Thursday, January 31, 2008

11, 6, And The Usuals

Day 11 of 12 in the books. Today is all about numbers like that, but more so 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

Indeed, tonight was the Season Premiere of "Lost" and if you haven't yet seen it, stop reading here. We watched last season's finale, the Season Three Recap, and the new episode, all in a row. So after having suffered through Charlie's death at least five times tonight, here are the questions/observations, since there definitely weren't many answers:
  • Hurley mentioned "the Oceanic Six". So we have him, Jack, and Kate. Who are the other three?
  • How about (now) Deputy Ops Daniels showing up as super-evil Others guy? He was creepy as hell.
  • We know that last year's flash-forward happened a considerable amount of time after Jack and company got back to L.A. I think we could have guessed that anyways, by the technology and the length of his beard.
  • Why do the boat people just strike me wrong in some way? And not because they're "not Penny's boat;" I feel like they're sort of young or unprofessional.
  • Of course, the two huge questions:
    • How, by the way, did Locke know what Charlie said about "not Penny's boat?" He wasn't on the beach when Desmond reported back and the beach crew never radioed Jack.
    • Who's eye was that in Jacob's house??? (And how could Hurley see Jacob?) My guess: Jack's father. The actor was, in fact, in the credits and I feel like the Christian Shepherd as Jacob theory has some legs.

A Brief Interlude

I feel like I'm on some "Flowers for Algernon"-type descent into sickness. Just took some Nyquil-ish stuff, so this will be short. Just wanted to say that I'm overjoyed that the real Simon was back tonight. Snippy, sarcastic, obnoxious. I missed him from the first few episodes. Obviously the best was the whole "American Juniors" contestant audition, with Simon and Randy being sarcastic and giving the girl what she deserved. However, I'm all about the two big girls who kissed Simon and Randy. The girls could sing as well as anyone and they have to be fan favorites moving forwards.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Principles Are Principles, No Matter The Party

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Got home in time to only basically see the last couple of speeches tonight.
    • Romney is obviously trying to be the Republican Obama. He's talking about himself as the candidate of change and how it's important that the citizens take back Washington. The problem is that his speeches are to Obama's like a Mormon service is to an AME one (I haven't ever been to a Mormon service, but I imagine there isn't much excitement to it). When Obama "preaches", the crowd is rarely silent, calling out and cheering constantly. During Mitt's speech tonight, the crowd very stiffly called out quietly some stupid tag line while the candidate very stiffly looked out over them.
    • Meanwhile, not since Glass Joe and Soda Popinski has a guy named Mac sliced through evil white guys with such power. But have you seen any of his speeches? He may be the worst public speaker I've ever seen at that level. It's hard to imagine getting a big bump out of the convention with this kind of presence. Tonight, the teleprompter was located just above the camera. How do I know? Because he STARED AT IT THE ENTIRE TIME. He's so bad that it's disconcerting.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Did even MC Hammer squander his millions of dollars as completely and fruitlessly as Giuliani did? Can't wait to hear Ehrlich try to explain this one away on the Junkies.
    • I refuse to believe that Jennifer Connelly and Scarlett Johansson are actually Jewish (they both have Jewish mothers). Understandably, there are not too many Jewish women with shiksa appeal. Just leaving it there before I get in lots and lots of trouble.
    • Trying to find a photo from the Romney speech tonight -- every guy behind him seriously looked like a serial killer. I'll keep looking.
  • Daily Rant:
    • Got in an argument today with someone I know who is vehemently pro-Hillary. She said that the only thing Obama is famous for is one great speech at the 2004 convention which she dismissed with a "BFD." She said that he's only smoke and mirrors while Hillary has experience. I'm supporting Obama because I want something as different from what's been in the White House recently as possible. I find it hard to want an America where either a Clinton or Bush has been in the Executive Branch for 36 of the 240 years of the country's history (assuming whoever wins this year stays through to 2016). That doesn't sound like an America for, of, or by The People. The "truth", if there is one, is somewhere in the middle, I'm sure. The argument started though when I said that I couldn't support Clinton after Bill's Jesse Jackson comment on Saturday. The Clinton-supporter dismissed Bill's remarks comparing Obama to Jesse as nothing. Here's the problem though, politics are politics and you have to know that people will find a way to skew anything you say. So why would Clinton say something that could so easily be skewed to show that he's dismissing Obama as "just another Black candidate with no real chance to win". Just the fact that anyone, me included, felt that away lends that view credence. Perception is everything, after all. And can I really support someone, at any time, who I even think may be using race to take down the first legitimate African-American candidate ever? Forget legitimacy, can I support someone who I feel may be using race (or gender, or sexual orientation, or religion, etc.) to take down anyone? So I decided in the wake of Bill's comments (and the Clintons' delay in shutting down Bob Johnson after he may have -- unthinkingly -- appealed to some latent racism by painting Obama as a teen druggie) that for the first time, I couldn't 100% say that I would vote for Hillary if she got the nomination. Maybe 1% of me was leaning towards McCain, because he's been at least honorable so far. For me, that's saying a heck of a lot. But, wait, Giuliani is dropping out of the race tomorrow and endorsing McCain? Ok, forget him. But maybe I wouldn't be so upset if Mike Bloomberg decided to run...

I'm Addicted To "Rehab"

Pretty much ever since they started showing "The Surreal Life", I didn't think I would ever watch a show on VH1 again. I prefer "The Soup" greatly to "Best Week Ever" and everything else on the network is crap. But then came a show that has transcended all other voyeuristic celebrity shows. I gave you "Kid Nation" as the best new show of 2007 and now I give you the next best show that you're not watching -- "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew".

I have no interest in watching very marginal celebrities find some girl that they're going to dump as soon as the cameras stop rolling or getting drunk together and acting stupid. There is major drama, however, in watching them try to better their lives. Jeff Conaway ("Taxi", Grease) is so messed up on cocaine and prescription medication that he has seizures during withdrawal. Daniel Baldwin is such a rehab veteran and in so much denial over his drug abuse that he disrupts everything by trying to play psychologist to everyone else. Mary Carey struggles with the fact that her profession in porn is what is leading her into drug abuse. Another celebrity cries talking about her father's abuse. Another is on video smoking crack. Yet another tells, unapologetically, a story about how he moved his girlfriend (who he thought dead) into the driver's seat after a car accident so she could take the fall for the DUI. All the while, technician Shelly (the secret star of the show) deals out tough love and brutal honesty and Dr. Drew presides over the whole program, getting to the bottom of the patients' addictions and fighting off bad influences like Conaway's girlfriend.

If it sounds like I'm exaggerating the gravity of some "Celebreality" show, I'm not. This one really is that remarkable. Give it a couple of minutes, you'll be hooked.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Super Rescue

Today was the big event and it went off better than expected. The funniest moment may have been when our much-beloved U.S. Senator started her speech to the volunteers by saying, "I'm here to work, not to talk." She then proceeded to speak for longer than anyone else had spoken all day. However, the best story was this:

There is a guy that we shall call "Softball Guy." He's famous for walking around and asking people to join a softball team. Every year, he talks to people for upwards of twenty minutes about this. I've had this discussion a number of times. Today, he walked past and started to speak. I said that I knew he was looking for softball players, but I wasn't going to be able to do it this summer. He started to talk some more and all of a sudden, my cell phone rang. My wife was calling me. It gave me the excuse I needed to walk away and dodge the annoying bullet. My explanation can't possibly do justice to what a lifesaver this phone call was. I really love my wife.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Your Son Needs A Working Actor In His Life

My mom just got back from going to Sundance and said this movie will be the big hit of the festival. She also watched four movies with Quentin Tarantino. Well, he was in the same room. But it was the fact that she saw a serious movie starring Nick Cannon, and loved him, that got me thinking. I wrote about how guilty pleasures shouldn't exist (something I was inspired to believe by a Chuck Klosterman essay), but I know there are some movies that many people hate to admit they like. I'm not going to do a full "Your List Sucks!", but I bet that Drumline is high on the list for a lot of people. I'll log time whenever I flip past it, but I'm not entirely sure why. Is it Nick Cannon? Is it because they're in the same fraternity as I was? Is it because I was in band? Is it because the idea of Petey Pablo is hilarious, much less Petey Pablo performing at a marching band show? Who cares... I like Drumline despite all of its obvious flaws, sort of like a poor man's Eurotrip.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's Friday And I Actually Had S*** To Do

Today was constant go-go-go at work from 8:30 to 5:30 then I had to run home, shower, and change so I could get to synagogue. I was going to write about something in particular today (and a very good talk after services even added to it), but I'm butt tired and I'll have to save it for tomorrow. Since, you know, I only have to work a couple of hours.

