Random reads: Healthy Chipotle, life-crushing Tweets, astrology, creepy houses

“Chipotle unhealthy!” screamed the headlines this week. As Slate points out, that’s wrong.

Chipotle simply gives you the option of eating a lot of food. And that’s not an option you have to take. You can go for the bowl instead of the burrito, saving you the relatively empty calories of a giant flour tortilla. Or you can have the restraint to eat your speed bump-sized burrito in two servings.

The fillings themselves are pretty good. Meat and beans with a lot of protein. Good vegetables. Nothing wrong with that.

And you can figure out what you’re ingesting with ease. Check the nutrition calculator. Or just read the misleading headlines like Bloomberg’s “Chipotle Doesn’t Care That Burritos Make You Fat.”

Other fun stuff I’ve read this week but didn’t immediately share on Facebook:

– Like everyone else, I read the NYT Magazine piece, “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life,” which should be required reading in high school. The provocative piece leads to a productive discussion that isn’t quite simple. We should be able to respond to stupidity on Twitter, and I’ve often cheered when racist or sexist nonsense is exposed to the light of day. But people like Sacco deserve a bit of forgiveness, and there are other examples in the story of people losing livelihoods over one slip of the virtual tongue.

I don’t agree that we need to be blameless to cast the first stone. But maybe only the blameless can build a solid wall to keep the Saccos of the world out of polite society.

– This one’s scary: The number of Americans who think astrology has some sort of scientific basis is growing. Granted, the situation was worse when Nancy Reagan was in the White House.

– What’s omitted when MP3s and MP4s compress your favorite song or video? Find out with the “ghostly remains” of Suzanne Vega’s classic a cappella tune Tom’s Diner.

– Do “conservatives” in the modern USA typically favor “after-the-fact” solutions that cost more? The examples given here are climate change, health care, education and immigration.

– And finally, the funniest photo collection of the week — inexplicably terrible real estate pictures. I figure some of the houses would appeal to April and Andy on Parks and Rec.

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Top 10 overrated and underrated Saturday Night Live stars on Rolling Stone’s list

With the 40th anniversary celebration of Saturday Night Live coming up, we’re seeing a lot of listicles. Rolling Stone went to extremes, ranking nearly everyone who was ever in the cast.

The best part of the list is that it’s relatively snark-free. Some talented people just don’t get to show their best qualities on SNL. Robert Downey Jr., now a proven commodity in comedy, drama and action films, ranks dead last at No. 141. Randy Quaid (134) was caught in a disastrous season, as were Anthony Michael Hall (112), Janeane Garofalo (102) and Chris Elliott (103). They call Mark McKinney (104) a comedy star in his own right, though they forget to mention why. (Kids in the Hall, in case you were wondering.) It’s curious that they don’t mention the eventual success of Nancy Walls, David Koechner and Laura Kightlinger, all lumped together at 105-110. And Aidy Bryant surely deserves better than being tossed in with “the New Kids” at 81-92. (So does Pete Davidson, but at least it’s his first season.)

They also came up with some underrated people. Tim Kazurinsky (32) was a highlight of some otherwise dubious years. Ana Gasteyer (33) is nicely appreciated.

The choices get tough in the top 20. Every time I try to think of my ultimate SNL cast, I’m left with tough choices. I’m glad they gave Maya Rudolph (18) and Rachel Dratch (16) some respect, and it’s hard to argue against Chris Farley (15), Bill Hader (13), Will Ferrell (12), Dana Carvey (11), Gilda Radner (9), Amy Poehler (8), Phil Hartman (7), Bill Murray (6), Dan Aykroyd (5), Mike Myers (4), Eddie Murphy (2) or John Belushi (1). I might re-order them a little — Carvey and Hartman up, Belushi and Myers slightly down — but that’s nit-picking.

But all lists get a few things wrong. So here we go …


3. Tina Fey: If you combine writing and on-stage work, sure. No question she’s one of the most important people in SNL history. She was also very good on Weekend Update and as Sarah Palin. But strictly as a cast member, can she be ranked ahead of Carvey, Radner, Hartman, etc.? Probably not.

She was good as a host, though:

(Incidentally, that bit alone should’ve saved Noel Wells’ job. But I digress.)

10. Chevy Chase: Almost as good as he thought he was.

14. Kristen Wiig: Really talented, but my goodness, her recurring characters were grating.

17. Adam Sandler: No. Sure, he had some good characters, some of them more subtle than you might think (remember the old married couple of him and Chris Farley). But he deserves a lot of blame for the awful 1994-95 season, where he, Farley and David Spade tried and failed to fill the Phil Hartman void while Chris Elliott, Janeane Garofalo and Mark McKinney were criminally underused.

20. Al Franken: Another one whose writing contributions would put him high on a list of important people. But the original Franken-and-Davis sketches weren’t that great. Good for him for doing some fine Weekend Update appearances and Stuart Smalley, but that’s not enough for the Top 20.

24. Laraine Newman: Just didn’t leave that much of an impression.

27. David Spade: No. Just … no.

42. Don Novello: One Weekend Update character vaults you into the top 50?

45. Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Certainly went on to better things.

51. Pamela Stephenson: Seemed talented. What did she do on the show?

(Also: Paul Shaffer (56)??, Tom Davis (63))


26. Jan Hooks: At the very least, switch her with Newman. I will occasionally say “I am a barfly” for the rest of my life.

