Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The real reason mom foists muffins and eggs at you on the way to school

- HEADLINE: Study: Teens Who Skip Breakfast Lose Virginity Earlier

That's right, nerds. Drop the Toaster Strudels!


- DURING HIS CAMPAIGN, the Obamessiah promised to create over save 1 million jobs. He upped that to 2.5 million over two years last month. Now? He raised the goal to 3 million.

Why not just say 100 trillion? And everyone gets to groom puppies while riding rainbows to work? It's just a meaningless number and no one will ever remember or hold him to it.


- BLOOMBERG COLUMNIST Albert R. Hunt says Caroline Kennedy should be senator because, in his words, she "hails her own cabs."

Heck, don't make her a senator, give her the Nobel Peace Prize!


- OBAMEDIA NOW, on their hero's exercise habits: “The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games. ... Obama has gone to the gym for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row." Says Obama pal: “He doesn’t think of it as something he has to do — it’s his time for himself, a chance for him to reflect. It’s his break. He feels better and more revved up after he gets in his workout.”

Same paper, The Washington Post, a few years ago on the current president's fitness regimen: “Am I the only person who finds this disturbing? ... What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy. ... Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement? It’s nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does.” (Courtesy Michelle Malkin.)


- HEADLINE: "In Tough Times, Americans Cling to Christmas Trees."

In a follow-up report: "Pine Needles Are A Good And Cheap Substitute For Acupuncture."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008 at Mom's

This weekend Team Valfrey drove over to Chapel Hill, Tenn., to see my Mom, sisters, aunt, Granddad and assorted nephews and cousins.

I'm not sure if Val thought holding onto the Lite Brite would provide enlightenment, but all Nate saw was a sailboat:


Saturday night, me, Val, Stacy, Steph and cousin Jennifer drove up to the Cool Springs area to see Twilight. For my sisters it would be roughly their 30th viewing, for Jenn her second, and a first for Valfrey. Val was actually intrigued. I, of course, will go along for anything so long as it provides a decent story for this here blog.

Alas, the 5p showing was sold out, and we didn't care to see anything else showing at the same time. Since cousin Karla had brought the young'uns to see Bedtime Stories and needed us to take them all back to Chapel Hill afterward, we went to the Galleria for dinner and to pass the time.

I will note that we gave teen Jenn every opportunity to abandon us old fogies to shop on her own, and she refused the chance every time. Not that we're uncool, but really, when you were 15 how many 33 er, 29-year-olds did you hang out with on a weekend?

Since I had to come back with something to report from the trip other than spending $7 at Kirkland's on a lot of awesome Christmas stuff that was on sale (see, I'm such a fuddy-duddy), based on my unscientific research of just noticing what was on the feet of other shoppers, it seems that at least one-fourth of teen girls and even some women in Nashville wear those Ugg boots (whether they're original or knockoffs doesn't matter). It was almost silly how many had them on during a night that was 70 degrees and clear with me in shorts and other women in revealing tops and skirts. That, plus Val and I just saw on the Style network how Uggs have been out of style for a long time. Get with the passing fads, Nashville! (Disclaimer: Being a Memphian, I have a general mistrust and distaste of Tennessee's capital city, which is far too full of itself and treats West Tennessee like a redheaded stepchild.)

Back at Mom and Aunt Lynn's, Steph and Nate baked cookies, although in three batches my sis was never satisfied with the result. It was a cookie massacre.


The boys all got identical Wii pajamas to wear while playing the Wii for approximately 45 hours in a row. And I'm barely kidding. Dont' get me wrong, I'm not criticizing. I remember being about 10 and getting a Nintendo for Christmas. I still have imprints of the arrows and A and B buttons in my fingers from Tecmo Bowl and Super Mario Bros. Even better, we got the system with the track & field game that came with a pad you could run on for the game. We figured out that if you ran on your heels you could run a 100-meter dash in about, oh, three seconds.


Mom got Val a Slanket, which is a softer version of the Snuggie you've seen in all the commercials, and yes, she was incredibly excited. When we got back Sunday night the first thing Val did was slip on her pajamas and put on the Slanket and curl up on the couch. I'm not sure I'd wear one to a football game like on TV, but it would make me feel one step closer to being Obi-Wan Kenobi.


Unless you've seen "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog," you'll have no idea why I keep singing "A man's gotta do, what a man's gotta do!" My crew that has to listen to me direct, will no doubt know most of the good quotes over the next month, and as usual they'll have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.

Stephanie actually bought the DVD, and she, I, Val and Stacy watched it, watched the extras, and both commentaries late at night. One of the commentaries is a musical in itself, and pure Joss Whedon magic. Between Whedon's work and the songs from the guys who make "South Park," modern musicals leave nothing to be desired.

Cousin Karla's daughter, Evie, tolerates those weird boys, but she's a girly-girl through and through. You can never have too many dolls, just like I can never have too many tools. The Barbie Jeep is the equivalent of a table saw. Same joy, different results.


Mom was glad to have us there just so we would eat all of the food they'd prepared. All kinds of meats and breads and desserts covered the kitchen, and three kinds of soups, which probably sounded better when we didn't know it would be 70 degrees all weekend, but was delicious anyway.


Now comes the post-Christmas letdown, and the most unproductive workweek all year. Monday is going to be spent recapping each others' Christmas with the co-workers and then New Year's Eve will start to control everything on Wednesday. If you have to go to work on Friday, the post-partying/football food and liquor hangovers should take care of any actual work you should accomplish. Good times.

Oh, and did I mention that since Granddad got a new flat-screen TV, he let us take home his big old boob tube? Bonus!

No chestnuts roasting, but Christmasy nonetheless

It was a very merry Christmas at Valfrey Estates. We greatly enjoyed having roaring fires going, there were tons of presents under the tree, and the stockings were full of goodies (not yet filled when the pic was taken).


The below gift from my mom and dad-in-laws was certainly one of my favorites, sure to be worn while I make my chili and grill outside. I always tend to think that buying gifts for me is easy because I don't hide my passions, and these kinds of presents make my heart sing:


Val bought me several items for around the house in my new role as Mr. Fixit (such as a toolbox and a level with holes that make it easier for hanging things), Dad contributed a Home Depot shopping spree, and Mom bought me and Val a new down comforter that we wanted, and now find ourselves stretching around in like a Woobie. We have so many good presents and gift cards that should keep us giddy through Valentine's Day, at least. We're also suffering tummy aches from trying to finish all the candy before Friday when our diet starts anew.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Good tidings

I trust everyone had a joyous Christmas, and are now ruing that it's another 364 days until the next. No! Not yet! I will not give up! I'm still listening to Christmas music, and our decorations don't come down until after New Year's. I figure since we're still driving to middle Tennessee this weekend to visit family, the holiday continues. So Val and I will sing carols for 3 1/2 hours there and 3 1/2 hours back, and fight, fight against the dying of the Christmas light!
 
Now, because we don't get enough, here are some heartwarming stories for the Christmas season ...
 
SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- A couple of Kansas teens have played secret Santa. Salina city bus driver James Lucas says a teenage boy and girl passed out Christmas cards on his bus the other afternoon. He says shocked passengers found a $20 bill inside each of the cards. Lucas guesses the teens were about 17 or 18 and aren't regular passengers. Lucas got one of the cards himself. He says no one on the bus realized there was money inside until the young benefactors had gotten off.
 
MANHASSET, N.Y. (AP) -- Air Force Capt. Michael Schaefer is a new dad. While he wasn't able to join his wife in person, he was a virtual presence in the delivery room. Schaefer is deployed in Asia, some 6,000 miles from the Long Island, New York, hospital where Jackson Jeffrey was born. But Schaefer was able to share in the experience via a Webcam. New mom Gannon Schaefer says it was like having her husband by her side. Capt. Schaefer is a survivor of the Pentagon terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. He's due to return home New Year's Eve. He says he can't wait to hold their first baby.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- No one's getting Christmas gifts at Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's house this year. It's not that anyone's been bad. Actually, Smith says his son Trey came up with the idea for his birthday last month and now they're doing it for Christmas, too. They bought gifts that will go to charity. Smith says he got "all teary" when Trey explained his plan. Smith says Trey "had all of his friends bring gifts to the party and they took the gifts to the cancer ward at Children's Hospital."

MIAMI (AP) -- When Dwyane Wade heard the plight of a South Florida woman whose nephew accidentally burned down her home -- and ruined all the family's possessions -- the Miami Heat star knew he had to do something. So he helped the family move into a new home, just in time for Christmas. Wade presented Dawn Smith with the ultimate Christmas gift on Wednesday -- the keys to a her new house, along with some furnishings, clothing and gifts to make sure her family has a joyous holiday, something that didn't seem likely just a few weeks ago. His Wade's World foundation will make some payments on the home, while Smith and her family get back on their feet. Wade's other holiday events this year included a party for 350 children on Monday, and hosting 100 kids at Tuesday night's Heat game against the Golden State Warriors. He also donated $10,000 to each of three children's organizations, but said he was particularly touched by being able to assist the Smith family.

