Saturday, March 29, 2008

My love affair with baseball, and the Cubs

As long as I can remember, I have been a Cubs fan. Probably before I even realized that baseball was a game, or what a game was, I have been a Cubs fan.
Blame my mom.

As a little boy, before I can even remember now, she took me to Cubs games. I met, well saw and got autographs from, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and many others. Those were the days where the players hung around the field and the stands before the game, signing autographs and talking to the fans.

No, shit, talking to the fans.
I remember Billy Williams as being the nicest person outside of my family that I had met at that point of my life. I don't have any specific memories of those early Cubs games, when I was 4 and 5 years old, but they set a pleasant tone for the rest of my life, following the Cubs.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

AT&T and John Caponera are just Creepy..

I didn't quite grow up with Harry Caray, unless listening to him do White Sox games counts. I didn't even really like him at first, but he did grow on me. Still, he really isn't sacred territory, make fun of him, so what? What's bad about this latest round of Harry Caray commercials is their creepiness.

You wait ten years and now come out with this? And John Caponera, I've heard you before on the radio, and I might be one of the five people that watched your TV show, has your career really sunk this low, this bad?

Maybe it's just one of those "Seemed like a good idea at the time," deals...
Is it? It has to be something like that, because I can't believe that anyone thinks this is a good idea. Cub fans are offended and everyone else is just annoyed.

Why shouldn't we be annoyed, obviously AT&T believes that we are all just a bunch of drunks who go to the park and laugh at our clowns. Harry Caray, apparently, is one of our clowns, like Bozo, or Mickey and Donald and Goofy. That doesn't mean we need to see a tired, twenty year old bit on every commercial break.

Of course, it is not lost on me that I am linking up to the very commercials that I loathe, but thats just for anyone that hasn't been forced to see them on television, yet.

John Caponera, you look like a stick figure caricature of Harry Caray, more like the weird Six Flags commercial guy than Harry. Every time one of them comes on, radio or,TV, I begin to miss the old days(maybe that was just last week?) when I was getting barraged by Frank Caliendo, at least his material is only three or four years old.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Smodcast - the waiting.....

Over at the View Askew board, thousands are anxiously, sometimes annoyingly, waiting for the new Smod.

Just exactly what does that mean, you ask? Well, the Smod is Smodcast, which I have written about before, a Podcast put out by Kevin Smith, director of several very good movies. As he puts it in the radio ad for 3 minute movies, "I've been known to direct some stuff.." paraphrased. He doesn't make a big production of it, but his podcast was my first, and still my favorite. The first one is always special, right?

The wait is for the last couple months while his usual weekly Smodcast went on hiatus while he was filming his latest flick, Zack and Mary Make a Porno. I mean, c'mon, he does Smodcast for free, what did we expect? From the incessant whining on his message boards, another of my first deep forays, you'd think he took a dump on every one of his fans by not getting somewhere and recording one of the precious Smodcasts.

I admit, I checked back to the download spot for Smodcast quite a bit these last few weeks, and occasionally looked on the message board to see if there was real news, but I was not part of the chorus of whines coming from his Smodcast thread. Oh sure, the occasional voice of reason, but most of the time, whining, on what is usually a very interesting thread.

And so this weekend, finally a new post on his blog, talking about the layoff, and the filming, and generally Kevin being the Kevin that makes his blog and Smodcast very interesting. The guy isn't Warhol, and thats good, he's just a decent guy, sharing what is a very cool life with everyone. I've never sensed posturing or backpatting, and it's almost always fun.

Also, he very often frequents his own message board, chiming in occasionally, but not getting into prolonged discussions. He even managed to reply to one of my first posts, after I had finally caved in and joined up. "Welcome aboard," I think it was, or something of the like. How cool is that?

It looks like the wait is almost over, Kev says, " soon as the recording equipment is back in L.A. ", and that works for me. I'll surely write some kind of review then, but for now I just wanted to talk about it, here. Not on the now slightly annoying thread. As I've mentioned, I pop up on the boards now once in a while, there are some good threads, about everything from the Writer's Strike to Reaper.

