Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Review: The Good Shepherd
Robert DeNiro's Grand Comeback

For years I've lamented the decline of Bobby D - from great, as the counterpoint to Al Pacino as our era's greatest, to self-parodying mediocre. I remember Sleepers, Goodfellas, Heat and many many others, which stand in great contrast to films like Meet The Fockers and Analyze That.

The Good Shepherd, directed by DeNiro, proves he is not washed up. Although there are flaws in this movie - Matt Damon's character doesn't age over the 20+ year story arc, for example, this is a solid film with moving dialogue, beautiful cinematography, and a compelling story. If there is one feeling to take away, it's that our tendency to pick sides in the battle between Democrats and Republicans is probably a very naive decision, as the truth of our government's inner-workings is likely a much more complicated, and corrupt, orchestration than we can imagine. I've already posted my 5 favorite movies of 2006, so this movie, seen on December 24th, will have to get slotted as a 2007 film. It has a good shot.

Grade: B+

Friday, December 22, 2006

V Worst Movie Of 2006

2006 was a pretty good year for me, in terms of movie watching. I intended on posting a 'Worst 5" list here, but I think I did a pretty good job of avoiding the truly horrible movies. Sure there were disappointments - Hollywoodland dragged on way too long; Superman Returns paled in comparison to Batman Begins - but I can really only think of one movie I saw this year that I'd classify as truly horrible. I'm sure Jackass 2, The Santa Clause 3, and Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector were far worse than my choice for worst film, but I didn't have the displeasure of seeing them so they don't count. Unlike, say, Roger Ebert, I don't have to see every atrocity pressed to celluloid.

So here it is, in my humble opinion, the worst movie of 2006:

A Prairie Home Companion.
I know it's pretty mean to bash the final film from one of America's great directors just a few weeks after his passing, but I have to be honest and say that I did not enjoy this movie whatsoever. It seems unthinkable that Robert Altman could have made a bad movie starring Merryl Streep and Kevin Kline, but unless perhaps you are a fan of old-timey variety show radio programs, I thought this movie was just one failed joke after another. We barely got through it. The premise is that a relic of times-gone past, a weekly variety show broadcast on the radio, seems to have finally met it's demise, decades after similar shows were long canceled. The cast of the show, during it's final performance, range from sadness to denial, and we as the audience are left to hope taht someone will save the day. Instead, I was only wondering why we should care. Maybe I'm just too young, but I wanted to bring the curtain down myself.

I give this movie an F, but I promise to rent M*A*S*H as my penance.

Other DVDs I rented in 2006 that I thought stunk:
Click (2005)
Orgazmo (1997)
Junebug (2005)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gift Cards And Toy Boats

Happy Wednesday!

The Good: Rumors of gift-card theft are greatly exaggerated.

The Bad: Millions of gift-card dollars are wasted each year when they go unredeemed. Best Buy alone reported a $43 million gain in 2006 from cards that hadn't been used in two or more years.

The Mookie:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Running For President Is All About The Benjamins

Rudy Giuliani is hosting a fundraiser in New York this week to raise money for a "possible" run for President. Attendees to the event at Manhattan's Marriot Marquis will pay $2,100 per person and Rudy G will likely be able to raise between one and two million dollars in one night. That money is only enough "to cover the expenses involved in helping Rudy decide whether he is going to take the next step," according to his spokesperson.

It costs a million dollars to make a decision?

This is a part of the political process I just don't get. This is par for the course. Half the reason Giuliani's doing this fundraiser is just to try and catch up with probable Republican opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney.

I guess collecting $2,100 from individuals is good practice for collecting money from groups he'd be indebted to once in office.

But, Giuliani and his fellow GOP'ers will get no heat for these fundraisers, even while the dollar amounts skyrocket over the next 20 months. Hillary Clinton can raise all she wants too, as can possible Democratic challenger Barack Obama. Though, Obama's fundraising may come under more scrutiny, as he's spoken publicly about taking the high road and not accepting gifts like rides on private jets from corporations. He's already gotten a little heat from something as minor as buying some land from a neighbor! But he will have to raise money if he runs for President. He'll need to raise the $50 million to $60 million somehow... Maybe Oprah can chip in?

Here's some interesting information about running for President and the fundraising rules related to actually being an official candidate or just "testing the waters."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sad Day

Sadly, Peter Boyle has passed away.  He was my favorite part of Everybody Loves Raymond. 

In honor of his passing, I declare today "Holy Crap Thursday." 

Pass it along.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top V Movies of 2006

These are the 5 best movies I saw this year:

The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
Stranger Than Fiction
An Inconvenient Truth

Honorable Mentions: Inside Man, Talladega Nights

5 other movies I meant to see but didn't, and now plan to see on DVD:

V is for Vendetta
The Pink Panther
Glory Road
Lucky Number Slevin

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gift Card Scam - Buyer Beware

More and more, you'll find gift cards for one store sold at another - the local supermarkets here have whole racks full of gift cards for stores like Home Depot and Barnes & Noble. This is very convenient, but be very careful about buying them. Make sure that the card you select has a strip covering a PIN# that needs to be revealed before the card can be used, and then also keep an eye out during the transaction to make sure the card you buy is the card activated and given back to you by the cashier. When I was alerted to this scam I was skeptical, but it does seem to be a real scam!

From snopes:

Ways in Which Thieves are Utilizing Gift Cards:

* Swindlers make note of the numbers displayed on cards being offered for sale, then periodically check to see if these numbers have gone live; that is, that the cards bearing them have been purchased and loaded with monetary values. When they find ones that have, they use them to make online ("card not present" aka "CNP") purchases and so drain them of their cash value before their rightful owners attempt to use them.

* Employees at stores where gift cards are being vended steal them off the rack, activate them with the stores' scanners, then go on their own shopping sprees, sometimes using plastic stolen in this fashion to purchase other cards, thereby laundering their ill-gotten goods.

* Thieves pretending to be customers engage in a bit of sleight of hand by swapping blanks (stolen on previous trips) for cards activated by clerks during the sale, then regretfully change their minds and cancel their purchases. Those manning the cash registers are none the wiser because it looks like they got back the same cards, but the fully charged cards ride out of the stores in the thieves' pockets. In December 2002, two Tennessee men pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges after they were caught running this scam in an operation that stretched across six states and cost Wal-Mart more than $35,000.

* Cards filched directly from store racks find their way to online auction sites, where the unsuspecting will bid on them, thinking they're getting a deal. The National Retail Federation advises consumers to purchase gift cards online only through reputable retailers and never through online auction sites, which may be dealing in stolen or counterfeit cards.

* Crooks will unobtrusively slit open bar code-bearing gift card packaging to remove new unsold cards and replace them with old used-up ones. When these nil-value cards are sold, the activation of the packaging's bar codes loads the real cards (which are in the thieves' possession) with the values they've been bought for. The hapless purchasers, the ones who forked over money for the cards, leave in possession of worthless bits of plastic.

How to Avoid Gift Card Scams:

* Purchase gift cards only from reputable sources, preferably directly from the store.

* Don't solely rely on a clerk's selecting cards for you from publicly-inaccessible stock as your one and only protection against being defrauded. Also examine both sides of cards yourself, keeping an eye out for signs of tampering and/or the exposure of the cards' PINs. Refuse to purchase cards where either is evident.