(AP) -- Billy Ray Cyrus visited Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville with Miley earlier this week. They signed autographs for the kids and sang Christmas songs with them. Cyrus also gave the Vanderbilt diabetes clinic a check for $60,000 on behalf of a nonprofit organization. Meanwhile, George Jones' wife delivered several hundred toys to the hospital after holding a toy drive at their home.

 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

May all your wishes come true


Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Here they go again

Dang Yankees. For weeks we've followed the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes to find out where the highly sought-after first baseman will end up, with the names suitors being the Red Sox, Baltimore, Washington and Anaheim. His evil agent, Scott Boras, kept demanding more and more than the eight-year, $160 million offered by most clubs, and the Sox and Angels publicly pulled out. So what happens last night?
 
The dang Yanks swoop in and agree to a $180 million deal for eight years, basically mooning every other baseball team in the process, this following CC Sabathia's $161 million, seven-year contract and A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million, five-year deal.
 
I know. Poor, poor, put-upon me, a lowly Red Sox fan with a team that "only" spends $150 million a year on a team that is always favored to make the postseason.
 
Whatever. It will just make it even more fun when the dang Yanks don't win the division again and the Steinbrenner boys flip out and blame everyone and not excluding the guys who clean the jocks of the most star-studded losers in history.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sing Along!

I was a big fan of Joss Whedon's musical episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and have the soundtrack to this day. (In fact, that's what I was playing in the car during my and Val's first date.)

Lately I've heard of this internet sensation "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," but I knew nothing about it. And then my sister Stephanie said she was buying it now that it's on DVD. Okay, it's 2 a.m., might as well see what it's all about.

Turns out, it's by Whedon, starring Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie, Barney) as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Fillion from one of my top-ten favorite shows of all time, "Firefly," as a-hole hero Captain Hammer, and Felicia Day as Penny the homeless advocate and love triangle interest.

The songs are obviously written by Whedon, hilarious and move the story along. It's 42 minutes and in three parts. Check it out on the official site. Here's a clip:

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Pre-Christmasy Weekend

I resigned myself to being satisfied with my Christmas lights for Phase One of Valfrey Estates Christmas Spectacular:


The way I see it, next year if I spend as much it will look that much better, then the next year, then the next year, and by year five I should be able to land airplanes in the backyard by the strength of the lights and decorations in the yard. And yes, I am aware that the lights don't go all the way over the garage.

Friday night we headed over to party with the Jackson Gang, at the Medina home of Meredith and Chad, whose home is so spic and span and full of fashionable decor that it could be the show house for Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel or Pier One.


We enjoyed a lasagna dinner, and much to Val's thanks Chad took my usual role of eating food off the floor, pocketing any of the thin biscuit thingies Meredith accidentally knocked off the stove.

The ladies ate at the table and played cards, no doubt discussing the latest recipes and Good Housekeeping articles, while us guys sat on the couch discussing fiance and dark matter theories while whittling statues of eagles out of chicken bones.


Or not. The guys sat on the couch watching Anchorman and giggling like five-year-olds who just discovered how to make fart sounds with your armpit.

But we did all gather 'round for a game of CatchPhrase, one of those games that involves a lot of yelling and action, a sort of Hot Potato for adults. My team won, if only because I got gems like "sex change" as a clue. I'm not sure what it means that Roger got that one so fast. Meredith, meanwhile, ended up with "hail mary pass," and thought it was part of Catholic mass and thus couldn't come up with a good enough description. Only if Terrell Owens starts pulling a rosary out of his jock after catching touchdowns.


The joke was on me, ultimately, as we brought gifts for a "Trash to Treasure," a.k.a. "Dirty Santa" swap, bringing stuff from home. I could've swapped with Chad and gotten a nice beach frame that would have gone great with our bathroom's theme, but no, I wanted to check out something new, and thus ended up with something Heather eagerly got rid of. I'm pretty sure it's the Ark of the Covenant, though, so it may come in handy if I'm caught by Nazis.

Saturday morning and afternoon we stuck around home watching Christmasy stuff and cleaning. And napping. But I did get the right order at Taco Bell for once, so happy holidays to me.

Saturday night we went to the annual Burk Christmas Extravaganza, family of my mother-in-law, always full of good food, presents and sing-along caroling.


Val made me a pumpkin pie for one of the desserts, a sweet gesture and her first attempt. I could tell her it was good, but when her cousin Jonathan requested we leave it for him that made her night.


Before opening gifts (we pull names out of the hat), the family gathers for karaoke Christmas-style. The good times are split between singing heartily and making fun of those who are "too cool" to sing about pipers piping and milking maids.


Sunday we braved the mall in the morning, although we never made it more than 50 feet inside of Macy's, so we didn't actually make much of a sacrifice. We did, though, get our share of Christmas shopping frustration across the street at Toys 'r Us. It wasn't the other shoppers, but the employees, an aloof bunch whose attitude says, "Please don't bother me, I really have no idea where the Blues Clues stuff is, so I'm just going to say that we don't carry it anymore." A real helpful group of seasonal employees. And either they ran out of big bags or no one wanted to look, because the clerk used a trash bag for our big item. You stay classy, Toys 'r Us.

Sunday afternoon we bought a starter log to try out the fireplace for the first time in Valfrey Estates. Smoke didn't start pouring out, so good times there. Too bad the pile of wood in the backyard is rotted, so I'll have to buy some more. Or just cut down one of our godforsaken trees in the front yard and chop it up while cackling and burn it unmercifully.

Sunday night, more Christmas joy with the choir and orchestra at First Baptist Millington. They didn't sing any classics, like "Santa Baby" or "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," but the religious stuff's cool, too. But does this make me a horrible person, that I was just hoping for a pleasant holiday concert, and then Bro. Rusty makes us stand up every few songs to sing along, and I just wanted to sit down and be entertained and smile goofily without actually having to participate? I know, it's such a burden to be a Christian, what with all the praying and worship to the heavenly Father who has bestowed so many blessings.

At least the pastor, Bro. Ray, didn't get up there blaming the government for starting AIDS, not that there are any prominent preachers like that out there who spiritually mentored an incoming leader of the free world or anything.

Next up, working all week, but interspersed with moments of Christmas fun with family from all over. With unmistakable style you come to expect from Thanks For Noticing Me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AT&T is a horrible, horrible company and I hope all of the higher-ups' Christmas trees burn their houses down.

I just called AT&T, and they say that because the touch screen is cracked on my brand new cellphone and even if I didn't do it (which I didn't), that it voids the warranty and the return eligibility, and I'm liable for the phone. After the first guy basically said I'm a moron for letting the screen get cracked and I should have bought insurance on the phone, the customer care lady could "only" offer me a few phones that wouldn't be full price, none of which are free, and a couple are $300.
 
Am I ticked? Yes. So much that it's either cold or I'm mad enough to be shaking.
 
Ridiculous. Screw you, AT&T.

No Humbugs here

If you've seen every Christmas-themed movie on TV, there are a lot of options for local Christmas entertainment. Few, however, provide as much unintentional comedy as a trip to the community theater for an amateur production of a dramatic work. Friday night, we had just such an experience. If it were an SNL sketch, we'd stand hypnotized outside, repeating, "It was better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again."
 
Team Valfrey joined up with Val's parents and sister to take in "A Christmas Carol" at the Ruffin Theater in Covington, about a half-hour north of Memphis for those unfamiliar with the area. We certainly weren't expecting acting or sets of Broadway caliber, or even off-off-off Broadway, but when during intermission the director (who is also one of the background players - wearing tennis shoes with an old-fashioned suit) has a ticket stub drawing on stage to hand out a gift basket, you know this is small town America at its Norman Rockwell best.
 
Then again, at The Orpheum Theater downtown you can't go to the back during the show for a hot dog and popcorn and not miss anything, so extra points for Covington.
 
In this adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic work, stay tuned for the dramatic five minutes of silence as you wait for Scrooge to undress into his pajamas behind his bed, and two acts later, just to keep you on your toes, does it again as he re-dresses!
 
The guy who played Scrooge was actually pretty good, and he had to be, since he had to dictate everything in the play to compensate for more amateur players, such as Bob Cratchit, who had the same expression when Scrooge doubled his salary as when Scrooge nearly told him to come in Christmas day.
 
A couple of times, the narrator - who otherwise did fine with all the lines she had to memorize - nearly lost it, first when she called our little hero "Tiny Tom," and again when the little boy under the ghost of Christmas Present's robe was stuck, then came out looking seriously droll and leaving the audience tittering with his monotone delivery.
 
