Entertainment 2005

Girls on film (got your picture)...

Aye, aye, aye... another tough one.

If you recall my inner turmoil yesterday, I have come to a resolution with regard to it.  If the film wasn't in theaters in my area until 2005 but was in limited release in 2004, I will count it as a 2005 film.  I'm going by Academy rules on this one to make it easier.  The reason behind this decision is because foreign films really muck it up a bit.  For example, a film like Hero, which came out in the States in 2004, was actually released in its native China in 2002 and was on the festival circuit throughout 2003.  That should still be considered a 2004 film, in my mind.

If you don't agree, take it up with management (management says, "tough luck," by the way).

Here you go...

Miscmilliondollarbaby_11. Million Dollar Baby
Yes, this was a limited release film at the end of 2004, but I wasn't afforded the opportunity to see it until 2005.  An absolutely brilliantly acted, written, photographed, and directed film about an aging boxing trainer and the young woman who wants him to train her.  As usual, Morgan Freeman is great in the "voice of reason" sort of role he typically takes.  But the big kudos go to Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood for their heartwrenching portrayals.  This film deserved every Oscar it won.

2. Batman Begins
The Bat is back!  Just when everyone thought the franchise was dead (thank you, Joel Schumacher!), Director Christopher Nolan gives the Caped Crusader a breath of fresh air by returning him to the gritty, vengeance-laden vision that Frank Miller dreamed up in the Dark Knight comic series.  Combine that with spectacular casting in Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne and a supporting cast that includes Morgan Freeman (hmm, wonder if I can get him in any more of the top films of the year?), Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman and you've got a great film in the works.  The film is dark, depressing, violent, and oh-so daring.  I can't wait for the next two films.  Oh yes, there are two more being penned.

3. Elektra
Just kidding!  Wanted to see if you were paying attention.

3. (for real this time) Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
At the heart of it all, I'm a geek.  And Star Wars is my Bible.  After being disappointed by the first movie in the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace), I was picked up a bit by Attack of the Clones. This film continued the heightening streak of the trilogy.  I loved it.  Yes, it was heavy on CGI, but the writing was a bit better (not too terribly much) and there was much greater emotion being doled out by a couple of the actors, particularly Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi.  At least they ended the films on a high note.  The series is over, isn't it?

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry and his friends are starting to get up there in years and the writers and directors of these last two films are finally exploring the characters' emotional depth and allowing the actors to really "let it all out," per se.  It's about time, too.  While not as good as 2004's Prisoner of Azkaban, it is still a damn fine film in its own right.  I'm like a little kid as I sit in the theater and let the magic unfold around me.  Oh, why couldn't these books and films have come out when I really was a little kid?

5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
It's the film that started the tabloid uproar and ended a beloved modern movie marriage.  But, once you get past all that, you find a film about a bored married couple who both happen to be government assassins and don't realize this fact about each other.  It's a really fun film with some serious ass kicking going on.  I could watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie whomping on each other for hours on end, it was that cool.

I know, I know. These are pretty mainstream films. I realize that.  However, there are no good arthouse theaters in my immediate area.  The one good one in St. Charles closed down at the beginning of the year.  So I have to wait for many of the smaller, independent films to come out on DVD before I can watch them.  And there are several of these movies that I think could've potentially made this list based on what I've read and heard from others. This list would include Millions (sitting at home waiting to be watched); A History of Violence; Good Night, and Good Luck; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; Green Street Hooligans; and Syriana.

The best, the best, the best of you...

This is the time of year when most people do their recaps of the year (see the Xtine Files for examples).  Seems like an appropriate time, wouldn't you say?  The problem is that I'm having some trouble figuring out my lists. 

You would think that, being me, the natch approach would be something like:

  • Top 5 books
  • Top 5 movies
  • Top 5 albums
  • Top 5 TV shows

Or something like that, right?

Well, for me, it doesn't work out quite that easily. 

When it comes to TV shows, many of you already know I award the Kapgar.com Primetime TV Awards in the spring (usually the beginning of April or May) simply because I like to do it when most networks are in the rerun season or close to it.  Just makes sense to me.  I like to be able to consider midseason replacements in there as well.  If I do it at the end of the calendar year and not the programming season, I will likely forget the midseason replacements from the season before.  I still mourn you, Eyes.

I read scant few books this year compared to past years simply because it's hard to read for fun while you're reading for classes (damn MBA program).  Plus, I think I may have only read one or two that were actually published during calendar year 2005.  So I don't feel like I would be doing the publishing world any justice by giving them a top 5.

I also have trouble with my top movies of the year because of the controversy surrounding when they were actually released.  For example, the brilliant film Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman.  That movie officially came out on December 15, 2004. However, this was a limited release in just New York City and L.A. intended to get the film out in the marketplace for Oscar consideration by their cutoff.  To me, and most of the rest of the U.S., this movie came out on January 28, 2005, because that's when it went into wide release.  Does this count as a 2004 or a 2005 release (I could care less what AMPAS says)?  For me, that would be one of my top films of the year.  Easily.

And then there's music.  Ah sweet music.  Much like books, though, I don't necessarily wind up picking up CDs in the year they were released.  So I've got to do some mining to find the actual release dates to make sure I pick legitimate 2005 albums.

It's such a headache.

But I think I'll try anyway.

And to start, I'll run with Kapgar.com's Albums of the Year.

After much deliberation and release date lookup, here is what I have for you (I actually posted this already in a comment on Xtine's site, but she said I can steal it for my blog as well)...

Miscfoofighters1. Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
I think any release by the Foo Fighters would wind up on a best-of-the-year list of mine in any given year in which it's released.  That's just the depth of my love for this band.  And this was a two-disc set, to boot; the first of which is the heavier stuff while the second disc is a bit slower with some acoustic numbers.  Some of the better tracks include "D.O.A.," "The Last Song," and "Cold Day in the Sun" which never ceases to remind me of the KISS classic "Hard Luck Woman."

2. Bob Mould - Body of Song
I have loved Bob Mould for some time.  His recordings with both Husker Du and Sugar remain on my regular rotation.  This, however, is one of his first solo efforts I have purchased.  I really don't know why I picked this album up.  There was nothing that really triggered my searching for it.  But I did and it was worth every penny.  Check out "Underneath Days," "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," and "Gauze of Friendship."

3. Coldplay - X&Y
In all honesty, I loved the first track, "Speed of Sound," but only about the first dozen or so times the radio played it.  I had to go on Coldplay hiatus for about two months before I finally picked up the whole album.  Glad I finally did.  The rest of the album makes up for the fact that "SoS" was so overplayed.  Check out "White Shadows," "Fix You," and "Hardest Part."

4. John Hiatt - Master of Disaster
This is one of those albums I just happened to pick up at the library not realizing that it was a new release at the time.  Spectacular album from a spectacular artist.  If you've ever been a fan of tunes from the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Steve Earle, you have to check this, and his plethora of other albums, out.  Give a spin to "Master of Disaster," "Thunderbird," and "Find You At Last."

5. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
This is one of the many albums that my friend Eric turned me on to.  I love having friends with eclectic tastes in music.  I learn so much and discover so many albums I never would otherwise.  This is one such album.  I really have no idea how to describe it.  You pretty much have to take a listen yourself and see if it suits your tastes.  Just remember, everyone's different.  You've been warned.  Lend your ear to "Pioneers," "Luno," and "Price of Gas."

Tomorrow: Kapgar.com's Movies of the Year...

Grandma got run over by a reindeer...

I did something a bit strange today.  It's somewhat shocking and appalling.  You might want to sit down for this.

I listened to the radio.

I know, I know.  It's a terrible piece of news, isn't it?  I did not listen to doPi.

It stems back to Katie telling me the other day that I seem to be a bit behind on current events and that I should occasionally try tuning in to the radio to get my daily fill of what's going on in the world. 

To some degree, I suppose I can agree with her.  For weeks upon weeks that seem to be turning into months upon months, I've done nothing but plug in my trusty iPod and listen to music or podcasts.  It's just so nice to not have to deal with the plethora of commercials that lay waste to the airwaves.  There's no quicker way to make me lose interest in a radio station than by playing an unceasing chain of commercials.

But, on the other hand, I'm not completely out of the loop on current events.  I do work on the Web all day, after all.  I'm sitting in front of one of the timeliest (if not unreliable) sources of news in the modern world.  I get the current events insofar as the top three headlines on my Yahoo startpage are concerned.  Okay, that may not be the most comprehensive source of news out there.

So, this morning, I tuned in and I'm glad I did.

WLUP, 97.9 FM "The Loop" here in Chicago, recently welcomed Jonathon Brandmeier (fondly known around the city as "Johnny B." -- sorry, Johnny C, but he's got you by a letter) back to the Chitown airwaves.  The man is a legend in Chicago and had been on the air for as long as I could remember.  But he left several years ago for the West Coast.  Now, he's back and I missed him.

Miscdrelmo_1This morning on the Loop Morning Show, Johnny B. interviewed Dr. Elmo, the genius behind the modern Christmas classic "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."  The interview was hilarious as Dr. Elmo described the creation of the song and its inspiration (can you believe the song is only 26 years old?).  He also talked about how his goal was to give people an alternative to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" so he revels in the knowledge that his song is one of the top sellers each holiday season.  He also soaked up the news from Johnny B. that, in his many years of radio work, he never once had a request for Crosby but always hears people clamoring for "Grandma."

Then, Dr. Elmo played his classic live on the air.  I had forgotten just how long that song really is.  It seems to go on forever, which, to me, is a testament to his creative spirit.  To come up with that many lyrics in what is pretty much a spoof song is just incredible.

But the best part, to me, was when he played a song dedicated to Johnny sung to the tune of "Grandma"...

Johnny got run over on the West Coast
Working out in Malibu by the sea.
Now he's back in ol' Sweet Home Chicago
Playing songs on W-L-U-P.

That made my morning.

Okay, so this doesn't exactly constitute "current events," per se.  But I'm still attempting to nurture the holiday spirit that seems to be running through me.  And do you really think that news about the NYC transit strike or Saddam Hussein branding the White House a bunch of liars (though I do tend to agree with some of his points) is really the best way to help me in this regard?

So, let's review: Kevin wants to stay in the holiday mood, should we, 1) listen to an interview with Dr. Elmo, or, 2) read news about children sleeping in cages?

Yeah, I think I know which one I prefer. 

I'll return to hard news next week.

A perfect lie (and) a perfect lie (and) a perfect lie...

Now see if you can keep up with me here regarding last night's season finale of Nip/Tuck and the Great Carver Reveal...

I was right...

But I was also wrong...

And Katie was right...

But she was also wrong...

Did you get all that?  It may seem a bit confusing.  However, if you watched the season finale, you might understand what I'm trying to convey here. 

