Friday, September 29, 2006

The Good Old Days ... May Not Return ... TV ROUNDUP (Gilmore, Jericho, The Office), BIRTHDAY INSANITY, and MORE

What's up party people?

The week of INSANITY (the good kind) is turning the corner into the weekend, and so far I am coasting on little sleep and waning energy reserves, but am pretty much just propelled on adrenaline and excitement for the weekend.

First of all, while yesterday was my birthday, it was also the birthday of Ms. Liz Liggett, a fellow Libra and huge supporter of this blog (obvsiously) so I'd like to wish Liz a very happy birthday! Actually, I know she had a happy (and margarita-filled) birthday, since I attended her crazy bash last night, which was good times but proved once again that I'm not in college anymore and Thursdays, unless a special occasion like a birthday demands otherwise, are probably better suited for sitting at home and watching The Office. Suffice to say, while yesterday's festivities were a ton of fun, today is proving kinda tough ...

But actually, I was very surprised yesterday at how much birthday-celebratin' went on during the day. Since a few other coworkers also have bdays coming up, we were treated to a lunch at Morton's on the company dime (if only I wasn't such a picky eater I'd probably have a better appreciation for this ...), and then a delectable chocolate mousse cake was served back at the office along with ice cream in celebration of all of our birthdays. Quite a nice little office celebration, and if any coworkers read this (I don't think they do, and kind of hope they don't ... I mean, um ...) --- well, thanks!

And, thanks to everyone from LA, Boston, NYC, and around the globe for all their birthday wishes sent yesterday. It's always great to hear from people who I haven't seen in a while, even if it's just in the form of a quick MySpace message. Thanks guys!

Alright, while I gear up for this Saturday's festivities, let's get back to the meat and potatoes here ...


- GILMORE GIRLS: I mostly liked the season premiere, and surely, compared to the glut of melodramatic, slowly-paced, poorly cast and scripted dramas out there, once again seeing this brilliant cast in action, doing their thing, was a HUGE breath of fresh air. Still though, there was, undeniably, something a bit OFF about this episode. Except for a few scenes, much of the ep felt like it was written in a style trying to imitate the classic GG fast-talking, pop-referencing dialogue, but rarely did it feel like we were getting the real deal. Hopefully this is just the writers and new showrunner finding their footing, but the uneveness wasn't helped by the fact that the script had a number of self-referential moments that only drew attention to the fact that something was a little off. Why have Lorelai and Rory engage in a whole comedic subplot about how they are always talking, for example? But aside from the slightly jarring effect of having the dialogue be a little bit removed from what we're used to, I really enjoyed the ep. Kirk crashing through the diner? Hilarious. That ending scene between Luke and Lorelia? Played to absolute perfection by both actors, and resonated as only a scene between two such well-acted and well-defined characters can. I'm cautiously optimistic that this show is still very much worth watching. And extra points for the awesome Twilight Zone reference. My Grade: B+

- And for anyone new to this blog wondering why I, clearly a true man's man, lover of such adrenaline-soaked fare as 24 and Prison Break, is doing watching a show like Gilmore, well, get with the program! This show over it's history has been one of the smartest, best-written, and hilarious programs on the air, features two appealing, thinking-man's ladies in Lauren Graham and Alexis Bleidel, and has one of the best-written and relatable lead male characters in Luke Danes. Great TV.

- Have not yet had a chance to watch SMALLVILLE's season premiere from last night. Have heard good things so I'm excited to check it out. Kneel before Zod!

- This is pure Danny-the-Comedy Fan talking - last night NBC hit a giant home run where for the first time I really felt like both My Name Is Earl and The Office delivered A-level episodes.

MY NAME IS EARL had maybe it's best episode to date last night. A funny plot involving Catalina being forced to resume her old career as a pole dancer (er, jumper) in order to raise money to bail Joy out of prison, was one of the best I've seen yet from the show. The jokes were really on, and the "heart" was turned up to just the right level to elicit a nice "awww" by episode's end. Good Stuff. My grade: A -

THE OFFICE last night had a classic episode. My biggest complaint is simply that one of the jokes they used was almost word for word in my Office spec script I've been working on, so I guess that will now have to be revised. But first thing's first - last night's episode was SERIOUSLY FUNNY, which to me is always the most important thing when talking comedy. The jokes were on point, the dialogue was sharp, and everything just felt a lot tighter and more polished than last week's funny but slightly all-over-the-place premiere. Whenever I watch an episode of a show like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Arrested Development, or The Office, the first thing that I think about afterwards are the memorable lines from the episode. This one had a ton of great dialogue. "I have two girlfriends ... basically." "Jane Doe." "I love inside jokes, hope to be a part of one someday." "She's the office bitch." Can't argue with good comedy. And also, I thought the Jim-Pam stuff was much, much better handled this week - everything had that "fly on the wall" feel that made the British Office so great rather than the overly-sitcomy feel that has at times hampered the US version. Best episode in a long while. My Grade: A

- And for the "Dwight is a lame character and brings the show down" crowd ... I say this:
Sorry, you're wrong. Look at the British Office. David Brent = a broad caricature who became increasingly three-dimensional as the show went on. Same with Garreth. Dwight is in that same mold - a fairly broadly-played character who gets a ton of laughs, but is so skillfully played by Rainn Wilson that you KNOW that when the time comes, we'll see other sides of Dwight. But like Gareth, Dwight's main purpose is comedic foil, and I see nothing wrong with that. I mean who ever said The Office was supposed to be strictly "realistic?" Quirky? Yes. Offbeat? Yes. Deadpan humor? Yes. But The Office's formula, if anything follows in the tradition not of any kind of "realism," per se, but of comedy such as This Is Spinal Tap and Christopher Guests classic mockumentary-style films. The whole point of the style of comedy is to satirize the aburdity of the seriousness and weight that is given to ordinary people in documentarys and the seriousness with which people take themselves. It's only natural to have some characters who come off as totally out there and absurd - that's part of the joke! Think of Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Waiting For Guffman, and A Mighty Wind. The characters are almost all caricatures, which makes for hilarious comedy. So to those dissing Dwight - I think you need to stop thinking of The Office as "realistic" and instead see it in the context of its spiritual comedic forebearers - a comedy that mocks the self-seriousness of its subjects with hefty doses of absurdity.