* If acquiring cards on the Internet, buy them from the online versions of the stores they are to be used in. Never buy them from auction sites, even if it looks like you could score a real bargain by doing so. Remind yourself that cards sold through auction sites have often turned out to be stolen or counterfeit.

* Keep your receipt as proof of purchase for as long as you have value stored on the card. Should you ever lose that gift card, use that receipt to ask the retailer to issue you a replacement. (Not all retailers will do this. But at least some do, so ask.)

* Immediately after buying a gift card in a store, ask the cashier to scan the card itself to ensure the plastic you bought is valid and bears the proper value. (This will protect you against the card's having been swapped out of its packaging for a zero-balance one.)

* Bear in mind that reputable companies will not ask gift card buyers to provide their Social Security numbers, bank account information, or dates of birth. If when trying to purchase such cards you're asked for this, walk away from the deal.

* If the card's issuer offers this option, register your gift card at that store's web site. Doing so gives you the ability to periodically check your card's balance online and so catch on to any misuse of the card far earlier than you otherwise would.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sign Of The Apocalypse - Dog Mates With Cat; Cat Gives Birth To Puppies!

Oh, those crazy Brazilians! You may have heard how liberal their attitudes towards sex are. Well, it seems the domestic pets are just as liberal. A family in Brazil says their cat mated with a neighbor's dog, and produced offspring - three kittens and three puppies. Many are skeptical, but blood tests are being performed. Meanwhile, check out this slideshow:

Friday, November 17, 2006

How To Pimp Out Your Dog

Do your dog's chew toys and clothing lack a little, um... gangsta street cred? Well, Snoop Dogg of all people is launching a line of pet products on such plush headphones, Boom Boxes and Dobermans that play sound clips of Snoop Dogg. There will also be dog clothing such as Basketball Jerseys and Hoodie Sweatshirts. Mookie can hardly wait.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Happy Day Happy Day

The Mets 2007 schedule has been released! Ha ha!!

Pitchers and catchers report in 92 days!

For more Mets content visit

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some links

Just going through my recent surfing history, here are some links I found interesting:

According to an article on Wikipedia, in terms of American's Self-Described Religious Identification, as of 2001: we are 80% Christian (Catholic 26%, Baptist 17%, Methodist 7%, nondenominational 7%, Lutheran 5%, Presbyterian 3%, Pentecostal 2%, Episcopalian 2%, Latter Day Saints 1.4%, Jehovah's Witnesses .8%), 15% No Religion/Athiest/Agnostic, 1.4% Jewish, 0.6% Muslim, 0.5% Buddhist, 0.4% Hindu, 0.3% Unitarian, but as a whole, only about 21% of Americans actually go to church one or more times a week.

So, if you take all the Christians, subtract the Jehovah's Witnesses, and assume that the majority of agnostics celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, roughly 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Santa Claus beats Jesus in a landslide.

/ / / / /

U.S. Airways is trying to buy Delta for $8 billion. To me, all airlines stink. Delta's always late and US Airways will lose your bags. I don't even want to think about what the super-airline would be like.

/ / / / /

It's not enough that he got away with murder; O.J. has to taunt us about it. How do his kids even look at him?

/ / / /

The Black Eyed Peas are off my list.

/ / / /

Here's something to laugh at:

Vote For The New Seven Wonders Of The World

Everyone's heard of the "Seven Wonders Of The World," but few people can name them.

The seven ancient wonders of the world are: The Egyptian pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos lighthouse off Alexandria.

Except for the pyramids, and maybe the Zeus statue, I honestly don't even know what the other five are or what their significance is.

So to get folks excited about the world again, I suppose, there is a "global competition" to update the list. You can go online, and register, and vote for the seven new wonders. Of the 21 nominees, here were my votes:

The Acropolis, Chichen Itza, The Roman Colosseum, The Easter Island Statues, The Great Wall of China, The Pyramids of Giza, and Stonehenge.

To me, a "wonder" is something you look at and can't imagine how it was constructed, and has some mystery surrounding it. Other nominations, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, are awe-inspiring, but there isn't a great deal of mystery or "wonder" about them But you can vote for yourself.

Go to and vote. The winners will be announced in July.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gas Prices Jump

For some reason the gas prices jumped up by 10 cents overnight, at least here in Greensboro. I should have filled up yesterday, when I saw regular unleaded for $2.03 a gallon. Instead I filled up this morning for $2.13. Gee, I wonder what caused the price increase? Could it be that the election has passed? Hmmmm...

Still glad I bought the Civic Hybrid. I drove 425 miles on this tank, getting over 41 mpg.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Some Recent Motion Picture Viewings

We've seen a bunch of movies lately, so I thought I'd write my thoughts and ratings. The commonality between them all is: confusing!

The Departed
This is one of the best movies I've seen in a while. It has it all. Great actors (Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio), great acting, a great script, great direction (Scorcese), and a hell of a story. What more could you want? A great soundtrack? Yeah, it's got that too. It's a long movie, but even for a guy with a short attention span, it gripped me throughout. This movie will keep you on your toes, with a lot of twists and turns and you'll have to keep reminding yourself who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. But as Nicholson's character says, "when you're looking down the barrel of a gun, what's the difference?" Don't be too hard on yourself if the ending leaves you scratching your head - it's a complex movie, and one that you'll want to watch again.
Grade: A

Donnie Darko
I rented this last night at the recommendation of my buddy Tubby, who said it was one of his favorite movies of all time. I gotta say, I was confused as all hell. Just from reading the plot synopsis on the back, "Donnie Darko is a disturbed adolescent from a semi-functional upper-middle-class family. After nearly escaping from death because he hears the voice of a 6-foot-tall bunny, Donnie is led by the bunny to create havoc that is both destructive and creative," I said to Tubby "WTF?" He said don't worry, it all gets explained at the end. Well, he was half right. It was all explained at the end when I went online to see if some other people could explain it to me. This Jake Glyllenhall guy makes some interesting choices for his acting career, man. Besides sharing screen time with a guy in a bunny suit and making out with a cowboy, he's also been Bubble Boy. I can't hate on this Donnie Darko flick too much just because I didn't understand most of it, but if you're a fan of 80's music you might enjoy seeing your favorite old songs set to film. Just don't ask me to explain it, OK?
Grade: B

WordPlay (on DVD)
This is a documentary about people who are obsessed with crossword puzzles. It features Will Shortz, who is the New York Times crossword editor, Merl Reagle, who is a crossword creator, a bunch of people competing for the annual crossword championship, and a few celebrities who love crosswords, like Jon Stewart, Mike Mussina, The Indigo Girls, and Bill Clinton. This is a pretty good movie. I'd recommend it, even if you've never done one, or get confused and frustrated and angry while doing them. Watching it got my wife inspired to take them up, so how much more of an endorsement do you want?
Grade: B+

Stranger Than Fiction
The plotline and premise of this film sound confusing, but it's not hard to follow at all. Basically, and I'm only giving away what's given away in the trailer, Will Ferrell is just living his life, when he starts hearing voices in his head. He realizes that it's a narrator and he is the main character. This is frustrating enough, when he realizes that his death is imminent. Will Ferrel and Dustin Hoffman are excellent, as is the love interest in the film, let's see what's her name? Maggie Gyllenhaal. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say she's related to the actor mentioned above, without even looking it up. She seemed really familiar to me while watching the movie, though I couldn't remember what I'd seen her in. Was it the resemblence to her (brother)? Was it just her amazing acting ability that made me feel like I knew her? Or had I actually seen her in a previous performance? Let's see... hmm... I did see Mona Lisa Smile but don't remember her character, or much of that movie... I also saw Adaptation which was a great flick but I don't think that was it... holy moly! Donnie Darko! Yeah, she played Donne's sister. That's funny. I wonder how many siblings have played siblings in movies?