Val similarly got a case of the giggles during intermission when her Dad said that he'd have to wait to place a vote for best performer on the insert in our program in order to make a better educated choice.
We're pretty sure he was being sarcastic. We're still not sure whom to vote for "best male actress," as the director called it, and can't even find that category on the paper. I didn't realize it was "that" kind of production.
 
Not that we weren't spellbound by the Ghost of Christmas Future, who had trouble with his creep departure, not being able to see much under his hood, flailing his arms looking for the curtain. Or Mr. Fezziwig, who joyously bounced around and danced on stage as if he won the lottery. There were these two cackling "old" women in cockney accents and dirty clothes who were pretty good, or at least seemed to really be enjoying themselves. It's a lot tougher to play "guy walking around with bread in a basket."
 
I did feel for the director when we were informed that a couple of performers were sick and others had to fill in as best they could. For instance, the producer had to pretend not to read lines off a paper hidden on the floor as the guy buying Scrooge's belongings in the future.
 
At the end, a curtain call, awkward applause, and since it's a local to do, the performers simply walk out into crowd when it's over.
 
My mother-in-law was the biggest advocate for seeing the play up there, while the rest of us were just up for some holiday culture. We were worried that she'd be offended if she heard us laughing at some of the things mentioned above, but she was giggling as much as anyone else. Afterwards, over a late dinner at our favorite Mexican place in Atoka, we shared some laughs, so really the play did what was intended in bringing family together at Christmastime. So it's got that going for it.
 
May you all buy the biggest turkey hanging from the window and see your own version of "A Christmas Carol," whether it stars George C. Scott or the Muppets, and get chills as Tiny Tom exclaims, "God bless us, everyone!"
 

Life is validated

I get satisfaction. Michelle wins THE BIGGEST LOSER, and Vicky didn't. That's all that matters. Sure, Heba won the prize for those who were kicked off, but only after she had to face a live rebuke from 84 percent of viewers who decided that even though she and Ed begged for her to make the top three, they'd rather see Ed, even after he obviously gained weight in the last weigh-in to try and get Heba into the top three. So the good guys win it all, the evil Blues barely get any applause, and Bob goes home to cry and eat chicken like Ben Stiller at the end of "Dodgeball" after losing to Jillian again. The only way things could have gone better is if Amy P. or hubby Phil had won the at-home weigh-in, but I think they received their reward already, if they read any of the forums trashing their evil counterparts.
 
Monday night, HEROES finished up their "Villains" story with the destruction of both Primatech and Pinehearst, and a-hole Nathan whining to the pres to round up all those with abilities. (Think Ando will be happy to have those new powers now?) I'm not sure I like how they turned Sylar into an unrepentant serial murderer, as opposed to a serial murderer who at least had potential. Not that the cat-and-mouse chase wasn't fun to watch. He's still a hoot, even when super-duper evil.
 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oh Miss Scarlett!

Whomever researches the Memphis Memories section of the Commercial Appeal is on a roll, because this is what they picked out for Dec. 15, 1883, 124 years go:
A fight between a couple of girls yesterday in front of Court Square attracted a large crowd, including several policemen, all of whom enjoyed the proceedings immensely. The two belabored each other with their tin buckets, pulled hair, scratched and cried, but one finally said so many bad words that the officers were forced to separate them for decency's sake.
Hair pulling and slapping? That's cool. Cussing? Too far!

Tilting towards anarchy

It's official. My bud Steve "transferred" from his station to work with me, and now our plan to take over the world can finally be put into motion. Bwahahahahahahahaha!

There's a freezing rain warning for Memphis tonight and tomorrow morning, so naturally most of the city is in full panic mode. Cries of "Remember 1994!" ring out from people hanging out their car windows on the way to Kroger to buy up the last of the honey wheat bread (Kroger brand, because who cares if you get the Colonial brand when trees are falling on your house?). Meanwhile, Val's been sick, I never fixed up the fireplace so we missed out on a good night for a raging fire, and, oh yeah, when I was on the ladder over the garage fixing sagging lights, Val called, and it was so cold that it shattered the cover of my fancy new AT&T Tilt cellphone. Which wouldn't matter, except that that it's a touch screen phone, so I can't use many features, and everything else involves time-consuming scrolling. So there's that frustration.

I can't entirely complain about the SURVIVOR finale. I had been rooting for Bob most of the season, so I can't be upset that he won, though by the end I was rooting for Sugar to win it all. However, the jury shut out Sugar in the voting, and I'm puzzled as to why. Even though she spent the first half almost entirely at Exile Island, she managed to control the game by cultivating relationships with those in power at the time, and it was because of her respect for Bob that he didn't get sent home sooner, and he owes half the winnings to her as gratitude.

A big CONGRATULATIONS to my big brother Scott and his lovely wife Jenn for running the Dallas half-marathon this past weekend. To say that I'm impressed would be understating my respect for y'all's dedication, hard work and faith that you could do it. Good job, guys!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hop in the Way Back Machine

- THE MORE I READ from Memphis Memories in The Commercial Appeal, the more I want to spend a day in Memphis in 1908. This is from Dec. 9, 1908:
Atty. Gen. Newt Estes is in luck. After spending several hours riding horseback in Overton Park, throwing his hat in front of him and picking it up on the run, he discovered that his watch had fallen out of his pocket. He announced a $10 reward and within 30 minutes the watch had been found on one of the bridle paths and returned to its owner.
And from Dec. 12:
The Higbee school girls defeated the Memphis High girls in a basketball game yesterday on the Higbee campus.

Field goals were scored by the Misses Perkins, Skipwith, Williams and Dutro. While it was an interesting game it was marred by much bickering by each side. Gilbert Schloss was the referee.

- HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "Fort Myers Resident Lamely Fires 68 in PGA Q-School"

If he wasn't so lame he would've shot a 65.

Without the Tiki Torch




Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas



For you, it's all about sharing times with family.

Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Outwitted, finally

SURVIVOR - Another episode worthy of high-fives at the end. And once again, Sugar rocks. She consistently does our bidding and now I'm thinking she deserves to win Sunday night in the finale. She stayed out of the fray by being at Exile Island 2/3 of the first three weeks, successfully picked sides, and has knocked off people we don't like, first Randy, now Crystal, and it was all her doing. Matty was full of anger but it took Sugar to pull he and Bob into an alliance that would break up Ken and Crystal, the two worst players to ever control the majority of the game. Thank you, Sugar!
 
BIGGEST LOSER - This week was an absolute waste of two hours. We knew going in that no one was going home Tuesday, and that America would vote for the third finalist, so we fast-forwarded through all the babble. Which was the first hour and a half. And then after the weigh-in we fast-forwarded past the goodbyes, and all in all two hours boiled down to 10 minutes of watchable footage. It was satisfying to see Michelle guaranteed to make the final three, but I would rather have seen Vicky in the bottom two. She can't win, can she? No way she loses enough at home once she actually has to talk to her kids whom she didn't want to hear from during her evil time at the ranch. Go Michelle!
 

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?! No!!

Obama's spiritual advisor for 20 years and former Marine spent the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor remembrance day preaching at his old Trinity Church and hilariously disturbingly thinking that it was the day we bombed Japan:
"Today. Is December 7. The day that this government killed. Over 80000. Japanese civilians. At Hiroshima in 1941. Two days before [killing] an additional. 64000. Japanese civilians. At Nagasaki by dropping nuclear bombs on innocent. People."
He also referred to Elizabeth Hasselback of ABC's The View as "that dumb broad."

Stay classy, Rev. Wright, you insane and dangerous anti-American.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jeff's Top 5 - Shows Val and I Enjoy

Back in January of 2007 while still living in Atlanta I posted a Top 5 on shows Val and I enjoy watching together.

Things have changed a lot since then, such as Bob Barker leaving "Price is Right" and Drew Carey being awful, and "Playmania" is off the air after screwing up the format, so let's see what's on our list now. Instead of being specific, I'll divide it into categories.

1. Reality show of the day - Dancing with the Stars, Amazing Race, Survivor, Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, Design Star, The Bachelor, etc. Whatever we can talk about and make fun of and predict just what inanity will follow.
2. Game shows - The 5p, 6p and 6:30p trifecta of Cash Cab (Discovery Channel), Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune. While fixin' dinner.
3. Clip shows - The Soup is the best of the bunch, but this can also include "best of" lists such as 80s videos on VH1 or stupid movie star mistakes on E!.
4. Non-reality programming - Heroes, 24, Lost, The Mentalist, CSI Miami, How I Met Your Mother.
5. Sports - Red Sox, Cardinals games in the summer, Cowboys games in the fall.

