Friday, February 29, 2008

Lost - Part 5

I'm sick as a dog, just so everyone knows. Finally couldn't fight off the family flu, although I did put up a gallant fight. Usually I'm fine with a cold or flu, but this one comes with a cough that feels like someone stabbing you repeatedly in the lungs. Fun!

Another stellar episode of Lost last night. Same routine, if you haven't watched it yet, look away...


What Happened: Let's see. It appears time travel is possible, but only in your head. Desmond, having traveled from the island to the freighter had a bout of...shall we say...displacement. While passing through a storm cloud he opened his eyes and found himself at boot camp. During his pushup punishment he suddenly found himself back on the boat with zero memory of where he was or what was going on.

And so it went. Desmond flashing back and forth. Between 1996 and 2004. Like a cosmic yo-yo.

Fortunately, the island happens to have a physicist/time travel/worm hole expert on it. One Daniel Faraday tells Desmond that when he gets back to 1996 he needs to look him up tell him to set the something something to something and something. Desmond tracks down 1996 Faraday and gets him to set the gizmo to the settings 2004 Faraday gave him. Low and behold the mouse they test travels ahead in time (in his head only) and manages to navigate a maze he never was in before. Wow.

There's a catch, however. If Desmond can't stop the bouncing back and forth in time his brain with 'short circuit' and he'll basically seize up, go blank and no more Desmond. That would be a shame. 1996 Faraday tells Desmond that he could probably stop it by finding a 'constant' in each time frame. This of course means Penny.

So 1996 Desmond convinces 1996 Penny to keep her same phone number and be ready for a call on Christmas Eve 2004. In the meantime, Sayid and Desmond and Fisher Stevens (did you know he was married to Michelle Pfeiffer for a while? I still can't get over that) sneak around the freighter, get a phone working, Fisher Stevens gets a nose bleed and shorts out, and Desmond finally - FINALLY - gets in touch with Penny, who, while sitting for years waiting for this call sure took her time picking up.

What We Learned: Not a whole lot, really. Other than Desmond really can bounce back and forth through time as was suggested last season. It wasn't his imagination after all. Faraday, for his part, appears to be one smart MOFO and really should have cut his hair in 1996.

On the island Faraday gave Jack and Juliette some info about the quirks of leaving the island. Although, once again not nearly enough was said.

New Questions: Not many, but a few.

- What's the deal with the crew on the freight boat? They come off all friendly, but in an ominous, 'we don't want to hurt you, but we will' kind of way. They friendlies or other?

- Who the hell is running their operation?

- Have we met the man Ben has on the boat? Is he the same one who unlocked the door for them? I assume it was the pilot, but who knows. I'm still waiting for Michael to show his face. Don't be surprised if he's on the boat.

- Is Penny's father part of the billionaire group behind the fake Oceanic plane? Seems so, but we all know how things 'seem' to be on Lost.

- How, exactly, did the helicopter make it through that storm?

- What happened to the other guy that tried to get to the island? Did they say and I just miss it?

I miss anything? Probably since I was in a feverish state watching this.

Until next week!

Today's distraction: The 15 biggest screw ups in Internet history! Keep close tabs on 5 and 6, by the way and don't get too comfortable with this space.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Movie Reviews

Disturbia: A new age retelling of 'Rear Window' only with the kid from 'Transformers', no suspense, no sense of humor and some uncomfortable gawking/stalking of the girl next door who may or may not be of legal age. Sadly, I could have forgiven all of that if the movie made one bit of sense or at least hinted at the possibility that the protagonist might be going insane. Instead there is a bizarre decision by the neighbor that goes against everything he was fighting to prove. And he had no reason to do it other than providing the movie a cliche monster ending.

King of California: Another movie that I haven't heard much about that turns out to be a charmer. Following 'Waitress', 'Breach', and 'Eastern Promises' there are quite a few very good to great movies floating around out there that not many people are seeing. This one stars Michael Douglas as a recently released mental patient who is convinced there is hidden treasure buried in California. He even gets his daughter wrapped up in the scheme which includes drilling a hole through a Costco cement floor. Douglas does a great job here; displaying dementia, desperation, tenderness and giddiness at various times. I also like how the film maker satirically criticizes the 'generification' (my term) of America. Where apple orchards used to be there is an Applebee's, where the river flowed there is a Staples. Strip malls and stores we are all familiar with litter and confuse a potential 18th century treasure map.

Half Nelson: This is a tough movie to review. Artistically, it's terrific with great acting all around. However, it gets extremely slow in spots and the behavior of the main characters isn't exactly uplifting. The teacher is a crack addict and the one student he could make a difference on winds up delivering drugs to make some extra cash. Ryan Gosling gets everything right as a functional drug addict - the sluggish, almost painful movements; the disconnect from every adult in his life; the complete lack of friends. It says a lot about a movie that a drug dealer is the most likable, grounded character shown.

Gone Baby Gone: Another tough movie to take, but it a different way. The subject matter will be disturbing to many (especially the drug house scene), but the topics are raised in order to examine the difference between right and wrong. Is cold blooded murder ever acceptable? If you are a bad parent, does that mean you deserve having your child taken from you? For an action/mystery movie, this takes on some weighty issues. What I loved about it, though, is it never provided easy answers and let the protagonist live with his choices. Even wifey, Queen of the happy ending, said 'Thank god they didn't tack a happy ending on. It would have ruined everything.'

I'm curious to see what other people in the country make of this movie because this nails the Dorchester attitude and atmosphere perfectly. Casey Affleck reminds me of every Dorchester kid I've ever met. Slightly undersized, tough as nails, always trying to prove himself, and mumbling his way through conversations. Even the neighborhood is given the proper treatment with bars packed in the afternoon, teenagers lounging on the decks of houses packed too closely together. The only negative thing I can say about this movie is I can't make fun of Ben Affleck any more. Pity.

Night at the Museum: Lightweight Ben Stiller movie that was surprisingly enjoyable. The boys and I watched this over vacation and they loved it. Stiller plays his usual likable loser, but the theme of using the lessons of history to better yourself isn't one you normally see in a family movie. Not many movies can provoke discussions between kids and parents about the Roman Empire, Attila the Hun and Easter Island. Some very funny moments (including a great role for Mickey Rooney of all people) and generally entertaining enough to make rewatching this bearable. See, when my boys like a movie, they'll watch it about 100 times.

Smokin' Aces: Finally caught this one on HBO during a bout of insomnia and was distracted enough to stay awake. Not great, but diverting enough. Thought the plot was overly complicated for a shoot 'em up, but the director did a good job of helping us keep everything in order. One thing that bothered me was a lot of good actors showing up in this with strange facial hair. Matthew Fox is head of security with fake wig and 'stache, Ben Affleck wears a fu manchu, Jeremy Pivens looks horrible (he's supposed to). There are also strange events that really have nothing to do with the plot and make things even more confusing then they need to be. Also, the ending made absolutely no sense to me. Ryan Reynolds character supposedly does something noble to get back at his boss, but I still can't figure out what that proved. Not a great movie, but entertaining enough if you suspend disbelief and rational thought.

SuperBad: I'm fully on record about being disappointed in 'Knocked Up', but this one more than makes up for it. The funniest teen movie since 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'. Loved the characters, loved the lack of plot, and laughed out loud on many, many occasions. The two cops and McLovin' are the more memorable characters in movie history. There will undoubtedly be some sensitive types who are offended by the dialogue, but I am here to say that teen boys do talk like that. Part of the appeal of this movie are the scenes and conversations I've experienced: The party at the strange dude's house (where Seth gets his pants stained and Evan is forced to sing), waiting in the strip mall parking lot to see if a friend succeeded in buying booze, the random conversations about female anatomy. But don't be fooled into thinking this is just a horny teenage boy movie; there is tremendous heart beneath both Seth and Evan's friendship and the rules on how to treat women (like actual people, go figure!). You have to wade through some hilariously raunchy stuff to find it, but it's there.

Today's distraction: Make your very own fake McLovin id. The internet was born to provide us shit like this.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ralph Malph

On Sunday, Ralph Nader announced on 'Meet the Press' that he will be running for President, putting nary a ding in my own pseudo run for leader of the free world. Details are sketchy at the moment. He isn't sure what party he will be affiliated with or whether, at the ripe old age of 74, he will actually live to see the election.

