Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A panda by any other name...

There is absolutely nothing cuter than baby pandas. This year, China's Woolong Nature Reserve saw the birth of 18 panda babies (great news, considering there are only about 1600 pandas in the world). And they are now allowing us to name those pandas. If you go to this website, you not only can propose names for each of the 18 pandas, but you can see photos of all of them. If you click on the individual link for each panda (pandas 18 and 11 are shown above), you can see more photos of that particular panda--including, in most instances, photos of when they were just days old.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What about a post about a show no one watches?

Well, I guess the title of this post isn't quite right--we've already established that Wilder also watches What About Brian? But other than her, I don't know one person watching this show.

A few thoughts after last night's episode:
*What about the theme song? Is there a stupider one out there than the one on this show? What's it called? "On the Way Down?" (Hmm, actually, I just looked at the Myspace page for the band, and it looks like it is called "Calling All Friends.") Sample lyrics: "Calling all friends, and people I met on the way down. Calling all friends, and people I don't even know. Calling on high, I want to believe there's a way now..." The lyrics are bad enough, but what makes it worse is the over-earnest harmonizing, trying to make a trite song into something meaningful. Gag.

*What about Krista Allen? Am I the only one who can't look at her (she plays Brian's love interest) without thinking of her Clooney-dating, soft-core porn background? She's not a good actress, and I find her character (the type of woman who "doesn't know how to be friends with women," which is usually just an excuse for being the kind of girl who will chase your boyfriend) totally uncompelling. I also can't stand that she is supposed to play someone "tough as nails" but her voice is little-girl-breathy. And I don't buy into her character and Brian as a couple at all. Can she just leave the show? (But please don't return to Days of our Lives, which is the last place I saw her "act.")

*What about finding Marjorie and Adam totally compelling? I didn't like Marjorie at all last season, when the entire show revolved around two men being totally obsessed with her. But now that she has been gone for awhile, and now that she and Adam have the whole "I want you but can't have you tension" going on, I'm totally rooting for them. Unfortunately, the end of this week's episode makes it appear that isn't going to happen.

*What about the dropped storyline? The show spent episodes building this story of Heather/Summer and the guy who is suing her for leading him on while she was a stripper, even showing her sitting with him at a bar last week when Adam ditched her for Marjorie, and now she's out of Adam's life? What was the point?

*What about Jimmy and Ivy? I admit I didn't watch all of season one, and I get that Jimmy is supposed to work with Adam at their law firm, but really...what are they doing on the show? If they are supposed to be integral characters, give them a storyline. Otherwise, get them off the screen. Right now, they just sit around at parties and don't add anything.

*What about Dave and Deena? Yes or no? I say yes.

*What about whether the show last long enough to see any of these storylines end? Again, other than me and Wilder, does anyone else out there watch this show?

*What about the annoying way every episode's title begins with "What about?" Although I guess it's really no different from Friends ("The one with...") and probably a lot of other shows. But see how annoying it was when I did it in this post? Exactly.


Monday, January 29, 2007

A Great Movie

On Saturday night, Mrs. Bartender and I went to see our fourth of the Best Picture nominees, Letters from Iwo Jima. (Babel is on tap for next weekend.) Despite the fact that throughout the film, Mrs. Bartender kept saying to me, "Why do you take me to war movies? You know I hate war movies?," after the fact, she commented on how great a film it was and how much she enjoyed it. Crazy, sure, but it also captures the power of this film.

Simply put, the concept of this movie is astounding. How often does a movie get made about the enemy that not merely humanizes them but makes them the heroes of the film? (Do we think that 60 years after the Iraq war ends (whenever that will be), someone will make a film making the members of the Sunni militia the heroes?) On top of that, this film was made by Clint Eastwood--if someone had asked 15 or 20 years ago, if Dirty Harry would make such a movie, there would only have been laughter. But he has done so and done it in a way that praises (many of) the Japanese soldiers who fought and died on Iwo Jima, it raises their commonality to the Americans they were fighting on numerous levels. One sees the diversity among the Japanese forces from baron to simple baker, their fears and desires for home, and, among the officers, a friendship with Americans, whether from serving in the United States in the 1930s or as a gold medalist in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

One particularly powerful moment is when the wife of an American officer asks the man who will ultimately command the Japanese forces defending Iwo Jima what he would do if the US and Japan ever went to war. After commenting that such a war would be a major mistake, then-Col. Kuribayashi comments that he would fight for Japan; while his wife is taken aback at this response, the US officer comments, that this is the attitude of all good military men. And so it is, and so we end up on Iwo Jima.

The cast is superb. Led by the justly praised Ken Watanabe as the commanding general in what is, as he quickly realizes, a suicide mission to defend this island, the cast also includes numerous other Japanese actors who are unknown in the US. Kazunari Ninomiya as Saigo, the baker conscripted into a mission of which he wants no part, is particularly outstanding. (I subsequently learned he is a Japanese pop star.) That the movie is in Japanese is something that is of no matter to one's enjoyment of it. The acting brings the characters thoroughly to life, and one is so engrossed in the movie, the subtitles merely add to a realism that would be lost were the cast speaking in English (either with hideous Japanese accents or, as is the case too often in films, with British accents).

