Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TBG Reviews: The New Carl's Jr. Patty Melt

My friends at Carl's Jr. introduced a new menu item last week and on Wednesday, I pulled the Bootlegmobile into my local drive-thru just so I could try their Patty Melt.

Served on grilled rye bread, then topped with two slices of American cheese and grilled onions, this was a pretty damn good fast food take on the classic diner sandwich. I would've personally gone all-the-way authentic and substituted Swiss cheese for the "processed cheese food" and there could've been a few more onions on the one I ordered, but otherwise it's another winner for Carl's Jr.

Now, that they have their marketable sound bite from me, let's talk about their new Patty Melt ad campaign. As one or two of you know, my degree is actually in marketing. Consequently, if I'd actually seen the below commercial before I ordered, I'd have probably gone back to Burger King.

(1) It's not funny. Not even remotely so.

(2) It barely mentions the product.

(3) It attempts to sell a sandwich by focusing on the bread.

But, I believe one of the guys is untalented Houston rapper Paul Wall (who also took my order last night) so all is not lost.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #15

Overall: 65-67 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 4-3 (3-0 vs. Blue Jays, 1-3 vs. Devil Rays)

A's fans don't exactly have the best reputation.

About three years ago, there was this wee little fracas involving Oakland fans, a Texas Rangers reliever and a steel folding chair. (Scott Keith gave the whole thing ¼* and he doesn't usually review battle royales!)

The year before that, an A's fan threw a cell phone off the dome of Jurassic Carl Everett. And, try as I might, I can't come up with a better "dinosaur" gag than that.

A few years ago, I was at the Coliseum when the A's played the Mariners and saw fans wearing bootlegged "Ichiro Wok'd My Dog" t-shirts. You stay classy, Oakland.

It's quite the contradiction when one considers how the A's franchise is often labeled as one of the most intelligent in the game. And, all it took was one hopelessly lost season for all the idiots to come out and offer their own ill-formed opinions on everything with the team.

One of the most popular comments making the rounds on just about every A's blog and message board is that the team never should have gotten rid of OF Eric Byrnes.

Even if you're just a casual baseball fan, you've probably seen the guy. He's a regular on Baseball Tonight and their "Web Gems" highlight reel. His unkempt hair and glib, self-deprecating tone turned him into something of an overnight media sensation as he offered "expert" commentary during last year's playoffs on Fox TV.

And, he just signed a 3-year, $30 million extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Amazingly, he's only been out of Oakland for two years and, already, the locals have forgotten why we got rid of him.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let all of you know that I never liked the guy. Even when he was hitting for the cycle or pinballing himself all over the outfield walls, my one response to anything he did in an A's uniform was: "He's still not an everyday player". And, he wasn't…until his age 27 season in 2003.

That year, Byrnes hit a respectable, if unspectacular .263/.333/.459. More disturbingly, though, is that those numbers included an off-the-cliff drop off after the All Star Break (.168/.242/.310) and a stark platoon split, overall (.752 OPS vs. RHP, .864 OPS vs. LHP). Byrnes also contributed one of the biggest baserunning gaffes in playoff history.

In Game #3 of the 2003 ALDS vs. the Red Sox, Byrnes attempted to score from third on a groundball from Miguel Tejada. Instead of tagging home plate, Byrnes inexplicably sought contact with Boston catcher Jason Varitek, missed the plate entirely and then was tagged out as he walked back to the dugout, because the throw home got away from Varitek, who chased it down.

In 2004, Byrnes put up almost identical numbers in the first and second half, but his platoon differential became more pronounced (.741 OPS vs. RHP, 1.005 vs. LHP) and his defense – always an adventure – became outright unacceptable.

He took routes like a Little Leaguer, regularly threw to the wrong base, missed cutoff men and, because he was occasionally capable of outrunning his own late jumps, gained a wildly undeserved reputation as "good". Finally, in July 2005, the A's got rid of the Kamikaze Crash Test Dummy (no, that really is his nickname) and let him stink up two other teams (Colorado, Baltimore) after the All Star Break (.191/.255/.282).

So, why do so many A's fans want him back?

Well, for one, he's a nice guy. I'd argue that there are a LOT of fans who truly believe that a team full of Eric Byrneses and David Ecksteins would be better (and more fun to watch!) than a team full of A-Rods and Bonds. I'll take my chances with the assh*les, thanks.

Secondly, and along the same lines, don't ever discount the "Hustling White Guy Theory". Perennial offensive mediocrities like Darin Erstad and Eric Owens built entire careers on the foundation that they run hard to first base. Hell, Pete Rose extended his own career for seven years past its expiration date because of…hustle. And, check those numbers: save for a fluky spike in 1981, Rose should've hung 'em up after the '79 or '80 season.

Finally…our old friend, "the recency effect". A's fans see Byrnes having a career year at the age of 31 and are all too willing to overlook the guy's litany of limitations. Thankfully, the D-Backs have saved the A's from themselves.

Make no mistake: This is a terrible, terrible contract for Arizona. They've got some great kids who are cheaper and better than Byrnes, but are now blocked by a guy who isn't nearly as good as he's looked this year.

