Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thang II

Current Weight: 181.4 lbs.

Here are a few random things I learned from The Cameron Family's visit to the 2008 San Diego Fair this past Thursday:

Ride Tickets vs. All-Day Pass - If I remember correctly, ride tickets were $10 for 14, $20 for 30 and $50 for the 77 ticket "ride lover's" deal. An all-day pass sold for $30 and allowed for unlimited riding on about 90% of the attractions. Somewhere between Stately Bootleg Manor and the Fair's front gate, the wife and I forgot that the 40 lbs. of four-year-old with us was, in fact, with us. Last year, we got by just fine as the boy was worn out before we got too deep into debt. This year, the pass would've paid for itself after the 45-minute mark. Next year, we're either getting Jalen the pass or I'm bringing the ether (that sh*t that makes your soul burn slow).

Jalen meet Jesus…Jesus, Jalen - In a futile attempt to find the ONE food item that eluded me all day, we came across a hastily constructed cardboard castle front. The simple sign outside promised FREE Bible stories for the kids. Now, I could joke about how the Fair organizers shunted this show to a part of the fairgrounds that no one could find unless they were lost or that the unbelievably old ladies working the attraction are probably in the "acknowledgements" section of The Good Book, but before you knew it, Jalen was sitting down in front of both them and captivated with a colorful flip book. Could Mrs. Methuselah's first-hand accounts turn us into regular church goers or will I be satisfied with the three weddings The Cam Fam will attend in June/July and the fact that we live across the street from a church?

Fame is Fleeting - On our way to another ride, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted former NFL running back and San Diego resident Terrell Davis. Quick nugget of knowledge for you, TD: dark-skinned bruthas shouldn't wear an all black warm up suit. Anyways, when I mentioned to Mrs. Bootleg that Davis was within spitting distance, she looked around excitedly and asked if I meant Terrell Owens. 10 years ago, Davis might've been the most eligible athlete among African-American women and the morbidly obese white women who date African-American men. Today, he's just another anonymous Negro. Welcome, TD!

I also learned that one should not ingest a metric ton of fried foods on a sunny, 86-degree day. Here's what I ate this year, in chronological order:

Deep Fried White Castle Slider (10:30 AM) - We don't have the ubiquitous drunk food-at-4 AM franchise here in California, so I'll assume that these were the mediocre frozen version (which we do have), battered up and then flash fried to a golden (molten) brown. The end result looked like a small, crispy brick. The taste, however, was an eventual heart attack from heaven. A little bit of gooey cheese oozed out of every bite, while the thin bit of ground beef and uninteresting bun kept their textural integrity. The heavy crust was a bit much – and, it was still dripping with Crisco when it was handed to me – but, it's the Fair, for God's sake. Who comes here to complain about something being too greasy? Grade: 5 (out of 5)

14-inch "Cowabunga" Corn Dog (12:00 PM) - I stumbled upon the enormous Outlaw Grill area, which featured Flintstone-sized pterodactyl legs, steak-on-a-stick and…jumbo corn dogs. I ordered the corn dog and immediately had my manhood questioned by the child at the counter. "Do you want the jumbo or the "cowabunga" corn dog?", she challenged. "The jumbo's 12 inches and the cowabunga is 14, so that's, like, two more inches." Figured that out all by yourself, Staci-with-an-I? While carrying this engorged phallic symbol, it dawned on me that maybe - just maybe - I'd taken this food review thing a touch too far. And, I'm not sure what went into the "dog" part of this thing, but I'm pretty sure that dog parts were involved. As someone who grew up with a mom who recycled used grease in an old can on the stove, I know the taste of something fried with 50 other items. Grade: 1.5

Deep Fried Oreos (1:30 PM) - This seemed to be one food item that everyone could agree upon. Last year, I was hugely disappointed by the fried Twinkie, so for dessert, I thought I'd play it safe and order something that was popular with the people who didn't seem to mind a lard-filled cookie fried in more lard. As they were described to me, I was expecting a crispy coating and hot innards akin to the earth's core. What I got was a mushy cookie that tasted like someone had simply submerged it in warm milk. It wasn't even that hot. I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt here, as the Fair's food service employees seemed a little, umm, "indifferent" to food service. Grade: 2

