Reason Calls Me Fat

reason-fat-man

I made my debut on Reason.com today, and the libertarian publication called me fat. It’s OK. I wrote about being fat. Still, they could have said I was “ample” or “stout” or that my waistline was  “Keynesian.” They could have said: “Food Stimulus Victim Apologizes to His Fellow Taxpayers.” So much kinder and more accurate.

It all started a few weeks ago when the managing editor of Reason.com asked me to write a “non-deadly serious” take on Obamacare.

The resulting article, I’m happy to report, is probably the least serious opinion ever written about our national health care law.

It contains the following words:

  • lawn ornament
  • free-range meatballs
  • shorts
  • tater-tots
  • Queen of Wien

Feeling the heat yet, Tom Friedman?

In the article I wrote an apology to people who take good care of their bodies.

On behalf of everyone who’s ever put Doritos on their sandwich for extra crunch or drunken copious amounts of beer out of a lawn ornament while tailgating, I’d like to say, “I’m sorry.” With no chance of repeal or reform of Obamacare anytime soon, our personal health and finances are more closely intertwined than ever. Many of us are simply not up for this massive responsibility.

You can read the rest here.

The article is already starting to receive comments.

This was a good one.

The overweight guy is likely to die…He’s a net financial gain to society.

This next one I like better, mainly because it doesn’t involve my death.

I couldn’t survive in France. Ketchup is my favorite vegetable.

I am SO proud to finally be contributing to the important national discourse my fellow citizens are having about important federal legislation, ketchup and France.

- Twitter:@joedonatelli

 

Is it Good? iPic Theater

ipic

Well, that’s it. All other movie theaters are ruined for me forever. (SETS ARCLIGHT MEMBERSHIP CARD ON FIRE.) I’ll never go to another one without comparing it to the iPic. Thank you, iPic. Damn you, iPic.  You’re the best. And the worst. I love you. And I hate you.

The iPic in Westwood is a premium movie theater experience featuring reclining chairs with soft blankets and pillows. I could stop describing it right there, and it would stand as the most comfortable movie theater experience I’ve ever had. It’s like flying first class in a movie theater. Somewhere else in the world suckers are paying good money to sit upright in movie theaters while you lounge in the theater like you’re in your own living room. But that’s not all.

The iPic also offers drinks and food delivered to your seat by a courteous wait staff. The food is OK and pricey (if you’re not one of the high-paid lawyers or UCLA types who works nearby), but you get to eat it at a table at your seat, and it’s far tastier than your traditional movie theater hot dog that may or may not actually be made of recognizable animal parts.

iPic is movies for the, well, not 1 Percent. Wherever the 1 Percent watches the secret good movies that are never released to the public probably isn’t open to guys like me. Let’s say The 5 Percent. The iPic is movies for the 5 Percent.

jeanralphio

The iPic also has a restaurant and a bar. For some reason the music and vibe outside of the theaters themselves is ootz-da-da-ootz Jean Ralphio, like some kind of trendy-dance-club-meets-Beverly-Hills-Asian-fusion-restaurant. Can an establishment offer both Junior Mints and bottle service? The iPic may one day answer that question.

But these are just tiny quibbles that stand in the shadow of the main attraction. It’s the chairs that make the iPic. If you’ve read an “Is it Good?” before, you know seating is one of my top two main factors in whether I enjoy an experience that requires me to leave my home. Human beings are not meant to sit upright for two-and-half hours, which is what most movie theaters demand. It’s not the worst discomfort in the world. There are people in refugee camps who stand in line all day for food, so I’m not about to complain that movie theater seats make me slightly achy, but if a movie isn’t good, you do notice your discomfort, and you just can’t wait for the thing to end. That isn’t a great use of $16.

Not a problem at the iPic.

I saw a mediocre movie–Jersey Boys–and enjoyed every minute of it because the chair was just so damn comfortable. It was soft. It was orange, which I liked for some reason. It reclined. You could spread out. You could kick your feet up. You could build a little fort, which I thought about doing during Jersey Boys, a movie that suffered from the classic biopic problem of trying to show you everything and actually showing you nothing.

The thing the iPic lacked was that we’re-all-packed-like-sardines-and-we’re-going-to-experience-this-movie-together feeling you get during a movie at a non-deluxe theater. For a film like Jersey Boys, it didn’t matter. But for a movie where you’re like, “Can you believe this movie? It’s amazing!” you’d lose some of that community–the salty, buttery touch of the common man.