Besides, we've already got Shannon Stewart, who's filling that particular description quite nicely for the A's. And, if Beane gives him a three year contract…

This Week: vs. Blue Jays (3), vs. Tigers (3)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Did He Say "That's My Better Ho"?

Was I the last person to learn of this video's existence?

Best. YouTube. Ever.

Thanks, Nicka.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Linky, Linky!

We're smack-dab in the middle of our six weeks of summer here in San Diego. From about August 15 to the end of September, temperatures generally soar into the high 80s (even the low 90s!) as the locals rediscover our beaches, parks and outdoor malls.

As for me, I managed to catch a cold over the weekend. Consequently, everyone else is doing the writing today:

First up, your favorite bi-racial writer is back at it with a terrific piece on the state of a certain music genre:

As a black man, I find it really offensive that these aural images are being broadcast and consumed by a white audience. It's almost like the critique and dismissal of jazz as "jungle music", only this time there's really no defense against it. I mean, T-Pain is no Cab Calloway.

Next, my former Machine Gun Funk boss drops his latest SMonday Swindle Sheet and features the heretofore unknown deliciousness of Kylie Minogue's sister…and friends:

DANNII MINOGUE (a.k.a. The Larger-Breasted Version of KYLIE MINOGUE) has told reporters that she felt humiliated when she found out that pictures of her enjoying a lap-dance at a London strip club had been printed in London's News of the World early last year, claiming that she was "set up" by people looking to stir up some controversy. In the interest of journalistic integrity, The SMonday Swindle Sheet has procured the EXCLUSIVE images of Minogue in the back room of the club with a supply-endowed dancer…

My link IS safe for work…

Hey, everyone…it's Movie Joe Reid's birthday! He's that guy who writes the Low Resolution blog. Occasionally. No, he didn't die…he just doesn't care a lick about you, the reader. His one post for the month is a doozy, though. It's Round 2 of his "Beyond Actor-Dome" elimination tournament. Joe extinguished any and all actors of color in the first round, so click on through and see Hollywood through Hitler's eyes!

It's a closer race than you'd think, considering for the first half of our ten-year judging period, I thought (Mark) Wahlberg was something of a one-flick wonder, while (Edward) Norton was Acting Jesus.

M'man Tom Daniels had a new post on the New York Football Giants a few days ago, but I'm linking to his fantabulous review of Michael Lewis' "Moneyball". Aside from being one of about eight people who actually "got" the book, TD suckered me quite nicely with this paragraph:

About six months ago, someone introduced me to this odd concept. It's a store, kind of like a video store, but with books instead of movies. It must be like a chain because they have them all over the city. What's better, they don't even charge a rental fee… just late fees… and you get three whole weeks when you rent a book. The website, similar to Netflix, allows you to create an account and set up a book queue. You can pick which location you want your book to go to. When you bring it back, you can even request another book to be sent to your location.

SPOILER ALERT: He's talking about the library! Or, in español, la biblioteca.

Last, but least, White America's favorite sportswriter is back with a predictably pandering piece on Michael Vick. I'm pretty sure that Dave Chappelle covered this territory four years ago, but if it gets Jason another appearance on Oprah, then it was all worth it:

(Vick) threw it all away because he bought into the self-destructive, immature, hip-hop model of "keeping it real."

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #14

Overall: 61-64 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 5-2 (1-0 vs. Tigers, 3-0 vs. White Sox, 1-2 vs. Royals)

I'm going to try and defend Marco Scutaro.

For those of you who don't follow the A's, Scutaro is essentially our own David Eckstein: a perfectly serviceable player who's been tagged with clichéd labels like "clutch", "knows how to win" and "knows how to win in the clutch". In fact, to hear some A's fans tell it, Scutaro has "that special something" that magically allows him to raise his game in late inning pressure situations. Perhaps our friends at can settle this once and for all:

Runners in Scoring Position, 2 Outs (BA/OBP/SLG): .233/.363/.358
Late & Close: .242/.314/.366
Tie Game: .250/.324/.369
Team within 1 Run: .261/.320/.391

Career Overall: .258/.319/.390

(Late & Close are PA in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.)

These numbers underscore the stat-head theory that, while there are clutch hits, "clutch hitting" as a repeatable skill is a myth. Scutaro's "clutch" numbers roughly align with his career numbers, which aren't that great to begin with. In fact, the "clutch numbers" = "career numbers" connection is generally true for most players, good or bad.

Whoops, almost forgot…I'm here to defend Scutaro.

Check out this article from Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

It seems the A's are planning to phase out Scutaro over the next several weeks, in an effort to see if some younger, cheaper players can fill the same role. Now, as much as this makes sense from both a fiscal (in 2008) and competitive (in 2008) perspective, it highlights one of the things (hell, the thing) I hate most about my favorite team.

The A's do a terrible job of giving opportunities to players who deserve them and, conversely, staying too long with players who don't.

Scutaro is not a great or even good everyday player, but he's a solid back-up infielder who can help the team on the field in the last six weeks of this season and, quite frankly, deserves better than to be stapled to the bench at the expense of "Quadruple-A" players like Donnie Murphy and Jack Hannahan. (Who? Exactly.)

