Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I know I'm late, no excuse, you've heard it all before

Basically, Our Man in LA finds himself a day behind on his posts. No Tuesday Top Five on Tuesday, though I swear there'll be one later in the week. Swear it. Really. Seriously.

Truth is, Our Man in LA is on the road, back in his former hometown of Chicago. I blame the switch to Central Standard Time on my lateness. It has screwed with my head. I mean, I missed the first part of tonight's HOUSE two-fer, in part because it never occurred to me that people in the flyover zone are watching two hours of medical fun (and TV methadone) starting at 7 p.m. Seven in the evening! I mean, how can a left coast guy even begin to deal?

So I have to comfort myself with the little things, back here in the place I called home for more than a decade. It's been a travel day of nice little surprises - a decent experience on my Southwest Flight from LAX, a truly incredible view from my hotel room. Honestly didn't expect much from the hotel. It's part of a chain that's a little bit less than top of the pops. But my room's been all right, and the windows look out on the bend in the Chicago River, affording me a look at the Sears Tower, Boeing's HQ, and a good deal of what doubled for Gotham City in BATMAN BEGINS.

Won't tell you the name of the hotel. You wouldn't believe it if I told you. You probably have your own opinions about this chain. Our Man in LA's own father used to refer to it as his "idea of camping." So I don't want to be indiscreet by mentioning its name here in the blog.

All right. For the sake of the post, I'll make up a name for it. I'll call it, ahem, the Moliday Pinn.

Ah, Wieland, so subtle. So very, very subtle and clever. Right now, in Ohio, my mother is sitting there, celebrating the excellence that my expensive undergraduate college education has wrought.

So anyway, there's more to come this week. There will be a belated Tuesday Top Five. There will be a Wednesday Bottom One. Swear to it.

Might talk some politics while I'm at it - after all, our nation's Congress proved it wasn't a total hokey mess today by voting down a ridiculous bill against flag-burning (this again?). Of course, they were enough of a farce as a legislative body to let it get this far (and to have it lose by only one vote). But sadly, in red state America, we have to take what we can get.

Oh year, and there's been a bunch of stuff going on in Our Man in LA's new fave vacation spot in the Middle East. Might get to that, too.

And just to balance the serious, I might wax poetic (or what passes for poetic in this blog) about a certain Man of Steel returning to theaters this week.

So hold on tight, folks, it's going to be a . . . well, not exactly bumpy . . . but it'll definitely be a ride.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Just a few thoughts as we head into the weekend

To be completely honest, Our Man in LA can't think of much that's interesting or angering him today - at least not anything big enough to justify a whole post. So rather than subject you to his version of one of those "Do you know how hard it is to write a column" posts so popular in college newspapers, I just thought I'd send you off on your weekend with a couple of bits and pieces that float in and out of what's left of my brain.

1. The Heat won. It seems unfair that I didn't write anything about the Heat's historic first NBA Championship just days after I extolled the virtues of the small market Carolina Hurricanes and the TV-unfriendly National Hockey League. But the Heat won, and America's now heard of Dwayne Wade, the latest in a long line of "next Michael Jordans." Anyone who follows basketball knows that this list has included a number of other players, from the talented but personally disgusting Kobe Bryant to the nice but injury-prone Grant Hill (remember him? he's in Orlando!) to the completely ridiculous Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner (anyone remember him? anyone at all?).

Which is not to say that Wade doesn't deserve the praise. He's a great player, one of my favorite young stars to watch. I'm hoping that he'll be one of the anchors of a new Golden Age in the NBA. Hopefully, years from now, we'll equate the coming time of Nowitzki, Wade, LeBron, Nash, and Elton Brand with the 80s/90s grouping of Jordan, Bird, Magic, Isaiah, Barkley, et al.

I mean, if you watched the games this year, and you closed your eyes for a second, didn't the Mavericks and the Heat feel a little like Boston v. LA?? Just a little? The crazy-looking white guy (that'd be Nowitzki or Bird) taking on a team from a warm weather vacation destination (Miami or LA) that featured a young hotshot star (Wade or Magic) and an older, amazing superstar (Kareem or Shaq).

No, it's not perfect. But it's more parallel than perpendicular. I'm just saying.

2. The Americans lost at the World Cup. Show of hands. Who's surprised.

Yeah, me either. But I'll say this for the World Cup. It actually kind of got me interested in soccer on TV. I haven't been interested in soccer in any medium since I played on a fairly pathetic team for the Kettering Rec Center league in the third grade. My junior high soccer team was terrible, and I couldn't have cared less (being on the team was compulsory at Dayton's Miami Valley School). In high school, Archbishop Alter High's team, which didn't feature me (and which actually I never saw live in action) won two state titles in a row. Still I couldn't care less.

But this World Cup thing - with its ads featuring Bono, with its crazed fans, and yeah, with America going down despite our nuclear superiority and war-mongering party in office - well, it's pretty cool. I'm going to keep watching. Which isn't to say that I completely understand everything. The way the second round plays out, for example.

No matter. Count me in. With the US out, maybe I'll get behind the UK! Or Ghana!

Or maybe best of all, Australia. After all, as Jon Stewart points out, they're just like us.

Only drunk.

3. Spider-man revealed his secret identity. After years and years of working overtime to keep it a secret so that no bad guy will ever harm pretty, sweet Mary-Jane Watson or, God forbid, sweet, sickly old Aunt May, Peter Parker finally revealed to the Marvel Universe that yeah, he's Spidey. Been Spidey since he was a teenager. What do you think of that?

Honestly, I'm kind of under-whelmed.

I mean, I'm a comics guy. I love big changes from time to time. But this just feels like stunting of the worst kind. Sure, it's not as tacky as when DC Comics let you call a 900 number to determine whether Robin lived or died, but in another way, it's worse than that.

Like OK, take the tacky 900-number scenario. Let's say Robin lived (he didn't, but he's back). You know what the result is? Interesting stories. Let's say he died (which he did, but he got better). Result? Interesting stories.

Or look at the Death of Superman. Did anyone - anyone at all, besides a few moronic, gullible newspaper reporters (probably working in the Bush White House as we speak) - really believe that the last son of Krypton was gone for good? No way. We all knew they'd resurrect him, and they did. But along the way, you know what you got? Interesting stories.

Which brings me to Spidey. So the cat's out of Pete's particular bag, right? Well, the stories will be interesting. For a very little while. And then . . . they'll be really boring. Because once we've dealt with what it's like for his friends and enemies to know that he's been pulling one over on them for years, they'll . . . adjust, get over it, and move on.

And we'll miss all the fun tensions of Spider-man. How he was going to hide his ID from his aunt. How he would pay the rent without taking pictures of himself so a hack newspaper publisher with questionable ethics could villainize him in the press. You know. That stuff.

