Friday, July 31, 2009

Final Four next week

And so the summer comes to a close as SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE wraps up next week in a finale featuring Kayla, Jeanine, Brandon and Evan, meaning that our surprisingly favorite duo of Melissa and Ade were voted off last night.
 
Alas, the show shouldn't have brought back the Emmy nominated routines from last season, because it only served to remind us how much better we liked last summer's dances and dancers. We'd take Chelsie, Mark, Katie, Joshua, Will and Twitch, for example, over almost any of this year's finalists.
 
Who will I root for? Probably Kayla. She's got some wicked good talent and has never faltered.
 
Of course, once it's over the new season begins in the fall, as will Dancing With the Stars. Will there be dancing overload? Can we keep up with two dance shows and a newborn? We shall find out!

Which side is the tolerance?

Notoriously left-wing Commercial Appeal movie critic John Beifuss reviews Year One, a comedy about two morons traveling through B.C. history, and somehow decides he likes it because he perceives it as being a scathing satire on "sanctimonious biblical epics" and "holier-than-thou" viewers with a message that "seems obvious: "Dogma is for troglodytes:"
"Year One could have been little more than sketch comedy, but Ramis draws on his Hebrew School roots as well as the precedent of Mel Brooks' "History of the World: Part 1 to produce something unexpectedly relevant in a world beset by fundamentalist-inspired violence and religious warfare: an amiable farce with a fierce moral center."
Now let's take a look at how other critics who didn't infuse their leftist politics into a movie about bear poop said about Year One, which received only 16 percent positive reviews via Rotten Tomatoes:

"The humor, largely centered around bodily functions and bathroom habits, is almost exclusively sophomoric ... scattershot and silly, squandering its potential by relying on juvenile bawdy humor." - USA Today

"A dreary experience." - Roger Ebert

"It's as if the script (by director Harold Ramis, Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg) had been written by someone with grasp of Bible history as tenuous as one of Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" All-Stars and with a sense of humor as evolved as that of a high school sophomore." - Washington Post

"Never would I have guessed that I would exit a movie longing for the relative wit of the B.C. comic strip that used to run in the newspapers ... The nonstop raunch -- sheep-copulating draws a lot of interest -- doesn't conceal the fact that you've seen Book of Genesis jokes done about CLXX times before." - New York Post

Speaking of anti-Christian hooey, take a gander at what someone wrote to Miss Manners earlier this summer:
I carpool with three others to work in the mornings and afternoons, and each week we take turns driving. Usually, whoever's driving listens to music and/or news radio at a very low volume.

However, one of the people in the carpool listens to religious Christian music and/or Christian talk radio. I find this to be very rude because I am not religious, and I think it's wrong to assume that everyone else has the same religious views as he/she. In addition, this person plays the music in the car very loudly.
She just told the writer to respect that they have a policy upon which you can listen when you drive to whatever you please. Do you think this elitist cares what his Christian carmate thinks if he turns the radio to, say, NPR, a program that similarly assails Christian beliefs, or a morning zoo program that props up inane pop culture that might offend his Christian insulter?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Say it ain't so, Papi

I wish I could express genuine surprise that David Ortiz, perhaps the best clutch hitter in Red Sox history and the cornerstone of the 2004 and 2007 World Series title teams, apparently tested positive for steroids in 2003, one of over 100 major leaguers who did so.

Still, despite the joy of the Red Sox haters, I don't see how this taints our championship celebrations. The test was in 2003, we won later, so as far as we know he was clean. Of course, Manny Ramirez also tested positive that year and this year again, so he's a big fat stupid cheater whose reputation in Boston can't get any lower.

What I will say, and I said it when A-Fraud's results became public too, is that whomever is leaking these tests that were supposed to be kept private, should be sued, convicted and indicted.

After the news came out and no doubt spread like wildfire through Fenway Park this afternoon, Big Papi hit a three-run homer to beat the A's, so yeah, all's forgiven. I'm so easy.

What is it with storms at 5 p.m.?

Remember last month's straight-line windstorm? It came for us again, but with less damage, thank goodness.

It's never a good sign when you look out your window and the rain blows one way, then a minute later starts blowing the other way just as hard. But that's what happened today as we were sideswiped by a tornado.

Val calls me at 4:30 to wake me up and ask if it's okay for her to leave based on the radar. Oh heck no. Blobs of red are all over Shelby County and tornado sirens are blowing.

By 5 the guy on channel 24 is saying, "People in the Wolfchase area take cover," and then he shows the storm track that says "Stonebridge Golf Course 5:01." Um, that's me. Oh dear. That's when the rain starts blowing very hard, and then different directions. Time to retreat into the bathroom!

Here's the picture Dave Brown later showed of the tornado approaching the Kohl's on Germantown Parkway:



Later the live shots showed that the left side of the building was blown off. Then Dave showed a picture from across Germantown Parkway at the Shogun that Val and I enjoy so much, littered with debris and damage to the exterior:



Save our Hibachi! Rebuild! Must have chicken, extra rice and all of Val's veggies!



UPDATE 9:30 P.M. - The best part of the whole shebang is that the weather knocked King Willie's retirement as mayor off of the lead story of the local newscasts! You just know that it ticked him off, and that makes me happy.

SYTYCD Top 6

Before I get to SYTYCD, I have to mention that we did, in fact, watch the premiere of Fox's "More to Love" on Tuesday night. It's done by the producer of "The Bachelor," and takes the same format, 20 desperate women try to woo one guy, and they even start things off with a cocktail party the first night. The only difference is that instead of all the women being size 2s, these women are size 20s. Which, instead of enjoying the women getting catty and desperate, instead ends up being sad.
 
The guy, Luke, is 6'3" and over 300 pounds, so he's been shopping in the husky section and I can sympathize with his plight, until it seems like he says all the right things a little too much (or he has to do so too much because the girls are all so desperate and depressing), and then he goes about finding ways to get kisses from a few. I thought that was a jerk move. Too soon, dude.
 
Unsurprisingly, just as in "The Bachelor," there are only about a handful of women who are actually there for Luke, the guy, to choose from (some I wouldn't even consider "fat"), and the rest are either a little crazy or not his type. Thus, the first five were easy to pick to leave, including the heaviest girl (they provide height and weight for all of the women), the biggest girl in proportion, the oldest, a boring chick who didn't even get an exit interview, and the drunkest at the party.
 
Will we keep watching? A little bit, but if the show is nothing but constant whining about how this show can redeem their faith in themselves because they're so big and queens of Loserville, it may get too dramatic.
 
The final six will become the final four tonight on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE NIGEL DROOL. Wednesday night was full of spirited dances, though none really stood out, meaning no one is sure to go or sure to stay.
 
The guys lead us off with a group number just as "dark and abstract" as Evan guesses it would be with Sonya as the choreographer, who supposedly used Willy Wonka as her inspiration. I don't know, I didn't see any Oompa Loompas in there. Okay, I've never read the book or seen the movies, so I have no clue what she's talking about. Maybe they all ate a chocolate bar on the way out? Lil' C is guest judging and immediately praises Brandon and Ade. Play favorites much? Then he gives Evan a backhanded compliment for "not getting swallowed by the excellence" of his partners. Um, thanks? Evan could do the backflip, but would Nigel ask him to stop with the droopy eyelids some more? Nope, Nigel completely backtracks and grovels at Evan's pasty feet.
 
JEANINE & ADE - They start out with a samba and it was hot stuff. I was impressed with Ade's footwork and Jeanine really shook that peacock on her butt. And then the judges get all buzzkill on us and go negative, so way to kill the audience's good vibes, guys. Their second dance is a hip-hip number featuring lots of boxes to move around the stage. The rehearsal focused on her being clumsy, so naturally I spent the whole dance watching her to see if she screwed up. She did not. Lil' C comes through with the most backhanded compliment of them all, "It was better than I thought you would do." Nigel credits his show for being the most awesomest awesome dance show of the awesomes.
 
I just realized that for the solos there's no more countdown clock, which means no annoying counting by the audience as if it's Times Square on New Year's Eve. Thanks, Show!
 
MELISSA & EVAN - They lead off with a Broadway number, which should be good for Evan except that Lil' C goes negative again, while Nigel credits Melissa for being super cool, which she is, so he's right. We thought it was fun. Their follow-up is a quickstep, which could spell doom. In rehearsal everyone makes a big deal about her being taller, though really, do you care? I didn't care. The audience wouldn't care. Lil' C, who clearly has his favorites in Ade and Brandon, calls out Evan for some move no one's ever heard of, Mary says it "crumbled" and it's a tough routine to get second before the voting.
 