One small quibble (and it is quite small), the movie does not let you know how many soldiers were on Iwo Jima trying to prevent the US occupation. The answer, as I subsequently learned, was slightly more that 20,000 of which 95% were killed. The massive American forces numbered about 4 times that amount and about 7,000 Americans were killed. To put that in perspective, that is more than twice what was killed on 9/11 or, to date, in Iraq. All in securing an island of 8 square miles.

My final question is I wonder how this movie has been received in Japan. I know it has been released there, and one would think it would be popular, but who knows. Update: Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor on its Japanese reaction.

So I strongly recommend this film. If you don't like war movie (or even if you do), be prepared for some pretty violent scenes. War is not pretty and Eastwood does not pretend that it is. There is nothing glorious in this film, but there is something noble in many (but certainly not all) of the soldiers simply trying to survive.


Thursday, January 25, 2007


I got to Varanasi last night, and my hotel has TV! American TV. I watched "American Idol" (the Memphis auditions).

Yay Varanasi. Not only are you Hindu's holiest city, but you have wonderful, wonderful television.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

In A Serious Aside

This deserves all the attention and praise it can receive. (It is, however, not as humorous as Sacha Baron Cohen's statement that Borat was unable to receive congratulations on "his" Golden Globe nomination because he was in Teheran speaking at the Holocaust denial conference.)

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What's up with Lorelei?

The Gilmore Girls has me so confused lately. What do the writers want us to think is going on in the Luke/Lorelei/Christopher love triangle? Is Lorelei happily married? Is she going to stay that way? Are she and Luke really over? I can't tell if the character is confused and so that's how we're supposed to feel too, or whether the writers are just trying to move on with Christopher without disprespecting what Luke and Lorelei had and so are making her feel tender toward Luke even though she has no real love for him anymore. But it's driving me crazy!



For those non-political types (or West Wing fans), that's the State of the Union. Don't worry, this is not a political post (at least for the most part). Just a few observations about last night's speech:

1. First, I thought the President was surprisingly good with his presentation. He looked more confident than I had seen him in a while and was appropriately serious. (When he is reading a speech, he can, at times, be quite good; when talking with reporters or debating, not so much.) The introduction regarding Madam Speaker was also a nice and classy touch.

2. Having Dikembe Mutombo next to the First Lady was high comedy. What are the odds he asked her and those around her, "Who wants to sex Mutombo?" If you don't know what I'm talking about, see here and scroll down.

3. Did the President really praise someone for having "borrowed some equipment, and began filming children's videos in her basement." Was a gimp involved? Hat tip, Mike.

4. Finally, topping the unintentional comedy scale was Tim Russert's comment immediately after the speech that Bush had told his aides that during the speech he would be "sober." Good to know (although I always thought Bush should have announced in his second inaugural that he decided to start drinking again just to spice things up a little; perhaps he did.)

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's A Wonderful Morning for Oscar

So we now have the nominations for next month's academy awards. Let me start by saying that because of the arrival of Isaac, Jr., Mrs. Bartender and I have not seen as many of the contenders as usual although we have seen 3 of the 5 best picture nominees (The Departed, The Queen, and Little Miss Sunshine). Here are some thoughts:

1. The no brainers: Martin Scorsese is finally going to win his Oscar for Best Director and Helen Mirren better be working on her acceptance speech. I would also put Forest Whittaker in this category (for his amazing portrayal of Idi Amin) but Peter O'Toole has a shot simply as someone who has been nominated 8 times and never won. And his acceptance speech would be one for the ages (although I am looking forward even more to Ricky Henderson's when he enters the baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, assuming he doesn't make another comeback).

2. The pleasant surprises: The success of Little Miss Sunshine and Paul Greengrass getting nominated for the outstanding United 93. I haven't yet seen Letters from Iwo Jima, but I hear it is a fantastic movie as well.

3. The disappointments: Well, obviously that Sacha Baron Cohen was not nominated for Best Actor. (He was nominated for best adapted screenplay, however.) Also, Dreamgirls has to be mighty disappointed not to have snagged a Best Picture or Director nomination.

4. So what's the bottom line: I think The Departed will ultimately win the big prize, but the race is certainly wide open. I really liked all three of the nominated films I have seen although I would lean towards The Departed as the best of the three. As indicated, I am excited to see Letters from Iwo Jima. As for Babel, almost everyone I know who has seen it thinks it is nothing special. So we'll see.

Remember, the Oscars are February 25. I'm sure I'll have more to say.


Monday, January 22, 2007

30 Rock

I have to say that Mrs. Bartender and I have greatly enjoyed 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin has won much deserved acclaim (and a Golden Globe) as a network executive, Tracy Morgan is quite funny, I have always liked Tina Fey, and the supporting cast is very solid. The show is worth a watch.

One of the funniest cast members is Jack McBrayer as Kenneth, the naive NBC page who actually seems to know everything. One strange thought--Kenneth reminds me too much of John Edwards. (In case you are unsure, the picture is of McBrayer.) I guess this can't be too good for the Edwards campaign (although I'm sure he's more worried about HRC and Obama).


Mr. Tony Meets Mr. Snyder?