Now? We'll see him fight bad guys. Which is cool, but it was never the coolest thing about Spider-man. I mean, when it comes right down to it, plenty of super-heroes fight bad guys. He'll be sort of like . . . Moon Knight. Or Booster Gold. Or any one of the heroes you haven't heard of but show up in big super-hero events, mostly to get killed so that the big heroes can mourn.

And that's all. I'll admit that I'm put off by this because I like the secret identity. It's a great chestnut for the super-hero genre. Superman without Clark Kent is just a powerful, kind of boring guy who beats up big robots. Who identifies with that, or even finds it very interesting? Batman needs to be billionaire Bruce Wayne. He just does.

But more than that, I feel like the writers have done us all kind of a disservice by not looking ahead. Because like all of you, I fully expect that in four or five years, Spider-man's true identity will be a secret again. He'll be Peter Parker, and he'll be worried about keeping it quiet. And what that probably means is that some magical, mega-powerful character will have to wipe everyone's memory clean with a spell or something.

And those stories are always REALLY BORING.

Because look, it's the world of comic books. Killing someone off is easy. Bringing them back to life is easy. Both are pretty interesting.

Making everyone (including the reader) forget? That's hard. Really, really hard. And like a secret that got spilled a long time ago, kind of boring, stupid and irrelevant.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


A Wednesday Bottom One: Avoid the Open House

As I mentioned yesterday, it's summertime, and that means that TV viewing tends to be slow going around Casa del Wieland (with the exceptions of my weekly HOUSE two-fer and the returned ENTOURAGE). So when that happens, Our Woman in LA looks for alternative viewing - and that usually means either the Food Network or HGTV.

Our Man in LA usually avoids these channels like the plague. If I'm going to learn from TV, it better be about war or something on the History Channel. Otherwise, entertain me . . . and no, that doesn't usually include me watching you go to restaurants or fix up some ugly house. Not my scene. It can be yours. No judgments. I'll sit this one out.

But I have watched one of these programs a couple of times now, and it aggravates me. Aggravates me from on high, folks. Rubs me so much the wrong way, that it can only count as this week's WEDNESDAY BOTTOM ONE!

The show is called NATIONAL OPEN HOUSE, and it's new. Here's the premise. Our hosts go to three cities in this great land of ours and see how far your housing dollar goes at four price points, starting at $150K and going up to a million bucks.

As a concept, not bad. Interesting even.

In execution? Bad. Super, duper bad.

Why? Mostly because it's aimed at making people in bigger, costlier cities feel like fools. Depressed fools who will probably be living in a $500K cardboard box before too long. And who feels better? People in smaller, less expensive cities.

Yeah, I know, I know. I've gotten my fair share of criticism from the middle American contingent this week, but let's get real here. The expense and experience of living in one of our country's metropolises is not the same as living in cool college town, USA; or even suburban homogeneity, USA.

But NATIONAL OPEN HOUSE doesn't feel like comparing apples and apples. No, no, no. It's apples and beets, apples and chicken . . . but let me be more specific.

First episode I saw compared housing in three cities. The first two were Ann Arbor, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Pretty similar places, right? Cool college towns, good economies, lots to do. Great. You're probably thinking that the third city is Boulder, Colorado. Or maybe Athens, Georgia or Madison, Wisconsin. Another cool college town with a lot going on.

(If I missed your college town, nothing personal).

Anyway, that would have made sense, right? But no. City #3 was Our Man in LA's hometown of Los Angeles.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, guess where your housing dollar goes the shortest distance. Yeah, maybe in the second biggest city in the country, the one in Southern California. Wow. News flash.

And I'm not just sour grapes here. Seriously. I know what it must seem like. Nobody likes to hear that they need a gazillion dollars to buy a basement apartment south of the I-10 freeway. So I took another look.

The next week? Cities #1 and #2 were Boston and Chicago. All right, that makes some sense. Two major cities, anchors of their respective regions. Both with a rep for both tough blue collar folk and highly educated professionals. Big sports and arts cities on the water. Excellent. I'm in. What's City #3? I'm thinking Seattle, maybe? Or San Francisco?

Nope. Savannah, Georgia.

So as you might guess, by half hour's end, the people in Savannah looked like geniuses. Geniuses! For $750K, they got a house the size of the Pentagon in the coolest neighborhood in town. The folks in Boston got a three-bedroom starter home, and the folks in Chicago got a three-bedroom townhouse in Lincoln Park.

The only way, of course, to convince yourself that the Savannah people weren't geniuses was to, well, remember that at the end of the program they still had to live in Savannah.

I can't deal. You think you're getting good information at first on this show, but then really, you're just getting a half-hour pitch for the smallest town on the program. Imagine you're actually considering moving from wherever you're living right now. You just want to go, you don't have a huge preference where, and you don't have a job pulling you there.

Are you really saying, "You know, it's going to be Ann Arbor, Austin, or LA"??? You are? Really?

Or "Yeah, totally, Chicago, Boston, or Savannah. Right on!"

Because honestly, if so, why not broaden your horizons a little bit, huh? Go with some real diversity. Let this show do some real work. Let's see how far your housing dollar goes in:

* West Palm Beach, Salt Lake City, and Kabul; or
* Dublin, Omaha, and Mogadishu; or
* Mexico City, Moose Jaw, and Northbrook, Illinois.

Hell, for that matter, since we're already in some sort of fantasy world, why don't they compare the home prices in these fair cities:

* Gotham City;
* Mos Eisley; and
* the 21st Century Los Angeles from BLADE RUNNER.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Never too late in the day for a little TUESDAY TOP FIVE

Howdy, folks. I know for those of you east of the Mississippi, it's a little late in the evening, and I apologize. Our Man in LA tries to keep on a schedule about these blog posts, but at this point, I'm just glad to be getting to them once a day. So I appreciate your grading on a curve regarding my tardiness.

Especially because I'm bringing the one . . . the only . . . TUESDAY TOP FIVE. So let's get down to brass tacks.

5) AIDS PROJECT LA and the Griffith Park training run. As many of you may know, Our Woman in LA and I are training right now for another half marathon. That's right. Having pulled off a 13-mile run in Virginia Beach last fall, the little lady and I are now planning to take part in the Disneyland Half Marathon this September in deepest, darkest Anaheim. You get to run through the theme park, take in the sites, and spend a little quality time, Disney-style.

Best of all, it's for a good cause.

You see, Steph and I chose to train with the folks from AIDS Project LA, who use these runs as fund raising ventures to support services and programs for people with AIDS in Southern California. You don't have to follow the news very closely to know that there are a million or so people in the US with the deadly disease and tens of millions around the world. With no cure on the market, there's always a need for more funds to help the people who deal with this illness on a day to day basis.

So the wife and I are raising money - to the tune of about $1,900 each - as we train for the run. If you're on the Wieland family mailing list, expect to get bombarded as the weeks go on with e-mail pitches and other fund raising tactics. We appreciate any and all support, and we're looking forward to the run.

