Tuesday, December 30, 2003

More Procrastination Tools
Sitting there at work today, wondering why you're there when the rest of the world is off on vacation? Here are some mindless diversions:

:: ClayKittenShooting: Be sure to have the sound on for this. Highly addictive, and not easy. Your goal: Try to get both kittens at the same time.

:: BadgerBadgerBadger: Mesmerizing. You'll be staring at this one for hours. May be a brainwashing ploy, I'm not sure.

:: Sushi Finder: Looking for a new fave sushi place? Sushi Finder will locate raw fish joints in several metro areas.
Words To Live By
So sez Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca:

"Don't fire a gun into the air. You might kill someone."

Baca, L.A. police chief William Bratton and District Attorney Steve Cooley held a press conference Tuesday to remind people not to shoot their guns in the air at midnight on New Year's Eve. The L.A. Times reports that at least 40 people have been killed in L.A. County since 1985 because of "celebratory gunfire."

Of ways to die, that's up there in competition for the suckiest.

The police and sheriff's departments even held a "Don't Shoot" essay and poster contest at area schools.

The MTA, meanwhile, plans to soon announce its "Don't Pee On The Third Rail" songwriting competition.
Dine At Your Own Risk
The L.A. County November restaurant closures were thankfully pretty limited, save a few Kentucky Fried Chicken locations (don't wanna begin to imagine what they found there), an AMC Theater location in Redondo Beach and a Chuck E. Cheese in La Mirada (perhaps the investigator confused the costumed rat character for vermin infestation).

Meanwhile, I actually swallowed hard and ate at a restaurant the other week despite the big, red "C" grade in the window. And it was fine.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Wouldja Like A Shot of Smoke in That Venti Cup of Water?
Notice a smoky taste in your tap water? Apparently storm runoff from the recent wildfires is giving H2O in Southern California a campfire-inspired taste.

The L.A. Times reports that only tap water drinkers with a discriminating palate will likely notice:

Rainfall washed ashes from the fires that burned through the San Bernardino Mountains in October and November and into Lake Silverwood, a major source of water for the Weymouth Filtration Plant in La Verne, said Jill Wicke of the Metropolitan Water District. Although the water retains a smoky taste after purification, it poses no health hazard to consumers, she said.

Water officials are mixing in more Colorado River water to dilute the flavor. I like my water minty.
Snap Judgement on the new "Indie 103.1"
Dance fans returning to L.A. from their Christmas vacations are probably wondering just what the hell happened to their "103.1 KDL" (scroll down for the answer). Meanwhile, station owner Entravision launched the frequency's new format at 11 p.m. on Dec. 25.

The station's handle? "Indie 103.1." College radio vets, begin guffawing at the station name now. But look past the unfortunate name, and I gotta admit, my initial impressions are pretty good. Scanning the radio message boards, someone said they even heard an obscure Public Enemy track on the station the other day. For a commercial outlet -- and one whose sales are being handled by conglomerate Clear Channel, no less -- that ain't bad. Gleaned from the radio boards at Radio-Info, here are two hour-long sample playlists heard in the last few days:

5:03 PM WHITE STRIPES Hello Operator
5:05 PM U2 Unforgettable Fire
5:09 PM MICHAEL ANDREWS Mad World (Ft. Gary Jules)
5:17 PM X White Girl
5:21 PM SMITHS What Difference Does It Make
5:25 PM NOFX Franco Un-American
5:33 PM PIXIES Velouria
5:37 PM POLICE So Lonely
5:41 PM IMA ROBOT Dynomite
5:43 PM FOO FIGHTERS I'll Stick Around
5:51 PM ATMOSPHERE Trying To Find A Balance
5:55 PM BEASTIE BOYS Rhymin & Stealin
5:59 PM NIRVANA Come As You Are

> > > 10:00 AM BAD RELIGION Sorrow
> > > 10:08 AM PEARL JAM Glorified
> > > 10:10 AM TALKING HEADS This Must Be The Place ...
> > > 10:24 AM STEREO MC'S Step It Up
> > > 10:26 AM SMITHS Ask
> > > 10:30 AM INTERPOL Obstacle 1
> > > 10:34 AM RAMONES Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll...
> > > 10:38 AM ENGLISH BEAT Best Friend
> > > 10:42 AM NIRVANA Come As You Are
> > > 10:44 AM U2 Bad
> > > 10:50 AM POLYPHONIC SPREE Light And Day
> > > 10:54 AM MARLEY, BOB/WAILERS Three Little Birds
> > > 10:56 AM RADIOHEAD Where I End And You Begin

I know what you're thinking: How can they call themselves "Indie" when (a) Most of the music they play was released on major labels and (b) Clear Channel is frickin' involved?!

I dunno. And the station needs to mix it up more. Where's all the new indie stuff? And how 'bout a sprinkling of alternative hip-hop, both past and present?

But it is nice to see some competition for powerhouse KROQ, albeit on a weak signal and with a narrow target audience.

Friday, December 26, 2003

"Ho! Ho! Ho! And What Do You Want For Christmas, Little Los Angeles?" "Fewer Homicides."
Murders are down almost by 150, to around 500 in 2003, reports the L.A. Times.

The paper credits new Police Chief William J. Bratton, who has seen more arrests and less violent crime under his watch.

Sez the paper: The gains during Bratton's first year as chief have been concentrated in some parts of the city where crime was worst — South Los Angeles neighborhoods where homicides fell by as much as 50%, LAPD data show.