Rumors are flying that Tony Kornheiser's radio show will be returning to DC on Triple X ESPN radio. A "big announcement" will take place this afternoon during the Riggins show, and the radio station is claiming, "Guess who's back, and we got him." The obviously implication is that it is Mr. Tony--although his working for the Redskins/Snyder could spell the end of his days with the Post (although he wasn't really with the Post anymore any way). We wil know soon enough, but a source will neither confirm nor deny that Tony's show will be coming back to Triple X.

Update: Okay, so I was half right. It looks like the big announcement was simply that PTI is going to be broadcast on Triple X at 7pm every night. Bailey will be excited.


Red lipstick is evil

I dislike red lipstick on just about everyone, but was so used to seeing it on Gwen Stefani that I figured she had the color permanently tatooed on her mouth.

Happily, I was wrong. I have always thought Gwen was kind of ugly, but maybe the lipstick was throwing me off. She looks so much better without the scarlet!


Friday, January 19, 2007

CBS gives away 15 seconds

Has anyone else heard that CBS is giving away 15 seconds of airtime to someone who posts a video on YouTube? The videos are posted in a group on YouTube, and then based on viewers' comments and clicks, the top five are put on the CBS website every two weeks (http://www.cbs.com/originals/15_seconds/index.php?v=6&p=1).

This is my favorite of the current crop. I mean, the cat is WEARING A SUIT!

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Thursday TV

I don't have enough to say about any one show I watched last night for a single post, so here's a few random thoughts:

Yet another great twist on Ugly Betty last night. It makes total sense that the mystery "woman" is Daniel's older "brother" Alex, and casting the former Mrs. Stamos as a post-op transvestite is delish. And the all night quasi date with Betty and Daniel was completely adorable. I love watching them together.

A very decent episode of Grey's Anatomy. The goodbye to George's father definitely had me tearing up and it was a wonderful and very believable moment when Cristina welcomed George to the Dead Dads club. I really wish this mess between Washington and the rest of the cast wasn't getting so ugly. It's distracting!

I watched my first full episode of The Office, and . . . I liked it? It's not the kind of thing I usually enjoy, too humiliating, but I finally see what Isaac's been talking about. I don't think I'll become a regular viewer, but it's a nice little half hour here and there.

Che, Taylor and Kaitlin continue to be my favorite characters on The O.C. I don't know how that happened, but they're just awesome. I'm really looking forward to the resolution between the romance of Che's frog and Seth's otter.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

In more shocking news

Lindsay Lohan is in rehab. Did anyone see this coming?


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Are we sure Prince and Bob Dylan came from this place?

This is the first of what are sure to be many American Idol (season six) posts to come, and probably the shortest. Was there one really good singer out of last night's bunch from the Minneapolis auditions? I don't think so. There was the one girl who sang "And I AmTelling You," but I thought she really oversang the song (also thought it was funny that there was no mention of Jennifer Hudson singing it, obviously because the show was filmed before the movie had been released).

And other than her...who was there? The Navy guy who made Josh Gracin look restrained? The Army girl who got through because her husband is in Iraq and the judges didn't want to make her tell him she didn't make it? Anyone?

The scariest part is that Seattle (the site of today's episode) is, according to Simon, the worst city (in terms of singing talent) they have ever visited. It gets worse?!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globe fashions

My thoughts on a few dresses from last night's show.

Jennifer Love Hewitt. She never looks effortless. And if she's going to try so hard, couldn't she manage to wear something that isn't hideous? It's overdone ballgown after overdone ballgown with her, and they are never flattering. This is the woman for whom John Mayer wrote "Your Body is a Wonderland." Surely she could show it off better.

Reese Witherspoon. I'm sure this will be one of the night's controversial choices. I actually liked it. It looked a bit informal, but if her goal was to look young and very thin, she succeeded. And her shoes are amazing.

Jessica Biel. Okay, we get it. You like your butt. It sticks out. People think it's sexy. I am all for playing up your assets, but this is getting a little tedious. Maybe next time you can forgo the clingy, butt-hugging style? Take a cue from...

Jennifer Lopez. If anyone is known for her backside, it's J. Lo. And she plays it up often. But not every time.

Vanessa Williams. I loved everything about this (except the fur). I truly believe that Vanessa Williams knows how campy her show and character are, and she is playing it up with get-ups like this. Hysterical.

Salma Hayek. I was disappointed. She looked better in that aqua dress on last week's episode of Ugly Betty. The asymmetry on the bodice of the dress, as well as the overall cut, make Salma look squat instead of hot. And the shoes look really trashy--the platform is too high and they just look cheap.

Helen Mirren. She always looks amazing. And I really, really want the stone in that necklace.

Tina Fey. I thought she looked really cute, particularly her hair and makeup.

Cameron Diaz. I actually liked the dress. I thought it was cute and fun and she pulled it off. I also love her hair darker. But I hated this lipstick. Her mouth is already Joker-like, and such a bright red only accentuates that.

Beyonce. A friend suggested that this is probably a House of Dereon special, and I have to agree. It's so beauty pageant. And although I have heard some people saying her boobs looked great, I have to disagree. They don't look at all natural here--this is bringing up images of female bodybuilders. I doubt that's what Beyonce was going for. And speaking of beauty pageants...