In a very limited number of plate appearances, Scutaro is killing left-handed pitching this year. If the A's want to go in a different direction in 2008, would it be the worst thing in the world to let Scutaro puff up his overall '07 numbers while playing him in a strict platoon down the stretch? A few anonymous kids get most of the ABs, while Scutaro, in theory, can cash in with some National League team smitten with his #8 hitter skill set built on a fluky line against southpaws.

It's a "goodbye" and a "thank you" and a "good luck with the Mets next year" all rolled into one.

Hey, that's as close as a defense for him as you'll get from me.

This Week: at Blue Jays (3), at Devil Rays (4)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

TBG Reviews: The Simpsons Movie

In the Springfieldian dialect, I'd call it cromulent entertainment.

In fact, it was somewhat surreal to watch a movie like this in a theater setting. The comedic elements were met mostly with light laughter that was the guffaw equivalent to the "golf clap". While the one or two genuinely laugh out loud moments appeared to be too subversive for most of the audience.

The plot was pretty much a supersized version of 99% of the usual "Simpsons" small screen storyline: Homer screws up. The road to redemption tweaks the noses of familiar pop-culture and political targets (a scene with a room full of government eavesdroppers pays off nicely), but ultimately, if you've been watching the seminal series since the beginning, you'll find yourself sifting through moments during the movie that have been recycled from earlier events in the TV show.

That's not to say I was disappointed.

My expectations were low enough that I hemmed and hawed and bought a bootleg "studio copy" a few weeks back that turned out to be a different (yet, equally underwhelming) animated movie, instead.

The Simpsons Movie killed about 80 minutes of an otherwise lazy (and f*cking hot) Saturday in San Diego and, on a grander scale, served as something of a (belated) victory lap for the writers and producers who were told back in 1990 that going up against "The Cosby Show" was sheer lunacy. On these levels, I had no problem with the flick.

But, you should still just wait for the DVD.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Obligatory Orlando Travel Diary – Part 3

We're ditching the diary format for the third n' final part of the Orlando ordeal. The rest of the trip was otherwise uneventful, save for a smattering of moments in and around actually having to work while I was out there.

Let's do this thang…

· One of the most surreal sights in the history of humanity occurred just as I was about to board my flight from Dallas to Orlando. A tall blonde woman was shuffling through the terminal with shackles on her arms and legs. She was in pale prison blues and flanked by not one, but two African-American federal agents. In Texas! The state where mentally retarded convicts are sent to death and Blacks got the right to vote in 2002. That 60-second scene was all the "reparations" I'll ever need.

Sorry, Mathan.

· We were about an hour late in leaving Dallas, which put us in Orlando just after 8:00 PM, Tuesday night. By the time I got my luggage and rental car, it was around 9:00 PM…and pitch black outside. The darkness ensured that, for the fifth or sixth business trip in a row, I was going to get lost on the unfamiliar roads. Turns out that my hotel was all of one block from Hertz. And, I still drove right past it. I actually ended up back at the airport – in the passenger loading/unloading areas – which made for Surreal Moment #2. Heavy construction in the area (and heavy traffic in and around said area) forced me to loop around the terminals three times, before I could get in the right lane to exit. "Look, kids…Big Ben…Parliament…"

· I finally reach the hotel just before 10:00 PM. Now, I know I make this point whenever I fly back east, but can you believe there's a part of the country where televised baseball games don't start until 10:00 PM? Do you guys stay up and watch when your teams play out west? Do you TiVO? Do you wait for the (n)-word to appear next to the teams in tomorrow's paper?

· Room service options are down to the blue-collar, working class Cuban Sandwich or the effeminately pretentious "pineapple-salsa charred chicken salad". And, let me tell you…did they think I couldn't tell the difference between "pineapple salsa" and the mango salsa that came served atop my salad? They're two different fruits, Embassy Suites! Still, kudos for the finely chopped fresh jalapeños mixed in with the salsa. And, can you believe the whole thing only had 5 grams of fat?! Dee-lish!

· Just before midnight, Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home run record and I was still awake to see it. Immediately afterwards, Mrs. Bootleg called to tell me it had happened. Yes, she now watches baseball on her own and without any prompting on my part. Conversely, I still want nothing to do with any of her interests, such as Grey's Anatomy, the theater or "play dates with her 'Mommy's Club'". The winner and still champion…me!

· On Wednesday morning, I made the 20 mile drive from Orlando to Lake Buena Vista. In the span of six miles down the free, er…expressway, I hit two toll booths. TWO! Is there any other city in America with a similar scam? This isn't even about the 75 cents I had to pony up at both booths or the difficulty in judging which of the two dozen lines I was supposed to be in ("Drive-Pass", "Exact Change" or "Drive-Pass PLUS/Change"). Y'see, here's the thing: Up in the Bay Area, anyone who wants into San Francisco has to pay a toll. Understandable. It's one of America's greatest cities. I get that. In my case, I was paying for the honor of driving from Central Orlando to…South Central Orlando. And, then again to get out of South Central Orlando. A Black man paying (twice) to go deeper into the Deep South. Think about it.

· My destination was the Coronado Springs Resort, which is part of the sprawling Disney World complex. Armed with my Yahoo! Maps directions, I'd gotten about 98% of the way down without any problems. Then, somewhere around the "99%" off-ramp, all of the regular-named streets became…"Mickey Mouse Way", "Donald Duck Drive", etc. Curiously, Yahoo! had failed to account for the fake infrastructure of a fake city's fake streets. For the next 10 minutes, I would be "directed" by gigantic plastic cartoon characters from the Disney Family that helpfully extended one of their four fingers and "pointed" me to where I needed to be.