As a side note, I can't say enough good about two other parts of this training - the folks from AIDS Project LA, who are funny and inspirational and who make you want to run (but run safely - not overdoing it); and the beautiful environs of nearby Griffith Park, where we work out once a week. APLA has chosen a beautiful spot for a run - a nice, relatively flat stretch near the LA Zoo, running between the park's foothills. It might just be one of the most perfect pieces of parkland I've ever seen.

And, of course, it's just minutes away from Casa del Wieland.

4) ENTOURAGE on HBO. Say what you will about summer television programming being the pits, but I've been glad to see this little gem return to weekend viewing. I know everyone and their brother has written about the show, but there's just so much to like that I couldn't leave it off the list.

What have we seen so far this summer (in just two episodes)? Super-funny super-agent Ari Gold bitching at his marriage counselor and taking a reluctant dip in a suburban swimming pool; the opening of the Aquaman movie; fairly precise discussion about the relative fan bases of Spider-man and Aquaman (sorry, the web head wins that one); and a lot of on target comments about how frickin' frackin' hot it gets in the Valley during the summer.

Sure, it's no HOUSE or 24. Or THE OFFICE. But then again, neither is it LOST or one of those reality shows.

3) THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER by Raymond Chandler. I'm making my way through this collection of Chandler's short stories, a lot of which first appeared in the classic pulp mag BLACK MASK, and most of which came before the invention of his well-known knight errant sleuth Philip Marlowe. The book also includes Chandler's essay from the ATLANTIC MONTHLY, where he discusses the birth of American hard-boiled detective fiction, where guys like Dashiell Hammett took murder out of English Country Mansions and put it back in the hands of the very bad guys who were made for it.

Our Man in LA considers himself a mystery freak and a Chandler fan. I find myself thinking of Chandler and Marlowe at least weekly tooling around the streets of LA. Marlowe's office was on Hollywood Boulevard, just 10 minutes from my place - and basically across the street from the Improv Olympic. The apartments and houses on Franklin Avenue, where more than a few femme fatales met their end are just blocks away from where we live.

Not all the stories in SIMPLE ART are great. Some are beyond brilliant. Check out "The King in Yellow," for example. But the most important thing about Chandler isn't the text of the stories themselves. His tales weren't as personal or as visceral as Hammett's; they're not as intricate or cool as Ellroy's they're not as psychological as MacDonald's; and they're not as fun as Parker's.

But the man exudes mood. Nobody else quite captures the same kind of down and out, mean and dirty ethos of hard boiled LA like Chandler. You almost don't care what the characters say. It's more just to hear them say it, read them turn a phrase. His world is far more real, more tangible than almost any other pop writer's. And that's worth the journey.

2) The FOX Channel's Tuesday broadcasts of HOUSE. Right now, and for the rest of the summer, FOX is doing HOUSE two-fers. If you caught on to this, one of my favorite shows, late in the game this year, now is the time to catch up.

For the love of God, man, do yourself a favor. Check it out.

If you're uninitiated, HOUSE is Sherlock Holmes meets the television medical drama. A cranky but brilliant doctor (played by the awesome Hugh Laurie) takes a crack at diagnostic mysteries week after week at a New Jersey teaching hospital. At his side as he does battle with the human germ, is a Watson figure played by Robert Sean Leonard (of DEAD POETS SOCIETY and a mess of other things) and a Baker Street Irregular group of young doctors making up his staff.

Tremendous. Laurie's funny, the writing's tight and interesting, and the mysteries are involving. If you start watching the two-fers, I'm pretty sure you'll stay hooked in the fall.

Which brings us to the Number One of the week . . . .

1) The Stanley Cup winning Carolina Hurricanes.

All right, so here's how the morning started. Got an e-mail and a voice mail from Our Father-in-Law in Raleigh. The two messages were a little different, but here's the gist:

"Just thought you'd want to know something," it began. "Just thought you'd want to know, since you're such a big shot out there in California, since you got no time for us poor losers hanging out back in middle America. Since you probably don't watch NBC, either."

Sigh. Here it comes.

"But I just thought you'd want to know that a certain team won the Stanley Cup last night. That's the Stanley Cup. Do you know what that is? Do you? It is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in all of professional sports. That's what it is. It came before all the others, you know?"

Hey, I'm thinking. Carolina must have won. Go Hurricanes, I'm thinking. I won't even make a joke about losing in the ratings to Lucy and Ricky. But there's more.

"Now I know what you're thinking. If some team won the oldest and most prestigious trophy in all of professional sports, it must be one of those teams from one of those big, important cities. It couldn't be from a small town in middle America. It'd have to be from somewhere big."

Here we go, I'm thinking.

"So let's see," Our Father in Law in Raleigh continues. "Was it a team from New York? Nope. From LA? Nope. From Chicago? No, it wasn't."

I would usually take this opportunity to rag on the Chicago Blackhawks, or possibly even one of the LA-area teams. But he's rolling.

"Was it a team from Detroit? I don't think so," he continues. "How about Philly? Nope. DC? No, it wasn't. Must have been one of those Canadian clubs. Toronto? Nope. Montreal? C'est impossible! No.

"It was a little team from Raleigh, North Carolina, and now it's coming here," Our Father in Law in Raleigh concluded.

So there you go. Congrats to the Hurricanes, the little engine that could from the smaller market south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It's a great story, and great for the folks of Raleigh-Durham. For my part, I kept a lid on the my Lucy Ricardo jokes, and congratulated my father-in-law. He had been to one of the games in the Finals, and that's pretty cool.

At the end of the day, none of the other stuff matters. Each major professional sports league crowns one champ at the end of every year. This year, Carolina takes home hockey's biggest prize. They're a relatively new team, and they beat back a storied rival for the honor. Very cool. Congrats to the Hurricanes and their fans.

Hell, I told my father-in-law, the win even made the front page of the Sports section out here in LA, land of fruits and nuts.

Of course, the top story in the Sports section today was about surfing. But the front page is the front page . . .

See you tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Catching hell and returning fire

All right. First of all, Our Man in LA is a big enough guy to admit when he's wrong. Mistakes happen, folks, even to those of us lucky enough to live on the left coast, with nearly perfect weather all year round (78 and sunny today, hotter in the Valley).

Since returning to the blog postings, not a few of Our Man in LA's fans and friends have taken issue with some of my opinions and musings. And I'm the first to say, sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes. And sometimes I'm wrong, but not as horribly, horribly wrong as someone else.

I thought I'd take a couple of examples - show you, the reader, where I've been right, wrong, and not as far gone as some other poor bastard.

So here goes.


"I'm surprised you'd even talk to me," Our Man in LA's father-in-law said on the phone this weekend. "Surprised you'd even talk to someone in middle America or some place that's not one of those big cities."

You see, Our Father in Law in Carolina had read my blog about how Doc Noel and I imagined a better, more contracted group of sports leagues one drunken night. Our Father in Law, who resides in Raleigh, NC, was, ahem, disappointed to see the disappearance of all the teams from North Carolina from the NFL, NBA, and most of all, from the NHL.