In the meantime, check out this great Obama appearance on Letterman.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Buying Our Goodwill

I know I'm exhausted because last night I said I had finished Day Four, but it was only Day Three. It just felt like Day Four. This is why the argument that anyone is too busy to do something small is phony. If you really care, you can always find five minutes. I'm bone-tired, but I'm happy to find a few minutes to write. Here's what's going on today:
  • On the latest episode of "Deal Or No Deal" there was a woman from Georgia (I think) who was the first person in her family to graduate from college, thought you needed a passport to go to California, and needed the money to afford health care so she could have kids. As foreign as that was to me, I might as well have been watching Univision. Plus, going on a game show to afford health coverage? If that's not a sign that the U.S. is behind the world in taking care of our citizens, I don't know what would be.
  • And speaking of taking care of American citizens, I can't let this "send a check to lower- and middle-class families" crap go without strenuous objection. Whether you're fiscally conservative or liberal, this can't make any sense. If you're fiscally conservative, the government spending any kind of money to help the economy is wrong. Adam Smith preached that the market will correct itself and a laissez-faire attitude is necessary. If you're fiscally liberal, you're in favor of the government spending money, but the way they are going about it is not economically practical. If my macroeconomics is right, the whole point is to get cash into the market, forcing an increase in production that will get us out of the recession that we won't technically be in until hindsight says we were (economists don't decide that a period is a recession until a few months of analysis after the period is finished). But there's no guarantee that the people actually will spend the money. Many may, but some might save it because of the mass uncertainty (even worse, "put it under the mattress" -- the term for saving money in a way that won't gain interest). So how can we guarantee that all of the money the government is sending out will be spent? The government can just spend it themselves! I think that FDR knew a little something about this. It worked in the '30s and an effort to spend money on programs that will help everyone would make me, for one, feel a lot better. Call me a fiscal conservative here though -- the government is trying to score political points by paying us off when they're already running a deficit. We'll be paying this back in higher taxes someday and we'll be angry about it. Let the natural economic forces take hold unless we can curtail other types of spending. Like, um, you know, that whole Iraq thing?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

11:30 PM and I've finally finished Day Four of 12 straight days. Right now, most of what's in my head is work statistics. I did happen to watch "American Idol" and the movie The Kingdom tonight. Kind of half-watching "Project Runway" right now.

  • "American Idol" -- One of the worst groups of talent tonight ever. I didn't love anyone, although the brother and sister team were funny. I'm sure I'll root for them in Hollywood. We did finally get a glimpse of the classic Simon tonight. He's been so nice this year, but we did get some good faces and mean words. Simon Face of the Night: When the girl talked about abstinence, you had to isolate on Simon. He turned towards Randy with a look of horror and then started chuckling. We rewound and watched it twice.
  • So far my favorites are the girl who hasn't seen an R-rated movie and the 16-year-old who had vocal paralysis.
  • The Kingdom -- I think I'd compare this movie favorably to a movie like The Recruit. It's well-shot and there are good performances from Jamie Foxx and Jason Bateman. Chris Cooper is sadly underused. The movie is fairly formulaic and the ending is trying to teach the same old lesson about the cycle of violence, but the action scenes are exciting (one scene brings to mind the ambush from Clear and Present Danger). Worth putting on your queue for when you're in the mood for a decent action flick.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1 Out Of 125,000+

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I guess I'm sorry I missed the debate last night. Seems like there were some fireworks. I'm starting to get a little sick of the Clintons' politics.
    • I seriously can't believe I wrote that last sentence.
    • I'm bummed I didn't see Michael Clayton yet after this morning's nominations. I'll revisit those down the road.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I can't wait until the government helps their deficit by sending me a check. How is this a good idea? Even my dog won't give away his bone because he realizes that he won't have a bone.
    • Check out at about 1:10 of this video. The world's greatest living rock star doing the classic Beatles tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.
    • I sat in the worst meeting in recent history today.
  • Daily Rant:
And of course the big news of the day is the death of Heath Ledger. I wrote this on November 27, when Sean Taylor died:
So let's stop the hypocrisy. Either we get worked up over every wrongful death or we get worked up over none. Which would you think is right? The media and public will mourn Taylor for a couple of days. Then, they will discuss what the Redskins need to do. After that, we'll move on to the next news cycle. No discussion about the culture of violence that led to his and so many other deaths.
Substitute "drugs" for "violence" and we're right back there again. I'm sad that Ledger died to the same extent that I'm sad when anyone dies. Maybe I'm a little dismayed because I really liked 10 Things I Hate About You, but I can't, in all good conscience, call myself sad. According to an Associated Press story from 2005, over 125,000 Americans die each year from prescription drug use. There are any number of statistics at the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( We can't treat some people as mere statistics and then be sad over the death of someone else we don't know. 125,000 people. That's three Camden Yards' worth. The official cause of Ledger's death may not be suicide, but, in effect, by abusing drugs that's exactly what it was. So I can't feel but so bad for his death, because I know I don't feel bad when the others happen. It's an ugly truth of ignorance (maybe even intentional), but it's one I have to admit. And so it goes again, as we don't glorify the death of whoever dies of drug use tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We All Have Dreams

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I thought I was a know-it-all. Daniel Baldwin always has something to say about everything on "Celebrity Rehab". He's going to drive me to start drinking.
    • I've been listening to the Duran Duran Greatest Hits CD a lot. Someday I'll make a definitive list of my favorite songs of all time and "Ordinary World" is going to be near the top.
    • Watching "The Corner". I really liked the book and the miniseries is good, but it doesn't quite have the brutal edge of "The Wire". The weird thing is that David Simon used a lot of the same actors in both projects. Imagine Lester, Carchetti's guy, or Cedric's ex-wife as junkies, or Sydnor out on the corner.
    • Steve, I haven't read Steppenwolf, but was the Magic Carpet Ride in it at least cool?
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Still holding off on the book I'm reading until I'm finished.
    • I'm one song away from beating Guitar Hero III on Hard: "Raining Blood" by Slayer. There's a triplet thrash metal part that is flat-out impossible.
    • Today was Day One of twelve straight days of work. Things to keep me going: New "House" and "Lost" episodes next week.
  • Daily Rant:
    • At work, we get a choice between today and Presidents' Day and with a big event this weekend, I had to work today. Not having the day off, I've definitely slept on the real meaning of this holiday. For me, it's all about a celebration of equality and taking the opportunity to think about those for whom the fight for civil rights continues. We can think of Darfur or Iran but, as I've written before, I think of something closer to home. If I were an LGBT group, I'd run commercials tonight calling for equal rights and fair treatment. First of all, it would be interesting to see what controversy it stirred up, and if African-American advocacy groups got angry. Second, it would draw attention to this as a civil rights issue. It's still seen as too much of a fringe cause or non-issue. People need to be aware that there are some in America who do not have equal rights with everyone else. Who knows on what side Dr. King might come down in this fight? Today, is named for the man, but it's about the struggle.

