Monday, February 26, 2007

"UMASS, '79!!"

Friday night I went to the Church of Great Music and, brothers and sisters, Father James Taylor delivered a sermon!

Okay, so all I am saying is that I went to the James Taylor concert. However, my love for the man's music and shows is so deep, it really is a soul-cleansing, church-like experience for me. Especially this show because it was part of his One Man Band Tour, meaning it's not the big show with all the backup musicians and singers and such. I love those shows too, but this was the JT show I had always wanted to see, just him and his guitar (and a keyboard player too). He told stories about each song and showed old pictures and home movies to illustrate them. I think it tipped the Chill Counter at 103 chills gotten in a three hour span. Some of my favorite songs in the world were suddenly put into a new context. I was near tears once or twice. Yeah, I said it. So what? We're talking James Taylor! One song was even given new life. "Slap Leather" was reinvented as a near-rap song sang into a megaphone rather than a mic and an incredible wooden drum machine that looked like something only Buddy The Elf could make. While I was just now looking for a picture of it (unsuccessfully), I read that he built the s.o.b. himself. And he's friggin' hilarious to boot! Really smart, humble, genuine humor. This was a show I will remember for the rest of my life, one to tell the grandkids about.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PlayCat Magazine

Miss March 2007, Sophie E. Cat

Friday, February 16, 2007


One more thing I love, and it's kind of a subcategory of another thing I listed. On a more superficial level, strictly for entertainment value, I friggin' love suspenseful movies. Thrillers. Preferably political. I sit down with butter-saturated popcorn and a tall Cherry Coke and my eyes are as wide as a kid at his first baseball game. It's like on "Seinfeld" when they'd all be jazzed about seeing some movie like "Prognosis Negative." Tonight, I am all over "Breach" like hair on a bear. Tickets are purchased. Hopefully, it will actually turn out to be decent so I can enjoy the movie as much as I enjoy the buildup to it.

I realize I'm echoing what millions have been saying for years, but it bears repeating..."Seinfeld" was bar none the greatest show in the history of television. The rest of the top five is arguable. Ya got your "Cheers," your "24," etc., but there is no doubt as to what show is perched on the throne of Numero Uno, it's "Seinfeld" all the way baby! It's just thoroughly, consistently brilliant.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day Rules!

I got a Chop Wizard!!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why Men Hate Valentine's Day And Other Thoughts For This Bullshit Holiday

For me, the disdain for Valentine's Day is blatantly exhibited in the current Russell Stover TV commercial. If you've watched any TV in the last week, you've probably seen it. It's sort of a documentary style thing, interviewing men and women on the subject of chocolate on Valentine's Day. "If he doesn't bring me chocolates on Valentine's Day, he's in serious trouble," say the women. "I've gotta get her chocolates on Valentine's Day or, yeah, I'll be in the dog house," the men agree. I realize this is an ad from a chocolate company and that the people are actors, but I think the attitudes it presents are actually representative of a lot of peoples' on this holiday. And that's part of what rubs me the wrong way. It's the worst possible cliche and we have to play right into it. Maybe not with chocolate but with something. The holiday as a whole just feels so forced and awkward. You go to buy flowers and you find yourself in line with dozens of other men to buy flowers and you can all see the discomfort on their collective faces...except the guy who's relishing this holiday as a first date opportunity and is just excited that his flowers almost guarantee his getting laid. I think the essence of why I don't care for Valentine's Day and why I think a lot of men don't is that it's just so damn impersonal. Of course, it's up to us to make it personal and to not simply fall back on the cliches of chocolate, flowers, and dinner and I do try to improvise to make it more personal...but there's something about the impersonal-ness (yeah, I did that) that's just in the air on Valentine's Day. Once it's just me and my ladyfriend, it's fine. I am thankful for seeing her on a weeknight I otherwise probably wouldn't. But everything outside my four walls on this day just feels like a fortieth birthday, a "holiday" that is so bittersweet you just can't wait for it to be over.

And another thing...Why is it always about men doing something for women? Why is it about the men doing all the thinking, all the giving, and the women sitting back and waiting to receive and judge the worth of their suitor by what he brings to the table on this single day? The holiday is supposed to be celebrating love and romance, right? How did it work out that it became so one-sided? I realize I sound like kind of a dick when I say that, like the next argument I make might be "how come women never open the door for men," but I don't mean to come off that way. I consider myself "a romantic." I enjoy the act of romancing. I just think that in this modern age of equal rights, etc., it's worth arguing that women have wedged themselves into quite the advantageous position in regard to this holiday, even if I eventually decide to not quibble over this and take pride in being a little old-fashioned once in a while. In other words, I'm not bitching,"I'm just saying..."