It's typical Nader. Screw the details, let's just make some waves. We'll figure it out as we go.

For those of us who grew up admiring Nader and his 'take no shit and give no ground' attitude, it's a sad day. For those unfamiliar, Nader made his name and reputation fighting corporate greed and cost cutting at the expense of consumer safety. He was a one man army that every consumer rights group wanted on it's side and every corporation feared.

In 1965, he wrote 'Unsafe at Any Speed' - a scathing indictment against the auto industry that led to the formation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and placed the responsibility for safe cars squarely on the shoulders of the auto industry. All these new fangled air bags, computerized braking systems and all wheel drive cars originated from Ralph Nader and his bulldog approach to making corporations accountable.

Since the auto industry, he has taken on (with the help of assistants known as 'Nader's Raiders' - young people inspired by his work who wanted to help out on his new projects) air and water pollution, airline travel, corporate executives (something that needs to be revisited), the Food and Drug Administration, nursing homes, and (of course) Congress.

His work has helped him make the list of the 100 Most Influential Americans in Life, Time and Atlantic Monthly.

Depressingly, his legacy is quickly morphing from consumer rights legend into 'that strange guy that keeps running for President'. Starting in 1992, Nader has declared his run for President in every single election year. Often as an Independent, but also as an affiliate to the Green or Reform Parties. Many Democrats point to Nader running in 2000 as one reason Gore lost to Bush. Typically, people that vote for Nader would vote Democrat. Considering Nader received almost 97,000 votes in Florida that year many thought most of those votes would have gone to Gore.

Thanks, Mr. Nader. You may be responsible for the George W Bush legacy. Influential American indeed!

Nader, for his part, seems to relish his role of spoiler. He claims to be running this year because of the way he was treated in 2004. I shit you not! He's running because many Democrats blocked him from appearing on some ballots because they were afraid he would steal votes meant for John Kerry. If things worked out in 2004, you choices would have been Kerry, Nader, and Bush. Christ on a cracker, the charisma would have been too much to bear during those debates.

I actually agree with Nader that we need to fine tune our election process, but running for President as a wild card doesn't help the country or get his point across. It just mucks up the works even more. I appreciated Nader's point back in 2000 that both Gore and Bush were backed by corporate lobbyists, but running a maverick campaign did nothing to bring that to the country's attention. You want to take on the lobbyist network, then go after the fucking lobbyists. Running for President does nothing but get your name in the news and confuse your message. It makes you look like a publicity whore and not a consumer advocate.

I'm beginning to wonder if Nader is a closet Republican and runs just to prevent the Democrats from being elected. Or more to the point, maybe he wants Republicans in office so he can keep digging up dirt on corporations and government agencies. Republicans traditionally free up corporations from government oversight and prefer to push a free market economy. With Republicans in office he has a better opportunity to expose corporate fraud or abuse. It's job security!

I truly hope Nader and his Raiders keeps doing important, necessary work and he becomes relevant again, but right now he's coming off as the awkward, nerdy kid who keeps trying to wrangle an invitation to the cool kids' lunch table. You have an important message to deliver, Mr. Nader.

I would suggest attempting to deliver it an less off putting way.

Today's distraction: 30 quotes by Ralph Nader. Should give everyone a glimpse into his quirky intelligence ('The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun'), common sense ('Your best teacher is your last mistake') and downright confusing ('John D. Rockefeller wanted to dominate oil, but Microsoft wants it all, you name it: cable, media, banking, car dealerships').

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vacation Relation

I'm back in the saddle this morning and feeling every minute of sleep I lost from getting up early. I quickly got into the routine of sleeping until 8:30 every morning. The boys now get themselves out of bed and go downstairs to play by themselves. When they get hungry one of them will come up and rouse me. They basically just use me to feed them or referee arguments about who had which toy first.

I'm totally fine with that.

Since I'm still catching up with emails and voice mails and work related crap, I only have time for a quick rundown of my week off.

Things started off with my semi annual dental cleaning. Great way to kick things off! I had high hopes when an petite, adorable brunette introduced herself, walked me to an office and proceeded to completely maul my mouth. I have never been in so much pain after a cleaning in my life. She actually had her elbow on my shoulder at one point as if I were going to try a last minute escape. Maybe I resembled an ex-boyfriend and she was taking out some unresolved rage on my teeth and gums. Bitch!

Events didn't get much better from that point on. Seven year old caught the flu which went to wifey. Only two year old and myself escaped (so far). Although I think the youngest had it first two weeks ago and it just glanced through him. Kids are strange when it comes to colds and flus. They have a few bad hours or one bad night and are back to normal in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, they pass it along to the adults who spends days fighting it off.

The lesson? Don't have kids unless they have super human powers of immunity.

Still, the week wasn't a total loss. Below are the projects I completed.

- Painted bedroom (more on this below)

- grew goatee (which I somewhat screwed up shaving this morning)

- filed taxes (H&R Block online is great!)

- fixed bathroom tub (major blockage that was totally disgusting)

- fixed and cleaned furnace (the heat kept shutting off in the middle of the night)

- Watched boatload of movies (reviews coming later)

- Succeeded in not killing my wife

This last one was a major victory. I spent all Saturday painting the ceiling and prepping, patching, sanding and cutting in the bedroom walls with the new color. Keeping in mind the original bedroom color was white and we were going to a light chocolate color, the first coat doesn't always look right. So I spend all day busting my ass and while we're getting ready for bed she looks around and says 'You know, I really don't like this color'.


Fortunately, I am the master at letting wifey vent, pretending to listen, then going ahead with what I want to do anyway. I told her we'd talk about it in the morning, then convinced her things would look better with the second coat. They did, she loves it, and I totally rock! Plus I just reminded myself that my wife is insane and she was the one that picked out the color. Freakin' whacko!

Since nothing much happened that needs recounting (or that I just can't remember what happened), here are some random thoughts from the past week.

- With Pettitte's press conference, it seems more and more likely Roger Clemens is a lying scumbag.

- Got to see the lunar eclipse from my back deck and I have to say it was damn cool. Tried taking pictures, but they never came out right.

- Speaking of cool, how impressive was the Navy blowing up that spy satellite? Considering they had to take into account the earth's rotation, the height of the seas they were on, whether it was high tide or low and missile speed and trajectory, I'm guessing there was some serious math involved.

- The NBA did some major renovations. Shaq and Kidd going West. Gasol making the Lakers a contender and baby Kobe less pouty (for now). But one thing bothers me. When I was fully into basketball mode (playing and watching) the All Star game was an event to schedule your day around. It was on national television in the late afternoon and was consistently one of the highest rated sporting events of the year. This year it was on TBS on Saturday night. I missed the entire freakin' thing cause I couldn't find it. This is progress?

- Hillary Clinton is going into full attack mode on Barack Obama. Anyone catch her tirade about pamphlets being mailed to voters in Ohio? Desperation doesn't become you, Hillary.

- What was with the NY Times article about McCain possibly having a potentially, but not really since we have no proof, sexual relationship with a lobbyist back in 2000? I tried reading it online, but it was basically a story about nothing. All anonymous sources, a lot of 'could have' or 'might have' with very little substantiation. Came off as having an axe to grind about McCain than an actual story.

Still, what would happen if this turned out to be true? Would his supporters care? Would the American public care? Have we had enough of politician's sex lives? Would McCain be forced to step down? If so, who would take over the Republican candidacy? Romney? Huckabee? Would the primaries have to be redone? Would they pick a name from a hat at the Republican Convention? Holy crap, what a scenario that would be.

OK, that's it for now. I need to get to work.

Today's distraction: Tips for planning a family vacation. These include the invaluable 'Figure out where you want to go' and 'figure out how you're going to get there'. Thank goodness this article was written, otherwise families would be trying to drive to the Bahamas or forgetting to pack clothes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lost - Part 4

I'll fill everyone in on my flu ridden, paint drenched 'vacation' next week. Today, let's get caught up on another stellar episode of 'Lost'. Let me say that this 'flash forward' idea is pure genius.

Same routine, I'll be giving away some surprises so look away if you haven't watched or just don't care.


What Happened: Kate was the focus of this episode, which immediately makes it my favorite of the year. She's hot. Even in prison garb.