· Fashion Faux-Pas: A four-button black suit with a blue-on-blue shirt and tie combo is stunning in any of the other 47 contiguous states. In Florida…in August…it's stupid. (I assume the Eskimos and savages who rule Alaska and Hawaii, respectively, have their own dress codes for their undeveloped colonies.)

· You know it's a sh*tty business trip when you have to return to your hotel at the end of the day…to do more work. And, even better, my 20 minute drive to the convention center turned into an hour and 20 minute drive back to Orlando. The reason? Well, according to Power 95.3 FM - Orlando's "new #1 home for Hip Hop" – there was a shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral. Good for you, Florida. NASCAR, Confederate Flags and our jingoistic space exploration campaign. It's like a Red State Starter Kit.

· And, just to cap things off…one of my nights in Orlando was extended by a bout of jet-lag induced insomnia. (Can you get jet-lag when going from west coast to east coast? Am I actually gaining hours or losing them? Is there such a thing as "reverse jet-lag" or is that an imaginary concept like "reverse-racism"?) I was up until 4:00 AM watching Denzel Washington's Inside Man. Still, not sure if I liked it or not.

· I reached the end of the week in one piece and returned to the Orlando Airport for my flight home. Now, friends…if you take nothing else from this post, trust me when I say that Orlando Sanford(!) International Airport is the most bat-sh*t insane, congested human car-wreck of an airport you'll ever see. When I arrived, it was relatively late on what's generally a light travel day (Tuesday). On this day, there were several security lines that inexplicably merged into one, then separated and expanded into eight or ten, again. Every airport employee appeared to be under 18 and overwhelmed to the point of indifference. Hair twirling, gum snapping, foot-long press-on nails…these are the kids we're entrusting with our national and personal security?!

· Our flight went through LAX, before I hopped a puddle-jumper home to San Diego. On the way home, I stopped off at Taco Bell to try their new Grande Quesadilla. But, I already wrote about that. And, now we've come full circle.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Obligatory Orlando Travel Diary – Part 2

8:45 AM - We were supposed to take off from San Diego ten minutes ago, yet here we sit – still at the gate. Hispanic Hotness (henceforth "HH") has the window seat next to me. She's keeping her kid entertained with a Disney DVD…and "entertaining" the rest of the plane by turning the speaker volume up to 110.

8:55 AM - 20 minutes after our original departure time, we're told that our plane is having problems with one of its batteries. Maintenance has been dispatched and a replacement should arrive soon. For the next 20 minutes, every passenger within my earshot makes the same "I should've packed my jumper cables" joke.

9:25 AM - We're told that a replacement battery couldn't be found, so they've pulled one out of another plane, installed it in ours and we'll be on our way just as soon as we pass the minimum diagnostics. For those scoring at home, with hundreds of lives on board, their "solution" is the same one I use when the TV remote control batteries die and one of my son's (working) electric toys is within reach.

9:30 AM - For the past five minutes, every passenger within my earshot makes the same "Do you think they're going to tell the pilot of the other plane that we're taking their battery?" joke.

9:40 AM - Aaaaaaaaand, we're off. After only a 65-minute delay. I glance over to HH for the second or third (or 44th time) and see that mother and child are asleep. And, yes…I was thinking what you're all thinking. Giggedy.

10:00 AM - HH and her kid are simultaneously awakened when the seat in front of them reclines right into their laps. I grope…for something clever to say, knowing that my renown wit was rewarded with three consecutive "Music Zone Writer of the Year" awards at 411 and Inside Pulse.

"Do you want to trade seats?"

Still got it.

10:01 AM - HH politely declines. And, English doesn't appear to be her first – or second – language. Wait…she was flying out of San Diego?!

10:45 AM - During a particularly rough patch of turbulence, the passengers are told to return to their seats and buckle their seat belts. HH…God bless her…confuses this announcement with the "…we're beginning our final descent…" one and thinks we're right over Dallas. "Is it almost over?", she asks me. "We've got another hour", I reply, smiling softly in her direction.

11:00 AM - For the last hour or so, HH has been doing her very best to keep her child under control. Like any other one-year-old, he was squirming pretty good and in no mood to be seated in her lap. HH would stand him up, sit him down, feed him arroz con leche…rinse, repeat. Apparently, over the course of this activity, the boy bumped the reclined chair in front of him a few times. Just then, the passenger in that chair turns around and snottily asks the mother to "tell your child to stop kicking my chair".

This unabashed A-hole had a thick British accent, which made it even more difficult for HH to understand him. She got the gist of his unwarranted assault, eventually, and proceeded to apologize profusely in mostly broken English.

And, what was Benny Hill's rebuttal? "How would you like it if I came back there and kicked your seat?"

Like a panther…I pounced: "Don't threaten them because you got a sh*tty seat assignment, azzhole. The kid's a year old. He's gonna bump your seat. Shut up or move."

