Vice President Joe Biden began his address to the National Education Association today with a few minutes for love — and marital advice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my name’s Joe Biden, and I’m in love with a teacher,” the veep said to applause. “Oh, am I in love with her!”
“You know, I was told by a news commentator that when we did an event on — an interview on Valentine’s Day, this commentator, a national — from one of the networks says, people say you and your wife have a love affair,” Biden continued. “And I said, yeah, I said, but I love her more than she loves me, and she looked at me and she said, yeah, that’s what everybody says.”
He then imparted the key to his wedded bliss.
“She went on to say, you know, I did a study — a three-part series on what makes marriages last the longest and happiest. And I said, well, what was the conclusion? She said, when the husband loves the wife more. So I’m going to be married for a long time as long as I’m alive.”
Biden can be quite romantic when he’s not making lube jokes:
I don’t want kids. Never have. I won’t go into the reasons, as it’s simply enough to recognize and accept that being a parent isn’t for you. To each his or her own, I think the majority of PJ Lifestyle readers have agreed here this week, even if disagreeing with another person’s choice.
But I love animals, as you’ve figured out by now. I mean, to the point where I stopped and watched in fascination a northern brownsnake basking on the sidewalk the other day (he wasn’t so sure about me and eventually slowly slithered into the bushes). The animal kingdom is magnificent, and I can’t imagine life without pets in it.
Pets are not substitutes for kids, and I don’t know anyone who views them this way. They are their own distinct beings with own distinct personalities and behaviors. I do often, however, hear and completely understand statements like what one higher-up at AEI would gush every time I brought the puppacita into the office: “I don’t like people, but I sure like dogs!” Having been a criminology major in college and covering the crime beat as a reporter makes one appreciate all the more these bundles of fur and feathers that won’t grow up into serial killers. The political beat doesn’t reveal much different in terms of human nature, frankly, which is probably why an increasing number of lawmakers now bring their dogs to the office to get through the day (stay tuned to future Furry Fridays for profiles).
But there’s little to stop the dark side of humanity from inflicting itself on the animal world. It tears my heart out when I hear stories of animals being abused or neglected, and punishments for those crimes should be about tenfold what they are now.
Season 5 of True Blood premiered tonight with an episode called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — and it’s as appropriate to describe new vampires as it is to describe this mid-stop in the annual run of HBO’s better series. Last week was the season 2 finale of Game of Thrones, ending with a bang as the White Walkers procession headed toward the wall to Death Star-esqe music. And before True Blood tonight we got a look forward at the third season of Boardwalk Empire, which will begin after the vampires finish their season. It looks like Boardwalk is going to jump ahead a couple of years additional development of some of the more intriguing characters, like a young Al Capone, and Nucky will have his demons from having killed Jimmy.
True Blood seems to be an either love-it-or-hate-it series. For some, it’s a fun way to unwind before the work week. For others, it’s just trampy vampy vampire porn. OK, both sides admit it’s vampire porn. HBO Sunday night has long been detox for overworked, overstressed journalists (which is why we have no need for that new Newsroom series), so I go with the fun way to unwind — it definitely doesn’t require as much concentration as what’s often needed to keep up with the characters as GoT, and I don’t stay up afterward checking the history vs. Boardwalk mobsters. And for those who have kept up with the other seasons of True Blood, one of its apparent strengths this season is bringing back a couple of characters from seasons past: Rev. Steve Newlin, who’s now a shady vampire, and Russell Edgington, whose vampire version of Howard Beale created one of the more classic moments in the series.
A lot was packed into the season opener. Tara was shot defending Sookie at the end of last season, and Pam happens along to the house after it happened. Lafayette and Sookie desperately beg Pam to turn Tara into a vampire to, well, “save her life,” if you can call it that, even though Tara hates vampires. Into the ground they go. Newlin shows up at Jason’s house, tricks Jason into inviting him inside, then admits he’s a gay vampire and in love with Jason. “This dog don’t bark that way,” Jason says as Jessica shows up to claim him and scare off Newlin. Sam took the fall for killing the pack master — and those dogs do crazy things with their dead — but Alcide showed up to save the day. Alcide also tried to save Sookie from Russell, but again the only normal guy to speak of gets spurned.
There once was a Sex and the City episode that dealt with the SSB: Secret Single Behavior. Those quirky things that are fine to do when you’re single but a partner would find just weird. Drinking straight out of the bottle and leaving one’s jeans at the front door if the legs got a soaking from a sudden downpour are a couple, but they’re not all “I get to be messy” behaviors. Examining one’s pores in the mirror, an obsession with the VS Semi-Annual Sale or eating odd snackage (like pretzels and havarti) for dinner qualify.