It was twist after twist after twist.  My lord, I was spinning and it wouldn't stop.  They arrested and questioned practically half the regular cast on suspicion of being The Carver (yeah, The Carver has a MySpace account) all within the course of a single two-hour episode.  It was insane.

And horrifically twisted as well.  There were some moments in this episode where I could feel my insides binding up in disgust.  About a half hour in, I just wanted it all to end so I could sleep without having to worry about nightmares in which I'm attacked by breast implants and severed appendages.

The funny thing is that I was guessing everything as it happened.  I would turn to Katie and say, "wouldn't it be funny if so-and-so was arrested as The Carver?" and (doing my best Emeril impersonation) BAM, it would happen.  I was nailing it.

There was one particular detail that I was spot-on with and I'm not particularly sure I'm proud that I got that fact right.  If you go back and read my old post regarding The Carver's identity and check out #4 in the second bulleted list, you'll see I was right about implementation, per se.  Not the "who," just the "how."  Yet I wish I was wrong.

In a non-Carver plotline, I would like to say that for as much as I have always hated the character of Matt (John Hensley) on that show, I was quite proud of him last night.  He redeemed himself and his prickish tendencies in a big way.

The thing we haven't decided yet is whether or not we'll tune in next season.  We both loved the first and second seasons immensely.  But this third season was just weird.  I wish I could come up with a better word to use to describe it.  Something more artistic or inspired.  Yet, "weird" just strikes me as the best available word.  I think the only reason we finished it was the hope that we would actually be rewarded with The Carver's identity.  Thankfully, unlike how things usually work in Lost, the writers of Nip/Tuck did resolve a storyline... well, to some degree.

It's gettin' hot in here...

If there's one thing I cannot help, it's looking at other people when I'm driving.  It's a compulsion.  I like to see who's around me. 

Even if they give me that "stop looking at me" look, I keep on watching.

I really can't explain why I do this; I just do.  Am I trying to determine what makes other people tick?  Do I use this as a chance to examine the proverbial human condition?

But, once in a while, you discover a little gem... something that makes you happy you are an ogler of your fellow human being... that one thing that makes all the dirty looks worthwhile.

Today, while shopping for some gifts for Katie after work, I was about to exit my truck in the parking lot at the Geneva Commons.  However, I was unable to open my door as someone decided to pull into the empty spot next to me.  It was a Yukon-esque SUV and, when I looked through the front passenger window, I saw a guy probably about 20 with a big fro (yes, he was white) and goofy Jack Osbourne-like glasses. 

Upon closer inspection of the interior of his car, I saw a small, five-inch video screen mounted in his dashboard.  Since there was no one else in his vehicle, I'm assuming that the video that was airing was for his own enjoyment (safety first, people). 

And, as I stepped out of my truck and looked closer at the video screen, I saw he was watching porn.

That's right... two naked women on one naked man.  And I would almost swear I saw a Santa Claus hat.  A right festive orgy, indeed.

I was in shock.  I was speechless.  I was a bit numb (and not just because it was -5 degrees F with windchill).  And, despite the cold, I didn't want to pull myself away.  Not necessarily because it was porn, but I wanted to know what this kid's reaction would be if he knew someone was hip to his dirty, little secret.

Okay, maybe a little bit of the reason was because it was porn.  But just a little bit.  I swear.

But I did the responsible, adult thing and moved on to commence with my shopping.

And, thinking back, I now understand why it was taking him so long to get out of his truck.  And it's not because it was cold outside.

Elephant Walk.

One of the most interesting things about the holiday season is the inevitable "white elephant" gift exchange.  To the person who conceived of the idea of unloading your old, tacky junk on a fellow human being as a viable gift-giving format, my heartfelt thanks and envy.  There's nothing quite like sifting through crap and wrapping it up to give to someone else.  Wish I'd thought of it.

But, what makes this exchange infinitely cooler is all the stuff you uncover in your place when you're searching around for an item to get rid of.

I figured the best place to start would be our office.  The desk and shelves in the closet are so loaded with stuff that we rarely ever access, that there had to be something white-elephant worthy in there.

I was right... but I also found a bunch of other cool stuff that I'd completely forgotten about.  Check this list out...

A roll of duct tape.  Sweet!  I was going to buy a roll because I didn't think we owned any.  Now we do!  Everyone can use a roll of duct tape.  It's the universal fix-all.

A box containing about 50-75 comic books.  The list includes Roman Dirge's The Monsters in My Tummy; Sock Monkey #1 & 2; Marvel Knight's Kevin Smith Daredevil arc including an alternate cover of issue 1 signed by Kev (I met him way back when); Daredevil #200 - the near-death of Bullseye (or one of many, actually); Amazing Spider-Man special wedding issue with the people on the cover (as opposed to the more common cover with the bad guys in the background and Peter dressed as Spidey), #238 - the birth of Hobgoblin, #240 - "The Kid Who Loved Spider-Man" (one of only two comic books that has reduced me to a blubbering puddle of tears), and #400 - the death of Aunt May (the other one that did; one of the most beautiful speeches I've ever read by Peter to his Aunt); Spawn #1; Frank Miller's 300 miniseries about the Persian-Greco wars; Miller's Sin City - "Just Another Saturday Night"; G.I. Joe #26 & 27 - "The Origin of Snake Eyes"; and Superman - his death at the hands of Doomsday still sealed in the black bag.  I know I still have two long boxes of comics in my parents' crawl space.  But these were considered by me to be some of my most valuable, both in terms of nostalgic appeal and monetary value.

MiscguestofhonorBut, mixed in with this box was a killer find in Neil Gaiman's Guest of Honor... a self-published collection of two-page vignettes from some pretty major comic artists including Todd McFarlane and Eddie Campbell, among many others.  This piece is hand numbered 336/2500 (or, at least, it looks hand numbered) and is signed by Neil in silver paint pen.  I forgot I had this.  Wow.  Nice find.

Also mixed in this comic box was "Atari Force" #5.  C'mon!  You gotta remember back in the days of the Atari 2600 and 7200 when they released mini comic books with some of the games, don't you?  Well, I still have one of them and it's in nearly perfect condition.  I read it.  Complete cheese.

Lastly, in this comic box was a series of about 19 old National Geographic maps.  I loved those.  They were my favorite thing about having a subscription to that mag (aside from some killer pictures).  I wish I had a place to hang all these maps.  Framing is completely out of the question as it would be far too costly, but they are certainly frame worthy.

A case of 15 antique audio recordings -- they were recorded on what I believe they once called "audio cassettes."  There is some classic stuff here, too.  A deuce of Bob Rivers & Twisted Christmas albums, some Van Halen and AC/DC, Denis Leary's "No Cure For Cancer," and an old album from a band featuring two guys I went to high school with. The band was called Midian and it was classic heavy metal that broke on the cusp of the grunge revolution.  This was good stuff that I loved listening to when I actually owned a tape player (in my case, a Sony Sport Walkman).  However, I no longer own a tape deck and am looking for a way to transfer this tape to MP3 so I can put it on my iPod.  Any ideas?

Oh, and if you're interested, I wound up with an old DIY stress-relief set including a book, bath oil and salts, and a massage sponge.  I was so close to having a Magic 8 Ball, but someone took it from me with the last pick.  Dangit!  And I gave away a year's subscription to Wired magazine.  No, not a year in the future, but, a year's worth of back issues.  I wasn't going to read them again anytime soon.

Get Lost...

A couple weeks ago, I forgot to tape the new episode of Lost that was on TV.  Actually, I didn't forget to record it so much as I forgot to leave the TV on the proper channel. 

It wasn't all that big a deal, initially, because, as I've said, the show isn't nearly as good this year as it was last year.  But it has been picking up a bit.  Thankfully.  And, when some friends told me how good that particular episode was, I became a bit upset that I had missed it.

Then I remembered...

Lost is one of the shows that they sell individual episodes of on iTunes!  And I now have a new iMac with OS X.4 and Quicktime 7 (two of the required pieces of software to view videos purchased at iTMS).

I had read on some sites that the videos purchased on iTMS, since they are intended for the new iPod, are not that great when viewed on a computer screen.  But I wanted to see this episode.  And the desire to do so was rapidly building.

Yep, it was time to dish out my first $1.99 for a TV show on the Web.

Let me tell you, it was worth it.  No, you cannot blow the video up to full screen.  That becomes a bit pixellated to say the very least.  But I was able, after playing around with different sizes, to get the episode to fill about one-third of my monitor.  And, that's perfect.  I'm sitting right in front of the thing.  It doesn't need to be larger than life and in my face.

Here are some screen caps (I've shrunken them a bit to minimize loading time)...




Okay, so maybe they're not the most flattering shots of Evangeline Lilly and Michelle Rodriguez.  But, they'll do.

I could keep watching some shows this way.  And since iTMS has expanded its offerings to include some stuff I really want to see like Monk, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Office, I might really get into it.

Sorry, I'm not much into torrents and other forms of illegal downloading.  I once was a huge aficionado of services like the original Napster and Limewire after that.  But, when the place I work blocked out all gnutella clients and I was still on dial-up at home, I gave up.  And I just haven't gone back.  I guess that makes me an RIAA and MPAA posterboy... nah, not really  ;-) 

I don't look down on those that do use it, I simply don't have the patience to wade through all the crap out there in hopes that it will be a viable version of what I want and not some crap-quality rip or a recording of Madonna yelling "STOP STEALING MY MUSIC!" (yeah, she did something like that at one point).

Now, if only iTMS could get classic Twilight Zone...

My kind of town...

I know it may not sound like much of a vacation, but from December 22-24, Katie and I are "getting away from it all" by heading into Chicago and getting a hotel.  The hope is that we'll be done with Christmas shopping by that time (we're almost there!) so that we can just relax and walk around, get some food and drinks, hit up a couple of museums, etc.

Well, we booked the hotel a couple weeks ago and, this morning, I received an itinerary e-mail from Travelocity regarding our stay.  For the most part, it was your standard e-mail (if you've ever booked travel through Travelocity, Expedia, et al) and contained several ads for complementary services as well as ideas for activities.

But then I saw the coolest damn thing in the world... it was what Travelocity termed their "Travel Goody Bag" and contained a link to "Tunes For Chicago."

Being the music nut I am, I just had to click on it, regardless of the spam potential inherent in clicking on random e-mail links.  Thankfully, the resulting page is actually hosted by Travelocity, so I needn't worry about additional e-mails at least.

Here is a screen cap of part of what I saw on the site...


This was just too cool!  I love the idea that you can download songs about a place to which you are traveling, but having the travel company actually give you ideas!?!  That's awesome!  And the list has some standards plus a few others to consider.  I never would have thought about Wilco or Groove Armada when developing a list of "songs about Chicago."  Would you?

And it's fully iTunes compliant.  Even bigger props.

Okay, so it doesn't take much to please me.

If you think that's bad, wait till you see what else was on the page...