KAYLA & BRANDON - Their first routine is contemporary, fitting for both, showing off his strength and athleticism and her legs and ability to hit any position. Lil' C calls it "intense," Mary screeches, Nigel credits the perfect technique. Their second bit is a disco dance that is all flips, twirls and lifts, leaving me yearning for the more classic disco that Melissa and Ade did weeks ago. Lil' C says something about hearing in the darkness with their ears(?), Mary calls it a "home run" and Nigel runs around yelling all fake like a twit whose crotch is on fire.
 
In his solo, Brandon comes out nearly naked in a mankini to the dramatic music of "O Fortuna," and Nigel calls it one of the best solos ever on the show. I think he's gross with all the muscles and stuff. Yeah, that's the ticket!
 
The girls wrap things up with a group number choreographed by Sonya and based on superheroes, dressed in superhero costumes that no doubt fulfilled the fantasy of many a comic book geek watching at home with one eye on the TV and the other on his World of Warcraft computer game. Lil' C strangely criticizes them a little even though it won't matter to voting unless you single out someone, and Nigel makes a reference to gawking at Jeanine's cleavage, the perv.
 
Who is going home tonight? I have no idea. I do think that Kayla deserves a spot, though Val thinks she's getting the boot. For the guys, Brandon has been on the fast-track to the finale since the auditions, so Evan or Ade? Your guess is as good as mine. I guess Ade.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Can't walk the wire on one foot too long before you fall off

It finally caught up to Papelbon tonight. Given a three-run lead, he walked the first guy in the ninth, then the As dinked and doinked their way to a tie, and then Delcarmen finally blew it in the 11th for a Red Sox loss and ruined a chance to gain a game on the Dang Yanks. Grrr.

But hey, I bet the ceremony to retire Jim Rice's number 14 jersey before the game was splendid.

Meanwhile the trade deadline looms at mid-afternoon Friday, and Boston Globe writer Tony Massarotti is right, John Smoltz will be fine so don't worry about starting pitching, Sox management needs to go get a bat. This is not a World Series champion squad as it stands. For example, J.D. Drew has been worthless for three seasons except for one grand slam in the '07 playoffs. Get someone in right field who doesn't swing the bat as if it's a puppy he's trying not to hurt.

p.s. Dice-K is a frakin' moron.

Groundbreaking research alert

I don't think it's necessary to spend too much money on such research, but I did think that it was interesting and pretty funny that a bunch of scientists concluded that they still don't know why we swing our arms when we walk, but it doesn't expend any extra energy so it's okay.

It's Tuesday

- Found two golf balls in the yard this afternoon (a Titleist and Callaway with a Bud Lite logo), plus a wrapper for Sour Punch Straws no doubt left by the kids next door. By the way, is it ironic that our neighbors are erecting a privacy fence, when their kids spend most of their time playing in the open yards such as ours of the cove?

- I have my strong opinions on the Obamacare debate, sure, but before we really really really get started, I just want all of us, the media, the government, the doctors - to come to an agreement as to whether it's healthcare, one word, or health care, two words.

- On Monday night's finale of THE BACHELORETTE, after all the hype of a "secret confession," the only way it could have paid off is if one of the guys turned out to be gay, married or killed a hobo in an alley behind a bar in Cheyenne "just to watch him die." Instead, Reed returns to butt in on the top two, claiming he "pulled strings" to get there, when in reality you know the producers were all, "Heck yeah you can come back for one more shot, and hello, Emmy!"

From the look in her eyes when they hugged you could tell that she was trying to think of a good way to let him down easy (again), instead of just saying, "Sorry dude, you were just No. 28 on my list of dumpees. Oh, and don't think I noticed you are wearing tennis shoes to propose, so thanks for dressing up to carry me away, Richard Gere."

No surprise that Ed "won," so I guess she's over that whole "couldn't get excited" thing, eh? In the end, Wes's songs may have made her loins quiver, but Ed won her heart even though he left the show to focus on his job halfway through, so I'm sure that won't come back into play in the next six months. Good luck, kiddos!

- Wait, the plot of the upcoming chick flick The Time Traveler's Wife is that Eric Bana as an adult meets Rachel McAdams as a child, then marries her years later after she's legal? Creepy!

- HEADLINE: "Horse, donkey and goat die in fire at furniture store" - Daily Times (Pakistan), June 2

Okay, I'll bite. What's the punchline?

And finally, y'all know how apprehensive I am about wading into politics ... *cough*

- I really don't have much of an opinion on Sarah Palin's resignation, which is terribly surprising. Yeah, Palin's still "my girl," and I can't wait to vote for her in 2016 for president, but in the meantime I'll allow her to settle into a national role as a conservative spokesperson. Here's National Review editor Kathyrn Jean Lopez on Palin's decision, as good as any I've seen:
Sarah Palin’s resignation announcement suggested that she and her family had been subjected to the pains of overexposure. Some blame her for it. Others accuse her of being a quitter. But maybe she just saw an opportunity to dial back the media onslaught and get some control over it.

- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thinks abortion is supposed to be used to weed out undesirables. Seems pretty controversial, don't you think? Here's the quote you haven't seen in the mainstream media, as quoted by conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby:
“Reproductive choice has to be straightened out,’’ she said in a recent New York Times interview. She was referring to the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of Medicaid funds for abortions - a law the Supreme Court upheld in Harris v. McRae in 1980. “Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. . . But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way.’’

- Someone has a crush! Newsweek's Allison Samuels on interviewing Michelle Obama:
"Without a doubt, I identify with her as a brown-skinned African American woman," [Newsweek’s Allison] Samuels says. "Now we have Michelle and see her as a mother, a lawyer, a wife, and she's doing it fabulously." Samuels got to interview Obama during the campaign and "we had a girlfriend-to-girlfriend moment. We did connect."

Welcome to postracial America

Mark Steyn touches on all the points I would make about the Henry Gates/"racist" cop/Obama kerfuffle:
By common consent, the most memorable moment of Barack Obama’s otherwise listless press conference on “health care” were his robust remarks on the “racist” incident involving Prof. Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge police. The latter “acted stupidly,” pronounced the chief of state. The president of the United States may be reluctant to condemn Ayatollah Khamenei or Hugo Ch├ívez or that guy in Honduras without examining all the nuances and footnotes, but sometimes there are outrages so heinous that even the famously nuanced must step up to the plate and speak truth to power. And thank God the leader of the free world had the guts to stand up and speak truth to municipal police sergeant James Crowley.
...
Last year I had a minor interaction with a Vermont state trooper and, 60 seconds into the conversation, he called me a “liar.” I considered my options:

Option a): I could get hot under the collar, yell at him, get tasered into submission, and possibly shot while “resisting arrest”;

Option b): I could politely tell the trooper I object to his characterization, and then write a letter to the commander of his barracks the following morning suggesting that such language is not appropriate to routine encounters with members of the public and betrays a profoundly defective understanding of the relationship between law-enforcement officials and the citizenry in civilized societies.

I chose the latter course, and received a letter back offering partial satisfaction and explaining that the trooper would be receiving “supervisory performance-related issue-counseling,” which, with any luck, is even more ghastly than it sounds and hopefully is still ongoing.

Professor Gates chose option a), which is just plain stupid. ...

He then told him, “I’ll speak with your mama outside.” Outside, Sergeant Crowley’s mama failed to show. But among his colleagues were a black officer and a Hispanic officer. Which is an odd kind of posse for what the Rev. Al Sharpton calls, inevitably, “the highest example of racial profiling I have seen.” But what of our post-racial president?

As Professor Gates jeered at the officers, “You don’t know who you’re messin’ with.” Did Sergeant Crowley have to arrest him? Probably not. Did he allow himself to be provoked by an obnoxious buffoon? Maybe. I dunno. I wasn’t there. Neither was the president of the United States, or the governor of Massachusetts, or the mayor of Cambridge. All of whom have declared themselves firmly on the side of the Ivy League bigshot. And all of whom, as it happens, are African-American. A black president, a black governor, and a black mayor all agree with a black Harvard professor that he was racially profiled by a white-Latino-black police team, headed by a cop who teaches courses in how to avoid racial profiling. The boundless elasticity of such endemic racism suggests that the “post-racial America” will be living with blowhard grievance-mongers like Professor Gates unto the end of time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two bumps are better than one!

This weekend Val's cousin Will (Chipped Mug blog here), his wife Sara, their adorable daughter Maleah and Sara's baby bump (two weeks ahead of Val) came down to see the family.