Anyway, she alternately puts Sawyer in his place, uses him to trick Locke, and cuddles up to him all in the same day. Sawyer, to his credit, doesn't seem to care as long as she's honest with him. 'If you want to use me, be a woman and say so'. Although, the biggest credibility gap this season happened when Kate and Sawyer did NOT have sex after she threw herself at him in his own bed. Yeah, right. Sawyer would never let that happen.

We also learn that Kate is one of the Oceanic Six. Wifey threw me the curve ball that we couldn't include Kate because she was wanted and could have snuck back into the real world. She was on trial for her past 'transgressions' which include fraud, murder and making every other woman in the same room with her seem ugly. Jack is actually a surprise witness in Kate's trial and claims, under oath, that he is no longer in love with her. Well DAMN, Kate's expression says.

Meanwhile, psychic Asian dude finally confronts Ben only to extort him by saying he will tell the man he's working for that Ben is dead for 3.2 million dollars. Ben, always playing people says 'Why 3.2, why not 3.3 or 3.4?' to which PAD replies 'Don't treat me like one of them, like I don't know who you are!' By 'one of them' I can only assume he was referring to us viewers. Bastard!

Locke, finally getting his balls and smarts back this season, had enough and decided that PAD needed some taming. He tied him back up in the boat house (how did Kate know where the boat house was?), put a grenade in his mouth and told him to stop talking. 'We need to be reminded there are consequences'. Loved that!

One of the big (but not the biggest) revelation was Kate had a child. It was implied that he was the 'he' she was referring to in last season's finale ('He's going to wonder where I am?'), but that could change, too. It was also implied that Jack wanted nothing to do with said child because it was Sawyers' but NOOOOO! Turns out the child isn't really Kate's at all, but Claire's. That's right. It's Aaron!

What We Learned:

- Aaron gets off the island.

- Kate is still a conniving, conning vixen

- Jack has a complete story invented for the public. Only 8 people survived the crash with only 6 surviving their time on the island. As Kate says 'I've heard you tell that story so many times I wonder if you actually believe it'.

- Jack and Kate appear to be one of those couples that will just never happen.

- Hurley watched 'Scooby Doo' on a regular basis.

- PAD has some serious ethics issues. More confirmed than learned.

- Even Ben can be confused, as when he was confronted with PAD's offer. Welcome to our world, Ben.

- Helicopter has disappeared. You know the one that had Sayid and Desmond on it? Yeah, never arrived at the boat. Or so they say. Tough to tell what to make of the people on the boat.

New Questions:

- If Aaron gets off the island, what the hell happened to Claire?

- Why does Jack not want to see Aaron? Did something happen that he had to leave Claire behind? Is Claire dead?

- Why is PAD extorting Ben? And why 3.2 million dollars? Why, indeed, Ben?

- I was going to ask how Kate kept her figure after giving birth, but that answered itself.

- What are the real intentions of the boat people? We may as well put this in the ongoing question pile. Right next to 'WTF is going on?'

- What was card guessing game between Charlotte and Physics Dude? He correctly guessed two out of three. Is there a way to train people to become psychic?

- Why is Jack spoon feeding this 'only 8 survivors' story to the general public?

- When is Charlie going to come back and haunt Hurley? That was fun!

- What happened to the helicopter? Looks like we'll find this out next week!!

Today's distraction: Nothing today. I am still on vacation, after all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lost - Part 3

I'll be off all next week, so don't expect any postings unless I'm really bored or something incredible happens. Like Roger Clemens committing suicide because he feels bad about lying to the American public and outing his own wife as an HGH user. What a dick.

Anyway, onto 'Lost' which has cemented itself as one of the best shows ever with last night's episode. I still don't know what's going on, but it's a fantastic ride.

If you haven't seen it, don't read any further.

What Happened: This was a Sayid episode (both in character and tone) from the opening moments. We see him playing golf when a man approaches and bets him he could make his shot closer to the pin. They agree, Sayid loses then introduces himself as one of the Oceanic 6. This rattles the man and he tries to get in his cart and drive away. Unfortunately for him, Sayid has an agenda and, if you've ever seen the show, Sayid with an agenda is a bad thing for anyone else. He shoots the guy in the head and calmly walks away with his clubs.

We next see Sayid introduce himself to a cute blonde in a coffee shop in Germany. We learn quite quickly that he isn't after her, but her billionaire boss. Look out billionaire boss.

Meanwhile, on the island, Sayid makes a deal with the 'rescuers' that if he gets back their missing girl, he gets a ride to the freighter boat. Everyone agrees and he, Kate and Asian psychic guy head out to find Locke's crew. They head to Dharma's old village where they find Hurley tied up in a closet. Some snooping around by Sayid uncovers a hidden room in Ben's bedroom. In there are mulitple passports, money of varying currency and more questions than ever.

Kate was snooping around when Sawyer popped in. Yep, it was a trap. That wily Locke used Hurley as bait! He so smaht! Anyway, while Kate and Sawyer get all chummy and lovey dovey again, Sayid makes a deal with Locke to get the girl back and trades the Asian psychic dude to do so. Guess his abilities failed him on this trip, eh? Sayid brings the girl back and he, Desmond and dead Naomi (who I suspect isn't DEAD dead) head off to the freighter.

Back to the future, hitman Sayid is still wooing blonde chick when she finally gets paged by billionaire boss. Sayid in a fit of guilt (idiot!) tells the girl not to go see him because 'there will be questions'. Chicky surprises Sayid by fucking shooting him! Happy Valentine's Day! But not to kill him, to question him! Turns out she was using him, too. Such a shame. Sayid, of course, manages to kill her first then limps his way to a vet clinic where a strange voice helps patch him up. Turns out the guy helping him out is BEN!!! Yeah, that same Ben Sayid swore he would never trust!!

But the biggest revelation (like that's not enough?) wasn't that Ben and Sayid were working together, but they were working to assassinate some as yet unknown group of people. As Sayid tells blonde chick about her boss 'He's on a list'. Plus Ben let's fall this line 'Do you want to protect your friends?' which implies he's getting to the group before they get to the survivors or the Oceanic 6. And finally, when Sayid tells Ben 'They know about me now' he replies, with his usual dramatic pause 'Good!'

What We Learned:

- Sayid is one of the Oceanic 6, obviously. This adds him to Kate, Jack, Hurley so there are two more we don't know about, yet.

- Apparently, whatever is happening with the island and the survivors involves a group of very, VERY rich people. The guy on the golf course, it is assumed, has bunches of money, as well. Sayid says to him about the privacy something about the high prices of the membership.

- More disturbingly, there is some sort of time rift thing going on with the island and the rest of the real world. Physics guy did an experiment with one of the girls on the boat. He sets up a beaconing system and the girl on the boat launches 'the package' to land by the beacon. Only the package doesn't show up, even though the girl is counting down the kilometers. 'Zero kilometers', to which he responds, 'I don't have it'. Later on the package comes falling from the sky and lands next to the beacon. The timers on both are (I think) 33 minutes apart. To this physics guy says 'Not good'.

- There is a specific heading any boat, helicopter, plane needs to take in order to get back to the real world. We suspected this when Ben gave Michael the boat, but it was confirmed last night.

- Ben survives all of this shit.

- Asian psychic guy can't foresee the future. Guess he can only deal with dead people. Shame.

- Jacob's cabin is on wheels (most likely four wheel drive considering the terrain on the island). When Locke takes his crew to where he thought it was, it's gone.

New Questions:

- Is Ben a good guy or a bad guy? While it's infuriating to watch him mentally play the survivors and fun to watch them beat the crap out of him, could he really be protecting them all?

- What is the deal with the island?

- Was the plane discovered in the Indian Ocean planted? Seems to be likely since the people behind it are LOADED with money.

- If the plane was planted, why? What purpose did that serve? Are they trying to keep the island from being discovered at all costs?

- Is that 33 minute time delay the reason no babies can be born on the island?

- What is with the bracelets on blonde chick in Germany and Naomi? Do they indicate the group they work for?

- What is Sayid 'protecting' his friends from? Personally, I think he just likes killing people.

That's all I got. I'm sure I missed some new possibilites, but I'm so tired I can't think of them right now.

Until next week....

Today's distraction: Play some Avoid. Easy enough that you could kill half a day playing this. This is also a tribute to 'Lost' writers who are avoiding telling us anything useful. Bastards.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saving Face

Wanted to comment on two events that had press coverage yesterday. One everyone has heard and has an opinion on and the other was all pomp, circumstance and bullshit.