Where Alice got her meat

Allan Melvin passed away last week. His name would probably mean nothing to most people until you learn that he was Sam the Butcher on The Brady Bunch. It's sad when actors in shows I watched as a kid are starting to die. The surprising thing is that he was only in 4 episodes. I feel like he was the only regular non Brady (other than Alice, of course). But to be in only 4 out of 72 episodes is basically nothing.
Speaking of The Brady Bunch, Sunday Morning Countdown did a spoof on E True Hollywood Story. They called it the Espn True Hollywood Story. Basically the story is that Tom Brady is the bastard child of the Brady's. They actually got Barry Williams, Mike Lookiland and Christopher Knight to discuss how Joe Namath was on the set to scout Tom and it was Tom's errant throw that broke Marcia's nose. It was the most clever segment I have ever seen on ESPN. I am hoping they would post it on their website so I can link to it, but as of tonight, I can't find it.

Classic literature book report time: January's selections.
  • In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, was a good read. However, I must say, Capote overuses the comma, a vice which takes getting used to, for some, that is. If he, therefore, could convey an image, one would think, without using so much punctuation, the book could be, at a minimum, 20 pages shorter.
  • Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse (through page 90) - Worst book ever. I guess I just don't get it yet. I am debating whether to put it back on the shelf but I have already committed too much time.

My radio schedule is totally in flux now that Big O and Chad Dukes are moving to daytime. I think I will be spending more time at the office playing with my radio than actually doing work.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Recap

Thanks to a busy weekend and the NFC Championship going so late, I didn't accomplish a good deal of what I wanted to this weekend. However, it was chock full of stuff, so here are some random babbles from the past couple of days:
  • It looks like McCain is the real front-runner. I'm legitimately happy. I'll take him over any of the other GOP candidates in a second, especially after Huckabee followed up his Constitution nonsense with support of people's "right" to fly the Confederate flag and then pulled a Santorum by tacitly comparing gay marriage to pedophilia and bestiality.
  • Still a mess on the Dem side, though I'm getting the feeling that it's Hillary's nomination to lose.
  • Watched The Ten on DVD. It's not nearly as funny as Wet Hot American Summer (how many movies are?), but it has its moments. I especially enjoyed the Y Tu Mama Tambien spoof about Jesus procrastinating on the Rapture.
  • Went to visit my grandmother at her very large retirement community this morning. I learned that there is a retirement community Walk of Shame, as some seniors walk back to their own apartments in the morning. I think I literally doubled over in laughter.
  • I have a very sick feeling that the Giants will get massacred in two weeks. Of course I thought that would happen today too. We get a real Super Bowl of Manning vs. Brady. Here's hoping that Eli channels his brother.
  • Congrats to the very chill TK and Rachel on their "Amazing Race" win. One question: how did they get through all of those airports without their weed being found?
  • And finally... Some serious s*** is going down on "The Wire". Bunk and Jimmy fighting, Lester going nuts, Cedric actually appearing on the show. But the Butchie stuff? Man, just rough to watch... It's going to be fun to see everyone's favorite trenchcoat-wearing, shotgun-toting stickup man bring the war right to Marlo. Fearless Prediction: This is not going to end well for Michael, unfortunately.

U-p-g-r-a-y-e-d-d (giving you a double dose)

There are many things in the world that I just don't get.
1) If a dish washer can both wash and dry dishes, why must I still move my clothing from a washer to a dryer? Seems like a step that I should be able to skip over by now. Perhaps this has already been invented and utilized in Europe or Japan but perhaps not. Since you have nothing else to do, why don't you get on this, Mr. Maytag repairman.
2) Why is "Deal or No Deal" still on the air? It's as if the people from Idiocracy have already taken over. Don't get me wrong, I love dumb shows and movies but this one just takes the cake for mindless. On a related note, since it looks like the strike will be prolonged, how come the networks have not pulled some old game shows out of retirement? I would guess the ratings on Sale of the Century and Classic Concentration would be through the roof as compared to seeing an episode of The Office for the 4th time.
3) What's the deal with the people advertising apartment rentals or tax services by flipping oversized arrows in a hyped up manner? This tactic can't bring in the best and the brightest. Does it have any impact on sales at all? Plus, I feel bad for the people who have to do this for hours on end in the cold weather. I don't really think this job is worth the $7 an hour.
4) If Maryland hoops can beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, what the heck happened against American in College Park? Seems like Gary can only motivate the team when the team wants to be motivated.

Speaking of college hoops, I haven't watched more than 30 minutes of college hoops all season. Between football and pro hoops, my sports mind is currently full. I know UNC is good and I know Georgetown is good. Otherwise, I can't name any other teams in the Top 10. I am hoping that when the March Madness pools start getting filled out, I will be able to dominate the pools based on a lack of knowledge. I got the idea from the SNL skit with Peyton Manning where the office secretary had a perfect score through the second round based on picking teams that used her favorite color or shared a name with a college roommate. I am going to stop using my instinct when I make my selections and use the karma of Phil's mom. On a related note, Tony Kornheiser returns to radio Monday. I can't wait. He is absolutely the best show on free radio.

Horror = Tragedy + Timeliness

I sat there, watching shaky video footage of hundreds flee as famous New York City buildings collapsed into giant clouds of dust. People on the screen screamed in fear and confusion. I'm sure you remember seeing those images on a Tuesday morning just over six years ago. The thing is, this was in January of 2008 and I was watching Cloverfield, the first 9/11 horror movie.

You've seen the trailers: A going-away party is being taped for posterity. During the night, there seems to be some sort of earthquake. As explosions rock the surrounding area, party-goers run outside in time to see the head of the Statue of Liberty flying towards them. A good part of the attraction of this movie is that there was so little information about the plot, and I'm not going to give any more. Cloverfield is a good movie. It takes the style of The Blair Witch Project and adds big CGI effects. It's one of the rare recent movies where one could look around the theater and see people literally sitting on the edge of their seats. The tension is palpable, building constantly throughout the quick 72 minutes of the film. It's well-paced and reasonably well-acted. However, the technical qualities are but one part of the big picture. Taken out of the vacuum of pure cinema, Cloverfield is also profoundly disturbing.

There have been three movies that I can think of that deal with September 11, 2001. United 93, World Trade Center, and Reign Over Me deal with a re-telling of the events or a dramatization of the aftermath. Even the final haunting shot of Munich is an allusion to the actual attack. I haven't seen the first three, specifically because I haven't been sure that I was ready to substitute someone's artistic vision for my own imagery of what happened. It wasn't unlike being hesitant to watch a new film adaptation of one of my favorite books -- I had my own visions that would be completely destroyed if they disagreed with the visions of the filmmaker. I didn't go into the theater today expecting to see a 9/11 movie, exactly because I've only thought of 9/11 movies as these sorts of re-tellings.

Think back to horror movies of the 1950s and '60s. They were all movies like Godzilla or The Blob or Them. These movies dealt with monsters formed by some sort of nuclear accident. People found horror in these films because the threat of nuclear war hung over their everyday lives. Or, better yet, they perceived that the threat did, whether it was actually there or not. Similarly, since that morning, we've lived in fear. Whether or not that fear is rational or justified is immaterial and fodder for political conversations that do nothing to change the fact that the fear exists. Having been shown to be vulnerable on our own soil once, we're afraid that our vulnerabilities will be exploited again. Having seen two of our national landmarks in flames, we fear any repeat. This is the perfect breeding ground for our own kind of monster movies like those that scared our parents.

So, our protagonists are running through Manhattan as a force completely out of their control, with motivations they can't understand, destroys the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and other well-known sites. Smoke fills the streets and the news anchors breathlessly report whatever they can as New Yorkers pray for the cell phone signal that will allow them to check in with loved ones, both inside and outside the area under attack. With this in mind, why haven't any critics that I've seen mentioned 9/11 in conjunction with this movie? Is it because, in their jobs, they're concerned with the technical merits of the film itself? Because they fear drawing controversy upon themselves and their employers?