We got to see them at church Sunday morning and eat lunch with Will's side of the family, and couldn't resist the required baby bump comparisons:


And no, Val's not getting shorter with pregnancy, Sara's in heels, which in itself is pretty amazing!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sugar Baby

I beseech those of you who are throwing my darling pregnant Valerie baby showers, please, please, think twice about having a cake made that uses a picture of Cooper's ultrasound. Creepy. (But the last one's kind of funny.)

(Thanks to Jenny H. for the link.)

Pregnancy In These United States

More of the funny stuff I found at Reader's Digest:


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For my fourth Caesarian section I opted for a bikini incision, which, along with the previous scars, would form an arrow on my tummy. "Honey," my husband joked when I told him, "after 13 years and 4 kids, I hardly need directions."

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Pregnant with our second child, I was determined to ride my exercise bike at least two miles a day. Late one night, having put it off all day, I climbed aboard the noisy contraption in our bedroom, where my husband was reading a book.

After about 20 minutes of listening to the squeaky machine, he glanced up, somewhat annoyed. "Don't you think it's time you turned around and headed for home?" he asked.

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Resting in the hospital after the birth of our third child, I thought I would finally get a chance to finish reading Boris Pasternak's famous novel, Doctor Zhivago, and had it handy on my bedside table.

When the student nurse came in, it caught her eye and she looked at it skeptically. "If you want the real low-down on baby care," she said confidentially, "you can't beat Doctor Spock."

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When I was on duty in the maternity ward, one of my patients was a woman who was having her first child. Because of her medical situation, she had to undergo a cesarean procedure. After the operation, I handed her the newborn child and declared, "Congratulations! You have a healthy baby boy."

Still a little groggy from the anesthesia, she responded, "That's great. What's his name?"
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Seen on a car parked outside a gynecologist’s office:

“PUUUSH.”
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Since maternity patients at the small hospital where I work must travel 50 miles to another hospital for the actual delivery, they often check with us first to verify that they are, indeed, in labor.

One morning, a pregnant woman walked in, and we confirmed that delivery was definitely imminent. So a nurse called her husband at home, getting him out of bed. "Your wife's about to give birth," she told him. "You need to go to the hospital."

"Okay," he said groggily. "I'll wake her up and tell her."
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My wife and I met while we were serving in the Peace Corps. By the time we left the service, we were expecting our first child. Strangely, pregnancy and birth are covered under "workman's comp." Filling out the forms proved to be a challenge with questions like: "Describe in detail how and where this accident occurred." "What could have been done to prevent this accident?" and our favorite: "What will you do in the future to prevent this accident from happening again?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Get Down, Get Hitched!

I know most everyone has seen this wedding video on your local or national news, but it's worth posting for repeat viewing, because this is the most wicked awesome entrance in marriage history:



I don't know, maybe if Val and I weren't living six hours apart in the months leading up to our wedding, but I just feel that we didn't have enough time to come up with these kinds of things!


Good show, though. Congrats to all!

100th episode, down to 6

Shocker on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE! Nigel is freaking out! The girl he admitted that he wanted to win, firecracker salsa dancer Janette, is outta here!
 
Which, of course, means that they would not have been surprised if Kayla had gone, seeing as how she was the other girl in the bottom two. But it makes me happy, so no complaints here. My two faves, Melissa and Kayla, survive to the semifinals!
 
On the boys side, I'm afraid that with Evan staying and Jason going, there will now be a backlash against Evan, who is a great dancer for his genre, but clearly not as strong as the other guys.
 
Being the 100th episode the show brought back some of the most popular dances, though they really could have made it two hours long and done twice as many of the Emmy-winning and nominated performances and we would have been just fine with it.
 
Also last night? The Katie Holmes dance that has been promoted for over a month now. She did a tribute to Judy Garland for a charity, lip syncing, I should add, and at least the guys around her seemed to dance. She, not so much. Katie had some fine poses and twirls, but otherwise moved little other than being carried around like Madonna in her "Material Girl" video. Lame. I'm sure Tom was thrilled, though I didn't see him in the audience aiming his hypno-Scientology-ray at her. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Only two weeks left?!

Hey Comcast, if you're wondering why Valfrey Estates will be changing over to DirecTV for satellite and AT&T for DSL, tonight's one of the big reasons why. This is at least the fifth time in two years that the Red Sox have been playing on a cable channel - ESPN, TBS or MLB Network - yet have been blacked out on my cable. Why? They're playing in Texas! Why can't the game be shown in Memphis? Our "local team," St. Louis, is playing in Houston, so that can't be it. If I had a Twitter account, and this is why I don't, all you would have seen 180 times, or once a minute for three hours, would be comments like this:
 
"Comcast stinks."
"Our nearest MLB town is 250 miles away, so what the frak, MLB?"
"WTF?!!!??"
"Seriously, I can't watch the Red Sox lose their fifth game in a row and strike out with runners on base, why?"
"Up yours, Comcast. I have DirecTV's number, the code for a bundle with AT&T that will make it cheaper than you guys, and guess what? I'm using it."
"Can I sue for violation of freedom of speech or assembly or something?"
 
You get the idea.
 
And now, the top 8 perform on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN MAKE THE JUDGES CRY!
 
The contestants had four dances last night, two as pairs, one solo and a group number that I won't review since it matters not in the voting when you can't tell one from another, but I will note that their lighted costumes reminded me of the big guy in "The Running Man" who wore that electricity getup and sang opera.  
 
The best part of tonight wasn't the dancing, but the decision to let comedian and talk-show host Ellen Degeneres join the panel as a fourth judge. It won't happen again, because she was so funny as to be distracting from the hijinks of Nigel and Mary, and Nigel doesn't want to be shown up!
 
JANETTE & EVAN - Their first routine was a jazz number by Sonya, which means weird with some fancy moves. Mia Michaels, as the fourth judge in the choreographers' spot, reveals that Janette is her favorite dancer this season, even more than Randi's bum. Next time out they get a rumba, and frankly I can't judge it because the dark blue lighting coupled with their dark outfits hid every move, but hey, they used Kris Allen's "Heartless" as their music, so it's great! Nigel's response is basically, "Evan, your eyelids are stupid," and the other judges tell Evan he's a dollface. Mary essentially compares Janette to a bag of Doritos - fire, spice and flavor, and the only thing she doesn't do is leave orange stickiness on your fingers, at least on weeks she's not spray-tanning.
 
Hey, shoutout to Kayla's grandfather after her solo! Drink!
 
JEANINE & BRANDON - They start out with a waltz that gets bonus points from us for using "May It Be" from "Return of the King," and then Nigel rips them for using it, supposedly because it's too slow ("for insomniacs") for a waltz or they weren't good enough to dance to it or something. Bite me, Nigel! I didn't think Brandon's posture was good, though Jeanine was graceful. Mia totally calls out Brandon for admitting to daydreaming during rehearsals, saying that they would have been better if he would pay attention. Burn! Second, they do a number by a choreographer chick who wears pink headphones around her neck that aren't hooked up to anything, and the judges think it's the greatest thing since dance outfits were made with half the fabric already ripped to shreds. The audience seemed to agree. They were noticeably loud and cheery throughout, which seemed like the only time of the night. Val and I kept wondering what they were hooting about.
 
MELISSA & ADE - Back together, first for a cha cha that lacks shimmy and oomph to us and seemed not to keep up with the demands of the music. Their follow up was by far the most powerful routine of the evening, a contemporary number by Tyce that was about breast cancer. Very pretty, very strong and graceful, though Val points out, if we watched these dances without being given a story would we even know enough to be touched? As it is, the judges are all very emotional, and only Ellen keeps from bawling during their remarks. Next week I look forward to a dance dedicated to prostate cancer that involves a lot of booty caressing.
 
KAYLA & JASON - Their Broadway piece was good to us, while the judges praised it to the hilt, Nigel comparing Jason to Gene Kelly and Mary touting Kayla on the Hot Tamale Train - with a whistle, no less - while Mia calls her "perfection." The last performance of the night was a hip-hop zombie dance, and yeah, you read that right. It wasn't bad for what it was and judges were positive but had also been sucked dry after the cancer dance a few minutes before.
 
Who I want kept safest of all: Melissa and Kayla, though I worry that Janette and Jeanine will end up in the top two of the girls. I think it's probably time for Evan to go, though he's the only unique one out of contemporary dancers Jason, Brandon and Ade. In other words, I have no clue.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Twisted Priorities Watch

I mean, for real?

Detroit -- Two hearses jammed with stuffed animals left in memory of Michael Jackson were given a two-car police escort Friday to the toys' burial at Woodlawn Cemetery, leaving police officials highly critical of the decision afterward.

