Saturday, September 20, 2008

Red Light/Green Light...The Kitty Version

I found this hilarious video on YouTube. It was titled "Ninja cat comes closer while not moving", but watching it reminded me of the old children's game hence the title to my post.

Boob Tube Rundown

I watched plenty of TV this summer, including some shows which just finished or are just now wrapping up. Included on that list was my perennial summer favorite, Big Brother. As usual, my favorite contestant did not win, and instead two yucky, evil and conniving people were the final two. Dan aka Judas (if you agree with Jerry) won the half-million and Keesha won $25K as voted by America. I voted for Renny. That ol' gal was a hoot! She made for some fun TV.

America's Got Talent has had a great season, and I'm thrilled that my favorite, Eli Mattson, made it into the top 5. Come finale night I plan on letting my fingers do the talking as I dial and redial to vote, vote, vote for my guy to take home the prize. Though in a crowded field of singers, Nuttin but Stringz might stand out enough to take home the prize.

The newest addition to my viewing schedule is Fringe and let me tell you, so far it's been worth that lost hour of my life which I could've spent doing something productive. It's been intriguing (what's up with Massive Dynamic? good or evil?), creepy (dead man-baby...need I say more), and a little out there...which for a TV show is all good in my book. I'm still a little iffy about Joshua Jackson's performance as Peter Bishop, but he's slowly growing on me. John Noble as Walter Bishop is downright brilliant. I expect he'll be getting an Emmy nomination this time next year.

Looking forward to House and hopefully a quick resolution to the rift between House and Wilson. They're Holmes and Watson. They can't break up!

As previously mentioned, I'll be watching Heroes and Dancing with the Stars on Monday. Still not sure which I'll be watching live and which will be taped for later viewing. Keeping my fingers crossed for a great Heroes season reminiscent of the excitement and anticipation of Season One. As for Dancing with the Stars, no clear celebrity frontrunners or early favorites going into the season, but I always love Julianne Hough. Unfortunately, they partnered her up with some young kid from the Hannah Montana show so her success is dubious at best. I could be wrong, and this kid could be great, but it seems to me that the powers that be at ABC do not want the poor girl to three-peat and take home that third disco trophy. I guess they think a country music career is enough.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Better Late Than Never

As you guys might recall, I mentioned back in July or August that I was looking forward to catching the Jets vs. Giants in their pre-season game. Well, I went, I saw, I conquered. The conquered part is a bit of an exageration, but I did go and see. The game was great, especially since miraculously the Jets managed to win. I got to see my man Brett donning his new gang green uniform. I did bring my camera, but I only took a few shots before the game started. Here they are.



I'm Baaack!

Sorry I've been gone so long. I wish I could say I was out doing missionary work in Ethiopia, saving the whales, or something else just as noble and worthy, but alas I was home and too lazy to get off my duff and blog. Anyway, I hope you all had a great summer. I can't wait for the new Fall TV season to kick in to high gear. So far, so good. Tuesday's "House" was great and "Fringe" was even better! And, as if life's choices aren't difficult enough, this Monday its "Heroes" or "Dancing with the Stars." Oh no! What am I to do? Do I watch Heroes and tape Dancing or do I watch Dancing and tape Heroes? Choices, choices.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz centers around the sad life of Oscar DeLeon, an overweight Dominican nerd who loves science fiction, comic books, fantasy and girls, and the curse (fuku) which has touched the lives of his entire family, including his mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral, his sister Lola, and his grandfather Abelard Luis Cabral. Poor Oscar is depressed, lonely, a virgin, and unfortunately seemingly unable to remedy the situation.

The story was funny and heartbreaking at times, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the use of Spanglish and Spanish throughout the book, I thought that given the fact that the title of the book is "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" that the story would've had a greater focus on Oscar. Instead, the story spreads itself kind of thin by covering everyone in the family, giving you enough information to care about everyone, but love no one. Another feature which limits the reader's connection with Oscar is the fact that the story is narrated by different people at different times, mostly by Yunior, Oscar's best friend, so you never get a good insight as to Oscar's thoughts and feelings through the more pivotal points in the story. Despite those complaints and the bittersweet ending, which doesn't come as a surprise given the title of the book, I enjoyed the story. It wasn't a can't put down page turner for me, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Dark Knight's Redemption

I saw "Batman Begins" back in 2005 and thought that director Chris Nolan did a great job in making the movie more than the typical superhero movie, it was dark, serious and compelling compared to the usual campy fun of previous Batmans, so I was looking forward to seeing "The Dark Knight" especially given Heath Ledger's role in the movie, and his subsequent tragic death. Well, I finally saw the movie last weekend and the movie was great--but all thanks to Heath Ledger. Heath redeems what would have been a bland, too long movie by giving a tour de force performance. Every scene that he's not in pales by comparison to the vibrant energy that leaps off the screen when he's on.

I had been curious to see if all the internet buzz and praise heaped on Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker was true, and let me tell you, yes, every word of praise is more than merited. Heath was phenomenal. While I can't say that Heath deserves to win the Oscar without knowing who his competition might be, he definitely earned a nomination at the very least. Where Nicholson's Joker was comical and campy, Heath's Joker is dark, maniacal, and almost frightening. The biggest compliment I could pay him is to say that in parts he is unrecognizable as himself, and not just because of the makeup.

Heath makes the movie worth the $10 ticket and the 2 plus hours of duration. If you haven't seen the movie, see it, you'll be seeing one of the greatest performances on film.

Longing for Autumn

Hi all, sorry I haven't been posting lately but I have a bit of the summer blues. To be honest, I'm sooo over summer. I'm anxiously anticipating Autumn and everything that comes with it, like cool crisp sweatshirt-wearing weather, new episodes of all my favorite TV shows (House, Heroes, and Chuck, to name a few), the Emmy Awards, smart movies at the theater - you know the "Oscar-worthy" material that they save until everyone gets their fill of the blow em' up, shoot 'em up summer blockbusters, and last but not least...football! I always enjoy football, but even more so now that my Jets went and got a future first round hall of famer by the name of Brett Favre as our quarterback. I'm thrilled to say that I had purchased tickets to see the pre-season Jets vs. Giants game before Brett was even a possibility, so I'll be seeing number "4" play right in front of my very eyes very soon.

Enjoy what's left of summer. For now, I'll let dreams of my Jets in the playoffs (hey, anything is possible) help see me through the rest of August.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

American Teen

Today I went to my local fine arts cinema to see a special screening of the documentary "American Teen." The screening was followed by a special Q&A session with three of the five subjects of the movie. The movie follows the lives of five teenagers during their senior year in high school in the small community of Warsaw, Indiana. The kids are Colin, the jock; Hannah, the artsy rebel; Megan, the popular mean girl; Mitch, the sweet heartthrob; and Jake, the band geek. The five are typical teens dealing with the typical high school insecurities of first loves, heartbreaks, cliques, and basically just surviving four years of angst.

Each of the kid's respective storylines is compelling and you are drawn to these five young people and their trials, fears, hopes and dreams. Colin is the captain of the basketball team, whose main focus during senior year is to get noticed by scouts because without a basketball scholarship for college its the army for him. Megan is the popular mean girl who seemingly makes herself feel better by hurting others. She could be straight out of "Mean Girls" or "Heathers", but just when you have her figured out, you find out a truth which just might (maybe a little) explain why she is the way she is. Mitch is the hunky basketball player who all the girls drool over, and who falls for Hannah. Jake is the lonely band geek who dreams of having a girlfriend and makes it his mission to find one before senior year is over. Lastly, Hannah, I think the key person in the movie, is the quirky rebel who feels that she just doesn't fit in, who dreams of moving to California and becoming a film-maker.