Street Tacos (2:30 PM) - For the uninitiated – i.e. anyone who doesn't live 45 minutes from the Mexican border – "street tacos" are considered the most authentic tacos around. Take two lightly oiled up hot corn tortillas, stuff 'em with carne asada, pollo asado or carnitas, top with a blend of chopped onions n' cilantro. Insanely hot sauce, optional. As Mrs. Bootleg put it when she took her first and only bite, "I should've known something was wrong when I saw the cheddar cheese." Now, I love Mexico. Some of the wife's hottest friends are Mexican. And, it's a damn shame how a demographic so vital to the fabric of this country has been systematically scapegoated by a lot of Americans. That said, this was horrible. It was worse than horrible. The chicken-flavored mystery meat within set back Mexican-American relations by at least 200 years. Get out of my country. Grade: -500

Frog Legs (4:00 PM) - Last year, the last thing I ate was the fried rattlesnake, which came out of nowhere to win the most awesome menu item award. This year, my expectations were a lot lower. I don't get indigestion too often, but…there was trouble down below. I never did find the fried mac n' cheese, so the frog legs became one of my "must eat" items be default. At $11.95, they came with a mountain of fries, served up ice cold by the clowns behind the counter. It was 4:00 PM and I couldn't care less at this point. The frog legs themselves kind of grossed me out, initially. There were four legs in my basket, but they come still attached to each other. Not clear enough? Just chop off the frog's back legs from the "waist" down and fry. They were fishy-tasting (think a milder trout) and kind of stringy, but otherwise unspectacular. I could've really used some hot sauce, but even that wouldn't taken these beyond OK. Grade: 2

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Tummy Hurts

With 30 some years of life experience, I've made some mistakes.

And, while I spend the rest of the evening figuring out which one from my personal top 10 will have to be booted for "six hours of non-stop eating at the San Diego Fair", here's a list of the food I consumed today:

Deep Fried White Castle Slider w/fries
14-inch "Cowabunga" Corn Dog
Deep Fried Oreos
Street Tacos (Chicken)
Frog Legs w/fries

Now, in crazy mixed-up (out of) order, are the scores that will be assigned to each item tomorrow:

-500 (out of 5)

Who gets what? I'll never tell!

Well, until tomorrow or whenever...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

TBG Eats: The Prime Rib Burger from Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 181.8 lbs.

Thursday is fried food day at the San Diego Fair. What can I say…I gotta stretch the belly.

While at last Saturday's wedding on the surface of the sun, one of the hotter guests at our table brought this new menu item to my attention. It was actually part of a much more amusing stretch in which an obviously intoxicated Mrs. Bootleg was loudly outing this blog to her friends and co-workers, while overtly hiking up her skirt in an attempt to beat the heat.

So, for my new readers, welcome!

Carl's Jr. has crafted a pretty clever ad campaign for this particular fat bomb. In all honesty, I've never been compelled to order any of the chain's other meat-topped hamburgers. The Pastrami Burger ran counter to my bigotry towards pastrami (it's so fatty!) and the Philly Cheesesteak Burger seemed like something out of the kitchen of Dr. Moreau…which has a lovely island.

Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that a fast food restaurant would roll out the high quality prime rib. But, even though the meat was more "Arby's" than awesome, the sum of the sandwich's parts more than made up for it.

This one comes in "single", "double" or as part of their "Six Dollar" line. My double came with thin-sliced cow atop two patties, melted Swiss cheese, grilled onions and a mild horseradish sauce. The ciabatta roll soaked up the moderate pond of grease nicely, while the flavors meshed together with the crusty bread and chewy meat textures.

All in all, I gotta say…I'm ready for Thursday.

Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Talk About Music, Dammit!

JS writes in:

Apologies for being totally off topic but Aaron, you have just got to devote some time to tell us what you think of this:

"Soulja boy is fresh ass hell and is actually the true meaning of what hip hop is sposed (sic) to be. He came from the hood, made his own beats, made up a new saying, new sound and a new dance with one song. He had all of America rapping this summer. If that ain't Hip Hop then what is? A bunch of wannabe keep it real rappers that ain't even relevant, recycling samples trying to act like it's 96 again and all they do is hate on new shit? N*ggas always talk about the golden age but for a 13 year old kid, this is the golden age!!! That song was so dope cause everything he said had a hidden meaning… that's Nas level shit… he just put it over some steel drums which is also some Nas shit if you had the 2nd album cassette with the bonus track "Silent Murder" on it. In closing… new n*ggas get ya money$$$$$$$$$$ Keep this sh*t fresh and original…. ain't no f*ckin' rules to this sh*t and that's what real hip hop is to me."- Kanye West to Ice-T (from Kanye's blog)

Well, in the interest of full disclosure, it took me a looooooong time to come around on Kanye West. The guy's a brilliant self-promoter, a talented artist, enormously egocentric and I mostly agree with his position here: the game HAS changed from where it was just 10 years ago, it's NEVER going back, so rappers can either change with the times or find something new to do.