It’s a premium experience, and you pay for the premium. Tickets are $19 if you’re a member, $29 if you’re not. Tickets do come with complimentary small popcorn, which is no small purchase in Los Angeles. Call it a savings of $5, at least.

And now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

iPic: Is it good?

It is.

iPic is good.

It’s The Titanic of places you could possibly see The Titanic.

ipic-chairs

- Twitter:@joedonatelli

Advice to the Young Humor Writer

I sometimes get asked by young humor writers for advice. I pretty much tell them all the same thing: I don’t know anything. Stop bothering me. But they pester me until I relent and give them something resembling advice. In the interest of saving myself time, I’m putting it all down here for future reference.

Dear Youngster,

The thing that’s helped me the most as a writer is asking the question–and please pardon my language– “Would anyone give a shit about this?” If I can honestly say that people would, I write it. If I can’t think of a reason anyone in the world would care, I don’t write it.

Now, “Would anyone give a shit about this?” sounds like common sense advice.

But let’s break it down.

“Would anyone…”
This means you should consider the audience. Does your idea have an audience? Who is the audience? Will they agree? Disagree? Both are good. Book authors, screenwriters, columnists – they all know their audiences. If you don’t know who yours is, think about who you would want to be your audience and what would be interesting to them.

I know that writers often say they “write purely for myself,” but those authors generally have gigantic followings already and live in large writer mansions by the time people ask them for advice. Of course they write for themselves. Now. They didn’t always. The liars.

“…give a shit…”
What is your intended audience not getting enough of? What would they enjoy? What would they share with each other? Be brutally honest when you answer these questions.

Because YOU wrote it doesn’t mean the heavens will rain page views down on your 8,000-word take about how lame the Oscars were this year. Don’t hope or expect an audience to react BECAUSE IT’S YOU writing it, and don’t become disappointed if no one reacts or likes it. Negative feedback is the best feedback of all.

“…about this?”
“This” is your work, and it has to be good. It should be funny. It should include the unexpected. It should be well-written with perfect grammar and spelling. “This” should make you laugh when you read it or think about it. If it’s not funny to you, why would it be funny to anyone else?

Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian bomb? It’s horrible to watch. It makes me want to hide under the table until it’s over. Nine times out of ten it’s because they’re telling jokes even they don’t think are funny. Enthusiasm about your own work is infectious, provided it’s good work. If it’s not good, enthusiasm wanders into the realm of derangement, which is also funny but the target of your humor becomes your own dignity. There are better, juicier targets out there because as a wannabe humor writer you are most likely bereft of dignity.

I say this all because, having browsed through your website, I see you writing a lot for yourself but not with a reader in mind.

You obviously have things to say about the world, and the fact that you reached out means this is more than a passing interest to you.

So if you’re serious, here’s what I would advise:

1. Read all of the humor writing you can, online and in books. Look at what these authors are doing structurally–not just the funny lines, but how the humor is built and constructed. Deconstruct until you understand all of the invisible writer tricks that allow writers to be so clever. Then look at what they choose to write about. Are they talking about things they think, or are they going out and experiencing life and telling interesting stories that happened to them? They’re probably not doing much of the first and more of the rest. The more active choices you make in life and the more you leave your desk and do things and then return to write, the higher the ceiling for your comedy.

do-me

2. Write all the time. Even if you don’t publish it, write. When something strikes you as truly funny, build off that idea. I have notebooks and Word docs filled with terrible, terrible ideas that no one — thank God — will ever see. But I needed to get all of those crummy ideas down on paper before the good ones came out. I still do a lot of crummy writing. But the more writing you do, the faster you can spot when it’s crummy. Here’s a screen-grab from my Word doc of rejected ideas:

live-in-car

This idea is mildly humorous, but it would need to make fun of celebrities, not people living in their car, who are a group of people who don’t deserve ridicule. Does the world need another article bashing celebs? Not really. So into the reject pile it went.

3. Cultivate an audience. Make 10 hardcore fans. Then 50. Then 100. Go where the people are – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I even publish on LinkedIn, that thing everyone with a job knows they’re supposed to be on but just can’t bring themselves to join. I crank out a quick column, and I pick up new followers and grow my audience.