Top 5 shows I watch alone because I'm pretty sure Val doesn't give a rip, but she'll watch with me if options are slim:

1. Mythbusters - Val will get interested if it's a cool topic, but otherwise I'm on my own.
2. History Channel features - Their "The Universe" series is enjoyable when it's talking about topics other than crap like parallel universes. Thanks, I'll watch Star Trek for that.
3. Home fixit and landscaping shows - We'll watch decorating shows together, but this be man's territory. (Tim The Tool Man Taylor)Arr, arr, arr! (/Tim The Tool Man Taylor)
4. House - Too much gross stuff for my delicate wife, and I'm fine with that. Sometimes I'd rather not see closeups of bloody pulps of strange diseases, either. Plus House is an a-hole.
5. Pardon the Interruption - I watch this when she's going to sleep and I'm staying up a few minutes in bed. Val will perk up and listen if it's a topic that interests her, and I have to drug her to get a good night sleep.

Top 5 shows I think Val watches when I'm at work and she's got the TV to herself:

1. Chick movies - The TV kind, on Lifetime, Hallmark, Oxygen, etc.
2. Legend of the Seeker - If she wasn't home alone she would never watch it.
3. Brothers and Sisters - I have no idea what it's about, or who's on it.
4. Cold Case - It's on after The Amazing Race, but she'll skip it and not care.
5. Star Trek movie marathon - Okay, I'm just fantasizing here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Vermont to Ken's tummy

I found out last night that one should probably let others know if they have a vacation memento that is edible but is being saved.
 
Val tells me about her brother Ken looking for syrup in our cabinets, of which there is none since we don't make pancakes or waffles. But he did find a little bottle of syrup shaped like a leaf in the back of one cabinet, and Val said go ahead, try it, though she didn't know how old it was. She just figured I had it left over from long ago.
 
Except that it was syrup actually bought in Vermont from my trip with Dad to New England in 2001.
 
When Val found that out, she had that "holy crap" look on her face, but I can only assure her that it's kind of funny, because who would ever imagine that one of your souvenirs would end up in the stomach of a starving brother-in-law seven years later?
 
Val does assure me that he Googled if it was okay to eat syrup that is years old, and supposedly it is. At least he hasn't gotten sick or sprouted an extra leg, so maybe syrup ages pretty well.
 
(And I have been eyeing that candy Val saved from her bachelorette party two years ago ...)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A well deserved win

As much as Val and I yelled at the TV during this season of THE AMAZING RACE, the finale was at least satisfactory. Our favorite team didn't win, but the team that deserved to win, the brother/sister duo Nick and Starr prevailed over Ken/Tina and Team Superbad, who fell behind immediately after landing in Portland, Oregon, so no worries about undeserved champions.

The editing was cringe-inducing and worked since it made us worry, though Nick and Starr were probably far ahead as the teams ran through downtown, which was underwhelming. At least make them lift a car or something for the final clue, right?

Ken/Tina recommitted their separated marriage on the final mat, so that she can yell at him for her mistakes for another 20 years until he cheats on her again. (Is that too cynical?)

We felt sorry for Toni and Dallas, stuck after losing their passports in Russia, and thus the only team not at the mat at the end. Hopefully the producers gave them spending money, so at least they got a big furry hat out of it.

Last night on HEROES, Hiro is once again emotionally tortured and left in the lurch, which is getting old. And Peter continues to be a big wuss, but at least Sylar awesomely took out Arthur, even though Sylar's now again a mass murdering wacko. Is Nathan a complete moron? Yes, indeed. Really, let's give select military guys powers? Wasn't there an "X-Files" episode about super soldiers like that who turn out to be insane? That should work out well.  
 
Meanwhile, in real life, I try to sympathize with co-workers when they start complaining about how they need more time for sleep or errands because for one day out of six months they had to come in on a Saturday or Sunday. Does it make me a bad person that I totally don't care, and am kind of offended that they choose me as a sounding board? Don't complain to me about one rough day when that's my schedule every day, every week. And then there's the co-worker who complains of being tired every morning. Hey, we're all tired. It's 4 a.m. and we're all at work with little sleep. You ain't alone, but you are alone in moaning and groaning about it for eight hours straight. And for those of you who also work weekends, have crazy schedules due to working two jobs or having kids, feel free not to sympathize with me and tell me to buzz off.
 

Monday, December 08, 2008

Heartbreak Hotel won't work, either


- HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "Disco Tune 'Stayin' Alive' Could Save Your Life"

Among those not recommended: "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M., Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms" or "Moving on Up" by M People.

- A WARNING FOR NEXT YEAR'S OSCARS, from Mark Hemingway of National Review Online, that the film Milk will be this year's political Hollywood award winner. It's going to be a middle finger to all those yokels who voted against Prop 8 to legalize gay marriage in California.

- VIA THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL's Memphis Memories, back in Memphis 125 years ago this week, there were Injun problems, but not like you think:
(Dec. 6, 1883) - Three Indians, two women and a man, created a sensation on Main yesterday. They were as ragged and as ugly as it is possible for humans to be and not at all in keeping with the juvenile idea of the noble red man. Each of the squaws had a baby which she carried tied up in a quilt and slung over her back at the end of a stick. A motley crowd followed at their heels to whom the Indians paid not the least attention.

(Dec. 7, 1883) - The police are having trouble with the Indian tramps who struck the town a few days ago. In addition to the papooses each of the women had, it developed that the trio was also traveling with three bears and a monkey. They are constantly obstructing the streets by drawing crowds of street arabs and have been ordered to leave the city.

- IN AN AP STORY about troubled Kansas City mayor Mark Funkhouser (tee hee, funny name), there are 1,101 words, not one of which actually mentions his party affiliation.
Which, of course, means he's a Democrat.

- CONGRATS TO the first Vietnamese-American - a child of Vietnam War refugees - to get elected to Congress. Don't expect to hear anything about how important this is - he's a Republican. Who are all old rich white men, you know.

- THEN AGAIN, diversity and "protected group" think isn't the same as it used to be. A black Christian woman in Toledo was fired from her university post for writing an anti-gay letter to the editor of the local paper.

- DO YOU OWN A DIGITAL CAMERA, and just don't feel like you're getting enough out of it? Here are clever tips for digital camera owners.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Don't dump your RV waste in my sewer

The Clark Griswolding of our house has begun! I spent all day Friday putting up lights on the house, the bushes, lighted garland around the porch posts, and lighted candy canes lining either side of the driveway, all in my first effort at eventually blinding the cove with a display even "Christmas Vacation" would envy.
 
Then, tonight, Val and I peeked out the blinds and saw that the young couple across the street is putting up lights as well. With inflatables and a lighted tree.
 
Oh heck no. This will not stand. It's on!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rhymes with "icky"

"She" survives another week on THE BIGGEST LOSER, and now that we're down to the final four she's going to think that she has a chance to win, and that irks me.

What irked me even more was that NBC decided this week to try and make Vicky a sympathetic figure. Er, no. Too late. Maybe the producers just don't want her to get booed at the finale? I call horsehockey on the idea that she's not still evil. We're only two weeks away from her giant "REVENGE" sign, and yet, I'll bet she doesn't see now normal people react when their loved ones are kicked off, when Michelle no doubt doesn't vow "to get the bitch" for her mom's exit this week.

If Michelle doesn't win, this will be a lost season. Ed was already kicked off and we don't like the twist that he was brought back, Heba revealed her to be a "what about me" person a long time ago (and thus it was no surprise that she is a big fan of Tyra), and, of course the icky one.

Meanwhile, on SURVIVOR, I'm not upset that Mean Girl Corinne is out, just that it means Bob needs some serious wheeling and dealing to convince Matty and Sugar to join him or else let Ken (there's nothing worse than an arrogant nerd) and Crystal control the game. Which would also irk me. I'm terrible vexed by my reality shows.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Next year, People! Next year!


- PEOPLE MAGAZINE NAMED Hugh Jackman the Sexiest Man Alive.

And once again, I end up thisclose to the award.

- STAY CLASSY, STATE OF WASHINGTON: A Seattle artist selected to create an ornament representing Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle for the White House Christmas Tree included a message calling for President Bush's impeachment. It will not hang on the tree. (My ornament of McDermott would have had a picture of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 2002 while getting paid under the table.)

Meanwhile, in the Washington state capitol, an atheist group's sign with an anti-religion message was placed next to the "holiday tree" and nativity scene. The placard reads, in part, "There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

- SOMETIMES I GET THE IDEA that Commercial Appeal movie reviewer John Beifuss is 55-years-old, unmarried, childless and eating frozen dinners every meal? At least that's the idea I get from his look at Four Christmases:
Not only are Brad and Kate unmarried and childless, but they aggressively claim, early in the film, that they don't want to get hitched or reproduce. This assertion, of course, depressingly negates the movie's sometimes Scrooge-like sense of irreverent anti-family humor by immediately tipping viewers that the entire film -- like one of Jigsaw's contraptions in a "Saw" sequel -- has been constructed to de-program and funnel its rebel victims, Brad and Kate, into the socially approved states of wedlock and parenthood.

