Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everybody!



And if you don't celebrate Christmas, hope you had a happy Hanukkah, fun Festivus, or killer Kwanza.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’ve been trying to find a way to describe the plot of this movie in a couple simple sentences, but I just can’t do it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons it failed to grab moviegoers’ attention. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes a classic noir plot and turns it on its ear with lots of comedy.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a petty thief who is mistaken for an actor and later mistaken for a private eye. Harry is teamed with private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) to learn the ins and outs of the detective trade. On a stakeout, Harry and Perry stumble across the body of a murdered heiress and get pulled into the case. Meanwhile, Harry’s childhood sweetheart Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan) thinks Harry is a real private eye and hires him to look into the death of her little sister. As with all classic noirs, the two cases eventually become one.

And there are a lot of different styles of humor used in this movie - black, slapstick, wordplay, you name it. One thing I really dug about this movie was the use of Raymond Chandler titles as chapter titles. For those with writerly aspirations, there are a couple moments that stand out. For example, this scene that takes place between Harry and Harmony in a bar:

Harry: Umm, clearly I'm interrupting. I feel badly. Let me... What are you drinking?
Harmony: Bad.
Harry: Bad? Sorry... feel...?
Harmony: You feel bad.
Harry: Bad?
Harmony: Badly is an adverb. So to say you feel badly would be saying that the mechanism which allows you to feel is broken.


There’s a funny followup a few minutes later where Harry tries to correct Perry’s use of the word “badly” and Perry shuts him down.

Also is this scene where Harry and Perry turn the tables on a gunman:

Gay Perry: I want you to picture a bullet inside your head right now. Can you do that for me?
Gunman: F--- you. Anyway, that's ambiguous.
Gay Perry: Ambiguous. No, no, I don't think so.
Harry: No, I think what he means is that when you say "Picture it inside your head" okay is that that a bullet will be inside your head. Or picture it in your head.


I’d seen this movie on several “overlooked gems of the decade” list and thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad that I did. The performances by the three lead actors were great. The storyline was classic noir and the humor was actually funny. Oddly enough, someone blogged about this movie at Big Hollywood on Saturday – the day I watched it for the first time.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Elmore Leonard's Justified

Last week, a trailer popped up on the internet for the new TV series "Justified" (formerly "Lawman"). It's based on Elmore's character Raylan Givens who appeared in the novels "Pronto" and "Riding the Rap" and the short story "Fire in the Hole". Executive Produced by Graham Yost ("Boomtown"), the show is scheduled to air on FX in March.

From what I've heard, the pilot is based on "Fire in the Hole". As evidenced by this clip, Givens (Timothy Olyphant) goes head to head with a character played by Walton Goggins - known best around here as Shane Vendrell from "The Shield".



Are you excited as I am?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best of the Decade

TVGuide.com has a cool new series up called "Best of the Decade". It's a series of interviews with the creators and writers of some of TV's biggest and best shows. Included are J.J. Abrams (LOST, Alias), Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (LOST), Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), David Simon (The Wire) and Shawn Ryan (The Shield).

I came across this series because of the interview with Ryan. He talks openly with TVGuide about what inspired him to write The Shield (ride-alongs for Nash Bridges plus the Rampart Scandal), how it came to be on F/X, and it's influence as a catalyst for the recent cable drama boom. The ever humble Ryan doesn't claim credit, but is happy his show is usually singled out as the forerunner.

I do think [The Shield] had a big impact, but I'm also aware that the impact was ready to happen. The conditions existed for it to happen, and if The Shield never happened, it would have happened with a different show. It was going to happen. I'm grateful that we got there first and got credited with changing the perception, but you just look back and cable TV was ready to explode like that.


Very interesting series. I'm definitely going to read the other interviews.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Man v Food: Pittsburgh

I've recently started watching Travel Channel's show "Man v Food". If you're unfamiliar with the show, host Adam Richman travels to different parts of the country to sample local foods and take part in a local eating challenge. Examples of past challenges include a 12 egg omelet, a 72 oz steak, and a 6 pound, two foot long burrito.

In one season one episode, Adam traveled to Pittsburgh and sampled a local favorite: a Primanti Bros sandwich. This tasty concoction comes with fries and coleslaw in the sandwich. I've had them many times and can attest to their tastiness.

Here's a clip of Adam's visit:

Friday, December 4, 2009

MST3K Friday: Rough Cut

While working on the cut of the final MST3K episode Diabolik, Mike and the 'bots were surprised by clips from older episodes of the show (mostly season 10 episodes). Check out their reactions:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Shield / Lie to Me

So, there's some fun news today. As many people know, Shawn Ryan (creator of The Shield) is now the showrunner for Fox's Lie to Me. Well.......in episode 12 of this season, Ryan is bringing back 6 of his Shield stars in guest roles.

They are Benito Martinez (Aceveda), Catherine Dent (Danni), David Marciano (Billings), Cathy Cahlin Ryan (Corrinne Mackey), David Rees Snell (Ronnie), and Kenny Johnson (Lem).



According to Ryan's Twitter page, both Walton Goggins (Shane) and Jay Karnes (Dutch) were too busy to shoot spots. Maybe in future episodes? One can hope.

More here and here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

MST3K Friday: Why Won't He Help Me?

From "Samson vs. The Vampire Women".

"Be sure to stop by again tomorrow, and then leave immediately."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remembering the Wall

Here are a couple quick notes from people and their reaction to the fall of the Berlin Wall. From Hans A. von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies:

Not too long after the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, my wife and I visited Berlin. Crossing into what had been East Germany was like going through a time tunnel. It looked like it was still the 1940s. Through its physical environment, East Germany highlighted the difference between Western freedom and Communism. This difference was even more evident in Berlin. What struck me was the complete absence of color in what had been the Eastern Zone, which said quite a lot about the quality of life under communism.

West Berlin was full of bright colors, from shop windows and pennants flying on buildings, to the clothes worn by Berliners on the street. All of the buildings in East Berlin were gray and dirty. Some were still unoccupied and had bullet holes; they had never been repaired or renovated after the end of World War II. West Berlin was full of bright, sparkling vistas and shops filled with consumer goods of all kinds. East Berlin was dark and dingy. The few shops were empty of the everyday necessities and luxuries that give us the quality of life we enjoy. All of the differences between the liberty and prosperity of the free West and the prison conditions and poverty that characterized life behind the Iron Curtain were easy to see.
(read more)

I also like what Bill Bennett said, "Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But even that phrase doesn’t do the story justice: The wall did not fall — it was pushed." (source)

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 1989 - The Berlin Wall Falls

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here are some clips from news broadcasts from those days.