4. Be as real as possible in your writing. I enjoy McSweeney’s and The Onion, but for the individual blogger there is more humor in reality than in exaggeration. Anyone can comment on pop culture or write a fake news story, but you are the only one who can tell your stories and who cares about the specific things you care about in the way that you do. The things that make you unlike anyone else on earth are your advantages as a writer.

Think of a Venn diagram – where your interests and an audience’s interests overlap, that’s your sweet spot.

For my American readers who failed math and are the reason we’re losing ground economically to Asia, here is a Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

There are a lot of folks who want to write humor, and you’re in the game because you’re doing it. But the trick to get better is to really immerse yourself in it and be brutally, brutally honest when you write and ask yourself, “Is this funny?” and “Would anyone give a shit?” If you’re right more than you’re wrong when you answer those questions, you’ll improve and there will be sweet writer boats and huge writer mansions waiting for you in the future. Good luck.

- @joedonatelli

A Love Too Intense: Why I’m a Bragwagon Sports Fan

team-usa

I’ve discovered a glitch in the sports Matrix, and I’m exploiting the hell out of it. Teams I’ve supported for years inevitably go down in flames, either in single games (’86 and ’87 Browns, ’97 Indians) or as a franchise (Browns since 1999, Cavs since The Decision). But teams I cheer for during a brief period of time–teams I have never cared about before in my life–they tend to have spectacular success.

Some people call this being a bandwagon fan. That’s fine. Thing is, when you’ve watched as much atrocious Cleveland sports as I have, and you keep coming back, you know you’re not a bandwagon fan. You’re a really loyal fan who is looking for a reason to enjoy watching sports again. We need a name for this–Bragwagon. I’m a Bragwagon Fan.

As far as my happiness as a sports fan goes, I’m at an all-time low, which is saying something, because I have been a Cleveland sports fan for 30-some years now. The Browns, Cavs and Indians are terrible. I know–the Indians were OK last year and are knocking on the door of mediocrity this year. The fact that they could be good and aren’t actually makes it worse.

I like sports, and desperate times call for desperate measures, so…

On June 1, with the Kings facing the Blackhawks in Game 7 and a trip to the finals on the line, I declared myself a Los Angeles Kings fan and watched my first hockey game on television from start to finish. The Kings won in overtime in what was an amazing game, and then they went on to win the Stanley Cup. This is one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched. Every game seemed to go to overtime, and you never felt like the Kings were ever out of it. Will I ruin a potential Kings’ dynasty by following them next season? Hell, no. Regular season hockey is boring. The dynasty is safe until next post-season, when I will care again. That’s life on the Bragwagon.

Then on June 5 I started rooting for another team I didn’t care about–the Spurs. They beat the Heat to win the NBA Finals. I know the Spurs are great, but they’re not one of those teams like the old Celtics, Bulls or Lakers where you know something exciting could happen at any moment and so you have to watch them and after a while you dig their style. The Spurs are the sports equivalent of accounting. I’ve never been drawn to them, in spite of their greatness. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And this year we did great things together, the Spurs and me.

I realized last week I was on a roll, so I turned my allegiance to the USA World Cup team. I don’t care about soccer. If I have to choose between non-World Cup soccer and watching “Pretty Little Liars” with my wife, well, we’re going to get to the bottom of who killed Alison DiLaurentis. But I like the World Cup, and I declared Team USA my Team of Destiny, and the Bragwagon rolled on with a win against Ghana.

When my friend Dave asked how come my sports cheering is so bad for Cleveland teams and so good for everyone else, I told him it’s because my sports loyalty is so intense that to be exposed to it for too long causes teams to melt down, like Icarus’s wings when he flew too close to the sun. But my support, received in brief bursts, supplies teams with the extra boost they need to win championships.

If Team USA advances out of Group Play–which would be a championship of sorts for a long-suffering national team–let’s remember amid all of the back-patting and congratulations that the players had something to do with it, too.

- @joedonatelli

Image via FIFA

Is it Good? Tart Restaurant

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter3

I get invited to events because I’m married to one of Los Angeles’s top food, travel and lifestyle writersI’ve also been a lifestyle writer myself. I go to so many restaurants and bars and happenings and have so much to say about these experiences that I’ve decided to start a new feature on this site called “Is it Good?”

“Is it Good?” answers the main question everyone asks when they’ve heard you visited a restaurant or a bar.

They want to know, “Is it Good?”