"There's no way to defend it," Detroit Police 2nd Deputy Chief John Roach said. "It's unacceptable. Clearly, this is not something that ever should have happened."

Detroit Police officials said they couldn't say how much the escort cost the city. The escort guided the hearses from the funeral procession through red lights.

Mourners had left the toys and other items at the Motown Historical Museum on West Grand Boulevard since the singer died June 25 at age 50. After sitting outside for three weeks, the toys were not safe to donate to a children's museum or orphanage, museum Chief Operating Officer Audley Smith said.

"We have now concluded that it would be best to bury the items," Smith said Friday morning.
...

At the cemetery, the toys were unloaded from the tops of the hearses and from boxes inside the vehicles. They were then placed into clear plastic bags and then inside donated vaults.

The cemetery donated the equivalent of three graves for the vaults. A donated gravestone also detailed the singer's impact on the music industry and the world.

Jackson's songs played over speakers as a service was held. "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" played as the hearses arrived and "Ben" as the service ended.

About 50 people were present, but some were staff from the museum, Cole Funeral Home and the cemetery.

An exhibit will be established at the museum honoring Jackson, and some of the items left in his memory will be put on display, Smith said.

Timothy Vick of Ferndale brought a photo Friday he took of the singer in 1989. He said Jackson left a mark on his life.

"I think I cried more for him than when some family members passed," Vick said.

Wednesday blogginess

It may be early but I think it's never too early to stock up: I bought our first diapers Tuesday! I had a coupon, so I went with Pampers, the No. 1 (8-14 lbs.). I wasn't sure how many newborn diapers we'll need, seeing as how I was 8 pounds when I was born. Sorry, Val, my Darling. Good luck with that. 

Before we stock up too much, anyone want to give us an idea of how much we can expect Cooper to poop through diapers in each designated weight range? Or is that one of those "You have no idea what you're in for!" new parent confidential information hazing? I mean, I figure we need, what, one a day, two tops? 'Cause diapers are dang expensive!

Speaking of crap, the
Red Sox lost their fourth straight and have scored a grand total of eight runs in those losses. No one feels like beating the Dang Yanks this month, so all of a sudden we're a game behind and oh yeah, those pesky Rays are lingering a few games back.

The batters must be hoping for shutouts by the pitching staff, because last night's defeat came at the hands of rookie that Boston scored nine runs against in 1 2/3 innings last summer. I'm thinking he didn't improve that much in a year. 
 
Hey J.D., you can feel free to start hitting now instead of waiting until October as usual. No hits since the All-Star break? Even a bloop single? Really?
 
And yes, I'm aware that the Sox still have the third-best record in all of baseball right now and talent out the wazoo. What's your point?

How about some reality TV that probably no one else watches except for me and Val:
 
Oh yeah, we totally watched ABC's new show Monday night, DATING IN THE DARK. After the over-macho sausage fest of THE BACHELORETTE's "The Men Bitch About Each Other Over Stupid Stuff That Women Pretend To Hate But Then Date These D-Bags Anyway," it was refreshing to see some guys who weren't complete jerks try to woo girls out of their league. The guys were all 5s on a 1-10 scale, the girls a little better, so we could actually root for them to find a connection. Of course, when they did it seemed like an unrealistic beer commercial, but that's against the point.
 
The premise is exactly what the title suggests, three guys and three girls meet and greet, then date for four days in a room that's completely dark, and we have night-vision to see what's going on. Only one girl split after finally getting to see the guy she'd been dating, while the other two couples decided to keep seeing each other, at least for the purposes of the show. I mean, what does it hurt to agree to meet and talk to look good on TV, then break up a day later? Instead, this chick took off because obviously she was worried about what her girlfriends would think, and she looks like a snob.
 
Last summer we were big fans of CAN YOU DUET on CMT, but this summer we're finding it difficult to get invested in the outcome. Maybe it's the tweaks in the format in how singles were paired, maybe it's Naomi Judd acting over-the-top to fulfill the Paula Abdul/Mary Murphy role, and it's probably definitely Big Kenny of Big & Rich as a judge with nothing worthwhile to hear. Or it's the acts, few of whom we care about. Besides, the judges seem to have already decided Steel Magnolia will win. The rest of the final four might as well start performing for the chance to sign elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Trailer Park

2012 - Didn't you used to be John Cusack? Same effects reused from Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and every other disaster movie that destroys famous landmarks and countless billions with the same the-world-is-ending story, but hey, let's root, root, root for these five people who made it! Happy Thanksgiving. (Nov. 13)

Where the Wild Things Are - Even though I'm intrigued by the children's book coming to the big screen, and it's directed by oddball Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), I probably won't see it, but the trailer did give me the chills, which was weird. (Oct. 16)

Despicable Me - A teaser for next year's animated movie that's not made by Pixar. It's not even made by Dreamworks, so why bother? (Summer 2010)

Amelia - I don't want to spoil the ending, but you can bet that Hilary Swank doesn't have to put on any aging makeup. (Oct. 23)

Sherlock Holmes - Robert Downey Jr. as the famous fictional sleuth as you've never seen Holmes before. Elementary, my dear readers, a surefire hit. (Christmas)

District 9 - I thought I'd be excited about a Peter Jackson movie about aliens who are refugees on Earth, but the trailer is more of a turn off. (Aug. 14)

Scandalous!

No doubt this kind of news was the TMZ.com of its day, from Memphis Memories, 100 years ago, July 19, 1909:
Two spooners, whose love making attracted an audience of at least 1,000 yesterday to the rear of the post office, ended up in the patrol wagon in which they were taken to the police station. Arresting officers said the woman comes from a well-known Memphis family, is married to another man and works as a stenographer.

Gimme dance!

(Val had her 24-week appointment Monday afternoon. All is well and she feels good! I see where Cooper is ranked No. 8 for most popular boys names in Australia. Maybe we should go with the Aussie pronunciation, which I'm assuming goes something like Koo-pah, as in Koo-pah put another shrimp on the bah-bee.)


Kudos to Fox for standing up to the Obamessiah and refusing to air his 33rd primetime news conference in six months, especially since he was trying to take air time away from "So You Think You Can Dance," and really, if that's not reason enough to vote against him in the future, what is?

SYTYCD grabbed four of the six Emmy nominations for choreography, but really, what else is going to get a trophy, those amazingly technical group numbers on "American Idol?" Pole dancing on "Rock of Love?"

If you're interested, you can see the nominated dances here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where the frak do they come up with these?

And who has the time?!

Props to Val's uncle Glenn for the link!

If they name their first kid Kelly, it would be even better

When Yahoo features a story called "Man, Woman With Same Name To Wed," it pretty much begs to be read and posted:
Kelly Hildebrandt is in love with Kelly Hildebrandt, and soon they'll be married.

A man named Kelly Hildebrandt is marrying a girl named Kelly Hildebrandt, creating a post office nightmare.

It's been a whirlwind romance for the guy and gal who share the same name, and it all started with an innocent Facebook message.

"She started off 'Hey, I saw we have the same name,and I thought it was kind of cool, Just wanted to say hi I guess. LOL,'" the male Kelly said.

Kelly the female, from Coral Springs, was curious to see profiles of people with the same name when she happened across Kelly the male in Lubbock, Texas.

"I searched my own name and he's the only one who came up and actually in the picture he didn't have a shirt on and I was like oh he's cute," said the female Kelly.

Three weeks later, male kelly flew to South Florida to meet female Kelly, and they hit it off immediately.

And now in just three months, the Hildebrandts will officially be married.
...

Male Kelly, 24, has moved down to Florida and plans on working at the new branch for his company, Primerica Financial. Female Kelly is finishing up her studies at Palm Beach Community College.
...

The marriage won't be without problems. In fact, one problem has already presented itself before the two have even stepped foot on the altar.

"He's even already got some mail coming in, and we have to open everything, because we don't know whose mail is whose," said female Kelly.

Not exactly a PR coup for racing's attempt to go mainstream

NASCAR - which suspended driver Jeremy Mayfield a few months ago for failing a drug test, gave him another earlier this month, and he failed again (allegedly for meth).

Mayfield's reaction? To charge his stepmother as a skank who killed his father. Yeah, this should go well.

Minor League Baseball: Where Babies Happen

Val and I just returned Sunday afternoon from several days in Branson, Missouri.

Contrary to popular opinion, we were not, in fact, taking part in the Brooklyn Cyclones' Bellies & Baseball: A Salute to Pregnancy, featuring promotions such as:
* Barefoot & Pregnant: Expectant moms can run (or, more likely, walk) the bases with no shoes on before the game.