Okay, back to Stranger Than Fiction. This movie is really funny but not as ridiculous as you would expect a Will Ferrell film with as crazy a premise as this to be. It's actually rather inspiring. Go check it out before the people you work with who've seen it give the whole thing away.
Grade: B+

Two B's, a B+ and an A. Hey, I've seen some good movies lately! Either that, or I've forgotten some clunkers. I'll rack my brain tonight and see if there aren't any movies I've seen lately that warrant F's.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2006 Pumpkin Creations

Happy Halloween!

These were my entries into the pumpkin contest this year at work.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Photos: Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

Last weekend we took a trip out to the western part of the state, and checked out the scenery during "peak" leaf season.

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

Blowing Rock

Tree on Grandfather Mountain

View from Grandfather Mountain

Under the swinging bridge

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Dunkin' Donuts Depravity Days My Be Numbered

Ever since moving to the South, I have missed the availability of Dunkin' Donuts. Their donuts are far superior to Krispy Kreme, the donut shop mainstay of The South, and I'll take a Dunkin' Donuts coffee (affectionately known to me as The Sweet Nectar Of The Gods) over a Starbucks any day of the week. Whenever I travel to the Northeast, I make sure a trip (or five) to Dunkin' Donuts is on the itinerary.

Finally, however, I read today that Dunkin' Donuts is attempting to expand into the South. I can't wait!

I certainly believe there is a market for Dunkin' down here. A poll on MSNBC on consumers preference between Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts split the vote essentially right down the middle, with Dunkin' Donuts having a slight edge when I checked the vote.

Time To Make The Donuts...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Barack Obama considering a run for the Presidency

Illinois Senator Obama said today that he is considering a run for President in 2008. I have a few thoughts on this, some ridiculous, some less so:

*Could the Democrats really nominate someone whose name sounds like "Iraq Osama"?

*Oprah Winfrey is a huge fan of this guy. Apparently he is pretty inspiring. This makes me think there's no way the Dems will let him get nominated. Parties are afraid to have an inspiring politician run for office. They'd much prefer a guy like John Kerry.

*Obama has a new book out. Hey announcing you might run for President is a pretty good way to promote your book, no? Who wouldn't be more interested in a book that is by a guy who might be the next President? At least more than a book by some guy you never heard of but who's name sounds like Iraq Osama.

*It's awfully hard for a Senator to win the Presidency. Unlike governors, senators have a voting record that is easy to hold against them. There hasn't been a Senator elected to the Presidency (without being a V.P. first) since John F. Kennedy.

Barack Obama

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why is quiche called quiche?

No straight man would ever walk into a public restaurant and order quiche without expecting snickers from any other guys within earshot. Why? Because quiche is the lamest name ever given to a food. It's dainty and it's weird. Even if it were spelled the way it's pronounced "Keesh," it would be acceptable, but no way am I ordering a food that starts with Qu and doesn't end with esadilla.

The shame of it is that quiche is actually the manliest food you could ever eat - if it were called what it really is. Ham, Egg, and Cheese Pie. PIE! Breakfast Pie! Who doesn't love pie? Who doesn't love a nice omelet? An omelet pie! What a great invention! I want to get me some ham egg and cheese pie right now!

But quiche? What do you take me for, some kind of wuss?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hiding In The Weed

From Yahoo! News and Reuters, an excerpt...

Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet-high marijuana plants. General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said on Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover...

"It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices ... and as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests," he said...

...Incineration had its drawbacks.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hillier said dryly.

One soldier told him later: "Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

One Last Post About Cory Lidle That's Not Really About Cory Lidle

I really annoyed at least one person with my last post. Someone posted an anonymous comment, accusing me of accusing Cory Lidle, the ballplayer who died in a plane crash yesterday of being a terrorist. That couldn't be further from the truth. Obviously the outpouring of sadness from the many people in baseball who worked with Cory Lidle attests to the fact that Lidle was a real decent guy, and it is very apparent that this was a tragic accident.

My posting yesterday, which I stand by and which I may have less than eloquently stated, was that it is interesting how hearing that the pilot was Cory Lidle was a relief to us, as though we found out it was our next-door neighbor who we'd been to barbecues with in past summers. For many people, the pilot of the plane went from being "possibly some psychopath," to "that nice guy who pitches for the Yankees," even though they had never had any interaction with him other than seeing him pitch on TV or maybe hearing him get interviewed on the radio.

That's all I'm saying.

Whenever someone commits a crime, you'll invariably read a quote in the news from a neighbor, co-worker, or even family member expressing shock that this person they "knew" could have done such a thing. It's natural that we never like to think that a person we know and like could have a dark side. And we seem to have the same feeling about ballplayers we see on TV, even though we know them less than we do our co-workers.

Rest In Peace, Cory Lidle. My heart goes out to your family members.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And Suddenly, Hearing The Name "Cory Lidle" Eases Our Fears

This afternoon, after hearing news that a plane crashed into a New York City high-rise building, I was glued to the news. I listened to the story with great attention as it developed. From the moment the story broke, fears of the incident being an act of terrorism rarely subsided. Why did the FAA say it was a plane, while eyewitnesses said they saw a helicopter? We all, including Chuck Scarborough all felt doubt that this was not intentional. That is, until we learned that Cory Lidle was the pilot of the plane. Then, we all relaxed, felt sad for Lidle, who was obviously a new pilot who had lost control of his new powerful plane and accidentally and tragically crashed his plane.

Now, I am not saying Cory Lidle, the man who pitched for both and the Yankees, was a terrorist. But I think it is a very interesting statement about our "relationship" with professional athletes. We really believe we know these guys. But what do we really know about Cory Lidle, just because he was a pitcher for the Yankees? How do we know he wasn't an Al Qaeda sympathizer, or just a maniac? Just because we saw him pitch on TV?

The more we learn about the story, the more it does in fact seem like it was an inexperienced pilot who lost control of his too-powerful plane. We read tragic quotes from him, from just a month ago, where he talks about how safe flying is, and how safety features are in place, and that even if an engine died a pilot could still land safely. But I just wanted to take this moment to think about our emotional connection to the players we watch on TV. We like to think we know these guys, based on interviews and media accounts, and just watching them perform. But, when you think about it, it's kind of silly.

Aircraft Strikes New York City Skyscraper

When checking my e-mail, I saw a headline saying an aircraft had hit an NYC building. Thanks to the Internet, I'm able to watch live NBC New York news, with Chuck Scarborough anchoring. There is a ton of confusion, with the FAA saying it was a plane, and eyewitnesses saying it was a helicopter. The building is up on the Upper East Side, and it seems pretty unclear at this point whether it was an intentional hit on the building, or an accident.