Peter Jennings: (embedding disabled)

Friday, November 6, 2009

MST3K Friday: The Creeping Terror

Here's a scene from The Creeping Terror where the monster stalks its prey.

"Grampa's psychosis is ruining this trip."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Role of Media

Public opinion is formed and expressed by machinery. The newspapers do an immense amount of thinking for the average man and woman. In fact they supply them with such a continuous stream of standardized opinion, borne along upon an equally inexhausible flood of news and sensation, collected from every part of the world every hour of the day, that there is neither the need nor the leisure for personal reflection. All this is but a part of a tremendous educating process. But it is an education which passes in at one ear and out at the other. It is an education at once universal and superficial. It produces enormous numbers of standardized citizens, all equipped with regulation opinions, prejudices and sentiments, according to their class or party.


Sounds about right, eh? Thing is...this was written back in 1925 by Winston Churchill. It's included in a collection of essays written by the great man recently published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Shield: Complete Series DVD

I read this nice little review of the new DVD set of best series ever over at DVD Talk. Yup. The Shield is coming out as a single box set next Tuesday. I can't praise Shawn Ryan enough for the work he did on this show (and thanks for posting the review on your Twitter feed).


Buy it. Watch it. Love it.

Since the Christmas season is upon us, let me quote Clark W. Griswold and say "Hey. If any of you are looking for any last minute gift ideas for me, I have one..."

Friday, October 23, 2009

MST3K Friday: Season 4 Stingers

"When we return to our planet, the high court may well sentence you to TORTURE!"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saturday’s Child, by Ray Banks

"The difference between a pub and a bar is that a bar has more mirrors to show you how f---ed up you are."

Cal Innes, ex-con and unlicensed PI, is hired by local mob boss Morris Tiernan to locate a blackjack dealer, formerly in the employ of Tiernan. The dealer has stolen a fair amount of money from Tiernan, and also absconded with the boss’s 16-year-old daughter. To make matters worse, Tiernan’s son, the psychotic Morris, Jr. (aka Mo), doesn’t like the fact his father hired Innes. He starts his own investigation and generally makes Cal’s life miserable.

Saturday’s Child is a terrific blend of humor, violence, drinking, and hidden family secrets – just like all good noirs. The book opens with Cal getting in a fistfight in the bathroom of a local bar and continues chugging along at breakneck speed.

I was already somewhat familiar with Banks and Cal Innes from the short stories on Thrilling Detective and other websites. My memory’s a bit hazy (since it’s been a while), but I remember some of the stories being great and some being kind of hard to read as the characters had thick Cockney accents and used lots of British slang. That’s probably one of the reasons I waited so long to read Saturday’s Child. I should not have been so concerned.

The book is split into two narratives: Cal’s and Mo’s. Cal is a PI, and his style pretty much follows the conventions of the character. Mo, on the other hand, is like a modern day Alex DeLarge – with a lot more profanity. I found reading Mo a lot like reading the later James Ellroy books – once your head matched the rhythm of his speech patterns, everything was peachy.

Banks is another one in the great crop of young writers making their mark. I’m definitely picking up the next in the series and when the other Innes books are released in the US, I’m buying those too. Buy the book. Read the stories.

Highly Recommended.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swag, by Elmore Leonard

Frank Ryan is a man with a plan. The slick used car salesman has a list of rules for success and happiness, but what he needs is a partner. Enter Ernest Stickley, Jr. Ryan catches Stick trying to boost a car from his lot, but instead of busting him, makes him an offer he can’t refuse. The two go on a crime spree that puts all of Detroit in the palm of their hands – until they start breaking the rules.

Ryan’s Rules are as follows:

1. Always be polite on the job, say please and thank you.
2. Never say more than is necessary.
3. Never call your partner by name – unless you use a made-up name.
4. Dress well. Never look suspicious or like a bum.
5. Never use your own car. (Details to come.)
6. Never count the take in the car.
7. Never flash money in a bar or with women.
8. Never go back to an old bar or hangout once you have moved up.
9. Never tell anyone your business. Never tell a junkie even your name.
10. Never associate with people known to be in crime.

Swag is one of Elmore Leonard’s early crime novels, and it’s one of my favorites. I think I was more than 100 pages into it when I realized I had no idea what the conflict would be. But I didn’t care. The characters were interesting and the storytelling was slick, so I was content to sit back and enjoy the story.

Recommended.

Friday, October 9, 2009

MST3K Friday: Season 10 Stingers

There are so many great stingers this season.

"I wish I had my pretty mind back." "Is that stud coming?" etc.

Monday, October 5, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different....

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of Monty Python's Flying Circus on the BBC. I always loved the zaniness of the five Brits and one American. Here are some of my favorite Python sketches:

The Dead Parrot Sketch:


The Ministry of Silly Walks:


The Argument Clinic:


The Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook:


I haven't been able to find it online yet, but the Pythons even did an entire skit based on train schedules....and it was funny!

Here's a random internet list of 20 great Python sketches.

So, go ahead and celebrate today with some spam or some raspberry tart without so much rat in it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

MST3K Friday: The Pumaman

Some of the bigger jokes from one of my favorite late season episodes - "Pumaman".

"Pu-ma-man! He flies like a moron!"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At the City's Edge by Marcus Sakey

Jason Palmer, recently discharged from the Army, returns to his native Chicago as a man in search of himself. He spends most of his time running, drinking, and sleeping around. When his brother, Michael, is murdered, Jason takes it upon himself to find the killers and look after Michael’s 8-year-old son. As you can expect, Jason finds himself pulled into a world of gang warfare, political corruption, and corporate greed.

After reading his first book, I became a big fan of Marcus Sakey. The quality of his writing is present in his second novel, but I can’t help but feel a little bit of a letdown. The plot hums along just fine and there are a fair number of twists and big reveals. For the most part, the characters are mainly stock characters and never rise above that. Disgruntled army vet? Check. Sexy ethnic love interest? Check. Crooked cops? Check. Wire-inspired gangbangers? Check. In The Blade Itself, the characters started off as recognizable types, but Sakey was able to breathe extra life into them and make them real people. Of course, he does a phenomenal job painting a portrait of the city of Chicago. Maybe since I visited there this year, the locales really jumped off the page.

Still, in the hands of a capable author like him, Sakey’s prose tends to downplay some of the negatives. Not as good as his debut, but an entertaining read nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big City, Bad Blood by, Sean Chercover

Hollywood locations manager Bob Lonski has seen something he shouldn’t have while working in Chicago. His studio hires PI Ray Dudgeon to protect him. Dudgeon, like all good private investigators, starts to dig and finds himself in the middle of an internal mafia power struggle.