As you watch the film you forget its a documentary, because it plays like a script from any of the old John Hughes teen films of the 80s, the most obvious one of course being "The Breakfast Club." The movie was very touching and by the end you really care about what happened to each of the kids. Luckily, there's a blurb on each of the kids at the end, right before the credits so you don't leave the theater wondering. You'll also find yourself taking a little trip down memory lane as you watch the movie, because it draws you back to your own high school memories--good or bad--whichever it maybe for you. Watching and remembering all those high school insecurities which seemed to be the most important things in the world at the time, all I could think was thank God thats over. As for the movie, I loved it! I laughed, I cried, and laughed and cried some more.

The Q&A session following the screening was also great because it gave you the chance to see and hear about how much each of them has grown and matured--especially Megan--since the movie was filmed.

On this Day (in 1940)

On July 27, 1940 Bugs Bunny made his film debut in "A Wild Hare." Bugs Bunny was animated by Chuck Jones and his voice came from the legendary Mel Blanc.

This is my personal favorite, "Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid", with 'Killer' the shy buzzard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Third Angel

“The Third Angel” is the first book I’ve ever read by Alice Hoffman, and I breezed through it in two days. It was that good. The book encompasses three stories connected by the same characters and locations in different times, as well as by the theme of hopeless and tragic love. The first story, ‘The Heron’s Wife’ is set in 1999 and shares the tale of two sisters, Maddy and Allie Heller, both in love with the same man. Maddy is the jealous younger sister, who feels that Allie is “the good sister, the perfect sister, the one who had everything.” Maddy travels to London in advance of her sister’s wedding, and becomes instantly attracted to Allie’s fiancé Paul, ultimately having an affair with him. The second story, 'Lion Park', set in 1966, centers on Frieda Lewis, who later becomes Paul’s mother, when she was a young woman working as a maid at a hotel and how she becomes the muse for and falls in love with a young drug-addicted rocker, Jamie. Finally, the third story 'The Rules of Love', set in 1952, is about 12-year old Lucy (Maddy and Allie’s mother), and how she plays the role of go-between for two doomed lovers caught up in a love triangle.

The title of the book refers to a story told to Frieda Lewis by her father, a doctor whom she accompanied on house calls. He told her that in addition to the Angel of Life and the Angel of Death, either of which rode with him when he made house calls, there was a mysterious Third Angel who walks among us: "You can't even tell if he's an angel or not. You think you're doing him a kindness, you think you're the one taking care of him, while all the while, he's the one who's saving your life."

As I said, I really enjoyed this book. Each character was compelling, even the ones with less than redeeming qualities or actions. It’s a story not only about love, but about relationships and redemption. After reading this novel, I’ll definitely be hitting my local library for some of Ms. Hoffman’s other works.

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down

In this case, it's laughs and not sugar, but you get the idea...an important message conveyed through laughter. A friend emailed me a hilarious article from the Miami Herald. The article was entitled “Dave Barry: A journey into my colon -- and yours.” The article is laugh out loud funny, yet it conveys a very serious message about the importance of having a colonoscopy and finding colon rectal cancer early. If you’re 50, which I think is the age when people are encouraged to have their first, or even if you’re not and just want a good laugh, you’ve got to read it.

A Suspense-Filled Evening

If one movie can make the case for the fact that they don’t make suspense movies like they used to, with some exceptions, its Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” which I enjoyed watching for the first time last night. This suspense classic really wowed me, and I’m so glad I went for the oldie but goodie at the rental store this time around. The movie stars an all-star cast, including James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Raymond Burr.

In the movie L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Stewart) is a photographer cooped up in his apartment and confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg. He enjoys the daily visit of his nurse Stella and his socialite fiancée, Lisa Fremont (Kelly), but to alleviate his boredom he enjoys watching through his rear window at the daily goings on of the neighbor’s that live in the apartment buildings that surround the courtyard, even giving them monikers, including Ms. Lonely Hearts, a sad woman that sets out a place setting for her imaginary lover and then play acts welcoming him at the door and their ensuing conversation, Ms. Torso, a ballerina who rehearses in her underclothes and that holds court with her many male admirers as if a Queen Bee with her drones, and the salesman, Thorwald (Burr) with the nagging invalid wife.

While people watching helped pass the time, Jeff’s curiosity is truly piqued when during a 2:00 am rainstorm he spies Thorwald, the salesman, making numerous trips to and from his apartment with his large metal sample case. The morning after, the invalid wife is glaringly and mysteriously absent from the apartment. Thorwald’s next steps only increase Jeff’s suspicions that the wife has been the victim of foul play. Despite his fiancé’s disbelief or that of his detective friend, whom he contacts to confirm his suspicions, he’s determined to do what it takes to catch who he believes is the killer.

Great movie!! It was definitely one of Hitchcock’s best.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Close Encounter with a Teen Angel

So yesterday I went to see "Grease" on Broadway and had a wonderful time. The show was tons of fun, though I was slightly disconcerted by the switcheroo in the song order compared to the movie, a small insignificant fact which did not detract at all from an enjoyable two hours of great music. Luckily, both of the leads, Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, were there for our performance. As you guys might recall, Max and Laura won the lead roles as Danny and Sandy (the Broadway debut for each) in NBC's reality competition "You're the One That I Want."

Of course, the best part of the show, and one--if not the--main reason I got the tickets was to see Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel. As I've previously mentioned I'm a proud member of the Soul Patrol, so I had to go see my man perform on the Great White Way, and let me just say he was great...woohooo! Either there were tons of Soul Patrollers out in the audience, or the unbiased crowd agreed wholeheartedly with my assessment of his performance, because he received a pretty raucous greeting from the crowd both following his performance and during the curtain call when he sang and played his harmonica for the crowd.

Thanks to my cousin who rushed to the front of the barricade by the theater exit door, we got his autograph and that of the show leads, and I also got these photos.



I took this photo during the curtain call when he was blowing on his harmonica. Hated the combed back hairdo, but his jacket was very cute. It had these two small rhinestone angels wings on the back.



Friday, July 18, 2008

You Snooze You Lose

For those of you still in the dark about Dr. Horrible, like I was just yesterday, I've got your back. Here's the scoop. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a three-part online musical miniseries conceived by Joss Whedon the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer during the writer's strike.

The videos feature Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a shy supervillian who wants to use his freeze-ray to help him get into the Evil League of Evil and also to impress the girl he's in love with but can't get the nerve to speak to. Nathan Fillion stars as his arch nemesis Captain Hammer, a real tool, who steals Dr. Horrible's dream girl.

The videos can be found online at www.drhorrible.com. Acts I and II have already been released, and the final Act III will be released tomorrow Saturday. The videos will be online for FREE only until Sunday, July 20th. After Sunday you'll have to buy the videos on iTunes for $1.99 a piece. So hurry over and watch them. I've seen Acts I and II, and wow that boy (Neil) can sing!! He belongs on Broadway.

Boob Tube Update

Big Brother is back and better than ever--well at least better than last season--so far. Sunday was the season premiere of Big Brother 10 and there is definite potential there. CBS has been touting that it's the most diverse cast ever, and I'd have to agree. No early favorites yet, but I do have a couple players I'd love to see walk out the BB house door soon--Renny and Jessie. I wish they could've both stayed on the block together, and been evicted together too. Glad Brian got sent home. He was too cocky, too soon. Jessie won the HOH this week, so it will be interesting to see if he targets Jerry as payback for his own nomination, or if he's a little more strategic in who he puts up.

The last couple of weeks of America's Got Talent have been pretty bland for me. No standout performances, and no new favorites to cheer for, despite NBC's determined effort to throw sob story, after sob story at us. For example, last week we had Donald Braswell (sang Josh Groban song) whose tragic back story was damaged vocal chords due to an accident. The week before that it was Kyle Rifkin, the wedding singer with a hard knocks life striving for a brighter future. I don't know if I've become slightly cynical or just numbed by the endless weeks of auditions, because normally I'm the biggest sucker for an underdog, but neither of these guys did anything for me. I think NBC is milking the audition rounds a little too long. When the call-in vote portion of the show arrives, people will have tuned out. It's a bit of a snoozefest. All I can say is wake me up when we get to Vegas.