Our culture and cultural understanding and perceptions are what they are. September 11, 2001 buried fear deep within our society and that fear can be brought out and manipulated by art as art has been capable of doing forever. Cloverfield takes advantage of this fear and that makes it more than just a good movie. It leaves you with a pit in your stomach after you've left the theater, profoundly disturbed, and this makes it art with the sort of emotionally-exploitative genius that stands out as greatness in the big picture of our world.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cards and Chess

I like to write every day, even if I'm tired or don't have much to say. Well, it's 3AM and I'm watching a "To Catch A Predator" marathon. I was at a poker tournament until 2 and then got home and watched "The Soup". Joel McHale and then Chris Hansen? Two of the funniest men on TV!

As for the poker, I've played in this tournament five times with 3rd-, 2nd-, 1st-place finishes and twice chopping 1st- and 2nd-place (like tonight). All cashes. Usually I outplay everyone or just kind of survive until the cash. Tonight, I had to survive a few all-ins. Even with the late hour, it was quite the rush. Tomorrow (later today), we're going to see Cloverfield, so I'll give my thoughts on it after.

I'll leave with the note that Bobby Fischer died this morning. I can't think about him without thinking about one of my favorite (and most underrated) sports movies of all time, Searching For Bobby Fischer. Starring Joe Mantegna, Laurence Fishburne, Joan Allen, and Ben Kingsley, the movie deals with a young boy who seems to be a chess prodigy and the struggle of how to promote his ability while keeping him human. If you haven't seen it, get it when you can.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

There's No Businesses Like Snow or Show Business

With a snowy day that never got that snowy, everything seemed kind of flat today. Gone to sleep obscenely late every night this week, so I'm going to keep this brief and turn in pretty early. So far, I think the best contestant on "Idol" was the last girl from the first night (the one who had never seen an R-rated movie). The one from night two who did a spot-on Britney impersonation was pretty good too. Maybe Simon is being nice because a lot of the people they show seem to be mentally-challenged in some way, but it could also be because the people are nice in the room and then just act retarded when they get out. Definitely true of the glitter girl from Tuesday. And the pimp-ish guy who worshiped Simon reminded me a little, in voice, of the guy who sings the "Elvis Cup" song, for all of you Don and Mike fans.

Defending Gladiator as best movie of the 2000s: Here's the list of Best Picture nominees and winners. I can't find one film I'd re-watch over and over more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Music: Nasty, Bad, and Worse

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Listened to a lot of radio this evening, with long drives to B-more and back. The last song I heard before getting out of the car at home will stick in my head for a while -- "Nasty Boys" by Janet. I can call her that, I'm not that nasty.
    • I made a statement during the drive that "Love Me Two Times" is as close as a group of white guys can get to Muddy Waters. Maybe Stevie Ray Vaughn would have something to say to that (if he was alive), but I think it's pretty close.
    • "American Idol" is back and I'm sure I'll be hitting it more on here as time goes. As disenchanted as I was last season, I am pretty psyched about hearing Simon do his thing. Schadenfreude, baby.
    • Simon's Willem Dafoe line was a classic.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • The first episode of "Idol" dealt with Philadelphia auditions. Why is the guy who plays Ben Franklin everywhere? If the spectrum of Philly representatives peaks at Rocky, I'm putting Faux-Franklin closer to Eric Lindros.
    • I had a conversation a while back with some friends about the best movies of a given decade. Was thinking about it today; here's what comes to mind:
      • 1960s: In The Heat of the Night
      • 1970s: The Godfather
      • 1980s: Platoon
      • 1990s: Schindler's List
      • 2000s: Gladiator
  • Daily Rant:
    • I feel like I had something to rant about, but then I started writing while I was watching "American Idol" and the bad singing fried my brains. I can't remember anything, so I'll try to do better tomorrow. I won't even rant about how the contestants come specifically to overact and get famous for being bad and how the producers buy into that because it gives them good promo material. It's the problem with the show -- it's not close to genuine until they get to the semi-finalists, but when they have the talent level they had last year... You end up despising it by the end.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Impeach Tom Davis, and Other Political Musings

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is alright. It sort of falls flat compared to the movies, but it's worth watching. It's amazing how CGI has made it to TV in the last few years. Small-screen special effects have improved by leaps and bounds.
    • The rest of the night went to the Nevada debate. Clinton and Obama tried to look presidential (and pretty much succeeded) while trying to ignore any legitimacy Edwards may claim. And Edwards pandered and pandered and pandered, trying to prove he was in the race too. I think he failed miserably. I did grow towards Hillary a bit, though she played that al-Qaeda card of which I disapprove so much.
    • Kudos to the Mittster for his decisive win in Michigan, home of Angie and Michael Moore. I really, really liked his remarks in New Hampshire and it should be entertaining to see how the GOP shakes out.
    • I'm holding off until later, but I am reading one of the great books.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Technically, this is something I watched and something I listen to, but I'm sticking it here. I stayed up to watch Letterman last night because Frank Caliendo said he would mention Don and Mike. Check out the 1:53 mark here; Caliendo came through.
    • So Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to more closely echo the word of God? Nice. Can we find a way to get him the nomination?
    • Hillary used the term "green-collared job" to refer to something that would make us less oil-dependent. Who coined that and how can we stop it from ever being said again?
  • Daily Rant:
    • So many choices! Edwards' pandering? Huckabee's integration of Church and State? Nah, this is more timely and has angered me for way longer than the other things.
    • The war in Iraq. The mortgage crisis. Anything that affects any American. These things are important uses of Congress' time. The issue of steroids in baseball is not. Are we best served by Tom Davis getting some camera time and getting to meet his favorite players? We have kids who can't read, veterans living under a bridge (I feel like John Edwards has mentioned this at some point), and people in the millions without healthcare. But a Congressman is using his salary for a witch hunt that nobody cares about. Impeach Tom Davis. He is misrepresenting the people of Virginia and wasting everyone's time and money.

Monday, January 14, 2008

And the winner is...The Golden Globes!!!

Last night, NBC broadcast the announcement of the Golden Globes winners. I would guess that many people skipped watching the show this year after the actors and actresses declined to attend in support of the writers' strike. However, this was the best awards show I have ever watched. It was direct and to the point. It told me exactly what I needed to know, the winners, and that's it. No extra fluff. No medley about who kicked the bucket this year (which would probably be presented by the starts of the The Bucket List). No thanking moms and dads and agents and directors and the Big Guy upstairs. No musical montage starring Bjork or Celine Dion.
Billy Bush and the blond eye candy from Access Hollywood (whose name escapes me) talked for a few seconds about the category, announced the nominees with a short clip of each and then announced the winner. They talked for maybe another minute or two about whether the winner acutally deserved the award and then moved on to the next category. The whole show was done in 60 minutes. Perfect. More shows should use this format.

I did have a few issues with the awards presentation, however.
First of all, I haven't actually heard of several of the movies that won. As an infrequent movie goer, I didn't expect to actually see many of the award winners. However, I should at least have heard something about the movie before the award was presented.
Second, several nominees were in the wrong categories. For example, there were several dramatic performances in comedic categories. I don't get where they draw the line. Even the show hosts seemed a bit puzzled.
Third, the awards for best actor/acress in a comedy is a farce in itself. These shows are all scripted so acting in them is not as challenging as acting in a drama. The comedy award should go to a tandem of actor and writer. Occassionally, there is a character that comes along that actually involves true acting (Adrian Monk from Monk, Shawn Spencer, the lead character in Psych). However, Alec Baldwin does nothing that warrants a nomination so save your praise for someone who deserves it.

Birth order rears its ugly head?