* Craving Station: A table on the Concourse level will offer pickles, ice cream, anchovy pizza, etc. for pregnant women who crave more than the usual ballpark fare.

* Water Break: Two expectant fathers will try to complete a race with water balloons attached to their bodies. The winner is the one who lasts the longest or finishes the race without his water breaking.

* 7th Inning Stretch Marks: Pregnant women will be allowed onto the field in the 7th inning to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

* Lamaze on the Lawn: The Cyclones will offer a Pre-game Lamaze class on the grass in centerfield taught by Birth Day Presence.

* Special Delivery: Any woman who gives birth at the ballpark before the end of the game gets free Cyclones Season Tickets for life for each member of her new family.

* Naming Rights: Any expectant mother who agrees to name her child “Brooklyn” or “Cy” gets free Season Tickets for life.

* Pregnancy Pitch: Any woman in her third trimester gets to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game.

* Trimester Tricycles: Bike race between expectant fathers between innings

Pictures and a write-up of our actual trip to Branson is in store.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mind of a Soon-To-Be-Father: What might have been - Our Beansprout

No matter what happens with Val's pregnancy, no matter how we tend to complain about her symptoms, pains and annoyances, know that Val and I are in total bliss and thankful for it all, because we should have already gone through it by now.

Our families, some of my co-workers and a very few of her friends know, but for those who don't, it was a year ago this week that Val suffered a miscarriage and we lost our little Beansprout, the nickname we gave to the little baby that was going to be due the first week of February of this year.

In April of last year Val and I decided we'd had enough time to ourselves and started trying for a baby Valfrey, and succeeded the first time off of birth control. The first positive test was Friday before Memorial Day. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. By Sunday we were pretty sure, so we very very excitedly showed the evidence to my family as we all gathered at Perkins for breakfast before everyone left town to go home.

Our parents were so thrilled, and it made us even more so, providing a third grandchild for each set. At the same time, three of her cousins were expecting as well, so it was going to be a big year for my father-in-law's side of the family.

We had the eight-week ultrasound in mid-June and the cute little picture to show everyone our little Beansprout (Val's nickname growing up was Bean, so it seemed a cute link).

A couple of weeks later, however, while we vacationed at Chickasaw State Park, Val began to get worried that something was wrong. When we returned home we went to the doctor, who performed the 12-week ultrasound a week early, and delivered the bad news. The baby's heart wasn't beating anymore.

That was just absolutely devastating. The next couple of days were horrible, even more so as we waited for the miscarriage to come naturally, which it did in the middle of the night on a Thursday night/Friday morning. The next month was depressing (you might remember that I cryptically noted on my blog a few times about how bad our late summer had been), and then Val had health problems that developed and made it difficult to try again soon.

By Christmas we started anew, yet didn't think anything would happen for awhile because we had a tough time pinpointing her cycle despite ovulation kits, ovulation temperature gage and all kinds of daily research.

As you know now, we were blessed sooner than we thought and Cooper is growing inside Val's ever-growing tummy, due November 8, and now you know why we might seem a little overly ecstatic sometimes, and despite any bemoaning, there's nothing negative about the experience and the joy of making a baby!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baby Blues: New Official Comic of Thanks For Noticing Me?

I figure I should start latching onto baby funnies to keep around for the 3 a.m. feedings. From the week of May 19 of Baby Blues:






Friday, July 17, 2009

Jeff's Top 5: Adolescent Posters

The top 5 posters or pre-teen magazine covers taped to my walls, circa 1988 (12 going on 13):

1. Debbie Gibson - In the battle of Debbie versus that hussy tart Tiffany, ya gotta go with "I Get Lost In Your Eyes."

2. Kathy Ireland - Anytime she was in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue made me feel prepubescently awkward.

3. Poison - I make no apologies for this. They rocked and the Monster Ballads era of hairband rock was gold!

4. Elisabeth Shue - She was so out of Danielsan's league in The Karate Kid.

5. Def Leppard - My first concert, the first time I realized that rockers get all the chicks, because those guys? Not attractive. I, of course, couldn't even master the recorder, hence my unsuccessful reign as Mayor of Geekville until I got married at age 31.

Honorable Mention: Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) of "The Wonder Years" and Samantha (Alyssa Milano), "Who's the Boss" - Both highly successful on the all-important pre-teen male Babeocity Index.

INXS - Their video for "Meditate" with the cue cards was one of the most memorable of the 80s. Hey, everything rhymes with "ate!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Half-Blood Prince, or about half of it

Val and I made sure to catch a matinee of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Wednesday afternoon, and I've got a few notes because I don't feel like writing any sort of narrative because I'm pooped and it's bedtime:

Will we see it again in the theaters? Probably not. Is that an indictment of the movie? No. We enjoyed the movie, there just wasn't much we feel needs to be seen again, no nuance to study, nothing we feel we missed.

SPOILERS BEWARE. TONS. SERIOUSLY. IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK OR SEEN THE MOVIE, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED AND I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.

When the mood wasn't light, with Harry in la-la-land after drinking the "luck potion" or Ron under the spell of the "love potion," the movie was full of tension, waiting for the next evil deed around the corner.

Excellent choice of Jim Broadbent as Slughorn. Perfect character, a little strange, but spirited and selfish yet likable.

Most of the movie consists of letting Harry, Hermione and Ron work out their hormonal awkward teen angst among one another. The constant bickering and secrets among each other is mostly gone, and as I read the book I was thankful for it as well.

Draco had the best work of everyone, which, shocking, because I always considered him one of the weaker, cheesier actors. He does some serious brooding.

It actually feels that after two-plus hours that what was missing most was an actual plot. Suprisingly there was a lot of humor, but whatever filled the six million pages of the book that I've mostly forgotten, it's not here. For instance, where was Harry pursuing Draco all year? Early in the movie he senses that Malfoy's up to something but doesn't seem to do anything about it, just waiting for events to happen.

So, um, no battle at Hogwart's in the end? Just a quick-hit special forces kind of mission by the Death Eaters? Are they saving it for the last movie? Did they feel we got enough at the end of the previous one?

In the book we don't know anything about Snape's work behind-the-scenes to infiltrate the Death Eaters, so when he kills Dumbledore we spent the entire time between books six and seven debating if he's good or bad. In the movie it's clear from the start that he's only trying to keep Malfoy from getting hurt and that he's working with Dumbledore's permission. Does that help or hurt? Sure, all of the viewers know that Snape's good, but our heroic trio doesn't, so we'll spend the final two movies trying to tell them, "Snape's good! Trust him!"

Six down, two to go! Let's get with it already! I've already forgotten most of the last book as it is!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Top 10

Tonight on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE, the top ten performed two group dances, five pairs and ten solos, and they probably had another half-hour to cure cancer or something.

The group dances were meaningless except to fill ten minutes with some fun, the girls getting a Bollywood number and the boys an African rhythmic mess. Girls win this round, but can you really judge them individually when they all look good? At least Nigel is able to appreciate the African style, which he credits with all the good in the world, aside from all that genocide and starvation and stuff.

Interlude: Does anyone else think that on the upcoming "More To Love" show, the guy will still end up picking the thinnest of the big girls? Anyway, back to dancing ...

KAYLA & EVAN - They start us off with a Viennese Waltz, and as usual she's amazing. He's not exactly leading man material, while she looks like Ginger Rogers.

JANETTE & ADE - It's a hip-hop number and actually has some unique and difficult moves, and hey, they made good use of his hair pick!

JEANINE & JASON - They're assigned a contemporary piece by season two contestant Travis. She spends half the time flashing her bloomers in his face, they make out with a chain and the judges give them a standing ovation, pretty much peeing in their pants out of excitement.

RANDI & KUPONO - They get a paso doble, which unfortunately for Randi is neither powerful or flowy. I actually liked her brown wig, but the judges seemd not to, and Mary called them out on a lack of chemistry and not hitting it as hard as the music, which I can't argue with.

MELISSA & BRANDON - They get a Broadway number, which really looks more like Jazz, some hippie routine from "Hair" the musical. They're both so agile and flexible, it's quite astounding.

How they rank as pairs:

1. Melissa & Brandon
2. Janette & Ade
3. Kayla & Evan
4. Jeanine & Jason
5. Randi & Kupono

Going home? Kupono and, I don't know, Kayla hasn't been getting many votes, but I still think Jeanine's forgettable, so I'll go with her.

All-Star Game 2009

Good job, America. We now have a president who looks like he's never thrown a baseball in his life and can't reach the plate (that ball was caught a good three feet in front). No doubt all of the Obamessiah's disciples will argue that he's just a "crafty southpaw."