This debut novel from Sean Chercover has won well-deserved praise from many circles. Chercover does a good job of respecting the PI genre while giving us something fresh. The story is entertaining, the prose is clean, and the characters believable. I do have my quibbles with the book. There are occasions where Chercover dives too deep some details that the reader probably doesn’t care about (two pages on how Dudgeon’s apartment is decorated; a page and a half on Dudgeon waking up in Washington, D.C., eating lunch, then driving back to Chicago). Though there are scenes that are nearly flawless: the car/pool and when Dudgeon is interrogated.

The debut novelists of 2007 really hit it out of the park. Chercover, Marcus Sakey (The Blade Itself), and Dave White (When One Man Dies) all had their debuts published that year. While I like Big City, Bad Blood and it was deserving of all the awards it won, my votes would’ve gone to The Blade Itself. There’s something meaty about Sakey’s writing that give it an edge.

Big City, Bad Blood comes recommended.

Friday, September 4, 2009

MST3K Friday: The Home Economics Story

University of Northern Iowa: The high school AFTER high school.

Part 1:


Part 2:

Friday, August 28, 2009

MST3K Friday: Undersea Kingdom

A fun short starring "Crash" Corrigan. What other show references The Beatles, Citizen Kane, and the bible in less than a 10 minute block?

"Oh, I'd like to know where you got the notion!"

Part 1:


Part 2:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy Was Right

Senator Ted Kennedy died Tuesday at the age of 77. Anyone who knows me would know that there was probably very little that I agreed with Senator Kennedy about, but you had to respect the man. Whatever his politics, you always knew where he stood and knew his heart was in the right place (as opposed to most of the self-aggrandizing pols we have these days). Kennedy was truly the last of his kind.

I did, however, find one quote from Kennedy that I can agree with:

The problems of our economy have occurred not as an outgrowth of laissez-faire, unbridled competition. They have occurred under the guidance of federal agencies, and under the umbrella of federal regulations.


–Senator Ted Kennedy in 1978, defending the deregulation of the trucking industry (hat tip The Enterprise Blog).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hidden Treasures: Frazz

Frazz by Jeff Mallet is a great comic strip. The only people I know who’ve even heard about it are those fortunate souls I’ve gotten hooked on it. It’s centered on elementary school janitor Edwin “Frazz” Frazzier and his relationships with the children and teachers of the school. He spends the majority of his time talking to Caufield – a brilliant 8-year-old who is unchallenged by formal schooling. The main theme of the strip is discovery, not just learning.

The artwork and some of the themes Mallet touches upon remind many readers (including me) of Bill Watterson’s brilliant Calvin & Hobbes. Absurdist humor, pointing out the cluelessness of adults, and frequent literary references are par for the course. Some examples of the last one come from Caufield himself. First off, he’s named after J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield. Second, every year he dresses up as a character from literature for Halloween (Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea, Dorian Gray, etc). And third, you get frequent strips like this one:



Some of my favorite strips lean toward the social commentary side. See these on junk mail, the PT Cruiser, and these I want to pull out on math:

and this one that works on several levels:

If you’ve never heard of Frazz, do yourself a favor and check it out for a week or two. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

MST3K Friday: Last Clear Chance

Since I'll be away next week, I'll leave you with an extra long short today. Here's a nice 20 minute riff-fest on a driver's education film.

"Don't make the mistake these people made. Don't die."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Face 2 Face



Saturday night, I attended the Billy Joel/Elton John concert at Washington, D.C.'s Nationals Park. Billed as the "Inaugural Concert" of this tour, the two legends put on a great 3.5 hour show for the 40k fans in attendance.

This is the second John/Joel show I've been to (the other was in Syracuse in 2001), and at this point you kind of know what to expect. The show opens with the two of them at their pianos playing "Your Song" followed by "Just the Way You Are", "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", and "My Life" - gradually adding members of their bands with each successive song. Then, Billy leaves the stage for Elton's solo set, Elton leaves the stage for Billy's set, then both play more duets with their bands until it's just the two of them at two pianos again for the closer "Piano Man".

Saturday was a little different. During the first two songs, you could tell Elton wasn't happy about something. Every time it was Billy's turn to take a verse, Elton turned to one of the stage hands and yelled (nothing that got picked up on the mikes). After about three measures into the third song, Elton just stopped playing. Billy made comment about technical difficulties (the sustain pedal on Elton's piano was stuck), and Elton had stormed off the stage. Billy made a couple wisecracks and launched into a funny rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Elton came back and tried the piano again, but still wasn't happy. Billy said, "At least you know we're not on tape! This is an authentic rock-and-roll fuck-up. You don't see many of these anymore." At this point, Billy walked over to Elton's piano, took off his jacket, and tried to fix the pedal himself. Still there was no luck, so Elton left the stage again. Billy then called his band out and started in with his set.

The set was great as always. He bantered with the crowd between songs, introduced his band members, and had his trademark rotating piano so the folks behind him didn't have to stare at the back of his head the entire show. He did surprise everyone with a performance of "Zanzibar" featuring a great trumpet solo (though I forget the guy's name, sorry). Later, "Don't Ask Me Why" put him in a contemplative mood. He said, "I don't know why you're listening to me. That was written for my first ex-wife. And this is the first show I'm doing after three divorces!" Of course, everyone laughed and cheered at that comment. He closed with "Only the Good Die Young" and it was time for Elton's set.

Elton came out with a grand performance of "Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and then apologized to the crowd for the earlier technical difficulties and thanked Billy and his band for pitching in. Elton's set was a bit slower than Billy's (who had a good mix of uptempo and slow songs) and he treated the crowd with a 10+ minute rendition of "Rocket Man". After about the third time people thought the song was over, I turned to my friend and said "I'm not clapping again until I know he's done." :)

Elton seemed a bit more of a diva this time than when I saw him before. After every song he did, he jumped off the piano bench and hectored the crowd into applauding for him even more than they would've normally. It's an interesting contrast to see both performers' personalities side-by-side.

The two closed out the show with the songs they aborted in the opening ("Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" and "My Life") plus their typical enders. The last two songs they did were just the two of them and their pianos: "Candle in the Wind" and "Piano Man".

I've seen Billy in concert four times (counting Saturday) and Elton twice (counting Saturday). I've always said even if you're not a superfan of either guy, you should definitely check them out live. They put on a heck of a show.

Friday, July 10, 2009

MST3K Friday: Junior Rodeo Daredevils

After a week's hiatus, MST3K Friday has returned!