Today, we have a special guest star! Our friend Angie wrote the following rant regarding a post-game interview from one of Sunday's games. No, not the one with T.O. that made Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb throw stuff through their TVs:

Pam Oliver must be an oldest child. That’s the only explanation I can think of. Bad or even simply lazy journalism wouldn’t adequately explain it. I admit that I know nothing about Ms. Oliver. I’m sure I’ve seen her reporting in previous games, but I haven’t really paid attention. Her sideline reporting during Sunday’s Cowboys-Giants game seemed fine. For all I know, she may be considered the Walter Cronkite of sports reporting. But her post-game interview with Eli Manning was ridiculous. From watching lots of these immediate post-game interviews, it seems that the reporter has to be ready with two or three questions, to fill no more than probably two minutes, to try to provide insight into a sixty-minute game. Did she honestly think that the very best third question to ask was “Hey, tough break for older brother, Peyton, huh?” (not a direct quote, but close enough)??

Don’t assume that I don’t like Peyton Manning or that I’m simply an Eli Manning cheerleader. In fact, Peyton is my favorite current player, and I go back and forth in my opinion of Eli. On one hand, he’s still a fairly young quarterback who’s been playing in a tough fan market without a particularly great supporting cast, not to mention the added pressure of being the son and younger brother of not-exactly-crappy NFL quarterbacks. On the other hand, he really hasn’t seemed to perform well enough to live up to the incredible arrogance of a college kid telling an NFL franchise “Don’t bother to draft me without a trade lined up because I won’t ever agree to play for you because you stink so badly” (not to mention the stupid Citizen watch commercial that characterizes him as “unstoppable”). On Sunday, though, he had his third straight more-than-solid performance to lead his team to a road win over the Cowboys – the #1 seed in the NFC, the team that had beaten him twice during the regular season, and the team that gave him his only road loss of the season. He had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. His team had a great defensive stand to hold the lead at the very end of the game. He’s on his way to the conference championship game for the first time in his career. And the only thing you can come up with is to ask about his brother losing earlier in the day? Give me a break.

I understand that the Mannings are a close family and have put themselves out there as a close family, so questions to each brother about the other are fair game. I probably wouldn’t have questioned it if some reporter had asked for a reaction to Peyton’s loss during the longer press availability/Q&A that happens awhile after the game (after the team had a chance to celebrate and whatnot). But during the first, post-game, still-on-the-field interview? No, that’s inappropriate and inexcusable.

I may be preaching to a hostile audience here, since I think most of the likely readers of this blog that I know are the oldest children in their families. As someone who can make an argument for having had the experiences of practically every birth order except oldest (youngest, only, middle), though, let me say something to you oldest children: It’s not always about you. It’s not even always about how the younger sibling compares to you. Sometimes it really is just about the younger sibling. Let Eli have his moment of glory. Eli’s performance and the Giants win was independent of what happened during the earlier game and the celebration of the win should have been, too.

I bet even older brother Peyton would agree with me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Upsetting Sunday

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Two upsets today -- kudos to the Chargers, but I was much more impressed by the Giants. With a banged-up secondary and on the road against a much more skilled opponent who had already beaten them twice during the regular season, they made the plays when they needed to. It helps that their defensive line is so good.
    • "Real Time with Bill Maher" returned on Friday with no writers. The monologue was a little weak, but still a great show. Maher had an interesting diatribe about the writers' strike towards the end.
    • Don't sleep on the fact that "Monk" returned Friday as well with a surprisingly heavy episode. Such an underrated show.
    • Jimmy, what are you doing?
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I'm surprised that Norv Turner did such a great job with LT and Rivers going down. On the Cowboys side, their decision to hire Wade Phillips came home to roost today. The Boys looked very sloppy -- horrible penalties, Romo cracked under the constant pressure late, and they made no adjustments after Umenyiora and company started to set up shop in the Dallas backfield.
    • I saw this while I was watching some show or another one afternoon.
    • The manager of the tire area of the Gaithersburg Costco reminds me an awful lot of Zeke/Mr. Friendly/Tom from "Lost".
  • Daily Rant:
    • What is with the weird verbal crutches by football announcers? Notice how it's almost never "the league" or "the NFL" but "the National Football League"? How the team that beat Dallas today is always "the New York Football Giants"? There haven't been New York Baseball Giants for fifty years. It's bad enough that they all come off as talking heads with not much special to say, but this crap makes them even more indistinguishable from each other.

Drugs, Alcohol, Teen Pregnancy, and Basketball

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" is fantastic. It takes the wacky voyeurism of VH-1's other, crappy shows and adds legitimate drama. Jeff Conaway (Grease, "Taxi") is really f***ed up.
    • Didn't watch much of the Packers game once it became apparent that it would be a blowout. Did watch the whole Pats game. Jacksonville put up a respectable fight. Now it's up to Indy next week.
    • Went to the movies and saw Juno. I can't believe that anyone wouldn't like this movie. It's one of the rare well-made feel-good films in recent years. Hilarious and so well-written, with solid acting all around. Ellen Page's Golden Globe nomination is very well-deserved. Most of the best-written comedies of the last few years have been independent, like Juno: Little Miss Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking (also directed by Jason Reitman), Garden State. This movie is right up there with all of those.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Those two playoff games (and the Wizards' upset over the Celtics) were not the biggest sporting events of the day (for me, at least). It's all about 14-0 #4 Washington State going to Pauley and losing to 15-1 #5 UCLA, despite a crazy 7-for-7 from beyond the arc in the last two minutes to make it close. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love are the truth.
    • This morning, at synagogue, the rabbi made a Martin Luther joke during services. It was actually pretty funny, if only because it was so surprising. You don't hear many people referencing Martin Luther in any way.
  • Your List Sucks!:
    • Top 5 Athletic Performances I've Seen in Person:
      • 5. Kwame Evans against #1 UMass -- Evans scored 32 to lead the Colonials in the school's biggest upset, with President Clinton in the stands. He hit from everywhere and displayed his leadership in the win.
      • 4. Tiger Woods (Summer, 2007) -- Steve and I saw Tiger Woods up close and personal at the Tiger Woods Invitational at Congressional. He didn't do anything spectacular; he was just Tiger Woods playing a few feet in front of us.
      • 3. LeBron James in High School -- James' high school team toured the nation when he was a senior and we went to see him at the best venue for basketball in the country, The Palestra at University of Pennsylvania. He was twice as big as anyone else, three times as fast, and a million times as skilled (particularly with his passing). I never saw Magic play in person, but I imagine it was something like that.
      • 2. Jamal Lewis Sets The (Then) Record -- Before Adrian Peterson broke it this season, Jamal broke Corey Dillon's record of 278 rushing yards in a game with 295 against Cleveland. He was unstoppable -- running guys over and then turning on breakaway speed.
      • 1. Pedro's Masterpiece -- After being suspended for throwing at someone during his prime in Boston, we got the tip that Pedro Martinez would be making his return at Camden Yards and snatched up some tickets. What followed was mind-blowing -- a one-hit shutout with 17 strikeouts. He was so overwhelmingly brilliant that in the bottom of the ninth, all of the fans, including us Orioles ones, were on our feet cheering every pitch. The final swing-and-miss led to one of the larger ovations of which I've been a part.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Interesting point on "Countdown" this week -- Obama ended up getting about the same percentage of the vote as the polls said he would. It seems that a good number of the undecideds (and maybe Edwards supporters) went for Hillary when they got into the booth.
    • This book about pool hustling I'm reading -- quite a crazy world that I didn't know existed. I'll stick with the cards.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • I'll take the four home teams to win this weekend, although I think the Chargers-Colts game will be the one big blowout. The Cowboys are definitely coming off a rough stretch, much like last year. I've been looking forward to Jacksonville-New England for a while.
    • Why do the kids love Ron Paul so much?
  • Daily Rant:
    • Someone said today at work that they support Clinton because we need experience in the White House due to the fact that "we live in a dangerous world." I could feel the emotion welling up in my chest and to calm myself down; I hate that argument with a passion that I don't show many other things. It's an argument for Bush or Giuliani, an argument for fear. Lots of bad things can happen to us every day and terrorism is a really small part of that. Do you worry every day about getting in a car accident? If you worry about terrorism, you should. Heart attack? Stroke? Both extraordinarily more likely than dying in a terrorist attack. I'm not being overly optimistic or naive -- the world is no more dangerous a place than it was on September 10th, 2001. Maybe if you're an Iraqi, you have a better chance of dying. Maybe if you live in certain parts of Africa. But not in Rockville, MD or Santa Fe, New Mexico or Bismarck, North Dakota or anywhere in the United States. Stop being scared, just stop. It was good enough for our parents and grandparents when FDR railed against it -- knee-jerk fear is a sign that you are not thinking for yourself, a plague that has affected all too many Americans over the last six-plus years.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Swear My Wife Did Not Write This Rant