Kanye's rant is, at times, pretty amusing as he sways wildly from back-handed praise ("…for a 13 year old kid, this is the golden age") to misplaced hyperbole ("…that's Nas level sh*t"), but aside from the fact that me, That Nicka and Mathan Erhardt are the only three people left who know who Nas is, at the end of the day the public will decide what they want to hear.

I don't think it's any secret that I'm still reviewing albums for Machine Gun Funk under a ridiculous pseudonym. And, for the most part, they're a steady stream of steaming loads that the record labels send directly to me. I'm not f*cking paying for Hurricane Chris. But, how is this debate any different from the Nas vs. Hip Hop, Nelly vs. KRS-One or any other old-school vs. new school sensibility?

It's not. And, in the end, new school always wins. Nas backtracked off his "Hip Hop is Dead" stance before his album of the same name even came out, while Nelly eviscerated AARP on "#1" and the remix to "Roc the Mic". Not convinced? Here's Exhibit C.

I held on as long as I could. I remember excitedly exchanging e-mails with That Nicka at the end of 2006, in anticipation of several high profile releases that would reaffirm my love for the genre and give me something to bump well into 2007. Then, from Jay-Z to Nas to Snoop Dogg, it was one brick after another. Even worse, no one bought the good albums and rap music careened further down the path of rudimentary material and ringtones.

Really, if it weren't for LeBron James and Ice-T invoking his name recently, would Soulja Boy still be in the news? He did his thing, made some money and America moved on. The next minstrel act will enter stage left – unifying Jason Whitlock and the angry white man, alike – then, exit as quickly as he came.

This is the new world order of rap.

1994 is not walking through that door…


I'm an African-American in my 30s, married with a kid and living in Southern California. I prefer the baseball league that's fun and exciting.

Tom is a white guy in his 20s, single and living in New York City. He prefers the baseball league that features pitchers hitting, everyone bunting and Tony LaRussa.

You'd think we don't have much in common.

Then, I read his post on American politics and it was like he was inside my mind.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yo, Joe (Resolution)

This hasn't been the best month of my blogging career.

Work has kicked me in the teeth, That Nicka ruined my liver and I've set a new personal record for partially finished posts that are already dated. D'ya know how HOT it was last Saturday? And, did you know that I went to an outdoor wedding?

Well, it's back down to 78 degrees today and all the stuff about Mrs. Bootleg's girlfriend going without panties for the heated evening has lost a little something in the last 72 hours.

Thankfully, m'man Movie Joe Reid is cranking out the goodness with a vengeance.

Check out his post on the new G.I. Joe movie. He goes right down the cast and offers up his opinions, with alternate actors and throwback thoughts on the original series.

It goes without saying that I have some thoughts on Joe's thoughts. And, speaking of Joe, you'll all surely recognize this format:

Channing Tatum as Duke I'm ambivalent about. Duke's not such a deep and complicated character that he needs to be an award-winning thespian or anything (I'm pretty sure "Yo Joe!" is the extent of his personality), so casting an attractive slab of granite like Tatum isn't a bad idea. It does signal a significant youth-ifying of the story as a whole which on the one hand is more realistic (America's elite fighting force would probably not be a bunch of grizzled old vets), but on the other strains credulity when you're talking about fantastical taking-over-the-world plots.

I gotta disagree right off the bat, Joe, as I never understood why the cartoon seemed to introduce a new Joe commander every season. First there was Duke, then that d*ck Flint (and his annoying pre-pubescent younger brother, Lady Jaye) and finally General Hawk. If they write the Duke character as something like "Lt. Falcon" from the criminally underrated animated movie (voiced by Don Johnson…1987 Don Johnson!) and play up the whole "young punk who eventually earns his keep", I'll be on board the S.S. Cliché without any argument.

I guess the degree of cartoonification (or not) in this role [Cobra Commander] will probably dictate the tone the movie will take (I don't know how you make someone like Cobra Commander realistic without making him totally boring but whatever), so there's a lot of wait-and-see here.

Dictatorial Realism Step #1: Put him in the hood and avoid this costume at all costs. Step #2: Have him kill a Joe (Brendan Fraser, please) early in the first act – and really push that PG-13 threshold – to establish his assholery. Step #3: There are several Joe villains who are arguably more interesting than Cobra Commander, so play up the paranoia. It's a challenging motivation for cinematic villains, but the one's who pull it off well can easily carry mediocre material or turn good stuff into greatness.

The Baroness should be one of those roles an actress can really dig into. There had to have been better actresses available who could have invested the part with the kind of largesse it deserves. Think Angelina Jolie in Alexander crossed with...well, Angelina Jolie in Wanted, from the looks of it.