- I watched the second ep of CBS' JERICHO this week, and man, is this show lame. I was disappinted with the pilot but still saw some potential in the premise. Fact is I love that kind of subject matter, and have been raised on a heavy diet of speculative fiction that looked at the paranoia and fears of the atomic age, from Ray Bradbury to the Twilight Zone. Well, Jericho is no Twilight Zone, that's for sure. It's no Lost either. The premise is stripped of all its inherent political context and instead we get scenes of local yokels running to the Salt Mines to escape the threat of nuclear rain. Come on! Of course, they've gotta ape Lost at every moment, so EVERY character is, wait for it ... NOT WHAT THEY SEEM. We already have Skeet Ulrich as apparently the next evolution of Jack Bauer - a man who is clearly either a Navy Seal or an alien with his ability to combine the improvisational skills of McGuyver, the medical know-how of Doogie Howser MD, and the gunfightin' prowess of Dirty Harry. And already we have escaped convicts ... posing as policemen! Hostages! Gunfights! And an outsider with an overabundance of red thumbtacks in his drawer. Wait, what's this show about again? Oh yeah, a nuclear apocalypse that seemingly levels a ton of major cities but leaves good ol' Jericho safe enough so that its redneck citizens feel like they can walk around outside, play pool in the bar, and go off to see their teenage crushes, in spite of the GIANT MUSHROOM CLOUD just over the horizon. WTF. I have to give this show credit though ... despite its sophomore ep somewhat reeking of sucktitude, the closing cliffhanger, indicating that like 37 major cities were 'sploded real nice, gave me a morbid snse of curiousity to see where this show is going to go in the next few weeks. Somewhere, Ray Bradbury is cringing. My Grade: C -

- Next week is big for TV -- LOST, 20 GOOD YEARS, 30 ROCK, and most of all: VERONICA MARS.


- Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man? I like it! It should be refreshing to have an actor who looks older than 25 play a superhero for once, and RDJ is perfect to play the womanizing, recovering alcoholic man-in-suit that is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man's alter-ego. Now get Downey Jr. started on growing a perfect, Tony Stark 'stache, and we're in business.

- THE STATE, aka possibly the funniest thing ever on TV not named The Simpsons, is NOW AVAILABLE on I-Tunes! While this is the far from ideal situation (ideal being a deluxe all-encompassing DVD box set!), this is still pretty cool. State fans, download now and show MTV that they must, MUST, release this amazingly hilarious sketch comedy cult classic on DVD ASAP~!

- Also now on I-Tunes -- Studio 60! Heroes! Season 3 of the Office! Soon, Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica! Check it ouuuuut, now, my funk-soul brotha.

- Once again, Shana Tovah and may you have an easy fast on Yom Kippur, to all my friends and readers of the Jewish perusasion.

- Alright, I'm out for now. This Saturday will be insane, can't wait ... So can you dig that, Sucka? The good old days may not return, but I shall continue running down a dream


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Twenty-Twenty-Twenty Four Hours (Years) Ago (I Was Born) ... I WANNA BE SEDATED!




Somebody get me Jack Bauer, because today I am, scarily, nearing the end of the "early-twenties." Wasn't it just yesterday that I was 17, 18, 21?

To think, one year ago I was an NBC Page anxiously seeking an assignment and preparing to party down at Citywalk along with fellow September 28th-er Liz L. Now it's one year later and a lot has changed, and yet, basically, as far as me the person goes ... God I think I may be less mature today than I was five years ago. Okay, maybe that's not entirely true ... but working in Hollywood does have that arrested development effect.

I'll keep this one short because it's late and old man Danny has to get some rest before waking up for work tommorow.

Oh man ... waking up for work, wearing khakis and button-down shirts, slavin' away for the man ... it's high school all over again I tell ya!

But seriously ... how did it ever come to this? When all I want for my birthday is a nap ...

Whatever, I found another song that talks about turning 24 ...

Let us flash back to the 90's, when Coolio took a nation on a fantastic voyage by way of a gangsta's paradise, when the dreadlocked lyricist made us pause and ponder the fleating nature of life itself ...

So I gotta be down with the 'hood team
Too much television watching, got me chasing dreams
I'm an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye
I'm a locked out gangsta, set tripping banger
And my homies are down so don't arouse my anger
Fool, death ain't nothing but a heart beat away
I'm living life do or die, what can I say
I'm twenty-three now, will I ever live to see twenty-four?
The way things is going I don't know

Yep, pretty much describes me to a "T." But guess what Coolio, I'm twenty-four and still tickin' and takin' a lickin', so choke on that, Slappy - you was straight trippin' when you wrote those lyrics ... Foo'.

So hear me world - Danny Baram at 24 is a force to be reckoned with!

Dammit all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stop Draggin' My ... Stop Draggin' My ... Alright I'll Stop! - TOM PETTY REPORT and More!

Tom Pet-ty!

Tom Pet-ty!


Last night's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert was off the chain! While last year's show was a jam-fest and hits-filled retrospective, last night's show had something old, something new, and a straight-up rock set-list that blew the roof (well, if there was one) off the Hollywood Bowl.

Tom Petty stuck mostly to The Hits, opening right off the bat with Listen to her Heart and Mary Jane's Last Dance, which, come on, has got to be one of the all-time great rock songs, ever.

After a few more solid rockers, including, of course, Freefallin', Tom began to veer off from the Greatest Hits a bit, but that's when things began to get REALLY interesting. The Mad Hatter of classic rock, in celebration of the Heartbreaker's 30th anniversery together, broke out some of the band's earliest songs, including a blues-y Yardbirds cover. Then, Petty introduced none other than Jeff Lyne of Electric Light Orchestra to the stage, and a mini-Traveling Wilburys reunion saw Tom and Jeff belt out Handle With Care.

Then came the biggest surprise of all. Okay, so to some it wasn't a surprise, I guess, since after the fact I found out that this was announced in advance. But I had NO idea that as Tom Petty introduced the Heartbreakers midway through the show, that he would then proceed to introduce "the only person who qualifies as an honorary Heartbreaker ..." -- STEVIE NICKS~!

Yes, Fleetwood Mac's leading lady got onstage, and was in top form, singing as only she can, swaying and grooving as if in a trance to the tunes like it was 1977 all over again. Petty and Stevie opened their collaborative efforts with one of my favorite Petty songs - STOP DRAGGIN' MY HEART AROUND - one which I definitely had not been expecting to hear, but earlier in the night had mentioned to my concert-going compadres, Liz and Liz, as a song that would be great to hear live. Since I had no idea that Stevie Nicks would be so involved in the concert, I couldn't believe my eyes at what I was seeing. I furiously text-messaged Ms. Liggett who had gone to grab a drink - she had better get back up to our seats ASAP!

I thought that Stevie would only stick around for a song or two, but was very pleasantly surprised that she was practically another Heartbreaker for the duration of the concert. She dueted with Tom on Insider, and danced her ethereal dances, played tamborine, and provided back up vocals on everything from Learning to Fly (a great, slowed-down version), Don't Come Around Here No More (awesome! one of my all-time fav songs), and even stuck around for the finale of American Girl, decked out in some kind of crazy headdress.

And man, by the time the cathartic rock n' rollin' sing-a-long of American Girl closed the show, it had been an amazing ride. I actually wouldn't have minded if Tom had played a few more songs from his excellent new album, Highway Companion, though he did play his first single, Saving Grace (not a huge fan of it) and also my personal favorite song from the new album, Down South, with its contemplative melody and cool, narrative lyrics. There were a few omissions from the setlist that bugged me, like 90's era hits You Don't Know How It Feels and Into the Great Wide Open, but for the most part, despite a few oddities like a cool if drawn-out psychedelic rendition of Mystic Eyes as part of the encore, Tom Petty delivered the classics, including plenty of fist-pumping rockers, from Refugee to Running Down a Dream to Mary Jane to American Girl.

As for the Hollywood Bowl, I thought it was a great venue except for a few things. The seating there is a little bit cramped for one thing, though the stage setup itself is great and makes for plenty of visibility even from way up in the back. My only other complaint is that the crowd felt a little too Hollywood, examplified by the uber-obnoxious twenty-something girls sitting behind us who would not shut up for a long stretch in the middle of the show, gabbing about random crap right as Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks were making beautiful music together live on stage. I had to use my "teacher voice" to politely tell them to STFU. And though I have driven by it many times now and seen how absolutely terrible the Hollywood Bowl traffic gets, even the shuttle bus we took to get there took FOREVER to get to the venue from just a few blocks down by Universal. I hope these people are satisfied with the fact that, literally, the traffic in front of the Hollywood Bowl on concert nights may actually be the worst traffic anywhere in the world. Seriously. Someone name me another spot where it takes longer to travel so short a distance.

Anyways, those small venue-related complaints aside, the concert last night was, pretty much, AWESOME. It had the feel of a once-in-a-lifetime special event. Tom Petty was in top form with a huge backlog of hits, spanning multiple eras, that would make any rock musicians shy of the Rolling Stones jealous, and a great new album in Highway Companion to boot. Tom spoke little and mostly moved about with the bare minumum of crowd-acknowledging gestures, but when it came down to it he was, as usual, a rock n' roll machine, a true storyteller, and a musical icon. The Heratbreakers were nonstop rockin' after 30 years and showed time and again their prowess on the guitars and drums and keyboard. And - bonus! - Stevie freakin' Nicks was present, there for multiple songs, and in rare form (now I can finally semi-relate from personal experience to Jack Black's praises of Stevie's live performances in School of Rock!). All in all a great show, and I think I can speak for Liz and Liz that it was a concert to remember.

- And now, it's back to the grind ... but more fun is coming ...

- Tommorrow is the big day. 24 Years old! Jack Bauer can't save me now. But, keeping with the rock n' rol ltheme of this entry, I always like to find songs that have my new age in the lyrics as my birthday nears. This year, there aren't many that talk about being 24, but the one classic rock ballad that DOES allude to it (and no, The Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated doesn't count ...), is, well, pretty depressing.

From Neil Young's "Old Man" ...

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there's so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

See, I told you it was kind of depressing (though maybe semi-profound?). But hey, it's Neil Young, whaddya want?

Alright, I'm out for now. Fear not though, dear readers, I'll be back soon with my Badassss Birthday Blog Post of Doooooooom.

Until then ... the words of TOM PETTY:

Oh yeah!
All right!
Take it easy baby!
Make it last MAKE IT LAST all Night!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Somewhere, Somehow, Somebody Must Have Kicked You Around Some - Back in LA - TOM PETTY - and MORE

Well I am back in Tinseltown, with nary a moment to catch my breath ...

Back to work today, but feeling like my head is a bit clearer after being at home in CT for the last 5 days. To recap:

My brief time back in Bloomfield was a nice getaway, although it was pretty packed seeing as how there was much synagogue-attending and family get-togethers due to the two days and two nights of Rosh Hashana. While I got home Wednesday night tired and somewhat out of it, Thursday I caught up on sleep, then witnessed first-hand progress in action as my parents and I dined at Bloomfield's all-new Ruby Tuesdays. Yes, a Ruby Tuesdays. For a Los Angelino or even a resident of Burbank, where chain restaurants are plentiful, this is surely no biggie. But in Bloomfield, the dining options are very slim, with barely a decent restaurant in sight, necessitating a drive into neighboring towns like West Hartford, Simsbury, or Manchester in order to sample the fares of such family-style staples as Bertuccis, the Olive Garden, 99, Chilis, et al. So to have a fully-functioning (though of course, not-quite bustling) Ruby Tuesdays, mere minutes from our house, is quite a big deal in its own way. Anyways ... we ate at the new Ruby's, then I met up with my BU pal and current political maven Stephanie P. at another staple of New England dining - Friendly's - home of all manner of ice cream sundaes and other guilty-pleasure type stuff. Me and Stephanie caught up over triple-scooped ice cream, and then I returned home (fill in the gaps of this little getaway with copious amounts of channel-surfing and playstation-playing - in fact, I finally defeated God of War!). Friday, after some afternoon shopping, my brother came home from his "studies" at BU via bus, just in time for Shabbat / Rosh Hashana dinner. My grandparents (Zayde and Grandma to us), my uncle Michael and his new wife Laura, me, my brother, my parents, and my cousin Abby partook in plentiful food and drink, and then did it again the next night on Saturday.

Saturday and Sunday mornings were spent at Beth Hillel synagogue in Bloomfield, where the stalwarts all greeted me and wished me hearty "shana tovahs." We had a new Rabbi at Beth Hillel, who I mostly enjoyed and think will help to bolster the flailing congregation a bit. Still, those services, largely comprised of sitting and standing for long periods as a cantor chants an endless collection of prayers in Hebrew, can be a bit of an ordeal to sit through. By the time you get home, all you want to do is go back to sleep and take a nap. And Saturday, that's what I did. Sunday though my dad and I drove with my brother up to Boston, BU specifically, to return Matt to his lowly two-person, one-room dorm. Pretty close quarters to share with someone else, but I will admit that talking with Matt and his roommate Warren made me miss the more fun aspects of dorm-livin', namely staying up until crazy hours watching bad movies. But don't worry, before Matt left I took time to administer a number of soul-crushing videogame drubbings. Unfortunately, time and the gloomy weather didn't permit us to play any basketball, but I felt confident that, had we played, I would have kicked Matt's ass, even if my recent losing record might indicate otherwise.

In Boston, our visit was pretty brief but it did include a long-desired dinner at New England pizza chain Bertuccis. Being back at the BU campus, even if just for a few hours, was cool - hopefully sometime soon I'll get to visit Boston (and NYC as well) for a more extended stay. The three of us also paid a visit to my other grandmother Norma, who lives outside of Boston in Newton.

Monday I flew in from CT to Burbank, which basically took all day from 2:30 pm ET to 7 pm PT. I got home, unpacked, watched some tube, and was done for the night. And now here I am, back in LA.


- With so much time on the plane going to and from CT, I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. With so many different things occupying my time here, I've had a tough time getting much real novel-reading accomplished. So, oddly, for the last two years or so (maybe more ...? three years ...?), I've been reading an amazing, Pullitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Chabon - THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. But the odd part is, I've read it almost entirely on plane rides to and from CT. It's not that I didn't like the book - in fact, I loved it - I just for whatever reason reserved reading it for plane rides, and since the book weighs in at a hefty and somewhat dense 650 pages, that amounted to a lot of plane rides (not to mention a lot of re-reading, in order to remind myself what had gone before). But now, FINALLY, having finished the book, I can proclaim Kavalier and Clay one of the great modern novels - a true Great American Novel. With its vivid and funny and tragic vision of World War II-era America, centered around two pioneering cousins who, as teens, create a popular comic book character called The Escapist, Kavalier and Clay is an amazing blurring of history and fiction, a sweeping epic that examines the golden age of comic books, prejudice, antisemitism, the holocaust, life, and love. This is an amazing work by Michael Chabon. For me, as a Jew, a lover of World War II-era cultural history, and of comics, this one covered a number of my interests. But really, the book isn't so much about any of those things as it is about the broader themes of escape, freedom, and the American dream. When I finally finished it, it felt like an epic, years-long journey had been completed (though I am now eager to finally check out some of the numerous spin-off material that the book has generated). I could probably write a half dozen essays about the themes and merits of Chabon's work, but for now, I'll just call it highly, highly recommended. My Grade: A +


- Last night's PRISON BREAK ... um, wow. I keep finding each new ep endlessly entertaining, and yet each ep seems to be getting more and more into the realm of the totally ridiculous and absurd. Many scenes here were pure head-scratchers, from the crazy guy's encounter with the blond old woman to T-Bag's seduction of and rejection by a desperate housewife ... the show is riding a fine line between funny-cheesy and bad-cheesy. For now I'll say that I'm liking it and don't mind Prison Break being so completely over-the-top and B-movie-ish. I mean, what the hell, it's not like it was ever Citizen Kane in the first place. And the total openness and unpredictablity of the plot is making the whole thing a very fun ride. My Grade: B

- Have not yet watched the 2nd ep of STUDIO 60 ... have heard good things though I am both sensing and feeling a slight weariness with the gravity that is placed by Sorkin on the goings on of a fictional sketch comedy TV show. If only the real SNL felt the same sense of social obligation and bar-setting comedy.

- Finally, NBC's HEROES debuted last night on NBC. This is another tough one for me to write about, as I have all kinds of biases and anti-biases when it comes to this one. I won't grade it, but I will say that I think the pilot stood out among a sea of less-than riveting new fall shows, and even if it had a number of flaws in writing, casting, and acting, I think this is one of the few shows out there that even hints at the same kind of epic mythology or sweeping potential that something like Lost has. The problem is that Lost's extended pilot allowed for the establishment of a number of juicy mysteries -- Heroes' one-hour intro feels very incomplete, and it seems clear that we won't really know what we're dealing with from a plot-standpoint for another few episodes. So far, the characters have been introduced, but there's no villain, no driving force behind the premise, barely any hints at what is to come other than the way-too-vague threat of some kind of nuclear disaster. I think a lot of people like me are seeing a ton of potential in this show, but like a fresh out-of high school NBA draftee, this is a project that might take a while to show that its got game. But that being said, I don't think I'm alone in thinking that the Japanese guy is far and away the coolest thing about the show - have him interact with the other principal characters ASAP.

- Have yet to watch Sunday's Simpsons. Did see FAMILY GUY, which I thought was a big improvement over the last two weeks but still only okay. While it was funny at first to have everyone hate Meg, the joke has really gotten old lately and its just mean-spirited to the point of annoyance. Also, how many Goonies references can one show have? Ugh! I hate the notion that just having an ironic 80's reference on screen is supposedly instantly hilarious. You still need to have a joke! Otherwise, funnier than last week's by far, and some of the Wal-Mart parodies were pretty good. My grade: B -

- Gilmore Girls premieres tonight on the CW. I've heard very mixed reviews but I'm cautiously optimistic, as I think some of the show's diehard fans are way too determined to hate anything that doesn't have the Palladino blessing. I'll wait and see how they write themselves out of the hole they got into last season, with Rory and Lorelia each showing tendencies that were way too quasi-EVIL for such a usually-warm-hearted show.

- I thought Thursday's premiere of THE OFFICE was pretty good. Some of the jokes related to Oscar's outing got funnier and funnier the more I thought about them ("That's what she, or HE, said."), but I am still down on the show's newfound tendency to work doubletime to tug at our emotions a la a more standard sitcom. I know a number of people like the newly-soapy Office, but to me it just feels pandering and false. I think there is a ton of potential though in bringing Jim to a new setting, just please keep him as an everyman and don't make him into some meta-aware sap who mopes around all the time. And more Dwight, please - the look on his face as Michael kissed Oscar was comedic gold. My grade: B+

- I also thought the premiere of MY NAME IS EARL was pretty good. I wonder if many kids watch this show, because it's kind of shaping into a great comedy for older kids, the kind of thing more typical of FOX. Jamie Pressley, amazingly, does a legitimately great job on this show and the premiere was a real showcase for her. I still wish the writing were sharper and the situations more clever, but Earl at least seems to be a comedy that now has a very strong indentity. My Grade: B+

TOM PETTY .. Tonight!

- Well, tonight is a big one. Though I'm still kind of out of it from my trip to CT, there's no rest for those about to ROCK. Because tonight, live, at the Hollywood Bowl, it's TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS and THE STROKES. Yep, last time I saw Tom the opening act was the classic-rock stylings of the Black Crowes, yet this time it's the nu-wave modern rock of The Strokes, a band I've been a pretty big fan of since they debuted while I was in college and were hyped up as the next big thing. This should be an INSANE show. Plus, normally I am rooting for a classic rocker like Petty to stick to his hits (and last time I saw him, he did, thankfully avoiding much material from The Last DJ album), but this go-round, Petty has just released a great new album in Highway Companion, and I would love to hear of my favorite songs off of the new disc live, like Down South or Big Weekend. Also, this is my first time going to the Hollywood Bowl, and I've heard it's a great venue. And, it's close, so hopefully I won't get home too late so as not to be completely wiped out for the work day tommorow. In any case, it should be good stuff, and you can bet I'll give a full report tommorow. In the meantime, just know that for whatever reason I've had "American Girl" in my head for like two months now, and I'm dyin' for a live rendition that will rock my socks off.

"Oh yeah! All right! Take it easy baby! Make it last Make it last ALL NIGHT! She was ... an American Girl!"

Yes, this will be awesome.

So I'm back in LA and ready to rock. Check back soon for the report.

Monday, September 25, 2006

From Bloomfield, CT ... Shana Tovah

Haven't really had a chance to do a real "live from CT" posting since I've been back in Bloomfield, and I don't have time now either as I have to head out to fly back to LA in just a little while.

But just wanted to quickly say:

Shana Tovah and Happy New Year to all my fellow Jews, and to everyone else as well - hope this is a good and eventful year for all.

I'll be back with a lot more soon, and next time I write it will be live from CA.

Okay, later!

From Bloomfield, CT ...

Haven't really had a chance to do a real "live from CT" posting since I've been back in Bloomfield, and I don't have time now either as I'm have to head out to fly back to LA in just a little while.

But just wanted to quickly say:

Shana Tovah and Happy New Year to all my fellow Jews - hope this is a good and eventful year for all.

I'll be back with a lot more soon, and next time I write it will be live from CA.

Okay, later!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Shifting the Paradigm, Baby: The Simpsons, Studio 60, Pluto, and MORE

And I'm back, gearing up for what will definitely be an interesting week. Only clocking in for two work days, as Wednesday morning I fly to CT by way of Vegas. Yes, my first time ever in Las Vegas will be on a one-hour stopover between Burbank and Hartford. Exciting, huh? As all of this goes on, it is premiere week here at NBC, and all eyes will be on the Nielson ratings tommorow morning, where an entire corporation is going to be looking to see what our most hyped show of the fall, STUDIO 60, scores in the ratings. Luckily, the show itself is excellent, so I can say with full confidence to check it out tonight at 10 pm and boost our biz a little.

Also, I will take this opportunity to plug the fact that, apparently, my brother appears on tonight's season premiere of Deal or No Deal. As if you need another reason to watch (what, Howie Mandell and scantily clad women aren't enough?), Matt Baram will, I hear, be visible throughout the episode as an audience member, who may or may not on occasion yell various obnoxious phrases directed at the contestants. Set your Tivo's, people.

- I'd also like to say that this weekend was really fun. Two BU birthday celebrations, two, two, two nights of fun on Friday and Saturday, and it was nice to see so many people who I had not seen in a while, and it was great hanging out with such a diverse mix of BU grads and former NBC pages. A good weekend was capped off by a hearty Olive Garden dinner in Burbank, which for me is about as good as it can get.

- Speaking of my brother, a while back he recommended that I watch a movie called Dolemite, which according to his roommate - an afficianado of cult-classic blaxploitaiton films - is the quintissential over-the-top badassss blaxploitation movie. So while at Circuit City this weekend I happened upon a Kung-Fu double pack featuring DVD's of a hilarious blaxploitation karate flick that I've seen called Black Samurai, along with a movie called Shaolin Dolemite. Figuring that this was clearly some sort of sequel to Dolemite, I figured "why not?" and purchased this potentially funkalicious DVD set for the sweet price of $9.99. Unbeknownst to my unschooled self, Shaolin Dolemite is merely some old Asian kung-fu flick re-edited to include the Dolemite character, as a cheap way to capitalize on the cult success of the original Dolemite. Dayum. I have yet to actually watch Shaolin Dolemite, but now I feel burned that I will not be getting a true Dolemite experience. Oh well, at least I can be assured that 50% of the Kung-Fu doublepack is filled with ghetto-licious kung fu action, as Black Samurai is, well, amazing. Shut yo' mouth.

- Speaking of DVD purchases, I picked up two recent movies that I never got a chance to see but have heard great things about. One being Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the other being City of God. I figure for $10 each at Best Buy, you might as well add them to the ol' collection rather than renting, ya' know?

- In other movie news, no review of the Black Dahlia for ya'. I had been excited for this movie for a while, but the poor reviews combined with my general busy-ness this weekend made me decide to skip the free Universal screening. If I wasn't in CT this coming weekend, I would definitely be up for Jet Li's Fearles, however - that looks friggin kickass. Perhaps my brother and I will check it out in CT ...

- Also, Ain't It Cool News recently had a four part interview with Peter Jackson, the most intriguing part of which focused on the possibility of him finally doing The Hobbit. Jackson mentioned a desire to once again work with the cast of the original LOTR trilogy, and even speculated that he could see doing The Hobbit as a two-part series. While two Hobbit movies seems a bit extreme to me (the beauty of the book was always that it was such a comparitively simple, open-and-shut story, that only hinted at the grand epic to come), the thought of PJ doing another LOTR adaptation makes me float away to geek heaven. I love those movies more than almost any others, I will unabashedly admit, and I can only hope that the rights issues get cleared up ASAP, and that MGM, who holds the rights to the Hobbit, will make some sort of compromise with New Line to get this done. After all, actors like Ian Holm (if they were to include him as Bilbo, though the practicality of that is debatable), Ian McKellan, Cate Blanchett, and especially Christopher Lee (what is he, 90-something?) are not getting any younger, and if the latter two were to be included (McKellan would have to be, of course), this needs to be on the fast-track!

- Okay, some TV Reviews:


Well, it's not quite the same without King of the Hill back yet, as I only now care about 50% of FOX's Sunday Night Lineup. And night's like last night, where both Simpsons and Family Guy disappinted, man, just very depressing when the filler shows include American Dad and The War at Home rather than gems like Futurama and Arrested Development.


This ep really started out on a promising note. I liked the focus on Bart, and the whole Bat-takes-up-drumming thing was actually one of the best pieces of character development they've done on the show in a long time. And that trippy scene with Bart and the White Stripes was a really cool little piece of animation. But man, was it ever all downhill from there. Almost every joke fell flat, and the plot soon veered its focus into a totaly pointless and boring B-story about Lisa collecting abandoned animals, which really angered me as they had something interesting going on with the Lisa-being-jealous-of-Bart's-musical-success plot point. As per usual with these types of poorly-structured episodes, the whole third act felt rushed, random, and haphazardly done, and it didn't help that there was barely a laugh the entire duration of the episode. Just a really, really disappointing episode, especially conisdering that the premise was one of the more novel ones in a while. My Grade: C


And ... wow. Yet another contender for Worst Episode Ever. This one was just tough to even watch. WTF is going on here? This episode committed the cardinal sin of mocking something for being annoying by being just as annoying. Case in point: the whole satire of morning radio in this ep -- yes, annoying morning radio DJ's are a good target for comedic satire, but the satirical scenes here were, in and of themselvs, RIDICULOUSLY ANNOYING. It's like mocking an Al Gore speech for being boring by playing an entire Al Gore speech. I mean, yikes, this ep was just BAD. Almost every joke was flat, every cutaway was just LAME, and it did not work, at ALL. If this is the level of qulity we can expect from this season, then please put this show out of it's misery. My Grade: D

As far as I can tell, King of the Hill cannot return fast enough in order to save this increasingly unwatchable FOX Sunday night. I was unfortunate enough to catch the first minute or so of The War at Home, in which the dad did a cringe inducing monologue about The American Dream versus the Canadian or Mexican Dreams. One of the worst attempts at "comedy" I've ever heard- I'd get more legitimate laughs from the latest edition of Blondie.

- On that note, this week's premiere of THE OFFICE cannot come fast enough either. Comedy is in a sad state right now, and a good dose of Dwight Schrute may be just what the laugh doctor ordered.

- But, allow me to weigh in on the controversy of The Office's Jim-Pam romance-centric ad campaign. As I've said, these ads are LAME. The show is an offbeat, ensemble comedy, not Friends, not Cheers, and certainly NOT the newest CW soap. Even if emphasizing the show's most soapy aspect over all else (including, you know, the COMEDY) gets a few more viewers to tune in, to me this is basically just selling the show out.

- Speaking of the CW - Sunday saw the official demise of THE WB. Very sad for those of us who are longtime fans, and I liked how the WB ran a bunch of its classic pilots on Sunday as kind of a last hurrah. Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Grounded for Life, Jack and Bobby, Birds of Prey (well, not so much), and a treasure trove of animated programs are all examples of quality programming I enjoyed on the WB. Here's hoping that revitalized CW continues to be a home for shows that dare to be different, and that the bigger franchises like Gilmore Girls can bring new viewers to very deserving UPN-imports like Veronica Mars and Everybody Hates Chris.

- Regarding the newly-hot FACEBOOK: stop sending me these invites to join all these lame groups! Whether it' a facebook-protest group, an anti-protest protest group, or whatever, I don't care enough about facebook-related issues to join any of these. And also, i must say, the insights that the new Feed give you on people's facebooking habits is quite scary. All I know is, some people spend A LOT of time tweaking their page. I mean, do people just like wake up one morning and say "Oh man, 'Major League' is not quite as beloved by me as I once thought - I'd better removie it from my favorite movies list ASAP!"?

- Just a quick thought on Pluto: as relatively small a thing as it might be, I hate when I read about traditionalists bemoaning the loss of Pluto as a planet because of how fondly they remember learning about it in school or whatever. While in this case I understand the sentimentality, in principal I hate this attitude. Why? Because getting all worked up about Pluto no longer being a planet because you "like the idea" of it being one is like a gateway belief into being anti-evolution ("well, I LIKED THE IDEA of humans not evolving from apes"), or anti-semitic ("well, it was FUN to blame the Jews for everything") or of taking any position that involves unfounded, inherited modes of thought over the facts of science. I know, connecting these things with Pluto is a stretch. But the way I see it, one minute you're demanding that Pluto be a planet, the next you're saying we should still think the world was flat, since it made more sense that way. On the other hand ... 'the hell? Pluto isn't a planet anymore? Who do these uppity "scientists" think they are - I'll be darned if they're gonna steal MY childhood like that.

- Umm ... anyways ...

- And while I'm talking about Pluto, I'd just like to reiterate the inherent creepiness of the fact that in the Disney universe, Pluto exists side by side with Goofy. Both are dogs, yet one stands on two legs and can talk and is a peer of similiarly anthropomorphic cartoon Mickey Mouse, while the other walks on all fours, cannot speak English, and is clearly a subserviant pet to the more humanized Mickey, who nonetheless is also an animal, albeit one who wears pants and white gloves. How weird is THAT ...?

- Hey, is the Playstation 3 actually coming out in 2006? Will people actually shell out $600 for it? Will it spur the sales of Blu-Ray or doom Blu-Ray to obscurity?So many questions, and none make me feel good about my chances of playing Metal Gear Solid 4 anytime in the next two years ...

- Back to TV, I love how all the shows are slowly being made available for FREE on ad-suported streaming feeds online. Seriously, I anticipate that I am going to be doing a ton of show-watching this year sitting in front of the computer screen. Because as high-quality as Studio 60 is for example, I just don't know if I'll be in the mood for it after a testosterone-filled double-shot of Prison Break and 24. I'd rather flip to USA after my Jack Bauer-induced high and watch the last hour of grown men in tights throwing each other through wooden tables on WWE RAW. So yeah, WATCH Studio 60, it's really, really good, but it's on, video-on-demand, not on I-Tunes yet, but who knows. My point is, there's no way most of us have time to watch all these shows when they actually air, but it's cool that now there are so many ways for us to watch em that can be time-shifted to match out moods and schedules. Hey, I'm working in New Media these days so screw the traditional broadcast model, I'm all about SHIFTING THE PARADIGM, baby.

- On that note, I'm out. In spite of all that I just said: Matthew Perry, Amanda Pete, and an all-star cast - STUDIO 60 tonight. Watch, Tivo, stream, record, netflix, VOD, or download it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Summer Movie Wrap Up 2006 and MORE

Do you feel it in the air? The times, they-are-a-changin'. This weekend ushers in a month of pure craziness, and it should be an exciting few weeks.

While business is picking up at work, with the start of the new fall season and a ton of New Media-related news of late (Apple's I-TV, Microsoft's Zune, etc), I'm leaving it all behind come Wednesday when I jet home to CT for a few days of family, food, relaxing, and a hefty dose of hardcore praying, for the holiday of Rosh Hashana. I come back to LA just in time for TOM PETTY next Tuesday, and soon after that it's my 24th birthday. In the meantime, I'm plugging away on my writing, trying to finish up this freakin' driving school, getting excited for the new fall TV premieres, doing a lot of reading, hopefully getting in some basketball, and making time for a few others' b-day celebrations to boot. And then, before you know it it's October, which means one of the most fun times of year in Halloween. This year we actually have a Friday the 13th in October, so something crazy has to happen then, before we attempt to reproduce last year's Page-O-Ween spectacular, and yeah, a trip to the Scary Farm may be in order as well. For many, summer is the time to kick back and have fun ... and I had a good summer, but it was also one where I started a new job (as did many of my friends), and had a lot to think about. So my prediction: Fall 2006 is going to be HUGE!

Okay, so before we plow head-first into the fall, let's look back on the summer that was. Well, at least as it relates to the Summer Movie season.