The decline in Los Angeles homicides contrasts with the trend in other cities. Nationwide, homicides in cities with more than 1 million population were up 6% as of midyear, according to FBI statistics released last week. The number of homicides was growing slightly in New York and falling 6% in Chicago.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Happy Holidays, everybody! Now go get happy off of some spiked 'nog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Sounds of the Season
Happy Christmas Eve... putting together a last-minute holiday mix to serve as a soundtrack to this year's festivities? Forgo the Camryn Manheim Steamroller and make sure to put these tracks on your CD:

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy Bing Crosby & David Bowie
Christmas Wrapping The Waitresses
Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal) Vince Guaraldi Trio
Frosty the Snowman The Ronettes
Fairytale Of New York The Pogues
Do They Know It's Christmas? Pete Yorn
Christmas Song Dave Matthews Band
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) U2
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Coldplay
White Christmas Bing Crosby
The 12 Days of Christmas "Bob and Doug MacKenzie"
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Jackson 5
Winter Wonderland Liz Phair
Happy Xmas (War is Over) John & Yoko
The Christmas Song Nat King Cole
Christmas In Hollis Run DMC
2000 Miles The Pretenders
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
'Zat You Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong & The Commanders
O Holy Night "South Park" Kids
Santa Baby Eartha Kitt
Riu Chiu The Monkees
Blue Christmas Elvis Presley
Mele Kalikimaka The Blue Hawaiians

Now, obviously that's just the tip of the iceberg. Any recommendations that don't come from the "American Idol" Christmas CD are welcome!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Rate-A-Restaurant, #29 in a series

Restaurant: Downtown Standard Restaurant

Location: 550 S. Flower St.

Type of restaurant: International Comfort Food

They stipulated: You have to pay for parking (but you can get around that by paying $1 at the downtown library's parking garage next door -- don't forget to get validated).

What we ordered: Egg White Omelet for Mike and Scrambled Egg Whites (not much of a difference between the two) with Bacon for Maria. Mmmm, bacon.

High point: The watermelon juice; not having to stand in line outside in the cold to get in, like we would have done if we had gone to The Pantry; and they left us alone as we powered through writing our holiday cards.

Low point: The photo booth downstairs wasn't working. (Why is it never working?)

Overall impression: Just like the casino at The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas is not your typical casino, the restaurant at The Standard Hotel in downtown is not your typical diner for breakfast. They play good music, the atmosphere is the we're-too-cool-for-school variety but it's all right. It's not too crowded for breakfast and if you act like you're cooler than shit, then they leave you alone. Breakfast here is so fitting -- everything is in egg-yolk yellow or white, the booths are comfy and the wall and ceiling will make you feel like you are nestled in an egg carton.

Chance we will go back: Uh-huh.

Check out our entire roster of Rate-A-Restaurant reviews at
Tenacious Surprise
Nice bonus to Saturday night's performance of The Naked Trucker Show at Largo: Tenacious D jumped on stage as the surprise opening act.

What a great place to see the self-proclaimed "Greatest Band on Earth." Largo is a small, intimate venue -- and the crowd went wild when TD's Jack Black and Kyle Gass suddenly appeared. In keeping with the "surprise act" schtick, they introduced themselves as "Standing O," substituting it in place of "Tenacious D" all evening.

But they hit a lot of classic Tenacious D songs, including tracks from their HBO series.

Jeff, a big D fan, was especially psyched. He'd recently caught a glimpse of their free show at the Virgin Megastore, crammed in with a huge crowd of people. He had also seen Naked Trucker open for Tenacious D on the big stage, which made this small performance even more thrilling for him.

A surprise 40-minute set by Tenacious D would seemingly overshadow the Naked Trucker, but the show was tight and fun. Naked Trucker takes a similar alternative comedy approach as "Mr. Show" and "Tenacious D," but spends less time on the music and more building up the comedic buddy relationship between the Naked Trucker (Dave "Gruber" Allen) -- who really is almost completely naked on stage, save his strategically placed guitar -- and sidekick T-Bone ("SNL" alum Dave Koechner), his Jack Daniels-lovin', proud redneck comic foil. "Naked Trucker" won the HBO Comedy Festival's "Best Alternative Show" prize in 2000.

:: Here's Jess and Jeff kickin' it with Tenacious D (or, at least on that night, "Standing O") member Kyle Gass.

:: Keeping on the celebrity (or, in this case, "celebrity") tip, Maria and I met "Survivor" star Rupert Boneham at the show's wrap party. Here's a shot.

:: One more: Roger Daltrey rocked Maria's office Christmas party, along with his band... (ahem), The How. (See it here.) The man still has a bundle of energy on stage, and his voice is as strong as ever. Apparently Daltrey has been doing a series of shows around town; a co-worker saw him elsewhere just two nights later.
One Last Word
Obsessed? Apparently I am. But I promise this will be the last post about our schizophrenic skyscraper, the Library/First Interstate/Library/US Bank Tower.

This week's Downtown News spells out how US Bank got naming rights.

Apparently 162,000 square feet became available in the tower when accounting firm Arthur Andersen collapsed. US Bank, which had been looking to consolidate its west coast base of operations, didn't quite need all that space -- but the idea of getting to rename the building was too good to pass up. And Library Tower owner Maguire Partners had been looking to bring back signage to the building.