I'm going to get soundly thrashed by the movie snobs out there, but (a) I like Sienna Miller's casting as The Baroness and (b) if I were to replace her, I'd go with someone like Milla Jovovich, who's carried an action franchise on her back (hey, I didn't say it had to be good) and looks more convincing as the conniving, vindictive biiatch with a bazooka.

But as someone who grew up with the cartoon, I always thought Destro was...well, black.

To this day, I am positive that I read something…somewhere…that stated that Destro WAS supposed to be Black. I remember this, because it always confused me when the Hasbro action figure with the v-neck collar showed off what appeared to be the pink pecs of a white man. It's been 25 years, dammit…we need a ruling!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Joe Blanton is the Same Fat Load He's Always Been (The Oakland A's Monday #27)

Any time I come out and bash our double-wide Kentucky bumpkin, Joe Blanton, I'm always shouted down in the blogosphere cafeteria and assorted A's message boards.

Last week, Blanton was serving up hot meatball heroes from high atop the pitcher's mound during a dreadful start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. His record fell to 3-10, with calls from the fan base to demote him to the bullpen or worse – to Triple-A Sacramento in the summer.

To that end, I ask who YOU'D rather have in your team's rotation:

Pitcher A: H/9 IP: 11.1 BB/9: 2.7 K/9: 5.0 HR/9: 0.8 WHIP: 1.539
Pitcher B: H/9 IP: 10.3 BB/9: 2.4 K/9: 4.1 HR/9: 1.0 WHIP: 1.417

Yes, they're both Joe Blanton.

"Player A" is his 16-win season from 2006 and "Player B" represents his 2008 numbers this season.

I've been telling anyone who'd listen that Blanton wasn't without value. For his career, he's thrown about 215 IP per season with a career ERA that's almost exactly the league average. But, he's also got some really big flaws:

Strikeout Rate - Blanton's top three comps over at Baseball Prospectus are Chris Bosio, Danny Cox and the right-handed version of Bobby Jones. All three had stretches of extended serviceability, but none of them were effective starting pitchers after their mid-to-late 20s. Bosio's K/9 deteriorated after a good start to his career and all three eventually paid the price for allowing so many balls to be put in play. Blanton's 4.1 K/9 rate is a career low and it's rare for anyone other than extreme ground-ball pitchers to succeed at that level.

Reliance on Run Support/Defense - Blanton's run support in each season from 2005 to 2007 was 4.32, 4.95 and 4.62, respectively. This year, it's 3.76. The A's offense hasn't been much to write home about in the last three seasons, finishing 9th and 11th in runs scored in '06 and '07, respectively (they're ninth this season) and it was only a matter of time before Blanton's W-L record took a hit. Considering how many balls Blanton puts in play, he should be thankful that Oakland remains one of the best defensive teams in either league.

Conditioning - Interestingly, there are two more pitchers in Blanton's top 10 comps – Joey Hamilton and Bob Milacki – who shared something with Fat Joe besides a pedestrian strikeout rate. Both carried quite a bit of weight on their already large frames and began breaking down before their 30th birthdays. Hamilton and Milacki were out of the big leagues for good around the age of 32. Yeah, yeah…it's easy to cherry-pick the worst-case scenarios, but Blanton sure seems to start laboring out on the mound after his first time through a line-up. After five seasons, it's safe to say he'll never be svelte and even safer to say that this is a problem that won't improve with age.

So, what should the A's do with Joe Blanton?

I was saying they should've traded him this past offseason when his value never would've been higher. Depending on which reports you choose to believe/dismiss, there were offers from the Dodgers and Reds, but the A's (1) wanted teams to overpay during an offseason absent in top tier free agent pitching talent and (2) REALLY needed Blanton's innings in 2008, considering the inherent softness of Rich Harden's arm and unknown rotation elements like Justin Duchscherer.

Oakland has no choice but to ride this out. Blanton isn't a very good pitcher, but he's not this bad, either. Regardless, trading him for five cents on the dollar right now would be lunacy and a bullpen/minor league demotion would reduce his negligible value even further.

The solution?

Score more runs when he starts, anemic Oakland offense.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can Anything Top Last Year's Fried Rattlesnake?

As of this writing, I weigh in at a bloated 178.8 lbs.

A week's worth of restaurant eating and bar drinking with a vacationing "That Nick'a Guy" and his lovely Nick'a wife has me on my first concerted effort to eat better since the mid-90s. Back then, I successfully eschewed red meat, fried foods and sweets to the tune of a 32-inch waist, a 160-pound frame and a frighteningly transparent rib cage.