So You Think You Can Dance has provided some standout entertainment lately and for the full 2-hours no less. Yup, no fillers, no ton of commercials, no extra long pieces letting us know what the dancers had for breakfast or how they like or dislike each other, nope, just two solid hours chock-full of dancing. As I predicted in my last SYTYCD post, Thayne and Comfort got the boot, though thanks to poor Jessica's injury, Comfort got a chance at redemption. This week the dancers got scrambled around and we got some pairings with a lot of potential, namely Will and Katee and Joshua and Courtney. I love Joshua and he did not disappoint this week. Josh and Courtney pulled off a great Bride of Frankenstein inspired hip-hop routine, and a sizzlin' hot rumba. The second best dance of the night was easily Twitch and Comfort's hip-hop routine. I correctly guessed the bottom dwellers for the week--Comfort and Kherington for the girls and Mark and Gev for the boys. Ultimately, Kherington and Gev were sent home, and while I agree with the audience's saving vote for Comfort (she earned another week with the great hip-hop routine), I was very disappointed that Gev got sent home. I knew he wouldn't win it all, but I was hoping he'd stick around a couple more weeks. This has been a great season so far, and I'm glad that we're now in the home stretch.

I've been watching Last Comic Standing the last couple of weeks (I skipped most of the auditions). From what I've seen so far of the finalist's material, right now I'd put my money on Louis Ramey to win it all, though there are a few which could put up a fight. This week in particular Carrot Top was a guest judge, and the immunity competition included performing a comedy bit with props that the finalists had to find at random in a store they were in. While I expected certain people to do well, Jeff Dye came out of left field for me and totally blew me away. I thought he was hilarious. He did this bit on Forrest Gump running that anybody that's seen the movie would totally crack up about. Carrot Top agreed with me, or I agreed with him, whichever, Jeff ended up winning immunity. So far four finalists have been sent home and all thanks to one person...Iliza Shlesinger. Argh! I don't like her. Actually I strongly dislike her. I wish I could root for her, if for no other reason than that she's the only woman left in the competition. But I can't. I cannot bring myself to do it. So, I'll just keep watching and rooting for everyone else.

For those of you who haven't seen Hopkins yet, what are you waiting for?! The show only has a six-week run, and they've already had four episodes including last night's. Last night the episode was gut wrenching. I find all the episodes tough to watch because you're watching someone's life or death play out on national TV, but last night was especially heartbreaking because it dealt with the health of a little two-year old boy. Peyton came into the hospital with totally unexpected heart problems. As far as the parents knew he'd been totally fine. A normal and healthy mischevious two-year old. Unfortunately, the parents are told that Peyton's heart is quickly deteriorating and they might lose him if they can't perform a heart transplant. The look on that poor mother's face just broke your heart. Thankfully the story has a happy ending, at least for this family, because Peyton was able to get his heart transplant. What tears you up inside as an unbiased viewer is the knowledge that for Peyton to live, it means that another family lost their child. Each episode has been truly riveting, and for those that haven't seen it I would highly recommend watching the remaining episodes (next Thursday) on TV or watching them all online at ABC.com.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emmy Noms are a Mixed Bag of Goods

The nominations for the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced today. Nominees in the top categories were announced by Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris, who received a pleasant early morning surprise when they each received a nomination of their own in the supporting actor /actress category. I was very happy to find that more than a few of my favorites, including House, The Office and Lost will be well represented on Emmy night garnering nominations both in the Outstanding Series (Drama/Comedy) category, as well as noms in the acting categories (Hugh Laurie, Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, Michael Emerson). Unfortunately, it can’t all be good news and some of my faves, most notably Friday Night Lights and Robert Sean Leonard from House, got snubbed yet again.

This year’s Emmys will also include a new category for reality competition host. The nominess included Ryan Seacrest from ratings juggernaut “American Idol,” the likable Tom Bergeron from “Dancing With the Stars” and my personal favorite Jeff Probst from the granddaddy of reality shows, “Survivor.”

Visit TV Guide for a full list of Emmy nominations. Winners will be announced live on ABC on Sunday, September 21st. I'll definitely be tuning in and keeping my fingers crossed for my favorites.

Favorite TV Theme Songs

TV theme songs are an important part of any show, after all they help set the mood for the show. For example, to this day when you hear the Twilight Zone's theme play with its famous...do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do...you know something spooky is in the works. That song is so much a part of our culture, that it's commonplace for people to do the sound effect themselves to imply something weird or creepy. A great TV theme song can also be catchy and memorable, easily bringing to mind the show they're from. I'd bet that when most people hear The WHO's "Who Are You" they automatically think of the show "C.S.I."

Sadly, you don't hear many great theme songs nowadays, so most of my favorites are older, not ancient, but not of this decade. Here's a few of my favorites, in no particular order. (I hope they don't get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. If they do...sorry!)

The Addams Family
by Vic Mizzy

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family.

Their house is a museum.
When people come to see ‘em
They really are a screa-um.
The Addams Family.

Cheers
Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Greatest American Hero
Believe it or Not by Mike Post & Stephen Geyer

Look at what’s happened to me,
I can’t believe it myself.
Suddenly I’m up on top of the world,
It should’ve been somebody else.

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me.

It’s like a light of a new day,
It came from out of the blue.
Breaking me out of the spell I was in,
Making all of my wishes come true.

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be? Believe it or not it’s just me.

All in the Family
Those Were The Days by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse

Boy the way Glen Miller played, songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made, those were the days.

And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.

Didn’t need no welfare state, Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days.

The Jeffersons
Movin’ on Up by Jeff Barry & Janet Dubois

Well we’re movin on up, to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’ just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Well we’re movin on up, to the East Side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Special mention to the great theme music from The Twilight Zone, Mission Impossible, and Hawaii Five-O.

By the way, if you want to listen to one of the above theme songs or your own particular favorite, visit one of these websites: http://www.ilovewavs.com/TV/Prime/Prime.htm and/or http://www.slackerup.com/TVThemes/index.html.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Bell Jar

"The Bell Jar" is the first and only novel by Sylvia Plath, originally published in Europe under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963. It was published under Plath's name for the first time in 1966. The novel is semi-autobiographical and deals honestly and poignantly with the subject of mental illness.

The book tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a college student from Massachusetts who wins a fashion magazine contest and wins a month long internship at a fashion magazine in New York. While in New York, Esther is lost and confused, unsure of her own feelings and thoughts, and fully aware of her own disconcerting mental state. In relating stories of the parties, gifts and experiences in New York she seems bewildered by her own ambivalence to life around her. She states "Look what can happen in this country, they'd say. A girl lives in some out-of-the way town for nineteen years, so poor she can't afford a magazine, and then she gets a scholarship to college and wins a prize here and a prize there and ends up steering New York like her own private car. Only I wasn't steering anything, not even myself...I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo."

After returning home, Esther's condition worsens, becoming so depressed that she can't sleep, can't eat, can't write and supposedly can't even read--though she states that the only thing she could read was abnormal psychology books. She describes feeling as if trapped under a bell jar with the air stifling and the view distorted, "stewing in my own sour air." After her mom brings her to a psychiatrist who performs shock therapy, she is left further traumatized by the experience and she decides that the best step would be to commit suicide. After a nearly successful suicide attempt, Esther is hospitalized at a state hospital but later her benefactress Philomena Guinea, pays to have her transferred to a private mental hospital. There she meets a female psychiatrist, Dr. Nolan, whom she connects with and grows to trust. After stops and starts in her recovery, Dr. Nolan decides to perform shock therapy again, and this time with the procedure done correctly, it actually helps. Esther relates after her first shock therapy treatment under Dr. Nolan's care "All the heat and fear had purged itself. I felt surprisingly at peace. The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air."