- SURE, THE NEW CAPITOL VISITOR CENTER in Washington was completed more than $350 million over original projections and four years behind schedule, but at least the common folk won't wrinkle Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's nose anymore:
"My staff has always said, 'Don't say this,' but I'm going to say it again because it's so descriptive because it's true," Reid said. "In the summertime, because (of) the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol."

- A SON WENT ALL TANNENBAUM ON HIS DAD: "Authorities say a Florida man who lives with his parents has been charged with attacking his father with a Christmas tree and its metal stand." Could've been worse, they could have celebrated Festivus.

- DURING HIS CAMPAIGN, the Obamessiah promised to stick it to Big Oil with a new windfall profits tax. Now? Never mind.
Obama has shelved a proposal to slap the oil and gas companies with a new windfall profits tax because oil prices have dropped so much in recent months, the transition team confirmed today.

"President-elect Obama announced the policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel," a transition aide said. "They are currently below that now and expected to stay below that."

- NEW UT HEAD COACH Lane Kiffin might want to start a charm offensive by issuing blankets to Vol students and staff, at least if you read these competing headlines with a curious eye:

"Kiffin Introduced as UT Coach; Will Make $2 Million in 2009"--headline, Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel, Dec. 1

"University of Tennessee buildings will be colder this winter and warmer next spring as UT aims to cut its annual energy bill by $2 million."--Knoxville News-Sentinel, Dec. 2

(Courtesy OpinionJournal.com.)

- WALTER SCOTT, "writer" of Parade magazine's Personality Parade, has apparently never heard of religious tracts, if you believe his answer to this question:
Q: I loved Kirk Cameron on TV’s Growing Pains, but now he just does Christian-themed movies. Is he serious about his faith? —Barbara M., Cincinnati, Ohio

A: Very. Cameron, 38, is a partner in an evangelical ministry and is unapologetic about doing movies like his recent hit Fireproof. “I’ve been in cheesy movies,” he admits, “but an inspirational message doesn’t make a movie cheesy—not if it’s well done.” What some reporters found less than inspirational was Kirk handing out fake money bearing a warning to sinners while he publicized Fireproof.
Gosh, you mean a devout Christian actor, at a premiere for a movie with a Christian theme made by a church, might actually have the gall to witness to the high-and-mighty press? Outrageous!

- NOW THAT THEIR GUY WON, you can expect a lot of ho-humming from the Obamedia about such a story: "Ex-ACORN worker admits voter-registration fraud". Of course, had Obama lost, and any Republican had been caught, you surely would expect an uproar and lawyers flying in from all over the country to overturn the results.

- HEADLINE: "Mobile Phones Eavesdrop on Aussie Koalas" - Reuters, Nov. 25
"Crikey!" says Nancy Pelosi as she demands hearings on the Bush administration.

- FROM THE COMMERCIAL Appeal's Memphis Memories for December 1, 1958:
For a fleeting instant yesterday Memphis State had a bowl bid -- the Tangerine Bowl at Orlando, Fla. And then harsh reality crept up and turned the Tigers out. They're on probation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for violation of the code, involving two basketball players. No bowl bid next year, either. The brief interlude in the clouds began with a call from Jack Morgan of the Tangerine Bowl committee to the sports editor of The Commercial Appeal. "This is a conference call," he said. "Our committee members are listening. How good is Memphis State's football team?" "Very good." "Good enough to play in our bowl game?" "Yes ... but there's one hitch. Memphis State's on NCAA probation." There was a brief, pregnant pause at the other end and then several "Ohs."
Ladies and gentlemen, this is U of M Tiger football!

- MERRY CHRISTMAS, JESUS:
What do you get the person who has everything—except adequate health insurance? If you live in Indiana, consider this offering from the state's Planned Parenthood affiliate: gift certificates in $25 increments.

The vouchers, available online and at 35 clinics statewide, can be used for health services or contraceptives. And yes, they can be used to pay for abortions. ...

- STUDENTS AT AN OTTAWA UNIVERSITY canceled a fundraiser benefiting cystic fibrosis research because the disease isn't diverse enough. Of course, it isn't true, but they thought it was only an affliction for white males, and that was enough.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full

I'm still getting used to my CPAP at bedtime. It's not the falling to sleep, it's keeping it on my face in the middle of the night. Sometimes I'll take it off without realizing it for a few hours, at least until Val pokes me. She thinks it's funny, though, when I experience what I call "waking sleep," where I wake up out of a dream and ask her a question or make a statement that makes perfect sense to me, but confuses the heck out of her. She's not sure why I would ask about Albert Pujols drinking Fanta by the dolphin statue, and frankly she'd rather not know what the dream was all about.
 
By the way, the CPAP is also leaving marks on my face, which goes well with the indentions on either side of my head from my glasses. Plus sometimes the mask gets oily and leaves bumps around my nose where it fits the snuggest. But hey, at least I'm not snoring, am I right? And I can tell a heckuva difference when I sleep without it, because I wake up with my mouth full of gunk and my body feels weird. I can't encourage others who might have sleep apnea to try a CPAP, STAT, ASAP, on KP, on LSD, or PCP, or whatever.

Heroes worship

Dancing with the Stars may be done, but my updates live on in other shows ...
 
THE AMAZING RACE - This was a strange leg to get down to the final three, with our favorite team, Toni and Dallas, last after he left their wallets and passports in a cab, and Phil left the comfort of the Pit Stop mat, tracked them down and eliminated them on the spot. Awkward. Team Superbad may not deserve to be here, but they still would have made the top three because they passed Ken and Tina despite having to do a Speed Bump which required some semblance of coordination by dancing. Meanwhile, Tina is projecting all of her mistakes onto Ken, and he looks ready to go home and go play golf every day for a year just to get away from her for a few hours a day. Nick and Starr continue to dominate and if they don't win there's no justice in reality TV. Toni and Dallas may have been likeable, but seriously, why was doltish Dallas assigned the task to solve a Roadblock clue when his mom admits that he probably had no clue who Lenin or Stalin were?
 
HEROES - So, I guess Elle isn't the mother of Sylar's future child after all? Good episode, especially seeing Hiro get used for actual hero work instead of having to pee or commit pranks to fill time, which is still better than what Peter's been given lately. Great use of Seth Green and Breckin Meyer in cameos. Oh, and what was that refreshing glow about this week's show? Oh yeah, no Tracey/Jessica/Nikki, whoever she is now, though the Mohinder annoyance lives on.
 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back to work, suckers!

Everyone out of your turkey comas now? No longer stuffed with stuffing? Done cramming cranberries down your esophagus that is already backed up by gravy? Geez, just how much pie can you eat, anyway?
 
You know all those who bemoan starting Christmas until after Thanksgiving? Well, suck it, because yeah baby it's time to bring on Christmas!
Ahem. Anyway, Team Valfrey enjoyed two, TWO Thanksgivings, ah ah ah! (To borrow from "Sesame's Street's" The Count.) I've been working since Tuesday and will continue working through Wednesday, so I skedaddled out of here Thursday at noon in time to make it to Val's grandmother's for the feast. Saturday my mom-in-law's side had a Thanksgiving get-together, so more overeating before going to work, with the leftovers for dinner that leaves everyone else in the building wondering what that great smell is coming from the break room. Of course, if they touched any of it, they would pull back bloody stumps, so Happy Holidays, and all that.

The best part of the food: We bought a ten-pound Honeybaked Ham for Saturday, but needed only about seven. How convenient, more for us at home! Bwahahahahahaha! My precious!!!!

(Do I seem to be in a sinister mood tonight, like a friend of the Jonas "we believe in chastity" Brothers leaving naked groupies in their rooms as a prank? I'm really fine, but hey, it's Sunday night and I'm at work until 10, then coming back in at 3 a.m., so I think it's a natural survival response.)

Friday night was the highlight of the weekend, decorating the Official Thanks For Noticing Me Christmas Tree and the living room of Valfrey Estates for our first Christmas in the new house. All while watching that holiday classics, "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers," extended editions. Hey, there are snowpeaked mountains and gifts exchanged, so it counts. And most of the blood from the beheadings runs red, so that's festive in it's own way. 

Now I'm trying to figure out if I want to try to put up outdoor decorations. Is it too soon to attempt such a feat in our new house? Should I start simple, with some lights on the bushes and along the gutters, but avoid inflatables? Maybe some candy canes lining the driveway, a wreath on the door. No Santa on the roof with real reindeer, right? Too "Christmas Vacation?"
 