This helpful artist's rendition captures the essence of That Bootleg Guy – 1995.

By the end of the decade, I was up to 170 pounds, as appetizers and dessert went from a very rare restaurant option to a mandatory meal addition…oh, and Taco Bell invented the Chalupa. I stayed right around there for a few more years, until the unexpectedly early arrival of Baby Bootleg. The boy spent five weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit, which turned "dinner" into "the shortest drive-thru line".

(Fun Fact: I went to see Jalen in the hospital every night, except for one – a Thursday in which I had to finish my 411 Friday Music News Bootleg column. Shockingly, Mrs. Bootleg gave me pass for the evening…not-so-shockingly, she's never let me forget this.)

And, so began the rapid ascent to 180 pounds. Right after Christmas 2006, I peaked at 190, but with a little help from this, I've been right around a buck-eighty ever since.

I'd like to accomplish one of two goals: (1) 170 lbs. or (2) 175 lbs. with semi-regular visits to the gym. Now, don't worry…this isn't turning into one of those blogs. In fact, the whole point of this post is that the San Diego Fair is back to sabotage my well-intended dietetic efforts.


Here's last year's super-sized food report to refresh your memories.

This year, an all-new slew of food options has me anticipating my appetite in advance of The Bootleg Family's return to the Fairgrounds on Thursday, June 26.

Category #1 – The Must Eats - Deep Fried White Castle Sliders, Deep Fried Macaroni n' Cheese on a Stick, 14-inch corn dog

Last year, I wasn't impressed with their foot-long hot dog. This year, I'm ditching the too-long bun, adding two more inches, drenching it in batter and frying it up. In my industry, we call this a "net gain". The sliders are generating a local buzz out here similar to last year's Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich. As you all know, in California, hype is never misplaced.

Category #2 – The Might Eats (if I have room after the above, the funnel cake and the fried Coca-Cola) - Street tacos, Koolickle, deep fried frog legs

I can't lie…the "Koolickle" (a dill pickle marinated in Kool-Aid) intrigues me and I don't even like pickles. Meanwhile, I've always wanted to try frog legs. Mind you, I won't go out of my way to make room in my stomach for them (I'll wait to poop at home), but if they come with the right dipping sauce, I'm all over 'em.

Category #3 – The Ain't Gonna Eats - Grilled Caesar salad, deep fried SPAM®, chipotle chicken sandwich

Can't say I'm feeling that salad description ("slightly grilled lettuce wrapped around salad veggies")…I mean, is there any way to deep fry the end result? No? Pass. SPAM® and I still aren't talking after our falling out in Hawaii. And, at last report, one could get a chipotle chicken sandwich at any restaurant in America, since "chipotle" became the food marketing equivalent of "extreme" back in 2003.

New Goal: stay under 200 lbs.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Lil' Wayne After Party feat. Suge Knight (Who's Wit' Me?)

TBG's 2007-08 TV Report Card: Law & Order

Grade: B

Thoughts: The members of The Bootleg Family were perhaps the last souls on earth to discover the Law & Order franchise. The wife and I picked up on it in 2004, right after the premature birth of the boy and his subsequent doctor-mandated eight weeks of house arrest. And, thanks to the non-stop syndication on TNT, we plowed thru the first 15 seasons in just over two months.

The show was on wobbly legs entering its 18th season, though. A pair of recent L&O spin-offs (Trial by Jury and Conviction) flamed out and viewers began abandoning the original's familiar (formulaic?) structure for the increasingly soap operatic absurdity of Law & Order: SVU.

So, with only a midseason slot and truncated episode order, Law & Order made its 2008 debut on January 2. And, all things considered, it was one of the better seasons in recent memory.

Fred Thompson's failed presidential run meant that Sam Waterston's "Jack McCoy" was bumped up to (acting) District Attorney. He was replaced by Linus Roache as A.D.A. Michael Cutter. Born in Manchester, England, Roache's New York accent is slightly more grating than the authentic ones, but after a few episodes, he grew on me. He doesn't yet have the small-screen presence to commandeer the show's last 30 minutes of "Order" (in fact, Jack McCoy often got as many lines each week as Linus Roache), but he'll surely be given more to do next season.

On the "Law" side, after Milena Govich's disastrous run as "Nina Cassady, girl detective" in season 17, she was mercifully replaced with that "Billy" guy from Six Feet Under. Jeremy Sisto's "Cyrus Lupo" managed to rise above his contrived, convoluted backstory (in summary: "former terrorist hunter") to be a strong second banana to Jesse L. Martin's "Detective Ed Green". Speaking of whom, after nine seasons in the role, Martin left the show a few weeks prior to this year's season finale.