As the story reaches it conclusion, we leave Esther with a sense of hope for her future, yet a sense of unease for what may come..."How did I know that someday--at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere--the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?"

This was a well-written and unsettling book. As you read each page, especially early on, you do so on edge-constantly waiting for the shoe to drop. Knowing its just a matter of time, before Esther will have to confront her demons. Knowing that this book was semi-autobiographical and that Sylvia actually lived through these moments of fear, pain, and desolation made the book even sadder to read. I wish I could've wiped away the saddness of the story with the comforting knowledge that her real life had a happy ending, but I can't even do that, since tragically Sylvia committed suicide at the young age of 30. In spite of the chilling and sad recount, the book is definitely worth reading for its courage and honesty in dealing with what was given its time--and still is to some extent--a taboo subject.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nostalgia Time Again...80's Teen Movies

Nostalgia hits me every once in a while on a variety of topics. This time I was reminiscing on the incredible teen films from the 80’s which went on to become classics and that I love to this day. I guess it’s part of the territory that comes with turning 40, this need to compare everything to when I was young, but most would have to admit that teen movies today just aren’t what they used to be. In all honesty, teen movies are a rare breed nowadays. You don’t see many movies dealing with the teen psyche or teen issues, or just meant to purely entertain and appeal to teen's sensibilities. Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox, and just share this short list of my favorite teen movies. I hope this list brings back some fond memories of your own.

6. Weird Science – Love this nerds make good classic. Gary and Wyatt are two geeky teenagers who decide to use their computer and a Barbie doll to create their perfect woman. Kelly LeBrock played Lisa, their creation, who helps them believe in themselves, make the in-crowd and each get a girlfriend to boot.

5. Can’t Buy Me Love – This movie features Dr. Mc Dreamy (Patrick Dempsey) as Ronald, an unpopular geek who hires the most popular and prettiest cheerleader in high school to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month in order to make it into the cool crowd. Things go a little topsy turvy when she starts liking him for real, and he starts believing his own lies and changing for the worst. In my opinion this is probably one of Dempsey’s best roles ever.

4. Breakfast Club – This classic covered all the bases…the misunderstood bad boy, the jock, the outsider, the brainy nerd, and the prima donna all coming together for detention on a Saturday morning and finding that they have more in common than they each thought. You could find something of yourself in at least one of these well-played characters.

3. Pretty in Pink – Perfect chick-flick. I loved this poor girl / rich boy teen love story. 80s It girl Molly Ringwald was thoroughly likable as Andie, but while I was behind Andie and Blaine making it to the prom, I must say that Duckie was the one that stole my heart.

2. Sixteen Candles – So many great scenes in this hilarious movie. Who could forget the panty auction in the bathroom, foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong, the memorable I do’s at Samantha’s sister’s wedding, or the scene as the cars pull away from the front of the church and Samantha spots Jake waiting for her and she turns around to see if he’s there for someone else. As a teen you could totally relate to Samantha’s seemingly unrequited love, after all who didn’t have a Jake of their own in high school which they daydreamed about.

1. Some Kind of Wonderful – I saw this movie at least 10 times when it originally came out. The staff at the movie theater must have had a good laugh at my expense each time they saw me coming. Mary Stuart Masterson was brilliant as Watts, the drum playing tomboy who’s secretly in love with her best friend Keith, who’s in love with the most popular girl in school. I still remember Watts walking away crying, before Keith gives her the diamond earrings, and he says “you look good wearing my future.” Awww...it still makes me teary-eyed whenever I see it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Persepolis

"Persepolis" is an animated (mostly black & white) movie based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. When we are first introduced to Marji in this autobiographical tale, she's a precocious nine-year old girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Eventhough her grandfather and uncle have both been imprisoned, she's a typical young girl who wears Adidas sneakers, loves french fries with ketchup, and whose idol is Bruce Lee. The movie's mini-history lesson serves as a backdrop to Marjane's coming of age story, overlapping events occurring in Iran, such as when the fundamentalists take power and the women have to start wearing head scarfs as well as the Iran/Iraq war, with Marjane's discovery of her own voice and the need to be true to herself.

This isn't your typical animated movie--no birdies singing or Pixar animation--but it's definitely worth seeing. It's message of self-empowerment and fortitude shine through even without any CGI or special effects.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

On this Day (in 1985)

On July 13, 1985, Live Aid, the concert for famine relief was held simultaneously in Philadelphia and London. The concert was organized by Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, and included a veritable who's who of rock and roll royalty, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Madonna, and Queen to name a few. In 2005, to mark the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, Bob Geldof organized Live 8, a series of concerts in various G8 countries. Whereas Live Aid raised funds (supposedly over $70 million) for famine relief, the Live 8 concerts were meant to raise awareness of poverty in lesser developed nations.

Here's Queen, with the brilliant Freddie Mercury, performing at Live Aid in 1985.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It Wouldn't Be Summer Without Big Brother

Get ready for some wild and crazy fun with the reliably zany "Big Brother" which returns this Sunday, July 13th for the start of Season 10. There will be 13 contestants vying for the half-million dollar prize. According to Yahoo, the 13 contestants are:

• Michelle Costa, 28, real estate agent from Cumberland, R.I.
• Steven Daigle, 35, geographic consultant from Dallas
• April Dowling, 30, finance manager from Higley, Ariz.
• Robert "Memphis" Garrett, 25, mixologist and party planner from Los Angeles
• Dan Gheesling, 24, high school teacher from Dearborn, Mich.
• Jessie Godderz, 22, bodybuilder from Huntington Beach, Calif.
• Brian Hart, 27, telecommunication account manager from San Francisco
• Jerry MacDonald, 75, retired marketing executive from Magnolia, Texas
• Renny Martyn, 53, hair salon owner from Metairie, La.
• Bryan Ollie, 27, marketing sales representative from Bloomington, Minn.
• Keesha Smith, 29, waitress from Burbank, Calif.
• Angie Swindell, 29, pharmaceutical sales representative from Orlando, Fla.
• Libra Thompson, 31, human resources representative from Spring, Texas

Ah, I can't wait. Showmances, backdoor evictions, and cheesy HOH competitions. Could you ask for anything more? Maybe one thing...bring back Janelle and Will.

Oh, I've saved the best for last. Here's a tour with Julie Chen of the Big Brother house.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Energy-Sucking Appliances Siphon $$ from Our Wallets

GoodMagazine.com has a great section titled "Transparency" which provides a graphical explanation or exploration of a wide array of subjects in topics as diverse as politics, money, living, health and science. Issue 008 had a great piece under Technology entitled "Vampire Energy" which explained the fact that even when some appliances are turned off they are still drawing electricity (standby mode). The graphic detailed how much these energy-sucking appliances can cost us annually. The numbers ranged from $3.85 for a microwave to $159.76 for a plasma TV. Yikes!



So what can we do? Well, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) had the following energy-saving tips which you can do for free to reduce energy consumption:

1. Unplug seldom used appliances.
2. Use power strips to switch off televisions, home theater equipment, and stereos when you're not using them. Even when you think these products are off, together, their "standby" consumption can be equivalent to that of a 75 or 100 watt light bulb running continuously.
3. Enable the "sleep mode" feature on your computer, allowing it to use less power during periods of inactivity.

Go to the above NRDC link for additional information on steps and tools which can save energy and in turn put money in your pocket. I've found that even the smallest, most inconsequential thing--like changing a light bulb--can make a difference. I've been changing my old light bulbs to compact fluorescents as they burn out and I've already seen a drop in my Con Ed bill.

Every little bit helps. Take the steps to keep those pennies in your piggybank.

Beam Me Up Scotty

If you're a sci-fi fan or if you just love unique tchotchkes for your home, then you'll want to have one of these alien abduction lamps on your nightstand. It even has little aliens inside the UFO. How cute is that!



The alien abduction lamp is still in the concept stage so you can't rush out to the store yet. Visit abductionlamp.com for more information.