C'mon, everyone loves the gnome!

We will, we will rock you (not!)...

Kevin Apgar, known on the Bears' Blitz message boards as Peanut4President, would like to read from a prepared statement...

Although a diehard fan of the first-place Chicago Bears, I have to realize that the NFC is nothing like the AFC. Granted, the Bears are in the weakest divison in the NFL, I have learned, after watching the Steelers throttle the Bears, that we are not in the same league as the Steelers.

After the loss to the Browns earlier in the season and after the Steelers lost to the Bengals as we had, I had sure confidence that the Bears were going to once again show up against the reeling Steelers, like we did for Carolina. That's what I get for thinking.

As much as it pains me to say this, the Steelers are head and shoulders a better team than my Bears. If the Steelers were in our division, we'd be the Saints!

Lance, to you and all your Steeler listeners, congrats on a great win and may you find yourselves in the playoffs.

I'll look forward to the next time our two proud franchises meet so that I may root for the Steelers knowing that my Bears have no shot.

Congrats again.

This is the statement that I must read to the My Sports Radio Quick Take hotline and will more than likely be aired on the One for the Thumb Pittsburgh Steelers podcast.  Credit to Thumb listener Smack for coming up with the text.

All because my beloved Chicago Bears lost today to the Steelers and I had made a bet with a couple guys from the other board.  Dammit, Bears!  Of all the games you decided to lose, it had to be the one I actually bet on.  Now, because of you, I've got to read that statement.


Oh yeah, I also have to buy a Steelers hat and take a picture of myself in it and post it on both their board and my own.  That's gonna be painful.

Damn you, Bears!  The first time I actually bet on you (granted, not for some significant amount of cash or anything; mostly bragging rights), and you fail me!

No, no, no!!!

I am crying.

I don't want no Scrubs...

I was ever so excited last night as Katie and I watched our TiVosode (hey, cut me some slack, it's easier than typing "TiVo-recorded episode," right? - I think I should trademark that or offer to sell it to TiVo for the right price) of My Name is Earl.  The news that excited me so?  A commercial declaring that Scrubs is returning to NBC on Tuesday, January 3. 

MiscscrubsWe have both missed that show soooo much.  It's one of our favorites and its absence from the primetime lineup has been very noticeable.

But, it seems like NBC is making up for this hiatus.  Yep, we are getting two back-to-back episodes of Scrubs each week that it airs.  I can handle that.  One solid hour of J.D., Elliott, Turk, and Carla being hassled and harrassed by Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and the Janitor?  Hells yes!

What does this mean for Earl?  Nothing terrible, it would seem.  You see, Earl is moving to NBC's meager Thursday night lineup.  NBC really wants to reclaim the "Must See" crown that they once owned that night.  So they are moving Will & Grace to 7 p.m., some new show called The Four Kings from the creators of W&G at 7:30 p.m., Earl at 8:00 p.m., and The Office at 8:30 p.m.

Notice anything?  Yeah, Joey is gone.  But only temporarily.  It should be coming back in March, or so NBC is saying.  Just a brief hiatus.  With the poor ratings that show has been receiving, it wouldn't surprise me to see it disappear entirely.  It's not horrible, mind you, just not nearly what I'd hoped for when they announced the show way back when.  It's definitely going to need some work.

I'm not sure what I think of these moves so far.  Yes, I absolutely love having double doses of Scrubs.  But I'm not sure I like seeing Earl pitted up against the CSI juggernaut.  This could be the kiss of death for Earl.  I pray it isn't, but you never know how network execs think.  If they don't have immediate results, they'll pull the plug on a show despite critical praise and Emmy wins.  Just look at Arrested Development.

I've been enjoying the heck out of My Name is Earl and I'd hate to see it go the way of the dodo because of NBC's pathetic attempt to reclaim a ratings crown they know they have no chance of grabbing.  CSI is an impossible show to beat.  There's little to no point in even trying.  Just keep Joey and Will and Grace where they are and let them die.  God knows that W&G hasn't been the same for a few years now.  It deserves to die.

Guess it's time to get that second TiVo hooked up, eh?  (No, we haven't done it yet; so sue us).

All by my-se-e-elf.

So how am I celebrating the evening of my birthday?

By sticking around at work and getting stuff done.  Oh boy!  What fun!

Yeah, Mondays kinda suck for Katie and I.  She works late and I usually wind up doing homework for my Wednesday night class.  Talk about bogus.  She and I should be out at dinner and having some drinks or just doing something together. 

But no.  She's stuck at work and I'm trying to avoid going home so I don't get distracted by, a) the pretty new iMac with the stocked iTunes catalog and iTMS access, and, b) my eight hours of TiVo'd episodes of The Shield.

So I'm here at work getting some homework done while also performing a few cosmetic tweaks to my blog (gotta mix it up somehow).  Speaking of which, what do you all think of the new header graphic, the loss of the blue background on the sidebar, and the little Technorati search box?  Just some small stuff.  There's more I'd like to do, but not quite yet.

Actually, I want to start a whole new blog.  No, not as a replacement to this site.  It would be something else entirely. 

You see, I've been running a book review site for about eight years now, but it receives jack for hits.  If you'd like some idea how few hits it receives, try this on for size... this site, since June of this year, has received just under 5,000 hits; the book site, since I began tracking hits on it in August of 2003, has only received 3,500 hits.  I'm sorry, but that's pretty sad.  And I'm very proud of and attached to this site.  It's actually my favorite part of my old site and the primary reason I don't shut the site down entirely.  I'd like to see it do well.

This is why I want to introduce it to the blogosphere.  I feel that it would receive a lot greater exposure here from fellow bloggers.  Plus, it would receive greater recognition within search engines than it currently does.  If the placement of my own site in search results is any indication, my book site should prosper greatly from the switch.

I just need to figure out the best way to work the categories.  As it stands, TypePad does not allow for a way to alphabetize results when clicking on categories.  Usually, entries are listed on the page based first on the category and second on the post date.  So I need to expand the possibilities for the listings so that book reviews can be easily found despite this lack of alphabetization. 

But I'm also interested in enlisting additional reviewers.  I would develop a list of guidelines for reviewing, of course, so that standards are kept up to my anal-retentive par.  Duplicate reviews of the same book would be highly encouraged as they would allow for a more well-rounded overall view of the book.  And credit would be given to the reviewer.  But, no, you would not be paid.  Deal with it.  Strictly voluntary.

For the time being, I would post the guest reviews myself.  But, down the line, I might try to work it out so these reviewers would have their own access to the book blog to upload their own reviews.

Anyone interested?

I'm not sure what my timeline is on this project.  Guess it would depend on interest and time I have available.  Maybe sometime over the holiday break.

Can you picture this?

Key Wester
MisckeywesterIf you're ever in the western Chicago suburb of Naperville, might I recommend a cozy little restaurant?  It's called Key Wester and it's a seafood place that is just spectaculah.  Okay, "cozy" is not the right word as it's a pretty big place, but it's really nice and comfortable inside.

We went there last night as a co-celebration of mine and my brother's birthdays.  And we had fun.  Good food.  Good liquor.

I told my friend, Brian, that we were going there and he gave me a few words of advice when I informed him that my parents were paying.  "Kevin... Surf & Turf and a $90 bottle of wine." 

I took that advice.  I had me some Surf & Turf and damn was it good... 9 ounce cold water lobster tail and an 8 ounce filet mignon.  To die for (sorry, Dave, I know you're a vegetarian).  But we also had a new wine that they were stocking in-house.  It was a pinot noir and I can't remember the name of the winery it came from.  I've got it written down, but not on me  Sorry.  If anyone's interested in knowing the brand, I'll look it up for you.  Just let me know in the comments.  No, we did not get the whole bottle, but Katie and I each had a glass.  This was in addition to the 7/7 that I had before the meal.  Yeah, a good time was had.

Now I just want to know what Katie got me for my birthday.  She's been torturing me with it since Tuesday.  And I don't get it until either sometime this weekend or on my actual birthday.  She hasn't decided yet.

Flickr Update
I felt I should let you all know that I finally got off my lazy butt and did something I said would happen nearly a week ago.  That's right, I posted the Chicago photos from last Friday.  Yikes.  I completely forgot about them.  I loaded them to iPhoto on our Mac, but overlooked Flickr entirely.  So check them out and let me know what you think (you can leave comments there as well).

What I'm having trouble believing is that I've only been doing this TypePad thing since the middle of June and I'm already at post #200.  Yep, you're reading the big 2G.  Yikes.  How long can I keep this up without burning out or going insane?  Stayed tuned and find out, folks!

"I've got somethin' to say.  It's better to burn out, than fade away"
--The Kurgan, The Highlander (and Neil Young and Def Leppard)

Final Thought to Ponder
If you had the qualifications and an opportunity to have any job you wanted in known history, what would it be?  Oh, and money and legality are not an issue (have fun with this one, Johnny).

I'm still pondering.  I had an answer, but then I decided to expand the question to include all "known history."  Oh the possibilities!

Let your body do the talking...

And that's exactly what Dave Gahan did.  The man strutted, he crooned, he sauntered, he practically made love to his microphone stand.

Miscdmtourphoto2And he, as well as the rest of Depeche Mode, were on fire last night.

The DM portion of the show started at a little after 9:00 p.m. (CST) and lasted for a good two hours.  During that time, the band covered just about all their major hits (minus a few notable exceptions) while Gahan progressively lost more of his clothing and Martin Gore looked like a hen that had been dipped in tar. 

I have liked Depeche Mode for years but I'm sure I'm not the world's biggest fan.  But that band put on a show that could convert even the staunchest nonbeliever and have him or her waving their arms in the air in time with the other several thousand people that jammed themselves into the All State Arena in Rosemont, IL. 

The power was completely undeniable.  The sound system was easily one of the best I have ever heard for a show and the vocal to music levels were perfect.  There wasn't a single point in the show when you couldn't perfectly hear either Gahan or Gore unless it was completely intentional on their part.  Not only did the sound system shake you to your very core, but the way in which the band played it convinced you that there was nothing in this world more important to them than their music and our personal enjoyment and appreciation of it.

Miscdmtourphoto1But there was one thing I found interesting... just how much Gahan's stage antics and presence reminded me of the late, great Freddie Mercury of Queen.  I have never seen Queen play live, but I have seen quite a lot of video footage of Freddie hamming it up the way he was known to.  And that's exactly what I saw on stage last night.  There was nothing but raw sexual energy oozing out of every single pore of Gahan's body.  I am a straight man, but even I found myself muttering "dayyyamn" under my breath.  That microphone stand could file a harrassment claim against him and it would hold up in court, I tells ya.

It was a great show.  If you have a chance to go sometime this tour, jump through whatever hoop you need to in order to go.  You won't regret a single minute of it.

And, Dave, if you wanna go again, let me know.  I'm in.