The Hurricanes, in case you don't know, are playing for the Stanley Cup. That's the Stanley Cup. That's what they win in hockey. Oh, just watch your I LOVE LUCY reruns already.

"Send a guy to LA for a couple of years, and he starts acting like a big shot," Our Father in Law in Raleigh grumbled. "Thinks he's better than anyone else."

Which I don't, really. But I do think I had a point about not every town in North America automatically getting a major league team just because the VFW hall will hold some fans. Sorry, Jacksonville fans. I'm not wrong there.

But I was wrong about one thing.

"I can't believe you put a team in Cincinnati," Our Father in Law said. "Cincinnati? How'd they make it? The Bengals have the worst helmets, the worst uniforms, and the town's smaller than half the places you dumped. What do you have to say about that? Huh? What do you have to say? What do you have to say? Do you know what I'm saying?"

Yeah, I do. And OK, guilty as charged. Our Man in LA was wrong. He was a total homer.

You see, after Doc Noel and I had removed the Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Texans, Buccaneers, and Bills out, moved the Rams and Titans back to LA and Houston, we had one open spot, and two teams left. Bengals and Colts. The Colts have way more history, so they stayed.

But Our Man in LA felt weird about dumping a team from his football-crazed home state of Ohio, so he caved to his own homerism. Yup. Moved the Colts to Cincinnati. Problem solved, right?

Nope. Wrong thing to do. Mistake for Our Man in LA, who remains quite happy, thank you very much, with the rest of the list.

The issue, though? The Colts should stay, but really, the options we saw didn't seem so great. Back to Baltimore? Nope. You can't reward the crab-eating losers who stole the Browns. Indy? It's fine, I guess, but that's about all. Cincinnati? Well, you see my problem.

And the bigger cities without a team? Does the world seem a better place with a team in St. Louis or Phoenix or Tampa? I don't think so either.

So I was wrong. Consider the Colts moved back to Indy for the time being. Happy to take your suggestions and ideas. I'll be right here.

Onto part two, THE NOT WRONG.

Took a little heat from some folks this week for my anti-LOST stance. Not surprising, really. It's not like you can proclaim that you hate smack when you're hanging around a Velvet Underground concert. Same thing really.

It does bear mentioning that in this arena, Our Man in LA had support from the Father-in-Law. He had this to say: "I saw that LOST once, and it did nothing for me. It's just stupid, you know. Stupid. It's stupid. It's got a bunch of people doing stupid soap opera stuff, and who cares?"

Amen, Our Father in Law in Raleigh. Amen.

So, yeah, here's the part where Our Man in LA again points out that he's NOT WRONG in his dis of LOST. A few points:

1) When I pointed out that we didn't learn a damn thing in the season finale, my pals suggested that we learned, "SO much, SO MUCH!" Asked for examples, one pal suggested that viewers of LOST now know that the rest of the world still exists.

Ahem. Show of hands, please. Who out there thought the world had ceased to exist? Keep those hands up. I want an accurate count.

See what I mean? Our Man in LA is NOT WRONG. Of course, the rest of the world still existed. Still existed? What?

2) When I suggested that I could wait till the show was over and then read a tight little summary of the whole plot and then move on, my pals suggested, "You could do that with all the sports you watch, too. You don't need to watch those games, either."

True. Which is why I read the sports section most days, and read up on the games I missed. On the other hand, I've never watched a game from beginning to end and said, "Well, that didn't tell me anything." Short of a 0-0 tie, you always sort of learn something. Even in a 0-0 tie. Which, honestly, you don't see very often.

Also, I almost never find myself watching a game where nothing happens and then I'm flashed back to something in the back story of one of the players that may or may not relate to this game.

This is what I'm talking about. NOT WRONG.

3) You know what? I've got numbers 3 through 10 of this rant, and you've heard a lot of it before. So suffice it to say that seeing a statue of something with four toes DOES NOT count as "learning something" or "something happening." I'm just saying.

Now from the NOT WRONG, we move into our final segment, the WRONG BUT NOT AS WRONG.

So Our Woman in LA comes home after seeing the Doc Noel and Wieland plan for sports awesomeness. This is her response.

"You know how I said it was a waste of time for you guys to think this out the other night?"

Sure. Yeah. I remember.

"Well, it was a bigger waste of time to put it all on your blog. How long did it take you to type all that."

All right. That's true. Our Man in LA is wrong on that front.

But he's not alone. He's not even the greatest abuser of time. Nope.

For example, take a look at this tidbit. I'm a big fan.


That website will take you to another blog, where the writer associates every one of the 117 Division I-A college football programs with a character in the SIMPSONS. I love it. It's fantastic.

But really, there are 117 of them, with comments on all of them.

So yeah, honey, I wasted some time. But get a load of this . . .

Think that'll help my case?

Thursday, June 15, 2006


From the backlog: Our Man in LA makes over the sports

So you might be wondering what it is exactly that Our Man in LA did during that period of time when he ignored his daily posts here on the blog. Mostly, it wasn't all that important, and I'll show you what I mean.

About a month ago, my pal Doc Noel came back to LA from Jersey and hung out at my Los Feliz pad. Beers were drunk, the wife was away at work, and so conversation turned, as it often does, to how we would change the world if given complete and utter control of the tiny planet. Some people, given this kind of imaginary power, would create a plan for peace in the world, erase hunger and poverty in six easy steps, or at the very least, make sure that Fox didn't cancel ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

Not us. We focused on the important issues, the deep ones.

Basically, we talked about how we'd fix the four major sports leagues in North America. As a conversation and eventual plan, it was thought-provoking and smart. It was also the kind of thing that forced my wife to remark (when she got home from rehearsal) the words that all brilliant minds long to hear:

"I can't believe you guys wasted all your time on this. How many beers did you have?"

Quite a few, my bride. Quite a few.

It's all right, of course. My wife doesn't understand that all men do this. We're obsessed with minutia. If it's not playing God to an imaginary universe of sports, it might be Fantasy Baseball or Fantasy Football. It probably involves sports in one way or another.

She'll learn. It's only been three years of marriage.

Anyway, I'm stalling. Let's get on to the new Wieland-Noel major leagues, shall we? Before we begin, you should know that we created a few ground rules for these leagues:

1) Only a few cities deserve teams in the three major sports (baseball, football, basketball): New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver. Seattle, Minneapolis, and Cleveland ended up with them, through no fault of their own.

2) The three big major leagues are limited to 24 teams. That's it. Hockey gets 20 until they can beat I LOVE LUCY in the ratings.

3) A word about nicknames. No offensive ones. And none that end in anything other than the letter S, with the exceptions of baseball teams named for their socks (who can keep an X), and the Utah Jazz. Mostly because that name is so absurd that it must be kept. Also, no teams credited to the entire state (a la Texas Rangers), with a few exceptions - teams in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the aforementioned Utah Jazz, and the Indiana Pacers. Otherwise, you get ID'd with your city only.