When the puppacita climbed on top of me in the middle of the night last evening, snuggled up and went to sleep — thus ensuring that she’d found a place in today’s Furry Friday — I began thinking about the Secret Dog Owner Behaviors. They don’t really cross into the SSB, because obviously the men I get involved with must love animals, too. People often randomly ask if the puppacita (Chi-Chi, my 5-pound Chihuahua) sleeps in the bed with me, and perhaps it’s odd that I find that an odd question: Why would she NOT? I don’t even know what crate training is. I just know that the puppacita belongs curled up with me, not in curled up in a box.
What are some other SDOB? Swallowing my pride, which is overshadowed by the love for my pup, here are several I’ll admit to:
- Dog Adventure Day: This is usually a Saturday, or when I similarly have the time to take her out for “adventure,” which to a 5-pound dog means something wild and crazy like the park or pet store, shopping or sightseeing, and often culminates in a shared meal like a turkey burger at a patio restaurant. How do these begin? I say to her in the morning, in a certain tone of voice that she probably recognizes, “Are you a dog who loves adventure?” Wag, wag, wag, wag. “You ARE a dog who loves adventure. I KNEW it!” Happy dance and she runs for a leash. And there’s a jingle that accompanies this, as well. And, of course, a hashtag: #DogAdventureDay
When I see hipsters packing the Whole Foods parking lot, I just want to mock them. Because down the street is the natural, gourmet grocery where the cool kids have been going for a long time — and spending a fraction of what Whole Foods takes out of your pocket for organic or preservative-free noshables.
I’ve been eating Trader Joe’s food since at least high school, and the California staple has also become a necessity here on the East Coast. Alas, at my midway stop between L.A. and D.C. — Denver, for a stint at the Rocky Mountain News — there were no Trader Joe’s stores. My, how I missed ‘em. Since its opening in Pasadena, 1958, the California-based chain has expanded to 30 states and D.C.
There are so many things to love about Trader Joe’s besides the food, which is reason enough. Even the flavored seltzer water to which I’m addicted tastes fruitier, crisper and more natural for 79 cents a liter. They don’t have sales or coupons, or store cards that track your purchases, because they don’t need them: their light sour cream, the best hands-down, is $1.79 per pint. Not to say inflation doesn’t happen — the two-buck-chuck Charles Shaw wine is three-and-a-quarter-buck chuck out here on the East Coast (not like many are complaining — I also know I can always go here for more wines from my home state, as well).
In short, they’ve built the all-American business model. Offer products that people love at good prices, friendly staff instead of grumps, clean and bright stores, and you create an extremely loyal following. As TJ’s puts it, each of its products must “stand on its own” to stay on the shelves, and develop demand. You can also count on the staff to have tasted all of the new products and give advice, if not a free sample at a store cooking station. Per square foot, these stores generate more than twice the sales as Whole Foods. Depending on the store and when you go, they can get pretty crowded, but you can’t blame a business for being popular.
Ah, being a woman rocks. Especially this time of year, when the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale rolls around. This morning, Angel cardholders received the email invitation to dive into the online sale early. Being a shopping ninja, I’ve learned some tips and tricks over the years to make the most out of this little-unmentionables bargain-a-thon.
1. The winter sale is better than the summer one. Why? Because the week after the in-store sale starts, it’s major closeout time with all clearance bras dropping to about $15 — even if the bra was a $125 Christmas special edition — and panties going for $2.99. In some stores, like Connecticut Avenue in D.C., all sleepwear is also half off the last marked price, so you’re getting the Pillowtalk Tank PJ, regular price $49.50, for $15. Prices also drop late in the online sale. Because the summer sale is shorter, doesn’t have as good of a selection, and is not as price-dropping as the winter one, get the things you want quickly in the summer one.
2. Shortly before the sale begins, Victoria’s Secret will start teasing loyalists with sale offers — hold fast and save up for the real deal. The only one that’s a better bargain than the SAS is the 7 for $26 panty sale that VS held in store and online this past weekend — they come out to $3.71 per pair, better than the $3.99 sale price.
3. When the online sale starts, pick up matching sets first and any neutrals you may want. While Victoria’s Secret has gorgeous colors and prints, these will be in plentiful supply both later in the online sale and in stores. And later in the sale, it’s more of a hunt to find matching bras and panties.