Favorite Movie Quotes

There are some things that stay with you long after a movie is over. Whether it be a scene, for example in "Forrest Gump" I love the shot of Forrest sitting by the water fishing with his son, the way they both tilted their head to the side just so, or it could be a song from the soundtrack. The majority of the times its a line which ends up having a life of its own, like "I'll be back" from the "Terminator" or "You talking to me?" from "Taxi Driver." Here's a countdown of my five favorites:

5. "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), To Kill a Mockingbird

4. "I know how hard it is in these times to have faith. But maybe if you could have the faith to start there, maybe the times would change. You could change them. Think about it. Try. And try not to hurt each other. There's been enough of that. It really gets in the way. I'm a God of very few words and Jerry's already given you mine. However hopeless, helpless, mixed up and scary it all gets, it can work. If you find it hard to believe in me, maybe it would help you to know that I believe in you." God (George Burns), Oh, God! (I'm dating myself by quoting this movie. This quote is a long one, that in all honesty I never remember it in its entirety, but what touches me is the gist of the message. Words to live by.)

3. "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'." Andy (Tim Robbins), The Shawshank Redemption

2. "My mama always said, Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), Forrest Gump

1. "Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops." Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), Arsenic and Old Lace (My family members would appreciate, and totally understand, this being my number one.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

"Definitely, Maybe" is a romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as Will - a man in the midst of a life-change due to a pending divorce. During one of his regular Tuesday and Friday visits with his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin), she begs him to tell her how he fell in love with her mother. Despite some initial reticence, Will finally decides to tell her the story, but he recounts the story as a mystery. He tells Maya about the three women whom he loved in the past and changes their names, so that Maya has to guess which of those three women actually became his wife and her mom. The movie spans the period from the early 90's when he was a young and idealistic aspiring politician working on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign to the present, now a disillusioned and unhappy ad executive. Through flashbacks as Will shares his story with Maya, we are introduced to three very different women - Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his college sweetheart; Summer (Rachel Weisz) - a sexy and self-assured journalist; and April (Isla Fisher), a free-spirit who at first challenges Will's beliefs but then becomes his best friend.

I thought this movie had alot of heart. I totally got roped into the whole mystery part of the story, and couldn't wait to see who the mom would turn out to be. I enjoyed the sweet and tender scenes between dad and daughter, as much as the romantic scenes between Will and each gal, and by the end of the movie I was definitely--no maybe involved--cheering for a happy ending.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Borat as Sherlock Holmes?

Yup. Reuters reported that Columbia Pictures announced that Sacha Baron Cohen will play Sherlock Holmes, and Will Ferrell will play Watson in an upcoming film inspired by the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. The screenplay for the un-named movie has yet to be written, and no date has been set for the start of production.

Plenty of Sizzlin' Summer Movies Left to Enjoy

With July 4th under our belt, summer is well underway. Luckily, we still have plenty of summer and summer blockbuster movies left to look forward to including:

"The Dark Knight" (July 18th) - Looking forward to this movie for all the reasons listed in my post below. I loved the tone of Batman Begins, a little more somber and not so comic book as compared to the other Batman films, and I have no doubt Nolan will deliver once again in this sequel.

"Mamma Mia" (July 18th) - This movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical of the same name features Meryl Streep. Need I say more. Any movie with Meryl Streep can count on having me in the audience. I love her. I think she's the best actress alive today.

"Step Brothers" (July 25th) - Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as 40-year olds, unemployed and still living at home, who become stepbrothers. Embarassed to admit it, but I love Ferrell's stupid humor. I was disappointed with "Semi-Pro", but I'm willing to forgive and forget.

"The X-Files: I Want to Believe" (July 25th) - I was a huge X-Files fan so I can't wait to catch-up with Scully and Mulder. Plus Chris Carter--the show's director--is back in said role as well as screenwriter for the movie.

"Pineapple Express" (August 8th) - Two words--Rogen and Apatow--these guys have the midas touch when it comes to comedy, as evident from the success of "Knocked Up" and "Superbad." In the movie, Rogen plays a stoner who visits his marijuana dealer (James Franco) and unexpectedly witnesses a murder by a crooked cop and drug lord, and has to go on the run.

"Tropic Thunder" (August 15th) - The film tells the story of three self-absorbed actors filming a Vietnam war movie, who are dropped into a real-life war zone, but they think they're shooting a war movie with hidden cameras. The movie stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. Ben Stiller is also directing. There are quite a few cameos in the movie, including from Tom Cruise and Tobey Maguire.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (August 29th) - I'm still up in the air about this one. This is Woody Allen's latest movie, and I'm usually a big fan, but the trailer left me kinda cold. It stars Scarlett Johansson as an American tourist in Barcelona who meets an artist (Javier Bardem) and his ex-wife (Penelope Cruz), and becomes romantically entangled with the two.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Early Buzz on The Dark Knight

Early buzz on Heath Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight" has plenty of people mentioning the "O" word (Oscar) in regards to his performance. In the Rolling Stone review of the movie, Peter Travers states "I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing brilliant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson's broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, Ledger takes the role to the shadows, where even what's comic is hardly a relief." Travers goes on to say "If there's a movement to get him the first posthumous Oscar since Peter Finch won for 1976's Network, sign me up."

Ledger's Dark Knight co-stars, including Gary Oldman, also have nothing but praise for his performance. In an article on MTV.com, Oldman is quoted saying "I think it's one of the most psychologically scariest screen villains ever; I think it out-villains Hannibal Lecter...It would surprise me if he didn't get a posthumous Oscar for it." In a New York Times interview, Dark Knight's director, Chris Nolan, said "he felt a 'massive sense of responsibility' to do right by Mr. Ledger’s 'terrifying, amazing' performance. 'It’s stunning, it’s iconic...It’s going to just blow people away.'”

I was already anxiously awaiting this movie, but now even more so. Heath Ledger was a great young actor. One of the best from his generation. I thought he was both brave for taking the role in "Brokeback Mountain" and phenomenal in his portrayal of Ennis. From all accounts, Heath really immersed himself in the role of the Joker, so I have no doubt that his performance will be spot-on whether he gets a nomination or not. History might be working against him though as far as the nomination. According to the Gold Derby site, only one acting Oscar has ever been bestowed posthumously, and that was to Peter Finch for his role as Howard Beale in "Network."

We won't have long to wait to see if all the buzz is merited. "The Dark Knight" is released on July 18th.

America's Got Talent - Too Many Favorites

"America's Got Talent" is going into its fourth week and I'm losing track of all the people I'll be rooting for in Vegas. Each audition episode has been two hours long, so it's kind of hard to remember the long line of acts and faces. To be honest, I'm kinda over the auditions, and really looking forward to the Vegas round and finding out who actually makes the vote-in portion of the show. There are though a couple acts that have stayed with me in the recent weeks, including Eli Mattson, a young singer who's been struggling to make it in the music industry. Eli sang "Walking in Memphis" while playing the keyboards and I--and more importantly the judges--was impressed with his performance. To the sweet and cute category, add David Militello, a 9-year old who'd been diagnosed with autism at an early age. David won over everyone's hearts with his sweet personality and his enjoyable performance of "Ben." And lastly, for those (including me) who believe it's never too late to reach for your dreams, there's Paul Salos, a 71-year old Frank Sinatra wannabe that had the voice, the mannerisms, and the charm of Old Blue Eyes.

Like I said, Vegas can't get here soon enough, but I guess I'll have to be patient and see if I can add anymore favorites to my growing list.