I'm sure y'all will be hanging on every update. I, however, will either be in a Honeybaked coma, working or napping until Thursday.

Jeff's Top 5: Silly Movie Moments

Five "That's just silly" scenes:

1. James Bond skis down a falling glacier in "Die Another Day."

2. Natalie Portman falls 200 feet from a speeding ship and dusts herself off and keeps right on going in "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."

3. A frakin' UFO in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

4. Steve Buscemi shoots a machine gun in space in "Armageddon." Why are there so many weapons on those shuttles? And yes, I know, this is only slightly more silly than sending a bunch of roughneck drillers into space to blow up an asteroid the size of Texas that would end life on Earth.

5. Jack Nicholson pulls out a gun with a really, really long barrel and shoots down the Batplane in "Batman," after Michael Keaton's Caped Crusader misses the Joker with a barrage of gunfire.

Honorable Mentions:

Any of the embarrassing moments in "There's Something About Mary." No one's that stupid, right? I could also go with that "milking a cat" stupidity in "Meet the Parents."

Jason Statham flips his car 360 degrees to remove a bomb from the underside, scraping it against a shipping crane in "Transporter 2."

Bruce Willis rides a water main break in "Die Hard With a Vengeance."

Surviving with barely a mussed hairdo in the middle of an F5 in "Twister."

Mark Wahlberg lands at the feet of the Ape-braham Lincoln Memorial in the remake of "Planet of the Apes."

Anything with Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now."

It's raining frogs in "Magnolia."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I'm Thankful For, 2008





Now that Obama is president, the oceans will recede and people will stop being sick.

Joel McHale and 30 minutes of hilarity every weekend on "The Soup."

My wedding ring, which I use like a superhero to ward off female admirers. (Stop laughing. I could have a couple. Or a desperate one.)

Quotable movies, or else my vocabulary would be cut in half.

The Masters, a tradition unlike any other.

Christmas music.

Soldiers at home and abroad doing what I'm too spoiled to do.

Hymns I can actually sing.

Our new house in January, moving into Valfrey Estates in March, making the home all our own.

Family and friends who helped remodel and make it happen, especially Val's uncle Glenn for fixing the bathroom walls and the leak in the roof, and Val's sister's husband, Randy, for changing out almost all of the light fixtures.

The big honking scar on my belly meaning a troubled gallbladder is gone, good health insurance for paying for all but $100 of it, and work allowing me two weeks paid leave to recover.

On a related note, gastrointestinal medicines.

The goosebumps I get when someone is baptized.

Dad living in Miami and doing so much to help us come down for our second anniversary.

Family and certain friends this summer, for you know what and you know why. Val and I can't appreciate y'all enough.

John 11:35, "Jesus wept," giving everyone at least one Bible verse they can remember.

Turkey and dressing at Old Timer's and blooming onion at Outback Steakhouse.

When waiters write down my order instead of memorizing it.

The Lord of the Rings movie scores.

Old Time Pottery.

Tigers basketball for an undefeated regular season and 38 awesome minutes in the NCAA championship game.

Playing fetch with in in-laws' dogs, even when Patches sits on a chair and barks while Sam actually plays along.

Wall-E.

Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon as the core who kept the Red Sox playing into October.

100 calorie Swiss Cake rolls.

Adorable nephews and cousins.

Kickers (the final stories of a newscast) that make working in TV news fun after all the horrible news at the beginning.

Crock-Pot to make Mom's chili.

Lower gas prices.

My Darling wife Valerie, with whom I never knew how much I enjoy snuggling on the couch watching our favorite shows and movies.


(Hop in the Way Back Machine for the 2007 edition and wayer back in 2004.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New phones

Val and I suffered through our Motorola Razr cell phones for two years and I heard this is a good time for hope and change, so I utilized that bogus "available for upgrade" B.S. that AT&T fed us and re-upped on the chance that wireless service isn't supposed to totally suck.

Val wouldn't let me get her a super-duper fancy phone, so she has to make due with a regular flip phone that at least can play music and hold a ton of pictures. I went with a Tilt, which is a touch-screen phone that also has a slide-out keyboard. I don't care to pay extra to check e-mail or surf the Internet, I just want the Microsoft Office tools to write blog notes and travelogues while out and about so that I'm not toting around fifty pages of scribbled notes everywhere I go. Plus it plays music and looks cool.

Seeing that he's on our family plan, we got Val's Dad's a new phone as well. In fact, his phone was purchased first by several days and arrived ten days later, a good five days after our phones arrived. Thanks UPS. Where's your magic marker commercial guy now?! Not that the package didn't make it to Memphis in the 3-5 days as promised. It's just that three days after that there was a note on the tracking site that informed us that his phone was now in Rocklin. That's in CALIFORNIA. Which, for the geographical misinformed, is a whole 'nother state. After a trip to Sacramento and Louisville, the package made it back a few days after that, with nary an apology or supervisor falling on a sword in shame.

Meanwhile, we couldn't get my Tilt to sync up with my PC and the memory card faltered so I had to re-format it and re-download all of the pictures and music, 4 GB worth. Even when I got it to sync up, it's easier to mess with the music by removing the teeny tiny card and inserting it into a USB adapter that plugs into the computer. Which seems primitive, just one step away from playing Pong. (I have Ms. Pac-Man and Tiger Woods Golf on the phone, though I have to pay for the whole thing to get more than a tease. Bastards.)

I'm thinking that I was just guilty of bad AT&T karma. Before I got my phone I wanted to go to the AT&T store to play with one on display. There weren't any, and one of the associates went to the back to open one up. I told him not to go through all the trouble, trying to warn him that I wasn't buying it from him, but he went ahead and opened the box and even loaded the software. I played with the Tilt, fell in love with it, and of course when I told him that I would be buying a refurbished one online he had the look like I just told him I was going to the nursing home to punch his grandmother in the face. He kept calling out about how he could do everything in the store that I could do online, but his pleas didn't work on me as I inched away awkwardly in guilt. Later I didn't feel so guilty when the AT&T chick at another store got an attitude with us when she wasn't understanding our desire to buy accessories to Val's phone that the store did not have, and kept pushing us to get stuff we either had or didn't want.

Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed that with phones like mine, technology takes a step back while making steps forward? At least, here's how I see the evolution of the internet:

Dial-up days - Bare bones sites, few graphics because it would take too long to load.

High-speed days - Very flashy, full of graphics, large sites made for widescreen LCD monitors.

Fancy cell phone days - Sites optimized for reading on a cell phone, all text, bare bones.

I really watch too much TV

Not that I'm going to stop, mind you, but I am aware. (At least I spend some of it on the exercise bike.)
 
On last night's DANCING WITH THE STARS, as with last spring the woman who was the best technical dancer with tendencies to be boring won, and thankfully it was Brooke and not Warren, who would have been the most insufferable "champion" in the history of any show.
 
For some reason they have the finale last two hours, and didn't start it until 8, meaning we had to wait until 9:55 to find out the winner, which is longer than it took for the Obamedia to give The Obamessiah the presidency on election night.
 
Over on NBC and THE BIGGEST LOSER, Amy C.'s lack of committing to a side cost her as Vicky cast the deciding vote. Amy can only blame herself for not voting out Vicky when she had the chance and siding with Renee and Michelle and tossing out the two most repulsive Losers in the history of the show in Heba and Vicky.
 
Sunday night on THE AMAZING RACE, Team Superbad seemed doomed (finally), but lived again in a non-elimination leg, even though they can't read clues, the neglected to retrieve their shoes from the previous leg, can't wrap their feet correctly in a Detour and can't march in formation. Seriously, you couldn't walk as uncoordinatedly as Dan if you tried. The broke drunk Russian soldiers even found him a laughingstock, and are probably thinking, "We lost the Cold War, how?" Meanwhile, Nick and Starr won this week's entry in "Who gets the worst, most lost cab driver," and the mother/son team won a leg for the first time, and continue to get our hopes up for a victory.
 
Onto non-reality TV, 24: REDEMPTION. Meh. After a year-and-a-half of waiting, I may have lost interest for the same old, same old political intrigue, shadow groups and Jack saving the day after a lot of yelling and torture. The only reason I'll start the new season in January is to see how they bring Tony back, and to hear Jack say "Flank two position" and "Tell me where they are!!!!!" a zillion more times.
 
You want to know the best comedy out there right now? HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. I know, I know, you're thinking, "Cute, but great?" Yes. Every week Val and bust out laughing several times an episode, and they've got the 24-35 year-old demographic down pat. Or, at least, what we imagine our generation to be like.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey, anti-dentite, Dancing finale

I'm sure many of you are enjoying your three-day workweek. I, however, am on day one of nine in a row. Don't weep for me, since I'll still get my share of turkey at two family gatherings (Thursday and Saturday) and I'll savor the L-tryptophan that makes napping easier with every bite.
 