4. The sale is the time to try one of the new lines of bras that you hadn’t wanted to try at full price. But buy that sample piece early enough so that there are still others colors left if you’re smitten and want to go back to buy more.
5. The in-store sale, which begins nearly two weeks after the online sale begins, generally has better deals on beauty products (like 75 percent off fragrances) and on sleepwear. If there are prints you want in the Angel sleep T’s, though, the 2 for $39.50 deal online is comparable to the $19.99 markdown in stores.
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, even though I’ve never been into the fantasy genre, I really enjoy Game of Thrones. And I’ve enjoyed this season better than the last, proving that there is life after killing off your main character before the first season is even over. The production value is like watching a movie, and at no time has that been more apparent than in tonight’s episode, where Stannis invaded King’s Landing and got smacked with some night-is-dark-and-full-of-terrors napalm.
A few observations…
- WHY didn’t Stannis’ Demon Baby swoop in and kill Joffrey like it did Renly??
- Hell is, apparently, being stuck in a siege with Cersei and a bottle of wine
- Your wet-work guy will apparently only put up with being called “Dog” in a snarling tone so many times before he bails in the middle of a battle
- After all this time GoT can come up with new dwarf jokes: In this one, Joffrey snarls about cutting Tyrion in half, prompting the quipmeister to quip, “That would make me a quarter man.”
- Dwarves apparently have low-angle tactical advantages on the battlefield
- Tyrion was one pint of blue facepaint away from giving a Braveheart rallying speech there
- Varys was this close to telling his how-I-became-a-eunuch story. I hope nobody missed it.
I was kind of hoping that it would be Rob Stark to be the surprise invader on the invaders, but when we last left him he was a little busy with the woman who amputates legs. It was a nice twist to see Tywin ride in, but he needs to knock his snooty little grandson off the Iron Throne pronto.
The teaser for the season finale showed Sansa talking with Lord Baelish, so here’s hoping that The Hound didn’t smuggle her out of the palace and into the whorehouse. We also see that Daenerys will take some concrete step toward getting her dragons back (will they grow up already?), and Arya hooks up again with her death genie, “The Man” Jaqen, so we get to close out the season with some more awesome conversation in the third-person.
I’m sure everybody’s pooches will be getting a fair share of fun in the sun this weekend. (Here in hellish humid hot D.C., that will mean less time outside for the puppacita.) I though it would be a good Furry Friday, then, to throw out some of the favorite dog products I’ve discovered in my past year of dog ownership, and let readers add their own pawesome products.
I came across this product at the last local pet expo, when the puppacita adamantly refused to leave their booth after a sampling. Yeah, dogs may clamor for the cookie bar at the pet store, but I’ve increasingly been on the lookout for natural treats after I’ve seen what natural dog food has done for the puppa’s coat and energy level. Most important for my three-toothed baby, treats like these are soft and easily torn into tiny pieces. This family operation in Lancaster, Pa., uses only grass-fed beef, no throwaway cuts, with no grains or fillers. I see on their site that they’ve since added free-range applewood smoked chicken bites — those can only be scrumptious.
Ready to support an all-American start-up business? I’ve been buying dog clothes for my Chihuahua that gets cold when it’s 68 degrees, and am constantly looking for clearance sales as they can be pretty overpriced. This business, started by an employee at one of my local pet stores, offers sweaters, collars and more for extremely good prices. And for those with dogs big and small who can’t find the perfect fit, Lindsay will knit to your specifications. We love entrepreneurship, we love good quality American-made products, so give Little Paw a shot.
A local pet boutique only stocks goods and treats made in the USA, and that’s where I found this gem of a dog treat. And the boutique owner tells me she can barely keep them in stock. These substantial sticks — and they sell 3-foot versions for the big pups, as well — are delightfully soft and easy to tear. But I can put one in my pocket and it won’t crumble, either. When I have a bag of this, I’m like the pied piper of neighborhood dogs. But the puppacita gets the first bite.
This is for the small dogs, of course. It’s a front carrier with a pocket to hold your pup — great for when the dog insists on being close to you, or if you’re out on a day trip and you know she can only walk so far. I gave this a test run while outlet shopping and was able to juggle all bags while puppacita happily stayed put, her head and front paws perched out. It has a leash hook and nicely padded bottom so she was good and comfy.
5. CVS discount doggie
To say I’ve been impressed by CVS’ pet products is an understatement. First, I was wooed by last winter’s dog sweaters — cable-knit turtlenecks with rib-knit sleeves that cost a fraction of pet store sweaters ($6.99 regular price, and 75 percent off after Christmas), are among the puppa’s favorites, and hold up nicely after washings. Then I tried the doggie stairs, at $9.99, to let the puppacita climb on and off the ottoman. Easy to assemble and work like a charm. Then I was looking for a nice travel bed that could flatten a bit for my suitcase, but was still plush enough to her liking. I recently found a pink furry bed, perfect in proportions and plushness (with sequin trim!), for $9.99 here when I was stopping to pick up Tylenol. Next time you’re stopping in for sale Blue Diamond almonds, check out the pet section here.
I should add that the puppacita is recently smitten with Trader Joe’s chicken jerky — American-made, all natural, and a whopping $1.99 per bag. Now… some of your favorites?
I’m not one to judge a film based on politics. I want to sit down, hear a good story, see some good acting, laugh at a great comedy or feel stirred by an epic drama, and leave who went to whose fundraiser at the door. But when that rare movie comes along that touches on every political theme a foreign policy junkie loves, it’s the politics — or in this case, the unabashed political incorrectness — that makes the film.
For all of the mocking they invite, not enough films have really goofed on dictators. Team America: World Police did an utterly classic dressing down of Kim Jong-Il (still mad they never sold a stuffed doll in movie merchandising), UN weapons inspectors (Hans Brix!), terrorists in Dirkadirkastan, and Alec Baldwin.
When The Dictator opened with a dedication in loving memory of Kim Jong-Il, I had high hopes for this latest Sacha Baron Cohen outing. And for the most part, it didn’t disappoint, pulling the eccentricities of the era’s goofiest tyrants such as Gadhafi (and his all-female bodyguard squad) into one character.
Past punking people as he did as Borat and Bruno, Cohen is Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the fictional North African country Wadiya, which is squeezed next to Sudan on a cable-news map (he calls blacks in America “sub-Saharans”). In a classic speech, he tells the country and the world that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and for medical purposes only. By the time he gets to the part about not wanting to take out Israel, he can’t contain his laughter.
And as he promptly goes to visit his secret nuclear weapons facility, it’s clear that the main target is Iran — in a later scene, supervising a store in Brooklyn, he makes employees call him the “Supreme Grocer.” He refers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a guy who looks like a “snitch on Miami Vice.” (I’d always thought B-movie director, myself.) His nuclear missile is called the “Beard of Doom.”
Like the “ronery” Kim Jong-Il puppet of Team America fame, Aladeen is lonely and wants someone to cuddle — something more than the hooker who quickly gets dressed, noting that she’s due at the Italian prime minister’s. It’s little digs like this that are cleverly woven throughout.
Earlier this spring, I was at a county animal shelter where there was a critter not listed on the shelter’s online adoptables: a chubby black-and-white rat (marked like a skunk in reverse, with a black stripe down his back) who came out of his hidey-hole to come and visit with me. I definitely had to inquire about this little guy, but let’s just say they were shocked that he had an adoption inquiry. The shelter manager was so disgusted by the rat that she offered to give him — and his nice, two-story cage — to me for free.
His backstory was that he was kept by a guy at a group home, who left the rat when he left the home. So I thought of good inmate names to give him — I’ve been calling him Red, a la The Shawshank Redemption. He’s 2 years old, so he won’t be around much longer, but he’ll get spoiled in the meantime. He’s obviously aged, as well — his fur is coarse and scrungy, and he prefers a nap to much running action (he makes really clear he prefers his cage to anywhere else).
(Oh, and he has a nose, just moved for the shot)
Women on the campaign trail, be it candidates or candidates’ wives, are more likely to get into trouble for the cost of their wardrobe if it clashes with the economic realities of the day — stubborn unemployment, a burst housing bubble, recession, on and on.
On the GOP side, it was Ann Romney’s $990 Reed Krakoff bird blouse, and Callista Gingrich’s love for St. John at Neiman Marcus while Newt sat in the Bored Man Chair reading a book and her personal shopper sifted through the racks. The Gingriches, already taking heat for shopping sprees at Tiffany’s, were conscious enough of how this looked politically that they halted the Neiman Marcus trips during the campaign.
Over at the White House, it’s Michelle Obama’s $950 Comme des Garcons skirt worn to meet military families in a mess hall, or wearing $2,000 to $3,000 L’Wren Scott cardigans to mark Take Your Child to Work Day and greet troops at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for these women’s closets, so should it be our business?
It may not be anyone’s business, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a campaign issue. Perception is everything, and when you’re trying to tell the downtrodden that you’re solidly in their corner, standing firmly on your Jimmy Choos, it opens the door for criticism and puts the focus on your pricey couture rather than your policies.