Vanessa Minnillo. First off, what was she doing at this show? Was she interviewing people for MTV? It doesn't appear to be the case, but otherwise, her presence makes no sense. More importantly, who styles this girl? Everything she wears screams "cheap beauty pageant." It's always a shiny satin and looks like it is made of lycra (see these links for similarly ugly dresses she has worn of late).

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The Amazing Race All Stars: the teams are announced

The Amazing Race has finally announced all of the teams that will be competing in their All-Star edition. Looks like earlier reports that Colin and Christie would be returning were false, which is disappointing: they were a really strong team, so despite how annoying they were, it would have been nice to see them return.

The teams:
Team Guido (I am most excited about this)
Kevin and Drew (if you have the Guidos, you have to have Kevin and Drew as well)
Team Cha Cha Cha (I know my friend "Willis Jackson" will be thrilled)
Jon-Vito and Jill (unfortunately, they broke up as a couple in real life)
Teri and Ian (the classic Ugly Americans, I'm disappointed they made it)
Charla and Mirna (I'm excited to see how many incredibly difficult challenges Mirna will force Charla to do while she sits around and complains)
Rob and Amber (I still think that, along with Eric and Jeremy, they ran the best race from start-to-finish, and I actually like them)
Uchenna and Joyce (they are the only champions to make the cut, and I think they are a horrible choice, as they were probably the weakest team to ever win)
David and Mary (totally undeserving)
Beauty Queens (I was hoping they would make it--I would love to see them win it all)
Eric the Frat Guy and Dani, one half of the blondes from Long Island, both from season ten (this is the only "new" team, in that they had other partners when they first ran the race--they are now dating and I think it should be interesting)

The season starts on February 18. I am most disappointed that the Mormon Sisters won't be competing, but I am still incredibly excited.

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Golden Globe thoughts

I watched The Devil Wears Prada this weekend, and Meryl Streep looked amazing. The clothes she wore were stylish, figure-flattering and age-appropriate. And her hair was always styled. So why does she have so much trouble looking good at awards shows? Can't she just hire the stylist from The Devil Wears Prada and have him dress her for every awards show from now until the future? Hell, the style of clothing wouldn't even have to change all that much. In the movie, they put her in what appears to be her favorite style, a dress with a wide v-neck, but instead of making her look larger, as she did at the Globes last night (and at almost every awards show I have seen her at), it looked sleek and slimming.

For the first hour of the awards I kept thinking that the camera was panning over Neve Campbell, and I couldn't understand why Neve was at the awards, let alone getting camera time. Then I realized it was actually America Ferrara. Oops. Speaking of America, I thought she looked really cute (although I wonder if the cap sleeve was the best choice--as a friend who used to work in product development at the Gap used to say, "cap sleeves are not democratic"). And her speech was heartfelt. But were all of those actresses in the audience really crying along with her? Were they all that moved? Sure, Salma Hayek works with America, so maybe her tears make sense. But Teri Hatcher? And Felicity Huffman? Do they really care that much? I'm skeptical.

What were those little blue puzzle piece type pins that Steve Carrell, Alec Baldwin and others were wearing all about?

I was really happy that Sascha Baron Cohen went to the show as himself, rather than Borat. I had discussed this with Isaac and the entire Bartender family this weekend, and although I'm sure he would have been very funny as Borat, accepting the award in character would make the accomplishment seem like it didn't really mean anything. By accepting as himself people actually see how very different Cohen is from his character. And he managed to be really funny regardless.

Can everyone stop talking about Dreamgirls as a serious Best Picture contender for the Oscars? It was an okay film, but certainly nothing special, and it plodded along. It had two great performances (Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy) and some amazing Diana Ross-like costumes for Beyonce at the end of the film. But other than that, it really wasn't that great.

Am I naive when I think that Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon look like they are really a happy couple?

Was this the first time we have seen Joaquin Phoenix since Oscar night last year? I think so.

My favorite moment of the night was probably when Jeremy Irons won his best supporting actor in TV award and went over to Kevin Connolly on his way up to the stage. Kevin made some hand gestures which clearly said "no, you have the wrong guy, it's not me you just beat, it's this guy over here," at which point Irons shook Jeremy Piven's hand. Classic.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Banned in Kerala

Apparently the production and sale of Coke and Pepsi is banned in Kerala. Something about high levels of pesticides. This is hard to square with the fact that I was served a Coke in my last hotel, and that I just saw it for sale (although distressingly lukewarm) in my walk through downtown Kumily. But still, it's tough to come by.

Diet Sprite is but a dream.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Slight turn to the serious

I cannot believe that a public official, not to mention someone who's a lawyer and therfore has a passing familiarity with the constitution and the ethical duties of lawyers, would say this. I'm completely revolted.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Blast: Paula Abdul

This is very amusing.

Meanwhile, I can't wait for the new season of Idol. Has anyone been watching the Idol-type Grease show? It's pretty great too.


iTunes Disappointment

What is with Fox broadcasting? Why do they suck? Not only did they cancel The O.C. during possibly its best season ever, but the episodes aren't available on iTunes. I don't get it! Why can I purchase Stacked, or the Fiesta Bowl, but not last week's O.C.? WHY DOES THE WORLD HATE ME?