In a related story, I saw "Music and Lyrics" last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am now officially prepared to devote myself to Drew Barrymore who is unconsciously hot and adorable in the movie. I am also ready to declare Hugh Grant "The King of the Romantic Comedy." He gives credibility, sincerity, and humor to lines/scenes that a lesser actor would turn into processed cheese. He also tends to portray his characters as having a subtle ornery streak rather than being your average romantic comedy witty puppydog guy that makes men want to impale their eyes with Icee straws. It's also got some genuinely funny moments and believable chemistry between my lover, Drew, and Hugh.

And now for the Valentine's Day Science Report...In a story they have clearly been saving for this special day, brings us a report on a recent study of the brain's activity during love, sex, and rejection. Enjoy.


By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

(CNN) -- Close your eyes for a minute and envision all the romantic parts of the human body.

Her beautiful eyes. His strong shoulders. We'll stop there, but you go right ahead and think about all the body parts you want.

Bet you didn't think about the caudate and the ventral tegmental areas, did you?

These areas of the brain, while little known to most people, are helping scientists explain the physiological reasons behind why we feel what we feel when we fall in love.

By studying MRI brain scans of people newly in love, scientists are learning a lot about the science of love: Why love is so powerful, and why being rejected is so horribly painful.

In a group of experiments, Dr. Lucy Brown, a professor in the department of neurology and neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues did MRI brain scans on college students who were in the throes of new love.

While being scanned, the students looked at a photo of their beloved. The scientists found that the caudate area of the brain -- which is involved in cravings -- became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.

Dr. Brown said scientists believe that when you fall in love, the ventral tegmental floods the caudate with dopamine. The caudate then sends signals for more dopamine.

"The more dopamine you get, the more of a high you feel," Dr. Brown says.

Or as her colleague, Dr. Helen Fisher put it: When you fall in love, "exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you're in love. You can feel intense elation when you're high on cocaine."

Is it love -- or sex?

Scientists then wondered: Does a brain in love look much like a sexually stimulated brain? After all, we associate love and sex and sometimes confuse them.

The answer is: Brains in love and brains in lust don't look too much alike.

In studies when researchers showed erotic photos to people as they underwent brain scans, they found activity in the hypothalamus and amygdala areas of the brain. The hypothalamus controls drives like hunger and thirst and the amygdala handles arousal, among other things.

In the studies of people in love, "we didn't find activity in either," according to Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist and author of "Why We Love -- the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love."

"We now have physiological data that suggests there are different brain systems for sex and love," says Dr. Fisher.

At some point, the two do become linked. People in love have elevated levels of dopamine. Lots of dopamine, in turn, triggers the production of testosterone, which is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.

This helps explain why falling in love can make someone all of a sudden seem sexy.

"Three weeks ago he was just another nice guy in the office and now everything about him is sexual," says Dr. Fisher.

All this research into sex and love got the researchers thinking: Most other mammals don't have this drive for romantic love and attachment. Why do humans have it? After all, we could easily propagate the species just with our sexual urges.

Dr. Fisher thinks it has a lot to do with how difficult it once was to raise children.

"Go back millions of years to the grasslands of Africa. A woman was carrying the equivalent of a 20-pound bowling ball in one arm, and sticks and rocks in another arm to protect herself in this dangerous environment. She needed a partner to help her. She couldn't do it alone," Dr. Fisher says.

And even today, when we have strollers and the environment isn't quite as dangerous, having a mate still helps. "There are women who raise a baby by themselves, but it's a lot harder," she says.

Male brain - female brain

In their work with the lovestruck, the scientists found brain differences between men and women.

"The men had quite a bit more activity in the brain region that integrates visual stimuli. This isn't surprising considering that men support the porn industry and women spend their lives trying to look good for men," says Dr. Fisher.

But she adds there's probably a more anthropological reason at work. Simply put: A man's evolutionary mission is to spread his seed. That won't work if he mates with an 80-year-old grandmother.

"Men have to be able to size up a woman visually to see if she can bear babies," says Dr. Fisher.

The women's brain activities were a bit more puzzling.

The scientists found that women in love had more activity than men in the areas of the brain that govern memories. Dr. Fisher theorizes that this is a "female mechanism for mate choice." There are no visual clues for whether a man is fertile, but if a woman really studies a man and remembers things about his behavior, she can try to determine whether he'd make a reliable mate and father.

Thus, if it sometimes seems like a woman remembers everything -- good and bad -- about a man, "it's not just her being picky. It's an old Darwinian evolutionary strategy."

What's love got to do with it?

In the end, Drs. Fisher and Brown say what they learned from lovers' brains is that romantic love isn't really an emotion -- it's a drive that's based deep within our brains, right alongside our urges to find food and water.

"This helps explain why we do crazy things for love," says Dr. Brown. "Why did Edward VIII give up the throne for Wallis Simpson? The systems that are built into us to find food and water are the things that were also active when he renounced the throne of England."

Now their research is centered on the flip side of love. They've recruited college students who'd just been rejected by their sweethearts. Again, the scientists performed MRI's while these students looked at photos of the objects of their affection.

This time, the results were different, Dr. Brown says. The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active.

"People came out of the machine crying," she said. "We won't be doing that experiment again for a long time."

Monday, February 12, 2007

2007 Major League Baseball Picks

Pitchers and catchers report in a matter of hours! The return of major league baseball is upon us!

Without further ado, I submit to you my 2007 MLB Picks:

AL WEST - Los Angeles of Anaheim (Voting with my heart and my head)

AL CENTRAL - Cleveland Indians

AL EAST - New York Yankees

AL WILD CARD - Boston Red Sox

NL WEST - Arizona Diamondbacks

NL CENTRAL - Chicago Cubs

NL EAST - New York Mets

NL WILD CARD - San Diego Padres


Cleveland over Boston
New York over Los Angeles


Chicago over Arizona
New York over San Diego

AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: Cleveland over New York (begin "Major League" references now)


2007 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS: Cleveland Indians over New York Mets ("The Indians win it! The Indians win it! Oh my God, the Indians win it!!")


AL MVP - David Ortiz

AL CY YOUNG - Roy "Doc" Halladay

NL MVP - Albert Pujols

NL CY YOUNG - Carlos Zambrano

Friday, February 09, 2007

Things I Love

They say one of the benefits of getting older is that you "get to know yourself" better than you ever could when you're young, that you become "comfortable in your own skin." At the sage age of 28, I'm not quite to that point yet I don't think, but I am able to realize there are certain things that I do absolutely love and probably always will. Luckily for me, most could be typified as simple pleasures. I think a person is defined by the things they love and hate as much as they are by anything else.

In no particular order, these are some of the things I absolutely love:

1) Coffee - Ever since my pops passed down his espresso/cappuccino machine, I've been having an espresso after dinner a couple times a week. It's a nice capper, I think. I am definitely one of those people that needs their coffee every morning. Not for the caffeine (not always anyway), but just as part of the morning routine. Speaking of that routine...

2) The morning paper - I like the smell of it, the feel of it, and the idea of people around the city (or globe) reading it at the same time as part of their morning routines.

3) Wine - A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon your appetite.

4) Beer - preferably something full bodied and hoppy.

5) Karaoke - I went last night and despite being tired and slightly hungover, I've got a spring in my step today that I would not otherwise have even on a Friday. Last night's repertoire:

A Long December
Island in the Sun
Stuck in the Middle With You
Cheers (TV Theme)
Don't Look Back in Anger
The Joker

And I've got more in the hopper for next time!

6) Baseball - One of the things I love most about baseball is that in all its complexity, it is the one sport I still learn something new about every single season. I can't provide any examples or even explain it really, but baseball, to me, feels more organic than any of the other sports. We leave for spring training, four weeks from today, fellas!

7) Disneyland - Having grown up on it, it could actually be the Happiest Place on Earth. It is for me whenever I'm there anyway.

8) Live music - I love concerts. My favorite venue, as it's been well documented, is Largo. It kind of feels like being able to live in your favorite movie.

9) Sunset walks along the beach - Just kidding.

10) Traveling - The bitch about this is the more wonderful places you discover, the more you miss them. Also, it can sometimes make the daily grind in Burbank a lot less satisfying once there's someplace like Paris to compare it to. But what am I saying, it's a good thing.

11) Cheese - This is a big one.

12) Cookies - My Achilles heel. Nice, soft, chewy, delicious chocolate chip cookies.

13) Movies - I realize this is pretty generic, something that most people love. I don't know what else to say but that when it comes to my favorite movies I really really really love them. They're not just entertainment or an enjoyable way to kill some time. They help me find meaning in life.

Well, I think that about covers the basics. I'm sure I'll be updating it as more occur to me. Not that I presume you give a crap. :-) As long as I can have most of the things on this list, life will be just fine by me. I was thinking of doing an accompanying Things I Hate List, but that list gets enough attention as it is, I think.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Okay, Seriously...

It's February fucking's way too late to still be saying "Happy New Year." I've heard it 5 times in the last two weeks and the next time I do, somebody is gonna catch a beating.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What's My M_thaf*ckin' Name?

An anonymous source in the field reports to me that Mr. T's passport as issued by the United States government actually says "First name: Mr., Last name: T." I just think that's awesome.

Also known as February

Why is it called Black History Month and not African-American History Month?

I'm not arguing it should be one over the other. Either one is fine by me. I'm just saying, given that "African-American" is the more widely used, politically correct term, I don't understand why it's still called "Black History Month." The latter definitely sounds better. It seems to resonate more, I think. It's just semantics, I guess, but it feels more meaningful to say "Black History."


Saw "Pursuit of Happiness" over the weekend. Wow, what a great story. One of those that makes it hard to ever complain about my life again. I'm pretty sure I can never complain about money again after seeing what this guy went through. It reminded me of "It's a Wonderful Life" in that you have this benevolent, good-hearted character who has every conceivable thing go wrong to the point that his horrible luck becomes almost comical and yet he perseveres and comes out on top in the end. However, in "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey does finally reach a point where he cracks and understandably feels sorry for himself whereas the Chris Gardener character never seems to reach that point, a few tears his only sign that he might lose his will. It was one of those movies that makes me wonder if I would have the courage and smarts to do what this character did if I were put in the same situation. I don't know and I hope I never have to find out. I'm curious what in the movie was non-fiction and what was the filmmakers taking some dramatic license. It doesn't really matter, but I am curious.


Why do so many people not like Peyton Manning? I'm not talking about Patriots fans or NFL fans in general; I'm talking about people that don't follow the game but who tend to lean towards dislike for P.M. and really don't understand why themselves. I can't tell you how many times last week I heard a non-NFL fan say "I don't know, I'm not a big Peyton Manning fan so..." This is borderline fascinating to me because his image is that which would normally and probably should be loved by non-football-watching America.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, you have my friend Amy who apparently thinks Peyton Manning is a hunk. He's "aaaaall man" according to her. I also don't get that. Tom Brady, sure. Phillip Rivers, okay. Peyton Manning? Really? Alright, I guess.


Joe started the countdown yesterday and I will continue it today...9 DAYS until pitchers and catchers report...9 SHORT DAYS....Those of us who can't wait have college baseball down in the LBC at least...Go Dirtbags. I even brought in the 2002 World Series DVD today. Those who argue that football is modern America's pastime don't know my fever....I've got a FEVAH! And the only prescription is more BASEBALL!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Where Are They Now?

Fans of the show "Prison Break" will recognize Lane Garrison as "Tweener." Fans of local news programs might know him as "that guy from Prison Break that got arrested for felony gross vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor." However, I personally know Lane Garrison as the guy who sat to my immediate right when I was on "The Dating Game."

This came as a shock to me on two levels. First, I had no idea the guy was on the show. I remembered thinking he was kind of a tool on "The Dating Game," which might not have been entirely his fault since the producers coached us into acting like tools. Still, I didn't think he brought much creativity or sincerity to the table which might explain why the broad on the other side of the wall picked him over me and the other loser. So my first reaction to the story was "that fuckin' guy is on 'Prison Break?' Wow, good for him."

Second, there is the more obvious shock of realizing you are affiliated with a soon-to-be-convicted felon, albeit the loosest of loose affiliations. Finally, I will have something to say when Joe plays his I-had-to-follow-a-convicted-rapist-in-Mr. Ram card. I'm back in the conversation!

There is another angle to this whole ordeal. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason and I think this incident clearly reinforces that. It's obvious now that a win on "The Dating Game" propels a lucky bachelor into the stratosphere of super stardom. Fame. Celebrity. It all comes a callin' when a scantily clad minor tells Chuck Woolery she has chosen you and you alone to go on a fake date with. What if it had been me? Would I have started doing blow, speeding down Beverly Blvd. with three minors in tow all the while sporting a .20 blood/alcohol level? I'd like to say no, but who can really be sure? Shannon, wherever you are, thank you for not picking me.

Then Put Your Little Hand in Mine....


The good news is, it's Groundhog Day, which, thanks to the movie starring Bill Murray, is one of my favorite holidays. Thanks to global warming, good ol' Punxsutawney Phil has announced this morning that he did NOT see his shadow. We all know what that means...Not too many more of these brutal sub-70 degree days!! Spring is near, my friends!!