Speaking of biting, my teeth are sparkly clean this morning. Okay, so due to years of tea they're still more off-white than "George Hamilton white," but clean nonetheless.
 
Before my dentist appointment Monday morning there was no sense of dread. I didn't think twice about it. And then I sat in the chair. And was reminded that when they do those bite-wing X-rays that I tend to gag. A lot. So while they're putting those things in my mouth I'm trying to breathe out my nose, they're frustrated that my tongue is in the way when I think subconsciously it's just trying to help, and my eyes start to water. I'm not saying that it's tough to feel like a manly man in that situation, I'm just saying that even the Hanson brothers would be like Rocky, Detective John McClain and Shaft in comparison.
 
Then there's the scraping. I still can't figure out what to do with my tongue, and I still can't breathe because there are pools of saliva and whatever is coming off my teeth pooling in my throat, and I can't swallow lest the scraper end up embedded in my gums. Which aren't perfect because I don't floss regularly. And by "regularly," I mean, never in my life. Isn't enough that I've had a lifetime of sticking toothpicks in there to get out popcorn?
 
At least my wisdom teeth are gone, she didn't find any cavities and I don't have to do the X-rays for a year. So I've got that going for me.
 
On HEROES, things are getting good. Sure, eclipses only last like, what, ten minutes, but this one seems to be worldwide (even the half of the planet at night?) and lasting for hours, but we're not here to talk plausibility. It presents a new situation, "what happens when their powers are gone?" Not good things, for the most part. Meanwhile, I like the addition of Daphne this season, so can we see more of her and less of Mohinder? Can he die horribly and soon? And what's up with Elle? She goes from evil to having a conscience in milliseconds. The producers need to figure out if we're supposed to think she's crazy or a hero.
 
It's DANCING WITH THE STARS! The final performances!
 
To give you an idea of how much filler was in this show, we started watching our DVR at 8:15 and were finished at 8:45. A half-hour of actual meat and another hour of useless air. (No comments from the Peanut Gallery on the worthiness of reality programs in general.) 
 
When the dancing actually began, the "Samba Smackdown" led off, with a lot of bright yellow outfits and the three couples doing their thing for a minute apiece, back-to-back-to-back.
 
Brooke and Derek started off awkwardly and I started to think of her as the Titans, undefeated but still with holes. She's starting to look afraid to make mistakes.
 
Lance and Lacey did a lively number and were the best of the three and have been getting better every week. I'm starting to think they should win this thing.
 
Warren and Kym were the same old, same old, he can't really dance that great but the judges don't care. Except Len, who surprised everyone by giving him a 7. Otherwise the judges are typical of finales, kissing the couples' tails that "You were great! And you were great! And you were great! Gold stars for everyone!"
 
It's time for the Freestyle round, which is usually pretty silly and just an excuse for lifts.
 
Brooke and Derek come out firing with "You're the One that I Want" from "Grease," and it was pretty awesome. Sure, Brooke looked stiff and seemed to be thinking ahead to the lifts, but doggonit if those twirls and jumps and flips weren't  spectacular and difficult. 10s from the judges!

I take it back. Lance and Lacey don't deserve to win. They go with a hip-hop number, which is neither hip nor is there much hopping. Val and I don't like the hip-hop, especially on a ballroom show, so to risk hyperbole this was an affront to everything we hold dear. 9s all around from the judges, who noticed that Lancey didn't actually, you know, dance half the time.
 
Warren and Kym start out slow, with actual dancing, at least, and then end fast and furiously. 9-10-9 from the judges, and here's where I have to question Len. A 10, Len, really, after you said this: "I know you lack technique." And then he always adds the "but," and credits Warren for entertainment value. Un-frakin' believable. Hey, Cloris was entertaining, so why not give her a 10? Lance and Lacey were entertaining, but you were too busy noticing that they weren't wearing shoes. Consistency, Len! It's not just about pooping at your age.
 
Who should win? Brooke and Derek. Who will win? I'm scared that Warren will, but the audience came through last year for Kristi, so I have hope.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Outwitted

That was one of the most entertaining "Survivor" episodes ever. Seeing blowhard bigot Randy look like the a** he is the entire episode, and get fooled at the end that he had the immunity idol was entirely satisfying.

The producers must have had fun with it, too, because that was the first time they spent the last half hour setting someone up without any editing to indicate that it would go down any other way.

In other news, Ken is a moron, getting his money plus Bob's at the food auction and never bidding enough to win, including a hamburger and french fries. Dude, it doesn't get better than that!

Jeff reviews "Quantum of Silence"

No, I have no idea what "Quantum of Solace" means. But I do know that so long as Daniel Craig keeps playing Bond pretty much the opposite of Pierce Brosnan and the filmmakers avoid cheesy double-entendres and ridiculous stunts, then the franchise is in good hands.

Following up where "Casino Royale" ended, with Craig still ticked off about his love's death, "Quantum" is driven by revenge and covers all the territory you'd expect: car chase, boat chase, foot chase, airplane chase. The only thing we didn't see him doing was chasing a guy named Chase into the Chase bank. Meanwhile, it all happens in Italy, England, Haiti, Austria and Bolivia, which we know because the native women wear those funny bowler hats.

Unfortunately the editing of these chases is done in that modern quick-cut way that is confusing and leaves the audience wondering who's who. This movie isn't driven by Sean Connery's charm or Roger Moore's wit, it's pure adrenaline. Although, watching "Thunderball" the other night I couldn't help but notice Connery's outfits, Craig is a dead ringer for Connery in style, with the tight button-down short sleeve shirts and form-fitting pants. Yes, I watch too much "Project Runway," and I'm okay with that.

"Quantum" is surprisingly short at only 1 hour and 45 minutes, maybe too quick because I didn't feel like the plot had developed enough. We knew that the bad guy (Mathieu Almaric), whom I call Oilfinger for a reason you'll find obvious, was bad, but supposedly he was trying to control most of the world's water though I couldn't tell how he was doing this, why he was, or how soon he could accomplish his dastardly scheme. We do know that he actually was just a pawn for Quantum, which looks to be the new SPECTRE, a powerful shadow group with an unknown leader and hands in every important cookie jar on the planet. (Mmm ... cookies.)

The opening song, a staple in Bond films, is an awful duet with Jack White and Alicia Keys called "Another Way To Die." There's some yelling, and whining, and that was just me squirming in my seat. Go grab some popcorn (and get me some Twizzlers while you're at it), and you'll be fine.

I know that this is an Obama world now and we have to get used to this "cycle of violence" nonsense where we pretend that the good guys are just as bad as the bad guys, but still the "Quantum" script gets too bogged down in talk about the idea that good countries must deal with the worst elements and make deals with them for practicality, and it starts to get preachy and gets too close to turning into a "Lord of War" annoyance.

John Beifuss, critic for the Memphis newspaper The Commie Appeal, is a touchy-feely guilty liberal who peppers his reviews for social statements supposedly to protect women and minorities so they'll be nice to him when he hits on them in bars, so he decides that the term "Bond girl" is "not only sexist but anachronistic." Dude, get over yourself. It's a fun term for the 22 films that features some of the most beautiful and strongest women on screen. I'm not sure how he watches Olga Kurylenko in "Quantum of Solace" and decides she's a damsel in distress. She's feisty, she stands up for herself and she can kick butt. That she's a hottie is just a bonus. *cough*

Conservative columnist Mark Steyn sums up this kind of Bond viewer like Beifuss: "There are, broadly speaking, three reactions to Bond: those who dislike him; those who love him; and those who love him but feel obliged to deplore all the frightful imperialism, racism, alcoholism, chain smoking, snobbery, profoundly unsafe sex, etc."

I don't know how far Craig will go with Bond, but it will be a sad day when he leaves the tux behind. He may not order a martini "shaken, not stirred" or have a dozen gadgets at his disposal, yet his steely blue eyes, deadpan humor and resourcefulness are just what a 2008 audience wants from the world's most famous spy. And so long as he's here the franchise needs Judi Dench as M. Dench actually deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance as M, Bond's authority figure with a heart of gold.

Any doubts that I had about how much better this movie is were rendered null and void when I stayed up until 2 a.m. the other night watching "Die Another Day" on cable, which is even more insulting to the brain having to wait around during commercial breaks. I only remembered feeling embarrassed for the filmmakers and Brosnan for the "surfing the falling glacier" awfulness, but I forgot about the terrible dialogue, the back-and-forth between Brosnan and Halle Berry that consisted entirely of bedroom suggestions. Just terrible.

"Quantum of Solace" is better on every level. EVERY. LEVEL. Okay, except for the song. I'll take Madonna's over that that White-Keys travesty. But that's it!