First, Roger Clemens sank to new lows during his week on Capital Hill. In what was supposed to be a last ditch attempt to clear his name, I found myself hating me even more. I didn't even think it was possible.

Quick rundown for those who need it. Brian McNamee claimed in the Mitchell Report that he had injected steroids or human growth hormone (HGH) into Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch (in an desperate attempt to gain arm strength so he could make the throw to first base from his second base position). In an effort to get to the truth, some egomaniacal Congressmen (I know - that's redundant) decided to waste our taxes by forcing these men to testify.

Under oath, McNamee stuck to his story (he was under oath when interviewed during the Mitchell Report, too) and added the bombshell that he also injected Clemens' wife Debbie with HGH when they were training for their appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. You can't make this shit up!

Pettitte confirmed McNamee's story regarding his own use and also added that he had taken HGH that was provided to him by his father back in 2004. Previously, he had only claimed to have taken it in 2000 when recovering from an injury and even then only for a few days. Knoblauch also confirmed McNamee had injected him with performance enhancers.

Even more damaging was Pettitte's testimony that he had conversations with Clemens about both of their HGH use. Specifically, Pettitte recounted asking Clemens how he would respond if the media ever asked about him using performance enhancers.

Clemens - when confronted with Pettitte's comments - stuttered and used the term 'misremembered', which I'm pretty sure isn't even a real word. Well, maybe in Texas. Anyway, when asked for his take on the conversation Clemens claimed they were talking about his wife's use of HGH.

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute.

Done? That's right. Clemens threw his own wife to the wolves in an attempt to salvage his already tattered reputation. Besides the obvious 'how could he do that?' question, it also raises more disturbing questions for Clemens defenders.

1: Was this his idea of a Valentine's Day gift to his wife? 'Happy V-Day, Honey. I just made a potential indictment against you a real possibility. You're welcome!'

2: Now we're supposed to believe that McNamee told the truth about Pettitte, Knoblauch, and Clemens' wife, but is going out of his way to lie about Clemens? Do Roger or his lawyers not see the booby trap he just set for himself?

3: Is Clemens really getting the best advice from his lawyers? Unless he's the one pressing on with this, any lawyer worth the suit he or she is wearing would have told Clemens long ago to just fess up and deal with the backlash.

It's becoming increasingly apparant that Clemens just doesn't get it. He seems to think that he has earned some sort of free pass because he's won seven Cy Young Awards. He is consistantly and arrogantly using the 'Don't you know who I am?' defense. It's the same road Barry Bonds took and we all see where his career and legacy are right now.

The highlight of the day was when Clemens was hammered (literally) down by the Chairman of the Committee. Chairman was summarizing the testimony of the day and Clemens - in a completely characteristic display of pomposity and desperation - interrupted him with denials or corrections. It was awesome!!!

Item number 2 on my list also involves a public figure trying to save face.

President Bush, with much fanfare and smiling and camera flashing and ass kissing and hand clapping, signed into effect the new tax relief bill that should send a few hundred dollars into our pockets in the coming weeks. Depending on your situation, expect anywhere from $300 to $600. Couples will get up to $1200 (2 times 600 is 1200 for you dolts at home) with $300 per child. So, wifey and I stand to get $1800 back.

Hold on, though. Like everything this administration seems to do, this isn't at all what it appears to be. See, this money we all have coming (or most of us anyway) is simply an 'advance' on any 2008 tax refunds we would normally get back. We're getting our own money back. This is nothing but a fancy, government sponsored shell game.

What really steams me is Bush is spinning this as an attempt to 'stimulate the economy'. While I'm no expert on economics, wouldn't this money be better spent getting our country out of the record deficit we currently have? Wouldn't this money be better used by sitting in a high interest account and the country using the interest generated by it to pay off some bills? Bills like....oh I don't know...Medicare, the endless Iraq War, school improvements?

Look, I'm all for getting money back from the government, but I also know that this country is in dire financial straights - something that won't be fully realized until Bush has skipped town. This is nothing but an attempt to boost his approval ratings and make the middle class he is constantly screwing over feel a little bit better.

Just keep in mind that this is a stop gap and we'll all be paying it back in 2009. I suggest putting it into a one year CD for yourself or invest it in your retirement plan.

Whatever you do, try not to spend it all in one place.

Today's distraction: For all of you romantics out there, here are some wedding photos you'll always remember. It says so in the title, so it must be true.

Happy Hallmark Holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Future Growth

I'll be taking next week off from work to focus on family life. You'll notice I didn't phrase this as 'I'm taking a vacation'. I've learned by now that time off from work isn't any more relaxing since my boys will still have my up at 7am and I have a list of chores the length of my arm to finish before the end of my 'break'.

These items include painting the bedroom, attempting (and most likely failing) to fix the upstairs shower (it leaks into the kitchen ceiling every time it is used), getting the dog groomed, haircuts for me and the boys, and drinking unhealthy amounts of barley and hops in liquid form.

But my most important project is growing some sort of facial hair. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I always undertake one idiot, slightly demented project during my time off. Last year it was attempting to go all week without brushing my hair. The only sure thing is that Friday morning will be the last time I shave for at least 10 days.

I grew a full beard once a long time ago and it drove me crazy. It was itchy and a bit uncomfortable and grew in red. I used to have red hair as a child and the beard took on that same color. There is also a very good chance there will be a bunch of gray hairs included in this new growth, which is fine. I'm not nearly vain enough to care. If you ever saw me, you'd know I have more important things to worry about than gray hair. Like age and fitness and beauty and hygiene.

The question is what to do with it.

Here are some options.

The Grizzly Adams

Pros: Very little maintenance involved. Just let it grow. Will hide my natural 'beauty' and keep me warm until spring
Cons: Could come off looking like an escaped mental patient.

Douchebag Factor: High. Think Unabomber or some naturalist nut job living in a secluded log cabin with more artillery than Libya.

The Well Groomed

Pros: Of all the full beards, this one usually looks the best.

Cons: High maintenance.

Douchebag Factor: Unknown. Depending on how it grows in I could look like this (with better physique):

Or either of these two:

The Half Grown or Stubble

Pros: Not too hard to take care of if you have the proper equipment.

Cons: It's no longer 1984 and I don't have the proper equipment.

Douchebag Factor: Medium to High. Some guys can pull it off, but on me it would announce that I'm either a pompous ass, gay, a heroin addict or a pompous, gay heroin addict.

The Religious Zealot

Pros: People, thinking I could be a suicide bomber, will give me wide berth in the streets. Especially if I wear a white turban and randomly shout things about Allah.

Cons: Random attacks from people who don't like suicide bomber (I'm guessing there are a lot of them); full body cavity searches every time I go through airport security.

Douchebag Factor: Through the roof.

The Artsy Fartsy

Pros: It won't promise anything, but it will get you noticed by the girls.

Cons: Of course, that could be because it's on Johnny Depp's chin and not mine.

Douchbag Factor: Medium to High depending on how creative you get with it.

The Groomed Goatee

Pros: Fairly easy to grow and keep up.

Cons: Will blend in with the crowd.

Douchebag Factor: Low. May bounce to medium if I go stubble goatee, but that won't happen once it's gown in.

The LumberJack Goatee

Pros: Increases menace factor, which will come in handy at work.
Cons: Baby birds living in it by spring.
Douchebag Factor: Medium. Look I know he plays for the Sox, but that doesn't mean I don't think he comes off looking socially stunted with that mess hanging from his face.

The Sculpted

Pros: Can't think of a single one.
Cons: Would have to hire someone to maintain it for me.

Douchebag Factor: Not as high as 'Religious Zealot' but pretty damn high. Would definitely give off a 'I'm with the new boy band' vibe.

The Soul Patch

Pros: I imagine this would be a piece of cake to take care of.

Cons: I would have a soul patch
Douchebag Factor: Medium as long as I were a stoned poet or stoned college student or anyone that spent a lot of time stoned.

Thick Sideburns

Pros: It would keep food and snot from getting stuck in my facial hair.
Cons: I would guess they're just as itchy as a regular beard.

Douchebag Factor: Since I'm not Wolverine or an Elvis Impersonator, very high. Even if you are an Elvis impersonator you look like an idiot. Hey, I'm just the messenger.