Away we go. The Wieland-Noel version of Major League Baseball's American League is:


New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles
Montreal Royals


Cleveland White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Toronto Blue Jays
Dallas Lone Stars (formerly Texas Rangers)


Anaheim Angels
Oakland A's
Seattle Mariners
Minnesota Twins

Discussion: OK, the White Sox left the South Side of Chicago and went to Cleveland. Not too much difference between the South Side and Cleveland anyway, and besides, it's likely that fans in Cleveland will show up to see a World Series team play baseball. In Chicago, they will only do that if the World Series winner is visiting Wrigley Field. Also, we've got two Canadian teams in the Major League, which we find funny. The LA Angels return to their Anaheim name. And Dallas Lone Stars sounds cool.

Now the National League . . .


New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Philadelphia Phillies
Miami Marlins (not Florida)


Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Thrashers
Cincinnati Reds


Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres
Denver Rockies (you get the picture)

Discussion: This is pretty self-explanatory. As I've explained to friends, a Thrasher is the state bird of Georgia, and it sounds fairly cool. We're also not going to keep hockey south of the Mason-Dixon, so the name can remain.

Now onto the National Football League, and its National Conference . . .


New York Giants
Washington Generals
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys


Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Cincinnati Colts


Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
Houston Oilers

Discussion: The Generals nickname replaces the really offensive Redskins name. The Rams return to LA, and the Oilers return to Houston. The Bengals did not make the cut for this new league, in part because the Colts franchise has so much more history. However, the state of Ohio is far more football crazy than Indiana (where the Colts threaten to leave daily), so the Colts were moved over to the Queen City.

Now the American Conference . . .


New Jersey Jets
Boston Patriots (I have a feeling that New England will still follow them)
Miami Dolphins
Atlanta Falcons


Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers
New Orleans Saints


Anaheim Chargers
Oakland Raiders
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs

Discussion: Not much. Moving the Chargers to Anaheim better serves the LA and SD market, with very little fall-out.

Onto the NBA, now in its Finals. Here's the Eastern Conference . . .


New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics
Washington Bullets (let's face it: Wizards is a dumb name)
Miami Clippers (Heat's not so great, either, and LA doesn't need two teams)
New Jersey Nets


Chicago Bulls
Detroit Pistons
Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks
Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers

And now the Western Conference . . .


Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets
Utah Jazz
Dallas Mavericks
San Antonio Spurs


Los Angeles Lakers
San Francisco Warriors ("Golden State"? Lame, lame, lame)
Phoenix Suns
Las Vegas Aces (formerly the Sacramento Kings, but this sounds cool, right?)
Seattle Supersonics
Portland Trail Blazers

Discussion: Not much. You know why? Because at first glance, it's hard to tell what teams we've cut out here. Do you really think you'll miss the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets or the Toronto Raptors? Or the Orlando Magic? Me either.

Finally, finally to hockey. This was our toughest challenge, but we think the new 20-team league brings the fun.

Here goes. First, no dull conference names. We go old school, starting with the PRINCE OF WALES CONFERENCE:


Boston Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Montreal Canadiens
Buffalo Sabres
Ottawa Senators


Chicago Hawks (not Blackhawks, which is a tribal name and kind of offensive - but Hawks is fine)
Minnesota North Stars (returning one of the coolest names in sports)
St. Louis Blues
Denver Miners (not great, but Avalanche doesn't end in S)
Winnipeg Jets (back from the brink)



New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Washington Capitals
Detroit Red Wings
New Jersey Devils


Vancouver Sharks (no nasty name-calling for Canadians, fun though it may be)
Edmonton Oilers
Calgary Flames
Los Angeles Kings
Seattle Whalers (bringing back another cool name)

Discussion: We maintained all the Canadian teams, and even restored the one in Winnipeg. Teams are gone from Phoenix and Florida, though we kept one in LA . . . for now.

Questions? Comments? Protests? Send them here. We'll listen.

Otherwise, that about does it for this post. Be sure to check back in next time when my friends and I consider changing the boundaries of European nations. Kidding. Just kidding. We'd need way more beer for that.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Wednesday Bottoms Out

With the return of the Tuesday Top Five yesterday, it's only fair that I should deliver on the Wednesday Bottom One. In the weeks that I've been away, there have been a lot of news items and general gripes that could have made it. Hell, there are a few things today. Consider:

* The tool who runs a cheesesteak stand in Philadelphia (least favorite city of Our Man in LA) who put a sign in his establishment advertising that he would only serve people who spoke English. As I'm sure you're aware, grown men who hawk cheesesteaks for a living and answer to "Joey" probably aren't noted for their amazing economy with words, nor a masterful vocabulary in the Queen's English.

On the upside, Joey does appear to be racist and jingoistic. So thumbs up to Joe.

* Or how about this: Evil mastermind, er, Bush strategist Karl Rove won't be charged in the Valerie Plame affair. I assume his get out of court free card might - just might - have something to do with him "knowing a guy." Well, that and the fact that most Americans just don't care about the Plame affair, choosing instead to watch DANCING WITH THE STARS, vote guys like Bush into office, and cheer on tools like Joey in Philadelphia for "sticking it to those foreign types."

* And then there's this . . . which doesn't really qualify as a Bottom One so much as a head scratcher. As you might have heard, the National Hockey League is having its Stanley Cup Finals right now. That's the big shebang. The whole enchilada. The big championship. I haven't seen a game, but I understand that my wife's hometown Carolina Hurricanes are winning.

Apparently, though, nobody else has seen a game, either. Last night's game 4 showed in Los Angeles - America's #2 TV market - and ratings indicate that the hockey game was eclipsed . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

By I LOVE LUCY reruns on Channel 11.

I think it's just possible that hockey's got a bit of a popularity problem. A bit.

But see, none of that is Bottom One material. Oh no. Because almost nothing could eclipse this one. The return of the Wednesday Bottom One welcomes . . .

(Drumroll please)


So here's the thing. I like Jennifer Anniston. She's cute. She's got great comic timing, and I thought she was a lot of fun on TV's FRIENDS. She could do the physical comedy, she could do the wordplay, and after Matthew Perry, she might have been the funniest of the bunch.

Her movie choices, on the other hand, they've, well, they've sucked.


* FRIENDS WITH MONEY, a movie so tediously awful in every way that my wife refused to allow me to say the words "Friends", "with", or "Money" for several days after a viewing. And it was her idea to see it! That didn't matter. We're still not allowed to use the whole title around this house. If we must refer to the film, we call it $28.50, which refers to the price of two tickets, two diet cokes, and two pretzels at the Pasadena theater where we had the misfortune to view it.

Self-indulgent, boring, with bad characters, bad writing and bad acting. I know some critics liked it, but I can only believe that those critic smoke a lot of crack. Awful, awful, awful.