The header picture and smodcast links are pointing to where I am guessing the next podcast will be, so when they are not broken any more, the wait is over.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Superman, the Geek Test, and the Big Bang Theory

Comic books are sometimes treated as acid tests for someone's geekiness. And in that regard, I'm a full-blown, throwback geek from the dark ages, golden era if you will, but not in any unhealthy way, so get off me. The funny thing about it, is the way that comics always worm their way into pop culture.

Jerry Seinfeld had a bit of a Superman obsession, and his takes with the animated Superman in American Express commercials were hilarious.

This season, a Monday night sitcom called the Big Bang Theory has a bit about Superman and several other geek type exchanges. One was brought up on another blog (thanks for reminding me guys)! They also directed me to the YoutTube clip below.

Read more about my comic book obsessions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Learning about Shock, and Evil, from Naomi Klein

How Naomi Klein opened my eyes, more than just a little bit, in the Shock Doctrine.

This is not my usual fare, not for reading, not for research, not in general. I'm not completely apathetic when it comes to politics, I vote, and I try to vote with at least some base of knowledge, but I am determinedly middle of the road in my politics, and just as devoted to keeping myself from being dragged into IT. By IT, I mean the anger that I see in everyone's eyes that is embroiled in partisan politics, both sides.

After reading this book, I can begin to understand the anger, but am able to hold it off within me. Yes, I am still in the middle of the road, but better informed, and wary of those that come bearing gifts after floods or fires or anything.

My friend, one of those angry people, told me that if I read one book about politics, and yes, this was my first, read this one. It may be a while before I read another, because still, this is not my regular reading material, but this was powerful. It is the voice of someone that has walked the walk. There is definitely bias in her prose, but it is footnoted, and comes over as "If you'd seen what I have, you'd be biased too."

I usually fly through books, inhaling 700 page volumes from Dan Simmons in a week or two, the 1200 page Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in nearly as short a time, but not this one. I read and reread pages, I let it soak in, I took breaks, and I was disappointed when it was over, and surprised because there are so many pages of footnotes that I didn't realize that I had come to the end.

In searching for images to go along with this post, I found out that a short film has been made about her book as well. Free on Youtube, it was made my the director of Children of Men, apparently a personal friend of Klein's, and gets right to the points she makes in her books. Starting with the theory of shock therapy, and how it destroys a persons humanity, then corresponding to the economics professed by a Chicago economist named Milton Friedman, of whom I had never heard of before this book.

Friedman and his disciples have privatized the world, making the follies that I saw in the Army, as the government tried to run things, look like full-fledged competence.I won't try to explain what I think I understand about it all anymore. It is instead a better idea to simply recommend the book, and the movie. It's less than seven minutes long, and very well done.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Yawnfest

After gushing over "Breaking Bad," I think it's time to weigh in on another show, but instead of being tucked away on a low exposure cable channel and receiving no real publicity, this show received the hype befitting one of Fox's can't miss supershows.

It mostly missed.
Not a Bionic Woman miss, but it started off bad enough, at a time when it had no viable competition and American Gladiators was ruling the world, that they are still waiting to hear if they are going to get renewed for next season.

Terminator's entire season consisted of only 9 shows, but they weren't utilized the wasy that "Breaking Bad" utilized their own. (And with this, I have made my last "Breaking Nad reference). Still, I thought that towards the end of the season, this show was starting to take form, and that it had gotten over the hump that most new shows, especially sci-fi based ones, need to get past to be able to continue. There just seems to be a point where the characters and storyline either demonstrate that there is enough to keep going, or not.

I can think of one good example, from years ago, "Nowhere Man," a show that I surely would have blogged about wholeheartedly if I was any more connected then than my AOL dial in and didn't spend all my time writing on Amazing Instant Stories. That show came out of the box much better than Terminator, but the writer's hit a wall, and about seven episodes in you knew it wasn't going to last. Then it was gone.

Terminator's run this year has been a little different, it didn't start off that well, despite the hype, the first few episodes were too predictaqble, and similar, as if they thought that they could get by trotting out the same parade of special effects every week and people would keep coming back.

Slowly, and in full stride by the season finale, they began to build back story, and develop some character, if only microscopically compared to ..,. well, you know. The teenage girl robot, Cameron, that was sent back to protect John Connor, is interesting if predictable, and provides most of the good possibilities for storylines coming up. They teased about her turning on everyone in then finale, but it didn't happen. If there is a next season I am sure that she will figure in prominently.

I have to admit, I slept through half the first few episodes, but really didn't miss anything, it was only the last two or three that started to get interesting enough to pay attention. Sorry Fox, thats just the truth. It was partially the addition of Brian Austin Green as another freedom fighter from the future joining the family, and partially character change and development, that brought me into the fold, if reluctantly. Along with others, according to the ratings

This show might simply have debuted under too harsh a spotlight. Battlestar Galactica took some time to find itself and it's audience, and maybe this show will too, next year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Breaking Bad - Easily the Best of 2008

This has been a weird season of television, yes, mostly thanks to the writer's strike and the lack of selection of quality new programming, or just entertaining new programming. Still, I don't know the whole deal but this season seemed to break good for "Breaking Bad," though I have to believe that the writer's strike is responsible for the short, seven episode season.

Seven excellent episodes.
This picture, of the two partners in the last episode of the season, could easily be them surveying the distant competition in the television world.

It seems like I just discovered this series, and actually, it was not that long ago that I dove into it on my DVR hard rive and since then it has been a fast, fun, drive. Bryan Cranston has gone from a familiar curiosity to an actor that keeps me riveted for his performances as Walt Myers. His co-star, Aaron Paul, playing Jesse Pinkman, Walt's former student and new business partner
is keeping up, as are the rest of them, both with their performances and the writer's handling of them.

This is when television is good, every episode of this series has aimed high and hit the mark, and each character has evolved a little bit, in what is relatively a short period of time for a television. Yes, character development in a televison series that is not on HBO. They have dragged Dexter off of Showtime because of the dearth of programming, maybe this show should be next. This show outshines Dexter in it's uncensored Showtime version, I won't even watch the network television replay.

The show is entirely recapped on AMC's website, they have taken down the two first episodes, but are planning to replay the entire series almost immediately. I'm under the impression that it has caught fire, that maybe I'm not the only one to recognize how good it is.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Cool Picture I wanted to share

A quick easy break from the TV show reviews.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Five Reasons to watch Dirt

Most of what I've read about Dirt has been bad, condemning it as a shallow, glitzy, grungy example of what it is ultimately trying to parody, and that is not all wrong. They aren't reinventing the prime-time drama here, or even the FX brand type, but it is worth at least a little storage space on your DVR hard drive.

  1. First, and most, Don Konkey(Ian Hart), Lucy Spiller's(Courtney Cox) schizophrenic photographer. At first, I didn't want to buy into this whole plot device, but the performance sells it. He's so pathetic, and yet ruthless and funny, and dances around one hamburger of a line after another, getting the best of them. I'd like to hold this one out as the last nail in the coffin, but he is just too good. The guy's filmography reads like that of two or three different people, Dr. Watson, Lord Voltemort, John Lennon?
  2. Girls, do you ever tire of watching smug, weak, arrogant men get emasculated? Well, Dirt has the character for you, sometimes the show seems like his personal dunking booth. Underage sex, inter-office dumping, and admitting his own humbling as stand-in editor in the season two opener, Brent Barrow(Jeffrey Nording) is a ready made whipping boy, just for you.
  3. Gratuitous cleavage, could you expect anything less. Courtney Cox and ensemble do little jigs on the other side of the line that NYPD Blue long ago blurred and FX predecessors obliterated. A Courtney Cox masturbation scene and over the top tease during Jennifer Aniston's appearance as lesbian friend?? cemented the fact that the producers(Courtney and husband David Arquette) know where their bread is buttered. One revelation while researching this, Disney/ABC is the overseas distributor for this show.
  4. Gaping. Just tune in to watch them skewer the latest celebutante calamity, breaking it down to what it really is, and expose the scavenging and manipulation. It's not poetry or pulitzer, but it can be fun.
  5. Lucy Spiller, the heartless witch editor with a dysfunctional past and family to rival anyone, and a penchant for the weak, to exploit, and care for. Her new personal assistant, a panic attack inclined, nervous man who fired himself before Lucy hired him, illustrates the point. Yeah, well, "overstates" is a better description, but that is what this show does, and that is part of what makes it fun.

Monday, March 03, 2008

SNL - Two in a row was too much to expect

Last week's Saturday Night Live was good, good enough that I was almost eager for this week, a band, Wilco, that has always intrigued me, and young Ellen Page from Juno, I was optimistic. Saturday Night Live on a good run is like a Cubs winning streak, rare but not impossible, and something to behold. This week even started out with a bang, Hillary Clinton in a trademark brown pant suit, matching the one Amy Pohler had just worn in a skit, as Hillary.

It was one of the few moments of the broadcast, a huge let down from last week. I'm disappointed but I have figured out why.

The strike was good for them. Is it a coincidence that the first week back from a long layoff had skits full of bad television icons. Donald Trump, the creepy Jon Benet Ramsey guy, and the late night Riddler knockoff from the infomercials? This show was the fruit of a bunch of writers that had sat home and dredged the depths of popular culture, the foundation of Saturday Night Live's best production. That show was the product of writer's that rediscovered what got them their jobs that they were sitting out of. They came in with fresh ideas and bitter sarcasm, and pushed them through, then they spent a week on set, and had actors and producers in their faces, and they wrote skits like "Virginiaca."

The show wasn't a total disaster, but it was a significant downgrade. "The Obama Files," parts of weekend update, and an appearance by Rudy Guiliani all rose above the usual terrible fodder SNL has put out in recent years. In two weeks, there has been the equivalent of a year end compilation show. But honestly, half this show was about the elections, and most of the other half stank. Cheap laughs at the expense of media icons is good for a handful of material at best, after that, you can squeeze some laughs out of recycled former stars, like Tina Fey the first week, and lampooning your guest.

This week, Ellen Page, star of "Juno," which I haven't seen, fell far short. Yes, she's a teen age girl, but her Miley Cyrus impersonation was even annoying her partner in the skit. The little girl was a little over her head. Then again, that happens.

The regular cast has no excuse for putting out an episode that I am glad that I DVR'd so that I could skip through the bad stuff. I'm not a huge fan of political skits, but those were easily the best here. I'm hoping this week the writer's went home and watched some bad TV, read a lot of cheesy magazines, and ignored the voices all around them at the studio.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

SNL - Feb 23 with Tina Fey

SNL isn't what it used to be, but I think our view of what it used to be is skewed. Despite the constantly playing archives on cable and satellite television, nobody remembers the really bad shows, hell, entire seasons. Even the golden era, with Akroyd, Belushi, Jane Curtin, and Gilda Radner, had it's clunkers and skits that you had to work to laugh at, really, who got the coneheads?

SNL is rarely all good, but it has a few skits or moments that strike a chord, and make us laugh, but they have never done it consistently. This years bunch, fresh off the writer's strike, had a lot of good moments Saturday night.

Starting off with a mock Obama/Clinton debate, we get a quick view of their latest version of the presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton's character was almost flattering, and Obama's very close. Reminding me of when Bush was new and they hadn't decided what about him to make fun of. Tina Fey was the hosst, making me think, "Did she leave the show?" And almost in answer, they bring the king of those, "Part of the show?/hosting the show?" quandaries, Steve Martin, in a quick skit during her monologue.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the rest of the show went. The first fake commercial, about a birth control that limits periods to once a year, was as funny as any I remember, followed by decent skits and a good weekend update. Until the late skits, "I Drink Your Milkshake," and "Lady Business," this was running like one of the prime-time SNL compilation shows that makes you wonder where all the good skits came from over the last year. Usually, this show starts getting tired before the first musical break, this week, it stayed strong until the end. Even the bad skits could possibly hit a chord with someone, someone else.

It's nice to see SNL back.