Thin Sideburns

Pros: Very little trimming to do on a daily basis
Cons: I don't live in the 90210 zip code.

Douchebag Factor: Pretty damn high. You remember these guys, right?

Also, I've already ruled out just a moustache. The only person who has ever pulled the off successfully is Tom Selleck (I'll give you Burt Reynolds if you want to push the limits) and believe me when I tell you I'm no Tom Selleck. I'll look like the child molester photo you see on the news.

I can also try any combination of the above. Like the stubble with full goatee, but that's just going over board.

One step at a time.

Today's distraction: Some bizarre facial hair. No worries, I'm not heading in any of these directions. Although dying it green on March 17th has already entered my disturbed, little brain.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weather Report

I have lived in the New England area my entire life. It's not that I didn't want to leave, I could just never afford it. Well, that's not exactly true, either. I probably could have afforded it at some point if I didn't blow all my money on beer and partying. Good times....good times...

Hold on whilst I reminisce......

One more second......

OK, done.

Where was I?

One thing I have never - and, at this point, never will - become accustomed to is the bizarre weather trends around here. 'Trends' isn't even the right word since that implies some sort of predictable pattern. There ain't no pattern in these parts.

Take yesterday (Please!). It started out in the 40s, dove down to the mid 20s, then back up to the 40s for a bit, before dropping to single digits and a hurrican wind that rocked our house all night. I thought for sure we would be losing shingles it was so bad. We had sun, rain, and snow. All within a two hour period. Two inches of snow fell in about 20 minutes at 7:30 last night. Last week, we had a thunder and lightning storm when the temperature didn't get about 40 degrees.

I shit you not with this story: I went to get some groceries and had to wear sunglasses it was so bright out. I know, nothing unusual there, right? Well, it happened to be snowing like a mofo out at the time. Nearly white out conditions with the sun shining at the same time. Anyone not familiar with the northeast winter sun needs to understand that the combination of white, wet and sun combines into a potent retina burning compound that has caused more traffic accidents than all the cell phone users in the country. It's one of those strange phenomenons that can never be understood unless one experiences it first hand. Like scuba diving or a Hannah Montana concert.

My parents have had the right idea for the last decade. As soon as Christmas is over, they head down to Long Boat Key in Florida until late March. Not only does this have the added benefit of me not having to make biweekly visits to them, but they miss out on the worst of the cold and snow. It's genius and I've been looking for a job that will let me move south for the winter and back in Boston for the spring and summer months.

You can see how well that's working out.

To top all of this off, we have the worst in the United States. Granted this is an unpredictable region, but they are supposed to be highly trained professionals and are correct, maybe 25% of the time. Maybe. I'm being generous here. Still, it's hard to cut them some slack when you head to work with a light jacket and are stunned when you walk out at the end of the day and the temperature has dropped 30 degrees. Or when you plan a snow day because everyone is predicting 8-12 inches of snow and you wake up to a completely dry street. Yes, that has actually happened before when I was teaching and I was NOT HAPPY!!

Can you think of any other profession that can be wrong so often and still be employed? If I were only correct even half the time, I would be sleeping in every day and heading to the unemployment line. Huh. That doesn't sound so bad, actually.

Last week a friend popped up online while she was out visiting Los Angeles. I asked her to describe the weather there and she replied with one word: 'Perfect', which made me hate her and everyone in that city just a little bit.

Being a New Englander (and in particular - a Bostonian), I'm adaptable. We shrug off a 4 inch snowstorm as a 'dusting' while a city like Atlanta would shut down for two days. We store umbrellas in our offices, our cars, and homes 'just in case'. You never know when you'll need one. We dress in layers so when the forecast is completely wrong, we just strip a few off or add a few on, depending on which direction the fuck up was fucked up.

We can withstand a 30 inch snowstorm in November and an 8 inch one in May (yeah, they've both happened). We're used to the grit, sand and muck leftover from snow, sleet, and slush we're pelted with for three months. And you know why we put up with it?

Because there is nothing like Boston in the spring, summer and fall. Honestly. A city like Boston is a marvel during the good weather. You can walk from end to end if you really needed to. The ocean is nearly always visible. The smell of the salt air is intoxicating, especially in May and June when things have been cleaned up and flowers are in full bloom.

We don't deal with the winter shit because we want to, but because of the reward at the end of it all. Sometimes we appreciate things more when they're gone for while.

Of course, I still hate winter and would trade it all in a heartbeat if I could. I'm just trying to make myself feel better before I walk out in the subzero temperatures and 50 mile an hour wind to get something for lunch.

Stupid cold.

Today's distraction: Here are some random beach pictures to get all you New Englanders through the next month or so.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lost - Part 2

I'll be summing up last night's 'Lost' episode again, so if you haven't watched it yet don't read any further.

All set?

Alrighty then. Let me first say that I hate episodes like this. Things become even more confusing and muddled than ever before. For all the questions answered in the season premiere, there were 20 more raised with this episode. Part of me wants this to end so I can get on with my life and finally figure out what in holy hell is going on.

What Happened: A lot, actually. We met the four new island visitors and their quick backstories during this hour. Quick recap:

- Asian dude who can speak with the dead and uses that ability to steal hidden drug money. He learns what happens to Naomi by hovering over her dead body, so he has some other psychic ability. Turns out 'tell my sister I love her' was code for 'holy shit, these people just stabbed me to death. Avenge me!!'

- Bearded dude who looks vaguely familiar and who describes himself as a 'physicist' but 'doesn't like to be pigeon holed'. When he first learns of Oceanic 815 on the news he is very upset. His wife (we assume) asks why he is so upset, he answers 'I don't know. So maybe he has some sort of psychic ability, as well.

- English chick, who seems to have been on to Dharma for a while now. We are introduced to her as she bullies her way onto an excavation site in some desert and she uncovers the remians of a polar bear (remember there was one on the island too!!!???) and a collar that had a Dharma logo on it (looked like an octopus symbol, which is new).

- Pilot who was supposed to be the one flying Flight 815, but bailed for reasons not yet known. Appears to have a drinking problem.

These four were led by Naomi, who seems to have been some mercenary type (like Sayid) and was rounded up by the same black dude that visits Hurley in the mental hospital when he gets back from the island.

They all manage to get on the island safely, even land a fully functional helicopter which Kate, Jack and Sayid are all happy/weepy about. We also find out quite late that they really didn't come to rescue the survivors but have a hard on about one Ben Linus. At this point (they confront Juliette when they find out she wasn't on the plane) we see a picture of Ben going through airport security.

Ben for his part is already on top of things. In an unusual moment of panic (Locke was ready to execute him. It happens), he admits he knows all about the the four visitors and when asked how he replies, 'I have a man on their boat'. Dun dun DAAAAAA!!!

Fucking Ben.

What We Learned: Other then Ben being a big, fat, fucking liar, not a whole hell of a lot. Didn't Ben always say he never left the island? Yet there he is going through an airport or something. Did I misinterpret that picture?

- Locke probably lived from the gunshot wound because he didn't have a kidney on that side (although I would think infection would be an issue. You know if he weren't invincible and all) and he told everyone he saw Walt 'only bigger'. Sawyer asks 'You mean like a giant?' which was so Sawyer....

- They really do find the wreckage of Flight 815 near the Indian Ocean. News casts even show the remains of the pilot (although we all know he got eaten by the monster in Season 1). Only he really isn't the pilot because the pilot that actually should have been flying it could tell it wasn't because the corpse didn't have his wedding ring on. No really!

- Dharma has apparently been around for years. Maybe decades.

New Questions: Besides the whole 'what the fuck is going on' thing, there are many.

- Who's the man on the boat working with Ben? Micheal?

- Why do the new islanders want Ben so badly?

- What was with the gas masks they brought with them? Were they planning on gassing all the people?

- Why did the crew looking for the island need a physicist with them?

- Where do I know that bearded actor from? It's been driving me crazy. Also, why is his character such a bad liar?

- How did the English chick figure out Dharma? Do all of these people have some sort of psychic abilities?

- Did the guy from 'The Wire' really think there were no survivors from the plane or was he implying that if survivors were found they shouldn't be rescued or they should be 'eliminated'?

- Would Naomi and Sayid have hooked up if she had lived? Or at least had some sort of knock down, drag out martial arts fight?