11:05 AM - HH is still thanking me for coming to her defense. The unwelcome foreigner in front of us has, lucky for him, opted to shut up. I still don't know where that came from. I'm pretty sure I haven't publicly stuck up for Mrs. Bootleg in all the years we've been together. (As she readily confirmed when I told her this story.)

11:10 AM - With her child now confined to her lap, HH spent the rest of the flight doing everything she could to keep the boy away from the bad, bad man. In return, the kid kept grabbing the v-neck collar of her blouse and pulling it down. Unfortunately, as her newly-minted knight in shining armor, I had to play the role of "gentleman" and look away when it appeared I might be seeing more than I…

11:11 AM - It's a pink bra. Jesus, Joseph and Mary…set against her butter pecan complexion, this is easily the most spectacular thing(s) I'll…

11:12 AM - There it is again! How much longer could this possibly…

11:12 AM, 30 seconds - Bam! Again!

11:45 AM (1:45 PM, Dallas time) - We've landed in Dallas and HH (henceforth "my next wife") thanks me, yet again. She tells me she's on her way to Puerto Rico to visit her mom…and husband, who is working down there for the next six months. HH says it's a "surprise".

I'll say.

And, did I mention that she "just found out" she was pregnant? Yeah, see, that's the surprise she's bringing with her. I am NOT making any of this up.

It looks like the imaginary actions of my eventual evening imagery just got even more impure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Obligatory Orlando Travel Diary – Part 1

6:00 AM - Leaving Stately Bootleg Manor in San Diego for my 8:35 AM flight to Orlando. Work is routing me through Dallas-Fort Worth which, last time I flew, was awash in floods, lightning and locust. In the summer. I enjoy pointing this out to all of you who throw your "seasons" in the delicate features of my Californian face.

Meanwhile, the annual six weeks of San Diego's "summer" just started a few days ago.

6:25 AM - The Anonymous Defense Contractor encourages us to park offsite at one of the independently owned lots that shuttles passengers to the airport. From what I can gather, here are the requirements for the drivers: denim shorts, 10-year-old T-shirt, a 2 packs-a-day habit and one of San Diego's 7,000 classic rock stations on the radio.

6:30 AM - Six Degrees of Trailer Park Trash: During the usual driver-led "So, where y'all headed" segment of the ride, one of the other shuttle passengers mentioned that he was on his way to Chicago to judge a horse jumping tournament. The driver mentioned that he had a cousin who competed in a tournament in Pomona (about 50 miles east of Los Angeles) and advanced to the regionals. The passenger, positively giddy at this point, exclaimed "I judged that tournament!"

I have just summarized the entirety of the 10 minute ride to the airport. Unlike you, I had to live it.

6:40 AM - Just found out about a new policy at work where my company now covers "tips and gratuities" for menial travel servants like airport shuttle guys and hotel room cleaning ladies. Hmm…all I have are 20s and a five. Tell you what…if he's my driver when I get back to San Diego, I'll just double tip him then. Can one of you remind me?

7:00 AM - I've checked my bags, gotten through security and just reached my gate with an hour and a half to go. This has been surprisingly problem-free. I will celebrate by breaking out the latest Maxim and attempt to discreetly read it. Step one: Make sure the cover is wrapped around the back of the mag.

7:05 AM - Maxim informs me that Hilary Duff is a neat freak. Wow, that three-year subscription is just paying for itself, no? Oh, and in another interview, that Michele Merkin chick comes across as an absolute bitch. I just had to get that out now before she's co-headlining a Excitebike Motocross Event with Chyna and signing pictures of herself from 10 years ago.

7:25 AM - I get paged over the PA system and told to report to Gate 30. There's either an emergency at home or someone's about to use the word "overbooked". Guess which one I'm hoping for. (I'd tell you, but Mrs. Bootleg reads the blog, too.)

7:30 AM - My flight is overbooked. But, I'm told that American Airlines has a "great opportunity" for me that "fixes" this problem…that they created. AA can get me on the 7:35 AM flight to Dallas! With just a few keystrokes, they could double my layover time at DFW and virtually guarantee that there wouldn't be enough time to get my bags from my original flight to my new one. This was the guy's sales pitch:

"(Dallas-Fort Worth) is a lovely airport. You can stretch your legs, maybe get a cocktail…"

Is he serious?! AA can inconvenience me, most likely lose my luggage and the upshot is a chance to walk around and pay $8 for a Jack & Coke? I politely declined.

His response: "Your loss. You could've had an aisle seat on this one, but I see you're stuck with a middle."

He made it seem that he was all but SAVING me from a seat next to a restless infant or one up against the sh*tters. Talk about a Jesus Complex. Get over yourself, jackass.

Hey…where's that ominously foreshadowing music coming from?

7:40 AM - Back to my original gate and, in my absence, an absolute five-alarm blaze of Hispanic hotness is sitting where I was at. For the sake of the diversity of my readership…Black People: She was hotter'n fish grease. White People: She was hotter than two drops of Tabasco on your eggs. *Whew*! Can someone pour me a glass of milk…my mouth's on fire!

She's got a small child with her who can't be hers. He looks to be about a year old, but if he came out of this woman, we're talking "Hotness Comeback Mamí of the Year". Even Republicans would be on board. Republicans! Ay carumba!

8:05 AM - Time to board. I'm in seat 34B. Let's see…we're walking, we're walking…row 30…31…32…33…34. Hey, an aisle seat! Hmm, last row of the plane. Against the sh*tters. And, look who's in 34A! It's Hotness…and her restless kid.

Hey…there's that music again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Two More Cheesy Fast Food Reviews (A Delicious Pun!)

I catch a lot of hell from friends who can't understand how someone who lives in a city and state with such a strong Hispanic influence can patronize the ersatz Mexican cuisine at Taco Bell. And, they probably have a point.

But, when I was still in college, Taco Bell made two marketing moves that hooked me for good: (1) They introduced the fantastic seven-layer burrito to their menu and (2) Taco Bell was the first established fast food restaurant to open on the campus of Long Beach City College. Trust me, children…once upon a time, this was a BIG deal.

As were most things back in the slave days.

So, over the last 15 years, Taco Bell has maintained a consistent slot in my top two or three "quick eatin' options". And, without fail, anytime a new menu item is introduced, you'll most likely find me in the drive-thru with guinea pig intentions.

Last month, they debuted the "Grande Quesadilla", a melted three cheese blend with your choice of chicken or steak, all between something called "panadero bread". I picked one up on my way home from the airport late last week. With only a $3 pouch of cranberry trail mix on my belly, I brought my appetite for what's been hyped as a "more filling" quesadilla.

Back to the drawing board, Taco Bell.

The overly-chewy bread was dry and bland. In fact, if you were to take two pieces of stale wheat bread, cram some shredded cheese in the middle and microwave it all for 30 seconds, you'd get the same thing. Screwing up a quesadilla is akin to finding a way to burn boiling water.

Quesadillas should only be made with flour tortillas that absorb all of the excess oil from the sweet greasy cheese within. The end result should be a slightly crispy portable meal with a light shine on the outside and an ooey-gooey mess on the inside. It's not rocket science.

Meanwhile, our friends over at Burger King have their own take on America's favorite dairy product.

Without a lick of the marketing blitz that Taco Bell rolled out for their quesadilla, BK has quietly introduced one of the most singularly delicious fast food items out there today.

Seriously…they're probably still open. Go get some cheesy tots.

I'd never heard of this menu item up until a few months ago. While in search of something to cram into my kid's cry-hole, I ended up in the BK drive-thru. Figuring that he'd eat the fries (and most of the toy) from his Kid's Meal, I'd be left with his tiny cheeseburger and no side order to accompany my cholesterol.

I saw "cheesy tots" and assumed they were just tater tots covered in that faux cheese usually found on nachos. But, no!

In fact, they're little deep-fried potato bites blended with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Crispy on the outside (thanks, insanely hot grease!) fluffy n' melty on the inside, someone needs to tell BK to get the word out on these bad boys, ASAP.

Let's all just ignore the fact that a six-piece order contains nearly a quarter of the fat and sodium that the food police have determined to be your daily requirement. Instead, let's focus on the fact that this is the only fast food item to be PUBLICLY endorsed by my fellow Machine Gun Funk co-writers Mathan Erhardt and Jeff Fernandez, too.

And, if there's one thing minorities know…it's food that'll shave years off our lives.

TBG Reviews: Rush Hour 3

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know.

But, a couple of things in my defense: (1) Mrs. Bootleg selected the movie and (2) most Black people actually don't mind Chris Tucker. It's kind of like how white people loathe ESPN's Stuart Scott, but are only mildly annoyed by Chris Berman, even though "Boomer's" schtick is indistinguishable from Stu's.

Chris Tucker may be a braying ass, but, to us, he's just a mild annoyance.

And, besides…he's our braying ass.

Even if you've never seen any of the previous Rush Hour movies, you probably know the routine. Jackie Chan and the aforementioned Mr. Tucker play a pair of mismatched cops from different worlds. Cultures clash, hilarity ensues and the bad guys are chop-sockied to oblivion. End credits.

In this latest effort, Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (the Black guy) are out to foil an organized Chinese crime syndicate. Yes, again.

But, this time they're in Paris!

Obviously, it's a money grab for all involved, but this flick actually had its moments here and there with Chan and Tucker displaying more of the great chemistry they established in the original Rush Hour nearly ten(!) years ago.

(And, be honest…you had the 1998 Def Jam soundtrack just like I did.)

Sure, the plot is transparently predictable – Mrs. Bootleg and I whispered back and forth to each other about what would happen next all throughout the movie and identified the "mystery villain" from the moment he stepped on the screen – but it's not like director Brett Ratner has ever been called "subtle".

Here's a quote for the cover of the DVD (which will probably be out by the time you finish reading this post):

"It ain't the worst of the summer 'three-quels'. Ocean's 13…I'm looking at you."

The Oakland A's Monday #13

Overall: 56-62 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 3-3 (2-1 vs. Rangers, 1-2 vs. Tigers)

Since my job with the anonymous defense contractor took me to central Florida last week, I didn't get much of a chance to follow my heroes in green and gold.

The good people at Embassy Suites (Airport) Orlando serve free booze at a "manager's reception" every night, but haven't found a way to hook up every room with the MLB Extra Innings package that I enjoy (well, not so much THIS season) at home. Combine that with the fact that the only A's highlights on Sportscenter are, these days, squeezed into that ubiquitous bottom line ticker and it makes for some difficult fandom on the road.

So, what'd I miss?

Let's see…did you know that OF Nick Swisher is hitting .183 with a .324 slugging percentage since June 24? (Billy Beane is pleased with his .350 OBP during that time, however.) Meanwhile, CF Mark Kotsay has put up a .095/.136/.143 line in August. Not to be outdone, 1B Dan Johnson has hit .186/.292/.335 in his last 250 plate appearances dating back to May 22.

On the pitching side, SP Joe Blanton's ERA is 7.12 in his last six starts, while Chad Gaudin's is 7.36 since I watched him shut down the Yankees on one hit over seven innings back on June 30.

(For the record, all of the above information came from, which now lets you sort stats in every way imaginable.)

With all that good news, it's no wonder that I'm leaning on the greatest Oakland Athletic of them all to carry my weekly A's post.

M'man Rickey Henderson was the subject of this feature story I came across while reading my complimentary USA Today over coffee and a hotel donut on Wednesday morning.

Unfortunately, it lingers way too long on the overdone "Rickey talks funny" angle, but otherwise, it's a good read. Those of you born after 1980 might not realize that Rickey was arguably the most hated player in the game about 15 years ago, which was no mean feat on a team that also employed Jose Canseco.

The thought that anyone would be writing a puff piece on "Rickey Henderson-coach" after his playing days is just this short of unthinkable. Equally shocking is that the author doesn't include my favorite Rickey anecdote of them all:

Back in 1996, Rickey had joined the San Diego Padres. On a spring training bus ride, CF Steve Finley asked Rickey why he didn't want to sit at the front of the bus since he had tenure.

Rickey's response: "Tenure? Sh*t, Rickey's got 15 years."

The greatest Hall of Fame speech ever comes at you in 2009. I'll be there.

This Week: at Tigers (1), vs. White Sox (3), vs. Royals (3)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Time to Dust Off Those Penny Hardaway Jokes

I'm off to Orlando on business for the rest of the week.

While I'm gone, come back regularly and check out the current weather conditions down there.

It's like a suburb of hell!

Dear Barry Bonds...

Congratulations on hitting number 755 on Saturday night.

I was actually at Friday night's game and it was quite the surreal sight. Our seats were in the left field stands – first level – and adjacent to that ridiculous rundown building the Padres converted into a luxury suite/bar/team store/eyesore. Every time you came to the plate, a police officer walked down the aisle, then stood in front of the fence with folded arms and one of those squinty "What business you boys got in this neighborhood?" looks.

You were booed pretty loudly, but that's no shock. Though, I did enjoy your occasional turn to the crowd during a break in the action. It gave the idiots around me a chance to really let you have it with their middle fingers and Hank Aaron photo handouts (a typically bush-league tactic thought up by our low-rent local sports radio station). I mean that must've hurt.

Anyways, you went hitless and the Giants lost in 10 innings. But, on the plus side, if you click on the links to the two home runs hit by Scott Hairston, you can clearly see ME in the stands. I'm the tool in the bright yellow A's hat and matching shirt. Good times.

TBG Note: OK, it was much, much clearer on Sportscenter, after the game. But, trust me…that's me in yellow about five rows behind the Toyota sign. Right there. After the walk-off shot.

It sucks for me, but you finally tied everyone's new favorite old Negro with a shot not far from where I was sitting the night before.

Now, I watch a lot of baseball and I've seen more of your at-bats than any other non-Oakland A's player. I've been to the games and heard the crowds. With the sole exception of Dodger fans, Padre fans give you more grief than anyone else.

So, imagine my surprise when I fired up the DVR and replayed your home run in the top of the second inning (sorry, I missed it live…went to dinner with the wife…"no sports bar" rule in effect. Marry a Black woman, huh? You know what I mean. Well, I think you do, but that's another letter…).

Anyways, after it cleared the fence, the Padres fans stood and cheered. Not all of them, admittedly, but it was easily 80-90% of the crowd in attendance. They weren't the loudest cheers you'll ever hear, but it was certainly enough to shoot holes in the media's insistence that nobody wanted to see you do it. It's the greatest record in sports and you just tied it. My reaction would've been the same as those fans, except I was on board from the beginning.

I rule.

Sorry that baseball commissioner Bud Selig did everything he could to try and mute the moment for you, though. His hands-in-the-pocket response was so obviously orchestrated (he blatantly stole it from Lance Corporal Dawson's refusal to salute Lieutenant Kaffee during A Few Good Men), yet he still managed to screw it up when he had to be told by a colleague that you had homered.

I also apologize for this column from our local conservative rag's sh*tty sports section. It's the usual "joyless pursuit" hatchet job that's been written a million times in the last two weeks, except instead of all the other ones that predicted hellfire, brimstone and fan backlash if you tied/broke the record on the road, this one maintains that stance even after there's video evidence to the contrary. Hell, he was probably at the game!

See what you've done? You've got sportswriters deliberately misstating the facts and manipulating fan response in a sad, pathetic attempt to bury you.

Now, do that thing where the zombie dramatically sticks his hand out of the grave after everyone thought the "good guys" killed him.