Over the top Obamania

And you thought I was joking about calling him the Obamessiah:
"Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope....Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own."
That was written by Time magazine's Nancy Gibbs in the November 17 cover story.

Mark Steyn, meanwhile, has some problems with new Bond, Daniel Craig, choosing Obama as a better Bond over McCain:
Before we close the book on this election season, let me quote one of the most dispiriting asides on the subject. Daniel Craig, the star of the new James Bond movie The Audacity Of Solace – no, wait, A Quantum Of Hope - was being interviewed by Kevin Sessums for Parade (that supplement thingie that’s free in all the local newspapers), and as a final question was asked which of the two candidates would make the better 007:
Craig doesn’t hesitate. ‘Obama would be the better Bond because—if he’s true to his word—he’d be willing to quite literally look the enemy in the eye and go toe-to-toe with them. McCain, because of his long service and experience, would probably be a better M,’ he adds, mentioning Bond’s boss, played by Dame Judi Dench. ‘There is, come to think of it, a kind of Judi Dench quality to McCain.’
Oh, great. John McCain has survived plane crashes, just like Roger Moore in Octopussy. He has escaped death in shipboard infernos, just like Sean Connery in Thunderball. He has endured torture day after day, month after month, without end, just like Pierce Brosnan in the title sequence of Die Another Day. He has done everything 007 has done except get lowered into a shark tank and (as far as we know) bed Britt Ekland and Jill St John.

And yet Daniel Craig gives him the desk job.

On the other hand, Barack Obama has spent his entire adult life chit-chatting with “community organizers” and campus lefties – and he’s the last action hero? It’s true he’s offered “to quite literally look the enemy in the eye” without preconditions. But, given that he looked the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in the eye for 20 years and failed to notice he was an ugly neo-segregationist race-baiter peddling insane conspiracy theories, and that he looked William Ayers in the eye for almost as long and failed to notice he was an unrepentant terrorist, and that he looked Tony Rezko in the eye for an extremely beneficial real estate deal and failed to notice he was already being mentioned in the Chicago papers for various unsavory activities, I’m not sure Senator Obama is the go-to guy for in-the-field intelligence work.
In other news: " While demanding tolerance from others, gay activists apparently feel no need to show any themselves." - Thomas Sowell. Read why he says it, and be amazed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There's good and there's bad

The good: Congrats to plucky Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia for winning the American League MVP award yesterday! He's the first Red Sox player to earn the honor since Mo Vaughn in 1995; it is the 10th MVP award in club history. Well, actually 11. I still give Ted Williams the 1941 award for hitting .406, which instead went to Joe DiMaggio of the dang Yanks. Oh, make that 12. Mike Greenwell also should be given the award after finishing second to Jose "I'll make out with a horse as long as I get paid" Canseco.
Some stats to back it up, because I'm sure a lot of folks who root for other teams are quite surprised:
 
Pedroia led the majors with 54 doubles, tied Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki for first with 213 hits, and ranked second with 118 runs and 61 multi-hit games, both AL highs. He also stole 20 bases in 21 attempts. He became the third Major League second baseman ever to tally 100 runs, 200 hits, 50 doubles, and 20 steals in a season, joining the Yankees' Alfonso Soriano (2002) and the Astros' Craig Biggio (1998).
 
Even more important, with Manny gone, Big Papi hurt and the Sox in need of a big bat for a playoff push, he batted .345 with an OPS of .949 in the second half, and in August and September, he batted a combined .353 with a .995 OPS.
 
Now, some TV (the bad):  
 
THE BIGGEST LOSER - I take back all the Amy-love from last week. She really is in it for herself, and voted for Coleen and not evil Vicky who vowed to do everything but stab Amy in the kneecaps this week. Strategically the right move but it looks more like she caved into pressure from Bob and the other Blue Teamers to stick with the gang. Very disappointing. If Vicky and Heba are in the final three, I'm not sure we can watch. They are dead to us. When they talk, they're muted or fast-forwarded.
 
DANCING WITH THE STARS - Two hours of recaps and singing, when we all knew that at 8:59 Cody would be eliminated. There was more suspense when Tim Robbins was asked who he voted for president, not to mention whether Aretha Franklin would make it through her two songs without turning blue and passing out. Seriously, as one of our anchors said, Aretha is now the Queen of Soul Food.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hey Jeff! What happened on TV?

Glad you asked ...

HEROES - I'm not talking about this show, because the people who program at NBC are a bunch of stupidheads who decided to let the show run over the 9p end time and thus my DVR didn't record the ending. Up yours, NBC!!!!!

THE AMAZING RACE - This is the absolute worst season for Racers with common sense. It doesn't take any smarts to read a clue, and double-check it before, you know, as a vegeterian you race to a challenge that involves eating local meat (in this case, sheep's butt). Not that I'm complaining, because Beta Male Terrence and his soon-to-be-leaving girlfriend Sarah are on the outs. Team Superbad tried to blow it, between bad luck with drivers and not reading a clue correctly, and they're sure to be gone before we get to the final three, Nick/Starr, Toni/Dallas and Ken/Tina, who also failed to read a clue correctly (twice). Toni's son Dallas was the winner in this episode for his hilarious "moo"ing cow costume antics.

DANCING WITH THE STARS - The judges know who they want in the top three next for the final next week. Sucks to be you, Cody, because there was no chance that they'd score you well enough to stick around with Brooke, Warren and Lance, even when Brooke and Warren were called out for several mistakes and problems, and still managed to score higher after two dances Monday night. It's almost like the whole thing is set up ...

Brooke and Derek's jive was just awful. Way, way off, and yet she managed 7s across the board. Why? Because the judges could only give Cody one more point even though he didn't make any mistakes, and he and Julianne's paso doble wasn't as bad as they ripped him. Warren, meanwhile, gets two more points than Cody with his mambo even though the judges call him out for failing to improve his technique and footwork. So musicality is more important than, you know, dancing well all of a sudden? Wrapping up the first round, Lance and Lacey performed a mambo that would have garnered all 10s instead of 10-9-9 had the judges not been biased. It was fun, it was smooth, it was full of movement, but it wasn't Brooke or Warren.

The second time around, the judges rewarded Brooke and Derek not screwing up with 9-10-9, even though it was a mild salsa. Cody and Julianne's salsa was given the typical rip by the judges. Warren and Kym's jitterbug was good and actually might have deserved all 9s instead of 8-9-9. Lance and Lacey won the round again and the judges liked their jitterbug better than we did, and their 10-9-10 might have been inflated by being impressed by Lance kicking off a show accidentally near the beginning and dancing with one shoe on, one off for the last minute.

The scores:
Lance - 57
Brooke - 49
Warren - 49
Cody - 46

Hope you enjoyed your time on the show, Cody, because Tuesday night is your last time on the floor as a contestant.

If Obamania means a new Rosie show, count me out

- YES, I STAYED UP LATE to watch the Memphis game on ESPN. The Tigers won going away, giving Coach Calipari his 221st win as Memphis coach, most in school history, topping Larry Finch, one of the biggest names in Tigers lore.

- NOBODY ASKED, but NBC has somehow decided to give Rosie O'Donnell her own variety show. A hilarious take from The Live Feed TV blog:
NBC announced this morning that Kathy Griffin, Jane Krakowski and Alanis Morissette will appear on Rosie O'Donnell's upcoming NBC variety special "Rosie Live" on Nov. 26. It's like some ill-conceived "Saturday Night Live" skit about a faux cable network -- ShrewTV. It's tough to imagine a more intentionally grating collection of oft-bitter-acting personalities. To avoid seeming gender unbalanced, NBC should enlist Danny Bonaduce, Dane Cook and Joe Francis for an obnoxious male douchebag version.

- MY RIGHTEOUS ANGER twitch kicked into overdrive when I heard that the Tennessee Valley Authority, which just raised energy rates 20 percent, raised the CEO's salary $200,000 (23.5 percent) and approved a $500,000 bonus.

- BOLDLY GOING where many have gone before, J.J. Abrama is making a "Star Trek" prequel focusing on the young Kirk and Enterprise crew that looks pretty slick, based on this brand spankin' new trailer.

- AN INTERESTING MAP showing voting patterns of how the Cotton Belt shapes the South.

- OBAMA THE MYTH is being propogated mainly by the mainstream media, according to Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post.

- YOU MIGHT BE A "24" FAN if you saw this headline and thought, "Finally, it got Kim! Thank goodness!"

Cougar mauls 16-year-old girl

Yes, I know, I'm desensitized and on the verge of being evil. Hey, I work in the media, it comes with the territory.

- GAS IS CHEAPER AND WE'RE DOOMED! At least, that's what CBS is telling us. Pardon me if I'm not concerned and just thankful that I can fill up my car for less than $30.