Oh yeah, that brings me to the infamous Dave of Blogography fame who attended the show with Katie and I.

Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to meet up beforehand and hang out.  We got together outside the stadium just as the Raveonettes were starting their set.  So we went in and talked what little we could during the show and in between sets.  Then we talked some more after the show before we went our separate ways (he had to catch a redeye out of the Windy City).

My assessment?

He does not look like a cartoon.  Yes folks, he's a real boy!  And he's taller than I thought he would be.

Okay, enough kidding...

Dave is a very cool guy.  He and I were cracking wise during the shows (especially the opening act) and it seemed, at least to me, like we had known each other for quite some time.  I guess that happens when you consistently read each others' blogs.

I only wish I had more time to hang out with him and talk without having to compete with the music.  It seems like we could have a lot to say and have some fun.  Even Katie, who hasn't really read his blog too much, said he was cool and very easy to get along with. 

So, Dave, like I said after the concert, let us know when you are back in town and we'll do what we need to in order to get together.  I promise you a spinach and parmesan stuffed crust jobber from Giordano's since you didn't get that particular type when you went there yesterday.  Mm, mm, good!

If any of you ever have a chance to meet him during one of his famous globetrots, do so.  I'm sure Kazza would agree with me that he's a good guy.

And don'cha come back...

I really don't want to sound like this post is meant to degrade or take anything away from the great state of Idaho.  I've never been there before so who am I to pass judgment, right?  I wouldn't mind visiting sometime, to be honest.

Okay, pleasantries and apologies aside...

I read on Snopes today that the Idaho Legislature passed a resolution commending filmmakers Jared and Jarusha Hess for the many ways in which their film Napoleon Dynamite portrays the positives of life in Idaho.

Miscnapoleon_1I have seen Napoleon Dynamite and, while I would agree that it doesn't make fun of Idaho, per se, I never really perceived the film as complimentary of life in the state either.

I would just like to take a moment to make mention of some of what I perceived to be the funnier points of this resolution...

WHEREAS, the Preston High School administration and staff, particularly the cafeteria staff, have enjoyed notoriety and worldwide attention;


WHEREAS, Uncle Rico's football skills are a testament to Idaho athletics;

Ummm, is that really something to be proud of?

WHEREAS, Napoleon's bicycle and Kip's skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation;

Yeah, but wouldn't insurance premiums rise a bit considering Napoleon's penchant for "sweet jumps"?

WHEREAS, Rico and Kip's Tupperware sales and Deb's keychains and glamour shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho's small towns;

Isn't this what freelance web and graphic design are for?  Damn, and I thought I stood a chance in the world...

WHEREAS, Napoleon's tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools;

Oh, those poor children have no hope whatsoever, do they?

WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"

Yeah, you'd have to be a Freakin' Idiot to vote against this.  The negative press would kill any chance of a re-election.

I am now awaiting the e-mail that will inform me of the nation's first instance of a restraining order taken out by an entire state against a solitary individual.  I'm sure it will read something like...

Dear Kevin "Freakin' Idiot" Apgar,

While we appreciate your initial attempts at "smoothing things over," per se, at the beginning of your blog post dated November 28, 2005, found at http://kapgar.typepad.com, we must take this opportunity to inform you that you are not welcome in the State of Idaho, nor will you ever be.

We take our state very seriously and do not appreciate your attempts at humor.

Should you ever come within 500 feet of our state's borders, all law enforcement officials and duly deputized citizens have been instructed to beat you with nunchakus and/or shoot you on sight, whichever proves most convenient in the given situation.  Should you, somehow, make it through this first line of defense, a pack of rogue llamas have been trained to detect your particular "odor" and will spit you into submission at which time you will be apprehended, tied to a pole, and shown the true power of our fully armed and operational Youth Tetherball League.


Representative Larry Bradford
House of Representatives
State of Idaho

P.S. You are no longer welcome to dine on tater tots, either.

I'm hosed.  My current Dave-o-Sketch reading seems to agree...


When its time to change you've got to rearrange

'Twas a hot and wet night in Geneva this past evening. 

As both hell and high water rained down upon Katie and I.

(yeah, I know where your dirty minds were going with that one...)

Our attempt to watch the new Harry Potter film was thwarted by legions of kids and parents flocking to the local multiplex in droves.  We could still have gotten tickets, but we would have been at the end of a seemingly interminable line and we had no card games to play or anything else to keep us company.  Plus, we didn't quite have the patience to deal with all these people.  We wanted in and out. 

But it was not meant to be.

So we watched Derailed instead.  Not bad.  Definitely enjoyable but with a not-so-satisfying ending.  I can't decide if it wasn't satisfying because it wasn't great or because the loudmouthed witch behind us decided to blurt out her theory halfway through which left me piecing together the clues in support of this shot in the dark (which turned out to be correct, by the way).  Great acting by Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston (who is really starting to show her range lately).

But this movie furthers my belief that Vincent Cassel is just the biggest freak around.  He frightens me.  That's all there is to it.  Derailed, Ocean's Twelve (no male should be that limber), Birthday Girl... I get the willies just thinking about him.  Can't he do some kind of cuddly, feel-good sort of role next?

Hopefully, HP will happen Wednesday night.  Hopefully.  Sorry to get your hopes up.  Heck, sorry to get our own hopes up.  Grrr...

But, the good news is that I'm caught up on my reviews.

I got a black magic woman...

Katie and I are movie buffs.  We like watching them in theaters, on DVD, and on cable.  If we like a movie, we may watch it multiple times.

So, these last few months have been a bit anomalous to say the least.  In this time, we have been to the theaters only twice (Wedding Crashers and Just Like Heaven) and have been really slow about watching our Netflix rentals.  There have been one or two that have remained in our possession for well over a month (I apologize to whoever may have wanted to rent Because of Winn-Dixie and were delayed because we had the disc... and we never even got around to watching it).  We've been really bad.

But, we're finally going to make our way to a theater tonight come hell or high water.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opened this past week and we need to see it.  No, not "want"... we "need" to see it.  We are both Harry Potter freaks and have seen all the movies thus far.  In fact, we even saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the midnight opening show.  For Katie to stay up that late on a work night for a movie is saying a heckuva lot.

We are really looking forward to seeing this and we hope it's great.  But it's going to take a lot, in our minds, to top the job that Alfonso Cuaron did with the last film.  Yes, we are "blasphemers" in the minds of many Potter purists because we liked the third film the best.  Hey, Chris Columbus did a great job of capturing the look of the characters in the first two films, but Cuaron was spectacular in nailing down the look of the sets and special effects and mood.  Columbus' films were just too bright and cheery whereas Cuaron's film was dark and moody the way I always imagined it. 

Hate us if you must.

But tonight is our night with Harry.  We will be there.  And I will have a review up soon (along with reviews of a couple other Netflix rentals that I'm a bit behind on -- The Living Daylights and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).  Yeah, I'm slacking on the reviews.  Sorry.  Just not motivated to write them up.

I just have this bad feeling that Harry Potter will sell out.  Wouldn't that just be our luck?

One, two, Freddy's coming for you...

What are your biggest fears?

MiscdollI'm asking because it looks as if another C.S.I. show will be capitalizing on a fear of one of the people living under this roof.

A couple years ago, Katie got more than just a bit freaked out by an episode of the classic C.S.I. (read: Vegas Version) in which a woman was stalked by a cable guy that was hiding in and videotaping her from her own attic.  No, she's not afraid of cable installers, but the idea of someone hiding in one of the many deep, dark crevices of your home terrifies her to death.  Closets, attics, cubby holes, you name it, she doesn't like it. 

And I can't say I blame her.  I hear weird stuff in our attic all the time and never know what the hell it is.

This coming week, however, C.S.I. New York will be playing on one of my fears... dolls.  No, not Barbie dolls or that sort of doll.  I'm talking those big, cutesy baby doll sorts of dolls like that vile looking witch on the right.  The ones that have the eyes that open or close depending on if they're upright or laying prone.  Maybe they spit up or make weird noises.  Or, worse yet, they even talk.  That saccharine-sweet, giggly, freakfest of a voice.  And, for some reason, these dolls play a big part in the episode.

But, not watching it is not an option.  I'm addicted to the show.  It's my favorite of the C.S.I. family right now.  Last year, it was only so-so.  But, since Hill Harper became an investigator and they replaced Vanessa Ferlito with Anna Belknap, it became oh-so-much better.  I dig it.  It's one of my few "must-see" shows this season.

I'm screwed.  I'm not sleeping well that night at all.  I just know I'm going to have visions of ceramic-headed evil prancing around pentagrams in my R.E.M. sleep. 

I have a bad feeling Katie and I are going to have nothing but daughters.  And they're going to love dolls.

Oh, the horror.

If I had a million dollars (or just $29.98)...

MiscbnlstickThis is easily one of the coolest and most novel ideas I have seen from the music industry in a while.

The Barenaked Ladies, one of my wife's favorite bands back in the day, is attempting a new means by which to deliver music to the masses.  In this case, a 128MB USB thumbdrive loaded with the "For The Holidays Album" in mp3 format, live tracks, best of the ad libs (whatever that is), album artwork, a photo gallery, and the all-important "and more."

I'll be perfectly honest with you... I love this idea.  I never listen to CDs anymore and rarely buy them unless it's an album that I must own (I just bought WXRT's "OnXRT Live From the Archives, vol. 8" yesterday... great live recordings with all proceeds going to charity that is not available digitally). 

You get a cool little thumbdrive on which you can either keep the data that they give you or blank it out and use it for whatever you want, you can create a CD of the music to listen to on a stereo at home or in your car, or you can just load the stuff right into your computer's MP3 player.  There just seem to be so many practical purposes for this sort of media presentation.

This can be purchased at the BNL online store, Werkshop, and, supposedly, on Amazon as well although I'm having the damnedest time finding it.  It's a bit pricey at $29.98 (USD) or $35.00 (CAN), but it does have a lot of stuff on it and it's reuseable, which is a lot more than I can say for the CDs that are collecting dust on my shelves.

I love it.

I wish more bands would do it.

I am seriously debating picking this up.

You can't tell me you wouldn't love to own a USB drive that has "Barenaked on a Stick" emblazoned on the side of it, can you?

Oh, you were a vampire and, baby, I'm walking dead...

Is it really going against the status quo to do something nice for a person in this day and age?

MiscivvampireLast night, despite leaving work early because I was sick (and am still home sick today), I trekked in to my fave book seller, Anderson's Bookshop, in Naperville for a signing by the famed Anne Rice.  Yes, she of The Vampire Chronicles fame, was in the 'burbs signing books and promoting her new novel, Christ the Lord.