Conspiracy alert! Roy Halladay, starting pitcher for the AL, is on the trading block. Knowing that he probably will end up in the NL on a team like the Phillies, he gives up three runs with two outs in the second inning after the AL takes an early 2-0 lead. If the NL wins the game and he's on the World Series team, they get home-field advantage. All I'm sayin' is, Halladay doesn't give up three runs with two outs.

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon looked just like he's looked all season, and in a bad way. Hit hard, get some luck with your defense (in this case, Carl Crawford caught a ball over the fence) and sneak out of there unscathed. I'm a little concerned about his ability to get three outs come playoff time.
 
The National League might as well have been made up of the Washington Nationals in the first inning. First Tim Lincecum looks like Charlie Sheen at the start of "Major League," including hitting Derek Jeter in the hand, then David Wright hesitates on a throw to first for what should have been an out, and then Albert Pujols boots a ball for an error and two runs allowed. And that's why the AL is 12-0-1 against the NL since 1996. Home-field advantage for the Red Sox in the World Series, yo!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jeff's Top 5: Annual Kickers

A kicker is a story on the news with funny video that is usually saved for the end to provide some witty banter by the hosts and leave you smiling at the end after we've successfully scared the dickens out of you over the previous hour or half-hour. Usually it has to do with animals or kids or kids with animals.

As a news person I can generally tell what time of year it is based on kickers that we run about the same time of the calendar. Here are my favorites:

1. Water-skiing squirrel - This one happens randomly, usually from a state fair, and never fails to impress. Dogs surfing is a related video for giggles.

2. July 4th fireworks safety - Every year we try to inform people of the dangers of setting off fireworks by showing mannequins getting their heads and hands blown to smithereens, although I think it has the opposite effect sometimes.

3. Running of the Bulls - Also known as the "running of the idiots," held annually in Pamplona, Spain. "Pamplona" is a Spanish word meaning as "Help, a bull and its horns are giving me a wedgie."

4. Wife-Carrying Race - Every summer in Finland we remember that it's a country, because people carry their wives for a prize of their weight in beer.

5. Cheese chase - The English put a wheel of cheese on top of a steep hill and start it rolling. Lots of drunks run after it, falling face down and rolling on their butts noses most of the way down, much to our amusement.

Honorable Mentions:

Pumpkin-eating elephants - The pachyderms get in on the post-Halloween fun.

Tomato-throwing festival - Another one in Spain, and this one's messy.

Red Bull Flugtag - A bunch of people hopped up on energy drinks build contraptions that have no chance of flying, then push them off a platform into the water.

What is Jeff thinking?

"What is Jeff Thinking," when we take a trip through Jeff's brain as one thought leads improbably to the next, all in the span of about ten seconds of daydreaming during our nightly "Wheel of Fortune" fix, watching the Prize Puzzle round:
 
"Do people who live in Hawaii need a vacation in the Caribbean?"
 
"Where would we want to win a Prize Puzzle vacation?"
 
(Joking to Val) "Getting a trip to the Bahamas when you live in Hawaii is like winning a trip to Dollywood when you live in Knoxville."
 
"Ya know, Cooper won't ever know what it's like to go to Libertyland or Opryland."
 
"Where will I go to take him on a roller coaster?"
 
"Maybe if Dad's living in the Louisville area with my sisters by then, he can take Cooper to Six Flags Kentucky."
 
"Hey, then I can finally stop on the way at that place with all the dinosaurs."
 
"No, if we want a place with dinosaurs, we should go to the place in Pee Wee's Big Adventure with the really big dinosaurs!"
 
 
And so on and so forth. By the time I'm done, Val's already solved the puzzle.

Baby Valfrey Challenge reminder! (And a change!)

Hey folks, if you already gave me your answers to the contest, thanks a bunch.

(Note, a couple of folks are missing a category or two: Will (time of birth), Amy C (length), Aunt Lynn (craving), Aunt Bev (craving). Many others only picked boy/girl, waiting until later for the rest.

You have until the end of August to submit picks or make changes, so don't wait until too late! Those who didn't make a pick for boy or girl, you can still participate. After all, most everyone else still has zero points, too!

Now for the ...

IMPORTANT CHANGE - Since pretty much everyone has voted "yes" on the question that asks if Cooper will have hair when he's born, we're changing the question! Now, instead of just a yes or no, I need your answer to this question: What will our Mini Cooper's hair color be?

In case you need background info, I had a full head of brown hair, Val was blond for her first years, and oh yeah, don't forget Nana's contribution of red hair to our family! Or, you can stick with "no hair at all."

So if you've already submitted all of your picks, tell me what your answer to this will be!

1. Gender - 25 points for the correct answer, 0 for picking incorrectly. (9 of you were right!)

2. Date of Birth - 50 points for being spot on, 40 if off by one day, 35 for two, 30 for three, 25 for four, 20 for five, 18 for six, 16 for seven, 14 for eight, 12 for nine, 10 for ten, 8 for eleven, 6 for twelve, 4 for thirteen, 2 for fifteen.

3. Time of Birth - 50 points within an hour, 40 within two, 35 within three, 30 within four, 25 within five. 20 within six, 18 within seven, 16 within eight, 14 within nine, 12 within ten, 10 within eleven, 8 within twelve, 6 within thirteen, 4 within fourteen, 2 within fifteen.

4. Length - 50 pounds exact, 40 within 1/2 inch, 30 within 1 inch, 25 within 1.5 inches, 20 within 2 inches, 15 within 2.5, 10 within three inches, 5 within four inches, 2 within ten inches.

5. Weight - 50 points within four ounces, 40 within 8 ounces, 30 within 1 lb, 20 within 1 lb 8 oz, 15 within 2 lbs, 10 within 2 lb 8 oz, 5 within 3 lbs, 2 within 10 lbs.

6. Hair color (or no hair) - 25 points if correct, 0 if not.

7. Bonus: Strangest craving - 25 points if correct.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jeff reviews Star Trek

I procrastinated for a few days, and then a week, and now it's been over two months and I never posted any kind of review of "Star Trek." I'm going to post all of my notes anyway, if only for future reference via the pipes and gerbils that run this interwebby thing.

THUSLY, THERE BE SPOILERS. YE HAVE BEEN WARNED:

Stand down from Red Alert.

Based on the previews, the first 33 years of my life, fulfilled with six TV series, ten movies and about 700+hours of the "Trek" franchise, was about to be ruined.
Yes, if the series continues based on events in this reboot by director J.J. Abrams, we can throw out everything we knew and start over again. 
Abrams didn't just start from the beginning, he turned it into an alternate universe where our favorite characters exist, albeit not in the world we knew.

And I'm actually okay with it. Go figure.

I think it was tweaked in a way that will make any changes acceptable, although it's really weird with Vulcan going all Alderaan and only 10,000 Vulcans left. I would have thought more would be scattered throughout the galaxy, however, since they're the delegated "first contact" representatives. Unlike other Trek movies where they'd time travel back to fix it all, Abrams wasn't having it. The planet and six billion Vulcans aren't coming back.

What really mattered was watching it my Darling Valerie during the movie, she not being much of a Trek fan and wouldn't know a Tribble from a Nerfherder, and yet she was completely captivated and having a whale of a time watching this movie. That allowed me to let go of the inner fuddy-duddy and enjoy the movie as another in a line of entertaining movies and shows that aren't terribly important in the grand scheme of things, only a lot of fun and, sometimes, thought-provoking.

Except I wouldn't put this in the thought-provoking category, because really this "Trek" is a BING BAM GOLLY GEEZ WOWZERS kind of summer action flick to draw in the masses.

Abrams started off with the familiar beeps and whistles, a quiet theme that snuck in once in a while, and plenty of little Trek tidbits for the hardcore fans. Every character gets their signature lines and humor, Kirk even woos a sexy green alien in her underwear, we hear a reference to Admiral Archer and his beagle, and we know when we see our first Redshirt that he's doomed from the start.

Now, a few notes, some good, some bad, some overly picky:

I admit to being very concerned about Chris Pine - whom I've never seen before - based on what I saw in the previews. After the movie, with the changes in the Trek mythology, I couldn't say that Chris Pine wasn't a good Kirk, because he wasn't the Kirk we knew, who was raised by his father. This Kirk was raised by a mean stepdad and is rebellious and acts out, but eventually he settled into a likable rogue who had that familiar swagger and charm who tends to "leap without looking."

We get to see Kirk "win" the Kobayashi no-win scenario, though we didn't see him get a commendation for "original thinking." What's up with that?