"Go ahead, strip me of my dignity at age four. What are you looking at?!?!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Funny Stuff

I came across a new blog the other week called Spotted: DC Summer Interns. Built mainly by user submissions, it's a hilarious look at the stupidity and arrogance (sometimes both) displayed by the college students picked to be Congressional interns over the summer months.

One of my favorite stories is also the first I read. They call it Bud Light Oversight Authority.

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, check it out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forbes Field

One hundred years ago today, Forbes Field opened in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Credited as the first modern ballpark, the field was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1909 until 1971. It also was the first home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, hosted University of Pittsburgh football games, and Negro League games. The stadium was named after British general John Forbes who fought in the French and Indian War, and named the city in 1758.

Built by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss, construction was completed in about 6 months at a cost of $1 million (roughly $24m in today's money). All that remains these days are the left and center field brick walls, the flagpole, and home plate (which is inside one of the buildings of Pitt). A ceremony is still held every year on October 13th by the remaining walls to commemorate Bill Mazeroski's Game 7, World Series clinching, bottom of the 9th walk-off home run (the only one in Major League history).

There are going to be some commemoration events on Tuesday, as well as a program at Pittsburgh's Senator John Heinz History Center (running through November 8th). There's a short video here that talks briefly about Forbes Field and the Heinz exhibit (I tried to embed it, but couldn't).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Incognito

Imagine you are a supervillian. Blessed with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. You and your brother (similarly superpowered), have held cities for ransom, destroyed multiple downtown blocks, and have caused people to quake at the sound of your very names. Now imagine that your brother is killed, you give up you villainous ways, and you live the life of a common office drone.

That's exactly the scenario Zach Overkill finds himself in the Marvel Comics series Incognito by geniuses Ed Brubaker and Scott Phillips. Inspired by the old pulp comics, Brubaker and Phillips take what we know about superheros and turn it on its ear.

I've been reading this series since it started, and it's outstanding. I haven't read anything by Brubaker before (though everyone is talking about his Criminal), but I'd really like to check out his back catalog. Incognito #4 came out on Wednesday, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

I highly recommend seeing if your local comics shop has it in stock, because it's worth it - even for non-comics fans. Check out this interview with the creators (including some preview art) here at Comic Book Resources.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Alan Wake

I first heard about the game Alan Wake a while back. It's from the creators of the first Max Payne video game. Production has been long delayed, so the game kind of fell off my radar. It was a great surprise to me when I heard the game mentioned in one of the recaps of E3.

From the videos I saw, let me tell you, the game is going to rock. The setup is this, Alan Wake is a writer who hasn't published anything in about two years. He and his wife go on vacation to an idyllic lake town, and the wife disappears. Strange things start happening in the town; things that echo his latest thriller.

The game looks very atmospheric and it's magnified by the fact that most of the enemies are vulnerable to light. So one of Alan's greatest weapons is his flashlight.

As of now, the scheduled release is in Spring of 2010 for PC and Xbox 360.

Here's the trailer:


Here's the E3 demo:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stanley Cup Recap

What a year! What a series! What a weekend! The Pittsburgh Penguins won their third Stanley Cup Championship on Friday night. They previously won in 1991 (6 games over Minnesota North Stars) and 1992 (4 game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks). All three titles were clinched on the road. Evgeni Malkin became the youngest ever Conn Smythe winner as the playoff MVP and the first player to win the Art Ross (regular season scoring) and Conn Smyth in the same year since Penguins great Mario Lemieux did it in 1992.

On a personal note, I went 13-2 on my post season predictions. This is the best I can remember ever doing. If you asked me during the later part of the season or early on in the playoffs, I didn't think there would be any way Pittsburgh would even make the Finals. But as the playoffs progressed it be came "they can beat Philly...they can beat Washington...they can beat Carolina...oh wait, they're in the Finals!"

Here are some articles from the Pittsburgh papers and some nice pictures:
Post-Gazette recap.
Recap and reactions.
More recap and reactions.
Cup stories.
The Penguins even showed off The Cup at Sunday's Pirates/Detroit Tigers interleague game.

Jordan Staal:


Crosby and Team:


Team portrait:


Penguins and Cup at PNC (love the skyline in the background)

Friday, June 12, 2009

2009 Stanley Cup Champions: Pittsburgh Penguins



Max Talbot scored two second-period goals, and the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame the loss of captain Sidney Crosby and a whole lot of history to beat the defending champion Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night in Game 7 and win the Stanley Cup for the third time.

The home team is generally favored in Game 7s. The last time a road team won a Game 7 for any major championship was the Pittsburgh Pirates over Baltimore in 1979.

My wrap-up of the series to come later, but for now: WOO HOO!!!!!!

MST3K Friday: Body Care and Grooming

Tackling her from behind is the first step.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals: It All Comes Down to This

What an amazing series so far! Except for Game 5, every game this series has featured horn-to-horn fantastic hockey by both clubs. With their backs against the wall, the Pittsburgh Penguins found a way to win Game 6 and force a seventh and deciding game Friday night in Detroit.

After a miserable showing in a 5-0 defeat Saturday night, Pittsburgh came out with a strong push to start the game last night. Through the first 20 minutes of play, Pittsburgh had many great chances and held Detroit to only 3 shots on goal (they average in the upper 30's per game this playoff). Every Pittsburgh player played their hearts out last night. Everyone from the defensemen, to the grinders, to the likes of Petr Sykora was blocking shots and laying heavy hits. Chris Osgood continued his stellar play, keeping his team in the game. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury matched him save for save and came up with the big stops at key times to secure the win.

Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik had one of his best games of the entire playoffs last night. And what can be said about Rob Scuderi? He continued his solid play and actually made three saves in the last 30 seconds of play when Fleury was caught out of position by the surging Red Wings.

Ratings for this years Finals are up, so that means lots of people are watching some of the best hockey in a while. One of my coworkers just said that last night's game was "probably in the top 5 of games I've ever seen".

Game 7. Friday night. Anything can happen.

Friday, June 5, 2009

MST3K Friday: Truck Farmer

The quality of this one is a little iffy, but it's a good short.

Easter Bunny Films Presents:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals: After Three

I thought of posting something on Monday after Detroit took a 2-0 series lead. Full of doom and gloom, revoking my prediction. Both teams played well over the weekend, but Detroit got the better of the bounces and their defense held both Malkin and Crosby in check.

But I feel a little better after last night's 4-2 Penguins win. Pittsburgh got goals from spark plug Maxime Talbot and defensemen Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar. The first period was a stalemate. Both teams controlled play for periods of time and they came out tied 2-2. The second period seemed a little flat. Neither team got too much going, and Detroit outshot the Penguins 14-4. The Penguins, though, took control in the third. Almost from the first shift, you could see them asserting themselves. When the Penguins went on the powerplay, they had the puck Red Wings's zone for almost a minute and a half without a break. I could sense a goal was coming and Gonchar delivered.