(Maguire Partners director of leasing Tony) Morales said name placement on the tallest building west of Chicago would offer unparalleled publicity.
"It's in 300 spots a month in newscasts alone. It's in every major sporting event that happens in L.A. It's in the national news," said Morales. "We took snapshots from all of that and put them in a video." Last year the company sent out a five-minute promotional video, with mockups of each firm's name atop the building, to all of the interested parties."

There you go. Product placement returns to the top of the Library... er, US Bank Tower in the next month or so.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Shopping Hell
A thread on about avoiding the Target in Eagle Rock got me to thinking... What is the worst shopping experience in L.A.?

I've got a real contender: The Fairfax district K-Mart. Located in the trashy strip mall across the street from the Farmers' Market/The Grove, we've referred to it for years alternately as "Sarajevo K-Mart" or, more simply, "War-Torn K-Mart."

The place is a madhouse 365 days a year, not just during the holidays. Kids are screaming and racing around. Merchandise is strewn everywhere -- except where it's supposed to be. Shelves are stripped bare. The store appears to be stuck in 1982, which is probably the last time it was renovated. I've learned to avoid it at all costs.
What's Shakin'?
I'm sitting here quietly doing my work when the whole building started to shake. It turned out to be a 6.5 earthquake centered in San Simeon, near the Hearst Castle.

More Radio Waves

Update: As expected, dance station 103.1 KDL signed off for good at midnight, ending its not-quite-year run with the techno tune "James Brown is Dead."

The station then immediately launched into holiday music, starting with "Punk Rock Christmas." It's a more eclectic mix than what's playing on KOST 103.5 right now. But just what we need: Two all-Christmas radio stations, right next to each other on the dial.

But stay tuned: 103.1 will segue to a rock format after the holidays. But the dancing is done. (For those of you who stumbled onto this site wondering what happened to the station, scroll down.)

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Lessons Learned The Hard Way, #389
If, for some reason, you find yourself driving toward the Glendale Galleria next year on the Sunday before Christmas, turn around.

What a mad house.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Babysitting our 7-year-old and 4-year-old nephews this weekend, we hopped on the 5 and headed to one of their favorite places, Travel Town, to see the trains.

The 7-year-old saw we were taking the 5 north, as the big sign said we were heading toward Sacramento.

"Are we going to Sacramento? Let's go see Governor Schwarzenegger," he said.

I played along. "Did you vote for Schwarzenegger?" I asked.

"No!" he said, in that dummy, I'm too young to vote! voice. "Who was the old guy?"

Old guy? "You mean Gray Davis?" we both asked.

"Yeah. Is he dead?" the 7-year-old asked.

"No, but he's not governor anymore," I said.

"Oh. I know why Schwarzenegger is governor. Because he was the Terminator. Governor -- Terminator."

Possibly the most astute observation on the California recall election I heard all year.
L.A. County Dares You To Buy a Home!
Just as Maria and I start to seriously consider looking for a home, the November L.A. County median home prices chart makes me want to run for cover.

Or start stripping. I hear I might make a lot of money that way. I've even come up with a persona: "Peter (you never use your real name) the School Boy." (It's my current braces.) Ladies, I only accept ten-dollar-and-up tips.

Where was I... Oh yeah, median home prices. Yikes. In our Los Feliz zip code, houses averaged $745,000 last month. (My old West Hollywood 'hood? $1.2 million. Yeah, I'll be moving back there soon.)

Anyone out there buy a home in the last six months? Did you survive? Did you have to take a job stripping? (If so, what was your nom de plume?) Franklin Avenue wants to know.
The Graft-iest Time of The Year
I could be wrong, but there seemed to be a few more cookie baskets and holiday doodads sent out this year. You probably can't read too much into that (in other words, no grand conclusion that more cookie baskets = a recovering economy!), but companies do seem to be spending a few more bucks on the holidays.

Particularly in the cookie-and-other-fattening-treats department. I've been sent several different boxes so far. And I've eaten way too many of them. How can you not? These are the soft, chewy greasy cookies that leave a permanent see-through stain after sitting on a sheet of paper for five minutes. (It's probably doing the same thing to my stomach right now.)

It's a good time to be a local cookie purveyor. Driving down Saturday on Victory at the edge of Glendale, we sped past the offices of Snookie's Cookies --possibly the best known (and greasiest) of the L.A. corporate cookies. Given what I assume must be a crippling number of holiday orders, Snookie's has erected a large tent next to its building to organize all of its cookie baskets. The baskets themselves appeared to be piled sky-high and were spilling out of the tent.

Meanwhile, I'm currently devouring a "Chocolate Decadence" cookie from DeLuscious Cookies, which delivers treats from a location on Highland Ave. Somebody stop the insanity!

Friday, December 19, 2003

Bling Bling
You gotta love the hip-hop world. While the TV and movie industry struggle with how or when to incorporate product placement, hip-hip songs have made it de rigeur -- and free of charge.

Brand consultants LucJam have surveyed the Billboard top 20 singles all year, noting any and all brand references within songs. Their latest "American Brandstand" (cute) report ranks the top brand placement in songs this year.

LucJam reports that there were 82 different brands mentioned in the Billboard Top 20 in 2003; of the 111 songs in the Billboard Top 20, 43 had brands in the lyrics; and 50 Cent was the artist who mentioned the most brands ("It's your birthday! It's your birthday!")

Mercedes was bar far the No. 1 choice, with 112 mentions, followed by Lexus (48), Gucci (47), Cadillac (46) and Burberry (42).