Columnist James Lileks: "Of the two movies that feature a bald angry Romulan driving a spiky gargantuan spacecraft to destroy earth, it's the best." Can't disagree with that. When the best part of "Nemesis" is watching Data die and not giving a flip, it's not much of a contest. Why can't Star Trek movies provide decent villains? I wouldn't have even known the angry rogue Romulan was Eric Bana if I hadn't been told before. And he wasn't even compelling, merely a lame, vengeful captain of a giant and highly dangerous ship riddled with metal and large gaps in need of rails, poor lighting and a crew wearing leather and tattoos. Wouldn't it be more effective and undermining to have a villain who actually came from a world of color and cotton fabrics, and provide some white hat-black hat banter with the protagonists?

 I'm going to give a head nod of agreement to the decision to cast actors and actresses who, for the most part, aren't famous or known to only a few viewers. We see them instead molded in the Trek universe without thinking, "Hey, that's the guy from so-and-so." For example, it took me a few minutes to stop thinking, "How much Trek did Karl Urban watch to imitate McCoy and get all ornery and slapsticky instead of being the hunk in LOTR or Chronicles or Riddick?" Of course, now they're pigeon-holed into these Trek roles and won't be able to get much work elsewhere, but hey, it could be worse. Let's meet them: 

Young Spock - Zachary Quinto, a.k.a. Sylar from "Heroes." He has some emotional issues and gets to date Uhura, although clearly his budding bromance with Kirk will change all of that.
Uhura - Zoe Saldana. No clue what she's been in, but she's got some sass, and a million new fanboy sites dedicated to her.
Sulu - John Cho, a.k.a. Harold of the "Harold and Kumar" movies, smoking far less pot here.
Chekov - Anton Yelchin from "Charlie Bartlett," which you didn't see and may never have heard of, trying to channel his best "nuclear wessels" accent of the original Chekov.
Daddy Kirk - Chris Hemsworth, an Australian actor in a lot of movies where the toilet flushes counter-clockwise.
Mommy Kirk - Jennifer Morrison of "House." The entire first ten minute sequence full of stuff all blowed-up and baby-daddy-mommy drama, I kept trying to figure out where I knew her from. And then she never came back.

And there were a few actors whom you should know by now pretty well:

Scotty - Simon Pegg of "Shaun of the Dead," pulling out the one-liners but not giving much of a glimpse into the genius our favorite Scottish engineer.
Spock's Earth Mom - Winona Ryder. I didn't even know it was her until Val said something later. My defense is that I wasn't looking for her to be a recognizable actress and her voice didn't ring a bell, either. Sometimes my powers of observation are lacking. Or it meant that I was enjoying the movie and not letting my mind wander.
Captain Christopher Pike - Bruce Greenwood, a first class "That Guy" in half the bad movies made the last 30 years.

Leonard Nimoy is the only original castmember to make an appearance, and it's not just an insignificant five second hello-goodbye, either. His furled eyebrows come back for a full half-hour of exposition to explain why we must unlearn what we have learned.

My theory as to why it doesn't have to be extremely awkward and odd that Starfleet would let new graduates run their biggest, newest, most brightly-lit ships: I think they're treating the just-graduated cadets as if they're from officer school, not the plebes who get killed quickly in engineering or cleaning toilets wondering "what the heck's going on out there with those stupid aliens." Think of it like in the English Navy days, the officers were young but because they were schooled as officers (mostly because they have rich parents, admittedly) and apprentice by the arm of the captain. "Master and Commander" would be my best example for that, I guess. Although I don't know if any Trek cadet would flush themselves out of an airlock to change their luck if the ship was adrift in space.

The scene on Hoth, er, the snowy moon, and the random MOUSs (monsters of unusual size), was too much like it was made to sell the video game later. It was action just for the sake of having action.

During the space battles I liked the wide shots of the action. Gives us a chance to catch our breath and see the enormity of space and the little ships going at each other. In a few words, the action is flashy, bright, quickly edited and there are gadgets galore.

Alas, I guess the Next Generation days are over, meaning that my chances of getting a Q-centric movie are gone as well. I really thought if they had incorporated Q into one of those films it had to be better than the crap plot that was, say, "Insurrection."

I would hope that we see the Klingons in the next one, especially since they were supposedly cut from this one, and they play such a major factor in the series and are the chief enemies in this timeframe. How can Abrams and his crew tweak them to make Klingons even cooler? We shall find out!

Another possible Klingon tie-in, could we get to see Worf's ancestors? Would Michael Dorn make an appearance as one of his grandfathers?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Notes on a Saturday evening

- How do you know it's way, way too hot at 9 a.m.? When you work in the yard for only two hours, and you drink four bottles of water and still don't have to go to the bathroom. Welcome to Memphis in July! (Found just one ball in the backyard this morning, but there was a Pinnacle sitting in the side yard of our front when we came home from lunch. Dude, that's a serious duck hook.)

- Darn you, Chris Connelly, for your "My Wish" features on SportsCenter this month! Oh sure, the kids are so sweet, the stories tingly, but must I sniffle like a baby every time?! And using the Rascal Flatts song? Well played, Connelly.

- When Toll House cookies were recalled due an E.Coli scare and Val and I decided to avoid a near-death experience on general principle, we switched over to Pillsbury to get our cookie fix. We like the kind that come in squares and only need to be pried apart and baked, because we're lazy and when we want cookies, we want them NOW. It turns out, the Pillsbury ones are easier to break apart and they taste just as good as Toll House, so no, we probably won't be going back. Of course, it turns out that Toll House may not have even been reponsible for the scare. Oops. Stinks for them!

- Val and my Dad have extolled the virtues of the movie Parenthood for years, so last night when it was on WGN I finally decided now was as good a time as any to find out the joys of being a parent. I figured it would be a final transiton getting over Marriedhood, when you snuggle on the couch all night eating cookies and sleeping until noon on Saturday, and Singlehood, which is when you sit on the computer in your pajamas at 7 o'clock on a Friday night with nowhere to go and shop for Star Wars figures on eBay.

Anyway, being a parent doesn't seem so bad based on the movie. However, Adulthood blows. Ye gads, I didn't expect all that drama. It felt like Love Actually, which is another good movie that I wouldn't want to watch more than once a year, also about different people whose lives are intertwined, all of whom seem to think that life isn't worth living unless you're constantly under pressure. Unless you are a naked movie stand-in. Those two seemed pretty happy.

- Following the brouhaha over my mysteriously cracked Tilt last fall in which AT&T essentialy told me, "sucks to be you," I finally bought a new cell phone, a Samsung Propel. The Propel doesn't have a touch screen, though it does have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, uses a storage card to listen to music and hold tons of photos, and as you can see from the pictures I posted earlier Saturday, the camera is pretty awesome.

The only problem I've noticed so far is that even though I always set it to locked, somehow my butt keeps calling Val, especially at 3 a.m. when I'm at work. Those commercials aren't as funny to her when she's trying to sleep and Cooper keeps waking her up doing aerobics on her bladder.

On the Road

Friday we went down to Hernando for part of the Good Morning Memphis "On the Road" summer series, so I took a few snapshots of the setup and fun with my new cellphone:




Friday, July 10, 2009

Papi!

You might remember that one month ago I was ready to sacrifice chickens in order to help David Ortiz regain his home run stroke, and had all but given up on Big Papi.

As usual, I'm an idiot. Thursday night he hit his 300th career dinger, and since June 6 has hit 10 four-base knocks, raised his average from .196 to .224 and hit safely in pretty much every game to make me look like I don't have any faith in the most beloved Sox this decade.

Now, let's talk about how the bullpen has blown four of the last ten games, including last night against the frakin' Royals(?!) and now we're tied with the Dang Yanks atop the AL East?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nigel's special dispensation for Phillip

I admit to being surprised that Phillip was cut tonight on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DO A RUSSIAN FOLK DANCE, but not at all surprised that the show would decide to make the tour a top 12 to fit in Phillip. Caitlin, an easy choice to go for the women, is very lucky that she gets to make the tour just because they'd need another female on the tour.

I think it goes without saying that if Kupono had made the bottom three (and wasn't that a surprise, that he and Kayla were safe while Melissa/Ade weren't?) then he would have been eliminated instead, and the show wouldn't have brought him back for the tour.

Nigel even admitted before the bottom three pairs were announced that the judges (meaning: him) have already made up their minds on who should go and who should stay and whom they want to make the top 10, so why even bother with solos and a bottom three and let the judges kick off their least favorites every week?

Also, I was going to give Phillip extra points for using the diva's uber-cool song from The Fifth Element for his solo, except that the crowd was cheering so loudly that I couldn't hear it!