But I’d never tell a woman to give up her couture, as much as I understand that love. I’d simply advise her to acquire it in a smarter way.
I love fashion. I love the drape and feel of label-snob clothes, the smell of a leather label-snob handbag, the craftsmanship and curves of label-snob shoes, and am rarely seen without Dior sunglasses on my face or pushed up on my head. And yet, being a full-time journalist my whole adult life hasn’t exactly left me wealthy. Thus, over the years I’ve perfected the art of fashionista label-snobbery on a real-people salary.
When I made just $35,000 a year in Southern California, I was wearing $300 Emanuel Ungaro tops nabbed at the local Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue outlet) for $30. When Isaac Mizrahi launched his first buzzed-about Target line, I was fetching Isaac python flats at that outlet for $10. I got a $600 Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress for $40, a $540 Anne Klein wool and cashmere coat for $35, and on and on.
Why, yes. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know her better as The Puppacita. And as I’m celebrating this chihuahua’s birthday tomorrow — fittingly — this is Chi-Chi’s Furry Friday.
As any dog owner/lover would say about his or her pooch, there is no dog like my baby. She came into my life nearly a year ago — our adoption anniversary is May 15. I found her at a local pound. The owner had left her there with a name, calling her Kiwi, an age (6 or 7), but suddenly claimed not to speak English when asked why he was giving her up. Later revelations would indicate that she was being used for some sort of backyard breeding, and given up when her time in that area was up.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey released his reading list today — what can be described as an annual literary roll call of badass military books to promote professional development in the armed forces.
This is the 18th annual list for the general, who has a master’s degree in English from Duke University and taught English at West Point. Noticeably missing from this year’s list: a certain New York Times columnist who got two spots from Dempsey last year. The general included Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and The Lexus and the Olive Tree in 2011.
A recurring winner, though, is also my favorite book of all time: The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
“I challenge you to read these books with a critical eye,” Dempsey said. “Challenge assumptions, broaden your perspectives, and look for lessons to apply yourself and to your units.”
Here’s the general’s 2012 reading list:
- A Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard
- The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- The Art of War by Antoine Henri Jomini
- The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Boyd: The Fight Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
- Command of the Air by Giulio Douhet
- George Washington and the American Military Tradition by Don Higginbotham
- The Influence of Sea Power on History by Alfred Thayer Mahan
- Maritime Strategy by Julian S. Corbett
- Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan
- On War by Carl von Clausewitz
- Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer
- Soldier and the State by Samuel P. Huntington
- The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- Twentieth Century American Biography Series: George C. Marshall by Mark A. Stoler
- 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century by Andrew F. Krepinevich
I’ve always enjoyed keeping fish. They’re fun, relaxing to watch and beautiful to have around. They remind one of the amazing array of aquatic life across the planet. Though I’ve never ventured into keeping a saltwater aquarium, I’ve had a decent variety of freshwater fish over the years: from the goldfish I rescued from zoology class in high school after its under-the-microscope ordeal to an array of neon tetras and glass catfish. I learned the hard way that it wasn’t wise to put platies in a 5-gallon aquarium after the pet-store purchase suddenly produced a bunch of live young. I had a great golden snail, named Boutros Boutros-Snail, who grew to the size of a plum before he passed away after a couple of years. The next snail I got, though, a blue snail, began reproducing on its own and the flood of baby snails broke my filter pump and killed the other fish.
But my tried and true favorite has been the betta, or Siamese fighting fish. You know, those poor little guys kept in the cups in pet stores.
My first betta lived for about three years after I freed him from one of those dastardly little cups. The bowl I kept Muqtada al-Fish in wasn’t that big, but he was a gentle, leisurely guy who seemed happy blowing bubble nests all day long. I’d put him back in the pet-store cup to clean the bowl, then refill with bottled spring water.
Having a tank with a broken filter pump thanks to the breeder snail, I thought about putting a betta in there. Inspired by a nice clearance section at a pet store, though, I got a fresh 2.5 gallon tank for the new little guy. It had a clear lid to prevent him from jumping out, yet by removing the filter pump at the back there was a nice air vent for him to enjoy. A fold-down LED light at the top switched from daylight, to night-light, to off.
There’s no other occasion that represents a good excuse to run this list other than Pulp Fiction has been running on cable a lot lately. Most of the time I see it in the cable guide, I click on it. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the movie. Scenes I must have seen a couple hundred times in the nearly two decades since the film came out are still engaging, funny, and cool.