The Real Housewives of Orange County, take two

In keeping with today's themes of television shows that are guilty pleasures, it looks like The Real Housewives of Orange County are back for a second round. There will be one change: Kim, the housewife with skin cancer who got in the middle of the Jo/Slade (WHO is named Slade?!)/Lauri triangle has moved out of town. Taking her place is Tammy, who, according the the show's website, "used to live in one of the biggest house in the gated community, but that was before she and her husband, Lou, lost their fortune from their lucrative business."

It's odd, because Lauri was last year's "I used to be rich but now I'm not," and she's still on the show. But apparently she is "enjoying being pampered in a whirlwind romance to rival TomKat." So maybe she's back with the haves this time around.

This show often infuriated me because they were so privileged, plastic and laissez-faire with their money, you never saw them actually do volunteer work or donate anything, and their kids were super-spoiled. But I continued to watch, thinking that it was all an exaggeration.

And then I met an incredibly wealthy couple ("Richies") this weekend who were considering moving halfway across the country so that their child could go to the poshest of private schools (he had an interview at said school--he is three years old). Why was it so important that Richie Son get into this school? Because "unless he totally messes up, he'll have his choice of Ivy League schools." When I pointed out lots of people get into Ivies without going to the best private elementary school I was informed that the real reason this school was so important was that it would pave the way for him to attend Eton. Yes, Eton is now the goal. And when I said that I was sure he would be okay even if he didn't get into said private elementary school and that "it's not the end of the world if it doesn't happen," I was told that in fact it would be the end of the world. Because, according to Richie Wife, "things aren't the way they used to be" academically. I guess not. I'm sure it was much easier for someone like me, a public school graduate whose parents were an immigrant with an elementary school education and a first-generation American with a high school education, to attend top schools and become "successful" than it will be for Richie Son, with his enormous amounts of wealth, a nanny, private tutors, and some private school education (even if it isn't Eton). Makes sense to me!

So The Real Housewives: total reality.


Ugly Betty

Ok, maybe I'm an idiot, but Salma being evil TOTALLY surprised me. I was wondering how the heck they'd get Betty back in the Mode offices, and this was a great twist to make that happen. I also enjoyed seeing the softer side of Sears Wilhelmina, but oh so thrilled to see her go back to herself. While not appointment television, this show really continues to charm me.


What About Brian?

Am I the only one out there still watching this show and thoroughly enjoying every darn second of it? LOVE IT.


This Is Just So Wrong

Now, I am a HUGE Yankees fan, and if any of you out there want to question my Yankee bona fides, let me just say that I've been going to Yankee games since I was in kindergarten including Game 5 of the 1976 playoffs! But when I saw this box of Wheaties at the supermarket last night, I nearly choked. ARod and the breakfast of champions? Is there a Peyton Manning version as well? Please put Jeter, Mo, or Paul O'Neill on the box, but until ARod wins a ring, no Wheaties for him.


The Holidays May Be Over

But this Steve Martin bit from, I believe the late 1980s, I have always loved. Just thought I would share, so enjoy.

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In preparation for my trip, I bought a new video iPod and gave my old mini to my friend J. On inspecting my music, J. said that I had a lot of "chick music." (Which . . . don't even get me started. Suffice it to say that this is from a person who owns a copy of Rick Springfield's Greatest Hits.) When I asked for an example he cited Aretha Franklin.

I ask you, dear readers, is Aretha Franklin chick music? I say no.

Greetings from India

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but I'm in India. Before I left (on Tuesday), I had all sorts of ideas for posts about (1) Gilbert Arenas (general awesomeness of); (2) Seasons 3 and 4 of the Wire (ditto); and (3) excellent meals I ate recently at El Chalan and Colvin Run Tavern; among other topics. But last minute errands took up all of my time, so you'll just have to use your imaginations.

Pop culture wise, I'm not sure that my time in India will provide much fodder for blogging, because I don't understand cricket. In yesterday's Hindu Times, there was an editorial about India's recent match with South Africa. Apparently, India was ahead after the first three days, but on the fourth day, conservative play led to their downfall. This editorial did not make me want to learn more about cricket.

Here's what I can tell you: on the flight from Dulles to Zurich, I watched The Last King of Scotland, which I highly recommend. Forest Whitaker has justly received a lot of praise for his portrayal of Idi Amin, but I also though that James McAvoy, who played the main character was quite good. I had seen him before in an ill-conceived updating of MacBeth on BBC America.

So, now I'm in Kerala, staying in a very nice hotel on the backwaters. And guess who previously stayed in my room? Paul McCartney and Heather Mills! I will try to post photographic proof if I can find a computer with a USB port. (I think I might have buried the lede on this one.)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Donald, You've Left Me With No Choice

but to say, you're fired. That 's right, The Apprentice is coming off my DVR. It had, to quote Red Fraggle, become a chore to watch. Now if the Donald and Rosie were to engage in a steel cage death match, this I would watch.