- What the fuck is with the fake wreckage? Is it really faked or is there some sort of alternate reality or time-space (something only a physicist would understand) thing going on?

- Why did Ben leave the island and what's he going to do now that he knows Hurley saw the cabin, too?

- More importantly, why don't they just blow Ben's brains out and be done with it. Although it was fun to watch him get the shit kicked out of him.

- Why can't we see the waiting freight boat from the island?

My New Theory?: Yeah, I got nothing. I'm thoroughly and utterly confused. Nice work, 'Lost' creators. My brain is mush trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Thanks!

Supposedly we find out another member of the 'Oceanic 6' next week. I have one thing to add, this goddamn writer's strike better end soon, because there are only 6 new episodes left and that's not nearly enough to answer all the new questions this show is raising.

Today's distraction: Speaking of making your brain mush, try playing Shift. I could only get about seven stages into it before giving up. Fun, though. Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Enough Already!

If there is one certain thing in this world, it's that studios will scramble to cash in on any successful movies. Granted not all forms of cashing in mean there will be sequels involved. For example, we'll probably never see a 'Sixth Sense 2', but we'll get 'Stir of Echoes' and 'The Others' or shows like 'Medium' and 'Ghost Whisperer' which cash in on the premise.

I was unpleasantly reminded of this when I attempted to sit through 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' on Fox. It's not that it's terrible, it just comes off as a low budget version of the original 'Terminator'. And that was low budget itself, so you can see the problem.

Just because the studios will attempt to milk as much money from an idea or film doesn't mean they should. Here are some of the worst or unnecessary continuations ever conceived. I'm doing this off the top of my head and I'm only including movies or shows I actually saw with my own horrified eyes, so I'm sure I'm going to miss some.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest/At World's End: I'm including these together since they were basically filmed at the same time and both helped desecrate the memory of the unexpectedly funny original. Confusing, loud and - worst of all - not funny!

Delta House: Most of you are too young to remember this, but ABC actually tried to take 'Animal House' and turn it into a television series starring the guy that played Otter and including Bluto's brother, Bloto (no, really!), as a main character. They also made the genius decision to sanitize the college frathouse party life and make it family friendly. I don't need to tell you how this turned out.

Eddie and the Cruisers 2 - Eddie Lives!: This one still amazes me because it was not made because the original Eddie and the Cruisers was a hit, but because John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band turned the soundtrack to the original into a huge hit on the music charts. Let's consider the ways this one went south: It was a sequel to a movie not many people saw in the first place, they made it hoping to cash in on the music, it starred Michael Pare - one of the worst actors of any generation, and...oh yeah...fucking gives away the entire plot in the title. See, Eddie died in the first movie, but we can all see what happened in the second movie. The exclamation point at the end was supposed to make it exciting. I guess.

Caddyshack 2: The shining jewel in the horrible sequel crown. Believe it or not, I watched this thing all the way through in stunned horror. Not only did I not laugh once, not only is Chevy Chase the only original cast member to make an appearance (and he's in it for barely 10 minutes), but Dan Ackroyd so completely rips off Bill Murray's grounds keeper act that even I was offended. If they were friends before this came out, I can't imagine them being friends afterwards. The only positive thing that can be said about this movie is that it ended the careers of Jackie Mason and Dyan Cannon once and for all.

Meet The Fockers: This is still the only movie that actually pissed me off while I was watching it. I enjoyed 'Meet The Parents' and the concept of Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand playing Ben Stiller's hippy parents certainly sounds funny. Unfortunately, this continued the process of Robert DeNiro selling his artistic legacy to the highest bidder. It comes off as being one of those sequels that had the original cast together for a limited amount of time which forced them to scramble and forget to put stuff together. Like writing a script or being funny. Stuff like that. I didn't even pay for this and I feel cheated.

Analyze That: Hey, another crappy sequel starring Robert DeNiro. You would expect one involving Billy Crystal (see below), but DeNiro should know better. He going to be making 'Taxi Driver 2' soon, too?

City Slickers 2 - The Legend of Curley's Gold: Yeah, they made a sequel to the already lame original about three whiny middle aged men going through menopause. Or something. The trick with this one was somehow resurrecting the one good thing about the first one. Namely Jack Palance (who won an Oscar). Unfortunately, Palance's character died in the first one so the ingenious plot behind this one involved....wait for it.....his twin brother and his attempt...oh who cares. Let's just move on.

Dumb and Dumberer - When Harry Met Lloyd: Just read that title again and keep in mind that not even the Farrelly brothers or Jeff Daniels would come anywhere near this.

AfterMASH: Technically this was trying to cash in on the 'MASH' television show, but since that was based on a movie, I'm including it. This was CBS' attempt to keep their cash cow and signature television series afloat after the original 'MASH' went off the air. It was built around Radar, Jamie Farr and Harry Morgan's characters working in a regular hospital in - I think - Toledo, Ohio of all places. I might be wrong about that, but I'm not wrong in remembering this didn't last a full season.

The Next Karate Kid: Mr. Myagi is back, but he couldn't get any other boys to join his 'karate training camp' (otherwise known as being his slave) so he had to settle for Hilary Swank. You know what? I don't think I need to go further than that.

Teen Wolf 2: I'm embarrased to admit I watched this entire movie. I was a big fan of the first and kept thinking this would get better. After a while I was just stuck. I couldn't turn away or shut it off. Michael J Fox doesn't return (unsurprisingly) but we're lucky enough to get Jason Bateman back before he learned how to act or be funny in any conceivable way. Oh, and he doesn't play basketball, he boxes. In college. Yeah, a college boxing league, which - while I'm no expert - I'm fairly sure doesn't exist in any known universe. Even one that has kids turning into cuddly werewolves. If you wondering why Bateman had trouble getting work until 'Arrested Development' look no further.

Bad Boys 2: I'm not even sure how this got made in the first place. Did the original make that much money? Is it because Will Smith agreed to be in it? Whatever the reason, this ridiculousness is the worst of Micheal Bay's many bad movies. Believe me, that saying a LOT!

Jaws - The Revenge: The third one was bad enough, but at least that shark didn't have some sort of bizarre radar so it could attack only members of a certain family. The thing even swims down to the Bahamas after Chief Brody's wife. No, seriously! See, this shark is pissed that Brody killed it's mother or father or something and is taking revenge on the remaining family members. It's so pissed it swims thousands of miles to waters it couldn't possibly survive in and finds where Brody's wife (who, by the way, flew down in an airplane!) is staying. Keep in mind this was made before GPS. Shockingly, Michael Caine stars in this. I can only assume he was supporting some drug habit. This is still, by far, the worst movie I ever paid to see.

Today's distraction: Check out the upcoming sequels in production. I noticed an 'Austin Powers 4' as well as a new 'Ace Ventura'. I couldn't get details on whether Jim Carrey was involved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Movie Reviews

The Queen: One of the watershed moments of my life was hearing Princess Diana had died. It wasn't that I was particularly fond of her or obsessed on what she was wearing or what charity she was working. It was just shocking. News that sobered and made you realize anything could happen at any time. That life could change in an instant for anybody regardless of title or wealth or privilege. I - and many others, I'm sure - will always remember where I was when I heard the news. It ranks up there with the shuttle disaster, 9/11, Larry Bird's retirement announcement, Len Bias' death, the 2001 Patriots Super Bowl, the Red Sox 2004 World Series win and finding out Benny Hill died as moments I will always remember.

I bring this up because 'The Queen' is not only a behind the scenes account of the British Monarchy in turmoil from mishandling the death of Princess Diana, but because - for the first time - I feel like there are actual people behind the icons. Hellen Mirren is astounding as the Queen, but so are the actors that portray Tony Blair, Charles, Phillip, Victoria and all the other 'characters' (who all happen to be real people still living). Every performance in this movie is flawless, which speaks well of director Stephen Frears.

One of the points of the movie isn't so much that royalty are people, too (everyone's warts are on full display here), but that Queen Elizabeth may have been taken for granted by her own country. Yes, she completely mashes up the Monarchy's response to the death of Diana (not flying the flag at half mast, issuing no statements, not showing up in London) but it was an unprecedented event. Since Diana wasn't technically royalty after her divorce from Charles, she was considered civilian. Royal decree states that no flag should be flown at half mast over Buckingham Palace unless a member of the royal family has died (or by Queen's decree).