Back in 2008, in my final days at the Los Angeles Daily News before heading to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain News, I was invited by a friend at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to crash a screening they were having in a series that honored films nominated for Best Picture — but didn’t win. I was a bit late, having dashed over from the newsroom, and slipped into a row near the back of the plush theater. The rest of the row was empty, and viewers were scattered around the theater. But this guy sitting behind me kept cackling louder than anyone at all the right scenes. And after the final credits rolled and the house lights came up, an emcee for the screening invited Quentin Tarantino — the guy behind me — to come up to the stage and talk about the film. Joining him from the audience for the panel were The Gimp (Stephen Hibbert) and Raquel (Julia Sweeney).
Tarantino confessed that night that he’d slipped into the theater for the screening because he wanted to see if people still found the film funny and entertaining after all these years. What I loved was that as much as the Pulpers still quote the movie endlessly and click over every time it’s on, the director and scribe still loves his film more.
Here are 10 good reasons — in no ranked order — why Pulpistas still keep loving it. (NOTE: The movie’s R-rated, and so are the clips)
1. The five-dollar milkshake
Thanks to this and There Will be Blood, the milkshake has had it pretty good in movie lore in recent years. But even though this exchange is dated — as milkshakes are now five bucks at sit-down restaurants — it’s still funny because, yes, it’s still just milk and ice cream. (And do you recognize Buddy Holly the waiter? Think Reservoir Dogs — or Boardwalk Empire.)
On Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, and Guns N’ Roses, among many others (Donovan!). If you think that sounds like one concert not to miss, it will air on HBO May 5. The show, however, was missing a bit from each band: John Frusciante, the former Chili Peppers’ guitarist who left the band a few years ago and opted to not attend; Adam Yauch, a founding member of the Beastie Boys who is fighting cancer (the other two Boys did not perform without him, but showed up to accept the honor — the Roots, Kid Rock and Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes performed a tribute medley); Izzy Stradlin, original GNR guitarist who was thankful for the award but generally stays out of the limelight and opted not to attend; and Axl Rose, who was off whining and pouting like Axl always has (“no offense meant to anyone but the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn’t appear to be somewhere I’m actually wanted or respected,” he wrote in a letter declining the induction). Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy filled in for Rose during GNR’s three-song set and fans screamed “f*@k Axl” through much of the night, according to Rolling Stone.
But does the sheer mention of Guns N’ Roses bring some great rock memories or what? I read the autobiography of Slash, the guy to work a top hat like no one since Abe Lincoln, while recovering from wisdom teeth surgery years back — and GNR put the roil into the rock n’ roll lifestyle. In the short time that unbridled talent tore up the rock scene (yes, I’m talking pre-pre-pre “Chinese Democracy”), we were left with some incredible classics.
So sit back and rock out a bit on a Tuesday…
1. “Welcome to the Jungle” – I consider this the best hard rock song of modern times. (The best of all time — and no one ever fully agrees with me on this — is the Rolling Stones’ — no! not “Satisfaction” — “Paint it Black.”) And many GNR lists will put ballad above the power rock. But I consider this THE Guns N’ Roses song that showcases every big, bad, rip-roaring thing we loved about them. The “Jungle” was L.A. — where they got their start on the club scene.
2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” – Yep, we’ve all heard the stories about how the guys were just goofing around with opening notes that sounded almost like a circus, and now those are some of the most famous opening notes in music. But this song has withstood the test of time for conveying a sense of innocence one wouldn’t expect from the hard-living, hard-partying GNR crew in their early years — and yet, not being too sappy like many of the hair-band ballads. It rocks. Another track from “Appetite for Destruction” that proves the album was one of the best debuts in history.
I never had a hamster until I was an adult and realized that the little nocturnal furballs were the perfect companion for a journalist who worked a night news desk, would come home around midnight and crash by 4 or 5 a.m. My first two hamster experiences weren’t that successful because, well, I wasn’t experienced in hamster ownership and didn’t know the cues of how to spot and select a healthy hamster. My first, Hugo, turned out to be sickly and died in his cage after a few weeks. With my second, Moammar, I was told by the Petco staffer that he was four months old; when he suffered a stroke a month later the vet told me that he was an elderly hamster. The lifespan of a Syrian hamster is generally 1.5-3 years, and my third hamster hit that upper number: Boris, a fluffy white guy who loved puffed rice and would feed shredded kleenex into his cheeks like spaghetti. Another long-haired hamster like the two before, I would comb out his tangles with a soft toothbrush (they can’t exactly get rid of ingested hair like a cat does).