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • Surprisingly, some new episodes on tonight. I guess the networks are trying grab whatever viewers they can at this point so anyone will be watching by February.
    • The new "My Name Is Earl" was the Christmas episode, but I guess that's what they had in the can. Good to see Giovanni Ribisi back.
    • New "CSI:" (kind of boring because it was all about cowboys) and "Grey's Anatomy" (one of the more melodramatic episodes). Kind of blah all around -- I don't know if it's because I'm tired or because I'm not used to network TV at this point. However...
    • 21 days from tonight.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Another crazy work day. I know a little more about what's going on, but still not a ton. Two days behind on "Countdown".
    • Not surprised that Kerry endorsed Obama or that Richardson dropped out. I'm kind of hoping that Edwards follows both things soon.
    • This story is about one Chinese sports anchor, an affair, and a really unfortunate press conference.
  • Daily Rant:
    • Do women look up to Meredith Grey or try to emulate her? She seriously has every quality that men find annoying in women. I'm sure the same can be said in the opposite when it comes to Alex. "Seriously" though... She's really annoying. Nobody's perfect on the show, which I suppose is the point, but couldn't they have one Charlotte?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hail, Hail, The Genghis Here

Had a really, really busy day at work with no chance to find out about news. Then came home and worked until I went out all night. So, other than commenting on the Obama and Clinton speeches from last night -- which I don't feel like doing, so deal with it -- I have nothing to write about besides Mongolian Barbeque.

Who doesn't love ethnic food? It's great to hearken back to the days of the Khans (not the Ricardo Montalban type) when they would celebrate their own Memorial Day by firing up the grill and cooking some burgers! And the Mongolian ribs? They were sure to bring on the Mongolian Itis. Whole societies were spared because the hordes were sleeping the food off. This is actually where the term "spare ribs" comes from.

Pay no attention to the fact that Mongolian Barbeque is actually, like most of our favorite toys, made in Taiwan. But would you rather eat the real thing -- Khorkhog, a Mongolian goat stew cooked over heated rocks? Like our Chinese food that doesn't involve duck feet, we'd rather eat safe ethnic food. We're cool with other cultures as long as there is as little risk as possible. Call it the culinary Sinbad.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Take Nothing For Granite

  • All New Hampshire all the time today. Hillary and Mitt say, "Don't tread on me!" I'm watching about seven hours of coverage on MSNBC tonight -- the following stuff is being written as I watch, but I'm not going so far as to time-stamp it.
  • The polls close at 8:00, and MSNBC won't give any turnout information or exit polling about the candidates until then. In the immortal words of Ryan Reynolds in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle: "But why?" Anyone else remember Election Night, 2000? The networks began calling the swing state, Florida, for not-yet-Nobel-Laureate/Oscar-Winner Al Gore. But the voting hadn't closed in the panhandle. Fox News, anchored by a Bush cousin, made the unprecedented move of granting screen time to the Texas Governor and his family. You know, Fox News, created by Roger Ailes, who was Dubya's father's media consultant during the 1988 election. I don't think MSNBC, or anyone, wants any part of either side of that kind of post-election fallout.
  • Hillary plays underdog. Clinton-friend Dede Myers told Olbermann and Matthews that Hillary was never a front-runner for the nomination. Olbermann and Matthews stammered about it for the next ten minutes.
  • I like when the anchors say that their "decision desk" says it's too close to call. What do you think it looks like behind-the-scenes? A guy sitting with his feet up on a big wood desk that has a plastic sign that reads "Decision Desk". A producer stands there, saying, "Can we?" Guy behind desk: "No." "Can we?" "No."
  • Bailey launches an ill-fated assault on my stash of animal crackers. He sits there, politely, and then unleashes The Surge, attacking my hand. He may have won an elephant or two, but he is suffering bad feelings on the home front.
  • Polls closed at 8. MSNBC and CNN call McCain at 8:10. Sucks to be Romney's staff. He'll still have all of his money. They're going to have to find new jobs. Maybe not yet, but soon, and for the rest of their lives.
  • Right after the call, they go to Romney HQ, where some guy is performing on-stage with a guitar. Reporter Ron Allen ends by saying, "Just some guy playing by himself on the stage." Olbermann snickers and says, "An apt image at this point for the Romney campaign."
  • Enjoy this piece from The New Republic about how crazy Ron Paul really is. Paul says that he was never involved in the newsletter in any way, though the reporter said on "Tucker" yesterday that Paul had spoken at a pro-Secession convention.
  • While still not calling the Democrat side, the Decision Desk did just push an intern towards Chinese over pizza.
  • Let's say you were at a friend's party and you were standing by the snacks, when some guy next to you introduced himself and said his name was Mitt. Wouldn't you just smile and nod and automatically not trust him?
  • Romney speaks and his crowd cheers his second-place finish heartily. "Two silvers," he says. Second place is first loser. But wasn't Billy Carter already the First Loser?
  • Actually a really good speech by Mitt. He did have some language that sounded like he was setting the stage for his departure from the race at some point. And thanks to Howard Dean -- because of him, every time a candidate calls out a list of upcoming states, I literally have to yell "BEYAHH!" out loud.
  • Here's the uncensored Dave Chapelle skit I reference above -- the funniest of the horrible "Lost Episodes".
  • McCain comes out to "Gonna Fly Now" as Ed Rendell attempts to jump through his TV screen. He's coming off as a good guy, humble and grandfatherly. A little senile too, to be fair.
  • And quite wooden, as it continues. He's really not a great speaker.
  • The crowd starts chanting, "Michigan! Michigan!" Can't we take it easy on the poor Ohio State fans after last night?
  • Was this John McCain's Howard Dean moment? Awful, awful speech and very badly misread. Bobby D has a word or three for him. Lots of NSFW stuff tonight.
  • Edwards coming onto the stage to a Chevy ad. It's "This Is Our Country" by John Mellencamp! America isn't too sick of that song.
  • And finally, at 10:30, Hillary is projected the winner. So after two states, nothing is clear for either party. Which is best for everyone.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Germany vs. Gladiators -- My Choice Might Surprise You!