Two bodies have been found on the ground.

Besides the obvious, this feels like 9/11 to me with all the conflicting reports and uncertainty. I imagine this is an extremely scary time for Manhattan residents.

NBC Story:
CNN Story:
Live NBC video :

UPDATE: 3:47 PM - The FDNY is saying the aircraft did not significantly penetrate the building, despite the frightening-looking video, and most of the aircraft fell onto the street. The fire was put out very quickly. The incident happened at about 2:50 PM, and it appears at this point the only casualties may have been to the passengers or pilots of the aircraft.

UPDATE: 3:56 - One report says that the aircraft made a sharp right turn right before the impact, leading to speculation that it was an intentional act. Scarborough wonders out loud if it was a 9/11 copycat. Another eyewitness says she saw the impact and it looked like a helicopter trying to avoid the building, having mechanical trouble. By the way, I am writing these updates not because I think my blog is a news source for anyone, but rather just to document it for reference later. My immediate thought was of course of family I have up in New York. My sister- and brother-in law live on the Upper WEST Side, and I can't think of anyone I know who live up near this building (524 East 72nd Street) right now.

UPDATE: 4:02 - I haven't heard anyone else say this, but I just realized today is October 11th - not quite an Anniversary of 9/11/01, but enough to make a person wonder. All official agencies are calling it a "fixed-wing" aircraft (i.e. airplane), contrary to eyewitnesses reports of a helicopter. Plenty of fodder for the conspiracy theorists out there, but the developing story is that it was indeed a plane due for White Plains airport - a story that seems to have been corroborated by ID on the luggage found on the ground.

UPDATE: 4:11 PM - Thinking about the odd date, I thought about Flight 587 that crashed in Queens in the months after 9/11. That crash actually happened on November 12, 2001. At the time, many people felt it was too coincidental for it to have been a mechanical failure. I'm hearing that today's incident involved a craft Cirrus, single engine 4 passenger plane, that has a parachute system in place, in case of mechanical failure. Scarborough says that the Cirrus plane could resemble a helicopter if the wings had somehow fallen off.

UPDATE 4:16 PM I just now heard that 4 people are dead from the crash - two of them inside the building.

UPDATE: 4:38 PM WNBC just had someone on who says the owner of the plane may have been Cory Lidle, a pitcher for the Yankees. They found a purchase agreement for the plane with Cory Lidle's name on it, and WNBC's news anchor Len Berman says he found a separate news report where Cory Lidle was a new pilot who had purchased a plane with the same description. In the just-finished ALDS, Cory Lidle allowed 3 runs on 4 hits in 1.3 innings.

UPDATE: 4:49 PM - The AP says that a law enforcement official confirmed that a member of the New York Yankees was aboard the aircraft. This is pretty shocking. Lidle could hardly be called a "goat" in the ALDS, though he did pitch pretty badly. Is it crazy to wonder if Lidle was so distraught to have crashed himself into a building? Lidle's passport was found on the street below the wreckage. The latest report says 9 people have been admitted to a local hospital with injuries from the crash.

UPDATE: 5:05 PM - It has pretty much been confirmed that Cory Lidle was the owner and pilot of the plane that crashed. Lidle was 34 years old. In 1979, Yankees catcher Thurmon Munson was killed at age 32 while trying to fly an airplane in Canton, Ohio. This is just bizarre and tragic. Lidle was also a former Mets pitcher.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cool Invention For Unclogging Drains: Zip-It!

We have had a clog in one of our bathroom sinks for the past few weeks. I guess you could call it a "slow drain," where the basin fills up fast and takes a long time to drain out. My wife checked the trap, which was clear, and we'd tried all the traditional chemicals, to no avail. This weekend I found a better answer to our drain troubles, and it doesn't have any chemicals to dump into the water supply.

The product is called a Zip-It, by Cobra, (it costs $3 at Lowes!) and it's basically a 16" plastic strip with a bunch of teeth on it. You stick the Zip It down the drain, and slowly pull it back up. I pulled up enough hair and other gunk to make me think I had lost a hamster down there at some point. I used the Zip It to clean out all the drains in the house, and then tossed it. It's disposable! Consider this product Mike V approved!

I am not the most handy person around, as my wife can attest. My greatest accomplishment as a homeowner was installing some dimmer switches without burning the house down. Of course my lowest point was falling through ceiling, from the attic. So any easy household tool that can make me a hero is a very valuable find, indeed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hybrid Update

I filled up my Civic Hybrid's tank for the second time this morning. Since my last fill-up I went 397 miles on 8.8 gallons of gas. That's over 45 miles per gallon, and with barely any highway miles! I'll finally get to see what it does on the highway this weekend.

Of course the ultimate in fuel efficiency would be a Plug-in hybrids (you can't really buy 'em right now, you pretty much have to make 'em yourself or have someone retrofit a Prius or something for you). The gas engine doesn't kick in until after you've gone 40 miles or more, when the battery runs out. Since my last fill-up, I averaged just 28 miles a day. If I had a plug-in hybrid, I might not have used any gas at all these past two weeks!

Don't forget, folks, as we rejoice at "cheap" $2.11 a gallon gasoline. Hybrids are much more than about saving $ on gas. It's about reducing emmissions, and eliminating our dependence on foreign oil. Buy a hybrid today!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirate Day Walks The Plank For Me


Today was Talk Like A Pirate Day, a "holiday" I've been promoting for the past three years. Avast, me hearties, this will be the last day I participate in the event. The inventors of Talk Like A Pirate Day were on television last night, and I just can't support their endeavors anymore.

The show was WifeSwap, an inane program where the producers find two wacked out families and make them switch moms for a week. Last night an anal-retentive perfectionist family with a daughter who's three years away from a crystal meth habit switched moms with a band of poseur pirates.

You see, the Baurs don't just talk like pirates for one day out of the year as a goof. No, they actually live and dress like pirates every day, all year long. They express their "pirattitude" as a lifestyle choice. And to them, piratitude means living in squalor, not paying the bills, not taking care of the flea infestation in their house, shunning deodorant, and running around with plastic swords. Complete losers.

Aye, Talk Like A Pirate Day is officially off me calendar! Aaargh!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hydrogen Car Update

We just got back from seeing Who Killed The Electric Car. It's an excellent film, and I highly recommend it. Yesterday, I posted that BMW had "raised the green ante" with its new hydrogen fuel-cell zero emission vehicle. Hydrogen fuel cell cars were discussed in Who Killed and issues were raised about them. Along with my own "where do you buy hydrogen?" question, we also learned that hydrogen is produced using non-renewable energy sources, have a limited range, and uh, oh, yeah, they cost about a million dollars. The truth is that these cars are just not practical yet. It seems like they are being pushed right now because they are "cars of the future" that distract us from the more practical cars available right now, like hybrids, and more efficient cars, namely electric, that were never given a fair shot.