Elizabeth was a traditionalist surrounded by other traditionalists. Diana's personal relationship with the Queen is only hinted at, but it seems things were beyond strained. As Charles says 'People don't know the Diana that lived here, they only know the public one. There were two Dianas'. The marvel of this movie isn't that the Queen and others are humanized, but that despite the crisis, you (or at least I did, anyway) are suprised by the respect you have for the Queen by the time this movie ends.

Here is a woman who has sacrificed her entire life in service to her country. Decorum must be kept, tradition maintained, and the will of 'her people' must be observed. Elizabeth (as well as her advisors) made the mistake of not realizing how much Diana meant to her country. To 'her people'. When Blair's speech writer coined the term 'People's Princess', he hit the nail on the head. 'She was one of them' is a prevailing line throughout the movie. A line the Monarchy doesn't fully appreciate until it's nearly too late.

The impressive quality of this film isn't that we see the Royal Family as flesh and blood, but that despite seeing them and their flaws, we wind up admiring them more than ever. I have no idea if Queen Elizabeth approved of this film or not, but she should. It emphasizes her grace and dignity more than tradition ever could. Already on my list of the best films I've seen this year.

Notes On a Scandal: Another great acting movie, but not sure I can recommend this one. Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett are fantastic in this, but every character's behavior goes beyond questionable. Blanchett plays a married high school teacher who somehow rationalizes away her affair with a 15 year old student. Dench finds out about the affair and uses it to worm her way into Blanchetts life. There is an under current of lesbianism with Dench, but in a creepy, stalker kind of way that makes things very uncomfortable (which is the point).

To top it off, Blanchett's character is also a mother of two (one of which has Down Syndrome) and has a devoted (if older) husband. The movie is extremely well done and if you want to see to actors at the top of their game, then you would want to see this. The patterns of behavior with the two main characters, however, make it hard to like - or root for - either one of them.

DreamGirls: Here's my problem with musicals. When the entire cast spontaneously launches into a musical number that forwards the plot, how does everyone know the same words to the song? How do they automatically know the dance moves? I can forgive all of these things if it's fun and electric (the Ray Charles scene from 'Blues Brothers' where everyone is dancing in the street is a great example), but you won't find many scenes like that here. If anything, the singing becomes an annoyance and actually slows down the movie. The movie works best when they are performing on stage, you know, where singing and dancing are supposed to take place. But, even then it succumbs to the MTV habit of never keeping the camera still.

I never understood why directors do this. One of the charms of musical numbers is seeing how everyone is so coordinated and in sync. But with this movie the director seemed more concerned about trying to create an 'iconic' scene (silhouettes with the crowd cheering behind the shadows or the girls posing while sparks fly all around them) instead of just letting the moment take control. The camera never stops moving during the musical numbers, as if somehow the constant changing angles made things more exciting. I would rather simply watch an extended single shot of a musical number than seeing it while we fly in from 40 different angles.

Even with that, I could have forgiven those moments, if others weren't so botched. Two in particular standout and they were (I'm guessing) supposed to be seminal moments in the film. The first was when they kick out the best singer in the band. There is an extended musical number of her refusing to leave the group that was (again I'm guessing) supposed to be emotional, but I finally turned to wifey and said 'Christ, does this song ever end??!!'

The second, and bigger missed opportunity, was when that same girl was auditioning for a club owner to be the nighttime act and get back into singing. It was simply her and a piano player on stage, but when she started singing, suddenly drums and an entire orchestra joined in while she obviously lip synced the entire number. Here's my problem with that. Wouldn't it have been more effective if they just had her singing and the piano playing? Why not film it live so we can actually get a glimpse of how powerful a singer she would be in an intimate setting. Instead we get the pre-recorded version that will be available at a store near you!

Complaints aside, Eddie Murphy (yes, Eddie Murphy) was fantastic in this! If you want to see Eddie actually act, then feel free to rent this. Otherwise, skip it. Not missing anything special.

Today's distraction: Another movie scene quiz. Hopefully I haven't run this one before. There are so many I can't remember which I've posted.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Dee Duper

Just a friendly reminder that today is Super Tuesday! It's not too late to write me in on your ballot! BeachBum for President. C'mon, let's make this a reality. I'll even reverse the outcome of the Super Bowl by claiming Eli was using brain enhancers during the playoffs.

At the very least, let's freak some people out.

I don't want to actually be President (which, in my book, means I would be great at it), but do think the White House and politics in general desperately need a shot of common sense injected into it. Plus, I have a great sense of humor and have no problem telling leaders of other foreign countries to fuck off. Honestly! I do it all the time. Why do you think Castro is getting ready to step down? I bartered my political adivice for a lifetime supply of Cuba's finest. Score one for me! And Cubans.

Anyway, if you want to get my stances (yeah, I have some!) you can read this entry from a long, long time ago. Seriously, I've been in the race so long I've actually forgotten to campaign or raise money know...file papers and shit like that. No wonder I couldn't get into the debates. I'm particularly proud of my 'Hookers for Iraq' idea!

By the way, remember how I wrote 'Does anyone really think Eli Manning is going to lead the Giants to the Super Bowl' in my playoff preview? Well, in the post where I announce I'm running, I wrote: 'You really think we're going to elect President a man who's middle name is Hussein and last name is one letter removed from 'Osama'?'

Ladies and gentleman, the next President of the United States: Barack Obama! Thank you. My prognostication skills know no bounds.

Wait, let's put this to the ultimate test.

Does anyone really think I'll get promoted to a job that pays six figures and requires virtually no work or skill?

Here are the states having primaries today. I would tell you to get out in vote, but it's kind of crappy here in Boston, so don't kill yourself. Not like your vote even matters in the land of Democrats, anyway. Here's a hint, whoever the Democratic candidate is will win Massachusetts. I know, crazy call on my part!

Idaho - Democratic only
Kansas - Democratic only
Montana - Republican only
New Jersey
New Mexico - Democratic only
New York
New Coke
North Dakota
West Virginia - Republican only

Rock the vote!

On a semi-related note, today is also Fat Tuesday, which kicks of Mardi Gras. This is a much more fun filled Tuesday than waiting in line with an entire bus of retirees. Not sure how often we have a Super Fat Tuesday, but it's got to be around every 4-8 years. Just a guess.

Lorraine McCaslin helped usher in Fat Tuesday by waving a green hanky around, wearing beaded sunglasses, and flashing anyone that cared to look. Considering she's 83, I'm thinking it's a short list. OK, she didn't really flash anyone, but she did claim that Mardi Gras has healing powers. 'I can have aches all over and when Mardi Gras comes around, I feel no pain', says McCaslin. I'm thinking the pain comes after the alcohol wears off.

I believe that's called 'Hangover Monday'.

Today's distraction: Follow the elections with CNN's ElectionCenter. They combined it into one word to make it seem more important. Let's see if they declare a false winner at some point during the day. That's always fun!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Stun City

I am so disappointed.

So close to that mythical 19th win. So close to becoming immortal. Yes, immortal. Like the '72 Dolphins this team would have been discussed until the end of time. They would have been that good.

That's the thing about perfection - it's nearly impossible to achieve. With the salary cap, free agency, injuries, coaching changes we probably won't see another team reach 16-0 in the regular season in our lifetimes. It is - and was - an amazing achievement.

But I would trade that for another Super Bowl win. Easily. I speak for many Patriot fans when I say that 16-0 is now meaningless. I would rather have a 14-2 team that wins it all than a 18-1 team that loses the only game that matters.

Rubbing salt into the wound is losing to Peyton Manning's semi-retarded younger brother. If anyone told you at the beginning of this season that Eli Manning would beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl (on a last second touchdown no less) you would have laughed. Then had them committed.

What's bizarre about this loss is I really can't complain about the game itself. The officiating was top notch, the Patriots didn't play that badly, there was no 'holy shit' moments. In truth, the game itself was rather dull. If I didn't have a rooting interest in it, I probably would have turned to something else a few times.

One thing for sure, this will not go down as Bill Belichick's finest moment. There were two crucial parts of the game where he misplayed things. The first - and most obvious - was not kicking a field goal when they had the chance. The Pats were up 7-3 and the game was obviously developing into one of those 'get any points you can' type of game. It was fourth and 13 or 11 or something and even I couldn't believe he went for it. I'm usually all for going for it on fourth down, but not this time. Not when the points were needed. And boy did they need them at the end of the game.

The second part was when the Patriots were down 10-7 and they were on the five yard line. First and goal with the Giants sucking wind. Several of the defensive linemen for the Giants were shown taking themselves out of the game to catch their breath. They were on their heels. Do the Patriots pound the ball with Maroney and Faulke? Do they try to ram it down the Giants defense to take time off the clock and demoralize an already exhausted defense?

No. They pass (incomplete), pass again (incomplete) and pass again (TD to Moss). Yeah, they got the touchdown to take the lead, but they took virtually no time of the clock. What would have happened if they rushed even once? The Giants touchdown came with 35 seconds left. I know, I'm Monday morning quarterbacking, but at the time I was screaming at the television 'Pound it in! Take some time off!' At the very least they would have taken some time off, then kicked a field goal to tie if all else failed.


Still, those are my only two complaints about the game. The Pats offensive line sure looked sluggish; a second too late in picking up blitzes and adjusting to the Giants alignment, but that had more to do with the Giants being quick and efficient. They were impressive last night.

If one play epitomized the feel of the game, it was the fumbled hand off to Bradshaw (I think). One of the Patriot players seemed to fall on the ball and have possession, but Bradshaw got into the pile and fought to get that ball back. By the time the refs had things straightened out they awarded the ball to the Giants. There was nothing wrong with the call, it was just proof the Giants wanted it more.

Wifey asked me after the game, 'You pissed they lost to a New York team?' and realized it didn't matter. For whatever reason, I never despised the Giants the same way I hate the Knicks, Jets, Yankees and Mets. In fact, when the Patriots were going through their suckiness phase in the 80s (and 70s and 90s, for that matter) the Giants were the team I most admired. I liked the way they focused on defense and fundamentals. The Dallas teams were always the ones I couldn't stand.

No, what bothers me more about losing to this Giants team isn't that they didn't deserve to win. They did. They completely outplayed the Patriots for nearly the entire game.

It isn't that the Patriots laid down. Although Mr. Hobbs, I haven't forgotten about that horrible brain fart of yours at the worst possible moment in the biggest game of the season. You let Burress get BEHIND you with no safety help and the Giants needing a touchdown? Inexcusable.

What bothers me most about losing to this Giants team is that we will now be shown even more Manning brother commercials. It was bad enough they kept showing Peyton in his cushy little skybox (where was Archie?), but now the Double Stuff Oreo, the DirecTV and who knows what other new ads will be inundating us for the next five years. Just what we need is more Manning brother commercials. I'm surprised they didn't unveil a new one during the Super Bowl.

One other wrinkle I found interesting. It used to be that Belichick and his schemes were the arch nemesis of Peyton and Eli and any other panic prone quarterback. Now the tables have turned and the last two years, Belichick's teams have been defeated in the playoffs by a Manning. Times, they are a changing.

Congrats, Giants. Well earned. As Tom Brady has certainly told Eli, enjoy it now. There's no telling when you'll get to appreciate another.

As for us New Englanders, we still have October.

Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks!!

Today's distraction: A report card on the Super Bowl ads. Must admit, they've been disappointing the last few years. Even the Bud Light ads have been below par. My favorites were the E-Trade ones with the baby on the computer (you can see this on page 2 of this article) and Jackie Moon (page 4). Worst: Ben Roethlisberger for American Idol. Just an embarrassment.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lost - Part 1

Finally! 'Lost' is back - demented and confusing as ever.

Before you read on, I'm going to recap last night's show, so if you haven't seen it don't continue.



Summary: As it should be, things picked up right where they left off from last season's finale. Hurley and Claire learned about Charlie's death in an emotional scene. Doubts about the intentions of the people arriving in the boat literally divided the survivors. Locke led the group that went into hiding while Jack and the rest stayed and waited for the 'rescue'.

Locke showed up out of the blue again after Hurley saw Jacob's cabin in the jungle. Peaking through the window Hurley saw the shadow of a figure in the rocking chair (like Locke last season) before someone's eye showed up and scared him away.

We also saw Hurley after he has been rescued from the island. He loses it, leads police on a high speed chase and meets Ana Lucia's old partner. Hurley claims to have not known Ana Lucia. It also seems Hurley has lost his mind, as he is committed and is grateful for it. Oh, and he has a nice conversation with Charlie. Yeah, dead Charlie. Turns out seeing Charlie 'by the Ho Hos' is what sent Hurley into his mental tailspin.

What We Learned:

- Only six of the survivors return from the island.

- Jack was actually very well put together after his return. He visits Hurley in the mental hospital and is adamant about never returning to the island.

- There are people keeping an eye on the survivors that returned. One visits Hurley in the hospital and offers him a 'place by the ocean' and asks 'are they alive?'

- Jack would have literally killed Locke. He wrestled his gun away from him and pulled the trigger only to learn it was empty. A shocking, unsettling moment for viewers and the other survivors.

- Hurley has visions, too!

- The actor playing Charlie will still have plenty of work in the coming seasons.

New questions: Yeah, can't go one freakin' episode without raising a whole bunch of new questions.

- Who are the remaining three that return? We know Jack, Kate and Hurley are three that have come back. Who else?

- Why doesn't that helicopter chick (the one who had the satellite phone and who Locke stabbed in the back) experience the healing powers of the island? Christ, Locke was just shot in the stomach and he's already back to normal. Do you have to be a believer?

- Why didn't she turn in Locke when talking to her colleagues on the boat? She just claims she fell, then dies. What gives? Is she trying to get the people on the island no matter what?

- Were the 'flashbacks' of Hurley in the mental hospital from past seasons actually 'flashforwards'?

- What are the true intentions of the people coming onto the island? We meet one of them as he parachutes onto the island right at the end, but he doesn't look familiar (I was half expecting it to be Michael).

- Why did Locke forgive Ben so quickly after he shot him in the stomach and left him for dead? If it were me, I would have hung him from the nearest tree. Ben seems to get off the hook an awful lot.

My New Theory?: I put a question mark because nothing on this show can be totally explained away. Anyone still remember the polar bear that was on Walt's comic book?

Anyway, here's mine: Hurley is behind everything. He has some sort of psychic power that even he may be unaware of.

Bear with me for a minute. In the opening season, Hurley wins a huge lottery and becomes a sort of celebrity. Immediately after, things start going south for him. His grandfather dies, his mansion burns down, his new fast food joint gets hit by a meteor and kills a local television reporter and he crash lands on a remote island with crazy people and a smoke monster that kills people at random.

Not once, but twice in last night's episode Hurley willed away visions. First Jacob's cabin, then Charlie.

Jack seemed to be fine about being home (he mentions he's back doing surgery to Hurley). My guess is that he starts having doubts almost as soon as he visits Hurley. Does Hurley plant the idea that 'it wants us to come back' in Jack's head? Isn't that basically the same thing Jack said to Kate at the end of last season?

Hurley is the one who knew about the numbers from his lottery win. Suddenly, they start showing up everywhere on the island and even in the airport as he's walking to get on the plane.

The question is why would he be causing this? Well, considering his size, upbringing without a father, and his general lack of self esteem, maybe Hurley didn't really think he deserved that hundred million dollars. Subconsciously he could be creating disaster for himself. I mean seriously...a meteor?

Again, just a theory, but don't forget that Libby was in the mental hospital with Hurley at some point, too. Maybe he imagined her on the island after the crash. Maybe he's been the one imagining everyone's back stories, which could explain why some of the same people keep appearing in other people's lives. Remember Hurley and Locke sharing the same boss? Remember Libby being the one to give Desmond the boat he uses to race around the world? Remember Locke's father being the same guy that Sawyer was looking for? Did Jack's father operate or interact with Hurley at some point?

I could probably never prove it, but do more of the survivors have some connection to Hurley than anybody else on the island? This could also explain how some of the people don't seem to age (like the dark haired guy with the eyeliner who makes Ben kill all the other Dharma people). Also, didn't one of Hurley's old patient friends show up on the island in Season 2? The bald guy from 'Sex and the City?'

I know, I get carried away, but part of the fun of the show is trying to figure out the puzzle. I know I never will, but damned if I'm not going to look foolish for trying.

Today's distraction: Enjoy some 'Lost' questions and semi-answers. Just enjoy the ride, folks.