Well, in all honesty, it was more "signing" and less "promoting" ironically enough.  You would think that there would be a big push on the book and her talking about it to lend it some credence.  Alas, she did not.  They had plenty of the book on hand and the requirement was that if you want her to sign copies of her past books, you must purchase a copy of Christ the Lord and have it signed as well.  That was pretty much it for promotional push.  She never spoke word one to the audience as a whole.  Over 200 people showed up and she said squat.  Both Ted Allen and David Sedaris had pretty nice speeches and Q&A sessions.  Heck, Sedaris even read a couple of stories he had just written.  Yet, not even a Q&A for Ms. Rice.  C'est la vie.

If I had known there would be no pre-show, I would've waited away from everyone else in order to keep from spreading my diseased aura to the masses.  However, since we didn't know she wouldn't be speaking until just before she came out, I had positioned myself as close to the front table as possible. 

To anyone who comes down with a sinus infection, my heartfelt apologies; but I was not missing this signing.

My only intent was to pick up her new book for signing.  It sounds interesting as it is Rice's take on the missing years between Christ's childhood and adulthood.  Not quite like Christopher Moore's perception, I'm sure.  But I would think it would be interesting, all the same.

When they finally got around to calling me up in line (I was #166 of 200+ people waiting), I was in line behind a girl roughly my age who had a paperback copy of one of Rice's books to sign.  When she got up to one of the Anderson's staffers, they informed her that it was unlikely that Rice would sign that book without having a copy of CtL to sign as well.  The girl was upset as she had been waiting nearly an hour and a half and was having the book signed for her boss.  The staffer told her to wait anyway as Rice may change her mind. 

I turned to the staffer and asked, "Rice will sign paperbacks so long as you have the new book to sign, too, right?"

She said, "yes."

I pointed to the girl in front of me who was also looking back at me curiously regarding my question as I clearly had no paperbacks to have signed, and I held out my hand to take her copy of the book.  Both realized at the same time what it was I was offering to do and were immediately grateful.  The girl kept saying "thank you so much" while the staffer said "that is so sweet of you."  Both comments were made with a tone of voice that made it readily apparent that what I was doing was not the normal thing you encounter from your fellow human being.

All I was doing was ensuring that her book would be signed.  Is this really all that big a deal?  Is our world really that numb to common decency that making the offer that I did is deemed that grandiose a gesture?

I'm really happy that I was able to make her day the way I did.  But, in all honesty, it just struck me as the decent thing to do.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Now if only I had her e-mail address... she snapped some digital shots and I forgot my camera at home.  Dangit!

Come on, get down with the sickness...

Today, I'm going to try blogging on a theme.  And today's theme is "sickness."  Interpret that as you will; soon you'll discover that I have loosely interpreted that one as well.

Misckleenex...is home sick today.  She rarely ever gets sick and tends to work through any minor illness that she gets.  So when she actually stays home from work, you know it's serious. 

Judging by how she sounds and feels, she may even stay home tomorrow.  We shall see.  It's an annual thing for her to get a sinus infection that evolves into full-blown bronchitis when the weather starts shifting.  This is Illinois and the weather here tends to shift a lot.  Thankfully the infection is a one-off deal.

I wanted her to stay home yesterday because she was pretty bad even then.  But she couldn't find a replacement at work.  I felt horrible for her and still do today.  If I didn't have so much crap to do at work, I likely would've tried to stay home with her so I could take care of her.

But, staying at home without me is better than her still going in to work.  Until she told me she actually went out in the garage and was staining some boards for our entryway.  Girl!  Lay down and relax.  You are supposed to try to stay warm and inactive.  Don't go out in that frigid garage!

Marina's Pandemic Podcast
This is one of those utterly ridiculous news items.  I was listening to Adam Curry's Podfinder Podcast this morning on the way to work and one of his higlighted p'casts was Marina's Pandemic Podcast.  Basically, this woman is giving advice and offering professional outlooks at what she deems to be the impending pandemic of Avian Bird Flu.

All I've got to say about this is "oh great."  Yet another loon buying in to this and blowing it out of proportion.  I know some of you might think I'm nuts.  But this lady is saying that we should've been planning for this for a few years now by stockpiling dry goods and canned food and water because we will be homebound under quarantine for anywhere from a few months to a few years. 

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe it's going to be as bad as everyone is making it out to be.  They're likening it to the Black Plague and the Spanish Flu, both of which thrived in eras or populations that didn't have the access to vaccinations and other medicines that can cure it.

Ironically enough, there have been liberal media and conspiracy theorist reports that a cure (or maybe it's just a helpful deterrent) for Avian Bird Flu called oseltamivir (trade name: Tamiflu) does exist and is sold by Hoffman-La Roche.  Tamiflu was originally developed by Gilead, a company that was, in 1997, chaired by current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  Hmmm... Republican politicians linked to corporations that are intricately tied to the current affairs of the world seems to be a running theme these days, no?  (Dick Cheney and Halliburton for those of you not making the connection).

Oh well, I'm only a part-time conspiracy theorist.  There was a second shooter on the grassy knoll, dammit!

Rafael Palmeiro
MiscpalmeiroHow does he tie into my theme of "sickness," you might ask?  I argue that he is a cancer on the sport of baseball that needs to be excised, once and for all.  Yet, despite standing in front of the U.S. Congress and declaring "I have never used steroids. Period" he has not been found guilty of perjury even though he failed a steroid test earlier in the year.

In a statement yesterday, Palmeiro seemed to dispute his own earlier testimony by saying "I have never intentionally taken steroids" [my emphasis].

So, let me see if I understand this correctly.  Just because he decided to play a game of CYA ("Cover Your Ass") and declare that his positive steroid test was possibly the result of a bad vitamin injection, he's getting off on potential perjury charges.  The guy steadfastly declared that he never took steroids, "period."  There is very little room for interpretation in that comment. 

Looks like spin-doctoring is not just for politicians anymore, eh kids?

Blockbuster Video
Yes, another loose interpretation of "sickness" that also falls in my cancers-that-need-to-be-excised category.

Many media outlets are reporting that Blockbuster Video is struggling for existence right now.  They are losing money hand over fist and may have to file for bankruptcy.  Yay!!!

I have always hated them because of their late fee policies and, even though they "eliminated" these practices, I still don't rent from them.

Maybe this will mark the return of the ol' mom & pop video stores.  Oh, how I miss them.  They may not have had the selection of a Blockbuster or a Hollywood Video, but they were so much nicer to rent from.  Good people who love what they do instead of the feeble corporate mentality and non-existent customer service of a market giant.

Yes, some of these stories relied on a very loose interpretation of the word "sickness," but it worked for me.  Did it work for you?  Please don't expect me to do this all that often.  "Blogging on a theme" was fun once.  Once.  (That was for you, Pauly D).

Get well, Katie!  I love you.

Those crocodile tears are what you cry...

Just a quick note.  Sorry it won't be longer...

I am suffering extreme musical withdrawal right now.  It really hurts, too.

As a quick note, I do not trust the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to actually put out good music.  I don't think they know what they're doing (and don't get me started on policies they have initiated).  So I rely on friends and the library to give me ideas as to what I should try to listen to.

Yep, the library.  I check out CDs religiously from my local library.  But they don't all come from my local library.  In fact, very few of them do.  My library is part of a rather extensive Chicago suburban interlibrary loan association.  And I take full advantage of it.  I go online to my library's website and look up anything and, nearly, everything and place holds on it.  Then I just wait for the CDs to come rolling in.

However, the beginning of this month marked the start of a two-month period in which my library's online catalog goes offline.  They are "upgrading" (so they say) and joining a new library association.  And the process will take until the new year.

How am I going to get my music in the meantime?!?!  I need music!!!  Desperately!!!  Please help.

I need suggestions for albums that you consider "must hear."  Give me some ideas.  iTunes only helps me so much.  And I'd prefer to rely on people and not algorithms.


Wake me up when this music ends...

Some snippets for you this morning...

Sport's Illustrated:
Tell me what's wrong with this picture...


This is the cover to last week's Sports Illustrated.  And I am quite disturbed by it. 

Take a careful look at it.  The main image is that of the Indianapolis Colts' Quarterback Peyton Manning and New England Patriots' Quarterback Tom Brady who will be facing off against each other tonight in Monday Night NFL action.

Okay, that's cool and all.

Miscsisoxsmall_1But, why is it that the World Series is relegated to nothing more than a tiny little circular call-out in the top right corner of the page?  I don't care how big a match up the Monday Night game is, we are talking about the flippin' World Series!  The championship series of Major League Baseball!  This is what the 162 games of the major league season was building up to and it gets a corner of the cover in lieu of a regular season NFL match up!  And it was the announcement of the winning team!  A team that hasn't won the Series in 88 years!

SI... you should be ashamed of yourself.  I'm not a Sox fan, but they deserve more respect than this. 

I was looking forward to a nice big cover photo that I would be proud to hold on to as a keepsake. 

This cover is barely fit to grace my recycle bin.

Culver's To Go:
I am an idiot.  Yep, that's me, your fair blogger, admitting that he's an idiot.  Why, you might ask?  I pulled into the drive-thru at Culver's yesterday to get some custard for Katie and I.  When the kid came on the system asking me what I wanted, I said, "a quart of red raspberry to go."

"To go."  Yep.  That's what I said.


I'm a moron.

Failed Dream Recall:
I woke up with quite a start this morning at about 3:30 due to a fairly twisted dream I was having.  But what's truly killing me is the fact that it was a very vivid dream that I can't remember that well anymore.

The dream started with me waking up to go to work and it was still pretty dark outside.  However, I looked out the window anyway and could see that we had our first snowfall. 

For whatever reason, I wanted to take a picture of the snow so I went to grab my camera which I had left in my truck in the garage.  As I grabbed it, I heard another pick-up truck pull into my drive way and saw the headlights from it shining through the little arced windows in the garage door. 

I couldn't possibly fathom who it could be so I decided to try to sneak a peek through the corner of one of the windows.  It was a truck just like mine driven by someone I had never seen before.

When the garage door started raising, I bolted to the door back in to the house.

All I remember beyond this is that the "person" in the truck, despite the cramped quarters of our garage was able to pull in and walked right through the door into our house.  Yes, that's right... right through it.  While it was closed.

I know there was much more to this dream than that.  But I can't remember it for the life of me.  I do remember that when I woke up after the dream, I wanted to blog about it while my recall was perfectly intact.  Shame I didn't.  But it was just so damned early and I was sooooo comfortable in bed despite my rapidly beating heart.

Damned Earworms!:
Even worse than dreaming about a haunting at our house, I woke up with an earworm that still isn't gone.  It's that damned "Wake Me Up When September Ends" song by Green Day.  I hate it!  I hate it!  I hate it!

Isn't this song dead yet?

Shootin' dirty pool, spewin' dirty lies...

$20 + 3 hours = $100.

That would be the equation that defined my night last night.  And, no, I wasn't selling myself on the street corner or the resulting dollar amount would have been a negative, I'm sure.

I played poker last night.  And, for the first time in my life, I won.  The whole enchilada.  It's MINE!  Gimme!

MiscpokerchipsI don't know how or why, but the cards were on my side last night with six friends playing Texas Hold 'Em.  It was so pretty.  I won the first two hands of the game pretty big.  People were betting large and I won them both.  It became a bit more conservative after that and I wound up not winning or losing too much in the next eight to ten hands.  Then I took a few more of the next several.

As the stakes increased and the blinds kept doubling (roughly every 20 minutes), I kept playing it down.  I took only a couple here and there, but enough to keep me in the game.  With four guys left, I was actually number three in terms of chips.  But a couple of big hands, which I won with a flush and a full house, made me the chip leader.  I went back down a bit after that and lost my leader status.

Then came the final hand.  Three of us still in it.  I had a 2-3 suited and decided to stay in.  Normally, logic would have dictated that I fold.  Why did I stay in?  Because the last four or five hands had been won with absolute squat.  Pair here, two pair there.  Nothing big.  Plus, I was once again the chip leader.  Even if both of the remaining guys went all in (which they did), I would easily have it covered and enough to still hold my own against them should another hand be played.  I figured I'd play it.  And the flop had a 2 and a 3.  Oh so pretty.

Most of my bets were pretty conservative.  I raised only a few times here and there and not a whole heckuva lot as my confidence isn't quite where I would like it to be.  And I had a few friends groaning here and there that I didn't just go all in on a couple or raise the stakes higher.  But I was afraid of losing the person I was betting against.  With how conservative my betting was up to that point, I would've thought a big bet would make the person think I either had a great hand (which I did in some cases) or that I was bluffing like a mutha (which I am seemingly incapable of doing... gotta work on that).

I've never won a game of poker in which we had real money going around.  No, it wasn't a lot of cash, but it was certainly a bolster to my card-playing ego.  Especially when you consider that I'm not much of a card player.  I took it and ran.  Well, not literally.  I did stick around for a few more limit games that we just bought in as we went.  Lost about ten bucks there.  No big deal.  But it felt great having that small wad of 20s in my back pocket as I drove home to Katie.

I smell a lawsuit.

Ah, more e-mail fun this morning.

Chavez v. Netflix, Inc.
If you were offered the opportunity to jump in on a class action settlement bandwagon, would you do so?

I received an e-mail from Netflix today detailing a settlement in a class action lawsuit against them by some bonehead named Chavez who claimed that "Netflix failed to provide 'unlimited' DVD rentals and 'one day delivery' as promised in its marketing materials."

Umm... okay.  Whatever, dude.  Maybe you're just strange, but I seem to get an unlimited number of rentals so long as I return them on time.  And, almost all of my rentals have been one-day delivery as promised.  A few have ventured beyond that time span, but I would be more prone to blaming the U.S. Postal Service than Netflix.

Well, it would seem that Netflix is settling it all by providing a free one-month upgrade in service to anyone who wants to take part in it.  This means that I would be bumped up from a three-at-a-time plan to a four-at-a-time plan.  And only for one month. 

Considering how little I've been watching movies lately due to the new TV season, I don't think that fourth DVD would get much action other than sitting on my turntable with the rest while I wait for a window of opportunity in which to watch it.

In this case, I don't think I will be participating.  It's such a minimal payout and I've otherwise been very happy with the Netflix service.  I have no bone to pick with them.  If it was Blockbuster Video, I'd be all over it regardless of how minimal the payout was simply because I hate them and they've screwed me over enough that I would relish the payback. 

What would you do?  What have you done in the past?

But this was not the only interesting e-mail I found this morning...

Celebrity Art Exhibit Friday at Crobar
MiscanthonyquinnI'm not sure if you're at all familiar with Crobar.  It's a bar and nightclub in downtown Chicago that has a bit of a reputation (or, at least, it had a bit of reputation) as a leather bar and... well... if it helps paint a mental picture, former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman frequented the place.  Getting the idea?  I thought you might.

Perhaps my mental perception is a bit off-base.  If so, to the Crobar crew, I apologize.

This e-mail was actually delivered to my junkmail folder because it came from a name that the Hotmail system didn't recognize.  I don't even recognize it nor do I have any idea how I would have ended up on a Crobar mailing list.  The potential explanations terrify me.  I'd really rather not go into them.

The exhibit is called, interestingly enough, "Hard Men."

You'd think I would have stopped reading right there, wouldn't you?

I didn't.

It was, thankfully, followed up with this description...

An Exhibition of Art by Charles Bronson, George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Anthony Quinn, Sly Stallone, Evel Knievel, Robert Mitchum

Curated by Baird Jones
Friday, Nov. 4, 2005, 10:00 - midnight
Crobar Nightclub, 530 w 28th St. (between 10th and 11th Aves.)

In all honesty, it sounds a bit intriguing.  I'd love to see what Anthony Quinn would call art.  Muhammad Ali... not so much.  It might wind up being a recycled cardboard box.

“Starfighter” Video Game Led to Youth Saving Galaxy
Okay, this one is not an e-mail but a Bloglines link to a Digg submission regarding a Daily Gaming News article (catch all that?).  All I can say is bwahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

I guess you have to know The Last Starfighter to understand.

Some will win, some will lose...

I find it funny how closely current events and movie/music sales are tied together.

I was surfing around the top 100 song list on iTunes Music Store when I discovered that Eminem's song "Lose Yourself" which was released on CD on October 29, 2002, and has been out of regular radio rotation since about the summer of 2003, is now listed at #17.  The only thing I can come up with are the Lugz-boots "inspired" ads for the new iPod featuring Marshall Mathers singing the track in the now-infamous pseudo-silhouette style associated with almost all iPod and iTunes ads.

MiscwarrenzevonAnd, Halloween season is upon us or so it would seem based on the fact that Ray Parker, Jr's, "Ghostbusters" theme song (#28), Boris Pickett's "Monster Mash" (#32), Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" (#43), John Carpenter's "Halloween" theme song (#44) are all in the top 100.  The Halloween package is lead by Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at #20 overall.  Or maybe it has to do with his announcement that he will make his permanent residence in Bahrain.  Six of one...

But the one I found the funniest was Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" now at #31 (it peaked at #25).  This is obviously because the song was the unofficial theme song for the Chicago White Sox in their 2005 championship season.  I can't fathom any other reason why this song would be so popular right now.  Yes, it's a good song and one I love listening to, but for it to be on the charts?  And to compound my confusion, this World Series is officially the lowest-rated televised Series in history.  So how does the song bounce up that high if so few cared about the games?  Weird.  According to the story I linked, it peaked at #3 on the iTMS rock charts.  This song came out back in 1980.

Am I missing any potential explanations for this phenomenon?  Will we all come crashing back down to reality sometime soon?

We are the champions, my friends...

Well, more specifically, the Chicago White Sox are the champions... er... my friends.

Finishing out a season in which everyone was convinced they would eventually roll over and die like a fish caught on dry land, the White Sox have won the World Series.  Were there some controversial calls?  Yep.  Did the Sox catch a ton of breaks that they probably should not have?  Yep.  But do they still deserve it?  You betcha.

So my sincere congratulations (and my envy) go to Sox players and true Sox fans in the world.  It's been 88 years.  Have some fun with this.


"Cubbies, come out to play-i-ay!" 

The heat is now on for my Cubbies

Before these last couple of seasons, they had fallback excuses.  Any time they failed to do well in the regular or post season, they could always just say "wait until next year" and point to their fellow perennial losers, the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.  And, for some reason, we fans would accept that.  Not anymore, guys.  They both have won World Series titles and swept their way to it, no less.

"Lovable Losers" just ain't gonna cut it anymore.  There are no excuses left.  In my mind, right now, you're just "losers," plain and simple.  Stop blaming the goat and Bartman and just play.  And you'd better do it soon.  I get the feeling that my fellow Chicagoans' patience is going to be running quite thin this next season and you might see some defection.  The "Friendly Confines" had damned well better become the place where opposing teams come to die.

At least it's nice to see one Chicago team playing baseball.  Dunno what the Cubs were playing this year, but it certainly wasn't Major League-caliber baseball.  I'd venture a bet that our local minor league team, the Kane County Cougars, could have a field day on the Cubs.

Oh, and I'm still working on my Halloween meme and it will come out later today.  Don't think I'm using this as my only post for the day.  Yep, it will be another multipost kind of day here at Kapgar.com.  Woo hoo!

I'd like to say, have a happy holiday...

Ooohhhhh... two posts in one day!  Hey, can't help that I've got lots of cool stuff to discuss.  Actually, it's a bunch of smallish items I wanted to mention.

Of course, this just means that I won't have jack to talk about tomorrow.

However, this first bit is somewhat time sensitive and must be mentioned today, lest it be too late.

International Something For You Day:
Tonya at Adventure Journalist has declared today a new holiday.  Specifically, International Something For You Day.  Your task, should you choose to accept it (and I see no reason why you wouldn't want to) is to spend $25 on yourself.  Be like Tonya and buy something off your Amazon Wish List, go get a manicure/pedicure, get a very inexpensive lap dance (Johnny?), or fuel up your truck like I am for a cruise around the area taking autumn photos.  Whatever you choose, make it something for you.  And make sure to mark your calendars for next year.  This one's definitely worthy of inclusion in the annual holiday rotation.  Heck, as far as I'm concerned, it trumps quite of a few of the standards.

If you own an iPod Shuffle, might I suggest spending half that amount on a new accessory?  iBelieve is a lanyard and replacement cap for your Shuffle that converts it into a rather large, white plastic crucifix to hang around your neck.  I find this thing to be absolutely hilarious.  And, yes, it's legit.  The order function really does work.  No, I did not order one as I do not own a Shuffle.  But, this accessory alone almost makes me want to buy one.

Google Moon:
First it was the entertainingly interactive yet completely worthwhile and utilitarian Google Maps.  Then, we all had fun watching the camera zoom into our homes and whip around the planet with Google Earth.  Now, you can view the lunar landing sites of the late 60s/early 70s with Google Moon.  Just promise me one thing, you will zoom in to the landing sites as far as the map will let you go.  The detail is amazing!

Ted Allen:
I dunno how many of you are fans of Queen Eye for the Straight Guy, but their resident food and wine expert, Ted Allen, was in Naperville, Illinois, last night signing copies of his new cookbook, Food You Want To Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes, at Anderson's Bookshop.  Being the cookbook junkie that Katie is, she really wanted to be there.  Alas, she was working until 9:00 p.m.  So I went in to the signing for her.  He and Kyan were always my two faves on the show, so it was cool being able to meet Ted and have him sign the book as well. He really is a damn funny guy.  I've got a couple photos of him at the event up in Flickr (Photo 1 | Photo 2).

I can't stop this feelin', deep inside of me...

Oooohhh, today is not going to be good.  I just know it.

When the first thing you do upon waking up is to flick off your alarm clock... well, it's just not a good sign for things to come.  It's an inanimate object, for God's sake.  The sacred middle finger should be reserved for stupid people or select inanimate objects that portray stupid people: TVs, radios, movie screens, caricatures/photographs of George Bush, etc.

I'm just not going to like being awake today.

And I blame one thing... our TiVo and the CBS Monday night sitcom lineup.  Katie and I weren't home until just before 10 p.m. and yet we still watched our way through King of Queens, How I Met Your Mother, and Two and a Half Men.  Bed by 11:45 p.m. and awake at 6:00 a.m.  Ouch.

Was it just me, or were HIMYM and 2.5M absolutely hilarious last night?

MiscnphHIMYM is not the greatest show I've ever seen, but it has gotten progressively better with each episode.  And, damn if it isn't good to see Neil Patrick Harris back on the small screen.  The actor formerly known as Doogie Howser, M.D., steals every scene he even remotely occupies in that show.  And he's not even the primary star.  He's definitely a frontrunner in the Best New Comedy Actor category of the Kapgar.com Primetime Awards (fourth annual awards due out in May, maybe April).

While 2.5M started out a bit slow and weird, the last ten minutes more than made up for it.  I couldn't stop laughing when the coven drugged Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and were carrying him into the altar room chanting "anoint him... anoint him..." and he broke into a chorus of Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling."  And then seeing their mother (Holland Taylor) dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West -- and playing out the role quite well I might add -- was just classic.

To the outside reader, it may indeed sound like we watch a lot of TV.  And, by comparison to a lot of other people, we probably do.  But, Katie and I have cut nearly six hours of shows out of our weekly TV viewing schedule, and we even officially cut one more last night by axing The Biggest Loser (sorry, but it just sucks this season).  So I don't really feel that bad about it.  Heck, depending on how they play out over the next few weeks, we may cut a few more out of the regular viewing lineup.  We shall see.

And to our alarm clock, I apologize.  You are just doing your job.  Please don't take my outbursts personally.

People are strange...

What is it about sports that makes people so crazy?

Driving and walking around Chicago and the suburbs and watching local TV programming the way Katie and I have and you cannot help but feel Sox fever.  Hey, Chicago has a team in the World Series, what'd you expect?

But with all the fan fever come the idiots as well. 

I was talking with my marketing management professor from last semester and he told me that he is really excited about the White Sox in the World Series and has been watching the postseason, as a whole, pretty intently.  However, he has two kids in his Tuesday night class that are diehard Cubs fans and they are not at all excited about what is happening.

I have a single-word question for this dynamic duo... how?  How can you not feel it?  I know it's not the Cubs in the Series.  I know you wish it were.  Heck, I wish it were.  But I'm not going to deny the White Sox this shot in the Fall Classic.  They played some tough-nosed baseball and deserve to be where they are (could you give the Cubbies a few tips?).

This is Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.  A town starved of World Series titles for 88 years.  If it were the Cubs in the Series instead of the Sox, I would like to think that Sox fans would be rooting for us, albeit with a bit of envy in that cheering much like we are now, but it's cheering all the same.

Heck, even Ryne Sandberg, Hall-of-Fame firstbaseman for the Cubs and an avowed Cub fanatic, is rooting for the South Siders.  If he can shrug off the South Side/North Side rivalry and root for the Sox because they are a CHICAGO TEAM, then so can you. 

Guess what?  The Sox are in the World Series (and are up two games to none) and the Cubs are not.  Wanna know why?  The Sox played like a team that wanted to be in the Series and the Cubs did not.  So stop bitching about the Cubs not being in it and root for the Chicago team that is and place the blame where it belongs... on the players and coaching staff that comprise the Chicago Cubs organization.

Another idiot I heard about comes courtesy of film critic and White Sox nut, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times.  When interviewed on the Eric & Kathy Morning Show on WTMX 101.9 FM, he said that he heard (I don't know if it was in person or not) gripe about how the city's skyline buildings were not lighting their windows up at night in "White Sox colors" to celebrate the fact that the Sox were in the World Series.  He claimed that, if it were the Cubs in the Series, the windows would be blue and red as far as the eye can see.  "Why can't Chicago support the Sox the way they do the Cubs?"

This would be about the time that Roeper pointed out the obvious... the White Sox colors, for those not in the know, are black and white.  By having the lights on at all, you therefore have the white, but to have black, you must turn off the lights entirely rendering the skyline a major hazard for incoming flights.

Yes, this was an audio podcast, but I could just feel Roeper shaking his head in disbelief for this poor schmuck as he explained this on the air. 

If you are interested in hearing this one for yourself, subscribe to the Mix's free podcast using this feed (http://www.wtmx.com/podcast.php) and select either the October 20 or 21 podcast.  I'm pretty sure Roeper was interviewed in one of those two.

How Darwinism misses some people is beyond me.

Image courtesy of ffitz images & design

To all you morons out there, please crawl back in the woodwork, under your rock, or whereever else it is that you came from before I am forced to hide out there in utter shame.

Another one bites the dust...

"Congrats man! Have a good time at the show and game.
Da Bears!
They should rip the Vikings the new one. They're weak this year!"

With these well wishes left in the comments about my anniversary post, Johnny C delivered the luck necessary for the Bears to win 28-3 over the sad sack Viqueens.  To Johnny, I say thanks!

The game was great once the scoring started to kick in full gear, which didn't really happen until the second half.  The first half was pretty boring otherwise.  It ended at 7-3 and could've used a bit more juice.  Obviously something was said in the Bears locker room during halftime to fire them up.  Or maybe the cruise ship prostitutes made a visit to the Vikings' locker room during halftime and further removed them from a "gameday mentality," if you know what I mean.

Clearly, yesterday was a good day for Chicago sports fans.  The Bears win and so did the White Sox in an ALCS win over the Team Formerly Known as the California and Anaheim Angels.  Yep, for the first time in 46 years, Chicago has a team in the World Series.

As much as I wish it were the Cubs, I'm just glad that a Chicago team is in it.  And I hope they win it.

And this is where my rant begins...

The wife of one of my friends is a diehard White Sox fan.  Has been her whole life.  The other day, we were all together watching the fourth game of the ALCS and Katie and I said we were rooting for the Sox to win because we want them to go all the way.  As big a Cubs fans as we are, we were still wishing the Sox well and pulling for them.  We made clear that we are not Sox fans, per se, just supporting them for the sake of our city, which desperately needs a World Series title (we haven't had one since 1917 when the Sox won it; the Cubs last won the Series in 1908).

She was offended by our support for her Sox.  She made allusions to us being bandwagoneers.  Rooting only when the getting is good.

Okay, I had made it clear that we are not fans, so the bandwagon claim is bullshit.  We were rooting for them because they might be able to do what the Cubs are clearly incapable of doing... bringing a title home for the city.  We are not suddenly wearing Sox paraphernalia and jumping the Cubbie Ship.  No no (even though I still own a White Sox shirt that I've had in my possession for nearly a decade; back when they still sucked).

She said that if we wanted to be true to our team, we should be rooting against the White Sox.

MiscwhitesoxMe: "Why?  How is rooting for the Angels being true to the Cubs?"

Her: "Because you would be rooting against your team's rivals."

Me: "What?!?!  The White Sox are not the Cubs' rivals."

Her: "Yes they are."

Me: "Like hell they are.  The Cardinals are our rivals."

Her: "No, the White Sox are because they're both in the same city."

Me: "But we're in different leagues.  We play each other in interleague play, but that's it."

Her: "But we're rivals."

Me: "Ummm, okay, whatever."

Not the best concluding comment in a debate, I admit.  And, in retrospect, I should've mentioned that her "logic" would dictate that the Mets are the number one rival for the Yankees.  Although, we all know that the Red Sox are the Yankees biggest rival.

Maybe I'm missing something here.  Is it wrong to support a team (but not suddenly become "a fan") that is not your favorite within your city if it is more for the sake of the city than anything else?  I know tons of people who are Cubs fans that are rooting for the Sox right now for the same reason that Katie and I are.  Since when is it "jumping on the bandwagon" for a city to show solidarity?  Would I bitch if the Cubs were in this situation and she pulled for the Cubs?  No.  Cheer away.

I've also checked with several diehard sports fan friends of mine who agree with my assessment of the situation.  Their conclusion was that Sox fans are afraid to claim a good team like the Minnesota Twins as their rival.  These friends are all Cubs fans as well but are rooting for the Sox to win for the same reason, to bring a championship to Chicago. 

And, they also want to see it happen to put more pressure on the Cubs next year.  For decades, as our "loveable losers" fell short each year, they had the ineffectiveness of the White Sox and the Red Sox to fall back on.  The Red Sox, who, before 2004, hadn't won a World Series title since 1918, obviously do not work as a crutch for the Cubbies anymore.  If the White Sox win it this year, the Cubs have no one with who they can compare their losing ways.  And the pressure will be on. 

Hmmm... another reason to root for the Sox.


Let's do the Time Warp...

Yesterday, my friend, Jason, left a message on my cellphone asking me what I was doing during the Notre Dame/USC game today.  Later tonight, Katie and I are getting together with Jason and his wife as well as a couple other friends and going out to dinner.

I figured Jason wanted to get together and watch the game.  However, since Katie was going to be at work for a few hours today, I figured I would spend the time finishing up some of the upper-level sections of the stairwell walls that still needed to be painted (when I told you a while back that I was "done" painting, that was only in reference to the ceiling). 

When I finally got around to calling Jason back, I was well into my painting project and I had turned on the game as background noise.  I pretty much just turned on the TV and scanned the Comcast channel guide until it said "College Football: Notre Dame at USC."  I didn't pay much attention to the rest of the details.

While on the phone with Jay, I explained that I was painting but that I had also turned the game on in the background.  He was a bit confused.

MiscnotredamehelmetJason: "You can't be watching the game."

Me: "What do you mean?  It's on right now."

Jason: "Um, the game doesn't start until 2:30." (Ed. note: it was 1:05 p.m. at the time we were talking)

Me: "Then what the hell am I watching?"

Jason: "Is it an old game?"

Me: "Hold on."

[I walked over to the TV and hit the Info button on the remote]

Me: "Oh shit... it's ESPN Classic.  This game is from 1986."

Jason: "Yeah, that's what I thought."

In retrospect, it really does make sense.  I only clicked it on and was faintly listening while painting.  I guess it certainly goes a long way to explain why I occasionally heard reference to names like Steve Beuerlein, Rodney Peete, Tim Brown, and John Carney.  I just figured they were talking about an old game when those names came up.  When I finally did look at the screen, it should've struck me as odd that Charlie Weis suddenly looked an awful lot like Lou Holtz.

Okay, I'm a moron.