Thursday Musings

I haven't posted for a while, and I just wanted to share some random thoughts on a number of topics. You may or, more likely, may not care:

1. Last night, Mrs. Bartender and I watched Once In A Lifetime, the documentary that came out this summer about the Cosmos. I'm not a huge soccer fan, but I do remember as a kid living in NJ the phenomenon that briefly was the Cosmos (including the presence of Pele). (Fitting that I post this today when the most famous, although not the best, soccer player--David Beckham--comes to the USA.) I highly recommend this film. It is a lot of fun, the stories about the pre-Pele Cosmos are comical, Shep Messing alone is worth the price of the movie, and Georgio Chinaglia comes off as an even bigger jerk than one could imagine. I also really enjoyed that at the end of the film when they mention that Pele would not appear, you hear the sound of a cash register (he wanted $100k). Amazingly, however, the word cocaine was never mentioned, despite frequent discussions of Studio 54, pictures of Steve Rubell, and Chinaglia's well known drug problems. I also imagine Steve Ross, the Warner communications CEO and de facto Cosmos owner, knew how to have a good time. (Also sad to see Ahmet Ertegun looking so dapper and well; he and his brother co-founded the team.)

2. We also watched two other movies over the weekend--Syriana and Transamerica. Both were good, but the former was definitely better. I know everyone complains about how confusing Syriana is, but (1) I really didn't think it was that confusing and (2) part of the point of the movie is that no one knows exactly what is going on. I realize these two points are slightly contradictory, but I knew enough to follow this extremely well acted film. Whether any of what it portrays is accurate is a different question, but as far as movies go, it was an excellent film and a worthy successor to Traffic.

As for Transamerica, Felicity Huffman (half of Filliam H. Muffman) has been rightly and roundly praised. The movie is a little slow in places, and I really don't understand who would drive from NY to LA and not take the interstates. He/she needs to get back to LA quickly; one would think that you would go as fast as possible. Btw, a great performance from Burt "Paulie" Young as Bree's father. Finally, I thought her son did not have to be as screwed up as he was. Her gender identity issues were central to the movie, but I just thought his were a little much from sexual abuse by his stepfather, unclear sexual orientation, to, ultimately, gay porn. Yes, it's a life many of us have led, but it made the movie a little more distant for this viewer.

3. College football has, I hope, finally eaten the goose that laid the golden egg. The never ending bowl season ended with a whimper Monday night as Florida throttled OSU. Most bowl games are meaningless, but now to stretch things out for a whole week after New Year's makes one care even less. Not surprisingly, the ratings for the non-"championship" games were a joke (including for the unbelievable Boise State-Oklahoma game), and Notre Dame continues to get into games they don't deserve because they are Notre Dame. The system is as crooked as professional wrestling, and yet no one bothers to do anything about it. (And all praise the one voter who voted Boise State number 1. )

4. No shocks with the baseball hall of fame voting. By this summer, the focus will (rightly) be on Ripken and Gwynn and not Big Mac. Ripken and Gwynn both easily deserved election although the latter was certainly the better player. I am only (slightly) disappointed that the Goose narrowly missed election, but based upon his vote total and the fact that no new candidate next year will be elected, Gossage is a shoe-in to join the Hall in 2008 (barring the discovery that he used steroids during his stellar career).

5. Last night on Letterman, Peter O'Toole appeared. I don't know whether he was completely tanked or after years of alcohol abuse, his blood alcohol level has just hit a steady state of around 0.15, but he is a hoot. (If he were an American, I don't think he could get away with it.) He told a great story in which he and Peter Finch were about to be thrown out of a pub in Dublin so they bought the bar. Luckily, when they realized what they had done the following morning, the checks had not been cashed and all was forgiven. A true legend.

6. Watched the first episode of The Knights of Prosperity, and I was entertained enough to add it to my DVR. (Episode 2 is on the DVR, but this required some fancy footwork as the President spoke until 9:25.) A great cameo from Mick, and the show certainly has potential.

7. Have I mentioned you should watch The Office? Just making sure. And last week's My Name is Earl was the best of the season as they watched an episode of Cops featuring Earl and company prior to Earl's discovery of karma. Too hard to explain if you didn't see it, but you should. (And can, as it is, I believe, available on NBC.com until tonight's episode airs.)

8. Set your DVR/TiVO/VCR. Next Thursday, worlds will collide. Colbert is on O'Reilly and then O'Reilly will be on Colbert. ''I look forward to the evening,'' Colbert said. ''It is an honor to speak face-to-face with a broadcasting legend, and I feel the same way about Mr. O'Reilly.''

That's all folks.

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The best show on television?

I know the general consensus among critics is that The Wire is currently the best show on television. However, I don't watch The Wire, because I really can't handle shows that are too gritty (The Sopranos is enough for me).

So I'm going to make my vote for Friday Night Lights. Is there anything that could be improved about this show? If so, I can't think of it. The writing is moving and realistic, the acting is great, the cinematography is effective, the small characters are perfect and they get the small details right (do football players in East Texas really have huge signs on their front lawns with their name, jersey number and position? I suspect so!). I love it.

I particularly loved last night's episode. Lyla Garritty might very well be the Best Girlfriend Ever, but for her transgression with Tim Riggins (but if one were to ever cheat, shouldn't it be with someone just like Riggins?). But despite her wholesomeness she doesn't come across as unrealistic or saccharine. Just like a teenager who is really in love and wants to do be the best person she can.

I love that the show is consistent about giving Smash barely-perceptible acne, even when his steroid use has not been profiled for the last few weeks (although it looks like that storyline comes to a head in next week's episode). And I loved his speech to Waverly about who he is and how he loves not only football but the crowd, the attention, and everything that comes along with being a star (as well as his admission that, like Rickey, he will continue speaking about himself in the third person).