The ultimate would be a plug in electric car that you charged in from your house which was powered by solar panels. No foreign oil & no emissions. Check these out!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hybrid Update

I just filled up my new Hybrid Civic for the first time today. I went 400 miles (249,600 to go!) 0n 9.4 gallons, getting 42.6 mpg. And that is almost completely without highway miles! On my last post on the subject, I talked about some of the flaws with the whole hybrid vs. gas argument. Some recent articles have tried to compare conventional cars to hybrids on a cost basis. I said they missed the point. If you buy a hybrid, it's about more than just the price of gas. It's about reducing emmissions and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

The other way Edmunds and others missed the mark when they compared cars was how they drew up the comparison. They compared the hybrid models to their conventional sisters (eg. Hybrid Accords vs. standard Accords) and tried to figure out if the higher sticker price would be made up for in fuel savings. What they failed to consider however, is that most people shop for cars by price, not by model. When I was carshopping, I had a certain price range, and the base model Civic with it's $15,010 SRP simply wasn't on my radar. The Civic Hybrid has a SRP of $22,150, and it caught my eye when I saw it in the same price class of these other new cars I shopped:

Pontiac Solstice ($21,995) mpg 21/29
Mazda RX8 ($26,995) mpg 18/24
Acura RSX Type-S ($23,845) - mpg 23/31
Pontiac G6 Coupe ($22,615) - mpg 20/28

Obviously the Solstice and RX8 would have been more fun to drive, and the RSX might have had a bit more appeal in terms of status, but I chose my car based on my conscience and yes, my wallet. Consider the fuel economy of the civic hybrid (49/51) against these other gas guzzlers and it's really no contest.

By the way, the green ante was raised this week when BMW announced that they will start rolling out zero-emmission hydrogen cars next year. The car's only emmission will be water vapor. Pretty cool. But where the hell do you buy hydrogen?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Arrrrr Ye Ready?

Mookie's ready for Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Are you?
September 19th. This year, and every year.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Aqua Teen Hunger Force Episodes!

The new season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force will air on Comedy Central's Adult Swim on October 22nd! Word on the scene is that this season includes 10 new episodes. If you haven't been indoctrinated into the world of Master Shake and Meatwad, be sure to set your TiVo to record the show the next time it's on, or you can now download the fifteen minute episodes for $1.99 each on iTunes and watch them on your computer or iPod.

Now is the time to get on board with this hilarious show. The movie, which will be an action-oriented origin epic, comes out in February!

Go here to read the lyrics of the Theme Song.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11: 5 year and 1 Day Later

I was very fortunate on 9/11 that I didn't have any loved ones die that day. Of course it is impossible to have lived in the area at the time without knowing someone who lost someone. I had a co-worker lose his mom, and another friend whose dad was there but got out. It was so crazy that day. A good friend had to walk across the 59th street bridge to get home from work. My wife and I could still see the smoke plume at 7 o'clock that night when we drove to our friend's house. All the major highways were closed so rescue vehicles could get back and forth. We heard sirens all day. And for weeks and weeks afterwards there were so many funerals. It was such a scary day. It angers me so much how much it's been politicized by both parties at this point. Bush can't answer a question about Iraq without mentioning 9/11, and both parties want us to believe it was the other side's president's fault. If we really want to honor the victims of 9/11, we should start acting like America again.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Food Find: Pretzel Crisps!

There few things in life better than a well made pretzel. As I think about the foods I have a passion for, the word "pretzel" comes back again and again.

My favorite ballpark fare? The hot, soft pretzel. Even though I am constantly disappointed by cold, slimy, and tiny soft pretzels, or the mediocrity of the mass-produced, not-so-super "Superpretzel," when a soft pretzel is made right, nothing beats it. The best ones are barbecued over charcoal briquets, and for some reason the entreprenuers found in stadium parking lots roasting pretzels out of a shopping cart that has been converted into a mobile grill beats anything found within the stadium at thrice the price.

My favorite casual dining entree? Bennigan's Turkey O' Toole. This is a hot turkey sandwich served on a pretzel roll. Yummmmm.... There are no Bennigan's where I live, and I believe the chain's restaurant total may be dwindling nationwide, but it would be a sad day if the Turkey O'Toole met its demise. Live on, Bennigan's! Slainte!

And of course, I love a good, old-fashioned hard pretzel. Purists will tell you a pretzel must be twisted to be a true pretzel, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the pretzel nugget. The best ones are made by UTZ. Utz is a brand out of Pennsylvania, and if your local supermarket doesn't carry Utz pretzels you should do yourself a favor and order some online! Trust me, there is a difference.

The pretzels don't need to be twisted theory is taken to the extreme by USAirways though. On filghts they give out these tiny bags of snacks that stretch the definition of pretzel to the extreme with an abomination they call Pretzel Minis or something like that. These are basically pretzel crumbs, and are not unlike the shards of pretzel you usually would find at the bottom of a bag of pretzels.

Enough about air fare though. The purpose of this posting is to tell you about a new food find that we discovered at Harris Teeter supermarket yesterday. They are a new development in pretzel technology! They are called Pretzel Crisps, and basically the best way to describe them is to picture your basic bite sized pretzel, remove the white middle, leaving only the tasty brown exterior. Then flatten the pretzel, so it's like a pretzel shaped cracker! The company boasts these treats as the world's first spreadable pretzel, easily accomodating your favorite cheese for example, but these little gems are delicious all on their own. Check them out!!!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Ride For Mike V

This weekend I replaced my trusty Hyundai with a civic Hybrid. Here she is:

It will allegedly get 49mpg in the city, and 51 on the highway. I'll let you know.

I know there has been some press lately that even though I'll spend less money in gas, the extra money that I paid to buy a hybrid vs. a conventional car is too much to make it worth it. I'm not sure about that, and I wonder who is doing the math, or pushing that story, and I wonder how expensive they are projecting gas prices to get to. What if gas goes up to $5.00 a gallon? Would I still have saved money by buying a conventional car? My plan is to keep this car for a long time. In fact, my goal is 250,000 miles. I'm up to 50. 249,950 to go.

Howver, if you're considering a hybrid, it really is not about money. It's about using less gas (and less oil). Unless you like giving your money to Exxon/Mobil? Oh, and it's also really about creating fewer emissions. We only have one Earth, people.

Also, the hybrid is just really cool. Gotta figure in the cool factor.

Official Honda Civic Hybrid website

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Review: Little Miss Sunshine

My wife and I both love going to the movies, so we go as often as we can. She enjoys the whole experience and only seldom is she overly disappointed. She's very good at tempering her expectations. I, on the other hand, often go into films with extremely high expectations, and am very often extremely disappointed. I would say that 6 out of 10 films I see I think are rather awful. 2 out of ten are decent, and 2 out of ten are really, really good. Forgive my math, but occasionally, once in a great while, a film is so exceptional that it reminds me why I love going to the movies. Little Miss Sunshine is not one of those films, but it is really, really good.

Little Miss Sunshine is blessed with a great cast, and a terrific script. Steve Carrell, who we love from The Office and The Daily Show, is very funny, almost as much as Alan Arkin as Grandpa. Greg Kinnear is perfectly cast as a motivational speaker who can't even convince his son (Paul Dano) to speak or his wife (Toni Collette) to not look at him like he's a schmuck. But the real stealer of the show is Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, as Olive. The whole film is great, but the last fifteen minutes of the movie are downright classic.