I learned more about hamster ownership with Boris, including the great tip from a vet of keeping a bag of chopped mixed vegetables in the freezer and thawing out a few pieces for him in the evening for his sensitive tummy. I ditched the plastic playland-looking cages for a good wire cage with a solid bottom and real upper floors instead of just platforms. A squeaky hamster wheel (solid plastic running surface for tiny feet) is fixed with a drop of canola oil. And straw mats are great to cut up and cover the upper wire floors. Shortly before Boris passed away, I got Genghis from an animal shelter. He made the long trip to DC with me, and passed away about a year later. As I had an empty smaller cage used for travel, I branched out beyond Syrian hamsters for the first time for a Kazakh: Peanut, a long-lived winter white hamster who, yes, changed fur color with the seasons. He sat on my desk as I worked and would dangle from the top bars like a jungle gym to get treats. Though super-friendly, he wasn’t one to be held, though; unlike my Syrians, this breed was quite nippy.
To fill Genghis’ deluxe hamster condo, I got a brown bear hamster I was going to name Attila. She looked just like the bear on the flag of my home state, though, so I called her CaliBear. She was quite shy and lived about a year and a half. After Peanut died, I filled the small cage with another small variety, a Chinese dwarf hamster named Ham Jintao. They don’t bite, but he’s also quite shy and I don’t see him much. My next Syrian hamster, however, would be anything but shy.
Enter Ivan the Terrible.
Fox is planning an In Living Color reunion for the network’s 25th anniversary special on April 22. Keenen Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans will get together to talk about their memories of the classic 1990s sketch-comedy show that broke all PC rules. Fox will later be relaunching In Living Color with a new cast, but can it ever be as good as the original? Damon Wayons, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier and many more created the most original TV of the time, where there were no sacred cows and everything was on the table to be skewered. Reruns air on Centric now, and I own the first three seasons on DVD (childhood memories!), but the reunion is more than enough reason to gather the funniest skits from the show.
1.The Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan Comedy Hour: Hands down, the winner. This is pure genius, from the respective impersonations by David Alan Grier and Damon Wayans to the script to the belly rub at the end.
2. Blaine and Antoine, Men on…: You can’t pick just one from the series of skits by Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier, with one-liners that often made the actors crack up (and outfits to match). Two snaps with a twist!
3. Oswald Bates and Barbara Bush: Another great Damon Wayans character was the “Booked on Phonics” Bates, the inmate with the curious sentences and coordinating facial expressions. Here, he shares his reading progress with the first lady.
Out of my menagerie, it seems there isn’t a more appropriate critter to highlight Easter weekend than the one who mimics those bags in the candy aisle: my diamond dove.
She’s a shy thing without a mate, but this time of year lays a couple of eggs every so often. And yep, they’re exactly the size of Dove Eggs. Except I have to wait until she’s done sitting on the unfertilized eggs and then throw them out so a) they don’t go bad, and b) she doesn’t starve herself by waiting for that hatch date. (I can put a fresh sprig of millet, which is like Bird Crack, right in front of her when she’s in incubation mode, and she won’t be distracted.)
This little dove came into my life back in 2008. I’d always held a bit of a prejudice against birds as pets, writing them off as noisy and pecking. I now love conures and cockatiels and all in between, but there was something about the diamond dove. They’re very contemplative, sweet and gentle. The first time she cooed, though, it took me by surprise because it sounded like a train whistle. I’ve since learned that the five-note and two-note coos, along with a special guttural one, have different meanings; trying to talk to me when she can’t see me, when I walk to another room, when I’m right there, etc. And I respond, and we coo back and forth.
I remember when I was about to start at the American Enterprise Institute, and was being taken to different offices to sit down with and get to know various directors and scholars. Chatting with one fellow, I mentioned that I was born in Inglewood, Calif. “Ah,” he said, a smile creeping across his face. “Always up to no good!” Color me impressed: a conservative think-tanker had just quoted 2Pac. Days later, he quoted The Game.
It just underscored that ideology and even background don’t figure into the tastes of true music fans, something you’d never know by the assumption that those at a Republican rally just want to hear country (Alice Cooper, by the way, is a conservative — I expect to hear Welcome to My Nightmare at the next CPAC). I also had the added benefit of musical education from working at Tower Records (R.I.P.) in college. Many might remember the vast classical music rooms there, appropriately staffed by geniuses in the genre. While working undercover to catch shoplifters (yes, a cool job), I got schooled in everything from ska to opera. But my musical appreciation — capped by an undying love for records over CDs — has always been wide-ranging, from Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan. And I’ve always loved rap.