* RUMOR HAS IT, which showed on my plane from Frankfurt to LA. I watched this one instead of Steve Martin's horrible-looking PINK PANTHER remake, and I think I made the wrong call. Hard to say, but I think I did. Not funny. Not one bit. Hated the characters, hated the story, and just, well, hated everything. Awful, awful movie that wastes Anniston, as well as co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Shirley MacLaine. It's some kind of movie that makes you wish Kevin Costner would start making post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies again, but this is it.

And really, seriously, what happened to Rob Reiner?

Then this weekend, there was . . .

* THE BREAK-UP, which just made me sad. I like Vince Vaughn, and he's funny in a couple of scenes. If you're a Vince Vaughn completist, go and see it, I guess. Otherwise, don't even rent it. I mean, yeah, there are some jokes, but it goes nowhere, and worse, you really, really don't give a rat's butt whether they stay together in their ludicrously expensive North Side of Chicago condo or not. You just don't.

It's the kind of movie that had my rule-abiding wife wondering aloud, "Should we sneak into another movie? I know that PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION's only got about 30 minutes less, but that might be better . . ." And again, seeing this was her idea!

So here's the thing. Brad Pitt has won the movie-off with his ex-wife, no matter how mediocre MR AND MRS SMITH was. And I rooted for her. But yikes. And did anyone - anyone at all - see that flick with her and Clive Owen? Anybody? Bueller?

So until Anniston takes it back to the small screen and puts together a sitcom - say a 21st century MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW or something, I've cashed in the chips.

Ugh. Maybe even with that, I'll be hesitant. Burn me once, shame on her. Burn me with three horrible movies, well, shame on . . . someone.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Great God Almighty, it's a TUESDAY TOP FIVE

See? See?! Told you I'd be back again, and with a Tuesday Top Five no less. As per usual, I'm going to try and keep this short, cut and dried, without the usual digressions and long descriptions. I'll try. I could screw up. Our Man in LA is only human after all.

So away we go . . .

5) My beloved Cincinnati Reds. I know I mentioned this yesterday, but I swear - I SWEAR - that this will be the day's only repeat. This is how it is, folks. Growing up in southern Ohio in the 80s, Cincinnati was a pretty cool sports town. You weren't embarrassed by it. The Reds didn't have the amazing decade they had in the 70s, but they usually found themselves in contention for the pennant. The Bengals played hard under Sam "Wicky-Wacky" Wyche, and they were often in the playoffs, occasionally losing a Super Bowl.

But since the last Reds' World Series victory (in '91), the Queen City has been a sporting no man's land, hampered by embarrassment upon embarrassment. Marge Schott, for God's sake? Dave Shula? Puh-lease!

Well, apparently no more. The Bengals were back to the post-season last year, and they have the look of a decent team in the year ahead (pending Carson Palmer's injury and whatnot). At least they're not a joke.

And neither are the Reds. Sure, they're playing over their heads. Sure, they don't have the talent of a Yankee, Red Sox, or White Sox organization. Hell, they probably don't have the talent of a Cub organization. But they're two games out of first, and the organization has new management that seems to be going in the right direction.

It's a step, and Our Man in LA is loving it. Go Big Red Machine!

4) WHAT IF? edited by Robert Cowley. Our Man in LA is a bit of a history buff, and this book unites that interest with the concept behind one of the two or three coolest comic books of all time. Remember Marvel's What If? back in the aforementioned 80s? Great book, full of one-shot stories. Things like "What if Phoenix hadn't died?" (she would have killed the X-Men); or "What if Spider-man had joined the Fantastic Four?" (the Invisible Girl would have left and married Prince Namor); or "What if the Avengers had been founded in the 1950s?" (uh, there would have been Avengers . . . in the 50s).

So Cowley and a bunch of noted historians and writers take this idea and apply it to world history. The result is a series of tremendously cool essays and definitely worth a look if you like history.

You learn about things like:

* What if Lincoln hadn't issued the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves?

* What if Jesus hadn't been crucified?

* What if the Pope had stood up to Hitler regarding the Holocaust (he had two chances to do so)?

* What if Socrates had been killed as a middle-aged soldier in the Pelepponesian War?

* What if FDR hadn't replaced VP Henry Wallace with a little-known guy from Missouri named Harry Truman?

And so on. Each of the essays are short and fun. Totally worth the read.

3) FREAKS directed by Tod Browning. Our Man in LA's a sucker for classic film, and this one's definitely got a cult following. Check it out. Browning used real circus freaks in this semi-noir piece about a beautiful acrobat who schemes to marry a rich dwarf who travels with the circus, and then to kill him and run off with his money in the arms of her real love, the Strong Man.

So what happens when she launches her nefarious plan? Well, the other freaks band together to save their, ahem, freaky brother.

OK, so the story sort of falls apart in places, and it's pretty short. But the cinematography's amazing, and Browning wrenches interesting work from all of the so-called freaks, many of whom never appeared in another film.

I've been hearing about this movie for years, and I finally Netflixed it. Even if it's not your cup of tea, the Circus Freak wedding feast is worth the price of admission.

2) ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY? by David Sedaris. Now I know that I'm late to the party when it comes to reading Sedaris. The guy's been hitting comedic home runs both in print and on NPR for years now, but I finally picked up this tome at my local branch of the LA Public Library about a week ago. And I can't put it down.

Spanning the globe from Our Woman in LA's hometown of Raleigh, NC, to our former stomping grounds of Chicago to New York and Paris, Sedaris explores a series of annoying situations that cracked me up. I laughed out loud enough that frequently, my lovely bride would look over in my direction during some show on HGTV, shooting me a glance that only said, "My God, is he finally cracked?"

Sedaris' misadventures, from writing classes at the Art Institute of Chicago to clashes with American tourists on the Paris metro, to a long, hard-fought battle with an Elementary School speech therapist show us the kinds of events that have made Americans a miserable nation of neurotics. Which is just the way I like it.

1) The new, improved, and very strong anti-LOST plan. Since I haven't been posting very much, you haven't been reading my rants about the televised heroin addiction that is LOST very much. But if you've been reading my rants, er, posts in the past, you know about my long fight with this video Satan.

Television blue balls, I've raved! Nothing ever happens, I've complained! I can't believe I'm still watching, I've ranted! Please stop talking about it, my wife has said!

You get the picture.

Well, just as long as I've been aware that I was a junkie, I've been searching for television methadone. Something to get me clean, something to wean me from JJ Abrams' evil pushing. And I found my drug. It's HOUSE, the medical show featuring Hugh Laurie.

Almost perfect. Except that it doesn't come on the same night as LOST.

And see, methadone's great, but it doesn't help you if you can't use it at the same time you'd normally be shooting up.

So I was screwed. Double-using. Methadone HOUSE on Tuesdays, LOST heroin on Wednesdays. Problem. Heading for some sort of awful TV overdose.