Yes, there are plot holes in Little Miss Sunshine. But it is a comedy, after all, and you're not supposed to analyze comedies for things like that. But probably the best compliment I can give this comedy is that it is so good that it makes you want to analyze it like an art film.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hysterical Ringtones

Most of the time when I listen to my iPod I just leave it on shuffle mode, as kind of my own personal radio station. I can listen for hours and never hear a bad song! It's fun listening to Beastie Boys segue into Tom Petty into Prince into For Squirrels into a mashup I found on Hype Machine. But I still get the biggest kick out of when between songs my iPod picks a mini-track from They Might Be Giants a992 album Apollo 18. In addition to the great songs on the CD are 21 tracks called "fingertips" that are each about 8 or 9 seconds long that can only be described as "random". I can't explain them, just preview the tracks on Amazon and you'll get what I mean.

I was thinking about TMBG this morning and visited their website. They have three hysterical ringtones available for download on the homepage for $1.50 each. The best is "Call Connected Thru The NSA," but "Ring Ring" is also awesome. Even if you don't buy them, they are worth listening to online. If you do decide to buy them you're guaranteed to have the funniest ringtones in the office.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Music!

Other than Tom Petty's Highway Companion, I don't even remember that last CD I bought. But this month I bought two great ones:

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat. Jenny Lewis, our March 2006 Hero Of The Month is the lead singer of a group called Rilo Kiley, but she's just released her solo album and it is absolutely incredible. If I could pick one word to describe Jenny Lewis's writing style, it would be "sardonic". Don't be frightened by the gospel feel and country style. This music is more edgy than any hard rock band around. The lyrics will have you pondering life while laughing aloud. I have to admit I have developed a crush on this incredible talent. Add this to your collection immediately! Oh, and dont forget to check out her cover of the Travelling Wilbury's "Handle With Care!" Grade: A+

Jackie Greene - American Myth - This CD was made for me, it seems. Some songs sound like outtakes from a Josh Ritter CD, others sound like Tom Petty, or alternative rock. Every song sounds like the work of a gifted songwriter and a talented musician. I discovered Jackie Greene from Internet radio station mvy radio when they played his amazing song Sweet Somewhere Bound. I picked up his latest collection from, and it's an instant fave. Check out his myspace page for free downloads! Grade: A

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mookie Of The Month - August 2006

We went to the Outer Banks this weekend and Mookie got to check out the ocean for the first time. She wasn't too sure. I think she knows she can't swim!

Friday, August 04, 2006

This Is Hilarious - Dogs will Be Dogs

In England, there is a collection valuable teddy bears on display at some park. The display is very popular and they recently added a bear once owned by Elvis Presley worth $85,000. The collection was so valuable that in a stroke of brilliance the museum hired a doberman to guard the display. Big shocker here about what comes next - Like most dogs, Barney The Guard Dog loves to chew on stuffed animals - so he tore the head off Elvis's bear and destroyed a bunch of other bears in the collection.

When it was over, about 100 bears in all had been damaged. "He was pulling arms off, heads off," [the park's general manager Daniel] Medley said, and there was fluffy stuffing everywhere.

Too damned funny. Thanks to Mr. Met for the link.

Mars Won't Be Big As The Moon This Week

I got a couple e-mails that got me all excited to watch the sky this month. The e-mails were titled "Spectacular!" and if you read it quickly they made it seem like Mars would appear as big as the moon to the naked eye on August 16th. I thought that was pretty cool until I looked it up on snopes.

The truth is that way back in August 2003, if you had looked through a 75 power telescope, you could have gotten a great view of Mars. But to the naked eye, the casual observer wouldn't have even noticed. And that was in 2003. This year, the e-mail is completely untrue, with someone having switched out the years. Too bad.

What is true, is that all month you can watch a meteor shower if you can find a high spot on a clear night, away from city lights. Peaking on August 12th, the Perseid meteor shower will allow us earthlings to observe as many as 100 "shooting stars" per hour this month.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Die Hard Part Four Release Date Set

Bruce Willis will star in the fourth installment of the Die Hard movies, titled Live Free or Die Hard, scheduled for release on June 29, 2007. Best news I've heard all week!

A few months ago, news came out that there would be a movie based on Kiefer Sutherland's 24. My reaction was that they already made that movie, and it was called Die Hard. MTV makes the same comparison in this article, which also tells us the new Die Hard movie "centers around an attack on the computer infrastructure of the United States government" on the 4th of July. The article also says that several high-profile cast members will be announced over the next few weeks. The first castmember to be announced may be Justin Long, who you may know as "A Mac" in those funny Apple commercials.

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Tree Split Right Down The Middle

These pictures must be able to be used as a metaphor for something, I just can't figure out what... (click to enlarge).

There was a big storm a couple of weeks ago, and all around the neighborhood trees were literally torn apart. None of us could figure out whether it was lightning, mini tornadoes, or what could do so much damage, but it's hard to imagine anything but lightning splitting this particular tree right down the middle like this.

Short Slideshow of Seal Beach in La Jolla

Here's a few pictures I took after work was done out in San Diego, California!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Almost Home

I've been in San Diego since Wednesday, but I return home on the red-eye tonight, and my travel schedule for the rest of the year is thankfully a lot lighter. Unfortunately I picked the wrong day to read the USA Today left outside my hotel room door. There was an article in Thursday's issue called Fatigue In The Cockpit that examined the issue of pilots having difficulty staying alert during overnight flights. The author is a pilot, and he is advocating the airline industry allowing pilots to take naps during flights so that they are refreshed during landings, the most dangerous part of flying. I'll have to ask my pilot tonight if he or she is feeling okay before we take off...

Monday, July 24, 2006

More Things I Learned From Rolling Stone

Here are some more tidbits I picked up from the July 13 issue of Rolling Stone (with Johnny Depp on the cover):

A cool place to find new music and .mp3s: The Hype Machine (
Ever since I read about this site I've been addicted. It scours blogs for .mp3 postings and then has a little radio station thing that plays the songs most recently added. YOu can also listen to the most popular .mp3s for teh week, so do a search for an artist or song. An excellent tool to find new music!

A movie called Who Killed The Electric Car?. Remember that movie Tucker, about a guy who invented a car with all kinds of cool features but the Big Three automakers put him out of business? Seems history repeats itself. There's a documentary out that examines what happened to GM's EV-1, an electric car with no emissions and no gas or oil that was leased to Californians in 1996, "only to mash its fleet into scrap metal in the Arizona desert six years later." Check out the trailer at and check out the movie when it's released next month.

You can buy cover reprints of classic Rolling Stone magazine covers at for $25 each. I think I'm going to decorate my office with the August 1991 issue with Tom Petty.

You can watch the R-rated version of Buckcherry's video for Crazy Bitch at (Not Safe For Work!)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Learning To Fly

For my birthday, my wife arranged for me to take a flying lesson. I flew a Cessna from Air Harbor airport to Shiloh Airport and back again. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done. Here are some pics:

Cessna 8 Whiskey Mike. You might wonder why I agreed to go up in a plane with a guy named "Whiskey Mike," but I'm pretty sure that's just the way you say "W" over the radio for aviation purposes. I'm pretty sure.