Let's look at what I pointed to as the keys to the series. The special teams have gone pretty much as I predicted. Pittsburgh's power play has produced, and Detroit's penalty kill has been the one hole in their otherwise solid game. The injuries haven't been as much a factor as I thought. Lidstrom and Ericsson have played. The only players still out of the lineup are Draper and Datsyuk.

It would be ideal if the Penguins win Game 4 tomorrow and return to Detroit tied 2-2. If not, 3-1 is a bad place to be against the best team in the league.

Friday, May 29, 2009

MST3K Friday: Space Mutiny

Taking a little break from shorts this week, here's a bunch of clips from one of my favorite episodes: "Space Mutiny". If you haven't seen it, Mike and the 'bots make up different action hero type names for the star of the film. This clip is a compilation of all the names they use during the episode.

One of my favorites is Big McLargeHuge.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh vs Detroit

So now we have it. This year’s Stanley Cup Final is the first rematch since 1984 when Edmonton beat the New York Islanders to end the Islanders dynasty. In 1982-83, New York swept the young Edmonton team in four games, but Edmonton won the series in 5 games in 1984. Last year, Detroit beat Pittsburgh in six. Can Pittsburgh pull off the same feat as Edmonton did?

In this year’s playoffs, Pittsburgh has the league’s top 2 scorers (Malkin and Crosby) and have scored the most goals of any team (65 for an average of 3.82 goals per game). Detroit is second in goals scored (59) and second in goals per game (3.69). Detroit has the edge in goals against, ranking second with 2.13 GAA, while Pittsburgh is 8th with a 2.76 GAA. On special teams, Detroit’s power play is ranked higher than Pittsburgh’s, but their penalty killing has been abysmal.

As far as the goalies go, Detroit’s Chris Osgood has been his usual self (solid, if unspectacular) and Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has shown a mental toughness that he didn’t have earlier in his career.

Pittsburgh’s best players have been playing their best hockey. Crosby and Malkin both have 28 points in 17 games. Bill Guerin has been solid with 7 goals and 7 assists, and while he’s not scoring, Chris Kunitz has chipped in 11 assists. Timely goals by role players (Max Talbot – 4 goals, Ruslan Fedotenko – 6) and defenseman (Mark Eaton – 4, Kris Letang – 3) have helped Pittsburgh reach the finals again.

Detroit, on the other hand, has had to go with a more balanced approach. Leader Johan Franzen has 19 points in 16 games, Henrik Zetterberg as 18, but guys like Hossa (12), Datsyuk (7), and Holmstrom (5) have to be seen as disappointments.

Recently, Detroit has been having injury troubles. Nic Lidstrom has missed the last two games, so has Pavel Datsuyk. Kopecky, Draper, Lilja, and Jonathan Ericsson all missed time in the most recent series. The only serious injury on Pittsburgh’s side is Sergei Gonchar, who is playing well (though not 100%) after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin.

I think the keys to this series will be the special teams (as I mentioned above) and Pittsburgh’s forwards vs Detroit’s defense. Pittsburgh’s fast, aggressive forecheck gave fits to all three teams they have faced so far. But none of their opponents have had as skilled a defense crew as Detroit does. With Lidstrom out of the lineup last night, Coach Mike Babcock went with pretty much four defensemen in the game - using 47-year-old Chris Chelios and second year player Derek Meech sparingly. Detroit was able to hold Chicago to only one goal, but playing that much has to take a toll on an already banged up corps.

Frankly, I like the Penguins chances. Anaheim gave Detroit more trouble than I thought they would. Chicago lost in 5 games, but three of those went to overtime. The Penguins are a year wiser and know what to expect in the Finals. Detroit is banged up, but still dangerous and still one of the top teams in the league. I’m calling an upset. Pittsburgh in 6 or 7.

PS. As a Penguins fan, I'd like to see them stick it in Hossa's face for bolting last summer. He turned down a multi-year contract to go to Detroit for one year, saying he wanted to win a Cup. You have to give him credit for going for a championship instead of just money, but it was still a slap in the face to the Penguins and their fans.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wow!

Just wow! The Penguins sweep the Carolina Hurricanes to earn a second consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. I was actually a bit more nervous of the Hurricanes than my predictions led on. I never expected a sweep and I never expected scores like we saw. I figured most games would be 2-1, 3-2 affairs, not 6-2 or 7-4.

The Penguins as a team are just scary good right now. They're clicking on all cylinders and playing the aggressive up-tempo style that suits their skilled players. Their forwards outworked Carolina's defense. They got scoring from depth players (Adams, Fedotenko, Talbot) as well as their superstars (Crosby, Malkin).

Their defense held All-Star Eric Staal in check, but none of Carolina's other scorers were able to step up to fill the void. Cam Ward was spectacular in net, but so was Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury.

It still makes me smile when I hear commentators point out how many times in these playoffs Pittsburgh has outshot their opponent. I remember many times during the regular season under Michel Therrien when the Penguins had less than 20 shots in a game. There have been times during this run where they've had almost that many in a single period.

Now the Penguins get to rest up and wait for the Western Conference Champions. Detroit leads that series 3-1 over the Chicago Blackhawks with Game 5 tonight in Detroit.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stanley Cup: Conference Finals Edition

Once again, I only got one wrong in the previous round. Though that means my success rate was a decent 75% instead of a nice 88%. We saw three Game Sevens, three upsets, and some fantastic hockey between Pittsburgh and Washington.

I gave the Penguins the edge in the round because of their defense and goaltending. Simeon Varlamov was amazing between the pipes for Washington. I thought the rookie might cool down, but you didn't see any chinks in his armor until late game 5 or even game 6. Washington's defense made some bad reads while pinching and their forwards didn't back them up. Pittsburgh also won most of the battles along the boards; fighting their hearts out with more grit and determiniation than the Capitals did. Except for games 4 and 7, every game was a one-goal win and there were three overtime games in the series. It was certainly one for the ages.

Anaheim gave Detroit all they could handle and forced the reigning champs to a game 7. Carolina has continued their hot play and took their series in overtime of game 7 against the top seeded Boston Bruins. In the other upset I called, Chicago took their series with Vancouver in 6.

Western Conference Finals:
(2)Detroit vs (4)Chicago
- an Original Six matchup. Both teams have four lines that can score. Both teams have good puck moving defensemen. The teams are ranked 1-2 on the power play in the playoffs. I predict this one is going to be an awesome series. There is already some history there and we might see some rough stuff before too long. The veteran Red Wings took the season series over the young Blackhawks winning 4 of 6 games. I think they'll also take this series and return to the Cup finals. Detroit Red Wings in 7.

Eastern Conference Finals:
(4)Pittsburgh vs (6)Carolina
. It's hard to downplay how great Carolina has been playing these past couple months. From March 1st to the end of the season, they were 13-3-2. Cam Ward has been playing like he did during the Hurricanes's Cup run in 2006. On their side, Pittsburgh went 14-2-3 over the same stretch. It's only fitting that the two hottest teams in the league face off in the conference finals. They split the season series 2 wins each. Sidney Crosby has been on fire, taking over the scoring lead during the Capitals series. Watch for the Staal brothers (Eric and Jordan) in this one. The brothers always seem to step their game up when playing against each other. Jordan only has two goals this post season, but they both came in his last three games. Eric has 9 goals and 4 assists to lead the Hurricanes in the playoffs. If Sergei Gonchar doesn't play, that is a huge blow to Pittsburgh. But, they were able to win games 4 and 5 without his services. Jussi Jokinen has been clutch for Carolina, but I don't see them having an answer for Crosby and Malkin. Penguins in 6.

So there you have it. I'm predicting a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Friday, May 15, 2009

MST3K Friday: Mr. B Natural

One of the best-loved shorts on MST3K. This one's broken up into two parts, so To Be Continued next week!

"CONN!!!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Castle (2009)

A good piece today over at Big Hollywood about "Castle". Of all the mid-season shows, this one's probably my favorite. Good chemistry between the leads. The crimes aren't really all that complex, but they do have some good twists and turns before the resolution.

If you haven't watched it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek (2009)



I took a break from hockey over the weekend to see the new Star Trek movie with some friends. We had a blast. It was a fun adventure and it was good to see the original crew on the screen again (albeit with different actors).

For anyone not familiar with the timeline J.J. Abrams’s reboot, we start with the birth of James T. Kirk, stop in on him and Spock as children, and then jump ahead to their Starfleet Academy years. When they first started batting around the Academy idea a couple years ago, I thought it was going to be horrible. Luckily, Abrams and the screenwriters visit the Academy long enough to introduce some of our heroes (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Uhura) and then jump ahead to their first mission.

I’m not going to go too much into the plot, but they found a way to be true to the spirit of the original without having to worry about 44 years of Trek cannon. Star Trek has always been about the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. In this one, their friendship is nascent, but a lot of the classic dynamic is there.

Chris Pine does an admirable job as Kirk. He doesn’t have the machoness of 1960’s William Shatner, but the heroic nature is there as well as Kirk’s sense of humor in the face of adversity. Zachary Quinto looks the part of Spock and can capture the struggle between logic and emotion quite well. Though there were at least two scenes that made me think of Syler (his character in NBC’s Heroes). Because of that, Quinto’s Spock has a bit more menace to him than Leonard Nimoy’s.

The other actor I want to call out is Karl Urban. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him because I thought his McCoy was stellar. Urban paid great homage to the late DeForest Kelley, not necessarily doing an impression of him, but delivering a lot of his lines with the same distinct cadence that Kelley did.

My problems with the movie? Uhura was given nothing to do, Chekov is almost a completely different character, and Scotty was almost nothing more than comic relief. My long running problem with modern action movies (extreme close ups and too quick editing) cropped up in a few of the fight sequences.

Overall, Star Trek is a fun new take on an old classic. I can’t wait until the next movie.

(BTW: I love Pine's copy of the famous Kirk-in-chair pose from the original series).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Front Porch Republic

Dave pointed me to a new website the other day called Front Porch Republic. From their mission statement:

We live in a world characterized by a flattened culture and increasingly meaningless freedoms. Little regard is paid to the necessity for those overlapping local and regional groups, communities, and associations that provide a matrix for human flourishing. We’re in a bad way, and the spokesmen and spokeswomen of both our Left and our Right are, for the most part, seriously misguided in their attempts to provide diagnoses, let alone solutions.

The articles I've read so far are well-written and well thought out. David points to one about why one of the authors doesn't own a television.

I was touched by this one about our current disposable society. Some good quotes:

Convenience combined with busyness amid prosperity is a perfect recipe for thoughtlessness. We don’t often think about what we are doing, because it’s increasingly rare for us to be in the midst of what it is we are doing. We have long grown accustomed to living in a virtual reality created for us by a combination of jobs that aren’t in any fundamental way connected to the reality of our daily lives, along with electronic forms of media that involve us as a “culture” in events and occurrences that are in no way related to our places, the people we know, the neighborhoods we inhabit. [...] This virtual reality - fostered by our work and our home life - has only been increased by the electronic media that we now carry with us everywhere, keeping us constantly “connected” and ever-more rarely present the actual place where we are. So, as we stir the cream into our coffee in the morning, doubtlessly we are more likely to be thinking about the meeting we are about to attend or the text message we need to return than the source and destination of the coffee stirrer that resides in our hands for several seconds then passes into the waste receptacle whose presence we barely register.
And later:

Above all, Americans lived in conditions that tempted them to neglect their ties to generations. After all, many came to escape the past - which was also tantamount to escaping from too much concern for the future. Unlike those nations with aristocratic pasts - even those that are now democratic - there was only a much more tenuous and often fleeting cultural forms that fostered in successive generations a felt sense of gratitude to the past and a sense of oligation to the future. Americans are prone to think of themselves as mayflies, each new generation responsible for creating its own world anew. While even in America there were vestiges of an older understanding of the connection of past, present and future - in particular Tocqueville thought those connections could be found in family, townships, rule of law and religion, above all - he believed them to be in danger of loosening with the likely trajectory of democracy and especially the restlessness that it induced. Our employment of fossil fuels only accelerated that trajectory, promoting the belief and practice that each individual of each generation was responsible to itself alone. The virtual life led by modern Americans disassociates us not only from place, from the continuum of time as well.

It's definitely a blog I will be keeping my eyes on in the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stanley Cup: Round 2

I went 7 for 8 in my first round predictions. Not bad if I do say so myself. I was pretty close on most of the game counts too. I knew I should have predicted more sweeps, but any team could win any night in the NHL.

This round looks to have some awesome matchups. Unfortunately, I haven't seen too many Western Conference games this year, so my predictions out there will be mostly stats/gut based.

East:

(1)Boston vs (6) Carolina. This should be an AWESOME matchup. I picked Carolina to upset New Jersey, and my prediction proved correct. They've been playing great hockey since the beginning of March and pulled off an amazing comeback last night. Boston, however, has been my pick in the East since the Penguins started their downslide in January. The goaltending should be great in this series since Boston's Tim Thomas is a Vezina finalist and Carolina's Cam Ward is one of the big reasons the Hurricanes made the playoffs. Boston won this year's season series and outscored Carolina 18-6. The 'Canes have lots of magic going into this one, but Boston's play this season and 4 scoring lines make me think they'll come out on top. Bruins in 6.

(2)Washington vs (4) Pittsburgh. I think Pittsburgh lucked out not getting the Bruins, but Washington is no walk in the park. The Capitals won the season series 3-1, but 2 of those victories came before Dan Bylsma, Sergei Gonchar, and Chris Kunitz joined the Penguins. This matchup features the league's top 3 regular season scorers (Malkin, Ovechkin, and Crosby), but I think the series will come down to defense and goaltending. Washington's Mike Green is an amazing young talent (31 goals, 42 assists in 68 games), but the rest of their defense isn't as talented. Washington gave up the 6th most goals in the Eastern Conference (though Pittsburgh is 7th). Goaltender Simeon Varlamov has done an outstanding job since coming in for relief of Jose Theodore, recording two shutouts, two games letting in only one goal, and one game letting in three. Washington can continue to ride the hot hand, but how long until the rookie runs out of steam? Marc-Andre Fleury looked good vs Philly and has the ability to steal a couple games if need be. I can see Washington winning this, but I'm going with an upset. Pittsburgh in 7.

West

(2)Detroit vs (8)Anaheim. Like I said, Anaheim is the best #8 seed we've seen in years. Both teams have balanced scoring and great defense. Both teams have goalies who deserve more respect (Hiller and Osgood) and good backups for both (former Conn Smythe winner JS Giguere and Ty Conklin). I think Detroit is just too good for Anaheim to pull another upset. Detroit in 6.

(3)Vancouver vs (4)Chicago. Chicago has a younger, more talented team. They have great offensive depth, but Vancouver has one of the best goalies in the league with Roberto Luongo. Chicago has more offensively minded defensemen - which is big in the playoffs - and has a better powerplay unit than Vancouver. But Vancouver has more experienced players and a goalie I have more confidence in. This is another matchup that can go either way. Do I dare pick another upset? Why not? Detroit vs Chicago will be a hum-dinger of a Western Final. Chicago in 7.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Playoffs Round 1

Let’s take a look how I’ve done so far on playoff predictions:

East:

Boston/Montreal – Boston in 4. I predicted Boston in 5 games because I figured Montreal could at least steal one.

Washington/Rangers - Game 7 tomorrow night. I said Caps in 7, so I could still be right. Though I’m surprised the Rangers got themselves a 3-1 lead and even more surprised they’re blowing it. Hardly anyone gave the Rangers a chance, but my prediction of veterans vs flaky goaltending seems pretty solid so far.

New Jersey/Carolina – Game 7 tomorrow. I picked Carolina to upset, and that can still happen. This series has been a true goaltenders duel. Game 5 in was a 1-0 win for the Devils with the goalies making a combined 85 saves! Should be a good one tomorrow.

Pittsburgh/Philadelphia – Pens in 6. And I picked Pens in 6. What makes this one even better is I was at all three games in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stole Game 4 with an amazing performance. Philly crowds are always something to behold, but there’s nothing like watching the Flyers blow a 3-0 lead and having Pittsburgh clinch the series with a 5-3 victory in Game Six.

West:

San Jose/Anaheim – Game 6 tonight (Anaheim leads 3-2). Well, I seem to be off on this one. Anaheim is probably the best 8 seed in years, but I expected San Jose to finally get over their annual postseason letdown. Maybe they can still pull it out, but it’ll be a tough one.

Detroit/Columbus – Detroit in 4. I predicted Detroit in 4. Looks to be pretty much what I expected.

Vancouver/St. Louis – Vancouver in 4. Looks like I gave St. Louis a little more credit than they deserved. True, they had lots of injury problems. But they finished the season hot and surprised a lot of people by even making the playoffs. Vancouver is looking good.

Chicago/Calgary – Game 6 tonight (Chicago leads 3-2). I picked Chicago in 7. This could very likely be the case. The first four games of the series were nailbiters (like I expected), but Chicago exploded in Game 5. They could close it out tonight, but I’m still going to say seven games.


Overall, I don’t think I did too badly. I’ll revisit again after the remaining series are completed and the second round matchups are set.

Friday, April 24, 2009

MST3K Friday: Catching Trouble

I would love to see that cub's mom come through the woods right about now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hockey Predictions

I used to send these predictions out via e-mail, but I think I'll blog them. Every year I make my predictions for the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year, I'm going to do them round by round instead of the whole thing at once. Here we go!

East:
(1)Boston vs (8)Montreal - Montreal has a lot going for it, especially since they are celebrating 100 years of the franchise this year. However, Boston has been the beast of the East all year long. Boston in 5.

(2)Washington vs (7)Rangers - Washington is still a young, untested team. They have some great scorers and an awesome d-man in Mike Green. But how much faith do you put in their goaltending? The Rangers are the more veteran team, but have basically backed themselves in to the playoffs. Washington in 6/7.

(3)Devils vs (6)Carolina - Never count the Devils out. But they really stunk it up in the last month of the season. That and Carolina tied Pittsburgh for the best March record at 11-1-2. I'm going with an upset and saying Carolina in 6.

(4)Pittsburgh vs (5)Philadelphia - As I mentioned with Carolina, Pittsburgh is hot, hot hot. Philly...not so much. A rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals and two teams that hate each other will make for a good series. And I get to go to at least 2 of the games! Penguins in 6.

West:
(1)San Jose vs (8)Anaheim - is this the year San Jose gets over the hump? They have the best record in the entire league, but Anaheim is another veteran club. San Jose in 5.

(2)Detroit vs (7)Columbus - It's good Columbus finally made it into the playoffs after 8 years. Their rookie goalie Steve Mason has been unbelievable this year. However, you just can't bet against the Red Wings. Detroit in 4.

(3)Vancouver vs (6)St. Louis - At the halfway point of the season, it looked like St. Louis had no shot. But they turned things around and got themselves the 6th seed. But Vancouver is a scary good team with one of the best goalies in the league. Vancouver in 6.

(4)Chicago vs (5)Calgary - Calgary has flown under everyone's radar this year. Mike Cammalleri lived up to his potential this year. The additions of Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold at the trade deadline solidified an already strong team. This one could go either way. I really like Chicago and their young stars, so I'm going to go with the team I'm rooting for. Chigago in 7.

In two weeks we'll see if I'm right or wrong. What are your predictions?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas

The Phillies' great announcer Harry Kalas has passed away after collapsing in the broadcast booth prior to Philadelphia's game at Washington. I'm not a Phillies fan, but I love Kalas. He had the best announcer voice and his signature home run call of "Outta here!" puts a smile on my face every time. I'm sad at his passing, but glad that he was able to see the Phils win the 2008 World Series before he passed away.

It pains me to think of young baseball fans not being able to grow up listening to Harry call games every night.

RIP.

How About That

I watched yesterday's Pirates/Reds game thanks to the free preview weekend of MLB Extra Innings. Although the Pirates lost 2-0 (a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first), it was a fun game to watch. The Pirates only managed three hits in the game, but their infield made some great defensive plays.

Shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez are the best double-play tandem in the league. Here's a clip of a phenomenal double-play to end the sixth inning. Jack makes a diving stop on a ball clearly headed for center field, flips it with his glove to Freddy, who makes a diving throw to first. If you're a fan of great baseball, it's worth your time to check it out.

If you let the player run after the double-play clip, you'll see the year's first triple-play. It was the Pirates' first triple play since Aug. 10, 1993, Jay Bell to Carlos Garcia to Kevin Young against St. Louis at Three Rivers Stadium.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Southland

I happened to catch the sneak peek of NBC's new cop drama "SouthLAnd" over the weekend (free on Hulu and TV Guide.com). It's not bad. The whole thing feels very familiar. There's a rookie cop from a rich family and his hard-ass Training Officer. A chauvinistic cop and his female partner, and a couple detectives.

The pilot follows a similar line of lots of other cop shows. The uniform officers have their story (rookie's first day on the job) and the detectives have theirs (missing girl).

Fans of cop shows will like it. I'm interested to see how it plays out with the general public. I'm not 100% sold on it, but I'm definitely going to check out the next couple episodes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the (Sports) Year

April is a pretty good time of the year. The NHL and NBA playoffs are starting. Today is opening day of the baseball season. We have the Final Four and Frozen Four. The NFL draft is just around the corner. It's a great time to be a sports junkie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Redefining a Joke

You've heard the old line "Take my wife, please!". Well....this German couple took it one step further. Read on...



(found here)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Best MST3K not on DVD

Topless Robot has a list today of their best MST3K episodes not on DVD. Some of my faves are on there ("Pumaman", "Gamera") and there are some I'm not familiar with. Luckily, I have some of these taped (yes.....taped) off of SciFi before they stopped airing episodes. I'm not in complete agreement with the list, but there are some goodies on that one ("Neptune Men"...I'm looking at you). After I take a close look at the episodes available, I might post my own version of this list.

Friday, March 20, 2009

MST3K Friday: Using Your Voice

"Won't people think I'm peculiar if I start speaking differently than I ever have before?" "People think that already, you big dope."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Political Comedians

I’ve talked before about politicians using humor to get a point across and relate to voters. Yesterday, there was a column on Big Hollywood dealing with humor and politics in the other direction.

Author Ben Shapiro shines the light on political operatives using comedy as a cover to promote a specific agenda. In this case, he’s specifically looking at Jon Stewart and Bill Maher. I agree with Shapiro for the most part, but feel the conclusion to the column was a bit weak. Instead of taking the opportunity to make a suggestion or further the case against these unfunny hacks, he stoops to their level. Instead of exposing their agenda and blatant hypocrisy, he asks the same type of gotcha/smug questions that they always ask of their “interview” subjects.

I agree that part of a comedian’s job is to poke fun at social norms. Some of the great stand up comics in our history have changed the world with their social commentary. But the difference between them and the current crop is they were actually funny. Liberals and conservatives can both laugh at guys like Carlin, Pryor, and even Chris Rock. They poke a finger in the eye of both sides of the political spectrum, but do it with actual humor and not a goofy face or repetitive shtick. They saw their job as being entertainers, not as promoters of their own political agenda.

Lots of people have lamented the apparent death of civility in our world, and it seems we may have also lost our sense of humor along the way.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Review: No Line on the Horizon (2009)

Here are a couple quick reactions to U2's latest album. With their previous album (2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb), I liked the first half much more than the second half of the album. With No Line on the Horizon, it's exactly opposite in that I like the second half is much better.

We start off with the title track, which has a driving bass beat but not much else. The lyrics are repetitive and I just couldn't get into it. The second track "Magnificent" is fantastic (though I prefer the live Letterman version to the album version). This sounds a lot like classic U2 from "With or Without You" era. Then the album goes back into sleepy mode. "Moment of Surrender" and "Unknown Caller" left little to no impression on me. Maybe on repeat listening they'll grow on me.

Track five is "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight". When I first heard it on Letterman, I didn't care for it. But when hearing it in context, I really dig this tune. It serves as a bridge between the two parts of the album. It starts off as an uptempo ballad then builds to an rock-like anthem. At this point, the album kicks into high gear with the single "Get On Your Boots." Like I mentioned previously, this song has grown on me. "Boots" leads into another great rock track in "Stand Up Comedy". Adam Clayton's bass work and Edge's guitar are great on this track. It's classic rock and rock and roll all the way.

Track eight, "Fez - Being Born", takes a step back. After getting everybody up with the previous tracks, the boys put in this slow, experimental number. I guess I didn't "get" it, but this is my least favorite track on the album.

"White as Snow" is another slow one, but really displays the poetic gifts of Bono as a songwriter. I found the lyrics and the story behind the song at this great site. "Snow" and the closing track "Cedars Of Lebanon" are almost like brother songs. They're light on tune, but that lets you focus on the lyrics. Bono said in an interview that this song is the thoughts of a soldier dying in Afghanistan after a roadside bomb. If you keep that in mind while listening to it, this is truly a beautiful song.

"Breathe" takes you back up into rock, almost rapcore mode. It was my favorite of the new songs they played on Letterman (YouTube clip here). Bono is really playing with lyrics in this one seeing how many words he can string together per measure. They create such a groove that you can't help but bob your head in rhythm.

The album closes with "The Cedars of Lebanon". Do yourself a favor and check out the lyrics. This one is presented in almost beat poem mode with Bono speaking the lyrics instead of singing them (except the refrain). The other boys just keep a beat in the background and really don't play any sort of melody. Like with "White as Snow", it's all about the lyrics. It's a great song to close out the record.

It's a new direction for U2, but they keep in mind what got them to where they are at this point in their careers. I've only gone through the album in sequence once, but I think on repeated listenings the whole experience will grow on me. My only wish was the first half was stronger. I'd probably give the whole thing a B+ with the chance of it going higher.

I'll leave you with a clip of U2 doing the Top 10 list from Thursday night's show: