Entertainment 2006

Got a license to kill...

I always enjoy taking some time to look back on the year as it is wrapping up and pick what I feel to be some of the best movies of the year. 

Last year, I did a top five movies. I was considering expanding that list to a top 10 for this year.

It was about this time that I realized I don't even think there are ten movies that I have seen this year that could qualify for a top movie list. So I checked out IMDb to see what movies have been released in 2006.

Sho' 'nuff. I couldn't find ten movies to populate the list.

And now for the top movies of 2006 that I've actually seen...

1. Casino Royale
I said I was going to like this movie and I did. As far as I'm concerned, this is the first good Bond film since 1989. And Daniel Craig was fantastic. I'm not going to rehash everything about this film since I already reviewed it here.

2. Stranger Than Fiction
This movie stands out not only as one of the best films of the year, but also as one of the best Will Ferrell films ever. Thank God he came out with this and Talladega Nights this year to make up for the crapfest selection of films he put out last year. Here's the review.

3. Over the Hedge
For an animation crew other than Pixar to have a movie listed here is a pretty big deal. Pixar typically represents the best of the best for me. However, this year was different. No, Cars was not bad. Just not as good as Hedge. Check the review.

4. Superman Returns
How often has this ever happened to me in the past? Two movies I have spent far too long idealizing in my head. Thinking to myself, "Wow! I really can't wait for it to come out in theaters!" And neither of them let me down. The first was Casino Royale, the second was Superman Returns. People worried about the fact that Bryan Singer was coming over from The X-Men series to take the helm of another superhero franchise that, like Batman, had seemingly overstayed its welcome. But it rocked. Simply put, it was a great time at the theater. What more could you ask for? Read about it here.

5. Thank You for Smoking
Ever have one of those movies that you see a single preview for and know, based solely on those 30 seconds, that you're gonna love it? Well, Thank You for Smoking was that movie for me. I'd never heard of it during the development process at all. I'd never heard word one about it until it was a mere month from release. And it looked spectacularly hilarious. Let me tell you something, it is. Aaron Eckard is a PR guy for a major smoking corporation. His job is to make smoking look good in a world that perceives tobacco as nothing more than "cancer sticks." And spin is something he excels at. You know the story of the guy who can sell an freezer to an eskimo? That's him. Eskimos would likely be his number one buyer by the time he's done. But the best parts of this movie are not just him putting a spin on his profession. The movie truly shines when Eckerd shares scenes either with his son or having meals with the MOD Squad (the Merchants Of Death). If you want to laugh, see this film.

I also have to give an honorable mention to V For Vendetta, which was far more fantastic than I ever could have imagined. Thank You For Smoking only narrowly edged it out on the list.

Of course, there are many movies I have yet to see that could make this list. So, before I get into my top movies, I'm going to list several "could have beens" as in "could have been on this list if I'd managed to get out to the theater to see them." In no particular order... Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, Blood Diamond, The Pursuit of Happyness, Rocky Balboa, and The Queen. All of these movies were rated highly either by critics, my family, or by all of you out in the blogosphere and I've got a pretty good idea I'd enjoy them based just on what I've heard. Thankfully, four or five of them are still in theaters and I can see them. Let's just hope I get off my butt and do so.


Time is running out for us...

Okay, I know I said I was starting the wrap up with the Best Movies of 2006, right? Well, we rented a couple movies that we're going to watch over the course of today and tomorrow that I feel stand a legitimate chance of making the list. So I'm pushing that post back to tomorrow and gifting you all with the Best Albums of 2006 instead. Is the trade okay? Please say yes. Please?

Unlike last year, I've got a boatload of 2006 releases that I'd like to include. For this reason, I'm expanding it from a Top 5 list to a Top 10 list. I can't believe the sheer volume of music I picked up this year. And paring it down to ten was tough as well. I've still got an additional ten albums that I'm simply going to list as honorable mentions. Suffice it to say, it was a good year for music.

Oh yeah, and I don't tend to include live albums on my top lists of the year. Dunno why, I just don't. Besides, there's more than enough new studio releases to fill the list.

Well, here you go, regardless of if you preferred reading the movie list or not...

Thomyorketheeraser 1. Thom Yorke - The Eraser

You know, you hear that the lead singer of a hugely popular band is putting together a solo effort and you begin to sweat. "Ohmigod! What's wrong with the band? Are they breaking up? Why couldn't he just do this new music with the band???" Well, the reason why is because this album is pretty far removed from what you've come to expect of Radiohead. Simply out of a desire to have more of a focus on his voice and be a bit more experimental with electronics, Yorke graces us with this album that shot to the top of many charts around the world and a couple songs were featured in soundtracks for films such as The Prestige and A Scanner Darkly. It's a fantastic and mesmerizing album that I can listen to over and over again without becoming bored. That says a lot. Check out "Black Swan" and "Harrowdown Hill."

2. Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam
I think in any other year, this would have been the tops of my list. And, for a majority of this year, it was my favorite album. But, sorry PJers of the World, it got bumped to #2 and by no fault of their own. Thom Yorke was just that damn good an album. This, however, is easily the finest release by Pearl Jam since, I'd argue, Vitalogy, which was one of the best albums of the 90s, in my humble opinion. For this album, the Boys du Jam pull out all the stops and give us one helluva rocker. I only wish I had been able to see them on tour supporting it. Alas, tickets for concerts just cost way too damn much these days. From the get go, my personal fave was "World Wide Suicide," but I also recommend "Severed Hand" and "Gone."

3. Amos Lee - Supply and Demand
Katie and I have been freaks for Amos Lee since we saw him open for Norah Jones at the Chicago Theater a couple years ago. He was a fantastic entertainer both musically and personally. He got the crowd into his act more than I have ever seen an opener do in the past. And we have purchased every album of his since that time. And not a single one has let us down. It's hard to nail down genres with many musicians and Lee is one of them. All I can say is that it's really great acoustic guitar music that does a great job of helping you kick back and take a load off. Check out "Shout Out Loud" and "Supply & Demand."

4. Landon Pigg - LP
It's amazing how many up-and-coming artists can thank the iTunes Store for their breakthrough success. The folks at iTunes like to pick up on a new artist each week and feature them as a free single. Landon Pigg was one such artist in 2006 with "Sailed On." Hey, it was how I discovered him. Just some good Brit pop/rock spanning both the mellow and harder-edged arenas with catchy riffs and memorable lyrics. Well, I liked it. You might know "Can't Let Go" from the radio and it is good. But so are "Great Companion" and "Tinman."

5. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
When I first saw her perform on, I believe, Late Night with David Letterman or The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (damn if I can remember which it was), I was enthralled. She was a one-woman act who looped her effects as she played them to build what amounted to a multi-piece band sound. It was fantastic. And, yes, while I know that pop radio picked up on her songs "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See" pretty heavily (practically to death), I still enjoy them immensely. But if you are tired of those two, check out "Other Side of the World" and "Miniature Disaster" instead.

6. G Love - Lemonade
It's kinda funny, but I've known of G Love for years. I had friends who listened to him as part of G Love and Special Sauce back in college. He was everywhere. But I never heard his music. Not one... that I'm aware of. This year, he's back in more ways than one. Collaborating with everyone from Jack Johnson to Tristan Prettyman, he's put together one heckuvan album here that I love and I am now very happy to call myself a fan. Download "Ride" and "Holla!"

7. The Killers - Sam's Town
This is probably one of the most critically anticipated albums of the year. Its release was heralded with all kinds of praise and yadda yadda yadda. I guess that's what happens when you're a nothing band from Las Vegas whose debut album Hot Fuss winds up going stratospheric on the power of three huge hit singles. So how does a band possibly reach that bar that they personally launched so high up that no one can seemingly grasp it? Well, it's tough to say the least. And I'm still not sure that this album will quite hit that mark, but it's still a good album. Just not quite as out-of-the-box great as the first. I'd recommend giving it a couple listens before passing final judgment, please. "While You Were Young" will be the song that is always played on the radio despite any other singles that come off the album much like "Mr. Brightside" was on Hot Fuss. Also check out "Bling (Confession of a King)" and "For Reasons Unknown."

8. The Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way
This was actually one of the top albums on my "most anticipated" list for the year. And it was worth the wait. The Chicks, in their first album since their in-concert anti-Bushie rant a few years back have smartly decided that they might need to broaden their appeal a bit since many of their old fanbase was turned off by their "un-American" attack. Bah! I say. Everyone has an opinion and we, as a country, support the right to have and share such opinions (even if the rant occurred in England). Anyway. Yes, this is still a country album, but with more of a crossover appeal than before. I highly recommend it. "Not Ready to Make Nice," "Voice Inside My Head," and "Taking the Long Way" are good starting points.

9. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning
I'm a junkie for Mark Knopfler, I'll admit it. I've been a fan of Dire Straits since I was a kid. I became fascinated just watching Knopfler finger pluck his electric guitar to perfection. And I've followed his solo career quite avidly. I own all his solo work and love every last bit of it. It has always had a bit of a crossover feel spanning both a lighter rock and harder country genres, so seeing him put out a full album's worth of collaboration with a well-known country artist such as Emmylou Harris was an inevitability. And I love it. The two voices blend together beautifully and the musicianship is spectacular as we Knopfler fans would expect. Try "This is Us" and "Red Staggerwing" on for size.

10. Eric Lindell - Change in the Weather
Once in a while, you make a mistake that turns out for the better. This was one such mistake. I was trying to download the free single of the week from iTunes from Lindell and accidentally clicked the "Buy Album" button instead. I was not happy. Instead of spending nothing, I waxed $10. Grrr... Thankfully, I've made the most of my money. Quite a bit, in all honesty. With a mix of blues and rock bringing life to this album, it's a thoroughly enjoyable album. Check out "Two-Bit Town," "Feel Like I Do," and "Sunny Daze."

Following is a list of honorable mentions. They're all still damn good, but just not quite good enough to edge their way on a Top 10. You should seriously give these a listen as well, though. In no particular order this time:

  • The Wreckers - Stand Still, Look Pretty
  • Matisyahu - Youth
  • Daughtry - Daughtry
  • Nas - Hip Hop is Dead
  • Guster - Ganging Up on the Sun
  • Jack Johnson - Sing-a-longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George
  • John Legend - Once Again
  • Dashboard Confessional - Dusk & Summer
  • Justin Timberlake - Futuresex/Lovesounds
  • Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics

I hope you were able to find at least one album that could pique your curiosity. There's quite a variety of genres represented here. But that's just what I'm like when it comes to music, I listen to a little bit of everything.

I really need to consider signing up for that iTunes affiliate program. I could make some serious dough off all this potential linkage.


Talkin' 'bout my girl...

Ahhhhh!!!! They kissed! They kissed! They kissed!

Who you might ask? Well, you'll have to watch the show to find out, but it does involve P.J. and one other main character from the new TBS series My Boys. And now they're going to make us wait until next season to find out what results from it.

Ahhhh!!!

Okay, so I've become hooked on it. Wha'cha gonna do about it? Katie became intrigued by the idea of this show back in November and started watching it when the first two episodes aired on November 28. Since the debut, TBS has aired two episodes every Tuesday night making it the only show that has given us new content every week throughout the notoriously dead programming month of December. This week, however, we had two episodes on Tuesday, two on Wednesday, and the finale last night.

Basically, My Boys is about P.J. (Jordana Spiro), a Chicago sports columnist whose beat is the Cubs, and the dynamic she shares with her five male friends, Bobby (Kyle Howard), Brendan (Reid Scott), Kenny (Michael Bunin), Mike (Jamie Kaler), and Andy (Jim Gaffigan) who is also her brother. She does have one female counterpart in Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) who helps by giving her a more girly girl shoulder to lean on from time to time. But, otherwise, she spends her time playing poker, tracking down interviews with sports stars, and voicing over about how similar life is to sports.

And the show has proven to be a lot of fun. Katie and I both enjoy watching it and how can that possibly be a bad thing?

Here are some reasons why the show is good...

Great cast dynamic
The characters are really funny and they work off each other quite well. My particular faves include Kenny who I liken to a 30-something Paul Finch from American Pie (hell, they even sound similar) and the "new guy" Bobby who started out as one of P.J.'s love interests but has since become one of the clan.

Not a big name in the bunch
While many networks would love to have a big name actor anchor a new show to guarantee some carryover viewership, this show has just the opposite... a bunch of no names. The only two you might recognize are Gaffigan (who had a bit part in 13 Going on 30 as the older version of Jennifer Garner's first love Chris Grandy and also costars with Michael Ian Black in the Sierra Mist commercials) and Stewart (playing Ashton Kutcher's love interest in Guess Who with Bernie Mac). It's actually a bit refreshing to have almost all new faces.

It's Chicago, baby!
While E.R. is set in Chicago, very little is done to establish this fact on a weekly basis. Honestly, the show could be set anywhere and no one would notice. Not that every single scene of My Boys is taped in Chicago locales, but they constantly make reference to Chicago either through the occasional visual reference or by talking about local teams like the Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears, and Bulls (the creator is clearly not a White Sox fan, I don't think I've heard a single mention of the Sox). The finale had a killer birthday scene set in Wrigley Field that Katie and I both loved and drooled over. Of course, it's all about "the city" and the suburbs are portrayed as evil incarnate much like any show about New York City tends to do with regard to Manhattan being better than all the other burroughs as well as upstate. But I can live with that.

Pretty cool guest stars
There is a recurring character in Trouty (Johnny Galecki) who is the friend of Kenny that nobody likes. He's loud, crude, scares away the women with his "playa" attitude, and... well... we all know someone like him. He's that terrible friend that winds up coming to some group event that you can never escape. But he's hopelessly dedicated to the betterment of the crew. Then there is P.J. and Andy's Aunt Phyllis (Laurie Metcalf) whose Bohemian way of life makes her P.J.'s personal hero. If you're starting to see a bit of a crossover with Roseanne, it's because My Boys writer Eric Gilliland also served as a writer and executive producer on Roseanne. And, finally, one of my favorite actors, Neil Flynn (the Janitor from Scrubs), made a guest turn as washed-up Cubs beanbrawler Danny Finn.

So, yes, while this show may seem to be marketed as a "chick show" along the lines of a Sex and the City, it's really not. The male dynamic is pretty strong, neither gender is marginalized at all, and, basically, it can be enjoyed by anyone willing to give it a chance.

If you need to play catch up, all 13 episodes from this season can be viewed in their entirety on tbs.com. Sadly, I just discovered their video player only works on Windows... BOOOOOOO on you, TBS!! Okay, time to download them from XTorrent. You brought this on yourself, TBS.

Oh yeah, for anyone still not sold, did I mention that Jordana Spiro is cute?

Jordanaspiro

I have no idea when season 2 will be starting. But whenever it happens, Katie and I will be watching.

By the way, I've got to throw a thank you out to Chase who sent me a belated birthday present (what she's calling more of a Christmas and New Year's present to cover her butt) in David Sedaris' Barrel Fever and Naked. Thanks Chasey McChaser! You rock!

Tomorrow marks the first of my year-end multimedia wrap-up posts, so tune in for The Best Movies of 2006 (as seen by Kevin and Katie)


You want a piece of Chewbacca...

Would you like a bit of insight into the off-kilter goings on of my mind?

Firefly I was staring at the cover of the Firefly: The Complete Series DVD set that Dustin bought for my birthday.  For whatever reason, I started creating a mental parallel between those characters aboard the Serenity throughout the series and those on board the Millennium Falcon in the original Star Wars film.

It is truly uncanny how well it works. And if this has been done before, I apologize. I’ve never seen it written up, so it’s new to me and quite possibly new to some of you as well.

Clearly, Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the Han Solo (Harrison Ford) of the bunch. He’s a rogue, a scoundrel, a risk taker, a former government soldier/officer, and just too cool for words.

Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) is, arguably, Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Both are strong willed, fiercely independent, and started as agents for the government before splintering off due to divergent beliefs. Most importantly, both are capable of kicking ass or being sensitive and caring (although the instances of this happening may be rare).

Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) is R2-D2. He is capable of fixing anything (in a medical sense, of course), is highly intelligent, and is always looking out for his sister, River (Summer Glau) much like Artoo does for C-3PO. Also, much like Threepio, River is a highly misunderstood soul who has a history of being tinkered with or experimented on. And both are prone to the occasional breakdown.

If anyone needs justification or questions why I would compare Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness), then please stop reading now.

The tough one is Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). I think, upon careful consideration, I’d have to compare him to Inara Senna (Morena Baccarin) despite the gender difference. Arguable? Sure. But hear me out. Neither really belong on the ship on which they are most readily seen as both are quite capable pilots in their own right. Both have a personal belief system that doesn't necessarily "mesh" with the rest of their ship's travellers and they are also quite adept at viewing the inner strengths of those around them. The difference lies in that while Inara “services” clients for the right price, Luke could stand to be one of her clients. Desperately.

This is about the time that my screwed-up mind made the realization that Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) kicks some serious intergalactic ass. He’s the only member of the Falcon’s crew from that movie whereas I still have three crew left on the Serenity to account for in this comparison. And, effectively, Chewbacca plays the role of every single one of them all rolled up in one giant, growling, bowcaster-toting furball. He’s the primary pilot of his ship like Wash (Alan Tudyk); he’s the chief mechanic like Kaylee (Jewel Staite), although not nearly as good looking; and he’s the brawn like Jayne (Adam Baldwin). How bad ass does this make Chewie? Let’s just say I think he should be the one to carry the “Bad Ass Mofo” wallet that Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) holds so dear in Pulp Fiction.

What? You were expecting some major philosophical breakthrough? You do realize whose blog you’re reading, right? I leave the philosophizing to the true geeks who constantly push for political recognition of “The Force” as an official religion.

This is just how my mind rolls. It’s Thursday. Gimme a break.


It's a mad world...

Here's a multimedialistic snippet post for you all today involving a bunch of stuff that Katie and I have watched recently.

The Amazing Race
Was anybody else completely let down by the finale? Not by the winners, but just by how horribly anticlimactic the whole thing was? It just seemed to happen and that was it. No excitement. No build up. And it just seemed far too simple... find a sculpture in the East Village, get in a cab, and ride out to upstate New York... oooooohhhh. At least last year's flag raising was exciting to watch.

However, I must say we are both wholeheartedly excited about February's premiere of The Amazing Race: All Stars. Sweet! I hope Uchenna and Joyce are back.

In Theaters
Katie and I saw two movies in theaters this past weekend. The first was The Holiday with Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, and Jude Law. Neither of us particularly wanted to see this movie. We went because the FSiL said everyone owed her a girly rom-com. Considering my hatred of Cameron Diaz and Jack Black, I was none too happy about it. But I went because I do like Kate Winslet and have never had anything against Jude Law as an actor (as a person, I want to beat the living snot out of him... who cheats on Sienna Miller with his kids' nanny? Fool).

Honestly, it wasn't terrible. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone, but I didn't want to scratch out my eyeballs, either. Diaz became tolerable after about half a movie spent whining. Black wasn't terrible, either. Winslet was decent. But Law was actually my fave of the film. Plus there was a VERY brief cameo by John Krasinski of The Office fame (yeah, Jim Halpert was in it, folks), which was pretty cool.

To make up for it, Katie and I went to see Casino Royale on Sunday. Considering how much I've been raving about the prospect for greatness of this film, you'd think I would've seen it about three times by now. Alas, I had not seen it. Even both sets of my parents have seen it before I did. Sad.

The film was friggin' spectacular! Yeah, it requires more than a routine level of suspension of disbelief, but don't all action-adventure films? Despite the disbelief, Daniel Craig was fantastic as James Bond. He makes Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan look like pussies (I still like Timothy Dalton too much to say Craig was better, and I have yet to see George Lazenby in action... although I do have his one Bond film here at home checked out from Netflix). Seriously. They are just pansy-assed, pathetic excuses for secret agents. Craig got down and dirty, got the crap beaten out of him more harshly than even I expected, and still came back for more. Plus Mads Mikkelson and Eva Green deserve to go down in the annals of Bond fame as some of the better Bond villains and Bond Girls, respectively. And I hope Jeffrey Wright comes back for more in the future.

The reliance on gadgetry as a plot device that has marked previous Bond films was gone. Thank God the film's producers finally got a good Bond, some pretty good writers, and realized that gadgets can only carry a film so far. Okay the script may have been my only complaint... it was a bit long in parts. At two-and-a-half hours, it really could've used some editing.

I can't wait for more, though.

On DVD
We also finally caught up on a couple DVDs we've had out from Netflix for quite some time now. And, to be honest, we could've done without wasting those hours of our lives. Sadly, too, considering I was really looking forward to one of them.

The first, and the one I wanted to see, was Monster House. It was the animated film about three kids investigating a house in the neighborhood that transcends "haunted." To say it was a letdown is understating things a bit. The plot was terribly forced and the characters were way too cliche. And I just don't see this as a movie for young kids despite the marketing. It is a PG film, parents, not G like most animated fare. It is actually a bit more horrific than you might think.

The other film was Accepted with Justin Long as a eight-time college rejection letter recipient. How does he go about regaining his parents' respect? By creating his own fake university. His plan goes awry, though, when others think it's real and show up for orientation. When you watch the first 45 minutes of a movie billed as a comedy and don't even giggle, that's a bad sign. And that's all I've got to say about that.


Check it out now...

Dear NBC,

Over the years, we've had quite the love/hate relationship. On occasion, I've loved you. You've put out some great shows in the past such as Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, etc. More often than not, though, you've put out complete and utter crap.

Save for a couple standouts, "complete and utter crap" pretty much describes your entire schedule right about now.

I will give you credit where credit's due. You are responsible for sticking by your guns on The Office, which, by most modern network standards, should have been canceled a long time ago. But you waited, and you took into account the fact that it was moving like mad on iTunes. Bravo.

You've also stood by Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip when many other nets would've already killed it. I don't know that I see you guys holding out beyond this season, but at least you're letting them wrap this season up the way it should unlike that poor little kid on Kidnapped. Will he ever be found? I somehow doubt it.

Networks thrive on ratings, that is no secret. If a show doesn't have high ratings, which come from us, the viewers, then you won't get the advertising revenue you so desperately need to survive.

Therein lies the purpose of this letter.

Last night, Katie and I inadvertently allowed ourselves to become pawns in the push for higher ratings. We feel dirty, we feel used. And, yet, it was our fault... somewhat.

We tuned in to the second episode of the new season of Scrubs, which, in all honesty was well below par (both episodes this season have been highly underwhelming). But, it's Scrubs and we're going to give it a chance as it has always made us laugh in the past. We watched it and, because we were so bored by it, we fell asleep in the final few minutes.

Our slumber continued past the half hour dedicated to Scrubs and into the one held by your new crapfest known as 30 Rock. Sadly, it was not 3rd Rock from the Sun. Bummer.

Don't get me wrong, I've traditionally liked both Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan, but this show does nothing for me. I've tried and it just ain't clickin' with me. Is it Jane Krakowski that's turning me off? Perhaps Alec Baldwin? The answer to this question, I do not know. I just know I don't like it.

Due to this fact, I would like to humbly request that you remove one rating tick mark from your tally for last night's episode of 30 Rock. It was an unearned rating boost and one that you really should not want as it represents ill-gained viewership.

Do the right thing, NBC. Give me back my rating.

And what the hell does "30 Rock" mean anyway?


You think she's an open book...

The flames of my passion are being fanned anew.

My library passion, that is.

I just found out today that, as an employee at my new workplace, I am eligible to be part of a reciprocal library loan program at the Naperville Public Library. NPL -- or Nichol's Library -- is not part of the Geneva Public Library's interlibrary loan network, which is quite unfortunate because NPL has a fantastic selection of books, CDs, and DVDs and was just rated either the top or one of the top libraries in the nation.

So I went over there during my lunch break and signed up. Hey, it's me and a library... what'd you expect?

I picked up four CDs after paring my stack down from eight and this was just from going through A-C. God only knows what'll happen as I really start to search. Then I used their self-checkout system, which is pretty swanky, and headed back to my office. Oh, in case you're wondering, I picked up Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Jerry Cantrell, Alex Chilton, and Coheed & Cambria.

But, I found out some pretty cool details about Nichol's from one of their staff members today. For one, they're going to start using RSS feeds on their Web site. I can only imagine this is to notify people of new additions to their collections. Their site also has digital music downloads and eBooks available. And, next year, they're going to start offering up video downloads.

How mind blowing is that? This is a library! I love it.

However, I fear that "my women" (as Katie calls them) at GPL are going to give me a guilt trip or a cold shoulder and accuse me of abandoning them or cheating on them. They know I'm now using Nichol's because the latter had to call the former to make sure I was a user in good standing. The woman who picked up didn't even need to look me up on the computer. She remembered me by name. How sad is that?

I'm a library adulterer. *sniffle*


Been around the world...

I have no single good thing to talk about today, so I figured I'd shoot for some snippets. Been a while anyway.

Holiday decorating
While we did get some more holiday decorating done last night as we watched TV, you could tell there was little to no joy in its execution. I fear we may have overdone it with holiday spirit last year and now we're completely drained. For the most part, we just set up stuff around the house like Katie's beloved Willow Tree nativity scene the pieces of which she's been collecting for a few years now. I started to separate some tree ornaments and break apart the cluster of hooks, but we never hung any of them. We still plan to, we just don't know when.

Wii hunt
Apparently, both Katie and my parents were trying to find me a Nintendo Wii for my birthday. And, as would be expected, neither party had much luck. However, yesterday, I was given Katie's blessing to run out to one of the early sales, this one at Toys 'r' Us, to see if I could score a system.

Yeah... no. I got there about 8 a.m. because the TrU salesperson told her on Friday that they would have them on Sunday and I need only show up an hour before opening. However, people were lining up as early as 6 a.m. and a sympathetic salesperson handed out claim slips to the systems they had in stock at about 7:15 a.m. so they could avoid the cold and wait in their cars. So I missed out.

But I will try again. I may start pulling some of my strings to see what I can do so I don't have to wait in a line again.

Shredded
There are household items that people "kill" on a regular basis. And most people seem to be cursed by consistently killing several of the same thing. For some, it's a cellphone (my FSiL). For others, it could be anything from blenders to power tools to lawnmowers (my dad) to snowblowers (again, my dad) to God only knows what else.

For Katie and me, it seems to be shredders... yeah, the big ol' thing that you use to obliterate important documents. We use it to kill not only old billing statements, but all those damned annoying "you've been approved" credit card applications. And the sheer volume of what we've given our shredders has burned out two of them. The motor burned out on the first, which is wholly understandable. The weird thing is the second one, on which we seemed to have practically liquefied the teeth. Yeah, you read that right, half the metal teeth on this thing are worn down to nubs. But the other half are completely fine. So now, until we get a new one, we have to make sure the sensitive information on the sheet goes down the shredding side of the shredder so it gets chewed up. Annoying.

What do you seem to have bad luck with?

The Amazing Race
They're gone! They're gone! If you watch the Race, you know who I'm referring to. If you don't watch it, no need to worry. And, if you haven't had the opportunity to watch it yet, I haven't ruined anything. But... they're gone! They're gone!


What I want and what I need...

Before I start today's post, I need to wish a happy belated birthday to my brother who turned 28 yesterday. Not that you'll read this, but happy birthday all the same, bro!

I need to make one thing very clear... I am not Idolwild.

Okay, so that was a failed pun of a reference to how I perceive the legions of fans of Fox's American Idol.

I am not, never was, nor likely ever will be a fan of this pop culture "phenomenon."

Oddly, though, I do tend to like some of the music that former contestants have released since being discovered on the show.

For one, I just can't get enough Kelly Clarkson. Sure, her first album wasn't spectacular by any stretch. But I love her new album and, sadly, I never seem able to turn her off when one of her songs comes on the radio.

I found a copy of Ruben Studdard's debut album in the lost and found at the gym one night a couple years ago. Call it warped curiosity, but I took it home and ripped it (I returned it). I've listened to it a couple times so far and it's not bad.

I also recently picked up Carrie Underwood's CD from the library. I've only heard a couple songs off it so far, but it's also pretty decent.

Yesterday, though, I picked up the one Idolite whose album I have most looked forward (yeah, I just admitted to "looking forward to" an album from a former Idol contestant)... Daughtry by cueballed, season five metalhead Chris Daughtry (who has, apparently, shed his first name for professional purposes).

It's a good album. I don't know why, but I really enjoy when he rocks out on songs like "What I Want" featuring Slash on lead guitar. But, he also does well with the slower ballads on the album of which there are a few.

I've only listened through it once so far, but I have high hopes for it as one of those few albums that I can listen to all the way through without a problem. Perhaps I'm setting the bar too high, but one can hope.

Oh, and fear not, there is NO Clay Aiken anywhere near my music collection. I do have some semblance of self respect. Very little, but it's there. I swear.


The pursuit of happiness, it's a common goal...

Some media-related pop culture notes for you...

Himym Damn if last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother featuring Barney's gay brother, James, played by Wayne Brady wasn't LEGEN-wait for it and I hope you're not lactose intolerant-DARY. We love that show and have become hooked on watching the first season DVD set as well as the new episodes. HIMYM and The Office are the only two can't-miss sitcoms this season, IMHO. Nothing else quite compares. Not even My Name is Earl and Two and a Half Men, both of which are pale comparisons of their earlier selves. Actually, in my opinion, 2.5M has been off its game for a couple years now save for last season's ugachaka episode.

I am FINALLY caught up on Veronica Mars after falling three episodes behind. This will all change after a new episode airs tonight. Hopefully, I will not fall this behind again.

This, of course, is not nearly as bad as my delinquency with Heroes. I really thought I was only two episodes behind until I looked at the episode descriptions on IMDb and discovered that I am, in fact, four episodes back; nay, five after the new one aired last night. Something screwed up my TiVo's recording of two earlier episodes in late October/early November and I didn't even know about it. Thankfully, Dave got me on BitTorrent (the Mac client is Xtorrent - and, unlike my earlier forays into torrenting, it actually works) and I've downloaded all five of them, optimized them for my iPod, and I will watch them in the coming week or so.

Sorry Bre, but we have not watched last week's Studio 60 yet. After loving the episode several weeks ago with the blacklisted writer, the two that followed regarding the extradiction of Tom Jeter to Nevada just bored the living crap out of us, so we've been biding our time catching up on the most recent episodes. We will, though. I promise.

Enough about TV. Well, for the most part, that is. While watching a show last night, we saw a preview for the new live-action-mixed-with-talking-real-animals version of Charlotte's Web that is coming out around Christmas. Katie, being the Web freak that she's been her whole life, desperately wants to see it. But she has thrown down the gauntlet for me... I have to read the book before I can see it with her. No, I've never read it. So I grabbed our copy from our bookshelf and started it last night. So far, it's pretty good. I had to put it down after a while because I was just so dang tired (it was 12:30 in the morning!), but I'll finish it soon. And then I'll start Chris Gardner's The Pursuit of Happyness, which is soon being released as a movie starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden.

A grand plan, that's for sure. Especially considering I'm still in the process of reading Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. It's a spectacular book, but I'm just having trouble finding time to read. That's what I hate about TV season... I fall too far behind on everything else I want to do. Damn.


And no matter what you say or do...

Just when you think things can’t get worse for Van Halen, they do.

For one, they haven’t put out a studio album since I was still an undergrad in college putting it sometime before 1997. Yeah, they had that Best of Both Worlds hits collection a year or so ago with a few new songs, but that’s been about it. Three songs does not a new studio album make.

For years, we Van Halen fans suffered through a prolonged will they/won’t they complex in which we battled amongst ourselves about whether the brothers Van Halen and their bassist Michael Anthony would rehire original vocalist David Lee Roth or second vocalist Sammy Hagar as their singer, record an album, and hit the road. A few years ago, they did rehire Hagar, albeit briefly, for a tour and the three new tracks on BOBW.

Soon after, Sammy returned to his own solo band, The Waboritas, and VH returned to their perpetual state of professional silence.

This morning, at the gym, I opened up a copy of RedEye, a subsidiary tabloid-style newspaper put out by The Chicago Tribune, and found a snippet about VH in the “Whoville” section on page 75 (that’s how much merit stories about Van Halen warrant anymore). Here’s the text of the article…

A Family Affair
Van Halen is becoming a family band. Eddie Van Halen has tapped his 15-year-old son, Wolfgang, to replace Michael Anthony as bassist, billboard.com reports.

It is unknown who will serve as the band’s vocalist for the 2007 tour, but rumors continue to swirl that David Lee Roth will be back in the fold for the first time in more than 20 years.

The ever-articulate Roth said he thinks a reunion is “absolutely as an inevitability.”

“To me, it’s not rocket surgery,” Roth said. “It’s very simple to put together. And as far as hurt feelings and water under the dam, like what’s-her-name says to what’s-her-name at the end of the movie ‘Chicago’ – ‘So what? It’s showbiz!’ So I definitely see it happening.”

Three letters for ya here… WTF?!?!

Not just about Wolfgang on bass, but “absolutely as an inevitability”?!?! What does that mean???

“Rocket surgery”?!?! Huhwhudda???

“Water under the dam”?!?!  Oooooohhhhh… my brain hurts.

How much colloquialism mixing can this guy manage in one interview? Rocket Science + Brain Surgery as well as Water Under the Bridge + Water Over the Dam. What’s next? Is he really the best answer for Van Halen? What about having a incoherent, rambling ass like that around your teenaged son? I’m sure Valerie’s loving it right now.

Oh VH, how I loved thee. What the hell happened to you?


Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction...

I find Will Ferrell to be an enigma. How any one actor can make me hate him one moment and really like him the next is beyond me.

I dug some of his early roles, then I didn't, and now it seems I am again.

He went from high notes such as Elf and Old School to low ones in Kicking & Screaming and Bewitched. Even his cameo in Wedding Crashers drives me nuts. I love that movie save for that bit. And I also wasn't really into The Producers. But, in my mind, he made a bit of a comeback with Talladega Nights.

That comeback was cemented for both of us on Friday when we saw Stranger Than Fiction.

Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, an IRS agent suffering from OCD who has absolutely no personal life and no reason to go on living. One day, he begins to hear a voice that narrates his every move. It is then that he realizes that he is a character in a book that is being written and the mystery author seems to agree that he really has no reason to go on living either.

Little does the author, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), know that her fictional character is real and her writing is ruining his otherwise boring life. It is now up to Crick, with the help of literature professor Jules Hibbert (Dustin Hoffman) to figure out who is writing Crick's life and whether it's too late to alter the inevitable.

Simply put, we both loved it. There are a few points in which the film drags on. But this can be attributed to the fact that the director is trying to show just how mundane Crick's existence really is. There are, however, high points such as his audit of baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as well as his outbursts against the voice.

Ferrell plays his role perfectly. There is nothing over the top about him at all and I love him for it. The comedy lies where it should, in the situations in which he finds himself. Thompson is also fantastic and manages to somehow shed her glamorous persona for the frumpy and reclusive author exceptionally well.

Put simply, this movie was a lot of fun and highly enjoyable and, most importantly, made me like Will Ferrell again. Any movie that can do that is a good thing.

All in all...


You've been hit by, you've been struck by...

One of the cool things about my job is that I've got a key card. This may not be a big deal to many of you, but it is to me. Read that again... I've. got. a. key. card. wOOt! (sorry, Karl)

I'm all kinds of big and important. It gets me in doors, clocks me in, identifies me as an employee instead of just some random schmuck off the street... just generally makes me feel cool.

If it worked.

I tried to use the employee fitness center after work last night before going to class. Entry to the center requires a key card. I scanned it and zippo.

Here I was all dressed up with no place to run.

So I hit the Riverwalk in downtown Naperville for a run/walk. I plugged my trusty iPod Shuffle in to my head and headed out.

Seeing as how we're no longer in daylight savings time, it was already really dark when I hit the trail. And, even though it's pretty well lit, the spaces between the streetlamps seemed immensely vast. The bushes and trees along the path appeared to be reaching out in a vain attempt to wrap themselves around my limbs and suck me into the dense foliage where not even the most astute police officer would ever find my rotting body.

My trepidation was not helped at all by the music that came up on my Shuffle...

It longs to kill you, are you willing to die?
-Chris Cornell, "You Know My Name"

What does? No!

We're gonna fight you brother, we're gonna fight until you lose
-Social Distortion, "Death or Glory"

What did I do to you?

You've been hit by, you've been struck by, a smooth criminal
-Alien Ant Farm, "Smooth Criminal"

Can you at least tell me which tree he's going to jump out from behind?

Crawl on me, sink into me, die for me
-Rob Zombie, "Living Dead Girl"

Do I at least have a say in this decision?

I suggest you grab your ankles and kiss your ass goodbye
-Cobra Starship, "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)"

No, really, I'm not that flexible.

This is the last song that I will dedicate to you
-Foo Fighters, "The Last Song"

Fine. Eat me.

And, with that, I unplugged my iPod from my head and got ready for class.

I've got one morbid friggin' workout playlist, don't I? Geez.


The facts of life are all about you...

One of the things I take pride in is my ability to observe an actor or actress in a role and identify some previous role they had be it in a movie or on TV. I don't know why this does it for me, why I take such pride in such trivial knowledge. But it does make me happy. Yeah, it doesn't take much, does it?

However, this ability has made me the go-to guy when a friend or family member wants to know why someone looks familiar but they just can't place how they know them. Call it my claim to fame, if you will.

You can imagine my disdain when I can't figure out who an actor is, though. It bugs me to no end. I will sit there throughout a show and, instead of enjoying it, I will mentally labor through who they are. So, while I enjoy this ability, it can also serve as a bit of a curse.

Last night, for example, Katie and I were watching two episodes of Justice. We had one to catch up on from a week ago and then we had last night's episode as well.

If you watch the show, you know that last week's epi was about a guy and his girlfriend who were killed in a small plane he was flying. The not-so-wealthy parents of the girl were suing the insanely wealthy mother of the guy who is also the CEO of a major dot-com. It took us several minutes before Katie (no, not me) identified the mom as being the one who plays Meredith Grey's mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), on Grey's Anatomy.

In the second episode, two dot-commers (must be a theme month) were being investigated by the police for the yacht-borne death of the wife of one of them. We were pretty sure, right off the bat, that the husband was Matt Letscher who costarred in Good Morning, Miami as well as having recurring parts in Joey and The New Adventures of Old Christine, although Katie was more convinced of it than I was (it was him, by the way). But his friend was someone I did not know at all. He reminded me a little bit of Nathan Corddry who plays Tom in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but I knew it really wasn't him.

Cue the opening credits...

Katie: I'm pretty sure his first name is Mackenzie.

Me: Who? The friend?

Katie: Yep.

[credits roll the name Mackenzie Astin]

Katie: I knew it!

Me: Mackenzie Astin as in Sean Astin?

Katie: Yep, his little brother.

Me: How'd you know that was him?

Katie: He was in... The Facts of Life.

Me: You've gotta be shitting me. The Facts of Life? Who was he in that?

Katie: He was the little kid.

Me: And you could still tell who he was even though he's like 30 now?!?!

Katie: Yep.

Me: Sick.

Of course I'm just jealous she knew it and I didn't. Dammit!


Rain, rain, go away...

I hate waking up in the morning to the pounding of rain against the siding, roofing, and windows of our house. That's never a good sign. What's especially disconcerting is that I can tell, simply by the pitch, that it is a particularly cold and nasty rain. Ever noticed that before? There's just something different to the audible quality of it. This morning, for example, it had a bit more "slosh" to it. Okay, maybe it's just me, but it sounded bad.

It was a strange weekend for many reasons. For one, the Bears lost badly to a team they should not have lost to. And I'm pretty sure all three of my fantasy football teams lost this weekend, too, simply because I forgot to play. I started to look at them early in the week with the intention of fine tuning my lineups on Friday. But I never got around to it. Considering all the players I had on a bye week, I would've needed to make some major add/drops for it all to work out. Alas, I did not. And I'm sure I'll be paying for it. Oh well.

What else happened? I think I'll take a bullet approach to it all.

  • Borat took over the box office and I'm still not entirely convinced it's a movie I want to see. We did go out with my brother and FSiL on Saturday and we saw Employee of the Month. Not as bad as I was expecting, but it was far from great. And not the best way to return to a theater after nearly two months in absentia. But, then again, there really isn't too much out there right now.
  • Checking through my TiVo's to-do list for the next couple weeks, I was reassured to see two more episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip scheduled to record. It's not dead yet! Yay!
  • The O.C. is moving back to its original Wednesday night slot due to poor ratings during its season premiere last week. It was on? More shockingly, it's actually still on the Fox schedule?
  • Neil Patrick Harris came out of the closet. I never really saw this one coming. I'm happy as hell for him, but was in complete shock when Katie told me.
  • And in more serious news, Saddam Hussein was found guilty (no shocker there) and has been sentenced to hang. Let's just say they better carry out this execution by the end of the year or it will never happen. Actually, I think it might need to happen before the end of the week. Call it "Kevin's Dire Prediction" if you will. But this is just how I see it.

You got me lost and found...

Bearsbensontackle LOST: The Chicago Bears offensive unit.

LAST SEEN: Sunday, October 29, 2006, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL, USA

LAST SEEN WITH: The San Francisco 49ers

SUSPECTS: Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins

REWARD: One Super Bowl trophy

IF SEEN, PLEASE CONTACT: Lovie Smith, Head Coach of the Chicago Bears

Dear God, please tell me how the 7-0 Bears lose 31-13 to the 1-6 Miami Dolphins?

Check that... now it's the 7-1 Bears and the 2-6 Dolphins.

Grrrrrr...


Return to me...

For the record, I have decided to part ways with the book I was reading. For anyone interested who didn’t read through the comments, the book was Chris Elliott’s The Shroud of the Thwacker. Yes, that Chris Elliott. Cabin Boy Chris Elliott. He wrote a book. And I use “wrote” very loosely.

One of you called me masochistic and said I don’t deserve sympathy. Thank you, BA. I needed that wake-up call. Abrupt and mean-spirited though it may be. *sniffle*

Admittedly, I thought, “how bad can it possibly be?” I’m not a fan of Elliott as an actor so maybe, just maybe, writing will be his chance to shine. Several people have changed career paths and had much greater success in their new arena. I had to give it a shot.

Talk about flawed rationale.

But I’m reading a much better book right now. One I picked up a couple weeks ago. I’m in about 50 pages on this one, too. The difference now is that this is actually worth reading. It’s Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. I really dug on Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes as much for the writing as for the art. And I wanted to see if Gaiman’s wordsmithing translates to novels. So far, so damn good.

On the TV front, did any of you watch Chevy Chase in Friday’s Law & Order? My BFF (Best Fletch Forever) took a dramatic turn as a drunk, racist motorist being nabbed by the po-po. Sound familiar?

I’m not a Law & Order guy, but the chance to see Chase ripping Mel Gibson a new one was enough to make me tune in. In the immortal words of Chris Knight, “it’s a moral imperative.”


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Because I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it...

When a TV show sucks, you change the channel, right? Technically, you're not really paying for that particular show directly (you pay for television as an overall service), so you feel no real commitment factor whatsoever.

But what do you do when you have paid directly for some sort of entertainment and are let down immediately?

If you forked over the cash to see a movie, do you walk out if it sucks?

If you paid to go to a sporting event and your team of choice is playing terribly, do you curse them and leave?

If you purchased a book at a store and start to read it only to discover how truly absurd it is, do you stop reading?

This last bit is a quandary I'm suffering through right now. I bought a book the other day simply because the review sounded so ridiculous that it might actually be kinda funny.

Yeah, it's not. I'm about 50 pages in (of 350, give or take) and it's painful. On the one hand, I feel I should continue because I paid for it and because it might be nice to have more than just positive reviews on FWDT. On the other hand, I just don't think I can abuse myself that badly.

It is truly a painful reading experience. One where I groan and roll my eyes with each forced attempt at humor. One where I can predict just what ridiculous situation will occur next and then pray I'm wrong, only to discover I'm right.

Do I suffer through for the sake of my book review site and my wallet? Or do I just drop it and run away screaming?

help.


There's a party goin' on right here...

I heard a crazy little rumor that the World Series wrapped up this weekend.

Wrapped up? Hell, I barely noticed that it even started.

I don't want to take anything away from the St. Louis Cardinals and their World Series win, but for such a big deal event in which the "best" team in Major League Baseball is crowned as champion, it sure seemed to pass without creating so much as a blip on my radar. I think the entire story warranted nothing more than a bottom corner of the sports page of  one of our local papers. Hell, the Red Sox, when they won two seasons ago, got banner headlines... in Chicago newspapers!

Perhaps this is Chicago's revenge for having the White Sox relegated to a call-out circle on the cover of Sports Illustrated after winning the whole shebang as opposed to being given the entire cover like so many World Series champs before.

So is it just a Chicago thing that nobody really knew or gave a rat's ass about the Series this year? Were we just oblivious because we didn't have a team in there? Or am I not the only one around the country who thought this baseball season just wasn't worth squat and we should, finally, officially crown football as "America's Sport"?

"I think we shocked the world," World Series MVP David Eckstein was quoted as saying.

I'll bet you did, but not in the way that you may be thinking.


Calling all nations...

Me: So on the latest Veronica Mars podcast, the writers of the "Wichita Linebacker" episode challenged the creative team at The Office to a head-to-head Call of Duty competition.

Katie: Really? Cool.

Me: Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool, too.

Katie: So what is it about that game? Why's it so great?

Me: No idea. Never played it.

Katie: I want to try it.

Me: Really? You want to play a war simulation game?

Katie: Yeah, it looks kinda cool.

Me: But you've never played one before.

Katie: I know, but it looks like fun.

One trip to EB Games later, and we have a copy of Call of Duty for our PS2.

I've got a wife who wants to run around and shoot the bad guy. How friggin' cool is that?


They had some character...

Typically, I'm not a big Hollywood gossip whore. Sure, I've mentioned a few things here and there on this blog, but they certainly do not constitute a majority of my posts. But this one was too good to pass up simply because of how it was handled by one of the subjects.

According to IMDb, both Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong are battling rumors they are gay. If you recall, the celeb mags and tabloid rags were alight over the summer with shots of McConaughey and Armstrong, along with Jake Gyllenhaal, bicycling together everywhere. Apparently, they even coined a new word for it... the "bro-mance," which sounds like something that belonged in Monday's episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Yeah, so they spent a lot of time together and even, *gasp*, biked shirtless. But to automatically come to the conclusion they are gay simply because of this and the fact that both had recently broken up with their significant others? Please.

McConaughey's response [in an interview with Details magazine]? "We tried it (being gay). It wasn't for us."

That's classic! I give Matt big props for having such fun with it and not coming off as a jackass like so many other celebrities would.

If you're interested, I have a TV meme/list in the extended post. Check it out.


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Continue reading "They had some character..." »


But I haven't felt that way lately at all...

The one thing that's a bit different about my new cellphone (oh yeah, I wound up getting a Motorola Razr) is having all these multimedia capabilities.

For example, this is the first time I have owned a camera phone and that's pretty fun. Not a particularly useable resolution, by any stretch of the imagination, but still. I am also now back to owning a color screen phone that can play java-based games. God how I missed that.

The big thing, though, is that I can now download some of the most complex ringtones I've ever heard in my life. For God's sake, you can use a real song as your ringer. How trippy is that? One second you're just sitting there. The next, Depeche Mode is coming through in pseudo-stereophonic glory from your pocket. That's nuts.

The other day, Katie and I sat in front of the computer listening to tone after tone from the Cingular site. They all sounded pretty good in terms of audio quality. I was amazed at how far it has all progressed in the two years since we last owned phones that could accept anything other than monophonic tones.

But as I listened more, I realized just how weird it would be to have a song suddenly blurt out from my cellphone. While I hate the standard rings that come on phones, I still tend to lean towards simplistic sounds that I can use as a ringer.

I like how well midi and polyphonic ringtones can be looped. I prefer how they can be cut off at an appropriate time so as not to abruptly end in the middle of Pink belting out the chorus to "Stupid Girl."

In all honesty, I miss the ringtones from my old Cingular phones. That was when I could flip back and forth between John Carpenter's "Theme from Halloween" and Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (the theme from The Exorcist). They are both simple songs, but they make a statement. And, most importantly, they looped perfectly so I got continuous ringtones that I never wound up getting sick of.

I left the song page at Cingular and went to the polyphonic tone page and that's when I found the perfect ringtone (aside from Carpenter and Oldfield's contributions to the "genre"). One that appealed to my need for simplicity, my desire for no sung lyrics, and my inner geekiness.

I found this (well, a polyphonic variation of this)...

On a quick aside, what's the first thing that goes through your mind when you read about a potential new show that is "a one-hour action-comedy described as Sex and the City meets Batman." Color me morbidly curious. Hot women with utility belts? I wonder if the Batpole is used for more than just Batcave access.


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Until I touch the midnight sun...

It's another snippet kinda day for me.

Where the Hell in Google Earth is...
It suddenly dawned on me that I never revealed the answers for the latest installment of Where the Hell in Google Earth is? Maybe I was holding out hope that more people would guess and those final few would be figured out. Anyway, here are the answers...

  1. Universal Studios, California, USA - good call, Dave.
  2. Paramount King's Island, Ohio, USA
  3. Six Flags - Great America, Illinois, USA - good rationale, Kilax, wrong picture, though.
  4. Epcot Center, Florida, USA - good call, Dave.
  5. Hershey Park, Pennsylvania, USA - I'm kinda shocked Dave didn't get this one.
  6. Sea World - San Diego, California, USA - the prize goes to SJ.
  7. Disneyland Resort Paris, France - good call, Dave.

Photo ops
This was pretty cool. Late last week, I received an out-of-the-blue e-mail from a local park district official saying that she was searching through online photo repositories when she found mine. She really dug my photos and my blog and asked if I would be interested in teaching a class on personal Web site design and basic photography.

Um... heck yeah! Sign me up.

Bear in mind that nothing is set in stone. She was just throwing around ideas for a spring course booklet and, when we talk, it may turn out that nothing will come of this. But one can hope all the same.

I don't need Cialis, really
Have any of you Gmail users out there been receiving an inordinate amount of spam in the last week? By "inordinate" I mean "a helluva lot more than usual." Just over the course of this past weekend, I tallied 175 spam messages of which I'd say 90% have been about Cialis. Already today I've received 30+ spams. Thankfully, they seem to have moved beyond the Cialis push.

Dear God, does it ever end? I pray for a day when all the governments of the world give us "shoot on sight" freedom regarding known spammers. Again, one can hope.

Go Bears!
That's all I want to say. It's their first Monday Night Football game in some time, so I wish them well as they go to pound the everloving crap out of Arizona.


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Well, it's a free for all...

After yesterday's mental and emotional drain, I think today will be a snippet post... yep, a little fun for everyone!

911 is a joke in yo' town . . .
Walking across campus today, I observed a campus security officer getting out of her golfcart (nice!) and pushing one of the emergency alert buttons. Now I realize she was just testing it to make sure all was good, but when you see a cop pushing an alarm button, doesn't it unnerve you a bit?

I'm strong to the finish . . .
Can somebody please tell me when the damn spinach recall/ban is going to end? I miss my spinach pizzas and spinach on Subway sandwiches and spinach salads.

I'm truly suffering here, people!

Film processing . . .
I know I'm a couple weeks late on the stormwatch photos, but they are in the process of being, well, processed. And, thanks to Dariush for the head's up on Wal-Mart's great $5.88 prints/CD deal. Actually, when I took them in there (along with a third roll of shots from a trip to Kuiper's Farm in Maple Park, IL, this past weekend), I discovered that if I only have a CD made and no prints, it only costs $1.98 per roll. That's pretty flippin' awesome.

Chinese Democracy?
Listening to the radio on the way to work this morning, they announced that tickets will be going on sale this Saturday for the Guns 'n' Roses Chinese Democracy world tour. They will be arriving on the "Nightrain" in Rosemont, IL, on November 27.

My first issue, clearly, is that only one of the original members of Guns 'n' Roses is in this band and that would be Axl. They also have Dizzy Reed from the Use Your Illusion era of the band now, too, but he doesn't count. He was just a keyboardist. Seriously. Check out this lineup... W. Axl Rose on vocals, Richard Fortus and Robin Finck on guitar, Tommy Stinson on bass, Bryan Mantia on drums, and Dizzy Reed on keyboards. Actually, G'n'R have two keyboardists, having retained the services of Chris Pitman in addition to Reed. The only person in the bunch I've heard of is Stinson because I worship The Replacements. Otherwise, Fortus and Finck are known for giving the "bluesy chops" to Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." Hmmm...

My second issue is that they still haven't released the damn album. It's more than a decade in the making and it's release date has been pushed away more times than Mark Foley in the YMCA of Greater D.C. Do they have a drop date for the album yet? The G'n'R site doesn't even mention the album.

My final issue is that this is Axl. How many tours has he personally sabotaged? How many shows have been canceled in the past due to his antics and volatile personality?

Okay, I'm not buying into it. It might be cool, but that's if the concert defies the odds and actually goes as planned.

Meme/list/whatever . . .
I have a meme, or is it a "list," in the extended post for anyone interested.

Continue reading "Well, it's a free for all..." »


You know my name...

For me, this coming holiday season marks what I expect to be a damn fine movie.

That film is Casino Royale and it brings with it the personal ideal that I hold for the man known to the world as "Bond, James Bond."

You see, for me, James Bond is a secret agent. He is a badass mother who is supposed to get down and dirty, get the crap kicked out of him, and still rise up out of the ashes like a phoenix and beat down the bad guy. If you've read the original novels by Ian Fleming, this is how Bond was intended.

Sadly, most of the James Bond films that have come out over the years are not at all like this. Connery never got down and dirty enough in my mind, Moore was too prissy (although he was the Bond I grew up with, so I have a special place in my heart for him), and Brosnan had potential that was wasted by horrific scripting. Oh, and I never saw the one outing that George Lazenby had as 007.

Notice that I did not lump Timothy Dalton in this list. Why? Because he, in my mind, was the best Bond, despite being the least popular. Dalton was awesome in the role and showed a side to our favorite secret agent that we had never seen before. He was rough and tumble, he got tossed around, left for dead, etc., etc. All the things that make me happy.

Bondcraig And now that aspect of Bond is being explored further with Royale and the new Bond Daniel Craig who was, I might add, awesome in Layer Cake.

If the new theme song is any indication, this new film is going to rock. Literally. The new song is "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame.

I'm not a huge Cornell fan. He's really hit and miss with me. I like about 50% of Soundgarden's music and could care less about Audioslave at all. Sorry, I know they're quite popular, but they just don't do, well, anything for me. It's not that I don't like the genre. In fact, there are very few of Cornell's contemporaries that I don't like. He is just anomalous in this regard for some reason.

But this song is entirely badass and may make me rethink my stance on Cornell as a vocalist.

They have a teaser trailer available at YouTube for the movie featuring the song that you should really check out.

But if you'd like an MP3 version of the song, you can find it here as well; until they make me take it down or I come close to killing my bandwidth, that is. It's not a high-quality MP3, by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe that's why so many people are able to host it without a problem.

November 17, 2006... you can't come soon enough.


'Til the Sandman, he comes...

I apologize for blatantly stealing lyrics from the same song that Hilly just used for her post. But it works for mine as well. C'est la vie. Great minds, right?

When I was closing the gym with Katie the other night, I noticed that one of our regulars was carrying an issue of Wizard magazine with him. In case you don't know, Wizard is one of the magazines that comic geeks turn to for their fill of graphic novel news. I used to read this magazine back in college in my comic heyday, before it became far too expensive a hobby to maintain.

Heck, one of the last issues of Wizard I read was one in which I won the grand prize in a poetry contest sponsored by David Mack and his Kabuki comics. I got a boatload of swag including the watercolor concept art for his first Kabuki trade paperback signed by him. Actually, everything I won in that contest, save for the T-shirt, was signed by him. It was a haul.

Okay, back on topic.

I started talking to this guy about comics and how I've been interested in getting back into them (all the while, Katie was rapidly shaking her head trying to coax him to leave) but that I had no idea where to start nor money to really get into it. That's when he told me that our library -- the library I already frequent for my ritual music fix -- carries trade paperbacks and graphic novels.

Say what? You've gotta be kidding me!

Alas, I visited yesterday and discovered he was not yanking my chain. In fact, they have four shelves of TPBs and graphic novels. I only wish I had more time to weed through them all. But, for the time being, I picked up three: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, and Death: At Death's Door by Jill Thompson.

Comics

I figured these were a good start. And, since they're free, you can't really complain.

And this guy from the gym is primarily responsible for it because his wife works at the library and relies on him to come up with ideas for what to stock. They have a government alloted budget that gets taken back if not spent. So he helps in any way he can. I think I may need to chime in with some suggestions of my own. They have purchased CDs that I've requested in the past. Got any good stuff for me to start off the recommendations with?

Oh comic geekdom, how I've missed thee.


How to save a life...

I really dig on Thursdays. It is truly the one night on TV I look forward to 100%. It's been a while, but, yes, the old "Must See TV" concept has returned. Unfortunately for NBC, the concept they conceived applies more to ABC now on that night.

And this has been made better by the fact that we are now having a regular TV night with my brother and his fiancee. Tonight marks our third consecutive week of tagteam Grey's Anatomy viewing. It started with us getting Jen addicted to the season one DVDs a few months ago. Then she started TiVosoding the season two episodes in rerun before she went out and bought the whole season on DVD. Now we're all into it including my brother.

I think we may even draw Ugly Betty into the fold kicking and screaming. Katie and I watched the premiere last week and enjoyed it. So maybe we will make it a full two-hour viewing experience.

Heck, it's not as though we won't have enough food and alcohol to complement the experience. Katie made roasted chicken lasagna rolls for the occasion!

Oh, and for those to whom I alluded that I may succumb to temptation and watch the season three debut of Lost after swearing it off... fate interceded. The Yahoo online program schedule was down for ABC last night and I couldn't do a remote set of my TiVo for the show. And, to be honest, I'm not entirely heartbroken about it. I ain't screwin' with fate. She tells me no, I'm'a listenin'.


I know you know...

What does one do when he's home sick from work? Well he makes a mad dash to find ways to entertain himself on TV, in books, and on DVD. And that's just what I'm doing.

I think I'm almost completely caught up now on episodes of Psych (be careful if you're at work, there's an autostart video on the page). God how that has become my favorite show on TV. And the first flippin' season is only eight episodes. Thankfully, Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) will be returning with new episodes in January.

The thing is, though, that the first several episodes I saw were on my iPod and, as much as I never thought I'd hear myself say it, I've missed out on commercial advertising. No, I don't really miss your standard fare commercials. However, USA Networks has been playing a commercial featuring Shawn from Psych and Johnny (Anthony Michael Hall) from The Dead Zone in a diner debating who has the cooler ability and whose life was worse growing up. It's hilarious, simply put. You really should check it out.

I apologize for the poor video quality. Clearly someone just pointed a digicam at their TV and recorded it. Maybe a better one will crop up on YouTube eventually. But, in the meantime, you can find it on the USA site as well in much better quality if you can deal with the car ad that comes first. Click on the "Mr. Monk at the Diner" link on this page ("Mr. Monk at the Party" is a good one, too).

And just so I can fit in with everyone else who is doing it (I'm such a blogconformist), be sure to tune in to the Veronica Mars premiere tonight. I'll be working at the gym, but the TiVo is set. Here's hoping nothing happens during the recording like the blackout we had last night or the delayed start that CBS gave The Amazing Race on Sunday. We only caught the first 25 minutes of the show because they just had to show friggin' 60 Minutes in its entirety.

NOBODY CARES ABOUT 60 MINUTES ANYMORE! IT'S DEAD! IF YOU NEED PROOF, LOOK AT THE PICTURE BELOW! I've seen Xombies in better condition than this.

Andyrooney

Sorry, that was mean. But I just don't dig on Andy Rooney. His "news" segments have annoyed me for years.

So yeah, I need to know who was booted on TAR. Can somebody throw me a bone and give me a recap of the final half hour? Please? I don't want to check the site out without having some idea what happened first.


He would sing his, "Go, Cubs, Go!"...

Wanna hear something funny? I'm finally starting to get into the baseball season. Just in time for... the end of the season. Heh.

Now you wanna hear why? Because the Cubs, whom I like a lot, but have despised with a passion this season, may finally do some good next year. Not only has team President Andy MacPhail (or "MacFAIL," as we like to refer to him) stepped down, but the Cubs' press corps have announced that Manager Dusty Baker will not be back next year either.

Woo hoo!!!

The Cubs may actually stand a chance.

Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, good bye!

Has Joe Girardi been given his walking papers down in Florida yet? He'd be a great manager! We'd welcome him back to the Friendly Confines considering both that he's a former Cub (1989-92 and 2000-02) and what he's done for the Marlins.

Sorry if you non-baseball types find this post boring. But someone out there will appreciate it. I hope.


I am Iron Man...

I am a fan of Robert Downey Jr. Always have been a fan. He always plays quirky, flawed characters that you just can't help but love. And this despite how screwed up his real life tends to be.

I loved him in stuff like Heart and Souls and Chances Are. He was great in Two Girls and a Guy, Wonder Boys, and Good Night and Good Luck.  Of course, who can forget such 80s classics as Johnny Be Good and Weird Science? And I really thought he was spectacular in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He was also the best Charlie Chaplin since the man himself.

But now he's been confirmed for a role I never thought I would see him take... a superhero. More specifically Iron Man.

Iron Man is not one of the more recognizable comic book superhero of all time. In fact, more people may recognize the name from the Black Sabbath song than from the comic book.

So not only am I surprised that Downey is playing the role, I'm simply surprised it's being made at all.

But, I'll probably see it. It has Downey in the title role and it's being directed by Jon Favreau of Swingers, Made, and Elf fame. Both can be pretty quirky kinds of guys so that may bode well for this movie.


Make every play clear the way to victory...

For the love of God... will the refs just please let the Bears and Vikings play?!?!?! We're coming up on the end of the third quarter and we're closing in on nearly 20 penalties between both teams. And some of the penalties that have been called are ones I've never heard of before.

The one thing that's great about all this mess is listening as Katie starts getting all snippy with the refs. A few examples...

"Wait a second... we got a first down and there's no yellow flag? What's wrong with you?"

"Uh-oh, someone spit on the field. That's a ten-yard penalty!"

"A defender just scratched himself. Half the distance to the goal!"

"Will someone please explain what the hell a 'neutral zone infraction' is?"

"Can I throw a flag at the refs for all the flags they've thrown?"

In response to on-screen note that Bears QB Rex Grossman has never thrown a fourth-quarter TD pass in his career... "Yes he has! He just did!" [Kevin's note: Even if it was a pass to the wrong team]

Check that, in the time that it's taken me to type this, another four penalties have been called and we're into the fourth quarter. Christamighty!

UPDATE: Of course that last comment by Katie does not take into consideration the fact that Grossman really does now have a fourth-quarter touchdown that he scored with about two minutes left in the game. Her comment was about the fact that he threw a ball that was intercepted by the Vikings and return about eight yards for a touchdown. Well, it was funnier in the moment.


Livin' and a workin'...

I will warn you now that this post is dedicated to the season premiere of The Office.

If you have not watched it yet and plan to... do not continue to read.

If you have no plans to ever watch it... you can continue if you want, but you may not be interested in the content here today.

If you have watched it and would like to chime in... please do!

Those of us who watched it know how the season two finale ended. With Jim (John Krasinski) professing his love for Pam (Jenna Fischer), she spurns him, and he then kisses her anyway despite her initial protestations.

It was, by far, one of the best, if not the best, finales we've ever seen. It was natural, it was well-acted, it was beautifully shot... it was televised perfection as far as we were concerned.

And it left us hanging for three friggin' months wondering what the heck was going to happen. Would they explore this possibility? Would she still marry Roy (David Denman)? Would he leave for Connecticut? GAH!

This is what good television writing is all about. It makes you want to tune in again.

Well, last night was our chance to find out what happened. Now, on to the spoilers...

Officebadges

Continue reading "Livin' and a workin'..." »


But everybody's watchin' TV...

To fulfill a challenge thrown out there by Ninja Poodles, I present you with the contents of my TiVo Now Playing list as it stands on Thursday, September 21, 2006, at 7:00 a.m. (or thereabouts).

Here is her description (yeah, Wife Swap is her shame, not mine)...

Got TiVo?  Or any other DVR? Go, right now, pull up your "Now Playing" screen, and snap a photo of whatever is at the very top. No cheating, just whatever is the top page of your recorded (or currently recording) shows.   Come on, show your shame.  I did--"WIFE SWAP," people!!

Post the result on your site, and leave a link in the comments here, OR send it to me in an email, at ninjapoodles@gmail.com. If we get a decent number of responses, I've started a flickr group (where you can either add your dares yourself, or, if you don't have a flickr account, send them to me and I'll add them), and perhaps the "dare" will become a regular feature, and maybe eventually evolve beyond the "show and tell" phase. 

Yes, we do have a second TiVo in our bedroom that has some interesting stuff on it. But Katie is asleep and I wasn't going to wake her up for this. Sorry.

Here you go...

TiVo

So we have last night's Tonight Show because we want to see the interview with The Office's Steve Carell, Kidnapped, Justice (one of our current addictions), Miami Ink (I love this show), Ebert & Roeper (the podcast wasn't doing it for me), three episodes of Psych (one of the best shows on TV right now, IMHO), nine episodes from last season of The Office (even though we now own the season on DVD), and the car dealership/Twix episode of Seinfeld.

What's on your TiVo?

Oh, and don't worry, I have not forgotten... the fourth and final lyrical challenge will go live later today. Promise!


Power to the people, right on...

A few months ago, I posted about how Fox was asking fans to help pick the artwork for season five of 24. They had set up a pretty meticulous survey site to get your take on the art, the box layout, etc. It was a fun survey and I was excited to see what box design would be chosen by the massive 24 fanbase.

Here were the choices...

24surveyart

Here is the "winning" artwork selection as per Fox...

24finalart

You may be asking yourself why the winning artwork doesn't quite look like any of the choices given to us fans some months ago.

I'm asking myself that very question and I'm pretty pissed that I have to.

Why the hell would you get fans excited about taking part in this process only to strip it away from us at the last moment? We think we are actually going to have a voice in the selection and we wind up with bupkis. This is wrong on so many levels. I realize that this new artwork was developed based on our written comments in the survey, but it still doesn't work for us.

So maybe you didn't like what we chose, but, if that was the case, you should just choose the offered option that you prefer and lie by saying it was "the winner." We would never know any better.

This, however, reeks of bad customer relations. There's no way to cover this up with a little white lie. You simply teased us and then took the power away.

Bad move.

I still prefer the box in the lower left corner anyway.


Yes I'm let loose from the noose...

The first time I watched it, I thought it was kinda clever.

The second time it came on TV, I was able to watch it closer.

The third time, I was getting a bit annoyed (especially since all three were within less than a 36-hour period).

The fourth time, I realized just how much this commercial creeps me out.

The fifth time, I decided it was time to swear off both Audrey Hepburn movies and AC/DC music.

Have you all seen the new commercial for The Gap's "Skinny Black Pants" that features a pseudo mash-up of Audrey Hepburn dancing to AC/DC's "Back in Black"?

Like I said, the first time it was cool just to see how well they timed it out so her movements jived with the beat of the song. Now, however, I literally am creeped out by it. I can't watch it anymore. It's just too much to take.

But, of course, yesterday, Katie and I were picking up a giftcard at The Gap as a baby shower gift and we saw the ads all over the store as well. Just not cool.

Here, see for yourself. Hopefully, this embed works...

If not, just click over here.

I'm off to the gym. Oh yeah... go Bears! Trounce the Detroit Kitty Cats!