But the 82 brands weren't all glitz and glamour. Let's face it, some brands got props 'cause they're easy to rhyme with: Hence K-Mart, with 22 references and Burger King (16). Some brand name drops were just odd: Ramada Inn? GMC Yukon? U-Haul?

(Thanks to Gawker)

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Potpourri: Jackass, Pretty Boy and Sweet, Sweet TiVo
:: Maria and Leslie found out first hand what a jackass "Survivor" bad boy "Johnny Fairplay" truly is: The wannabe playa grabbed both their asses while taking a picture with them the other night. Memo to Fairplay: Dude, even Puck had some class.

:: Sources say Ryan Seacrest can be found working out at Train West Hollywood (formerly known as Todd Tramp's). So that's where he gets so pretty. Go up to him and ask him why he stole "American Top 40" from Casey Kasem.

Meanwhile, Mayrav has discovered TiVo... and tells her O.C. Register readers why catching the flu in a TiVo household is the best thing ever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Last Dance

Call Clear Channel "The Grinch Who Stole Dance Radio." As confirmed by Radio & Records and, the plug will be pulled Dec. 21 on short-lived L.A. dance outlet 103.1 KDL, known as "The New Party Station."

Clear Channel has entered a joint sales agreement with station owner Entravision, which means the behemoth won't own the 103.1 frequency -- but will more or less determine its fate from the manner that matters the most, its sales.

But as part of the terms of the arrangement, Clear Channel wanted -- and got-- Entravision to switch the format from a dance one (which chipped away at CC's KIIS-FM) to a rock format that might hurt Infinity's KROQ.

To that end, Mike Halloran -- briefly at old KROQ rival Y107 -- is programming the new rock outfit.

It's been a weird swirl of format changes through the years at 103.1. The station in the 1990s went from dance/alternative "MARS-FM" to jazz "JAZZ-FM" to adult contemporary "CD 103.1" to dance "Groove Radio."

Then Clear Channel bought the frequency and turned it into the Adult Album Alternative format "Channel 103.1." But when the corporate behemoth had to sell off a station, due to a market cap, Entravision bought 103.1 and turned it into Spanish-lingo "Super Estrella."

Then the company made an unheard of move: Last January, Entravision (which mostly operates Spanish stations) flipped 103.1 to the English-language dance format "103.1 KDL." It was a bizarre turn of events, catching many (particularly those who still missed the dance format "Groove Radio" on 103.1) by surprise.

Unfortunately, the format wasn't well executed. And like history repeating itself, Clear Channel swooped in for the second time and killed the dance format in favor of a rock-leaning one.

Why the 103.1 turmoil? It's frankly a weak signal. It barely stretches beyond the west side (a simulcast also hits portions of Orange County). Which is why the station, no matter what format, barely registers in the Arbitrons. That's enabled the frequency's myriad of owners to gamble with unique formats... but so far all of those gambles have failed.

Meanwhile, I doubt you'll see a dance station in L.A. again anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

This is why I got the better end of the deal when we married. I spent a good chunk of the day figuring out how I screwed up this blog, but then Maria came in and easily fixed the template problem! Whoo-hoo!

Meanwhile, we have switched over to a new comment system, HaloScan. The old system, BlogOut, had been giving us problems for some time... but the final straw came this weekend, when they lost all of our old comments. On the bright side, that gave us the freedom to switch services, since the reason to stick with BlogOut was to hold on to everyone's old comments.

All right, enough housekeeping. Thanks for stopping by Franklin Avenue.
On Campus and On Location
With the current budget crisis, local public and private schools are welcoming film shoots with open arms.

Torrance High, for example, has been seen in everything from the recently canceled "Skin" (doubling as the fictional "Los Feliz High") to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "The O.C."

Of course, this is nothing new. The football field at John Marshall High -- just down the street from us -- doubled as the field for Rydell High in "Grease." I can still picture the final scene of the movie (you know, the graduation carnival where Olivia Newton-John shows up in leather pants and everyone sings "We Go Together") whenever we pass by.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Fast Actin' Y-Que
Y-Que -- the Los Feliz shop best known for its "Free Winona" T-shirts (as well as "Free Martha," "Free Michael Jackson" and "Free Kobe" wear) has already produced a Saddam Hussein: Captured T-shirt.

Shirt was already in the window Monday afternoon -- just a little over a day since Saddam's capture was announced. Now that's fast.
Ever So Slowly, L.A. Looking Better
Good news this weekend for preservationists and environmentalists looking to build a more beautiful Los Angeles.

First up came word that California park officials had decided to buy 17.8 acres of land along the Los Angeles river just south of the Glendale freeway. It's next to the Glendale Narrows, one of the few areas of the region that has a natural riverbed bottom (rather than concrete).

The state will pay $10.5 million for the land, which is part of a larger plan to hopefully one day create a real stretch of park land along the river.

Meanwhile, L.A.'s redevelopment board said it would help finance a $200 million project at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

L.A. Times reports that the project will include a W Hotel, shops, restaurants, apartments and condos.

Of course, gentrification is making things tough for social agencies downtown, which the Times notes are facing a challenge: Available property in Los Angeles is at a premium and there are few parcels that meet zoning requirements for their needs. They also face resistance from neighbors no matter where they locate.
Strom Storm
Turns out racist Sen. Strom Thurmond kept a pretty juicy secret to his grave: He had an illegitimate mixed-race daughter!

