Friday, January 30, 2009

Three Down, Two To Go

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Went to see my third Best Picture nominee tonight, Gus Van Sant's Milk. It's a fine movie. Not spectacular, not the best, just fine. A little uneven in its pace and in some of the visuals. It's better than I'm making it sound -- Sean Penn is fantastic, as is James Franco. Josh Brolin is as good as ever. The second half of the movie is very compelling. It's just that the first part is a bit slow, so the movie doesn't seem cohesive as a whole.
    • I could have mentioned it after watching the episode, but has there ever been a bigger lock to appear on The Soup than when Seacrest sat on Kara's lap?
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • I'm not doing it tonight. Just not. I'm being good.
  • Random Monkey Sighting:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

And They All Come In 100-Calorie Packs, Which Are Great If You're On The Go

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • The most surprising thing during the entire Idol audition round, besides how great the new judge is, had to be the one guy who came in doing schtick and could actually sing. Not only that, but he made it through mostly because his gay joke about Seacrest and Simon actually made the judges laugh. But here's what's no joke -- how did they possibly let the cursing chick from last year back on the air again? All she wants is attention. You're not helping anyone by giving it to her.
    • On Tuesday's The Biggest Loser, they had two celebrity guests. One was Kurt Warner. You know they picked him a year ago because he's such a great guy and you know this past week the producers were thinking, "We are so lucky."
    • The other "celebrity" was celebrity chef Curtis Stone. They looked shocked when he was announced, most likely because when they heard "celebrity chef" they expected it to be someone they had actually heard of. And the guy had a faux-hawk. Seriously. Unless he is actually celebrity soccer player David Beckham from 2007, that's not cool.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • The Pat Quinn indictment watch has begun.
    • If you're a fan of Tony Kornheiser's radio show (which he isn't doing this off-season, sorry to say), you know former Post editor Jeanne McManus and you know she has a sense of humor. So what the hell happened to her in this editorial? You went to the sniper? Really?
  • Monster Matchup:
    • This is a new feature, where we'll analyze two items to see which is the better. Tonight's question: Which is the better cracker -- Triscuit vs. Ritz?
    • This a tough one because they're both great in very different ways. Triscuits are a little healthier, saltier, and grainier. Ritz are buttery, round, and they come in those awesome tube bags. In terms of the health factor, one serving of Triscuits (11 crackers) gives you 120 calories, 5g of fat, and 3g of fiber. One serving of Ritz (4 oz, who knows how many crackers that is -- thanks Nabisco!) comes with 80 calories, 5g of fat, and no fiber. I'm actually a bit surprised that Ritz has fewer calories. But we want to talk about the taste, right? Ritz gives you some cracker options that you can't get elsewhere. You'd never try peanut butter or s'mores on Triscuits. However, I'm a big fan of the wheaty taste. More than anything, this one hinges on one fact: Triscuits don't get soggy in the microwave. That's huge! If I were Bob Harper or Jillian Michaels, I would say, "You can make easy pizzas out of them, you can just melt cheese, or you can have warm salsa." The microwave thing puts them over the top -- the winner is Triscuit!

Well, I Don't Want To Contradict Myself

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • As always, my Lost thoughts below.
    • From Chloe's "I'm a stay-at-home mom" to great acting by Cherry Jones, in going from panicky to in control and back to panicky, to the great fight between the First Gentleman and his secret service agent and so on and so on. It's official: 24 is back.
    • Tonight's American Idol spent the first seven minutes dealing with the Osmond kid. A freaking Osmond kid on a show about undiscovered talent. And I'm not sure that Hugh Laurie gets seven minutes of consecutive face time on his own show. With one night left of the auditions, so far my favorites (and I'll point out that I was on Archuleta from the beginning last year) are the widowed music teacher, the one chick that Simon loved tonight (Megan?), and the last chick that Simon loved tonight (Rose). I'm actually getting pumped for Hollywood week.
    • Sunday's Flight of the Conchords has to have been one of the two or three funniest episodes in the show's run. Usually, it's so dry that you just chuckle every so often. During this one, I was laughing out loud non-stop the entire episode.
    • Keep forgetting to mention that I despise the Volkswagen ad where the guy says at the end that he thinks they were in a car commercial. So freaking jive. It's why I won't do a "best of" post or give myself an award at the end of the year (re-running an essay doesn't count). Once something starts referencing itself for entertainment, you're on a one-way, er, street to Jump Street. Shark Jump Street.
    • Little Known Fact: 21 Shark Jump Street is actually Richard Grieco's home address.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • I worked from home today. The street was so icy that the neighborhood prostitute got two minutes for hooking instead of the usual thirty days. But then President Obama has to go and do this? Dude, lay off, you get to work from home every day.
    • It was so icy that the Russian judge only gave me an extra point for my car having a double axle. The street was so frozen that Arnold Schwarzenegger came by to get off a couple of one-liners. There was so much ice outside that Robert Van Winkle was even shovelling my walk. Well, that's not saying much since he actually mows my lawn during the summer.
  • Lost Comments/Questions For The Week:
    • A weird no-Oceanic-Six-to-be-found episode. We learned a few things, but they brought up a few more questions too. A weird set-up episode like this one that will make a lot more sense later always makes me scared that Lost is like Syriana -- nobody actually gets it, but everyone says they do so they don't look stupid.
    • So Ben didn't go to London last week, he was in L.A. the whole time when he went to see Ms. Hawking (since we're assuming she's Faraday's mother). That means that she was in L.A. working the whole time to find the island. Because Ben knew that he would have to get Jack and company back at some point?
    • We now know something about Widmore's history with the island. He doesn't like taking orders much. Was he always one of the Others or did he join up like Ben did? He did seem to have quite the weakness for Penny when Desmond was talking to him in 2008, even though Penny didn't think he would.
    • If Richard was so in control of the Others, has he always been that link to Jacob? Was he just using Ben and now Locke as figure-heads? Would that surprise anyone?
    • Cool bit with Locke giving 1954 Richard the compass and telling him to visit after Locke is born, which of course Richard did in an earlier episode and tested young Locke with the compass.
    • So I'll piece it together a little from my perspective... The Others bury "Jughead", the hydrogen bomb, which is the famous power source. And it's very likely Faraday that invented the time machine (with some ugly mishaps with his test subjects, such as Teresa Spencer, who may have been the girl Ellie from the island). In fact, it could be his hurting of Teresa that makes him so sensitive to Charlotte's woes.
    • Going by that, does Daniel, or someone else, build the wheel to harness the energy of the bomb? Does Dharma build the Orchid because they know that's where the power is?
    • What the hell does any of that have to do with a bunch of people on a plane from Sydney to Los Angeles that crashed on a tropical island (see my earlier Syriana comment)?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Cussing!

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • I took the on-line contestant test for Jeopardy tonight. I did okay, but I'm sure it wasn't nearly well enough to actually qualify. I got a few difficult ones right, but choked on some easy ones. I couldn't pull that Vivaldi wrote The Four Seasons? Ugh.
    • There's this teen band called Paramore which is total meaningless pop junk, but I kind of dig this song, which is on Guitar Hero: World Tour. Catchy.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • I'm going to show my appreciation for a young man of whom you have heard. There's a fifteen-year-old in L.A. who has decided to start the "No Cussing Club". His parents wrote a book about raising kids in a world that has gotten progressively filthier and so he decided to ask people to stop cussing. I think that's just wonderful. Many would say that not cussing would give those words that much more power, but how can you argue with the below awesome rap video that he made?! Once you watch it, scroll down to see the poem that I wrote to honor his work!

Some people say that you are crazy
However I think you are
Unbelievably awesome!
Too cool!

They think that you are a nerd that
Has taken
Everything too seriously.

For those people, I say that they don't
Understand where you are
Coming from. But I

Up with honor, dignity, and, most importantly,
Proper behavior!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Can't You Set That Monkey Free?

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • None of the big shows until Wednesday night with my viewing companion out of town. I was going to use the time to watch the pilot of Fox's new show Lie to Me, but let's be honest. That's just not going to happen.
    • Instead, watched a good amount of basketball tonight. #8 Marquette is really good. A veteran team that plays in the nation's toughest conference and has a couple of guys who can get to the hoop when they need to? Sounds like a pretty good March recipe to me.
    • You can also take a look at #5 Oklahoma. Arguably the best player in the nation in Blake Griffin and a solid shooter in Willie Warren. They look ready to go on quite a run and a potential Griffin-Hansbrough matchup in the Final Four would be a hell of a thing. And you know what makes me feel old? Jeff Capel coaching against Travis Ford. I was watching those guys play at Duke and Kentucky when I was in high school and college.
    • And yes, I don't care what anyone says, sports counts as pop culture. See: Jordan, Michael.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • The Senate is delaying the digital TV transition by four months. Because a year wasn't enough. "Oh no, we really mean it this time, guys! We're really going to cut you off in four months!" Freaking enablers.
    • Can you imagine what it must be like to live in Illinois? Your governor is a jackass who is skipping his impeachment and making up stupid excuses for things. He's a piercing away from being Dennis Rodman.
  • Random Monkey Sighting:
    • Man, do I hope this monkey got eaten at some point. What a dick!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear President Obama,

I read about the order that you signed late last week to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Many people have used said detention center as a symbol for many of the things that they see are wrong with our country, from torture to the suspension of habeas corpus. I'm sure that you saw Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which gave us a peek into what has gone on there during the Bush presidency. I also read that you signed the order to close the detention center, but not to close the entire naval base. There are a lot of hopes placed upon you for an improved relationship with Cuba and I've already heard some people talk about wanting you to close the whole base in order to show our faith in what will soon be a post-Fidel government. I implore you to not listen to these people and to instead ensure that the naval base at Guantanamo Bay stays open as long as possible.

Mr. President, our national security continues to be of the utmost importance. Even though our economy is currently in tatters, the rest of the world has not yet gone away. There are people all over the world that, even in the wake of your ascendancy and the end of former President Bush's term, still want to hurt us. It's quite possible that this is true in Cuba. We hear all kinds of stories about how Cuba has changed, how they want freedom, how they are not the same Communist country that almost launched nuclear missiles at us just over a quarter of a century ago. However, I find it a distinct possibility that time has not yet healed all of these wounds. It's very likely that, even now, the soldiers at Guantanamo Bay eat breakfast three hundred yards from four thousand Cubans who are trained to kill them.

Yes, there are many domestic issues that require our utmost attention. Yes, our image around the world has been tarnished and we need to do everything we can to repair that. Yes, an opening of communication with Cuba would show a serious change from the administrations before yours and it would show that we are eager to open up diplomatic ties with countries with which we have not recently had good relations.

But, Mr. President, you see, and excuse my passion... Mr. President, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. They have a greater responsibility than many Americans could possibly fathom. These Americans weep for our society, and maybe they curse the marines. They have that luxury. They have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That the death of ideals within our society, while tragic, probably saved lives. And the soldiers' existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to these Americans, saves lives. They don't want the truth because deep down in places they don't talk about at parties, they want them on that wall, they need them on that wall. These soldiers use words like honor, code, loyalty. They use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. Many Americans use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain these soldiers to citizens who rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom that the soldiers provide, and then question the manner in which they provide it. They would rather those Americans just said thank you, and went on their way, Otherwise, I suggest they pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what they think they are entitled to.

So, Mr. President, as you close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, when you hear from citizens who say that the naval base should also be closed? Tell them simply that they can't handle the truth.

A Concerned Citizen

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Point/Counterpoint - The Wrestler

A movie is like a work of art hanging in a two people necessarily see it the same. A few days ago, Josh reviewed The Wrestler. I saw the movie with a few others last night. There are certainly some things that we agree on. For example, Josh thought the acting as superb. I concur that Mickey Rourke should be a near-lock for this year's Best Actor award. I can't think of a single actor who would have been a better fit for the role.

However, there are several things that we, um, also agree on but not for the same reason. He called it "devastating" and "wanted to cry" through the entire movie. I was also devastated and wanted to cry, but only because I just shelled out 20 bucks for that trash. I thought the camera work was notable, but only because I felt noxious every time Randy was moving.


It wasn't until after the movie when I was discussing the picture with others that I saw the true deep meaning of the movie. This movie is a blatant attack on the political system. If it came out before the election, Barack Obama could have used the movie as a campaign platform. For example, he could have explored the following topics:
  • Universal Health care - Had Randy received the proper health care, he may have avoided many of the health issues that arose throughout his career. In particular, a doctor may have foreseen many the symptoms of the heart attack that he suffered following the gruesome "slap" match.
  • Broadband Access - Who still uses payphones these days? I didn't realize that they still existed. If the President increases the accessibility of Internet access, Randy could have emailed his daughter on his GMail account to let her know he would be late. He could have looked up the side effects of bypass surgery on WebMD. He could have set up a vendor account on Amazon to sell the rest of his Randy the Ram videotapes. Additionally, he could have found someone to convert those tapes to DVD.
  • Retirement Planning - If the wrestling federation had taken care of its independent contractors or at least helped them set up a 401k plan, Randy wouldn't have been in a position to still be wrestling at such a late age. Without a nest egg available, he had no choice but to continue wrestling.
  • Unionizing - When Randy was looking at some of his fellow aging wrestlers and their ailments, he should have considering starting a union in order to improve working conditions for the performers.
  • Family Values - Abandoning your children at such an early age is never the right thing to do. It is important for a father to be in a child's life. I don't want to even bring up the abortion topic in this forum.
  • Racism - You take a normal black person and give him a goatee and suddenly he is middle-eastern? Hasn't the country come further than that? Wrestling fans are dumb.
  • Steroids - As Ken Caminiti can tell you, steroids are not the answer. It may make you stronger now but they are bad for you in the long run. The Obama administration should make more of an effort than past administrations to ban all of these performance enhancers.

I could only describe Marissa Tomei's performance in this movie as titillating. Two things about her stuck out to me, but I can't put my hands on it. She should totally win Breast Supporting Actress for her role. (Ok, I am now done being an immature 12 year-old).

The one thing I did enjoy about the movie was the availability of story lines for "The Wrestler 2 - Back in Training".

  • Who wins the match between Randy and The Ayatollah?
  • How did Randy catch up to Pam and woo her into his life?
  • Does she quit her job at the strip club?
  • Does Pam's son grow up to be a wrestler?

In summary, if Rotten Tomatoes gives this movie a 98% rating, count the 6 of us who saw it last night in the 2% minority.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Did She Not Know What She Said???

A busy day and a busy evening after a very busy, long, sleep-derived, and joyous week. So, here's my favorite clip from The Soup tonight, as the relationship between Barack and Michelle is discussed. Remember the "terrorist fist jab"? Yikes...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ram, Bam, Silverman

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Forgot a couple of things last night. First off, I went Monday to see The Wrestler, the Darren Aronofsky film starring Oscar-nominees Mickey Rourke (a lock winner for Best Actor) and Marisa Tomei. I've heaped praise on Wall-E all year, calling it better than Slumdog Millionaire and Benjamin Button. I still think that it will shake out as the most influential movie of 2008. However, The Wrestler is the best movie of the year. There is only one word to describe it: devastating. I've written about the wrestling documentary Beyond The Mat before and The Wrestler uses a lot of the same camera techniques and touches on a lot of the same themes. In fact, as depressing as Aronofsky's film is, it's even more so if you've seen the real life footage from the documentary. It shows you how true The Wrestler actually is. I seriously felt like I just wanted to cry throughout the whole movie. I know that doesn't sound like great motivation to see it, but it's worth it. The camera work is great, the acting is superb, the story is compelling. I'm ticked that Wall-E didn't get a Best Picture nod (does The Reader actually have any chance?), but I'm shocked that The Wrestler, which at 98% had the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating of any Oscar contender, was snubbed.
    • I also left out one big Lost thought. Do you think that the whispers heard on the island are the voices of people jumping around in time? Faraday said that nobody could hear Sawyer and the gang, so it makes sense. And speaking of Daniel, was he the same age back in the Dharma time or, as a co-worker posited today, was he simply there because he was jumping around in time? What does that then say about Richard?
    • You give me Estrada or Nada?, Erik Estrada dancing, a collie with a top hat, and a bunch of Jewish jokes, and I'll watch your show any time.
    • Is Izzie Stevens actually dying? Please say yes! Also, now that Bailey freaked out and tried to break the rules, how many of the remaining doctors would actually still be employed in a real hospital? Are we really down to just Derek Shepherd?
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • The hits just keep on coming. I was hanging out with a friend tonight who is fairly conservative. We were talking about the inauguration and about Obama's actions in his first day or two. My friend told me, unsolicited, that while he's been proud of a lot of things in his life, he can finally say that he's proud to be an American.
    • Still not in a hating mood. Yet.
  • Video Of The Day:
    • Well, it aired a couple of days ago. But the Hitler line kills me!

Who Is Daniel Farraday?

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • As always, my Lost thoughts below.
    • You can make fun of 24 a lot and there were some questionable things in this week's episode (Who doesn't recognize the president's husband walking through an apartment building?), but you have to agree that the ending was damn compelling.
    • Heard about this on the Mike O'Meara show today. Check out this music video. Yes, the animation is disturbing, but if you're an American Idol fan, you will recognize the chorus. You'll probably be as surprised as I was that it's an actual song.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • Someone commented on the title of yesterday's post, "Closure". I had written so much about how Obama's election was just the beginning of the movement to fix our country, but now I was calling it the end of something. It's true. I meant closure on the campaign and all of the work, but it is still the beginning. And it just keeps getting more and more fun. As I read and heard about all he had done today, I started drooling like Homer Simpson looking at a donut. Drafting the closing of Gitmo. Moving up the withdrawal from Iraq. Freezing senior staff salaries. Tightening up the lobbyist rules. Telling government agencies that they had better improve their transparency. Freezing or reversing executive orders on off-shore drilling, the prohibition of aid to foreign fertility clinics that even think about abortion, a ban on stem-cell research, and the use of extreme interrogation techniques. It's actually happening. I'm like a kid in a candy store. I'd love to find something in the world to hate on right now, but I just can't.
    • Speaking of, I haven't spoken with or heard from one person who had a bad experience downtown yesterday. I'm sure it happened, but it seems like everyone had a wonderful and memorable time.
  • Lost Comments/Questions For The Week:
    • Obviously, they were able to get into the chamber at some point, because there was the elevator to it from the Orchid and Ben used it to "move" the island. So did opening that chamber cause the catastrophe that the doctor spoke about in those orientation films? And how old is Farraday or has he jumped around in time? If so, is he like Richard? He did have the same problem that Desmond did with living in two times at once.
    • Therefore, the white flash from when the island "moves" has to be related to the white flash from when Desmond turned the key. But the island stayed exactly the same both times that Desmond had to turn it. I'm guessing that whatever energy was inside that room built to an unbearable pressure every 108 minutes.
    • Why does John have to die in order for the Oceanic Six to come back?
    • Why, of course, does them coming back have anything to do with anything?
    • Why didn't the Others jump in time the way that Sawyer, Locke, and company did?
    • The woman that Ben was talking to towards the end was the same woman who, during Desmond's initial time travel (after the hatch explosion), knew who he was and told him he had to go to the island. I'm going to go ahead and assume that she is Farraday's mother and that Desmond needs to find her. Something to do with Farraday and his ability to go back to the island after leaving, I suppose?
    • So, building on that, what if Farraday broke into the chamber, causing whatever Dharma catastrophe, and turned that wheel to see what it was? He'd have to leave and now he's come back (though almost twenty years later and still looking the same, which doesn't make sense). The wheel being hidden/protected must mean that the island was built by people at some point. Maybe, either when Farraday turned it or another time, it jumped to before it was made and the Black Rock happened to be sailing right through that area, which is why it's randomly in the middle of the island? Still, who would have built the island and why? And how?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Went to the Mall today, one of two million people who showed up to help usher in a "new era of responsibility". It was very cold, but it could have been colder and we made sure to layer like crazy. I had on seven layers, like a taco. Or the beaver from that Primus song. It was extraordinarily crowded, but weirdly enough it wasn't overwhelming. It felt right to share the moment with so many people. It added so much to the experience. There was a little bit of ugliness (the first sight of Cheney in a wheelchair brought an immediate reaction of laughter from the crowd and Bush was booed soundly), but overall the city and the federal government did a fantastic job of controlling the crowd, getting people in and out of the area, and making sure people felt welcomed and energized.

So, fifty-three months after the 2004 convention keynote address, fifty-two months after we got an autographed picture of State Senator Obama as a wedding gift from a friend, just less than two years since we watched the announcement on the steps of the old statehouse in Springfield, just over one year since Iowa, after going door-to-door in Rockville and Philadelphia and Manassas and Woodbridge, after attending a 13,000-person rally in Baltimore and an 80,000-person rally in Virginia, after following politics religiously -- DVRing every episode of Countdown and Meet The Press and Bill Maher and more -- for a year, after talking to my friends and family about my belief in the candidate, after living and dying with every twist and turn and interview... After all of that, it's come to this:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let There Be Light

Whenever a particle A exerts a force on another particle B, B simultaneously
exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The
strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the
same line. -- Newton's Third Law

This law is often simplified into the sentence, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

We sit on the eve of one of the most extraordinary days in American history. It's not often that we know, going into a day, that it will be talked about in history books for as long as America exists. Millions of people, me included, will fill Washington -- to see the spectacle, to be a part of the occasion, but most of all to celebrate the remarkable ascension of our country's first African-American president. But that's not the whole story, is it? It's not just the historical implications of a black president, much less one named Barack Hussein Obama. Obama has inspired the nation, leading to an unprecedented 79% of the country saying they are optimistic for his presidency in the final CBS poll, including 59% of Republicans.

So for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? Has the country been so inspired by Obama because he's a brilliant orator? Because he's unflinching under the immense pressure he must face every day? Not a chance. Americans are only inspired because there is some huge obstacle to overcome. We are only immensely hopeful because we have an immensely deep hole from which to rise. That hole's name is George W. Bush.

The joke is that Dubya was such a bad president that Americans were okay with a black president. In reality, his executive putrescence led to Americans actually getting off their collective ass and wanting to do something about it. We didn't just sit idly by and enjoy Obama's speeches, we were ready to work to make a better country. It's why he raised so much more money from so many more donors than ever before. It's why the streets were lousy with Obama volunteers in the weeks leading up to November 4. It's why even today, a day that Congress named a National Day of Service in 1994, people actually did service. I visited two different sites today, the larger one being a conference center in North Bethesda. They anticipated having two thousand volunteers and I wouldn't be surprised if they had surpassed that. When we arrived, three tour buses (the official vehicle of the DC area right now is the tour bus) were just leaving. Even so, the massive ballroom was packed with people of all different ages and races. There were somewhere around sixty different tables with activities plus a very long line to make sandwiches and pack lunches for the needy. We ended up writing letters to soldiers and putting them into donated books to send overseas.

President Bush has done a lot of horrible things to our country. He fought to disenfranchise voters in order to get elected. The use of torture has hurt our country in ways from which we will never be able to recover. His cronyism helped lead to the destruction of one of our most vibrant cities. Many of the aforementioned soldiers would not be abroad if it weren't for a ridiculous war. Bush is responsible for all this and so much more. On the day after the Iowa caucuses (how long ago does that feel?!), I wrote about the darkness of the last eight years and how people will look to overcome that and move on with righting the nation's path. As I write this, there are about fourteen hours left in the Bush presidency. Fourteen short hours after eight long, long years.

These have been eight years (more if you go back to the Florida fiasco) of action that have produced a spectacular, historic reaction. There are two sides to this thing. I'm choosing to focus on the positive. So, on the eve of the most anticipated presidential inauguration in history, on the eve of a day that will be remembered as long as our country exists, I can say that for the first time in eight years, two months, and thirteen days, I am finally proud to be an American.


Not much to say tonight, other than I'm a bit bummed over the Ravens loss. Not super bummed, mind you. They were obviously not the best team on the field tonight. It almost would have been easier if Pittsburgh had just blown them out, the way it looked like the game would go from the first quarter. But, they had to give us just a little bit of hope... Regardless, they had a great season and have a lot to build on.

And it's really hard to be bummed about anything this weekend.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Good Morning America, How Are Ya?

Ventured into the District tonight to have dinner in Adams Morgan. To be honest, I wanted to go to Georgetown originally, but I didn't have the guts to brave it. Adams Morgan wasn't horribly crowded, though there were a number of tour buses driving around. And there were some tour buses along Connecticut Avenue going into the city. And some parked at a motel in Gaithersburg, ten miles outside of the city. People from all over the country are descending on D.C. this weekend to be a part of something special. It's all summed up in the Yahoo headline I just saw: "Obama rides the rails to DC, packing nation's hope." Fantastic. So, as Obama today rode his "magic carpet made of steel" from Philadelphia, birth of our nation's independence, to Washington for the most-anticipated Inauguration in our nation's history, we reflect on the place of trains in Americana.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Go In Pieces

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Here's a link to the trailer I referenced yesterday, for the 1990 movie, I Come In Peace (Dark Angel in the UK). You may have thought it was already great, but, believe it or not, the good alien in this movie is none other than ESPN's Jay Bilas. Seriously. Here's the imdb page if you're skeptical. Unfortunately, I Come In Peace isn't available on Netflix. I may have to go on a quest to find it.
    • Going back to a post and comments from the end of 2008, I was in the car tonight listening to the '80s station when Toto's "Africa" come on. My immediate reaction was, "That's my s***!" I am so white.
    • Tonight's The Soup included three of the junior account executives from Mad Men, along with Levar Burton, screaming "It's Miley!" Awesome.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • We all love Cal Ripken. Who doesn't love Cal Ripken? But when the thermometer in my car is wearing Cal Ripken's number? Yikes.
  • Random Monkey Sighting:
    • I am always scouring the internets, searching for the best monkey news and clips. Here is one that has been making the rounds of a chimp riding a segway. From Japanese TV (shocker!). There is also a version that involves a weird, cheesy song about a chimp riding a segway, but I do not endorse that version.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Still No Sign Of Larry Wilcox

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • You know what's so great about the writing on My Name Is Earl? Tonight, they had a game show called Estrada or Nada? where the contestant competes against Eric Estrada in any activity of their choosing. That's funny enough, but the best part is that Estrada never appeared on the Earl episode except for in the ad for the fake show. No cheesy cameo, just the build-up of a game show about Erik Estrada. Instead, they had the fake show's host, Brian Dunkleman. With Idol fever starting back up again this week, not much is funnier than just the sheer concept of Brian Dunkleman.
    • Thanks to On Demand, I caught the season premiere of Flight of the Conchords tonight. It doesn't air until Sunday night. It's one of the funniest shows on TV, but if you have HBO and don't know that then I'm very sorry for you. I was also able to catch, also three days early, the series premiere of Showtime's United States of Tara. It's created by Spielberg (just like Tiny Toons was!) and star Toni Collette is brilliant, as usual, as a mother with multiple personality disorder. Unfortunately, HBO did not also offer an early peek at Big Love.
    • Grey's, no matter how good Eric Dane continues to be, makes me groan every time Denny appears. If this doesn't end with guest appearances by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, I'm not going to be happy.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • You know the story by now. Plane hits flock of birds. Plane crashes. Pilot brings it down safely in the Hudson river. Everyone survives. I'm not sure that even Baloo could have done that well.
  • Random Old Actor Trivia Alert!:
    • I'm currently guest-starring on a TV show that no man would ever watch of their own volition. I don't look anything like I did when I was (sort of) famous because I must have aged a century since then. I was one of the first stars of HBO. I appeared in the greatest video trailer of all time (and presumably in the movie, as well, if anyone ever saw it). Who am I?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Which I Take Exception To One Of Obama's Positions

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • Okay, so I posted last night before the show, which is why there was nothing about the contestant that the Post's Lisa DeMoraes aptly named "Nasal Bikini Babe". There's nothing to say. She stunk and Simon put her through as a lark (as the Brits say).
    • Overall though, it looks like tonight there was some fantastic talent. Any number of people, from the last contest with the tornado story to the widower music teacher (who is already the fan favorite in this household, and probably many others), were better than anyone from last night. I can peg at least four or five people that could be finalists. One of the best audition episodes I can remember.
    • That being said, there's been a lot of discussion about the show toning down on the freaks and on Simon being needlessly mean. I think there's going to be a bit of an outcry over Idol exploiting the kid who was wearing his elementary school medal, who seemed to be challenged in some way.
    • If you get a chance, find Neil Patrick Harris' monologue on this past week's SNL. His impeccable timing and a gay joke to boot. He's awesome.
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • Ready? I'm already disagreeing with something that Obama is doing and he's not even president yet. This digital TV thing -- they've been warning us (well, not us, those people without cable) for a freaking year about it. I remember thinking last February that they were starting way too early. So, no, people don't need more time. If they waited this long, why would any more time help them at all? You need to feed them a helping of static and then they'll finally get of their asses.
  • Your List Sucks!: This list would suck.
    • I'd been pondering about whether or not to do some sort of list around Bush's presidency, like the five (or more) worst things in the last eight years. I thought a bit about it today while taking a poll. Iraq? Torture? Upon seeing the options, it's not a choice. The single worst thing that happened under Bush was the mishandling of Katrina. Period. He probably couldn't have done anything to prevent 9/11, but Katrina was worse than 9/11 anyway. It was. He stood/flew by as an American city was destroyed and then he took it lightly. It's one of the worst things to happen under any president. No list necessary.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Return of Simon, Randy, And That Other Judge

Coming in new for 2009 (this is where Flava Flav says, "Yeeeeeah, boyyeeeeee"), I'm going with the same general format as before, but with a few minor changes to build the all-important brand. Generally, we'll have some sort of pop culture analysis, some sort of rant or monologue, and then some sort of special feature.

  • Random Pop Culture:
    • We all secretly hate and love American Idol, right? It kind of sucks but we're hanging on every moment. We care that it sucks. It's cheesy as hell, but, for instance, how great was that home video at the beginning of the screaming girls? So, we begin another year with a younger, hotter judge ready to kick Paula the hell out.
    • We do have a lot to look forwards to, with an extended Hollywood round. I think that's actually the best part of the show, because the (relative) cream rises to the top and you get to know the finalists, so they're not just springing them on you randomly like they did with Catherine McPhee or David Cook. Plus, we know we're not seeing everything in these first few shows (so there's not much to comment on for right now).
  • Random Hatred And/Or Love:
    • I fully endorse the National Safety Council's push to ban cell phone use entirely while driving. No phone, no hands-free, just do it like a band-aid, one motion -- right off! If it's really as or more dangerous to use a phone in any way as it is to drive drunk, we just shouldn't be doing it. I know it may be inconvenient, but I think we can make do somehow. I use the cell-phone a lot while I'm driving and I think I'm a great driver (while I'm in the United States) but I'm willing to give it up to make the roads safer. It's just a matter of changing our mindset to where we'd no sooner make a call than get behind the wheel after three beers. It's possible and it might even help our stress levels as well.
  • The Mini-Random Interview: Tony Gwynn:
    • With Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice having been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we turned to a recent Hall of Fame inductee for his thoughts on the Hall.
    • Random Babbles: Mr. Gwynn, it really is a pleasure to welcome such a great player. A guy who stayed with one team his whole career and who hit like nobody since Ted Williams. Welcome.
    • Tony Gwynn: Thanks, it's great to be here.
    • RB: So, Rickey was a no-brainer, right? Greatest leadoff hitter ever. But Jim Rice, who was a very good power hitter and a former MVP, had to wait fifteen years to get in. Amazing that the voters came through for him.
    • TG: You know, I played with Rickey Henderson on the Padres twice, once in 1996 and once in 2001. He was a crazy dude. I remember him in Spring Training in 2001. It was March 14. I woke up at 7 A.M. and grabbed a waffle with some canteloupe and a protein shake for breakfast. At 10:32AM, during some time when we were just shagging flies, Rickey walked over to me and said, "Hey, Rickey remembers playing with a guy just like you around five years ago. Here in San Diego, chubby dude, talked like he was white. Rickey thought he was the greatest hitter Rickey had ever seen."
    • RB: Nice. Any Jim Rice stories?
    • TG: No, he was with Boston his whole career. Different league and no interleague back then. Only played the American League once during my career, in 1984, when Detroit beat us in the World Series.
    • RB: Yeah, well Rice is sort of questionable anyway. Surly guy, probably lowers the bar a little for future sluggers. He definitely didn't do anything as well as Henderson stole bases.
    • TG: Hey, I'll tell you what. Did you know I stole fifty-six bases back in 1987? I had been doing a lot of speed training during the offseason. My routine was that I would wake up at 7 A.M. I'd grab a breakfast of grapefruit, pancakes, and sausage. I'd eat until 7:45 A.M., reading the newspaper. Take a shower, shave, and around 8:13 A.M., I'd be ready to go lift some weights. Now, at that point, I was focusing on my legs, since I knew that I like to choke up on the bat to get hits and therefore wouldn't focus much on power. I had watched a lot of videotapes -- shoot, my wife almost left me because I watch videotape during her birthday and our anniversary -- and seen that pitchers were disrespecting me, even though I had stolen thirty-seven bases the year before.
    • RB: Great, thank you for your time.
    • TG: No, wait, I'm not done.
    • RB: This is supposed to be a mini-interview --
    • TG: So, promptly at 10 A.M., I'd be done with a round of weights and ready to do some sprints. I'd go ten lengths of a football field and then do twenty shuttle runs to help build some explosiveness. This really helped, for instance, on June 4, 1987. We were playing a game at Montreal. We threw out Dave Dravecky and they answered with Floyd Youmans. I went four for five in that one with a double. I remember there were something like 13,677 people in the crowd to see it. I was fast as a devil, I tell you. In the seventh, I got an infield single. I noticed that their catcher, Mike Fitzgerald, wasn't really concerned with me even though the Expos only had a one-run lead. So -- and the game was only two hour and forty-two minutes, so this must have been an hour and forty minutes in -- I get a nice lead and steal second. Kruk walks behind me and we -- I mean, even Kruk could steal on Youmans and Fitzgerald -- pull off a double steal and I grab third. Benny Santiago stranded me there, but that was two stolen bases off of an infield hit. Not bad. And that wasn't even the only time I had two stolen bases in a game that year! Let me tell you about June 20... (Gwynn proceeds to go on as I walk away, shaking my head.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

24 Season Premiere Finale: Jack And Tony Sitting In A Tree

The 24 season premiere ended tonight. Here are some thoughts on part two:
  • You had to know Tony wasn't actually bad, right? I said it to my wife last night while watching, just didn't put it in my post.
  • No surprise that Bill and Chloe are floating around, but don't we already have a Chloe this season? Actually, don't we already have a female and a male Chloe this season?
  • And who exactly is financing this whole Bill and Chloe thing? Is Bill like a Wilton Knight, or is he the Devon Miles of the operation and there's a Wilton Knight above him? Yes, I had to look those names up to be sure.
  • Even more bad D.C. stuff aside (only two people near the Tidal Basin around lunch time?!), you have to give the producers a lot of credit for salvaging what looked to be unsalvagable. They've reinvented the show to some extent and it's actually pretty enjoyable again.
  • So, to set up the rest of the season, you have the F.B.I. chasing down the small conspiracy of former government agents who is chasing down the big conspiracy of current government agents. Both of the key field agents, Bauer and Almeida, have died at least one time each and been brought back to life (at least twice in Jack's case).
  • Edgar? Still dead.
Back to our regular format tomorrow as the post-holidays TV season swings back into near-full-speed with the return of the other show we all love to hate, American Idol.

24: The Quality Might Surprise You

I'm not saying that the 24 premiere was great, by any means, nor that it comes anywhere close to approaching the show's best moments. Judging by the end of last season, it was a bit better. It's nice to have at least one familiar face back (no matter how quickly and poorly they tried to explain away his return) and the action was good enough to make up for other deficiencies. I'll keep watching, but it may be down to my fourth favorite show on Fox, after House, Idol, and Terminator. Maybe it's about equal with Terminator. I don't know if Los Angeles residents had major problems with 24's use of the region, other than the bizarre lack of traffic, but if they're going to use D.C., I'm going to call foul on two very obvious mistakes they made. First, in the opening scene the guy about to be kidnapped gets a call on his cell phone while driving, and picks it up. The hands-free law in D.C. is pretty clear and heavily enforced, so that wouldn't happen. Second, FBI tech Billy Walsh (or whatever his name is, I'll just refer to him as Walsh from Entourage) said that the office they were looking for was at something like 200 Naylor Road, Suite 300. No "Northwest" or "Southeast". Whoops. Otherwise, we probably could have down without the neocon BS about the importance of torture at the beginning.

Football-wise, both games today were fairly one-sided. I wasn't surprised to see Philly win; I don't think anyone was. I was a little surprised by how good the Steelers looked offensively. I don't think they'll be able to do that against the Ravens, but I'd rather they have stunk it up. Should be one heck of a game next Sunday and you have to think that the winner of that will be a huge favorite in the Super Bowl.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night

Saturday thoughts:
  • I probably messed up on the best scene of the year when I picked the opening bit from Wall-E. That's not even really the best scene in the movie, which would be the love scene where Wall-E and Eve are flying through space. Beautiful.
  • Went to see Benjamin Button today. It's really long, but it's very good. The acting is great and the frame story is a bit chilling because of its setting, leading to a last shot that is pretty creepy. More than anything, I can tell you this -- if you're in an Oscar pool this year and you have to pick Best Makeup Effects, I can guarantee this one will win. They shouldn't even bother nominating any other movie.
  • When I reviewed Valkyrie, I gave my list of the directors whose movies I would immediately go see for no other reason than their direction. Valkyrie's Bryan Singer was on that list, along with Benjamin Button's David Fincher. It's a bit more mainstream than Fincher usually makes, but it's just as dark as any of his others.
  • Speaking of, I think I may have to consider adding Christopher Nolan to the list. He doesn't necessarily get the props for being as original as Shyamalan or as artistic as Cuaron, but he just cranks out great movies. Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight. Not bad.
  • Movies out of the way, have to get to football, right? What can you say about the Ravens today? They may have been lucky to win, but they did make big plays when they needed to, forcing the turnovers and stopping the Titans a foot short on their game-tying drive. Their offense may have been rough, but Flacco made the plays he needed to make and they made no mistakes. Anybody who gets this far is good enough to get to the Super Bowl and one can foresee the Ravens making just enough plays to squeak through another week. So, for their sake, I'm rooting for San Diego. For football sake, I'm rooting for the Steelers. A Baltimore-Pittsburgh rematch would be something to see.
  • As for the NFC, well... Today was Jake Delhomme's thirty-fourth birthday. Which means he was only twenty-eight turnovers away from having one for every year of his life. Way to choke, Panthers. No need to cover Larry Fitzgerald at all, I'm sure Warner will never look his way.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The 2008 Random Awards: Everything Else

Started on the movie catch-up by going to see Slumdog Millionaire. Brilliant movie, I highly recommend it. Such an amazing premise, though I still think Wall-E is better. The movie also had a nice use of what is probably my favorite song of 2008, M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes". Here is the best of 2008 of what I haven't covered so far:
  • Representative of the Year:
    • 2008, with one really big exception, has to go down as one of the worst years in recent memory, if not in my entire live. Not personally. It's just that with the economy and torture and war, life on the grand scale pretty much sucked. You know, with one really, really big exception.
    • Runners-Up:
      • Lehman Brothers -- It was the "official" beginning of the economic collapse.
      • Bernie Madoff -- How could he not know he was going to get caught? More importantly, what are the odds that he dies of natural causes at this point? One hundred to one? Longer?
    • Winner:
      • Barack Obama -- In the long run, after this economic mess has passed, people looking back on 2008 will be focusing on one thing.

  • Sports Item of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • The Celtics -- See, Yankees and Dan Snyder, you actually can buy a championship.
      • Mario Chalmers -- Okay, this is the last time I'll link to it. I promise.
      • The Phillies -- Philadelphia is a pretty hard-luck city when it comes to sports, but with a group of superstars like Howard, Utley, and Hamels, they took home the title.
    • Winner:
      • The Giants -- Not only did they upset the 18-0 Patriots, they did it in one heck of a game.

  • Amusement of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Countdown with Keith Olbermann -- I watched this every night until the day after the election. Then I cut it off cold turkey.
      • Wii Fit -- Video games meet fitness. The Wii changed the face of mass-consumer gaming, but the I think the implications of the balance board have yet to be fully felt.
      • -- Nate Silver and Sean Quinn did pretty well for themselves this year.
    • Winner:
      • Politics -- The greatest election season of my life because of the circumstances, the characters, and accessibility of information.
  • Memorable Moment of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • "I'll get back to ya" -- The one and only time I will mention the sad, strange ride of Sarah Palin.
      • "The fundamentals of our economy are strong!" -- Whoops.
      • "Yes, we can." -- It was actually delivered on one of the worst nights of Obama's campaign, the New Hampshire primary. It became the number one catch-phrase of the year and was therefore run into the ground.
    • Winner:
      • Duh -- Here's the moment of the announcement and the huge celebrations around the country. Here's the full victory speech. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
  • Person of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Some person who wasn't Barack Obama.
      • Another person who wasn't Barack Obama.
      • Yet another person who wasn't Barack Obama.
    • Winner:
      • Barack Obama -- This had to be Time's easiest Person of the Year ever.
  • Thing To Most Look Forward To In 2009 :
    • Winner:
      • Eleven more days. There may not be much else to look forward to.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The 2008 Random Awards: Movies

While trying to ponder whether the funniest thing I saw on TV tonight was Joy attempting to pleasure a turtle or the fact that Mr. Turtle is Jewish and his first name is Sydney and also loving the Ben Folds music on Grey's, I bring you day two. With the caveat that, of course, these reflect only what I saw (and I haven't seen any of the end-of-year Oscar movies), here we go:

  • Surprise of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Cloverfield -- The previews looked cool because of the first-person filming style, but this neo-horror movie was legitmately chilling and actually pretty good.
      • Wanted -- This one didn't look so cool. It seemed like it would be too Matrix-y and it's hard to watch an Angelina Jolie movie without her overshadowing the whole thing. What you got was the likable James McAvoy in a slick action movie that has the feel of a Besson-Jet Li film, but with better acting and better special effects.
      • Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder -- They didn't hype that he was even in the movie. It's hard to believe he would play a role like that. There's even a little Oscar buzz now.
    • Winner:
      • Wall-E -- Get ready to see this one referenced a lot. I mean, it was just a Pixar movie with what looked to be a very annoying main character. Instead we got... Well, I'll go more into it later.
  • Scene of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • The L.A.I.R.E. Battle Royale (Role Models) -- I don't think anything I can say could actually do this justice. I laughed so hard I had trouble breathing. Of course, that happened a lot in this movie.
      • Joker Crashes The Meeting (The Dark Knight) -- We got our first long look at Heath Ledger's much hyped performance when the Joker walked into a meeting of gangsters and freaked us all out.
    • Winner:
      • The Establishing Scene (Wall-E) -- A better non-talking intro than last year's There Will Be Blood. This was art, the moment when animation transcended its medium.
  • Acting Performance of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Colin Farrell (In Bruges) -- This was the most underrated movie of the year, by far. Co-stars Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes are also wonderful, but it's Farrell's haunted, naive killer that steals the show.
      • Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading) -- She's always great, so this is no shock. The Coen brothers had a fine follow-up to last year's magnum opus and McDormand stands out from a great, great cast.
    • Winner:
      • Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) -- Yes, it was much-hyped and mostly because of the unfortunate circumstances, but the hype was well-deserved. Dude was creepy.
  • Action/Adventure Movie of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • The Dark Knight -- It's surely the best Batman movie ever made and Ledger was brilliant. I don't think it's as mind-blowing as others did, but it's yet another very strong effort from Christopher Nolan.
      • The Bank Job -- True stories can be just as compelling as made-up ones. Even though it wasn't made by Guy Ritchie, it definitely stars Jason Statham at his Guy Ritchie-est best.
      • Wanted -- Stylish, exciting, and, more than anything else, fun.
    • Winner:
      • Iron Man-- I prefer it as the best comic book movie of the year, because it's funnier than the Dark Knight and it doesn't drag at all.
  • Comedy/Musical of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Burn After Reading -- A comedy in the classic Coen brothers style. Clooney, Pitt, Malkovich, McDormand, and what turns out to be one of the most inane plot twists ever. It's basically a movie version of Seinfeld.
      • Step Brothers -- What a year for comedy! This one was nothing more than just Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly doing what they do best.
      • Pineapple Express -- I'm not entirely sure why James Franco is getting so many acting accolades for this, but it's very funny. It, along with the next movie, really blurred the lines between comedy and action film.
      • Tropic Thunder -- I ended up deciding -- this is the second-funniest movie of the year. It's really, really funny with great performances and no qualms in pushing the envelope. It also helps that Platoon is probably my favorite movie ever.
      • Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay -- In what was one of the most political years of my life, this movie did a great job of going hard after the Bush administration and the PATRIOT act. Some of the best satire can be hidden in some of the wackiest settings.
    • Winner:
      • Role Models -- Yep, this was the funniest movie of the year. Everyone talks about Bobb'e J. Thompson stealing the show, but I'm putting this all on Paul Rudd. He's a lock for comedy gold in whatever setting he appears.
  • Drama Movie of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • In Bruges -- If you haven't seen this yet, grab it from Netflix. It's artistic, funny, touching, and very well-acted. A beautiful and stirring film
      • Movies I Didn't See -- I could come up with something here, but really... I should have watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona on the plane, but I also haven't seen Milk or Benjamin Buttons or Doubt or Frost/Nixon or Slumdog Millionaire or Rachel Getting Married. So, I'll have a lot of catching up to do.
    • Winner:
      • Wall-E -- I can't say anything better than what the reviewer in Entertainment Weekly said. To paraphrase, this is the movie that we'll look back on in a few decades and remember when animation went from being for kids to being a legitimate medium for art. Here is the review I wrote after seeing it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The 2008 Random Awards: TV

The awards start with the small screen. Let me know what your thoughts on the year in TV are.
  • Plot Twist of the Year: (Spoilers, obviously)
    • Runners-Up:
      • House -- You have Thirteen and her issues and Cuddy with the adoption, but it's all about the first few episodes with House and Wilson. Outside of one show (which, hint, finished its run and will win a lot of these awards), that was as good as TV got this year.
      • Entourage -- Yeah, it actually happened. Vince's career collapsed. You never thought they'd even have the slightest conflict, but they went all the way.
      • C.S.I.: -- They've flirted with killing off a C.S.I. before, but the death of Warrick was shocking and led to a great season premiere.
    • Winner:
      • Lost -- This always wins best twist, right? The Oceanic Six, Ben leaving the island, Sayid finding Nadia only to lose her for good, Desmond going insane before finally finding Penny, Whitmore's rivalry with Ben, the island moving, and the final reveal of Locke's dead body. And more. Just a few weeks away from starting again!
  • Disappointment of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Fringe -- J.J. Abrams launches a new X-Files-type show. I lasted two atrocious episodes. I want those two hours of my life back.
      • Marcus on Survivor: Gabon -- The guy was brilliant, strong, and everyone liked him. He was a lock to win it all, until a twist screwed him.
      • Pushing Daisies -- One of the best-written and funniest shows on TV got cancelled.
      • Heroes -- Until the fall finale, this show was horrible and unoriginal.
    • Winner:
      • Grey's Anatomy -- Denny's ghost. No, really, her dead fiancee is back. And they're having sex. And he's making smart-ass remarks. No, I'm not kidding, Denny is back on the show.
  • Acting Performance of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Andre Royo (Reginald "Bubbles" Cousins, The Wire) -- I could go with Clarke Peters (Freamon), Wendell Pierce (Bunk), or, of course, Michael K. Williams (Omar), but I go with the one shining spot in the last season of the greatest show in TV history. With everything else to get down about, from Dukie hitting the needle to Michael's life as a killer, it was Bubbles going through the program and then finally getting to go upstairs in his sister's house that made us smile.
      • Jon Hamm (Don Draper, Mad Men) -- He's Gandolfini-esque in his perfection of Draper's complexities.
      • Michael C. Hall (Dexter Morgan, Dexter) -- A great season with a stronger-than-ever supporting cast, but it's always Dexter who rules this show.
    • Winner:
      • Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House, House) -- What can I say? Greg House is as good as it gets. (Note: I just re-printed the same thing from last year.)
  • Reality TV Personality of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Parvati (Survivor: Micronesia - Fans vs. Favorites) -- Has to be the best game ever played by a woman, right? She was manipulative, smart, and in charge at every turn.
      • Nick and Starr (The Amazing Race) -- I've probably only seen a third of the seasons of The Amazing Race, but this was as dominant a performance as I can remember.
      • David Cook (American Idol) -- Just when we were ready to bail on Idol, he pulled us back in.
    • Winner:
      • Jeff Conaway (Celebrity Rehab) -- No-brainer. The best reality show of the year, by a million miles, and he was the most interesting thing about it.
  • Moment of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • "Hello" -- The performance that really put David Cook on the map. I could watch this over and over.
      • Desmond finds his Constant -- Yeah, I could have gone with the big reveal of Locke at the end of the season, but it's all about Desmond finally speaking to Penny again.
      • Spaghetti Cat! -- Here's the Soup clip. You know the rest.
    • Winner:
      • Omar -- You had to pause and rewind the episode to a) make sure it actually happened and b) get over your emotions before watching the rest of the show. By the way, I almost teared up watching it again.
  • Show of the Year:
    • Runners-Up:
      • Celebrity Rehab -- The best reality show of the year and the best new show of the year (even though I love 90210, which I haven't mentioned). We all liked Dr. Drew before, but he's elevated to another plane of TV existence.
      • Entourage -- I thought this show was toast, but it had its best season ever.
      • House -- Like I said earlier, the House/Wilson stuff was fantastic. They also did a great job of working all of the doctors, new and old, into episodes by the end.
      • Dexter -- A very strong season, thanks to great performances from Jimmy Smits and David Zayas. I was worried with where they'd go at first, but it had all kinds of twists and plenty of the dark humor that we love.
      • Lost -- Lots of good shows this year and I can't leave this one off. Flashbacks, flash forwards, new characters, old characters in a new light. It's just humming along at top speed.
    • Winner:
      • The Wire -- Duh. The best show in the history of television went out with a bang. I'll leave it by linking to my series recap from right before the finale all the way back in March.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wrapping Up The Holy Land

Some final thoughts and notes on Israel that I didn't get to in my abbreviated posts:
  • The biggest thing I have to mention is how weird this whole war thing feels. I can't stress enough that it's just not that big a deal over there. It's isolated to a very small part of the country, the people are overwhelmingly behind the government's actions, and Hamas hasn't yet shown that they can affect anything outside of their missile radius (i.e., they can't touch Tel Aviv). Here, we're holding rallies and trying to raise money. There, they're turning reservists back because they don't need as many soldiers as they called up.
  • That being said, it's a little freaky to be in a country when there's a chance that protests in some areas could turn violent. On our last day there, the U.S. State Department advised that no Americans go near the Old City in Jerusalem because of the chance for protests. We were planning to spend the day on the Mount of Olives (in East Jerusalem) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After some tear gassing in East Jerusalem and some violent protests in the West Bank (through which we had driven the day before on the way to Masada and the Dead Sea), we stayed away and decided instead to go to the Israel Museum. After we were done there, we strolled over to the Knesset building to take some pictures and enjoy a relatively warm day. Along the way, there was a boom so loud that it shook my clothes. I immediately tensed up, listening for sirens (which I thought I heard), and someone checked on their phone to see if there was any breaking news. As best I can determine, it must have been just a sonic boom; apparently they're known to happen over population areas in Israel. Relieved in the end, it just wasn't a very good feeling at the time.
  • Apparently, most of the visitors to Israel are actually Christian groups. Someone threw that out at some point and, while I have no proof, I can't totally discount it. There are obviously a lot more Christians than Jews in the world and there did seem to be a lot of Christian groups everywhere we went. A lot of people with tags that had something to do with "the Holy Land" (you won't ever hear a Jew refer to Israel as "the Holy Land" unless they're doing it as a joke). You can also tell the Christian groups by just the look and the feel of them. They just seem very pleasant. And maybe this is offensive or prejudiced, but I think Christians (or I guess the Christians who make pilgrimage to Israel) are just nicer on a whole than Jews. I don't know if that's good or bad, considering my love of sarcasm and cynicism, but I do think it's true.
  • There's something very humbling about being in the presence of Canaanite ruins from the 5th millenium B.C.E. or Egyptian ruins from the 2nd millenium B.C.E. We love to think about what the Civil War was like or what life must have been like at Mount Vernon in the late eighteenth century, but come on! Any of the Herodian works in Jerusalem or Masada or Caesaria are amazing for their artistry, considering they are from just before year zero. And the Canaanite stuff in the Tel at Bet Shean or below the Byzantine village next to the Temple Mount is older than that than Herod is older than us? Beyond comprehension, to some extent.
  • Which is another great thing about Israel -- the archaeology is a work in progress. You can walk the street that was right outside of the second temple and see where it's damaged from the Romans pushing the walls down on top of it in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. They're still digging around that area. They just opened up a staircase to the majestic Northern Palace at Masada -- you climb down the mountain and see the columns and colorful mosaics that you couldn't see from the angle at the top of the mountain. The part of Bet Shean that is uncovered, and still being worked on, is estimated to be as small as ten percent of the total city.
  • In the end though, it's really all about the country continuing to survive and to thrive. Other than the driving, it doesn't really feel like the Middle East. It's a democracy, it's an open and self-critical society, it's truly a haven in the middle of a horrible area of the world.

Catching Up

Had to make a very late trip to Dulles, thanks to some snow in Paris, so nothing tonight. Still find some random compulsion to write something though.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Babbles from Israel

Just in case Josh doesn't get a chance to blog today, I thought I'd do a short bit so that Sunday is covered. Also, having reconnected with the virtual world after a two week hiatus, I just can't quite bear to leave the free computer I've found. So, here are a few thoughts from my last day in Israel (most of which I spent either walking around Tel Aviv or passed out for a short nap in my hotel)...

  • There isn't much that sucks more than having to get up at 2:50 AM to get to the airport... and you're not even flying. That's right - 80% of my group/family left this morning, and while I know I could have just grabbed a taxi and made my way to Tel Aviv that way, I decided to go with them to pick up my rental car.
  • One more thing that isn't so awesome - arriving at your hotel in Tel Aviv at 6:00 AM, knowing that check in isn't until 2pm, and just hoping that they'll let you find a nice, semi-clean bed (not picky when you've only slept for 1 1/2 hours) so you can pass out for a bit. Nope, no such luck. So I left my luggage with the bell boy/man, who proceded to use a bicycle lock (I shit you not) to lock my luggage to a small Barbie backpack. I'm not going to tell that to the airline security folk when they ask me if my luggage has been in my posession all this time...
  • It's a little disconcerting to be a woman walking alone in Tel Aviv at 8:00 AM... for a city that seems to never sleep, it was pretty quiet this morning. I walked everyone (or at least it felt that way), finally making my way to a fabulous creperie (sp?) right near the fountain on Dizengoff. Afterwards, walked around Dizengoff Center before buying a newspaper (in Hebrew) with the words "Milchamah" (war) across the front in stark letters, along with some other good Hebrew school teacher-y kinds of materials.
  • After Dizengoff, I walked up King George Street and walked for a bit into HaShuk HaCarmel - an open market. After making my way through the underwear and clothing stands and purchasing some Jaffa oranges, I made my way back to Alenby Street. At the head of the shuk, I found a crowd of police around a woman who seemed to be Arab from her accent. I was too far away to figure out what was going on, but given everything I've seen the past few days, I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the goings on down south. I'd hate to jump to conclusions, but she seemed pretty pissed after she left, schlepping her three huge bags.
  • Hung out for a bit on the beach, checked in to the hotel (retreiving my bag from Barbie's care), and accidentally took a 3 hour nap. Not really so accidental, actually - was under the covers with CNN in the background.
  • Going to head out soon for dinner and hopefully an early night to bed. Off at 4:45 AM to drive to the airport and the long trek home. Not looking forward to the 4 hour layover in Paris, but am looking forward to my welcoming party Monday evening.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Leaving for home very early tomorrow morning. I'll have more in-depth thoughts tomorrow evening and then get into the year-end awards. Suffice to say that now, after changing sightseeing plans because of State Department warnings, is not a good time to hear very loud noises in the streets of Jerusalem.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Eretz

Today we went to Yad Vashem, which doubles as Israel's Holocaust Memorial and as the best museum in the world. I could write much longer about it, but the lesson of the museum is that after all of the tribulations and horrors, the Jews have their own land where they can feel safe. You are left with this breathtaking view of Jerusalem and you feel so connected to the physical land. This is why Israel will fight Hamas - eight years of Intifada is enough. The eretz (land) must be preserved.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shaking It Off

A trip to the Dead Sea today. When you get out the heavy minerals stay on your skin until you can take a proper shower, burning you. When you are American in Israel, everyone knows it. Driving to the Dead Sea, you have to pass through the West Bank and at checkpoints, the soldiers take one look and wave you through. So, will I wash myself of Israel's problems when I return home? People here are so laid back that it's hard to believe a war is about to start. It will be weird to follow it from afar.