As always, the show's liberal bent tends take away from some of its authenticity (says, I, the registered Democrat) and the won-loss record for the prosecution this season was something like 17-1 (with a VORP of .9917), but Law & Order remains a most wonderfully oversimplified guilty pleasure.

Season's Best Episode: "Excalibur"…With an obvious nod to the Eliot Spitzer scandal, L&O took the real-life storyline and replaced the idiot politician with an intelligent conniver who remains one step ahead of the prosecution. Throw in an awesome, ambiguous guest spot by Allison Elliott as "the governor's wife" and it was like a throwback to the show's tabloid-y heyday.

Season's Worst Episode: "Burn Card"…The final episode for Jesse L. Martin (and first for his replacement, Anthony Anderson – late of FOX's K-Ville) was one of those storylines that ignores years and years of character development, just to write a character out. The by-the-book Det. Green turns murderous rogue? His subsequent trial and the ridiculous deus ex machina ending really left a sour aftertaste for me. Anderson, for what it's worth, has turned into a solid little TV actor, though.

In or Out for Next Season: In. There's no easier show(s) to plow through when three or four are backlogged on the DVR. Besides, I bring down the show's demographics by at least 60 years.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TBG Eats: Taco Bell's Fresco Menu

Current Weight: 181.2 lbs. (It was a…"filling" weekend. Let's leave it at that.)

In the mid-90s, Taco Bell introduced a reduced-fat menu line that, if I remember correctly, actually wasn't half-bad. The regular tacos were made with a white corn shell and low calorie cheddar cheese, the taco salad ditched the deep fried bowl in favor of more lettuce and less beef, etc.

But, as with other fads from around the same time (the Arch Deluxe, Black Actors on TV and white American terrorists) the menu was forgotten as quickly as it arrived.

To that end, I was surprised to see very little in the way of advertising for Taco Bell's new Fresco menu. In fact, I haven't seen any marketing for it outside of an in-restaurant display that I'd have otherwise missed if I didn't scrutinize their menu with all the fervor that I should be applying to my job as Contracts Law Specialist*.

Hell, the "Fresco" items aren't even featured on my local TB's drive-thru menu and if it weren't for the 10-car deep line of SUVs I wanted to avoid on my lunch hour, I'd have missed it this time, too.

I ordered a Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme and the Fresco Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco.

The burrito was…well, what would you call chunks of chewy unseasoned meat, a schmear of low-fat refried beans and a tasteless pico de gallo salsa? Nine grams of fat, my ass. Fat = flavor, kids. Fat is what makes everything that's bad for you so goddam delicious. And, the Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme is not delicious – sacrilegious or otherwise.

The chicken taco, on the other hand, wasn't much different from TB's already mediocre regular version – which is the only thing my kid will eat off their menu. The thing was stuffed with about twice the chicken as the original and the salsa didn't adversely effect the eatin'.

For those scoring at home, the new translation for "Fresco" is "remove all dairy products from existing menu items and replace with watery chopped tomato/onion blend".

And, so explains the absence of all advertising.

Grade (Fresco Steak Burrito Supreme): 1 (out of 5)
Grade (Fresco Chicken Soft Taco): 2

* - No, this is not my official job title, but I use this in an unofficial capacity as it's more self-explanatory than the nebulous four-word 37-character job title that even I don't understand.

Monday, June 9, 2008

TBG's 2007-08 TV Report Card: American Dad

Grade: B-

Thoughts: Count me among the legions who wonder how good this show could be if Seth MacFarlane or FOX would just kill off Family Guy, already.

The biggest change in the third season of American Dad was the elevation of the alien "Roger" to full-fledged co-star status. In this year's strike-shortened 16 episode run, he was often featured prominently in the lead story, as all the "alien hiding in the attic" pretenses from the first two seasons went out the window. Roger's hare-brained schemes and bad wigs often led to the best dialogue in any given week, so it's easy to overlook the suspension of disbelief required (even for a cartoon) to accept a gray, noseless effeminate eggplant walking among us.

Consequently, the secondary characters became increasingly superfluous as the season wore on. Sure, Klaus the Nazi Fish and oldest daughter Hayley have always been worthless, but Hayley's brother Steve was always good for an endearing depiction of geek life. Now, it seems his only appearances these days are devoted to his attempts to touch a girl's boob. Somewhere, Eugene Levy's legal representation is preparing a cease-and-desist letter on the grounds of gimmick infringement.

