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 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 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

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, do, do, do, do, do, do, 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.

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: and/or

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.” still makes me teary-eyed whenever I see it.

Monday, July 14, 2008


"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 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 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, 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