The cockpit.

Scariest sight in the history of aviation: Mike V piloting an airplane.

View out the left wing

Coming in for a landing at Shiloh Airport

Just about to touchdown at Mike Piazza's runway?

A fuel stop. Gas was about $4.00 a gallon

Keep your eyes on the sky!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Did A Missle Down Flight 800?
Is The Government Concealing Evidence

Even before September 11th, 2001, for years I often had an eerie feeling everytime I saw a plane in the sky. That's because in 1996, a plane mysteriously exploded off the coast of Long Island. It was TWA Flight 800, headed for Paris, and for months, no explanation could be attributed to the explosion. Was it bomb, a missle, or some mechanical failure? Because of teh mystery, I sometimes would wonder if any particular plane I was looking at in the sky at any given time might suddenly and inexplicably explode.

But I remember most people initially thought it was a missle that downed Flight 800, especially when eyewitnesses reprted seeing something that resembled a missle hit the plane. These eyewitness reports were eventually squashed by the idea that it was actually an optical illusion these people were seeing. "Experts" said that the people actually saw the aftermath of the explosion, and fireballs shooting out of the plane somehow just looked like they were heading towards the plane for a reason I've never grasped.

The official conclusion by the NTSB was that the explosion was caused a by a spark in the fuel tank.

Now, ten years later, a group in Massachussets has filed a lawsuit to force federal officials to release information about a piece of debris from Flight 800 that it hopes will show that a missile downed the plane.

Tom Stalcup, who heads the East Falmouth, Mass.-based Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization, which filed the suit, said he is "very certain" that federal investigators found the piece of debris and are now concealing evidence of its existence.

Radar data show the piece of debris falling at high speed from the plane and a Navy salvage map shows it was later recovered, said Stalcup, 36, a physicist and owner of a West Falmouth, Mass., company that makes wireless weather stations. Despite this evidence, federal officials won't explain what happened to the debris once it was recovered from the ocean off Long Island, he said.

"All of the data requested is of great importance to the public understanding of the crash of TWA Flight 800," Stalcup's lawsuit says.

"One piece in particular landed closer to JFK Airport than any of the other thousands of recovered items ... after exiting the airframe at apparent supersonic speeds," the suit says.

We'll have to stay tuned to this one...

Things I Learned This Weekend From Rolling Stone Magazine
(Part One)

Because I spend a lot of time on airplanes, I read a lot of magazines. Lately I've tried to save some money by borrowing books from the library, but I owe them a few bucks for some overdues so I need to go in and settle up before I can borrow some more. In the meantime, I'v ebeen spending quality plane times with my magazines of choice, namely Esquire, Popular Science, Newsweek, and occassionally The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Spin, and GQ. It's funny that I read two mens fashion magazines even though I am far from a clothes horse. The articles and interviews just happen to be really good in those mags.

This past weekend we were on the beach, another great place to read a magazine, so on the way to the beach we stopped at a drugstore and picked up some. I grabbed the latest Rolling Stone and it was a great pick-up. It's sometimes hit-or-miss with Rolling Stone, but this issue happens to be great. It has Johnny Depp on the cover if you're looking for it. So anyway I was going to list all the interesting stuff I found in the magazine in this one posting, but I thought many of them deserved their own post so I'm going to spread them out over the course of the week.

For this post I'll write about who else but Tom Petty, who is featured all overthe magazine, including a full length interview by Neil Strauss. On a side note, a big deal is made of the fact that Tom says in teh interview that "This is the last interview I am doing for a long time." Well, apparently Neil got a little carried away, because Petty clarified on his website this week that by "a long time" he meant a few weeks, while he was touring but that he would definitely be doing some interviews later this month as his new solo album Highway Companion is released on July 25th. Misunderstanding aside, the interview did include quite a few gems:

-Tom does not care one bit about this whole Dani California/Mary Jane's Last Dance hoopla:
"I serously doubt there is any intent there. And a lot of rock & roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took American Girl [for their song "Last Nite"], and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it, That made me laugh out loud...I think there are enough frivilous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs."
-Tom's new solo album, Highway Companion, is his much more truly a solo album than Full Moon Fever or Wildflowers were. Tom actually plays drums and piano on this record, whereas his previous "solo" efforts were really more like Heartbreakers records sans Stan Lynch.

-In addition to the solo record, Tom has " a good sixty percent" of a Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers album "just sitting there waiting to be finished." It should come out next year and it "is going to be a big one." Tom's bandmate Mike Campbell is also producing a live Heartbreakers album.

-Tom also wants to get his original band "Mudcrutch" back together at some point for a project.

You can listen to the interview at

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dog Days Of Summer

Posting has been light lately because of various summertime activities that interfere with blogging. Here's a bonus shot of Mookie with her "cousin" Sodja to hold you over while I get my act together.

My Review: Superman Returns

I saw Superman Returns on opening weekend but took a while to write this review. I had had a lot of anticipation for this movie, which usually for me means I'll be disappointed. I was never a real huge comic book geek, but I did read quite a few Superman comics, and as a kid I loved the Superman movies.

Last year's Batman Begins was an excellent film, and I hoped to be as satisfied with this movie. Brandon Routh plays a good Superman, and he looks a bit like Christopher Reeve, so I can't complain about him. Kevin Spacey did a great job as Lex Luthor, but unfortunately Luthor's plot in this film is pretty damn lame. Surely in all the comics that have been written about Superman, a better scheme has been written that could have been lifted for this movie? But from a character standpoint, the major disappointment for me was that Kate Bosworth was a pretty lousy Lois lane. There was barely any palpable chemistry between her and Supes. Plus, her giant forehead was distracting.

Otherwise, this movie was waaay too long and had too many quiet, "dramatic," moments that were supposed to be awe-inspiring but were more like sleep inspiring. All in all, it could have been a lot worse of a movie, but it could have been a lot better too. Hopefully the next movie will have more action and less of the sleepy stuff. Honestly, the best part about going to see this movie was that the preview for Spiderman III looked REALLY good.

Now, some reviews of this film will tell you Superman Returns is a sequel to the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, while others will tell you that it's a sequel to Superman II. Why is there confusion, even though Director Brian Singer has explicitly said in interviews that this is is a sequel to Superman II? My theory is that the confusion stems from the unstated fact that Superman Returns is truly a sequel to Superman II, but not the movie we all know. I believe Superman Returns is actually a sequel to the Superman II movie that was mostly filmed, but never finished, by the original director Richard Donner. The original idea for the Christopher Reeve film was a two part movie. Richard Donner filmed Superman and Superman II basically at the same time. But the studio got nervous about having the first film end in a cliffhanger and instead had Donner have more of a resolution for the first movie. Then, once the film was a success Donner continued to work on the sequel but got into some arguments with the studio and was then replaced by Richard Lester who, many movie fans feel, screwed everything up. When you watch Superman II, some scenes were shot and edited by Donner, and some by Lester. A lot of the original Donner material was cut altogether. For example, the Donner version of the film has an R-rated love scene between Supes and Lois Lane that never made it to the final version. Most people don't know this, but as a big Superman fan, Superman Returns director Brian Singer does. I think he had this unfinished movie in mind when he made this new movie. At some point this year a new DVD box set will come out that will supposedly include for the first time, the Richard Donner version of Superman II. I believe at that point my theory will be confirmed. You read it here first.

Oh yeah, my grade for Superman Returns is B-.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Why Mets Fans Can't Stand Yankees Fans
(And It's Not What You Think)

The Mets lost last night. They got swept in a three game series by the Red Sox and I couldn't be happier. Why? Because it messes with the Yankees chances of making the playoffs. And with the Mets maintaining a healthy lead on the wife beaters, the only thing sweeter than the Mets making it to the World Series would be having the Yankees not meeting them there because they couldn't even sniff October.

Do you want to know why Mets fans can't stand Yankees fans? It's not because of their arrogance. Every team has arrogant fans, and there are many arrogant fans who wear orange and blue. Maybe I'm arrogant.

The real reason Mets fans don't like Yankees fans is because we don't respect them. When you see a person wearing a Yankees hat or shirt, they are most likely:

A) A fourteen year old girl who never watches games but thinks Derek Jeter is cute

B) An out of towner who never watches games but wants to glam on to New York in some way

C) A bandwagon jumper who couldn't tell you the starting rotation or who played 1st base before Tino Martinez (or Jason Giambi for that matter).

Are there real Yankees fans out there? I mean real fans, who can actually recite the 25 man roster and wax poetic about the Jesse Barfield days? Yes, of course. But even most of those fans are in complete denial about their scarcity. Yankees fans think everyone should be Yankees fans. They look around and see a sea of pinstripes and think everyone else must be crazy. They'll welcome any clown and accept him or her as a "true" Yankees fan, just like George Steinbrenner will accept any enemy (Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Wade Friggin' Boggs) into pinstripes and annoint him a "true" Yankee. Well, except for A-Rod. Gotta love that.

Mets fans are different. We feel very confident that when we see a dude with an orange and blue cap that he's a real fan. That he can cry with us about The Worst Team Money Can Buy, about Juan Samuel or Gregg Jeffries or Generation K. That he'll agree that Keith Hernandez should be in The Hall and that Mex was the best first baseman in New York. When it comes to real baseball fans, the Mets own New York. We don't crave quantity. Yes, the Yankees have won more World Series and sell more hats, but the Mets lead the world in Grand Slam Singles, losing last place, and balls that Get By Buckner!

When an impartial observer is around, a typical Yankees fan will tell him or her "You gotta be a Yankees fan. You gotta be. Look at all the rings and look at all of us!" Meanwhile, a typical Mets fan will say to the fan on the fence "I don't care what team you pick. If you don't care, you might as well pick the Yankees. It's a good time to jump on their bandwagon because it's moving real slow right now. You should only be a Mets fan if You Gotta Believe"
Note: Of course this applies to anyone besides the Mets fan's girlfriend or wife because we don't need no stinkin Yankees games playing in our house. So if your girl is on the fence it just makes life easier if she develops a crush on David Wright.
So there you go. The Mets did their job of screwing over the Yankees by laying down for the Red Sox. If we have to, we'll beat the Sox in the Series. Surely fans remember how that went last time? Now, it's time to turn it on. It's the back end of our rotation (El Duque, Trachsel, Soler) head to head with the back, I mean front, I mean is this seriously the Yankees rotation?

Lets Go Mets!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Minnesota Envy

My two favorite bands are on tour together. I have never before in my life wished I could be in Minnesota...

6/29/6 - Tom performs with Eddie Vedder and more from St. Paul

By Doug Miller / excerpt of full-length article on

... the tour moved into overdrive June 26 with the first of two nights of non-stop music and fun from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Pearl Jam. It's tough to put all the backstage sights, sounds and experiences into words, but here's a rundown of some of the highlights:

Tom and Eddie together: This evolved over the course of the two-night stand at the Xcel Energy Center and eventually paid off hugely for everyone in the building.

Tom and Heartbreakers manager Tony Dimitriades confirmed to me that Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder and Heartbreakers lead guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench met in the corridor outside the Heartbreakers' dressing room 15 minutes before the Heartbreakers were due on stage Monday night.

They went into the dressing room, where they did a quick run-through of "American Girl." It seems that Eddie, who already knew all the words, was invited to join Tom and the Heartbreakers on stage for the encore to sing the lead vocal of the second verse, and a quick run-through was obviously all that was needed.

The show featured incredible sets by both Pearl Jam and Tom and the Heartbreakers and both bands were accepted by the other's fans as if they were their own. But when Tom brought Eddie on stage for "American Girl," which was to be the last song of the evening, the place erupted.

Most people probably thought Eddie would sing the choruses with Tom, so when he took the lead on the second verse and nailed it, everyone -- the audience, the musicians on stage and the road crews of both bands -- was beaming in the presence of something unique and special.

More Tom and Eddie: It got even better Wednesday night. The seeds were planted in the wee hours of that morning at the hotel bar. Still adrenalized from the collaboration during "American Girl," Vedder shared a nightcap or two with Tom, Ben Tench, and Heartbreakers multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston and drummer Steve Ferrone.

Somewhere in the early hours of the morning, all agreed that Eddie could sing on a second song in the set, "The Waiting," which the Heartbreakers had not performed live for some time.

This led to an acoustic rehearsal session in the Heartbreakers' dressing room Wednesday night about 10 minutes before Pearl Jam began their opening set.

You could tell Vedder loved the song because he sang out all the words without hesitation while the signature finger-picked intro riff to the song rang through the hallway.

A few hours later, right after the ninth song of the set, the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle With Care," Tom introduced the band and then brought Vedder back on stage for what seemed to me to be a rousing rendition of "The Waiting."

I was standing at the side of the stage and I could hear Eddie's strong vocals through the stage monitors, which is how the musicians on stage hear themselves. What I and the musicians did not know until later was that there had been a microphone/computer malfunction and Eddie's vocals were not coming through the PA.

It was a bitter disappointment to everyone, I am sure, but I am also sure they will do this again and I am looking forward to the Milwaukee and Denver shows, when the audience will get to hear it the way they should...

But redemption came when it was time for the encores.

Vedder came back out and stood at the side of the stage, dancing and singing during "You Wreck Me" and "Mystic Eyes."

Right before the final number, Vedder came back on stage and seemed overwhelmed to be in Petty's presence. He clasped his hands together to greet Tom and nailed the second verse and the harmonies once again.

But that wasn't all. When Campbell blistered through the solo at the end of "American Girl," Vedder ran from the back of the stage, did a knee slide right next to the guitarist, and saluted Campbell with a repeated "We're not worthy" bow.

The song ended and Tench grabbed Vedder to join the Heartbreakers in their bow to end the evening. Fantastic stuff.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mookie Of The Month - June 2006

Finally figured out why it's bad luck to stand under a ladder....

At least when there's a person on top of the ladder, painting, it's a bad idea to stand underneath.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Prince Performing Fury on SNL - .mp3

I haven't watched Saturday Night Live on a regular basis in ages, but I did tune in this season when Steve Martin hosted and Prince was the musical guest. Prince's performance of "Fury," of his new album 3121 was unfrigginbelievable. Download the .mp3 of the performance here, or the video on YouTube here.