28. Seth Meyers: I’d have to say he was the best Weekend Update host. And he had some terrific sketch work.

49. Darrell Hammond: Another of those great utility players like Hartman and Hader.

76. Julia Sweeney: No, she didn’t spend “most of her time playing Pat,” and no, Pat wasn’t an awful character. Better than most of Wiig’s characters.

94. Cheri Oteri: Hell no.

95: Chris Kattan: Such as Mango. And Mr. Peepers, one of the great physical characters on the show.

98. Bobby Moynihan: Not big on recurring characters outside Update, but not the one-note guy they’re implying.

135. Norm Macdonald: Pretty good in sketches and perhaps too fearless on Weekend Update.

138. Victoria Jackson: In real life, she’s practically a socio-religious cult member. On SNL, she was a versatile cast member who didn’t mind making fun of herself.

139. Jim Breuer: Really? Don Novello’s way up there for doing Guido Sarducci, and Breuer gets no respect for the Joe Pesci Show and “Goat Boy”?


– SNL is also getting an app.

– Loved Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “I’ve been perusing the Internet and … um … did I die?”

– Franklin Graham … doesn’t … get it.

Good Onion piece today on swimming with the Miami Dolphins.


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Strange reads du jour: Feb. 9

This might be a regular feature. Or irregular. It’s all the things I would normally share on Facebook but don’t want to do one post at a time because that would overwhelm everyone’s timelines, like my buddies who live-tweet basketball games. (Seriously, stop.)

– A pro wrestling match gone horribly wrong. One guy decided he didn’t want to play along, so the other guy (the same person who ruined Muhammad Ali’s career) beat him to a real-life pulp.

– You’d think the crew at a World Cup skeleton race wouldn’t leave a broom where a rider can hit it head-first.

– Conspiracy Theory with interesting evidence: Stevie Wonder is not blind.

– Conspiracy Theory with mountains of evidence to the contrary: The Beatles didn’t exist.

– Conspiracy Theory or just a serious error: A goalkeeper on loan from one Dutch club to another made a big whoopsie. We’ll have to see whether Ajax takes him back after the loan.

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Real-life Spinal Tap moments

I recently read one of Rick Wakeman’s books, and he tells the story of Alan White inspiring the “stuck in the pod” moment. In a Yes concert, White was indeed stuck in a pod.

That’s No. 1 on this list of Spinal Tap-related commandments, and it overlaps a bit with this list of 11 real-life Spinal Tap moments. (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers getting lost backstage and wandering onto a tennis court may be the highlight.)

Also, this Rob Reiner video explains why a couple of band members had cold sores. All part of a lost subplot.


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The preview for every Blacklist episode

Tonight on an all-new, really confusing episode of The Blacklist 

The information that keeps civilization alive is kept on a black-sited prison that inexplicably houses that information along with the world’s most dangerous criminals. So Red gets inside the prison …

(Insert James Spader quip about Mexican fish or something)

The Alliance that screwed up both Red AND Berlin does all this stuff … wait, what does Lizzie have to do with this? How long was Tom working for Red as well?

What the … Red nearly dies, then gets up and runs the place like he’s an older version of Jack Bauer? And what was the deal with the dude with the apple back in Season 1? Was he working for Fitch? For the Alliance?

(Insert James Spader quip about a girl he knew in middle school)

Why does the FBI screw everything up? Does Ressler do anything right?

And why is Red never telling Lizzie why all of this is so damned important?! At this point, we’re guessing Red and Lizzie are aliens. I mean … WHAT THE …

(Insert Spader quip)

(Also, Red shoots a bunch of people)

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6 Ways to Keep Terrorists From Ruining the World | Cracked.com

Shared this on Facebook, and I’m sharing it again here because it’s brilliant.

6 Ways to Keep Terrorists From Ruining the World | Cracked.com.

Remember when Cracked was just a silly Mad clone? Now its editor writes something that recasts violence not as us against them but all of us against “Team Violence.” David Wong starts by changing the “scoreboard” view of things. It’s no longer, “We kill one, you kill one — we’re even.” If we both kill one, then we’re losing 2-0.

Brilliant. Optimistic. Wonderful. Read.

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Journalism from North Korea: Worth the trade-off?

The AP has what the Washington Post calls the only Western reporter regularly in North Korea — a 53-year-old American named Eric Talmadge. And the Post story sees some pros and cons to the situation.


  • He can throw cold water on rumors like Kim Jong Un being ousted or civilians being ordered to cut their hair like Kim.
  • He can get at least a glimpse of how North Koreans actually live.


  • He’s not able to go near the tough questions of North Korea — the nuclear program, the violent purges, etc.
  • As one skeptic puts it, “AP seems to be afraid of offending its host.”

I’m inclined to go along with Talmadge’s predecessor, Jean H. Lee: “I don’t think you learn very much by not being in the place you’re covering.”

Besides, it’s not as if North Korea is the only outlet that exerts control over the media. Try North Carolina:

What’s best in almost any sort of news coverage is to have a diversity of voices. Some inside, some at a distance. Then let readers (or bloggers) synthesize what they’re seeing. If everyone’s honest, it works. If they’re not, you’ve got bigger problems.

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