Which is when I formulated a new plan. You see, Our Man in LA only allows himself a few hours a week to watch non-sports television. We're talking three or four maybe. That's about it. 24 takes up one of those hours when it's on. HOUSE now claims another. So the key is to fill the LOST hour (and believe me, folks, any hour watching LOST is an hour gone forever . . . you don't get it back AND nothing happens on that flipping, frickin', frackin' island).

But I've been hearing about all these other TV shows that are supposed to be great that I've never had a chance to watch. The new Battlestar Galactica. Veronica Mars. Rescue Me. Stuff like that.

And, heh, heh . . . they're all on DVD now.

So that's the plan now. The wife can sit down and watch her LOST all season long. Sure, she's still on the TV smack, but SHE has to choose to get off it. You can't force someone to be healthy. You can support and love the person, and hate the thing that she does . . . like watch Locke and Sayid talk about the metaphysical nature of the plane crash. Jesus.

While she does that, I'll be in the other room, watching a series of DVDs, catching up on those programs I've missed over the last couple of years.

Veronica Mars, Battlestar . . . be my methadone.

And that's the wrap, folks. Come back tomorrow for the return of the Wednesday Bottom One. You know you want to. You know it's more fun to talk about things you hate than things you like.

I'll even promise you this. This Bottom One has nothing to do with LOST . . . oooh . . . teaser!

Monday, June 12, 2006


News and notes, catching up, or what have you . . .

Our Man in LA comes back to you on this fine Monday, after a nice weekend's break. Again, I'm armed with an assurance that I'm going to be back to the regular blog posts. No more prolonged absences. You no longer have to fill your workday with return trips to SLATE, CNN.com, or Ain't it Cool News. Our Man in LA is happy to waste just a little more of your day.

Problem is, so much has happened since I posted on a regular basis. So I'm going to have to take care of some business first. I'll call it news and notes. It'll be little squib items here and there - nothing of any real importance, I reckon. In fact, you'll probably be tempted to read this and say, "Wieland's lost it. He couldn't even come up with a topic for a lousy blog post."

You call it inability, I call it catching up. I'm not here to argue semantics with you.

So, on to the topics . . .


This goes out to official friends of Our Man and Woman in LA, Greg and Mary-Jo (of the Glenview, Illinois, Lipman-Rolnicks), who just welcomed a son - Kenneth Matthew - to their home. Kenny, who, thanks to TV's SOUTH PARK, has a name that's fun to say, came into the world on May 28th at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

I'd go into all the details - size, weight, hours of labor, soiled diapers - but his Dad tells the stories so much better on a blog of his own. So check it out - it's at rolnick.net.

Couldn't be happier for Greg and MJ and their family. That's right, family. Holy cow, man, they're a FAMILY now. MJ's been a good pal of mine for almost 15 years. She and Greg got together not long after Steph and I met. And now, they're a family.

Extremely cool. Little freaky, for those of us out here. But extremely cool.

And believe me, there are freakier realities out there. Our buddy from college who once drank an entire Fifth of Vodka during the NCAA Basketball Championships is now an anesthesiologist. That's right. He's putting YOU under. See, that's way freakier.

OK, back to the important and nice stuff.

At times like this, you're reminded that life doesn't ever really stand still. Seems like it does. I've long postulated that most of us are just living in sitcoms that are running in syndication on God's TV. I imagine that mine is on at 6 p.m., and that the grand old deity sits back and watches Steph and me having whatever wacky misadventure we have (in 22 minutes of "Higher Power time"). God chuckles, marvels at the goofiness, and then watches someone else's show at 6:30.

But momentous occasions like this belie my ludicrous fantasy. We're not just standing still. This "Very Special Episode" really does change the status quo. It's a whole new series for the folks on "Yes, Rolnick," and as viewers and occasional guest stars, it's different for us too.

All of which is a convoluted and pop culture heavy way to say congrats to two of my dearest friends on one of their happiest days. Here's to you, MJ and Greg, and to Kenny too. Congrats indeed.


Switching gears, I thought I'd take this moment to once again openly jeer the folks out there who claim that my new hometown is some sort of modern Sodom and/or Gomorrah.

Stop me if you've heard this one before, because I get it at least once a month from some well-wishing Midwesterner or Southerner. "My God, Chris, if you and Steph ever have a family, how're you going to raise them out there?!? What possible values will those kids have!?! You're going to want to raise them somewhere safe. Yes, you are."

If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard this, I wouldn't be rich, but I'd have enough to buy a couple of sodas. And that's why today's news filled me with a sort of sick glee. See, for the first time in almost a decade, violent crime is up in this country. Murders, robberies, you know, bad stuff like that.

Only where would you imagine all this new and evil stuff is going on?

Let's ask the well-wishing Midwesterner or Southerner. "Well, since everything that's bad in this whole country comes from the big cities out East or those fruits and nuts in California, I'd have to say there. Oh, what will it take for you people to discover values?!?!"


"Well, then maybe it's Texas. That state produced our president, but I don't like the way they talk down there."

Nope. I mean, Houston's no jewel, but that's not where it happened.

That's because violent crime is up - way up, in fact - in places like the Heartland of America. Big Ten country. Value central. The Midwest. While it's down in places like New York City and Los Angeles, it's up in those towns and burgs that resent being considered "flyover zone."

In fact, where was the biggest increase in violent crime? I'll give you a hint. It's a big city in one of those places that "made America great."

No, not Chicago. That's too easy. Besides, if Chicago's murder rate increased, virtually everyone would be involved in a heroin-related homicide.

Nope. Minneapolis. That's right. That well-read paragon of urban decency, where people have the cute accents. Minneapolis is up. Way up. Congrats.

Interestingly enough, Minneapolis and LA have a shared history in the world of sports. That's right, and not a happy one. You see, one of LA's basketball teams, the Lakers, originated as a franchise back there in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." See, that's where the nickname came from. And the Vikings football team regularly threatens to move here.

In times past, I thought these moves were made (or threatened) because LA had a bigger population, an interest in sports teams, and nice weather.

Apparently not. Apparently it just wasn't safe in the Twin Cities.


Just a few more things to cover around here, and then I'll let you go. I'm channeling Larry King again, so don't expect this to necessarily flow. These are just observations and stuff that has occurred to me either a) in the weeks since I last posted regularly; or, more likely b) while I've been typing tonight.

* After a particularly interesting and fun NBA playoffs, the Finals are boring me to tears. To tears! I mean, this was the year when LeBron came out and showed what he was made of. The Clippers arrived. There were great 7-game series all over the place. And now Shaq and Wade just lay an egg? Wake me when it's over.

* That said, I'm not really watching the Stanley Cup, either. I should. The Hurricanes, who play in my wife's hometown of Raleigh, are in it. But if she doesn't care - or in fact know about it - why should I?

* I am watching more baseball lately. Partly because my beloved Cincinnati Reds are playing way over their heads this year, looking to finish at least in the top half of the league and maybe . . . just maybe . . . in the playoff hunt. I might be a crazy dreamer, but whatever.

* Also, out here in LA, the Dodgers have been fun to watch, which helps. I also hear that Mark Cuban is looking to buy the Cubs, which would totally entertain me but will never happen.

* Non-sequiter time. When I knew I was going to Jerusalem, I was advised on all the places to go for hummus and falafel, two of my favorites. And I found a bunch. Really glad for the advice, and I ate particularly well in the Holy Land. But nobody prepared me for the coffee over there. How good is a Cup of Joe in the Holy Land? Hokey smokes. It's got me drinking my coffee black over here now. I'm drooling just thinking about it now.

* More on this later in the week, but we celebrated Steph's birthday this weekend down in San Diego, with a visit to the famous zoo and a little touring around the town. It was a good time, a great zoo, and nice to get out in California. It occurs to us lately how much Cali has become our home in just a couple of years. Now we're just excited to explore.

That'll do it for now. I've certainly wasted some of the work day for you. See you tomorrow.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Batter up, no shells down

In no way does this post mean to top the one that came before. Seriously. This is kind of a goofy little bit of fluff after the trip to Israel, but I figured since I was here . . .

So the other night, to celebrate my getting back in this hemisphere, not to mention our third wedding anniversary, Our Woman in LA went to Chavez Ravine to take in the hometown Dodgers doing courageous battle against the Mets of New York. Decent game, a lot of fun. The Dodgers went down 9-7 in what would not be described as a war of great pitching.

Nonetheless, it was game time, we were hungry. Only we're running another half marathon coming up in September, so the idea of filling up on Dodger Dogs and Red Vines didn't seem like the right call.

So we got a bag of peanuts. You know, like in the baseball songs of yore.

Which is when I realized that my bride and I had never shared peanuts at the ballpark before. How did I come to this conclusion. Hmmm. Maybe it was when Our Woman in LA ate her first nut, then looked eagerly to my half-full cup of beer.

This conversation followed --

Our Woman: Are you going to drink the rest of it?
Our Man: Yeah. Do you want some.
Our Woman: No. But you should drink it.

She started looking around nervously, like she needed a LOST hit.

Our Man: What's the matter?
Our Woman: Nothing. Just drink up.
Our Man: I'll drink it. What's going on?
Our Woman: Nothing. It's fine.

A beat. Then a second beat.

Our Woman: Are you going to drink it or what?
Our Man: What is going on?
Our Woman: I need to get rid of my peanut shell!

Silence in the ballpark. They even stopped playing the game for a second. Hushed tones and whispers all around.

Our Man: Just throw it on the ground.
Our Woman: Throw it on the ground!?! But that's illegal!
Our Man: It's not illegal. They have people to clean the stadium.
Our Woman: Well, but it's not fair of me to make their job harder. If I litter, everyone else will too!

At this point, I pointed to everyone at the stadium who was littering. Attendance at the Dodger game was over 44,000, so it took a while.

Miraculously, she discounted at least 40 percent of the litterers as bad people. "That guy with the tattoos is an a-hole," she said. "Of course he litters."

"Those kids just don't know better. They haven't been brought up right."

"What are YOU doing, dropping shells on the ground?"

I tried the gentle explanation. "It's part of the game's history," I said. "Like hot dogs and cracker jacks and the seventh inning stretch. It's part of the fun."

"FUN?" she cried. "LITTERING is FUN?"

Sigh. Defeated, I took the only option I had remaining.

Drank my beer. Gave her the cup.

I'm sure the Dodger Stadium Janitorial Staff appreciates the fine work done at Aisle 53FD, Row U, seats 1 and 2. I'll let you know when we get their thank you note.


Where in the World is Our Man in LA?

"It's been a long time since you wrote in the blog," Our Woman in LA mentioned to me the other day.

She's right, of course. A lot's been going on around the Wieland household, and as a result, the blogwork has suffered. I never meant for it to go down like this, you understand. But Our Man in LA hasn't even found himself at home in Southern California over the past few weeks, so that's meant no Tuesday Top Fives, no waxing in a semi-literate manner about THE REPLACEMENTS and the Mighty Mighty Longhorns.

Hell, it's even meant no ranting about LOST, for which Our Woman in LA should be grateful.

But look, as I get ready for a relaxing weekend, I'm back on the dole, ready to go, ready to spread the kind of ranting SoCal mirth that you're all used to. This weekend, Steph and I are celebrating her birthday in San Diego - deeper into the belly of the beast that is the Southland. So there'll be lots to report.

First, though, where have I been, and what have I been doing when I haven't been wasting part of your workday with an embarrassingly long and drawn-out blog posting?

You know, making a pilgrimmage to the Holy Land. Stuff like that.

But, you know, for work.

That's right, ladies and gents. Our Man in LA's new gig at the YMCA of the USA called for him to go to Jerusalem for about five days, to take in the sites, learn about our youth leadership programs over there, get a general sense of things. The lay of the land. You know.

Jerusalem's an amazing place. All of Israel is. I got to wander the Old City, meet some amazing people, and even step into the West Bank and Ramallah, where things are totally different than I could have imagined. More on that later. So glad I got to go. Can't wait to go back (probably later this year). Wouldn't change a thing about the whole trip, other than the 22 hours of air travel it took to get there, and the two and a half hours I spent being interrogated by Israeli authorities at Ben Gurion Airport (totally like something out of a Cold War-era B-movie spy thriller). More on that later, too.

For now, I think I'll let the photos do the talking for me. If you read this blog from time to time, you know that I'm no stranger to the long post. If a picture really tells a thousand words, than this is already shaping up to be a long one.

So here goes.

This is a map of the Old City of Jerusalem, painted on a tile in the lobby of the Jerusalem International YMCA, where I sometimes work. I might have mentioned that it's basically the only place in the whole country where people from all three of the major religions and cultures can gather peaceably.

How about some more?

This is the Jerusalem International Y itself, a grand tower on King David Street, right across from the King David Hotel. Designed by the guy who also designed the Empire State Building.

These are just a couple of cool random shots of the place. One is the Western Wall, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims all go to pray to their version of God. Been that way for centuries, and let's hope it'll be that way for a long time to come. The other shows the "skyline" (of sorts) of the Old City, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the background.

That's the church that, allegedly now, was built over the sites where Jesus was killed on the cross and then laid to rest - maybe for only a couple of days. Our Man in LA doesn't have much to say about dogma and religion except when it serves his ability to make fun of the TV show LOST, so feel free to argue about the Jesus supposition elsewhere.

Finally, Our Man in LA thought he'd bring it back around with a few words from the original sponsor of the Jerusalem International Y - the man who dedicated the building, Lord Edmund Allenby, 1st Visount of the British Empire, Field Marshall, hero of World War I, and so on.

This plate, displayed out front of the JIY, expresses what Allenby had in mind for the place way back when. It still encompasses the JIY's vision today:

It'd be pretty dumb of Our Man in LA to try to top a First Viscount. So there it is. Quite a trip, with lots to talk about.

See you soon.

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