Was there any doubt that Tyra's home life would be exactly as it was? No surprise there. What I loved the most about her scenes was her talk with her mom about getting out of Dillon, and her mom telling her that she did leave once, for Dallas. Actually, during this talk I did think to myself "are you telling me that the girl who wants to get out so badly never knew her mother moved to Dallas at 18?" So maybe there was a slight point of unrealism. But regardless, I thought it was effective, because it reminded us not only that Tyra wants to get out, but also that it is easy to be pulled right back in. And the fact that her bonding moment with her mother was interrupted by Abusive Boyfriend of the Week made it all the more poignant.

For me, the most poignant storyline of all is Jason Street's. Sure, Matt Seracen's story is sad, he is a 16 year old with a lot on his plate and no help, and his selfless act in telling his dad to return to Iraq--and to think that someone would prefer Iraq to selling cars for Buddy Garritty--was totally in character. (On a sidenote, Buddy Garritty is a great minor character. I loved his sleaziness in making Seracen's father wear the flag pin, and I adored his scene in church, recognizing that god is truly all-powerful because he ensured the Panthers would make the playoffs and then saying "You know what I'm going to ask for next, god" when he prayed that they would win state. But then we do see the more human side of him, like when he stood by his daughter after finding out she had cheated on Jason with Riggins.)

But Jason's story is my favorite. I love his character, I guess because I'm a sucker for a good kid who has something go wrong, and continues to be a good kid. The scene where Jason starts trying to convince himself that maybe his parents and the lawyers are right about the merit of his lawsuit was great. You could see him doing it not only for his mom, but also for himself, so that he could live with the decision. Of course, he couldn't stop himself from apologizing to his coach, because he's a good kid who can't stand what's going on around him, but can't stop it either. And the new Jason-as-outcast story will be interesting to watch as well. I want to see how a town of people who loved Jason as a quarterback and supported him when he was paralyzed justifies ostracizing him now that he is suing the Dillon Panthers.

Although Jason is my favorite character, my favorite scenes are always those between Coach Taylor and his wife. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are so incredibly realistic as a married couple, and there banter always makes me laugh out loud. Which is something I don't do often while watching TV. Their tiff last week over Riggins' education, where Tami kept telling her husband that she couldn't even believe they were arguing because she was so obviously right, was priceless, particularly when Coach Taylor actually listened to her and told Riggins he had better pass (without rally girl help) if he wanted to play.

I guess I have written a pretty long review only to say what I said in the first two paragraphs here. Friday Night Lights is about as perfect as television shows come.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Love and basketball

As has been widely reported, basketball star Jason Kidd has filed for divorce, and in his petition has accused his wife, Joumana, of physical and mental abuse.

Joumana's attorney's response? "He says he's threatened by her? He's a star athlete. She's 5-foot-2, I think, and 105 pounds."

I know nothing about the Kidds' personal life, I have no idea if Jason's allegations are true, but her attorney's response is exactly the reason more men don't report spousal abuse. It's embarassing for many a man to say that his wife, who is supposed to be physically weaker, is abusing him. But it really does happen, and it's a very real problem. Joumana's attorney's comments are totally irresponsible, and continue to foster an idea that size matters when it comes to abuse, when it really has nothing to do with it. Obviously, when you are smaller than your attacker it is more difficult to get away, and he may be able to inflict more severe pain. But it doesn't mean a small woman can't bite, scratch, kick and throw things at a large man. And it doesn't mean it isn't abuse.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Joys of No Internet

As threatened, I've been completely without internet for almost a week now, and it's TERRIBLE. I just now found out The O.C. has been cancelled, and I have no idea what Paris or Britney has been up to. However, one compensating pleasure that you can't get when you have broadband in the home or office, I just saw a 14 year-old girl get her computer privileges revoked at the public library for looking at porn.



I am an avid sports fan, but I never fail to find it humorous when television stations play overblown, emotional songs at the end of a big sporting event. And I think that Fox's choice at the end of tonight's BCS Championship might take the cake.

The choice? Andrea Bocelli's "Con te partirĂ²" (or "A Time to Say Goodbye" in the U.S.). The combination of the operatic song and Florida linebackers leaping in the air is pure comedy. What's better? This isn't even the first time that the song has been used at the close of a championship game. Hell, it isn't even the first time the Fox has done so. Back in 2000, the network used it at the end of the World Series (unsurprisingly, I never saw this, as I turned the television off in disgust the second the last out was recorded).

I have to admit that I like the song. A lot. This embarasses me, but I can't help myself. By far the best rendition was Kenny McCormick's in "Quintuplets 2000."

In contrast to Fox's Bocelli choice, I totally loved ESPN SportsCentury's 100 year sports retrospective done in December 1999, to the tune of Aerosmith's "Dream On." It can be viewed here. Sure, it's overdone, but it is also almost seven minutes of some of the most memorable sports moments of our time. (On a sidenote, Gobo is of the belief that Aerosmith didn't actually write "Dream On," because it is so superior to every other song they have ever created.) Anyway, I would definitely recommend the ESPN video to any sports fan.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Havana Nights (and Days)

No, this is not a post on the wonders of the sequel/remake to Dirty Dancing that came out a few years ago that neither I nor most other humans saw. Instead, today's post is about the past week Mrs. Bartender and I spent in the fascinating city that is Havana.

