn't a "woo hoo you were walked!" slap devalue a "woo hoo a base hit!" slap? Maybe I've got this congratulatory thing all wrong. Maybe they were just "hey, nice to see you!" slaps.

I need more experience to make sense of the nuances. I didn't go to any games last season, although I did go to a few in 2000 (I was dating someone with season tickets. First date: Mariner's game. Second date: Mariner's game. Final date: Mariner's game). I thought I knew enough to at least get into the stadium without a hassle, but then I hadn't been to any kind of stadium event in the new world of tighter security.

Stadium Entry Mistake 1: I brought a bag, not realizing that meant I got to stand in a special, extra long inspection line. The line was, perhaps not surprisingly, mostly composed of women (grrrr...just when they finally start putting enough stalls in the women's rest rooms). I stood in line with my friend Tracy, who had invited me to the game and was very patient with my silly questions. Later on when I noticed that I hadn't heard the national anthem at the start of the game, and I asked Tracy whether they still sang it. She told me, "I think we just missed the national anthem - they were probably singing it while we got our purses searched."

Stadium Entry Mistake 2: I had a bottle of water in my bag. The inspector guy told me to throw it away, but a woman behind me piped up and said I could pour out the water and keep the bottle. Inspector Guy looked grumpy, but didn't disagree. So after looking around for a second I walked over to a damp spot on the concrete - it seemed to be the designated place for this apparently common activity - and was told by Grumpy Inspector Guy to pour it into a nearby trash can instead. I complied, but nevertheless was given a stern if incoherent lecture about running water and mud. What kind of crappy water soluble concrete did they use to be so worried about mud? And I know this is counterintuitive for a Seattlite, but on sunny days liquids really do evaporate here. I didn't argue, but as Tracy pointed out the janitorial staff must really appreciate the extra weight in the trash cans.

More about lines: I guess this is for the sake of, um, courtesy rather than security, but they've also started a new practice of holding people at the entrance of an aisle until the completion of an at-bat. The theory is that it keeps the already-seated from missing out on the action when people block the view while making their way to their seats. It doesn't work, though, because by the time Tracy and I climbed down 20 rows, the batter was in place and swinging. So as much as I disliked the gratuitous line and pointless waiting, I found myself enjoying the reversal of privilege: the practice actually benefited the people in the higher, cheaper seats, while pretty much ensuring that the people in the pricier seats would be inconvenienced. And how often does that happen?

Another nifty thing: little kids wearing bright yellow foam hands the size of their entire bodies.

Oh, and the hand soap in the women's rest room was totally cool, not just because it was "lotionized" but because inside the translucent gray dispenser you could see the vacuum sealed plastic bag of of soap, which collapsed on itself in a crinkled, brain-like sort of way - and it was called Dura View! It looked like a brain, and it was called Dura View! I desperately want to believe this was a deliberate choice by the fine makers of this quality hand soap.

Watching baseball was also fun.

June 24, 2002
Hey, Weasel Boy!

Happy birthday, Aaron. You are unstoppable. The possums don't stand a chance.


Rat Girl

June 22, 2002
Funny, I don't remember "The Great Escape" ending like that

When I saw the story about Gaak, the robot who made a break for it when a staff member at the Magna science center in Rotherham, England left it unattended, I got the impression that Gaak's escape attempt was actively thwarted by scientists (this may have something to do with the headline "Thinking robot escape attempt thwarted"). My first thought was, why, why, why did they grab Gaak by the scruff of its robotic neck equivalent in mid escape? Why didn't they tail the fugitive? Wouldn't anyone with even the tiniest bit of curiosity want to know where it was headed? Have we learned nothing from crime dramas?

But then I realized that the article I was reading only said that Gaak was "discovered at the main entrance to the car park," so I went hunting for a more specific account of Gaak's capture. Eventually I found a version of the story that revealed Gaak's escape was thwarted not by scientists, but by the great outdoors - apparently "dappled shade from trees fooled its solar batteries into steering it round and round." Most iterations of the story out there omit that little detail, and now instead of thinking about the unsettling implications of intelligent robots, I'm stuck thinking about the unsettling Telephone Game that is the transmission of news.

In other UK news...

The Royal Navy: one-stop shopping for all your ocean-dwelling Beanie Baby needs.

June 21, 2002

So I can see these two girls called Hernia and Eula, and I keep waiting for them to do something interesting so I can write about them, but they just sit there in their Victorian dresses with malicious little smiles on their faces. Rotten kids.

June 20, 2002
Ground Control to Major Tom

I was just brushing my teeth, letting my mind wander, and for whatever reason it wandered over to computer languages (how they're constructed, what motivates people to design new ones, etc.). And from there it went to designed languages in general, where it naturally went to Esperanto.

Which would have been fine, if it hadn't smacked straight into the chorus of "Desperado", forming an unholy union and refusing to budge until I took the extreme measure of introducing "Space Oddity" into the mix. Man, that sucker can clear a room.

June 19, 2002
For Creepy Eyes Only

To: All Creepy Guys
From: The Creepy Guys Board of Directors
Re: Security Breach

Creepy Guys:
We're all familiar with the thing we do when we're just standing or sitting around and a woman walks toward us: we check out her breasts for a while, then gaze off in the opposite direction as she gets closer, casually turning our heads so that 1) it looks like we're not checking her out, and 2) we're all set to check out her ass as she walks by ("The Maneuver").

Well, creepy guys, it has come to our attention that they're on to us. Apparently a few of you less subtle types have ruined it for everyone.

Creepy Guy Creepy Behavior R&D is looking for alternatives. In the meantime, we recommend that you discontinue use of The Maneuver. Please revert to The Maneuver's predecessor (see earlier directive regarding the proper use of large, mirrored sunglasses).

The Creepy Guys Board of Directors
"Keepin' It Creepy"

June 18, 2002


1) There is a town in Pennsylvania called King of Prussia!
2) They snagged www.kingofprussia.com before those nasty Alsace-Lorraine invading Prussians could - take that, Wilhelm II!
3) The good folks of KOP, PA seem to be a helpful bunch.

June 17, 2002
Good Advice

I just moved to an apartment with shelves instead of drawers in the bathroom, and now all of my bathroom-type appliances are out in the open, including my hairdryer. For a change I followed instructions and left the cautionary tags on it, one of which says

But the tag curls around the cord, so most of the time it looks like it says
Good advice, and now I donít even need a TV to get the daily dose of low-grade paranoia normally supplied by the local news.

Bad Advice

A friend of mine has an apartment around the corner from his floorís trash chute, and the building managers have tried to add a touch of refinement by substituting the word "refuse" for "trash" on the sign. I know what it's trying to tell me, but it still reads like bad advice to give someone on an airplane thatís about to go down.

June 16, 2002
You got to know when to hold 'em

...know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.

June 15, 2002

Yesterday I saw a man holding a sign that said "I need tickets" in front of one of the concert halls downtown. The sign was small, hand written, and laminated. Laminated. Is "I need tickets" badly encrypted scalper code for "I have tickets," so as a professional scalper this man needs a durable sign? Or is he an honest citizen with a history of poor planning?