That's right, the leading proponent of segregation also happened to be a leading proponent of hypocrisy. Unfortunately, that kind of stuff was way too common in the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, as white men carried on relations with their black slaves (and later, after slavery was outlawed, servants) -- usually forcefully.

L.A. Times reports that much of the anger here on Sunday was actually focused on the 78-year-old Los Angeles woman, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, who kept the secret for so long.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

"You Know, It's That Big Building They Blew Up In 'Independence Day'!"
While parking in the Central Library (sorry, ahem, the "Richard J. Riordan Central Library"... puleeze...) this morning, I noticed the signage had changed on the building next door.

Yes, it was official. As we talked about several months ago, downtown's Library Tower has undergone another name change: It's now known as the US Bank Tower.

That, my friends, in a nutshell is what's so damn frustrating about Los Angeles. For as much as I trash East Coasters who come to town and can't wait to write a cliche-ridden essay about how L.A. has no identity, it stings because -- and I hate to admit this -- there's a kernel of truth to it.

This is L.A.'s tallest building -- hell, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. It's a symbol of our city. It dominates and defines the skyline. It's a part of Jay Leno's set backdrop. It regularly makes appearances in Hollywood features and TV shows. And no one knows what the hell the building is named.

C'mon, people. You go to Chicago, of course you know the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Center. New York, of course you know the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and even the Flatiron and Woolworth buildings. Could you imagine the uproar if they renamed the Sears Tower, even though Sears moved its headquarters to suburban Chicago in 1993...

But here in L.A., where nothing ever stays the same, so goes our towers. The building in question was developed in 1989 when the Central Library (sorry, ahem... nope. Wasn't Dickie Riordan's back then) sold off its air rights in order to rebuild after a series of mid-80s arson fires. The I.M. Pei-designed structure opened as the 73-story Library Tower.

But not for long. It soon was rechristened the First Interstate World Center. To further complicate matters, L.A. already had a First Interstate Tower (which had previously been the city's tallest building, and where First Interstate had headquarted before moving into the Library Tower).

But when Wells Fargo acquired First Interstate Bank, the building's owners, Maguire Partners, reverted the name back to "Library Tower."

At least, for a few years. And I really thought the name was beginning to stick too. But money talks. And when US Bank, the Library Tower's biggest tenant, coughed up the dough and signed a 12-year lease earlier this year... presto! We had a new winner!

Do an informal poll outside of downtown. Betcha not a single person knows the tower's name. They probably never even knew it as the Library Tower. It was just known as that tall building with the jagged crown on top -- you know. The one the aliens blew up at the start of "Independence Day." Sigh.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday Finds

Random goodies that have caught my eye in recent days:

::Got family coming to town for the holidays and want to amaze them with at least one bizarre, out of the way site? Head to the City of Industry, where tucked away in an industrial area is the world's only Fake TV McDonald's. According to Roadside America: (the location) has a few Mickey D's signs on wheels w/adjustable height(for those crane shots), and out front are those big 45 foot cargo containers holding EVERY possible McDonald's uniform in every size from around the world(for their international ads) and a basement with McDonald's furniture in every style and color combination the chain allows (so it looks like different McD's from spot-to-spot).

::Need a gift idea? Check out the bizarro Frankfurter Converter, billed as "the fun, simple and safer way (?) to turn ordinary hotdogs into exciting to cook and super-fun to eat... Octodogs." (Tip from Travis.)

::Favorite new holiday tune: "It's a BK Holiday". I dare you to get the "Ding, fries are done! Ding, fries are done! Ding, fries are done!" chorus out of your head the rest of today. (Link via Marc Brown.)

::Procrastination tool of the moment: Mr. Picasso Head (Link via Volokh Conspiracy).
Holiday at 3rd and Fairfax
While waiting at The Grove for a friend to go see 21 Grams, I couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside as I watched people strolling and shopping. Suddenly, "Let It Snow" was heard from the sound system and the fountains did their thing as the big tree lit up in the background. As the water shot up, I noticed Santa and his reindeer high above, en-route to a little boy's or girl's house.

Just as I thought it couldn't get any better, snow started falling down from the sky. Was that real snow? Apparently, as my friend Wendy approached with flakes in her hair. A freakin' snow machine up on the roof -- you've got to hand it to people at The Grove. A picture-perfect manmade holiday.

The Grove movie watching experience was good as well. This time around, we used the machine at the concession stand and it was so easy, a second grader could handle it. The best part? Getting your order right away while watching the long line of people buying their snacks the old-fashioned way.

"21 Grams" revolves around three people with a troubled past whose lives are intertwined by one horrible and miserable accident. It's superbly cast with Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts -- all such fine actors but, gawd, the movie was just so tragic and sad. It had a ray of hope in the end but it sure made me want to see Love Actually again.

At least the fountains were doing their thing outside when we got out and suddenly, all was right again in this world.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

So How 'Bout That Airport, There?
The Burbank Airport has a new name: Effective next Wednesday -- the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight -- it will be known as the Bob Hope Airport, named after the recently deceased unfunnyman.

Sez the L.A. Times: The renaming plan won the approval of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and the governing councils of the three cities.

Michael Hastings, a spokesman for the Hope family, said Hope's relatives were humbled by the gesture. They reacted to the news with "a dead silence out of just pure humility and pride," he said.

Dead silence? Hell, that was Hope's reaction too! (Rim shot, please.)