SYTYCD - The Cream Rises to the Top

"So You Think You Can Dance" is down to the top 12 (6 boys, 6 girls) dancers, and I'm happy to report that my favorites--Joshua and Katee--continue knocking it out of the ballpark week in and week out. Joshua and Katee are the perfect combination of talent, personality, and chemistry. This week they had a Mia Michaels contemporary routine which was phenomenal. I especially loved the assisted run across the stage. Speaking of Mia Michaels, watching her routines you know why the dancers are always so hell bent to dance her choreography, she's pretty brilliant. This week she was red hot, with both the incredible number I already mentioned for Joshua and Katee, as well as a totally unique number for Twitch and Kherington which they 'danced' on a mattress. The other couple I've been rooting for is Courtney and Gev, and I was disappointed--though not surprised--that they were in the bottom three this week, but they came out swinging with incredible solos (Gev's was stunning) that showed why they deserve to stay in the competition. Now that Matt and Kourtni are gone, I'm pretty sure that the next couple to go will be Comfort and Thayne.

I don't know that I would agree with Nigel that this is the best season of SYTYCD ever, but it's definitely up there. As we near the midway point and the much desired top 10, it will be interesting to see how the dancers fare--especially the weaker ones like Jessica--when they have to switch partners. Whatever happens next, barring a total catastrophe or personal illness, right now I'd hazard a guess that the final four dancers will be Joshua, Katee, Will and Twitch. Looking forward to the weeks ahead.

Happy Birthday America

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Human Space Invaders

An old Atari fan? Well then you'll love this. French-Swiss artist Guillaume Reymond created a series of stop-motion animation movies based on some of the classic video games from our youth such as Space Invaders (my favorite) and Tetris. The art project entitled GAME OVER featured the use of human beings instead of pixels.

"The pixels are replaced by a group of real human-beings that are moving from seat to seat in a theatre during about 4 to 6 hours. Each "pixel" has its own rules and decides what s/he wants to do for each picture. Once all these pictures are turned into a short animation movie, a giant human-scale video game unfolds "live"."

Space Invaders was the second video from the GAME OVER project. Filming required 67 extras, 4 hours of shooting, and 390 pictures. Here's the Space Invaders video.



Visit the GAME OVER site (link above) to see some of the other great videos, including Tetris, Pong, and Pole Position.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Two Talking Cats

If only we knew what they were saying?



But wait...maybe we do. Here's a possible translation.

If You Can't Be There, Do the Next Best Thing

For those of you, who like me, are not going out to watch fireworks this 4th, you can still be part of the celebration by enjoying (from the comfort of your own home) one of the Fourth of July spectaculars--fireworks and all--that will air on TV. Granted it’s not as great as the real thing, but heck sometimes you have to make do with what you got. Here’s a short list of three nationally aired specials:

Capitol Fourth, PBS (8:00 pm ET)
Jimmy Smits hosts a celebration of America's 232nd birthday, featuring fireworks and performances by Huey Lewis and the News, Jerry Lee Lewis, Taylor Hicks, and Broadway's Brian Stokes Mitchell to name a few. Included: Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" accompanied by cannon fire from the U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery. From the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, CBS (10:00 pm ET)
Craig Ferguson hosts the Boston Pops' 35th annual Independence Day celebration. Rascal Flatts performs with the Boston Pops, under the direction of conductor Keith Lockhart, at the Charles River Esplanade. The finale includes an explosive fireworks display accompanied by the "1812 Overture."

Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, NBC (9:00 pm ET)
Hosted by Natalie Morales and Tiki Barber, NBC’s extravaganza will feature performances by Natasha Bedingfield, Kenny Chesney, 'American Idol's' Katharine McPhee and Jordin Sparks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Will Michael Scott Be Pleased?

Variety reported that the wonderful Amy Ryan will be back on "The Office" for a number of episodes next season to reprise her role as Holly Flax, Toby's HR replacement. As fans will recall, we were introduced to Holly in the season finale ("Goodbye Toby") where she quickly hit it off with Michael (Steve Carell). There appeared to be some real chemistry between those two (Michael even offered to make her a mixtape...Awww) before it was derailed by Michael finding out about Jan's pregnancy. I think Holly really liked Michael, and while I know Michael's a boob, I still think he deserves better than the way he's been treated by Jan. Here's to hoping for happily ever afters for all "The Office" couples...Pam and Jim, Dwight and Angela, and Michael and Amy/Jan/?. I guess we'll have to tune in next season to see who cupid's arrow will strike.

Emmy's Release Top Ten Shortlist

For the first time ever, the Television Academy and Emmy organizers revealed the shortlist of the Top 10 shows in the drama and comedy categories which are vying for a shot to be nominated for the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. The shows are as follows:

Top 10 Comedy Series Finalists
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Entourage
Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
The Office
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty
Weeds

Top 10 Drama Series Finalists
Boston Legal
Damages
Dexter
Friday Night Lights
Grey’s Anatomy
House
Lost
Mad Men
The Tudors
The Wire

I'm thrilled to see that a couple of the shows from my Emmy Wish List have a shot at the big prize, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see that "Friday Night Lights" is getting some much deserved love and recognition. I'm crossing my fingers that my favorites make the top 5 and earn a spot on the final ballot. According to the Television Academy website, "Step two in the process will be the Blue Ribbon Panel screenings, which will be conducted throughout this weekend of June 28-29. The results of those panels, who will watch and judge the work of each finalist, represent 50 percent of the vote. Both results will be averaged together to come up with our five nominees in each category."

The complete list of nominees will be announced on Thursday, July 17.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Movie Night (The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Bucket List)

"The Spiderwick Chronicles" stars Freddie Highmore in a dual role as twins, Jared and Simon Grace. In the movie, the Grace family, including the mom (played by Mary-Louise Parker), Jared, his twin Simon and his sister Mallory move into a creepy and deserted old house that mom inherited from an old aunt who'd been institutionalized. The house used to belong to Arthur Spiderwick, their great great uncle, who mysteriously disappeared over 80 years ago. Spiderwick's daughter, old aunt Lucinda whom they inherited the house from, said that faeries carried her father away to protect him which explains why she was institutionalized. During the move, Jared is mean and resentful to his mother whom he blames for his parents divorce, so when personal items belonging to the others start to go missing, Jared of course is the one blamed. Upon investigation, Jared finds a hidden room where he ends up finding his uncle's book, 'Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You' along with a warning note not to read the book, which he of course ignores. In the guide, Arthur Spiderwick details a magical world full of fairies and hobglobins that lives all around us and how he was able to see them and communicate with them. Jared also learns that there's an ogre, Mulgarath, who is king of the goblins, that wants to use the field guide to destroy all the fairies and rule the world. Having read the field guide, Jared with the help of his sibling, must now protect the book and its secrets from falling into Mulgarath hands.

Supposedly the movie is based on a series of best-selling books. The movie was cute and entertaining. My only warning would be that while the movie is rated PG, there were a couple scenes which I think might prove a little too scary for really young kids.

* * *

"The Bucket List" stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two very different men facing the same grim and uncertain future. Edward Cole (Nicholson) is a billionaire, Carter Chamber (Freeman) is a mechanic. Edward is all alone, except for his assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes), Carter has a loving wife and children. They're each leading very different lives, when they find themselves sharing a hospital room during their battle with cancer. They are there for each other through surgery, chemotherapy, and finally the grim prognosis--they each have only months to live-- and through this they develop a wonderful friendship. Edward convinces Carter to use this opportunity to make good on his 'bucket list', a list of things to do before you kick the bucket, and tells him that money is no object. Edwards also decides to amend Carter's too dull list which included seeing something majestic and doing something good for a stranger, to include skydiving and getting a tattoo. Edward and Carter, despite protests from his wife, embark on a trek around the globe filled with a myriad of adventures, including skydiving, climbing the pyramids in Egypt, seeing the Taj Mahal and even riding a motorcycle along the Great Wall of China amongst other things. Through their time together each touches the other's life in different ways, and they both help each other face the scary and unknown future with faith and love.