So here are my top 20:
1. California Love – 2Pac with Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman
Probably 2Pac’s most crossover hit, this soars with the best of the state – “Let me serenade the streets of L.A.” With, yes, odes to Oakland and Sactown, the Bay Area and back down, as well. Best to hear while out for a cruise in the Golden State, even if it’s a tad cliche.
When people ask me to describe a chinchilla, the best response I have to sum up this crazy little creature is that it’s like a live-action Disney animated fluffy forest thing.
In 2008, I’d just moved from 425 square feet in L.A. to 1,260 square feet in Denver, where I was online opinion editor at the Rocky Mountain News. So I went down to the animal shelter — the Dumb Friends League — to add perhaps a guinea pig (I didn’t add the caucus until moving to D.C.). The staff steered me toward a chinchilla after I’d rattled off some nerdy factoids about their origin and care — I’d always been curious about them, but being close to the coast in L.A. I had no air conditioning other than the Pacific, which means a keep-it-68-degrees creature was out of the question.
The chinchilla had been purchased at a PetSmart and then turned into the shelter by the family. This wasn’t surprising as they’re not kids’ pets: they’re exceptionally soft and cuddly but don’t like to be cuddled, they’re strong and amazing jumpers but have a delicate bone structure that means you can’t squeeze or drop them, and they’re up at night. The shelter staff took us into one of those “get acquainted” rooms, and let the chinchilla out of the carrier. She began zipping circles around the room, ricocheting off walls and making everyone dizzy trying to catch her. I finally cornered the chinchilla under a table with the help of another staffer, and reached out to gently pet her nose. After acting zen for a few moments, she leaped between us but I caught her against my shoulder and held her there. She came home with me. I named her Chinderella because she was clearly a total diva.
There is no good Mexican food on the East Coast. I didn’t really know the truthfulness or realize the extent of this adage before, as a native Angeleno, I moved out to D.C. Not only is it shockingly true, but it’s usually the first topic of conversation between California immigrants out here after asking where you’re from. The last California congressman I sat down with complained about nasty faux Mexican food (to which I heartily agreed) before we began talking legislation.
There are food trucks that line the squares at lunchtime, but not to tell tacos al carbon for a buck. There are a few mom and pop joints, but mostly Salvadoran. When I discovered La Loma restaurant near the Heritage Foundation, I thought it was the best find ever, though I realized it would be rated as OK-to-pretty-good Mexican food in L.A. At least you could mix the rice and beans to the perfect consistency, which is a start out here. But is it too hard to put some meat on two corn tortillas with cilantro and onions, with salsa verde and a side cup of spicy carrots?
This brings to mind a list I came up with during my midway stop from L.A. to D.C., at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. From SoCal to the Valley, the central coast to across the border, here are signs of a great Mexican restaurant:
- The menu lapses into Spanish without warning
- Our Lady of Guadalupe is behind the counter
- Tamarindo and horchata are on tap
- It’s safer to drink the beer than the water — and Corona is NOT the sole offering
- At least two German tourists have accidentally ordered lengua in the past month
- The restaurant name is not Chevy’s or El Torito (or, out here, Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food)
- The mariachi not only plays there, but eats there as well
- Telenovelas play on a TV mounted on the wall
- The music played includes copious amounts of accordion
- The salsa has never and will never come from a jar
- The tacos spill on the first bite
- There are no “southwest black beans,” just manteca-laden refried beans
- The number of tables usually doesn’t exceed ten
- The view leaves something to be desired, like an old carburetor shop or tacky mercado
- There is no menu item called a “Mexi-melt”
- The Health Department doesn’t always leave happy, but the customers do
Taking a break to muse about my guinea pigs might seem a far cry from covering Capitol Hill, but not when you consider just who my infamous cavies are.
Back when I worked at The Hill newspaper, an employee in the production department wanted name suggestions for a cute fluffy kitten she’d just brought into her home. With a nod to our coverage, I suggested Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.). She opted for a non-smartass name for the fluffy little thing, but there was no way I was going to let that awesome name go to waste. I just had to save it for the perfect pet.
One day I was at a Petco when I saw a little guy in the saddest state: a guinea pig housed in an aquarium-style enclosure, no longer a baby and barely able to turn around in the display case. I got him out of that situation and brought him home. I’d never had a guinea pig before, but this one was surly, whining, and just crying out for the perfect name: Sen. Furry Reid (D-Nev.) he was. Here he is pictured with Ronnie the cat, having a bipartisan meeting over a strawberry in which Furry Reid predictably bogarted the whole thing for himself: