Friday, May 25, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: VCRs

This 1999 stamp celebrates the video cassette recorder, whose 1970s introduction launched the home video revolution. (I dig the top-loading model seen above, with its tape-recorder type buttons, a knob for changing channels, and the analog counter. It probably weighs 80 pounds.) Anyway, on Sunday I'll become the manager of my neighborhood video store. (Note to self: improve web site.)

Home video been berry berry good to me.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We Hardly Knew Ye: Les Schwab

The Northwest Tire King has gone to that great service bay in the sky.

Les Schwab died Friday at age 89.

I wrote this tribute during Free Beef Month '06.

Here's his AP obit; here's his Oregonian obit.

I was saddened by the news, but this fucking b-hole will likely dance on his grave.

This is Les Schwab Country; you're just living in it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Cats

I like cats, but I hate Cats.

Last month I posted my favorite postage stamp ever; this week I'm posting the worst fucking postage stamp ever of all time ever. Andy Lloyd Webber has a lot to answer for.

Zoo Animals on Wheels, however, was brilliant.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Killer Death Sheep

This video cracks me up on, like, 37 different levels.

It's also kinda sad.

More than anything, it fills a hole in my blog so I'll have at least one measly post between Postage Stamp of the Week™ entries.

Baah! Boo!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Expo '74

In keeping with the recent theme of World's Fair commemoratives (Seattle, San Antonio)...

The Spokane World's Fair opened 33 years ago this week, on May 7, 1974. Looking at this psychedelic Peter Max stamp, one might erroneously think the fair had Blue Meanies running around. And, since the stamp didn't mention Spokane, one might erroneously think the fair was held in Pepperland. As for the "Preserve the Environment" slogan, the expo had an environmental theme, with ugly downtown rail yards transformed into the fairgrounds. I breezed through the site 25 years later, one afternoon in 1999. A nice park was left behind, but I didn't find anything else of particular interest... Is it just me, or does it seem like the guy in the stamp should be running in the other direction?

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Happy 45th, Robbie!

Robbie Knievel hit the big four-five yesterday. Here he is in 1988, when he teamed up with stunt driver Spanky Spangler for a head-on jump at the Astrodome. The two simultaneously launched their respective vehicles directly at one another, synchronized so that Robbie sailed over the top of Spanky's car a split-second before it smashed into Robbie's takeoff ramp, reducing it to splinters.

I've seen Robbie perform three times: at the Kingdome in 1976 (he was 14, I was 7), at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, Oregon in 2003, and at the Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Washington in 2004. His old man's final jump was at age 42, but Robbie's still going fairly strong, with a jump scheduled next month in Wilmington, Delaware. That's cool, but this guy says, "He is Highly over rated and is a straight up Biatch!"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ichiro Meets Bigfoot

Mariners Mojo was a free comic distributed at Seattle-area McDonald's in 2002. In issue #2, Ichiro and his '02 teammates (including Jamie Moyer, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone and Ruben Sierra) are ballplayers with superhero powers who battle and then befriend Bigfoot.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Postage Stamp of the Week: Spider-Man

Batman is my favorite superhero, but the Batman movie franchise has generally disappointed. On the other hand, I've enjoyed Sam Raimi's recent Spider-Man movies a whole lot more. Why? Mostly 'cause I prefer bumbling teen Peter Parker/working-class hero Spider-Man coping with everyday New York to millionaire Bruce "Batman" Wayne brooding over his overly goth Gotham. On the third hand, I like my superheroes dehyphenated (cf. "Batman" v. "Spider-Man"). Let's call it a draw.

Last night we went to a midnight IMAX screening of Spider-Man 3. It was pretty consistent with its predecessors, as far as tone, action, characters, etc. But it didn't have the same level of intrigue as the first two (a lot less, even), and there were too many subplots cluttering it up. Lotsa strands in old Stever's head. Cutting out 20 minutes (and the Sandman character altogether) would've brought the flabby run time in at a relatively tight two hours. But I still dug seeing Spider-Man slinging himself around Manhattan in (hopefully) the final chapter of what was originally planned as a trilogy. Giving this movie the serious benefit of the doubt, 8 stars.

The Spidey stamp won't be available 'til July, when it appears on a pane of 20 with Marvel costars Captain America, Elektra, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Spider-Woman, Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, the Thing and Wolverine. Click here and scroll down a bit to see 'em all.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Crossword Report: April '07

Moshi moshi!

I'm a couple days late here with my monthly crossword report, and my projected annual total has dropped a bit, both due to my Texas trip. But at the rate I'm going, solving 1,000 crosswords in '07 seems like a reachable, nicely rounded goal. So, in addition to meeting my original goal of doing all 365 daily New York Times puzzles, I'll need to do 635 others.

With 315 puzzles completed at the end of April, I was on a pace to solve 958 for the year. Doing 685 more to reach 1,000 means I'll need up my monthly average to 85.6 (or 2.8 per day) for the rest of the year... You got all that?

In April, besides solving crosswords from the usual sources, I've also done puzzles from various in-flight magazines and Texas newspapers. The best crossword of the month was the first: the NY Times offering on April Fool's Day had "ASS" hidden in seven places.

Crosswords in Pop Culture:

Crossword LP by the Partridge Family (Bell, 1973). As you can see above, the album cover features an actual crossword. Click here for the track listing and other info.

Kicking and Screaming (Trimark Pictures, 1995). Noah Baumbach wrote and directed this mid-‘90s comedy about a bunch of overeducated New York slackers who sit around spewing Gen-X philosophy. Among them is the supremely lazy Max (Chris Eigeman), who does lots of crossword puzzles throughout. The film's 2006 Criterion DVD release featured a crossword in the packaging. The solution, containing quotes from the movie, is available here.

Crossword Report: January '07
Crossword Report: February '07
Crossword Report: March '07
Total crosswords solved in April 2007: 78
Total crosswords solved in 2007: 315
On pace to solve in 2007: 958

We Hardly Knew Ye: Edo Vanni & Tom Poston

Edo Vanni died Monday at age 89. Vanni was long considered the embodiment of Seattle's baseball history (as well as its dean, its face, its heart and soul, etc.). Born in Black Diamond and attending both Queen Anne High School and the UW, the speedy Vanni played right field as a rookie on the first Seattle Rainiers team in 1938. Until his death, he remained its last surviving member. Vanni's fiery presence helped the Pacific Coast League Rainiers win three consecutive pennants between 1939 and 1941, turning Seattle into a baseball-mad city. After managing the final Rainiers team in 1964, he was employed by every subsequent pro Seattle ballclub in various capacities -- coach, manager, general manager -- except by the Mariners, who honored him with a lifetime pass. He called the Seattle Pilots "the biggest farce I ever saw," but remained a big M's fan (his favorite player was Ichiro). He lived the rest of his life in Queen Anne, where he ascribed his longevity to daily constitutionals and lots of wine, and his marriage of 58 years. See him in action in this great Rainiers video, and read Larry Stone's 2005 profile.

Tom Poston died Monday at age 85. Poston was a comedic actor who mostly appeared on TV in his 56-year career, usually playing slow-witted, bewildered characters. He often worked alongside Bob Newhart: his best-known regular role was simpleton handyman George Utley on Newhart (1982-1990). He also played Bob's old college roommate in five episodes of The Bob Newhart Show between 1975 and 1977, along with appearances on Bob (two episodes in 1993), George & Leo (one 1997 episode), and the 1971 theatrical movie Cold Turkey. Besides being a frequent game-show panelist, he's had guest appearances on seemingly every sitcom of the last 20 years, and also voiced animated characters on King of the Hill (as Mr. Popper, the old vaudevillian who turns Bobby on to ventriloquism) and the The Simpsons (as the Capital City Goofball).

Tenuous link: Suzanne Pleshette played Bob's wife Emily on The Bob Newhart Show. Emily grew up in Seattle during the '40s and '50s, where there's a good chance she saw Edo Vanni in action at Sick's Stadium. In real life, Pleshette married Tom Poston in 2001.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Texas in the the Spring

I've heard there's only steers and queers in Texas, but that's simply not true. I'm home now, but I wanted to tangle up some loose ends...

See any live music? Basically, no. I peeked at bands through the front windows of several bars on Austin's Sixth Avenue, and I also glimpsed bands playing at San Antonio's Fiesta and some other street fair in Houston, but I was never really in a live-music mood, and nobody I'm particularly interested in played anywhere I was, and I didn't bother seeking out anything else. However, I drove my rental car about 700 miles during the week, listening to lotsa Texas artists along the way: Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, ZZ Top and the Butthole Surfers. I also listened to songs from the True Stories soundtrack, as I halfway imagined myself cruising around Texas like David Byrne (tho' my economy car wasn't a convertible, and I wore my M's cap instead of a Stetson).

What else didn't I see? I didn't see Bigfoot, even if many others have... I saw no actual Texas Ranger (except for maybe the law-enforcement guy who pulled me over for doing 64 in a 45 zone but didn't give me a ticket 'cause of my Jedi mind shit, tho' I couldn't tell)... I’m not entirely sure if I saw an armadillo -- I'd like to think so, but squashed critters are hard to identify at 70 m.p.h... I didn't see no Cadillac cars with hood-mounted horns (though I saw a pair on the cab of a beater pickup truck, and on the interior walls of multiple eateries, and I even saw a pair on the head of an actual steer in a field by the highway)... Saw no oil rigs, other than a few ersatz derricks promoting businesses along the highway... Sadly, I missed the New Braunfels Snake Farm and Houston's Beer Can House.

Is everything really bigger in Texas? Not my discount motel rooms. But Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth struck me as incredibly vast, sprawling mazes of pickup-clogged freeways (surprisingly, I didn't see nearly as many Hummers as I do in Seattle)... Also, both metropolises are served by two of the hugest airports I've ever been to, and each has relatively smaller (yet still relatively major) in-city airports as well.

Any other impressions? Everywhere I went was much greener than I expected, but maybe just 'cause it's spring?... It occurred to me is that Texas is the state with the most iconic, instantly recognizable outline, as it's incorporated into grills, pools, logos, food, etc. It's everywhere.

So, the Lone Star state gets seven stars... And that's it for Steve's Texxas Jam '07.