The Last Black Baseball Fan

The Oakland A's Monday #12

Overall: 53-59 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last (Three) Weeks: 10-11 (1-2 vs. Rangers, 1-2 vs. Orioles, 2-1 vs. Angels, 1-3 vs. Mariners, 2-1 vs. Tigers, 2-2 vs. Angels)

In the three weeks since my A's finally unloaded the gritty, intangible remains of Jason Kendall's career to the Cubs, my sudden euphoria has eroded into indifference.

I haven't had to watch a non-contending A's team since 1998, so this is relatively unfamiliar territory for me. Hard to believe that one of the youngest and most exciting teams in the game has become the 25-man equivalent of your gassy, gout-ridden grandfather, but there ya go.

Still, to the A's credit, since they've collectively gone down the crapper, they've made sure to bring disgruntled former players and their own manager into the toilet with them.

Check out this lengthy piece that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend.

Erstwhile Athletic Milton Bradley goes off on General Manager Billy Beane, while it appears that first-year manager Bob Geren has already lost the A's that remain.

Quick thoughts: Bradley's reputation as a cancerous clubhouse malcontent isn't doing him any favors here. Everything he says could be the truth (and, if you read "Moneyball", it's easy to believe that Beane is an arrogant micromanaging a-hole) but, considering the bridges burned in his last three stops, Bradley comes off as the whiny Black athlete that white folk can't stand. And, that's how he'll be painted by the same people who goaded him to their tape recorders in the first place.

As for Geren, this is probably some sort of karmic justice doled out by the baseball gods. Last year, after being eliminated in the ALCS, the A's, en masse, went public with their dislike of then-manager Ken Macha. It was the most chickensh*t public burial in recent sports memory and undoubtedly was orchestrated by the puppet master, Billy Beane.

With just under two months left in the season, my boys are already playing out the string. While packing for Orlando, I caught most of their 13-inning slog versus the Rangers tonight.

They blew a 7-0 lead.

Oakland won, but still…"playing" might be too strong of a verb.

This Week: at Rangers (3), at Tigers (3)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Internet Slows Employee Productivity!

As part of what's being called an "internet security upgrade", my current employer has finally decided to block employee access to several popular websites. This information was disseminated in a company-wide email earlier today and, without a hint of hyperbole, the impact of this action will be akin to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Krypton.


The best part is that our corporate overlords have not seen fit to tell us what sites are now officially forbidden. Fortunately, my co-workers and I have been spending a good part (all) of our day visiting the most popular URLs and reacting in alternating fits of glee and rage at finding them available or blocked.

Here are the top five sites that are now inaccessible, along with their impact on me:

MySpace - Umm…yeah, here's the thing. I'm in my 30s. I don't own a cell phone with a camera (another job-mandated edict). And, I hate everything about this site. Point #1 disqualifies me immediately, while points #2 n' #3 would keep me out even if I was 18 with an inexplicable need to type liKe tHIs.

All Streaming Audio & Video - XM Radio Online is no more. Ditto YouTube. Both losses sting a little, but I use both more at home than at work. My Oakland A's are also affected, though, as I ponied up the $15 for the "MLB Audio" package for the sole purpose of listening to day games while still on the clock. This would hurt more if my team was…y'know…good.

All Fantasy Football Sites - How in the hell did IT pull this off? I don't suppose it's possible that every relevant fantasy site is down today, is it? Simultaneously? Oh, this one sucks, my friends. Two years ago, a few co-workers and I commandeered a conference room on a Sunday morning to hold our, er…their draft. Easily the most productive I've ever been at this place and they take it away from me us them.

Inside Pulse: Nexus - I can access all of my favorite IP zones, except Nexus. Is "Nexus" some sort of taboo keyword out in the URL world? And, are we talking, like, "porn taboo" or something? If so, let me know. And, send links.

eBay - NO! Well, then again, I've been known to send electronic reminders to myself through Microsoft Outlook set for five minutes prior to an auction's end. But, it's not like I'd open eBay and hit refresh 50 times, just to vulture a bid in the last six seconds. In actuality, I was always too paranoid to cut it that close. ("What if I make a mistake?") I usually left about 15-20 seconds after placing a bid. The whole thing took the same amount of time as walking down the hall to fill my coffee cup. And, it's kind of a long hallway.

I'll tell you this, though…if they start prohibiting non-handicapped employees from enjoying the double-wide comfort and omnipresent newspaper of the handicapped bathroom stalls, I'm quitting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Michael Vick Indicted on Bed Bug Abuse

I thought about putting together a post on embattled Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick, but m'man Mathan beat me to the punch with this excellent column that serves two purposes: 1) it exposes the inherent hypocrisy of this story 2) there's an unspoken, brilliantly subtle subtext to the whole thing that had me nodding in agreement all the way through.

Now, if Mathan is "too serious" for you (and I've met him…dude should really loosen up), there's the estimable Tom Daniels. Just like everyone else who lives in New York City, he's got a blog to tell us how "spectacularly quirky" or "quirkily spectacular" it is to live in NYC. Thankfully, he's avoided the predictable "I was in the audience at a taping of The Today Show!" post.

Anyways, dig Tom's tale on his recent battle with bed bugs. The whole thing had me howling at his expense which, in turn, made me feel better about myself.

He can help you, too.