Both Nicholson and Freeman give great performances in this movie. The movie has some tear-jerker moments which is expected given the subject manner, but it doesn't dwell in sadness or grief throughout the whole movie. In addition to being very entertaining it also gives you plenty food for thought on your own life and death through some insightful moments. In the movie, Freeman's character, Carter, tells the story that the ancient Egyptians had a belief about death that when their souls got to the entrance to heaven the gods asked them two questions, and their answers determined whether they were admitted or not. The two questions were, Have you found joy in your life? and Has your life brought joy to others? Interesting huh. Do you know what your answers would be? Deep thoughts from a thoroughly enjoyable and touching movie.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Let's Play Ball

I'm back from the Mets game. I had a wonderful time in spite of getting drenched in a downpour and the Mets losing. As promised, here are some photos from the game.


Jose Reyes, Mets shortstop, warming up before the start of the game


Johan Santana, Mets pitcher coming in before the start of the game


Johan Santana pitching with David Wright in the background


Derek Jeter at bat (Alex Rodriguez and Yankee Manager Joe Girardi watching from the dugout)


Andy Petite pitching for the Yankees


Johan doing his thing for the Mets


Mets pow-wow on the pitching mound


Carlos Delgado, Mets 1st baseman, looking slightly dejected - kinda how I felt with the final score

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dynamic Duo - Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino

I forgot to mention that when I went to see "The Incredible Hulk" I saw a great trailer for what looks like a great movie, "Righteous Kill" which is scheduled for release in September 2008 and features these two giants of American cinema. DeNiro and Pacino play New York City detectives on the hunt for a serial killer that targets criminals. There's a great line cooly uttered by DeNiro at the end of the trailer, "most people respect the badge, everybody respects the gun" which gives you chills. I loved these two in "Heat", and I can't wait to see them together again. Here's the trailer:

"Meet the Mets, Meet the Mets

Step right up and greet the Mets!
Bring your kiddies,
bring your wife;
Guaranteed to have the time of your life
because the Mets are really sockin' the ball;
knocking those home runs over the wall!"

Yes kiddies, I'm headed to Shea Stadium tomorrow to see my Mets battle the dreaded Yankees for hometown bragging rights, and I'm hoping they'll be hittin' "those home runs over the wall" ala game 1 of yesterday's double-header. By the way, keep your fingers crossed for me that the weather holds out and the game isn't rained out. My cousin's hubby has great seats for the game, and I'm hopeful I can bring back decent photos to share.

A Reality Show with Heart

I watched the first episode of the six-part ABC documentary “Hopkins” last night and it was riveting television from start to finish with real-life life and death situations. The show centers on the doctors and patients at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. Among other stories, the first episode included coverage of one the country’s most respected neurosurgeons, Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, performing surgery to remove a brain tumor from a 50+ year old man. As part of the show, the patients covered in the story are interviewed and it was heart-breaking to watch this tough looking guy struggling to make it through the interview without breaking down in tears, ending the interview with the simple words that he doesn’t want to die. There were a couple slightly gruesome shots of a human brain during surgery that made me a little squeamish, but I just looked away because the show was just too good not to watch. It also covered the more personal stories of the doctors on staff, including the heartbreak and desolation of a resident facing divorce due in part to the lack of time he can dedicate to his wife and children.

I found the show compelling and I’m definitely going to tune in for the coming episodes in spite of the fact I had knots in my stomach watching last night. It wasn’t so much the blood or brains in this case, it was knowing that whatever the outcome—good or bad—especially if bad, it’s all real and these aren’t actors playing make believe. It’s someone’s life we’re watching play out on TV. Compelling television to say the least.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

For All Cat Owners


(Originally published in MS Magazine, Vol III, #1, July/August 1992)

Introducing Clippy

I wish I could say Clippy was my brainchild, but alas I'm not that creative. Some months ago, while visiting NBC's "The Office" webpage, I spotted 'Cliptron' a brilliant fan's photo submission under the 'Your Office' section. I printed out the photo and brought it into work with plans to create a Cliptron of my own to display in my cube. Long story short, I didn't put him together but my friend and cube neighbor who saw the picture did, and I've been enviously eyeing Cliptron ever since. Well, I decided to do something about my predicament and after month's of longing, today I created a Cliptron of my own. I've decided to nickname him Clippy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lucky Duckies

A friend sent me a link to this article and I just had to share because it was such a sweet story. An article in the Vancouver Sun told of how a mama duck tugged on a police officer’s pant leg in order to get his attention and save her babies. According to the story, Ray Petersen, a police officer, was walking his beat when a duck came up to him, started pulling on his pant leg and waddling around him and quacking. When Petersen shooed the duck away, he noticed that the duck went and sat on a nearby sewer grate. When he began to walk away the duck came back and repeated the process all over again. Curious, Petersen walked over to the grate and saw that there were eight ducklings in the water below that had obviously fallen through the grate. Of course, Petersen called in the cavalry and when Police Sergeant Kellens showed up to help the mama duck sat on the curb the whole time watching and supervising the rescue proceedings. Once all the ducklings had been fished out and were safe, the mama duck marched the entire family down to a nearby creek, where they jumped into the water.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wipeout Takes Round One

I was all gung-ho for "Celebrity Family Feud" but as usual I did some channel surfing during the commercical break and caught a piece of "Wipeout" a new reality competition on ABC that also airs at 8:00 pm. Of course, I was hooked, and ended up switching back forth between the two shows with "Wipeout" getting the lion's share of my time. After watching both, I must say that "Wipeout" easily edged out the Feud in the first head to head. For those of you that missed it, "Wipeout" is a Japanese-derived type of reality competition in which 24 contestants have to run an obstacle course filled with knock outs, face plants, swan dives into mud, and of course complete wipeouts. The show counts on our natural human instinct to enjoy a chuckle when someone trips, falls, or just downright makes a fool of themselves and I must guiltily admit it thoroughly delivered on laughs because I was laughing out loud. Catch it next Monday, you won't be disappointed.

Celebrity Family Feud

I was an old fan of the original “Family Feud” hosted by Richard Dawson back in the 70’s and 80’s so I’ll be tuning in to tonight’s NBC premiere of “Celebrity Family Feud.” Like the original, two families--in this case a celebrity and their real-life family--will compete by guessing the most popular responses to survey questions posed to 100 people. Unlike the original in this celebrity edition the prize money goes to charity.

Tonight’s first two competitors will be Team Rivers (Joan and Melissa Rivers and friends) vs. Team Ice-T (Ice-T and his family). Other match-ups include Bill Engvall's family vs. Larry the Cable Guy's family and Kim Kardashian's family vs. Deion Sanders' family. The show will also have TV casts go head to head, including stars from “The Office”, “My Name is Earl” and “American Gladiators.” My one request to NBC...please, please, please let Dwight/Rainn Wilson be there when “The Office” competes.

"Are you ready for the summer?

Are you ready for the sunshine?
Are you ready for the birds and bees,
the apple trees,
and a whole lot of fooling around

Are you ready for the summer?
Are you ready for the hot nights?
Are you ready for the fireflies,
the moonlit skies,
and a whole lot of fooling around

No more pencils, no more books
No more teachers dirty looks
No more math and history,
Summer time has set us free

Are you ready for the summer?
Are you ready for the good times?..."

The song lyrics are of course from the Bill Murray classic "Meatballs”, a summertime must-see in my house. If you haven’t seen it yet...well what are you waiting for? In addition to revisiting Camp North Star (all the gruel you can eat) and the Meatballs gang--Tripper, Rudy, Spaz, and poor Morty--among the many unforgettable cast of characters for this oldie but goodie, I also have a couple fun summer activities (a Mets/Yankee game, a Broadway show, a Jets/Giants pre-season game, and a mini-road trip) in the horizon. While they're not a trek around the globe, a Caribbean island getaway or a trip to Europe (I wish) I’m excited nonetheless. I hope each of you is blessed with a happy, healthy, safe and fun summer. Make the most of it and enjoy!

On this Day (in 1987)

On June 24, 1987 "The Honeymooners" star Jackie Gleason died. Born February 26, 1916 in Brooklyn and later christened "The Great One" by Orson Wells, Gleason was a talented actor and comedian who most memorably played bus driver Ralph Kramden, the lovable loudmouth always looking for a get-rich-quick scheme. The schemes included competing on 'The $99,000 Answer'; winning the Racoon lodge's best costume prize for his man from space costume; becoming songwriters with Norton; and my absolute favorite Ralph's big plans for Ralph Kramden Inc. when he finds he's beneficiary of a millionaire's will only to find at the will's reading that 'Fortune' was the old lady's pet bird.

In addition to his TV credits, Gleason also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Minnesota Fats in the 1961 movie "The Hustler" and who could forget his hilarious portrayal of Sheriff Bufford T. Justice in the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies. No matter how many roles, he'll always be Ralph Kramden to me.

Check out this clip featuring a classic scene between Jackie and Art Carney from "The Honeymooners" 'The Golfer' episode.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Recent YouTube Find...Conchita Diaries

If you love animals, you have to check out the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) video diary of Conchita, the white naped mangabey, currently residing at the London Zoo. The ZSL video states that "in the wild they (white naped mangabey) are regarded as critically endangered, and in the last 30 years there's been a decline in their numbers with the main reason being habitat loss and hunting of the species." ZSL's video diary documents Conchita's progress. Here's a clip introducing this adorable little one. The shot of her sucking her thumb and the last shot of her sleeping snuggled up with her teddy are surefire "Awww" moments. Check out Conchita Diaries: Episodes 1 and 2, and also one entitled "Conchita - a cute clip" (absolutely adorable!) at YouTube.

Temporary Host Named for Meet the Press

The New York Daily News reported that NBC has named Tom Brokaw as the temporary host/moderator of "Meet the Press" until the November elections when a new and permanent moderator is selected. All I can say is, thank you NBC, for not selecting loudmouth Chris Matthews from MSNBC's "Hardball" to fill the role, because you would've lost a regular viewer if you had. If I could add my two cents, Brian Williams did a decent job sitting in this past week. He came across as fair and unbiased and I think he would be a good candidate for the permanent position. Though I must say, that the show just wasn't the same without Russert.

SYTYCD - Right Girl / Wrong Guy Go Home

Last week's "So You Think You Can Dance" had some great dance numbers, and plenty of obnoxious behavior from Nigel. My favorites, Joshua and Katee, stepped it up yet again with a high-energy and fun Broadway number, and New Yorker Courtney and her partner Gev danced a beautiful and romantic contemporary routine which gave them a much needed boost and a good dose of newfound chemistry. Watching all the performances on Wednesday night, it was pretty obvious who the bottom three couples would be (Chelsea and Thayne, Comfort and Chris, and Susie and Marquis), which is exactly what came to pass on Thursday night. As I correctly predicted in my last post, Susie aka the teacher from Miami, made it into the bottom three with her unfortunate partner Marquis, and after a lackluster solo was sent home. Unlike the obvious girl castoff, in my opinion the judges totally blew it when it came to the guys by sending Marquis--Susie's partner--home. Marquis performed an incredible solo which totally earned him the right to stay for another week, but instead the judges deemed the performance full of "tricks" and decided to keep Chris, who is a much weaker performer. If the judges aren't going to even consider the dancers "dance for their life solos" when deciding who to send home, then why bother. It's all a charade, and in the end they get rid of whoever they want to get rid of whether deserving or not. In spite of my disappointment, I'll definitely be tuning in this Wednesday for the next new episode.

America's Got Talent

Not sure if you guys caught last week's premiere of "America's Got Talent," but I really enjoyed it. As in seasons past, the audition round brought a fair share of the totally clueless and talentless (like the guy with the longest tongue or the Tom Jones impersonator), but it also unearthed plenty of stars-to-be that showcased their talent and wowed the judges while winning over America's heart (ala Neal E. Boyd, an insurance salesman and aspiring opera singer, singing for his mother--a single mom who struggled to raise him and his brother). My favorite performance of the night though was by 4-year old Kaitlyn Maher, singing ''Somewhere Out There." It was syrupy sweet, but how could you not cheer for this gorgeous little doll. The best part was when judge Sharon Osbourne asked Kaitlyn if she was from New York, Kaitlyn answered "I'm from America." Awww. Here's a clip of Kaitlyn:



Another wow moment for a totally different reason was Derrick Barry's impersonation of Britney Spears. This guy deserved to make it through to Vegas if for no other reason than the fact that it's incredible this guy...is a guy.

Dead Air

Sorry for the long posting absence. Mom had a bit of a health scare so I've been really busy playing nurse. Thank God she's much better, things are slowly getting back to normal, and I'm falling back into my regular TV viewing and net surfing schedule.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Message for all Dads...

The Incredible Hulk

I loved it!!It had all the pre-requisites for a great superhero action movie--exciting chase scenes, action-packed fight sequences, great special effects, and of course the obligatory love interest. It also had something you don't always get in these types of movies...great acting. Even the CGI Hulk wasn't too bad. He kind of grew on me. I really enjoyed everything about this movie, including the cameos by Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno (the Hulk from the old TV series), and non-other than Iron Man himself, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Oooh, and the teaser ending leaves you salivating for what might come next.

SYTYCD Top 20 Performances

This past Wednesday the top 20 performed on "So You Think You Can Dance." After finally getting a chance to see all the dancers perform, I have new favorites, I have doubts about old favorites, and I'm left scratching my head on how some dancers (one in particular) made it through to the top 20. First to my new favorite...Joshua Allen. Joshua was paired with Katee, she's the dancer that almost talked herself out of a spot in the top 20. Katee wasn't a very sympathetic figure, a fact I thought would hurt Joshua by mere association, but thankfully their routine was so strong that they completely wiped the slate clean. They danced a moving hip-hop number choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha which was supposed to be about a soldier going off to war. While Joshua and Katee wowed me, previous favorites Kourtni (paired with Matt) and Courtney (paired with Gev) were a bit of a letdown. In both cases there appeared to be no chemistry or spark between the girls and their respective partners--especially Kourtni and Matt--and it shows. Now to the dancer that in my estimation doesn't belong, and that is Susie, the high school teacher from Miami. Despite a blah waltz, that included a flubbed lift, Susie and her partner Marquis, infuriatingly got mostly complimentary reviews from the judges. It's beyond me what they see in her, other than a pretty face and a great body, but I have no doubt that when she makes the bottom three her solo will make her lack of technique and skill glaringly obvious and they won't have a choice but to send her home.

On Thursday's first elimination night the bottom three couples were Kourtni and Matt, William (Debbie Allen's protege) and Jessica, and not surprisingly Rayven and Jamie. After each dancer performed their dance for their life solo, with a standout performance by William, the judges chose Rayven and Jamie as the girl and boy going home. This poor couple had everything stacked against them from the get go--each had barely been on TV in previous rounds, they had the first slot of the night, and then to boot part of their dance number included Rayven pulling down Jamie's pants, a fact which on elimination night Nigel said might have offended some viewers. He tells them this as if they had a choice in the matter, they were merely dancing what was choreographed for them.

Anyway, I'm hoping Joshua and Katee can keep up the great work, and that Courtney can ignite some heat and a little magic between her and Gev.

AFI's 10 Top 10 (You Gotta Be In It to Win It)

The American Film Institute (AFI) will be counting down the 10 best films in 10 classic movie genres during a special show airing on CBS on Tuesday, June 17th at 8:00 pm ET. The 10 movie genres are Animation, Courtroom Drama, Epic, Fantasy, Gangster, Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Sci-Fi, Sports and Western.

Along with the TV special, AFI is holding a "Guess the 10 Top 10 Sweepstakes" where you can enter to win $1000 in Best Buy gift cards by correctly selecting the #1 movie in each of the 10 movie genres. Make your selections and then tune in on Tuesday to see if you guessed all 10 #1 movies. Entry deadline is June 16, 2008.