First, a note. Our trip to Cuba was legal with the blessing of our Treasury Department. Second, I am not going to use this post to discuss the wisdom of the travel ban/embargo on Cuba other than to say that I thought it stupid, ineffective, and a valuable propaganda tool to Castro (i.e., blame Cuba's economic woes on the US) before I went and I still think so now. (Note, despite this opinion, I am no fan of Fidel and hope that his exit from the scene (which will happen sooner rather than later) will enable relations between the two nations to improve.)

Instead, I want to focus on what a special place Havana is. First off, the city is simply beautiful. The setting, on the Gulf of Mexico with a fantastic natural harbor lends itself to fantastic natural beauty and the architecture simply reinforces that. Habana Vieja (Old Havana for those not to savvy at Spanish) is a UNESCO world heritage site and essentially a 17th and 18th century city containing one architectural treasure after the next, and restoration efforts since 1994 have done some amazing work. We stayed in a hotel that has been recently restored which was spectacular. (Sure, you didn't have every amenity you would in most big cities, but it was a great old building in a perfect location.) Nonetheless, much of Habana Vieja is still rundown (as is most of the rest of the city) and many of the restored buildings remain dilapidated inside. Yet there is simply nowhere like this that I have been (although I would imagine that a few of the spectacular South American cities are comparable).

In addition, there is the Malecon, the road that goes along the gulf with waves frequently crashing into it. The buildings along the Malecon are, for the most part, in terrible condition, but there are some spectacular ones including the Hotel Nacional (former home of Lucky Luciano) and the American Embassy which is involved in a propaganda war with Cuban authorities. Add to this the numerous 1950s automobiles and the city is truly a time machine.

We went to a baseball game (we had seats right behind home plate for $3) and afterwards the manager, a player, and a retired star (German Mesa) were mingling with fans on the street outside the stadium. We saw the Buena Vista Social Club and chatted with the members after the show. We were in the 1950s.

And for New Years Eve, we were at the Tropicana, a night club that even Castro would not close. So the dinner was pretty bad, the red wine not drinkable, and dancers' choreography quite weak, but it was an experience I will always remember. I'm sure that some day Cirque de Soleil will run the whole thing, but to ring in 2007 there was a unique experience .

When Cuba is finally opened to Americans, it will change, hopefully mostly for the better but something will be lost. A city that can be flown to in essentially the same amount of time as Miami, that offers architecture and a landscape that few cities can match, that has better weather than Florida (every day we were there was around 80 and sunny), and offers the excitement of a different culture (or, more accurately, cultures) will insure that the Americans "invade" once again. Plus the Cuban cigars and great cocktails--your bartender certainly had a few mojitos and Cuba Libres. I only hope that even when Habana Vieja has numerous Starbucks and McDonalds, the buildings these places are in get the restoration they deserve.

So if you get a chance to visit Cuba before it opens up, go. If not, hope that we can all go soon enough. Ideally, the Cuban and the American people will greatly benefit from the opening.

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King of Tours?

It looks like the Police may be touring this summer. The last time they toured, I was but a lad (and not even old enough to drink or mix cocktails), and I did not get to see them. This will go high on the list of events I would like to attend this summer should it come to pass.

Farewell to the O.C., bitch

Sad news today: The O.C. has been cancelled.

It's really unfortunate considering how much better this season has been. Sure, last season sucked, as did the large majority of season two. But it really seems that the show has regained its footing.

Not that this is any surprise. And series creator Josh Schwartz said that there will be closure at the end of the show. So I guess there is the tiniest of silver linings here.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I can't help myself!

It looks like Rob and Amber's new reality show, Against the Odds, will be premiering in a week. In it, Rob and Amber head to Las Vegas where Rob will become a professional poker player. (As a side note, doesn't Amber look odd and not at all Amber-like in the photo on Fox's website?)

It sounds pretty crappy, and it is on Fox Reality (which I'm not even sure I get), but I don't think I'll be able to resist. I really couldn't stand Rob or Amber on their respective Survivor series, and I was pretty indifferent to them in Survivor: All Stars, but I loved them on The Amazing Race.

Speaking of, shouldn't the Amazing Race All-Stars season be starting up really soon? Can't wait!

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This time, is it true?

Perez Hilton is reporting that Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake have broken up. Of course, he reported the same gossip over six months ago (which I then posted here). So who knows whether it's really the case this time around.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Another public affair

For the past year Nick Lachey has successfully played the part of a private, normal guy who was pushed into a public life by Evil Joe Simpson--a public life that evenutally ruined his marriage. Most fans have joined Team Lachey rather than Team Simpson, and he is now more popular than ever.

But if he's so private, why would he guest on his girlfriend Vanessa Minillo's New Year's Eve TRL special, kissing her on camera for the world to see? It has been a big topic of celebrity conversation since the moment it happened, and surely he knew that would be the case.

After such a public marriage and divorce one would think he would try to keep the details of this new romance away from the cameras. Maybe Nick has a lot more guile than he gets credit for.