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • We gave the new "American Gladiators" about ten minutes. It's truly awful. Like if there were an "American Gladiators" in the world of Idiocracy, it would be this show.
    • On "Deal Or No Deal" tonight, we found out there is an African-American motocross champion. Motocross champion, President -- I'm sure Abraham Lincoln didn't see this coming!
    • Don and Mike back live today. The awful commute down Montrose was actually bearable.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Remember the "Gary Kasparov Test"? If you think I chose the wrong winner, deal with it! A whole other country agrees with me.
    • Nick Hornby, one of my favorite writers, interviews David Simon, writer of the best show on TV. Planets collide! Simon says some great stuff about Baltimore in here. (Thanks, Louise)
  • Fearless Prediction:
    • Round 2 tomorrow night, worthless Wyoming excluded. The Obama movement continues and McCain becomes the second really legit candidate for the GOP. I think the big story will be the margin of victory, not who won. I have Obama by 10 and McCain by 7. The only threat to that McCain margin is if the independents go all out for the junior Senator from Illinois, which obviously wouldn't be a huge shock.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

College Basketball Game of the Year, For Now

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • I'm glad San Diego won so we get the Jax-Pats next Saturday night. Gates or no, San Diego gets killed in Indy next Sunday.
    • Obama Fever has hit the news. "Chris Matthews" and "Meet The Press" were ga-ga over his performance and predicting his nomination.
    • Reading "Running The Table" by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated. It's a book about pool hustling; the jacket said it's along the lines of "Bringing Down The House" and "Positively Fifth Street", two of my favorites.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Wayne Ellington of UNC is my athlete of the day. 36, including the game-winning trey with 0:00.4 in OT at Clemson. They survive and remain unbeaten. I've seen two of the undefeateds in the last couple of days -- the Heels and Kansas. Memphis has the best chance of remaining unbeaten the longest, but it's absurd to say they'll win out until March.
    • I know I'm lucky to be living on the East Coast of the U.S. because our society is relatively wealthy, peaceful, and technologically-advanced. But don't sleep on the fact that it's ACC country. I don't care what any other conference's fans say -- the ACC is always the best and most exciting.
  • Coming Attractions:
    • I'm working on the grand State Rankings in earnest. Hopefully they'll be ready soon. I went in a bit biased but am using some relatively objective criteria. I pretty much know what the top two will be at this point and they shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An Evening of Matchups

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • "The Soup" last night finished their countdown of the top clips of the year. #1 was funny and I enjoyed the cameo by not-gay, not-dead, not-Chad, but my favorite may have been #10. That was the one from "Real World: Australia" that finished with, "This was a good talk. Good talk." That just kills me for some reason.
    • I haven't seen a whole lot of the Jaguars on TV this year. David Garrard is a man. That run was the stuff of legends.
    • In "Gentleman of the Road", Michael Chabon has a great Afterword that discusses the adventuresome nature of Jews. Very funny.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • Now the Bolts need to win tomorrow so Jacksonville can go to New England for the game we've all been waiting for (well, other than the Indy-New England one).
    • I'm not unhappy with the outcome of the Skins-Seahawks game. Washington-Dallas would have been great, but so will Seattle-Green Bay. However, I will say that I didn't get so worked up for the game. Not much juice in the NFC playoffs for me with the winner not having a shot in hell against the AFC winner.
    • What is Roger Clemens hoping to accomplish with his "60 Minutes" interview tomorrow? Just hide out for the next five years until your induction ceremony.
  • Daily Rant:
    • Did a lot of flipping between the football games and the New Hampshire debates. They're both contests -- I get as much competitive juice from the politics as from the sports, and obviously one is much more important than the other. The irony tonight is that the early debate would have gone better with the last game and vice versa. The Republicans were so contentious; it was delightful. Condescending Old Man McCain, "Let me see how many times I can say 9/11 and/or Ronald Reagan" Giuliani, and Mitt "The Target" Romney. They picked on Mitt pretty badly tonight. If I were a Republican, I'd be pretty unhappy with my choices unless I was an Evangelical -- Huckabee continues to impress. Similarly, the Jags and Steelers went at each other. Tons of fights and trash-talking. The Redskins and Seahawks seemed to have mutual respect. So did the Dems, who jokingly teased each other a little, but mostly were in great spirits. This is why I'm hoping for a two-person race into Super Tuesday (and maybe beyond?) for at least one of the nominations. When we get into the post-Super Bowl, pre-NCAAs doldrums in February, it would be nice to have some way to get our competition fix.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Magic of the Moment

This is the most important political year of my lifetime.

I’m not saying that it’s important that any specific candidate or party wins. No matter who becomes President-elect on the evening of November 4th (which we can at this point narrow down to Clinton, Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain, Obama, or Romney), the process of getting to that day will be the watershed election of the last forty years. Here’s why.

At some point since September 12th, 2001, every American (at least 71%, but I say all) has begun to hate the United States in some way. We may not all use the word “hate”, but that’s what I’m calling it. Others may call it “being ashamed” or “disliking the country’s direction” or “not feeling safe” or “wanting a change in the government”. Same may say they don’t hate the U.S. because to them that means hating the flag or the army, but I specifically use the term “United States” because it could mean that one hates the blue states for what they believe in, or the red states. We have all felt negatively about that which we were raised to love. Every school day, from Kindergarten through 12th Grade, at least those of us who went to public school declared our love for the country each morning. But now we question whether we really want to “pledge allegiance to the Republic, for which it stands” or if we truly are “one nation”. This year, the American people will reap the positives from what this hatred has sown.

It began in earnest on January 3, 2008. Remember this day. According to the Associated Press, approximately 239,000 and 115,000 people participated in the Democrat and Republican portions of the political process in Iowa, respectively. 124,000 Democrats and 88,000 Republicans participated in the last contested elections for each party, in 2004 and 2000, respectively. This turnout could partly be attributed to the fact that neither party has an incumbent President or Vice President as a candidate, but that kind of increase does not happen if people don’t flat out care and people care this year because they want to do away with their hatred.

Will it be Hillary Clinton, the first legitimate female candidate, who represents what Democrats loved about the pre-Bush years? Rudy Giuliani, who was the poster boy for the patriotism and camaraderie we felt on the afternoon of 9/11/2001, good feelings that we have most obviously lost? Mike Huckabee, the Republican who fights for the middle class and lives the honesty and values to which people feel Bush only paid lip service? John McCain, the man who was the alternative to Bush in 2000, who represents a patriotic America and a break from the neo-Cons? Barack Obama, the first legitimate African-American candidate, who has rallied the youth like no candidate since Eugene McCarthy and is seen as the biggest change from the ways of the last eight years? Mitt Romney, who is the rare New England Republican and stands for the classic conservative values of a smaller government?

All of these candidates represent a change from the current administration in some way. People are sick of the direction the country is going, they’ve come to hate the United States in their own way, and they will finally come together to decide the future with a passion that I haven't seen in my thirty-one years.

You may say that the people will never be that fired up; that the political machine in this country is pretty broken, a tool of the elite. I can be pretty cynical myself at times. I even wrote about how it’s the smart way to think. However, the danger of cynicism is that you can depart from reality just as quickly as if you are overly idealistic. Sometimes the world really does work well and you’re only hurting yourself by missing the boat, just as an optimist may be setting themselves up for heartbreak.

So look around, watch and/or read the news, open your mind to the possibilities. In one way or another, the last eight years have been horribly dark for America. We, the people, are ready to put it behind us. We, the people, are ready to love the United States again. We, the people, are ready to work towards that “more perfect union”. We, the people, are making history. This year. Last night. Right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Random Interview: "My High School Years Were Stolen"

Today, we have a special interview with Martin Jameson. Martin is 32 years old, a store owner in Escondido, CA, and graduated as part of the Class of 1993 from Bayside High School in Pacific Palisades, CA. You may recognize the school -- Bayside High was featured in one of TV's earliest reality shows, "Saved By The Bell".

Random Babbles: Thanks for joining us.
Martin Jameson: Thanks for taking the time. I stumbled across your blog and noticed your love for pop culture. I've had to get certain things off of my chest for almost fifteen years and I think this is the right way to go about it.
RB: Then let's get right to it. What do you want to say?
MJ: My high school years were stolen from me. It's really that simple. People say that those are the best years of your life and mine were miserable.
RB: A lot of people hated high school, but--
MJ: No, you're not understanding. I, and hundreds of my classmates, to be honest, didn't have the opportunity to be happy. As far as the administration and teachers were concerned, there were only six students in the school. If your name wasn't Morris, Slater, Powers, Kapowski, Spano, or Turtle, you didn't exist.
RB: It makes sense that the cameras would follow a cross-section of the student body: a rapscallion, a jock, a nerd, a beauty queen, a brain, and a spoiled rich kid.
MJ: This wasn't the show's fault; this was the school. It went down like this. During the summer before my freshman year, the Morris, Powers, and Turtle families moved out to the West Coast from Indianapolis. The cameras had been with them for a year and their parents (along with the Spanos -- Jessie wasn't on camera in Indy, but she and Zack were apparently childhood friends) wanted some Hollywood exposure. Richard Belding, attention-hog to the extreme, came with them as a package deal to become principal of Bayside (RB Note: Many people may not know this history; it's explained here). Everything just went nuts from there. Belding catered so much to them. Kelly had been cool through middle school, but when Zack decided he wanted her... How do you pass up that kind of attention? When Slater’s military father was moved from Berlin to California, the clique was set.
RB: And they were a clique? Totally shutting out everyone else?
MJ: You watched the show. Did you see them socialize outside of the group? Maybe Morris and Slater would pick on some nerds or hit on some new hot student, but that was it, outside of the really weird fight between Jessie and Kelly and some girl named Tori that led to us having two senior proms. And it’s not like I had a date to either one – all of the girls held out that Zack would ask them. Anyway, they were so full of themselves – totally unapproachable. God forbid you try to sit in the middle booth at The Max. They held that thing open at all times in case the important kids decided to come in. Max actually said that to me once. Important.
: And you said Belding just kowtowed to them?
MJ: Non-stop. It may have looked like the Morris crew kept screwing with him, but he really liked it. Anything for camera time. It’s a wonder that he didn’t follow the kids to Cal U after their graduation. I can’t imagine how happy he was when his attempt to get a show to keep filming Bayside succeeded because Sam Powers decided to go back to Bayside to teach. I think they filmed for another six or seven years after we graduated in total.
RB: And Belding’s, um, attention-hogging, as you put it, that’s what you blame for your lost years?
MJ: You wanted to win a school contest? No way. Star in the school play? Not a chance. A contest at The Max? Nope. Those six kids won everything, were given every opportunity to the exclusion of the rest of the school. For Pete's sake, the class time capsule featured only those six kids. And how did they turn out? Even with brains, athletics, whatever, they all tried acting. A bunch of primadonna child stars. Zack and Kelly Morris flit from failed TV show to failed TV show. Lisa Turtle has totally disappeared. A.C. Slater has been the biggest success, what with “Dancing With The Stars” and (laughs) “ESPN Hollywood”. Sam Powers made a sex tape, and Jessie Spano? Poor Jessie… She was on her way to being a doctor or a lawyer and she ended up naked in one of the worst movies of all time.
RB: And you’re a business-owner; happily married; you seem to be leading a good life in the long run. Shouldn’t you be happy?
MJ: Yeah, but you always wonder, “what if,” you know? Could I have starred in the production of Bye-Bye, Birdie? Could I have had a high school sweetheart like Zack and Kelly? Obviously, I’m a bit jealous, but I mostly feel… cheated. I met my wife at UCLA. I’m overjoyed I didn’t go to California University – when Morris, his friends, and their cameras, ended up at the same place with the “Beverly Hills, 90210” kids?
RB: Yeah, after you contacted me, I was talking to a colleague who went to California U and they mentioned getting sexually harassed twice within ten minutes by Screech and Steve Sanders. Whole other story. Thanks for your time again, this has been enlightening. The unknown victims of Hollywood.
MJ: Indeed. This has been cathartic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Random Stuff

  • I don't know if it's because I'm getting old, but I'm having serious problems catching up on sleep. I stayed up past 4 on Monday night watching "Twilight Zone" and got maybe 6 hours. I've been a zombie since.
  • Tomorrow night, I've got Obama (-3) and Huckabee (-15). I'll be watching the coverage on MSNBC, personally. I assume that it will be Matthews and Olbermann leading the way.
  • HBO has begun to put their shows On Demand before they actually air. So I watched the season premiere of "The Wire" tonight. Baltimore's falling apart, Marlo is making his power play, and "McNutty" is truly back. Plus, "Homicide" co-star Clark Johnson is playing a Baltimore Sun editor. I think I'll end up watching it when it airs on Sunday nights though; I've never actually watched it live, only on DVD or downloaded Torrents.
  • Watching Australian "Biggest Loser" on Fox Reality. The channel shows a lot of "Blind Date" (yay!) and a lot of forgettable Fox reality shows (aww!). I kind of wish that they'd run the original "Joe Millionaire". Talk about lightning in a bottle -- that show is one of the underrated reality classics. They did run "Man vs. Beast" though. You might remember it as the show where Carl Lewis referred to a zebra as having a racing prime and the grand finale was a bunch of midgets pulling a plane against an elephant. And we're stuck with "Clash of the Choirs" during this writers' strike?
  • Speaking of, does it surprise anyone that Letterman would hook his staff up while Leno is crossing the picket line? Boycott the douchebag.

My kid beat up your honor student!!!

With just about everything imaginable becoming automated or digitized, one industry remains stuck in the last century - the companies who produce bumper stickers. Today, I was driving behind a car that had a "Bob Dole for President" bumper sticker. After more than 10 years, you'd think that person would have covered up this particular bumper sticker. (Then again, perhaps I was driving behind Bob Dole...)

Jump into the Aughts, Auto Industry!!!

The auto manufacturers could easily create a feature for the back of cars that could be digitized and displayed with LCD bulbs. If bumper stickers were digitized, the messages could be changed at a moment's notice. Think of the possibilities:
  • "Let's go Redskins!!!" could be placed on the back of cars heading to or from Fedex Field.
  • "Back the F up" could be placed on cars who are getting tailed too close.
  • "Student Driver" on the back of all cars with drivers under 18.
  • "Angie Giancarlo for President" for anyone who thinks Angie Giancarlo should be president.
  • "Hey there good looking!" for someone who looks in the rear view mirror and sees a cute girl close behind.
  • "I like big butts and I can not lie, you other brothers can't deny..." for those going through a Sir Mix-a-lot phase in their life.

True, the sudden change of bumper stickers could cause an accident or two just like people who text while driving. However, it would make my drive on the beltway much more entertaining.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome to Aught-8

  • What I'm Watching/Listening To/Reading:
    • DVR-ed a good portion of the "Twilight Zone" marathon on SciFi today. I'm always blown away by how brilliant Rod Serling was. In his case, I don't use that word lightly.
    • I don't follow college football at all. I just happen to hear things on "PTI" or wherever, so I was intrigued to see Hawaii play. It's early in the game, but they don't look like they belong.
    • I'm reading Michael Chabon's latest, "Gentlemen of the Road". Good so far.
    • Nobody writes how men think better than Nick Hornby and nobody writes how Jews think better than Michael Chabon.
  • Random Thoughts/Links:
    • My left hand is becoming a claw from Guitar Hero. Getting better at it though.
    • In my awards, I purposefully left out awards for music, since I pretty much only liked Kanye last year. However, I did forget two -- worst TV show ("A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila") and movie (O, Jerusalem!).
  • Daily Rant:
    • Why do people make New Year's Resolutions? Is it because they're too lazy to try to improve themselves on a perpetual basis? Is it because they don't really want to make the change, so they can just laugh it off as a resolution they knew they weren't going to keep? Is it because they think that everyone else makes them and they want to fit in? I'm kind of intrigued because the thought of having one has never passed through my head. It just seems so phony to decide that you're going to make a change in your life because of some arbitrary date; to me, it's sort of like giving up french fries or something stupid like that for Lent because you have to give up something. Behaviors like these show that people are just paying lip-service to tradition. I'll be one of the first people to say that tradition is important, but only if you really find it meaningful. Nobody finds New Year's Resolutions meaningful. Life's too short to waste it on lying to yourself and everyone around you for appearance's sake. If you're really resolved, make it an everyday thing. People will respect that a lot more anyway. In the meantime, I can't wait until January 16 so I can go to the gym without worrying that it will be overcrowded.