Insert your one-liner here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Radio, Radio
Latest Arbitron trends are out (via Radio & Records) for the Los Angeles market... with not too much change, other than KFI's continued rise.

The AM talker clearly benefited from the rash of big local news in November (Ahnuld, Scott Peterson, Jacko, Kobe, etc.), jumping to its best audience share in recent memory: 4.7 (among listeners 12-plus).

That put KFI in second place, only behind hip-hop powerhouse KPWR "Power 106" (4.9). KROQ was third, with a 4.6, while KIIS was a full ratings point behind in fourth, with a 3.6.
Press Releases 'R' Us
Forget about its image as Colorado's skiing mecca. Vail now wants a piece of the "Trista and Ryan's Wedding" action.

The city is trying to cash in on firefighter/"Bachelorette" winner/reluctant TV groom Ryan Sutter's current fame. To boot:

Vail launching new merchandise line

Contact: Bevo Beaven
Vice President
CTA Public Relations
(303) XXX-XXXX

Vail's newest merchandising promotion is infinitely sexier than its last - manhole covers - and town officials are hoping it will be every bit as successful.

It's called VailWear!, and it's being modeled on the town's web site by Ryan Sutter, arguably the town's most famous firefighter and neo-celeb.

This new line of T-shirts is being launched by the town on its retail web site and hopes to leverage Sutter's celebrity into a commercial success that will boost revenues in the town's fire and police departments. There's even a "Manhole Mania" T-shirt, which refers to the town's successful manhole cover sales program.

"We noticed when monitoring our web site that we had a lot of hits ever since the connection was made by television viewers and the Vail Fire Department," said Suzanne Silverthorn, town spokeswoman. "The idea to expand the town's inventory of authentic merchandise is part of an overall strategy to create goodwill for the community while generating additional revenue and having a little fun at the same time," Sliverthorn said.

The town's souvenir manhole cover program initiated three summers ago has generated more then $60,000 in sales that supported the town's Art in Public Places program.
Welcome, Pervs!
People sometimes stumble upon this site via Google through the most bizarre searches. And the most creepy: A check at yesterday's stats showed that someone found Franklin Avenue after typing in "Sharon Tay" and "feet" into Google. Sorry to disappoint fans of the KTLA anchor, but no fetish shots here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Living 'Cold Mountain'
Maria and I headed to Westwood Monday night -- yes, our second trip there in as many weeks (including our visit to see "Sugar Plum Fairy") -- to witness "The Words and Music of Cold Mountain" from the audience inside UCLA's Royce Hall.

Event was wrapped around the upcoming Civil War/Nicole Kidman (together at last! Nothin' sez the Civil War like Nicole... OK, you get the drift) film "Cold Mountain." Screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella was on hand to discuss the feature and how he adapted it from the book by author Charles Frazier. Kidman and co-star Jude Law were also on stage, reading passages from Minghella's screenplay and Frazier's book.

But while the "Words" were compelling, it was the "Music" that made the event worth attending. Alison Krauss, Sting and Jack White -- under the direction of T Bone Burnett -- performed music from the film, much of it similar to the bluegrass-oriented sounds Burnett produced for the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack (in which he also enlisted the voice of Krauss).

Night as a whole was slightly disjointed. Nothing was quite explained until half way through, when Minghella, about to read a passage from the book, thankfully gave a quick overview of what everything meant.

But that said, the show was excellent. Minghella is an incredible interview, as he sat on stage answering questions about the origins of the film. Krauss has an incredible voice -- even Sting stood back and let her shine when the two shared the stage. (Too bad she showed a little attitude when she refused to adjust her microphone, making a stagehand walk across to fix it.) Watching Jack White perform old-time southern mountain music, rather than his White Stripes fare, was nothing short of stunning. The Alabama sacred harp choir, which closed the show, was powerful. And the movie looks fascinating.

Thanks to Jeff for getting Maria and me in.

"The Shield" in The 'Hood
FX's "The Shield" films right next door at the Prospect Studios (former home to KABC), so it's common to see neighborhood houses and apartment complexes double for locations on the show.

We just got our latest "Notification of Intended Filming" yesterday from the Entertainment Industry Development Corp./L.A. Film Office. Apparently the "Shield" crew will be filming at a corner near our place on Dec. 10, starting at 10 a.m.

The description of scenes: Police with flashing lights. Interior and exterior dialogue. Walk & talk. Camera & equipment on sidewalk, in parking lane and across street, Occasional traffic & pedestrian control. Brandishing weapons. Driving scenes.

How does this affect us, besides --ooh!-- the glitz and glamour of a TV production a few feet away? No parking on our side of the street that day. Damn you, Chiklis!

Monday, December 8, 2003

Spotted At The Koo Koo Roo
Ain't nothin' like a new feature to keep this here blog fresh. So welcome to the first, and potentially last, installment of "Spotted At The Koo Koo Roo."

In today's episode, while in line at the Miracle Mile Koo Koo Roo to pick up a Spicy Garlic Chicken Bowl (which I probably have at least 3 times a week), I couldn't help but notice the fortysomething pregnant woman carrying an armful of new socks as she walked around the store.

Now, I've been accosted for years by flower vendors walking into restaurants and trying to sell me a bundle of roses. But this marked the first time I'd seen a table-to-table traveling sock saleswoman.

But sure enough, she eventually made it up to me.

"You want to buy a sock?"

The socks just weren't that impressive. She had a mix of white tennis shoe socks and black-with-blue-stripes dress socks. The kind you would probably pick up at 4 for $5 downtown.

"How much?" I asked.


Wow. Pregnant sock vendor sure wasn't offering up much of a deal. I got my Spicy Garlic Chicken Bowl (don't let the "Garlic" in the title fool you, it's not that potent) and left.

Next time on Spotted At The Koo Koo Roo: The La Brea Tar Pits Balloon Guy!
Shopping Horrors
Word to the wise this holiday season, or any time of the year, when visiting the CD store or department: Beware the public headphones.

Stuck on a pair at Barnes & Noble last night to sample a few CDs. The second I shoved those headphones on, however, the smell of cheap, heavy cologne overpowered me. Like a violently contagious virus, the smell quickly jumped from the headphones to my hair... and skin... and clothes.

I ripped off the headphones. But it was too late. I carried the scent of a 54-year-old playboy the rest of the evening. I should have known better.
Gone Bowling
While outraged USC fans pile on against the BCS system, some of us are astounded by some completely different news: Northwestern's in a bowl game!

Whoo-hoo! The Wildcats are off to the... Motor City Bowl. Which has a storied tradition going all the way back to... 1997.

Whooo..... hooo?

Fine. You're not impressed. Not exactly title championship stuff.

But this is still a big deal for Northwestern (6-6), which will play Bowling Green (10-3) in Detroit on Dec. 26. Throughout its history NU has only played in five bowl games -- although four of those came after 1995. The Wildcats last went bowling in 2000, when (as co-Big Ten champs) they got creamed by Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.

Friday, December 5, 2003

Casey No Longer Countin' Them Down?
Don Barrett reports on that Ryan Seacrest is about to be named the new host of "American Top 40," replacing the legendary Casey Kasem.

You have no idea how much this pains me.

"AT40" was a huge part of my childhood. I so wanted to be Casey Kasem. His smooth delivery, his way with music trivia and the way he counted down "The Hits from Coast to Coast." Every week I'd wake up early and listen patiently to all four hours of "AT40," scribbling down the week's chart and typing it up afterwards for my records. (Did I mention that I was a geek?) If my family was heading out to lunch, I'd smuggle a small radio with me and sneak listens in between bites of food. And if I happened to miss what song was at No. 26 or No. 13, I'd call the radio station and ask them to help me fill in the gaps.

Casey was there all the way -- until 1988, that is, when he left "AT40" in a contract dispute and left. Shadoe Stevens took over, but it was never the same. And Top 40 radio started to change as well, making countdown shows a relic of a different era. (Casey regained ownership of "AT40" in the late 1990s and returned to his rightful throne.)

Thanks to my job, I had the chance to meet and have lunch with my childhood idol years later. I even have Casey's home number tucked away somewhere. And even though he's a little slower with age, he remains a true class act.

Now, I'm not delusional. I know Casey's gotta give up the mike at some point. But Ryan Seacrest?! The idea of the Star 98.7 afternoon guy/ "American Idol" host taking over my beloved "AT40" pains me to no end.
Sing Along: "One of These Things Is Not Like The Other!"
New vote for most bizarre mural in Los Angeles: This work, being finished up right now on the side of an apartment building at the corner of Wilton Place and Santa Monica Blvd.

You're seeing it right. It's a painting of Elvis hanging out with Marilyn Monroe... and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Who, oddly enough, looks like JFK -- perhaps the original intended subject, until California went Ahnold-crazy -- but with sunglasses and on a motorcycle.)

JFK with Elvis and Marilyn would have (ahem) at least made sense. But the bizarre time warp of this Elvis/Marilyn/Arnold work gives me a weird headache everytime I drive by (which is every day, since it's on my commute to work).

From what I can tell, this is another piece by the Sign and Art Co.'s Hector Ponce, who's also responsible for the much less puzzling Beatles mural on the next wall over. The company is also behind this piece, which previously held the title for most bizarre mural in L.A.

Yes, that's Monica Lewinsky. And yes, her mural is next to one featuring Jesus healing a sick man. Discuss.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Lord of the Cheese
Made it to the "Lord of the Rings" premiere party Wednesday night (thanks to Joe, who had an extra ticket).

Premiere was held in Westwood, with theatergoers then shuttled to the Wadsworth Theater on the VA grounds in West L.A. The party, thrown in two massive tents next to the Wadsworth, took on a Middle-Earth theme, complete with singing waifs, fake and real trees and a grass-layered bar.

Food was top-notch (very tasty Pumpkin/Squash soup) and attendees mostly gave the final installment of the "Rings" trilogy a thumb's up. (I didn't get a chance to see the movie; believe it or not, I've also missed out on the first two. Yes, I'll return my pop culture credentials.)

Celeb sightings included the film's star, Elijah Wood, as well as Adrien Brody, Matt Groening, Rob Schneider... and David Hasselhoff.

That's right. "Baywatch" hunk, "Knight Rider" hero and German pop music star David Hasselhoff.

And just in case the "Rings" partygoers missed Hasselhoff's entrance, the DJ made sure to play a dance version of the "Knight Rider" theme song. Oh yeah.
The No Show Ball
As everyone is preparing for the holiday parties abound these next few weeks, the International Printing Museum in Carson took a different approach. This year, they had a Thanksgiving No Show Ball. The invite goes something like this:

Johann Gutenberg & Dr. Benjamin Franklin
request the honour of your absence
at the most important social function
for the printing industry you'll never attend.