In other news, this is a hilarious story about indifferent airlines and how to make them pay:
Anyone who's lost a bag or had their stuff damaged by an airline knows the frustration -- you spend hours on the phone, often with a call center in India, and feel like you're getting nowhere.

Such was the plight of Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician who says United Airlines baggage handlers smashed his favorite Taylor guitar as he changed planes at O'Hare. As Carroll and the rest of the band sat on the plane, another passenger saw the baggage handlers tossing guitars to one another and shouted, "My God, they're throwing guitars out there!"

Carroll said the base of his guitar was smashed. He tried to reason with United for months to get them to pay the $1,200 repair cost -- but he got the run-around, and ultimately they wouldn't. So, Carroll did what he does best. He wrote a song about it, "United Breaks Guitars."

Russian folk dancing not a good fit for a popper

At 4:05 a.m. & 6 seconds yesterday, the time & date was 04:05:06, 07/08/09.

Which reminds me of the time I was walking to the bus stop on October 9, 1987, looking down at my watch to mark the time at 6:54 a.m. and 32 seconds on 10/9/87.

Oh how I love such useless information. Which brings me to the top 12 of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE.

The first thing I noticed: Mary's hair flowing over that ruffling shirt made her look like the MGM lion.

The six guys and six gals had two dances on Wednesday, some nailing both, some getting mixed reviews. In the end Val and I could only come up with two couples who should be safe and four who should have some measure of concern.

MELISSA & ADE - This has to be the most surprising couple to be such a fan favorite and be so perfect together, between his strength and her ballet lines. Their disco looked great, both hitting all the recognizable disco poses. Next time around, their waltz was elegant as expected after they made a classical ballet look easy last week.

KAYLA & KUPONO - They opened with a Mia Michaels contemporary routine, and I "got it" this time. She was desperate in her fight, he was so strong and calm in his malevolence, it was a powerful piece. Surprisingly, the judges praise them, yet they don't spend five minutes genuflecting to Mia. They will pay for their crime! Their second dance was a Broadway number, and less successful. It was just fine in technique and entertainment, but the judges point out that there was nothing to feel. Guest judge Tice says not to fault the choreography, then does just that in pointing out that the dancers didn't "use the space" or get down on the floor.

CAITLIN & JASON - Started with a foxtrot that was classy, though Val noted a lack of content, and finished with a lyrical jazz routine by Mandi Moore that was quite lyrical, indeed, and romantic, and as Mary said, effortless in the lifts and intertwined movement. The judges are full of "howevers," which may put them in the bottom three.

JEANINE & PHILLIP - Oh dear. I take back all of the conspiracy theories about Phillip getting hip-hop every week to keep him around. This week the show threw him face first into a Russian folk dance, and then a jive. The second one went pretty well. The first? Oh my. Last year when Joshua and Twitch did a Russian dance it nearly killed them, it was so full of content. Obviously the choreographer was worried about that, because much of this one was slowed down to the hokey pokey folksy, and that was actually the awkward stuff. The judges wince and don't criticize either dancer, instead Nigel says that the show should be faulted for making them try it in the first place. Still, I'm betting that most of the others could have pulled it off, like Melissa and Ade or Janette and Brandon, for instance. In the jive, Mary puts her - not him - on the Hot Tamale Train, even though Jeanine reminds me of the big sister in "Dirty Dancing."

RANDI & EVAN - Not a great week for my favorite couple. Their opening hip-hop wasn't too bad, and thankfully wasn't anything ghetto. He really shouldn't have tried any lifts, because few looked comfortable. Second time up they had to do a samba, and even though it kind of made me want to shake my hips, Evan was not doing so with his own. Nigel notes a lack of hotness, and they seemed kind of restrained, although Mary credited Randi with more than we thought she deserved with a ticket on the Hot Tamale Train.

JANETTE & BRANDON - I feel bad that we kind of forgot about them during the show, and yet they had two of the best dances of the night. Well, so say the judges, at least, because their Argentine Tango received a standing ovation from them. I don't get that dance. Lots of flicks and lifts, but not exciting. Mary awards them front row seats on the Hot Tamale Train, and I'm starting to wonder if she's off the tracks tonight. Second time around they do a Wade jazz routine, and it's a great way to end the night. A little weird, yet cool, spirited, Val says it's "kooky" in a good way, reminding her of something from the early 60s, an Austin Powers or Batman kind of style. That works for me as an explanation as any other!

Who should be safe: Melissa/Ade and Janette/Brandon. All others? None are safe. Who would I not miss if they exited? Jeanine, Phillip or Kupono, maybe Caitlin.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Scatological humor

I did not know this: The currency in Costa Rica is called the "colon."

Which would explain why they've never used the phrase "put your money where your mouth is."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

NOMAH!!!!

Good call, Sox fans, giving No-mah! a standing ovation for over a minute in Garciaparra's first visit to Fenway since he was traded in 2004.

It would have been better if we'd won the game, but hey, why be choosy, am I right?

It's only fitting that fans would clap and cheer for him, a much-beloved Sox for a good eight years (I still have my No. 5 jersey), He was Rookie Of The Year in the AL in '97, second in MVP voting in '98, named to five All-Star teams in a Boston uniform and led the AL in batting twice.

I still stand by my belief that in the summer of '04 he was pouting and in need of fresh air elsewhere, so the trade was necessary for both sides. Clearly Nomar had hit his acme and was heading downhill, oft-injured and in the five year since he left he's had only one decent year (2006 for the Dodgers, hitting .303 with 20 homers and 93 RBIs).

For the time he spent guarding the left-side of the infield at Fenway, I would rate Nomar as the second-best shortstop in Boston history, behind only Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, ahead of popular Boston All-Stars Rico Petrocelli and Rick Burleson.

Sucked in

We weren't going to do it. Val and I were going to stay away from this summer's BACHELORETTE. Did we really need to watch Jillian - who finished third in the Molly/Melissa/Jason drama triangle in the spring - choose someone to eventually break up with among 30 guys whom I probably wouldn't want to talk to on the subway, let alone be guy pals?

And then, well, let's just say that when a comment by a guy like this: "I'm Here to Suck on Some Toes and Meet Some Jillian," isn't even the greatest quote and craziest subplot of the show, then there's some fun stuff to watch week-to-week.

No, Tanner B.'s foot fetish is nothing compared to Supreme Reality Jerk Wes, who admits to the other guys and to the audience that he's only there for his country music career and, oh yeah, he has a girlfriend. And yet even when one of the dumped guys flies to Austin to tell her, she still keeps Wes around another week! Gosh, Jillian, I can't believe you've been single all this time.

Unfortunately, falling for a "bad boy" who can play country music only goes so far. and this week she let Wes go. Too bad, I was hoping she'd pick him in the end and we'd have an even better After The Show than last year's dumping of Melissa by Jason.

On his way out, Wes told the other guys that he'd be going home "to have sex," claims to be the "first guy with a girlfriend to make the final four," said he could "stop acting now," said the other guys couldn't get any tail in Austin if they tried and then cursed at the limo driver for making him spill his alcoholic beverage.

You'd think it would be hard work to be this much of a tool, but Wes pulls it off pretty seamlessly. And for the audience, awesomely to watch. If he wasn't real he'd be created as a villain in a cheesy 80s movie.

Next week, we have the whole "does one of the guys have trouble getting his little man to participate on the fantasy date" tease, so yeah, we've got nothing better to watch on Monday nights.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hey now, you're an All-Star!

The Red Sox will be well represented July 14 up the road in St. Louis for the MLB All-Star game. Six of Fenway's finest were named this weekend to the American League squad, including 17-year veteran Tim Wakefield for the first time, during a season in which he set the Sox record for most starts by a pitcher (passing Cheaty McRocketroid).

Dang Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira beat out Kevin Youkilis at first base as a starter, but Youkilis made the game as a reserve. 2008 MVP Dustin Pedroia edged Ian Kinsler for the spot at second base in a close vote. New American citizen Jason Bay, leading the AL in RBIs, will start in the outfield. Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Beckett made the game as well as reserves.

Having just passed last week Bob Stanley for most saves by a Red Sox reliever, Papelbon (20 saves, 1.75 ERA) will be making his fourth All-Star appearance in four years with the Red Sox, while Beckett will be making his second All-Star appearance since coming to Boston. Pedroia and Youkilis both made the team last season.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Bats in your belfry? Blast 'em!

From Memphis Memories, July 5, 1884:
More than 1,000 flying bats, the gift of the Leroy Shot & Lead Co., have been received at Cockrell's shooting grounds where they will be used as targets to test the marksmen of the city.
This seems to be a blatant violation of the "What goes up must come down" theory of gravity. What could go wrong?