The lead character "Stan" remains the broadly-drawn caricature of right-wing America. Whatever few subtleties he was once written with died a long time ago. His blowhard persona actually plays well in the context of his family, but not so much when the story veers back to its CIA/War on Terror lampooning roots.

Season's Best Episode: "Tearjerker"…I've never been a huge fan of the James Bond franchise, but this satirical take fit perfectly with the already-established bent of the characters. The diabolical "Oscar Gold" plot was ham-handed enough to work for more than just the movie snobs and the obligatory Bond opening sequence had a terrific payoff ("Wait, you're a gun?!")

Season's Worst Episode: "42-Year-Old Virgin"…The lead story was OK. Stan reveals that he's never killed a man and, in a nod to the movie of almost the same name, he sets off to pop his homicidal cherry. The back-up story, however, was an insanely creepy tale about a pedophile setting his sights on Steve and his friends with hilarity, ostensibly, ensuing. Family Guy has a recurring character that appears for a perverted one-off molestation joke, but devoting an entire sequence to the subject isn't really funny.

(And, on an unrelated note, those televised trailers for M. Night Shyamalan 's The Happening really shouldn't be airing when four-year-olds are awake. Just one more reason for me to hate that guy and ALL his movies. Yes, even The Sixth Sense…but, especially Unbreakable. And, Signs, too.)

In or Out for Next Season: In. I'm ditching one of the other Sunday night "Animation Domination" shows for good next season, so I'll keep this one around to fill my cartoon quota.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

TBG Drinks: Taco Bell's New Frutista Freeze

My Current Weight: 178.0 lbs.

Through the marketing magic of a synergistic arrangement between Taco Bell and Time-Warner, last week's Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly included coupons for a free "Frutista Freeze" drink at TB. And, since I had to buy something else to get the free Freeze, I figured I might as well cover both flavors for the price of one.

The Strawberry Freeze was indistinguishable from 7-11's ubiquitous Slurpee, if someone mixed it with a pound of pulverized ice. The not-quite-strawberry, not-quite-cherry artificial flavoring lent further credence to longstanding African-American claims that "red" is, in fact, a legitimate flavor. The Mango-Strawberry freeze was just awful. It reminded me of those toxically sweet, tooth-decaying bubble gum brands like Bubble Yum, Bubbilicious and Hubba Bubba – nowhere close to "mango", so let's sugar it up a bit!

Both drinks come topped with the kind of canned strawberry goo one would've found atop frozen yogurt during the great frozen yogurt fad of 1987. Historians surely remember it wedged between the Crocodile Dundee-inspired Australian fad of 1986 and the J.J. Fad fad of 1988.

These new menu items are fat free and check in at around 250 calories each. I can't imagine anyone ordering one with any of the ersatz Mexican food on their menu, though. And, really, who among us equates "refreshing" with this place?

Grade (Strawberry Freeze): 2 (out of 5)
Grade (Mango-Strawberry Freeze): 1 (out of 5)

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Very Jalen Saturday

For the second weekend in the month of May, Mrs. Bootleg went away for a "girls' trip". Now, I freely admit that when it comes to marital attendance, my wife is a LOT more understanding than some of the harpies out there. She's signed off on my solo non-work adventures to New England, New York, the Bay Area and Los Angeles for years.

That said, there is absolutely no f'ing way that she'd allow (her words, I'm sure) me two out-of-town, don't-come-home-at-night weekends away in the same month. I know this to be true, because since she's gotten back, all she's done is pepper me with questions about the status of a previously discussed out-of-town weekend event for me later this month that may or may not come to pass.

It's like she can't stand that I have TWO retaliatory all-weekend passes in my back pocket (or the equivalent of 10-12 local nights out where I actually come home). She wants me to cash them in as quickly as possible, just so she can regain her right of first refusal for what amounts to the remnants of my social life.

Anyways, this was my Saturday, May 31 with my son, Jalen:

5:00 AM - Jalen climbs into bed with me and, after 20 minutes of tossing and turning, his foot cracks me right in the jaw. We've got pretty high ceilings in the master bedroom, so the echo made it sound worse than it was – which is to say that it hurt like holy hell, but it sounded as loud as one of those ridiculous Tajiri kicks.

7:00 AM - The boy wants pancakes, so I comply. And, since I'm morally opposed to the microwavable variety, I'm forced to break out the Bisquick. This is a bad idea for two reasons: (1) I always screw up the first few pancakes, as I tend to get the griddle too hot or not hot enough before I begin and (2) for the next week, Jalen will want pancakes for breakfast every morning.