The International Printing Museum
2003 Thanksgiving
No Show Ball

You are cordially invited to enjoy a quiet evening at home
and not listen to the overpriced entertainment
nor the speeches that won't be given.

There will be no valet parking, no open bar,
no music and no food whatsoever.
There will be no limousine service
for out-of-town celebrities or printers.

Please participate with us in this special event on a special day
to give thanks for printing, an industry that continues to
change and shape the world. Your contributon will help the
museum's efforts to preserve our history and
use our resources to impact thousands of students.

No Black Tie
Please Don't Come

They've taken a clever stab at asking for a donation. In fact, the museum headed by Mark Barbour is a great space for learning about the history of print. Mark is a very likeable fellow who gets a twinkle in his eye when you talk about adding another piece of printing equipment to your already crowded living room. Over 200 schools come and visit throughout the year and hopefully, spark the interest of printing from the next generation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Average Mike
Not to make Maria jealous, but I think Paris Hilton has a crush on me. (Update: Visual Proof!)

Met the hotel heiress (and video star) last night at a party at the nightclub Bliss celebrating the launch of "The Simple Life," the latest show to restore my faith in television. Wearing a sophisticated white suit and shortly cropped hair, Paris was swarmed all night by modelish looking guys and runway-worthy women. And Bobby Trendy.

But then she met me. I had grabbed someone I know (who I'll keep nameless, to protect his identity) and we hovered next to Paris, waiting for some quality time with her. And waited. And waited. But that's OK. We knew that once she got to know us she'd be smitten. Finally, we worked our way in. And introduced ourselves.

"Great show," I said.

"Thanks," she smiled.

"Well, it was nice meeting you," I added.

"Nice meeting you too," Paris purred.

Didn't look the other way, didn't roll her eyes, didn't spit out, "Eww, are you talking to me?!"

In other words, I think it went really well. We truly made a real connection. And I sensed that she felt it too. I'm sure she'll keep us around another week... wait, sorry. Wrong reality show.

Also spotted at the party: Pauly Shore (!) and Justin Guarini, who looked happy even as he was reportedly dumped by his record label.

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Cell Phone Fairy
A recorded message over the PA system pleasantly warned the audience: Please shut your cell phones off before the performance begins.

Yet it was inevitable in this age of the ubiquitous mobile (sorry, we were in Europe recently). Toward the end of Sandra Tsing Loh's Sunday night performance of "Sugar Plum Fairy" at the Geffen Playhouse, someone's cell rang out that now-familiar Nokia tone.

Luckily, the phone's owner put a quick stop to it. And Loh, on stage, didn't appear to notice.

"Sugar Plum Fairy," playing through Dec. 21, is classic Sandra Tsing Loh. The author/commentator, whose radio pieces were recently reassigned to an unfortunate early Sunday morning slot on KCRW, has created an industry out of recounting her unusual childhood growing up in the San Fernando Valley. This time out she focuses on her attempts at gaining her mom's acceptance and escaping the shadow of her older sister as she tries out, at age 12, for a part in The Nutcracker ballet.

While it's not Loh's strongest work -- surprisingly, her eccentric dad (normally a staple of her childhood recounts) is nowhere to be found -- the one-woman show is pleasant, poignant and well-done, and makes for a nice night out in Westwood. It was our first time out, believe it or not, at the Geffen Playhouse, an intimate setting (perfect for the show) and situated perfectly to grab some cheap cookies afterwards at Diddy Riese.

(Alas, we had already eaten too many baked goods this weekend, and opted to -- gasp!-- pass on the Diddy. We headed down to Noodle Planet and filled our bellys with curry, rice and eggplant.)

Update: Thanks to eagle-eye Pat, who reminds me that Loh grew up in Malibu, not the Valley... Her pieces are more about growing up in 1970s Southern California suburbia. Some of that does include time spent in the Valley, though, including a good chunk of "Sugar Plum Fairy," which takes us back to Loh's experience at the "Sheila Rosann School of Dance in Chatsworth, California." (Repeated often, to comedic effect.)

Monday, December 1, 2003

Find O' the Week
Costco's Pumpkin Cheesecake. Yum. (Now, is it worth waiting in line for 45 minutes to buy? Perhaps if you're also stocking up on that 48-roll pack of toilet paper and 2-gallon bottle of Head and Shoulders.)
Just in Time for the Holidays: Best Mass in L.A.
A couple of years ago, Los Angeles magazine's "Best of LA" issue picked the city's "Best Mass": The Sunday night Mass at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica. The services include a decked-out choir, band and lead singer with an awesome voice.

That's great. At least to see once. But here's a dirty little secret for all you Catholics in the hizz-ouse: The best Mass in Los Angeles is actually in our Los Feliz neighborhood, at St. Casimir's Catholic Church. The no-frills mass has no singing, a short sermon and -- here's the secret part -- lasts a little over 30 minutes, compared to the usual hour Mass everywhere else.

St. Casimir's caters especially to the Lithuanian community, and is at the heart of L.A.'s small Lithuanian population. And the church's ethnic heritage is also part of what makes it unique -- St. Casimir's even throws an annual Lithuanian festival.

The church's priests, complete with thick Eastern European accents, may sometimes be hard to understand, but are completely welcoming. And given Los Feliz's diverse population, the church welcomes everyone. Actually, the parish probably boasts a larger Filipino membership than Lithuanian. With the Advent season already here, just thought we'd share. You can thank us later.