Well, the Irish won the matchup 38-37 in one of the greatest games in the history of the Notre Dame-USC rivalry. 

Maybe the luck of the Irish will still be on their side 19 years in the future... at 2:30 in the afternoon.

You and I... defying gravity.



I have never written a review of a theatrical performance, live concert, or performance art before.  However, I was so moved by Wicked last night that I felt the need to talk about here in a bit more detail than just by saying, "I loved it!"

We arrived at The Oriental Theatre at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago and, early on, I was blown away by the beauty of the place.  I love old theaters and this is definitely one of the prettiest I have seen.  I love going to the old theaters (be they old by age or by design) and just stare at the craftsmanship in the place.  From the curtains and the ornate ceilings to the statues and grotesques that adorn nearly every free nook.  I love it.  This place was no different. 

Enough about the theater.  You want to hear about the play.  You should be okay reading this entire recap.  I'm not including anything that is really a spoiler of any sort.  Heck, I knew most of this going in.

Basically, Wicked tells the story of Glinda and Elphaba, two young women living in two completely different worlds yet sharing one common land... Oz.  You know each, respectively, as the Good Witch of the North and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Glinda is a prissy blonde debutante who is accustomed to having her whole life go her own way, regardless of the consequences on others.  Elphaba was born the green-skinned, bastard daughter of the Governor of Munchkinland.  She has quite a few issues with the highest on her list being her inability to figure out where she fits in with the world.  Since her father does not love her (some big daddy issues here), he dotes on Elphaba's younger sister, Nessarose, who was left paraplegic during birth. 

When Nessarose is sent off to finishing school at Shiz University in Oz, Elphaba goes with her to be her caretaker and, if time permits, she may attend classes as well.  However, on their first day at school, a housing misassignment leaves Elphaba rooming with Glinda.  Elphaba and her subsequent outburst, in which her sister's wheelchair goes for a self-propelled spin, catch the eye of the headmistress who decides to see to her education and the refinement of her inborn magic skills personally.

As would be expected, the pairing of Elphaba and Glinda is disastrous.  The two are complete opposites and don't get along at all.  Glinda aspires to be nothing more than a social queen bee while Elphaba is working at making the world a better place. 

Enter Fiyero, a bit of a rabblerouser of the male variety who instantly catches Glinda's eye. 

Despite her detestation of Glinda and, consequently, Fiyero, Elphaba finds herself drawn to him in a way neither can explain and neither want to pursue because, during a moment of social faux pas, Glinda actually helps Elphaba and the two have since started to become fast friends.  A friendship that lasts until the very end.

But, dark times are ahead for the people of Oz.  Animals and people, who have been living harmoniously together for generations, are being torn apart.  Animals are being denied the right to speak their mind, or speak entirely.  And Elphaba, long the animal activist, takes it on herself to see that this is changed before it's too late.  And the only way to do that is to earn an audience with the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

That's enough of the story, I would hope.  I didn't really ruin anything that you couldn't read elsewhere.  Much of the surprise was not even touched upon.  Trust me on that one.

But what really surprised me was just how incredible the performers in this show truly are. 

The supporting cast was a true joy.  From Fiyero and Bocq and Nessarose to the headmistress and the Wizard all the way down to the flying monkeys.  I enjoyed them all.

For our show, the role of Glinda was being performed by her understudy, Sarah Jane Everman.  If Sarah was the understudy, I would hate to see the primary actress... she was awesome.  She had the mannerisms and voice of the prissy Glinda down pat.  And she had a great voice to boot.  If you'd like a bit of a visual aid, think Jennifer Finnigan from the short-lived NBC sitcom Committed meets Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

MiscanagasteyerBut the highlight of the performance was SNL's Ana Gasteyer as Elphaba. 

I have only seen her in a handful of roles -- Mean Girls, What Women Want, and Woman on Top -- as I never was a watcher of SNL during her term.  So I truly had no idea what kind of an actress she really was. 

This performance was everything George Bush promised in the War on Terrorism but never delivered... shock and awe.  Ana was INCREDIBLE! 

She owned this role.  From her dry wit and biting sarcasm as the put-upon daughter and student to her unending caring and compassion for her incapacitated sister to her confusion and frustration over her meteoric rise as the misunderstood scourge of Oz. 

This show was all about Ana and she shined.  After each act, Katie and I would just stare at each other in complete awe.  There is no other word to really describe it.  We were amazed.

Do I recommend this show?  With no reservation whatsoever. 

See it.  See it twice.  I know I want to see it again.  Even Katie, who wasn't sure if she really wanted to see this (yes, believe it or not, I am the musical theater person in this pairing), is willing to go back for a second shot of Wicked.

When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way...

When I read this bit of news this morning, I wanted to cry.

In a weekend in which Aardman Studios took the #1 spot at the box office with their claymation hit Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, they also took a big hit when a fire scorched a warehouse where most of their sets, memorabilia, and awards were being housed.

So much film and animation history destroyed, never to be recovered.  That is terrible.

But, you've gotta admire W&G creator Nick Park who decided he had no choice other than to take it all in stride especially when he thought about this event in light of the earthquake in Pakistan and India.  Despite the loss, he still feels lucky.  Most people would whine about their loss (or, in my case, whine about someone else's loss... go fig), but here is Park putting it all in perspective.

And now for something completely different...

Random Act of Senseless Thought:
I don't know why, but it seemed to me that I needed a section in which I can just post random thoughts that I might have about anything and just post it to see what anyone has to say about it all.  I know that most of the stuff I post is kinda like this, but these will just be brief snippets.  Nothing that really merits an entire post.  They will likely just be tacked on the end of a larger post.  And I have no idea how often they will pop in my head.  So here's my first...

If the Winnipeg Jets play the San Jose Sharks (NHL), would the organist play nothing but West Side Story tunes?

Yeah, that was bad.  I admit it.

I reminisce about the days of old...

For as long as I can remember, I've always heard people rail on about how remakes of anything -- be it movies, music, whatever -- are inferior to the originals.  And, for the most part, I agree.  There are dozens of examples I can give in which this is the case, but I'll let you come up with your own.  I don't think you need any prompting from me.

But does this mean that this always has to be the case?

The other day, I was listening to some songs when I realized that they were remakes of older songs.  And, to be honest with you, I think I like many of these remakes better than the originals.

At the time, I was listening to a song called "Mad World."  The particular version I was listening to haunts me to the very core of my being.  It's by Gary Jules on his album Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets

Just to be fair, before I made a final decision, I found the original version on my iPod and listened to it. 

I'm sorry, but it sucks by comparison.  Sorry, I said I would be fair.  It is a good song, in it's own right.  But compared to the soul-shattering rendition by Gary Jules, it... well... okay, it sucks.  I tried.

So, I started thinking about other songs that I felt this way about.  I can go back to my high school days with the two-hit wonders, Ugly Kid Joe, and their remake of Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle."  I loved UKJ's cover.  I have heard Chapin's and it is good, as well.  I just don't like it quite as much.

It's been years since I've heard either version, though.  So who knows if my evaluation would still hold up.  My musical range is far more diverse now than it was when UKJ released that song.  I may just like Chapin's original better.  Where's iTMS when I need it?

Another example is the song "Demolition Man" by The Police that was later remade by their lead singer for inclusion on the soundtrack of the movie of the same name.  I love The Police.  I count them among my favorite bands of all time.  And I'm not much of a fan of Sting's solo work at all.  I can't explain why, I'm just not.

But, damn if I don't really like Sting's remake of his own song.  It really rocks hard.  The original is really good, but not quite as good as the remake, IMHO.

Then there are those songs where I feel that remakes really do a good job of holding their own when compared to the originals.  No, this does not necessarily mean I like the remake better.  But both versions are on a pretty even keel.

One such example is the classic "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac.  Great song.  Period.  I love it and can listen to it repeatedly.  However, there have been a pair of covers of this song over the years that are really damn good in their own right. 

First was the Smashing Pumpkins on their album Pisces Iscariot.  I don't care what anybody says, Billy Corgan made that song his, if for only a moment in time.  I still listen to the Pumpkins' version, but it will never replace Stevie Nicks.

The other great cover of Landslide was by Joseph McCarthy's fave The Dixie Chicks on their Home album.  Again, regardless of others' opinions, Natalie Maines' pipes brought that song back to life, yet again.

I love Fleetwood Mac and I love Stevie Nicks, but in their own individual ways, both The Smashing Pumpkins and The Dixie Chicks pulled off renditions of "Landslide" that were just spectacular.

Should I feel like I am commiting musical blasphemy by preferring covers to originals or by liking some covers on an even level with their predecessors?

Does anyone else feel the same way about certain songs?

A perfect... lie.

Does anyone out there watch Nip/Tuck

I'm an addict of the show and, while I admit that this third season is not nearly as good as the first two, so far, there are still reasons to tune in.


For example, I'm digging on the addition of Quentin Costa (Bruno Campos) as a new partner in McNamara/Troy.  This past week's episode, in which we discover Quentin's bisexuality as he grabs Christian's (Julian McMahon) ass during a four-person orgy with Kimber (Kelly Carlson) and Kit (Rhona Mitra), is just classic.  Listening to Christian and Sean (Dylan Walsh) cracking jokes about their "uncomfortable" experiences with Quentin toward the end of the episode and seeing Quentin walk in and effectively blackmail them into silence without actually blackmailing them should prove to be interesting twist in future episodes.

And you wonder why this is only on extended cable (FX).

But the real reason I keep watching is because I am totally enthralled by the Carver subplot. 

MisccarverFor those who aren't watching and do want to know what I'm talking about, the Carver is a serial slicer.  This is a person whose identity is unknown but runs around in a chinadoll mask and black outfit and literally carves Joker-like smiles across the faces of people.  For the most part, the victims have been females who the Carver considers to be excessively beautiful.  There was one male victim, too, if I recall correctly.  Very few have actually been killed as the Carver wants them to live with their scars of ugliness.

In response to these attacks, Sean made the goodwill gesture of fixing those attacked by the Carver, gratis.  Even when warned off by the Carver, Sean continued his crusade.  Then the Carver attacked him.  Quentin and Christian fixed Sean's face and Sean continues to do his work. 

However, at the end of last season, when Sean was preparing himself for another visit from the Carver, our knife ace showed up at Christian's place and, as per his M.O., paralyzed him with an injection, sliced his neck, "violated" him in a very uncomfortable place, and left him for dead.  This violation left our lothario unwilling and unable to perform with his favorite female counterpart, Kimber, or with any other female for that matter. 

Enter the detective investigating the case, Kit, who not only is trying her best to find the Carver, but has amazingly returned our Romeo to his woman-loving ways by seducing Kimber and performing a series of rehabilitative menage a trois (how do you pluralize that one?  I don't speak French.).

My theory can be found by clicking on the post continuation...

Continue reading "A perfect... lie." »