Then you explain, “Yeah, it’s good.” Or you say, “No, it’s not that good.” Or: “It could be good if…”

Each “Is It Good?” will weight the following factors in a bar or restaurant that are important to me.

They are, in this order:

1. Is the food delicious?
It usually is, but sometimes it isn’t. Generally speaking, the better the view, the worse the food. Bad views generally mean better food. That’s not the deal all the time–you can find places that blend good food and good view–but it does explain why some of the best food in LA is in strip malls.

2. Was my chair comfortable?
This one is huge. I can’t tell you how many meals I have not enjoyed because my chair was uncomfortable. “So,” the PR rep will tell us, “the owner’s wife actually purchased the restaurant’s chairs from a Swedish grade school. Isn’t that eclectic?” No. It’s painful. My spine is in agony. The left side of my face is numb. I’m losing my vision. Just let me lay down on the floor. Restaurant designers and owners operate under the delusion that the people eating their chefs’ million-calorie meals will somehow shrink over time. We’re not all 6-year-old Swedish boys, restaurant people. Some of us need fat-people chairs.

3. How was the booze?
Extra points for good bourbon, whiskey or something spicy.

4. Parking?
Was I able to find parking without circling the block several times while crying into my steering wheel?

5. Did the men’s room offer enough privacy?
How was the urinal spacing? Were there dividers? What was the depth of the dividers? Was there enough privacy to operate with 100 percent efficiency? If there was a #yesallmen, this topic would be my No. 1 concern.

ear-trumpet6. Was the restaurant too loud?
If the waiter has to shout the specials while I hold one of these old-timey listening things in my ear, your restaurant is too loud.

7. How was the staff?
It’s impressive to meet a server who knows EXACTLY how the chef prepares the various dishes. There are a lot of great servers in Los Angeles, and I think this is mainly due to the fact that producers keep giving the same 14 actors all of the good TV and movie roles.

8. Did the establishment try anything new?
Is there a combination of foods, flavors or presentations that makes me want to whip out my phone and annoy my friends on Instagram with another shot of someone else’s dinner?

Let’s get to our first, “Is it Good?”

Recently we were invited to check out Tart, the restaurant adjacent to the Farmer’s Daughter hotel on Fairfax. Chef Nick Erven previewed his summer menu. The food was terrific, and I’m not just saying that because we ate for free and were served several glasses of delicious wine from countries I didn’t know made wine. The big deal for me was that the fried chicken and waffles had Tabasco-infused syrup.

You can’t deny fried chicken and waffles. They’re amazing. But when when every chef in town is doing his or her own “comfort food” menu, how do you stand apart from the crowd? You infuse your syrup with hot sauce, that’s how. The dish was perfect, and it hit every important food group–your hot sauces and liquid sugars and fried meats and ridged breads.

More pics of the food are up on my Instagram page.

tart-wet-wild-pool-warriorsTart had one more surprise for us. My wife and I get out quite a bit because of her job, and we know a lot of the fun things to do in Los Angeles. But for some reason we’d never heard of the Tart Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. As it was explained to us: Anyone who jumps in the adjacent Farmer’s Daughter Hotel pool during brunch gets half off their meal. If you jump in with your phone, the whole meal is free. (It’s not that ludicrous. I’ve owned several phones that would’ve made me money on that deal.)

The jumping into the pool generally occurs after many bottomless mimosas or gigantic “punch” bowls are consumed. In Los Angeles we nonchalantly call such behavior “day drinking,” but in other parts of the country it’s still referred to as, “Jim’s been having a hard time.”

In any case, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard of the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors, so I went online and sure enough…

Via @mrscantz

tart-twitter-mrscantz
Via Pop and Sizzle

tart-popandsizzle

Via Farmer’s Daughter Hotel Facebook page

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter5

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter2

tart-facebook-farmersdaughter4
Via @valentijnhere

tart-instagram-valentijnhere
And KTLA ran a segment on the Wet ‘N Wild Pool Warriors. I would have embedded it, but the pre-roll ad starts playing automatically, and I ain’t down with that.

And so the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Tart: Is it good?

It is.

Tart is good.

It is Tabasco-infused syrup good.

- @joedonatelli

UPDATE: I have been asked on Facebook if we jumped. No. It was dinner, and the half-off deal is for brunch. Plus, it was kind of a fancy press thingy. But we will jump next time we come back for brunch, and I’ll post pics.

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