Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Steve's Autographs #2: Paul Westerberg

"None of us had a watch," Paul Westerberg told me upon signing my CD booklet above, "so we had to hire a model." Smoking a cigar, Westerberg confirmed that that's his own hand sticking out of the scruffy sleeve on the right, shaking the model's professional-looking hand on the left. Then Westerberg shook my hand.

This happened on April 22, 2002, at an autograph session following the former Replacement's in-store acoustic set at the Queen Anne Easy Street Records. Promoting his new Stereo album, the performance was supposedly his first in six years -- more details here.

The killer cover art of '87 album is based on that of Elvis' GI Blues. Now, 20 years since its release, Pleased to Meet Me remains my favorite album ever of all-time ever.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy 55th, Pee-wee!

Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens hits the big five-five today.

I know you are but what am I?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good-Ass Blog: Uni Watch

I've long been a fan of Paul Lukas's writing, beginning with his killer Beer Frame 'zine, for which I swapped copies of my Heinous 'zine back in the pre-blog '90s. Lukas called the Heinous cassette-tape binding method "truly brilliant," which, coming from him, was a huge compliment.

In Beer Frame (subtitled The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption), Lukas dissected all sorts of oddball consumer products in an intelligent, often hilarious manner -- the Brannock Device, kraut juice, 666 Cold Preparation, pork brains, Cock Soup and the like. He'd also review amusing Japanese products like Pocari Sweat and Nippless, and shed light on such intriguing services as the Pig Improvement Company. And, while promoting his best-of-BF book, he busted out a canned whole chicken on the Conan O'Brien show, much to the host's disgust.

As Beer Frame was one of my top-five favorite 'zines, Paul's current Uni Watch project is one of my fave blogs. Here he's focused his trademark detail-obsessed critiques on the more specific area of sports uniforms, with generous daily posts each prompting hundreds of comments. Yeah, I love sports too, but I'm often more interested in logos, mascots, stadiums and other sidebar stuff than actual competition, which is why I find Uni Watch such a gas.

About the above graphic: Uni Watch has a membership program to help keep the thing afloat, so I recently signed up at the $25 "Wool Flannel" level. One of the benefits is getting a custom-designed membership card -- the 51 on my card is fairly obvious ("Ichiro is my favorite"), and since I saw that nobody else had a Harlem Globetrotters uni, I chose that one. Unfortunately, as Lukas pointed out on Wednesday's post, some other guy also picked a 'Trotters design on the same damn day...jerk. Still, I've secured a spot on the Uni Watch active roster, so I can't complain.

Besides his ESPN uni column, the Brooklyn-based Lukas does lots of other cool freelance writing, covering such pop-culture subjects as Moxie soda and White Castle. However, I have one beef with the guy -- he loathes purple uniforms, which happens to be color of my beloved alma mater, the Washington Huskies.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Steve's Autographs #1: Matt Groening

The one-and-only time I've been to the San Diego Comic-Con was in 1993, when I was living there for a spell. It was awesome. I ran around collecting every freebie in sight -- there were tons to be had -- and having stuff signed and sketched. F'rinstance, under the bill of my Padres ballcap, Peter Bagge drew Chuckie-Boy (from Neat Stuff) and Daniel Clowes drew the Value Ape logo (from the Eightball serial, "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron"). Pushing my luck, I also had Clowes sign the cover of Victor Banana's 10" LAVGCII soundtrack, as well as my Supersonic Storybook CD booklet -- I'll post that one later.

But the highlight was when Simpsons god Matt Groening drew Life in Hell's Bongo on the above postcard, promoting the then-new Bongo Comics title Itchy & Scratchy Comics. (I specifically requested Bongo, and if you look closely at Scratchy's neck, it says "Your Pal, Matt Groening," as in, I'm pals with Matt Groening!) My brother-in-law was with me at the time, also wanting a sketch on his own postcard. He jokingly told Groening, "Draw Akbar... No, draw Jeff... No, wait, draw Akbar instead..." An amused Groening handled it like a sport: "I'll draw 'em both."

Crossword Report: July '07

Ho, man.

I hit a new low in July, solving a scant 25 crosswords. Back in April I started to think I might be able to solve 1,000 puzzles in 2007; now that goal seems way beyond my reach. However, I'm still set on my initial goal of solving every New York Times crossword published in 2007, which is entirely reachable. However, it probably won't happen 'til sometime after 2008 is rung in. Right now I have a backlog of 29 unfinished 2007 NYT puzzles -- mostly Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays -- many of which are un-begun. And, truth be told, I have to get outside help on about a third of 'em -- my favorite resource is Rex Parker's blog.

Crosswords in Pop Culture:

On Monday's Late Show, there was a quick opening skit with Dave Letterman trying to solve a crossword. He asked his producer Barbara Gaines for help, and her response was something like, "That's a sudoku puzzle, dumbass."

A few weeks ago I impulse-bought this New York Times crossword baseball at Half-Price Books for $6.98. I thought I'd be able to solve the puzzle on the ball, using a Sharpie or something -- that would've been killer. Unforch, the puzzle didn't even fit on the ball, and instead it was printed on a sheet of paper enclosed in the box with the ball, along with a separate sheet of answers. Not what I hoped for. However, the puzzle itself was a unique baseball-themed puzzle, edited by Will Shortz's sure hand (the best bit was 53 Across: "Safeco Field player", answer: "MARINER").

Crossword Report: January '07
Crossword Report: February '07
Crossword Report: March '07
Crossword Report: April '07
Crossword Report: May '07
Crossword Report: June '07
Total crosswords solved in June 2007: 25
Total crosswords solved in 2007: 422
On pace to solve in 2007: 727