9:00 AM - Mrs. Bootleg enrolled Jalen in a pre-sports class. It teaches preschoolers the basic rules and fundamentals of football, soccer, basketball, etc. As my boy Smitty asked when I told him about this, "Doesn't Jalen have a father?" Anyways, today was baseball, so I guess we weren't missing this. As the "coach" told me after class, "(Jalen) was the only one who knew all the bases and positions." Looks like someone's earned himself some ice cream! We'll ignore his two "hits" off the tee that went a combined three feet.

10:25 AM - My son's absolute refusal to stop running the bases caused us to be 10 minutes late to his 10:15 AM music class. There's only one thing that can offset a roomful of off-key kids singing, dancing and assaulting musical instruments: the Hades-hot instructor who, on this day, favored low-rise jeans with high-rise red lace draws.

11:00 AM - I ask Jalen what he wants to do now. He replies, "Umm, baseball game?" It's probably going to be 85 degrees in Lake Elsinore (the Padres are on the road) today and I'm not driving another 45 minutes north for some un-shaded heatstroke with my single-A baseball. He then comes up with "Go Karts?" I was really hoping for "pizza at the mall": air conditioning, decent sports bar, FOX Game of the Week on their big screen. But, sure, go karts will be a dandy consolation prize.

11:30 AM - We end up at a place called Boomers (formerly "Family Fun Center"). If you're not familiar with the franchise, it's just because they call themselves something else in your city. It's miniature golf, video games, bumper boats, junk food galore and lots of other things my son ignores in favor of a five-lap, five minute ride around the track in the go karts.

1:30 PM - Two…straight…hours…we do nothing but get in line, wait five minutes, ride the go karts, get back in line, wait five more minutes and ride 'em again. Jalen thinks this is the greatest invention since ketchup (which, on a disgustingly unrelated note, he'd suck straight from the squeezable bottle if me or the wife turned our backs).

And, somewhere along the way, Jalen developed this age-inappropriate competitive streak, so I'm obligated to pass as many other cars as our half-horsepower, 12(?) mph maximum speed will allow. Afterwards, he'd ask who "won", I'd tell him we did, then he'd point to other cars around us and say, "you lost".

Quick note on Boomers, before we continue: since this was only my second time here (the first was in early May during the wife's first weekend furlough) I'm p*ssed that I'm just now discovering it to be THE place for 16 and 17-year-olds to take their own 3 and 4-year-old kids. No one can whore themselves up on a warm spring day better than a young mother. You think they all meet at the arcade to exchange parenting tips or would I have to be a friend on her FaceSpace page to access some of that sage wisdom?

1:45 PM - Lunch = one hot dog, one order of nachos (with a thimbleful of cheese) and a bottle of water. Cost = $12.72. Unless I'm getting three hours of National League baseball, four hours of American League baseball or a five-hour flight from SD to DC immediately afterwards, I think I overpaid for food.

2:00 PM - In what surely must be against the law, Boomers gives you three video game tokens for one dollar. OK…notwithstanding my 1:45 PM entry, I really don't complain about the cost of anything. I'm even conceding that most of these arcade games take anywhere from two to six tokens for one play. It's just that way back in the Reagan '80s, it was established that one token = one quarter. Of course, they have no value outside the arcade, we understood that then and now, but the 1:1 token-to-quarter ratio was never compromised. A colorful sign tells me that for $5.00, I can get 15 tokens and an additional "three free" tokens for a total of 18.

I remember taking math tests in 2nd grade that used "tokens" in place of "quarters" for money-related word problems, just to be hip. Now, the only tokens we'll learn from are…yeah, yeah, in the Bush Administration. King of a long way to walk for the low-hanging fruit, huh, kids?

2:30 PM - I give Jalen what amounts to a 30-minute warning. For my son, that means the first of 500 reminders over the next half hour that we'll be leaving at 3:00 PM.

2:40 PM - While in line for another ride around the go kart track, Jalen tells me he doesn't want to ride them anymore. I f*cking run out of there.

2:43 PM - Whoops, forgot the boy.

2:45 PM - He catches up to me at this flying swing carousel contraption. And, since our unlimited all-day pass (including money-saving coupon, which I wasn't too proud to use) includes this ride, I let him have at it.

3:00 PM - Jalen probably could've stayed another hour on this, but the ride was immediately shut down after a toddler wandered passed the unlocked gate and passed the disinterested teenager charged with turning the ride on and off and ensuring everyone's safety. The poor kid was clipped pretty good by a rider's foot and his screams of pain n' anguish (no blood, lots of tears) were only overwhelmed by his mother's.

Which, in turn, were only overwhelmed by my son's, "Let's do it again!"