The Summer of 2006, as a whole, I would have to call underwhelming when it comes to film. While we closed out the Spring with some truly excellent movies, from Thank You For smoking to United 93, this summer saw only a handful of movies that I would categorize as "great." And looking back at LAST summer, we had some positively impactful genre movies like Batman Begins and Star Wars. This summer, the biggest franchise there is, Superman, ultimately proved to be a creative and box office disappointment, and I think that even those who initially praised it have to admit that once the hype died down, it's not a movie that will be looked back on with the same reverence or enthusiasm as Batman Begins, Spiderman, or even the original Richard Donner Superman. Still, I think some of the fan and critical backlash on some of this summer's big movies was misplaced. X-Men 3 was an excellent way to close out the trilogy, and delivered on the superheroics and over the top action that the first two lacked. And of course, Pirates 2 won over MOST of us, but still has some detractors who seemed to be expecting it to be The Last of the Mohicans or something. Oddly, Nacho 2 received a somewhat lukewarm reception, maybe due to burnout with quirky comedies ... but I still found it to be one of the summer's most enjoyable comedies - overall, a better movie than the funny but formulaic Talladega Nights. Kevin Smith really won me over with a return to form in Clerks II - sure, it retread familiar territory, but it was vintage Smith that reminded me why I liked his stuff in the first place. There's a ton of talk about Tom Cruise and MI:3 - but let's forget about Cruise and look at the actual movie ... the fact is that the franchise itself was never that strong to begin with, especially after a very uneven sequel in MI:2. To expect Cruise's starpower to carry an already flailing action series was a bit absurd. Still, MI:3 was a very solid action flick that was a nice way to kick off the summer movie season, despite few people begging for this movie to be made in the first place. Similarly, Crank was a great way to close out the summer - a hilarious balls-to-the-wall action movie that reveled in its absurdity. On the other hand, while I enjoyed Snakes on a Plane, there is only so much praise I can give to a bad movie, even if its self-mocking absurdity is part of the isn't-it-ironic joke. Like I said, Talladega Nights was the best Will Ferell vehicle since Anchorman, though it didn't quite live up to that movie's hilarity. In the quirky and eccentric category, indie fave Terry Zwigoff produced a ver yinteresting but kind of perplexing movie in Art School Confidential, while the ever-prolific Woody Allen had an odd but underrated old-school caper in Scoop. Very few saw Mike Judge's Idiocracy, and even fewer came away knowing exactly what to think of it, but somewhere just below the surface of this studio-shelved rarity was the next Office Space waiting to burst out. Meanwhile, fans of the 80's show were diappointed in Miami Vice, but viewed solely as an action movie dripping with shadowy atmosphere and directorial prowess, I thought it was pretty damn good. Until a few weeks ago, I would have told you that, by far, the best movie of the summer was Pixar's Cars, which to me was perhaps my favorite Pixar movie to date, with an amazingly evocative look at nostalgia and progress and the American Dream - not things you expect to find in a Disney animated movie, but then again, Pixar has always defied expectations. However, as soon as I saw Little Miss Sunshine, I knew that I had seen the best movie of the summer - a triumphant, hilarious, thought-provoking movie that is one for the ages. If you have not yet seen it, check it out - it really is an amazing movie. Still, looking at this list, and comparing it to last year's ... well, last year I was able to comprise a Top 10 Summer Movie list made up entirely of A-level movies. As this year's list goes on, we start to get into a slightly lower tier - still good movies, but not quite that same level as last year, where everything from Batman to Hustle and Flow and even down to Sky High (dammit all) was in the A-range for me. Anyways ...

The Top 10 Movies of Summer 2006:

1.) Little Miss Sunshine - Again, an amazing, hilarious movie that had the entire audience cheering.
2.) Cars - Another superlative effort from Pixar, with standard-setting animation and a script that worked on multiple levels.
3.) Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest - All you could ask for in a big summer movie - tons of fun, plenty of humor, an interesting mythology, imaginative f/x, and great action.
4.) Clerks II - A return to the View Askewniverse that was as funny as I'd hoped, with more heart than I expected.
5.) Nacho Libre - A worthy follow-up to Napoleon Dynamite from Jared Hess, this one had a ton of memorable scenes and the most inherently funny premise in a while.
6.) X-Men 3: The Last Stand - While fanboys whined about it not being a proper adaptation of the Phoenix Saga, this was a damn good superhero movie that I went into with low expecations and came out of having been thoroughly entertained.
7.) Miami Vice - Another one that seemed to inspire mixed reactions, I thought that Michael Mann's latest was suitably kickass, dripping with style and atmosphere - a directorial clinic.
8.) MI:3 / Crank - Two action movies, two different styles, but both ultimately delivered a nice adrenaline rush. From the polished, JJ Abrams-directed MI:3 to the gritty craziness of Crank, both accomplish what they se out to do with a sense of fun and style.
9.) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - While it had its faults, this was a very funny movie with a number of quotable lines, helped by some great supporting performances.
10.) Scoop / Art School Confidential - Two oddball comedies that both flew a bit below the radar. One was a return to the comedic caper film for Woody Allen after a serious turn with Match Point, and one was cartoonist Terry Zwigoff's spiritual follow-up to the cult fave Ghost World. Scoop got laughs while having Woody's trademark neurotic ponderings, and Art School mixed humor with psychology to mock the journey of an artist.

Alright, so there's my summer movie wrap-up. Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it, I dare ya'.

Other Stuff:

- I have yet to sink my teeth into it, but I couldn't wait to purchase the new graphic novel from Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina), currently one of my favorite writers. Vaughn's latest, The Pride of Baghdad, promises to be something special. It's a sprawling epic based on the real life story of a group of lions who escaped an Iraqi zoo during the initial Allied bombing campaign at the start of the Iraq war. Yep, the main characters here are LIONS. Beautifully illustrated, this one is getting a lot of press and stellar reviews, so I can't wait to dig in.

- Where the $%&! is Ricky Gervais' EXTRAS on DVD?

- Alright, i'm out - have a good weekend and remember - unlike LonelyGirl15, I always KEEP IT REAL.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

TV On the Blog: Fall TV Preview, Hollywoodland Review, The Simpsons, Prison Break, and MORE

Okay, I am back, so strap on your boots and settle in.

First, don't mean to harp on this stuff too much, but before I move on to other stuff I just want to point your collective attention to two excellent articles from this week's issue of Newsweek. The first is written by probably the best political columnist in the biz, Fareed Zakaria, who is as always so astute in his observations that you wonder why his points are not more obvious.

Check out this article on why Bush is seriously playing into Osama's hands with his simplistic view of Iraqi foreign policy:

Also, check out this superb column by Jonathan Alter. I thought the premise was gimmicky when I saw the title - an alternate history where Bush acted in a much different manner post-9/11, but the execution is so good that alter really hammers home his point. Please, if you don't see an alternative to Bush's presidential style, read this and see the light:

Anyways ... do your civic duty as an American and read those columns, then come back so I can get to the good stuff:



Just some quick thoughts -- this show is getting exponentially more absurd each week. I still love it, but I feel like some time soon it may reach the breaking point where it just gets too nutty for its own good. I mean, this ep saw the upteenth scene where Michael and Lincoln bid farewell to their femme fatale accomplice, after she seemingly betrayed and then seemingly helped them in a maddening back-and-forth that went on and on throughout the hour. We had a crazy ending with William Fichtner brooding over The One Man Who He Could Never Catch~! with more melodrama than an Italian opera. And we had T-Bag kill some poor bastard, with one good hand and a pocket knife, with no explanation for how our favorite gimpy serial killer so easily offed a huge guy brandishing a hot iron. Again, I'm not simply complaining - just observing that this show is taking its pulpiness to a new level of late. I love Bellick's sheer sleaziness, the quiet determination of Scofield, and hey, the final fate of Abruzzi was pretty darn awesome. "I bow only to God ... and I don't see him here." = kickass. I even enjoy the subplot about the one thuggish guy hitchhiking with the naive college girl - it's the new Kim-in-the-cougar-trap of 2006! But I hope the show isn't in danger of losing some its intensity and, dare I say gravitas, by devolving into pure cheese.

My Grade: B


There was a time when FOX Sunday Night could do no wrong. A time before American Dad and (shudder) The War at Home. A time of shows like MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, THE X-FILES, FUTURAMA, and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. When THES SIMPSONS was in its prime and FAMILY GUY was a cult-classic in the making.

Dammit, what happened? But still, with The Simpsons, Family Guy, and soon, King of the Hill, the great tradition of kicking back on Sunday and being entertained for a few hours by FOX before the start of the school / work week lives on.


Wow, 18 years, and no end in sight! Gotta respect it, especially when The Simpsons can still make me laugh like it did on Sunday. Not great, by no means classic, but still plenty entertaining, this tale of mafia mayhem in Springfield did a number of things right:
a.) told a coherant story from start to finish
b.) introduced a funny new character
c.) expanded the world of the show effectively
d.) had plenty of good gags and quotable lines

But yeah, it still made a few of the cardinal mistakes of nu-era Simpsons:

a.) was way too random at times without necessarily being funnier for it
b.) didn't give enough time for a natural conclusion to the plot
c.) lacked the genuine heart of the earlier episodes
d.) retread too many familiar gags / plot devices / themes

But still, this ep was much more about Column A than Column B, and made me laugh numerous times while telling a good yarn. If this is what we can expect from this season of The Simpsons, then BRING IT ON, keep it going, and pleased be to getting me properly hyped for theu pcoming movie.

My Grade: B+


Ugh. What was THAT? Maybe one of the least funny episodes I've ever seen of this show, this was NOT a good way to start the season. As usual, this show can be so random and hit or miss that for all I know next week we'll have a classic half hour of comedy, but ... this one just plain sucked. And, what's weird is this ep actually seemed, structurally, much more in tune with Season 1 and 2, and really cut down on the random cutaways and "this is just like that time ..." type scenes. Which don't get me wrong, is a GOOD thing. The problem here was that the ep just was not funny at all. The premise of Peter freaking out about a prostrate exam was a terrible A-plot and just lame and boring, and Stewie's sudden attachment to Lois never really produced any good laughs. With the exception of the use of George Takai gags, which are pretty much inherently funny, this was not very good.

My Grade: C -

So yeah ... it's time for:

Danny's "I Watch Too Much TV Already and Hope All New Shows are Bad!" FALL PREVIEW:

- Can you feel the excitement for the new Fall Season? In the next few weeks a ton of stuff is returning - THE OFFICE, MY NAME IS EARL, VERONICA MARS, LOST, SMALLVILLE, GILMORE GIRLS, and more. Then there's buzz-worthy new shows like HEROES, 30 ROCK, STUDIO 60, JERICHO, and THE NINE.

I'm probably most excited about the third season of Veronica Mars. Other than 24 (not returning until January, but I'm already psyched) it was my favorite show last season, and I am really anxious to see if it does well on the CW with a strong lead-in and some extra hype. You still have time - do as my brother is doing and watch the Season 1 and 2 DVD's now to get ready for what will hopefully be a full season of one of TV's smartest, most entertaining dramas.

I'm also excited about The Office. I feel that now that the big Pam and Jim "moment" is out of the way, they can focus more on some of the comedy dynamics until the next big moment when the status quo is inevitably restored., allowing the cast to really gel as a comedic ensemble. Also, we have an upcoming Ricky Gervais-penned ep to look forward to, so ... I mean, awesome! I'm still not really sold on My Name Is Earl - I love the cast - Jason Lee can do no wrong in my eyes and Ethan Suplee and Jamie Pressly are money in their roles - but I wish the writing could have the same heartfelt satirical bite of, say, King of the Hill (the best animated show in primetime, back in January, in one of the few decent programming moves FOX has made in years).

Lost, I am pretty much just very, very curious about. My expectations have been lowered a bit though by some recent interviews where it seems like the focus will once again be on milking the flashbacks for all they're worth rther than focusing on the here and now and advancing the actual plot and mythology. Still, this is the show that even now posseses the best single premise on TV - but after two years of crawling along, it's time to stop coasting on leftover goodwill from the phenomenal Season 1 - it's now make or break for me and I'm sure plenty of others.

As far as Smallville goes, I just feel like the show my be treading water at this point. At one juncture it seemed like the show was poised to really evolve and gain some new momentum, by focusing more on Metropolis, fully turning Lex to the darkside, and bringing Clark ever closer to being Superman. Now it seems stuck in an eternal rut of lame Clark-Lex-Lana love triangles, Chloe as a walking plot device, Lois with nothing to do but look pretty, and the best supporting character in Jonathan Kent killed off to be in line with the movies. I just really hope that the season premier blows me away, as previous years' have done. Because as usual, this show seems to surprise me by kicking in to overdrive at just the right times.

While Josh Schwartz returning to The OC can only bode somewhat well for this flailing show, last season was so bad in general that even the ever-enjoyable antics of Sandy and Seth Cohen could barely keep it afloat. Just end it on a high note.

And while I'm too much of a newcomer to Gilmore Girls to continually long for the show's good ol' days, I am remaining cautiously optimistic about the coming season. While a creator with a unique voice leaving their pet show can spell doom (see The OC), said creator staying on long past the honeymoon period can also mean trouble (see Chris Carter on The X-Files). So who knows ... in any case though, I think this will probably be the show's last season, and I think enough of an outline is in place that things will progress naturally, and hopefully will end the way the Palladinos intended.

And as I alluded to in my review above, I'm hoping that the greatest comedy of all-time, The Simpsons, can really build some momentum and make a creative comeback of sorts, to get me excited for the upcoming movie. I'm already a little down on the new season of Family Guy, though Prison Break has started Season 2 on a somewhat cheesy but still highly enjoyable and action-packed opening arc.

As far as NEW FALL SHOWS - what am I looking forward to?

To be completely honest, there's not a whole lot that excites me. It seems like every time a particular genre succeeds, the nets just proceed to milk that genre for all its worth and subsequently drain all viewer enthusiasm. This year the gritty serial drama genre is being pushed like no other, and really, how many of these things can one watch at one time? Until something comes along that beats 24 at its own game (not likely), 24 and its cheesier little brother, Prison Break, satisfy most of my serial drama needs. And the weird thing is that, honestly, from what I've seen most of the new serial dramas are missing the one thing that makes 24 so great - the purse sense of fun that the show always has. Many of these new shows are just so grim and joyless that despite sharp writing and good acting, they just feel like too much of a chore to watch. I enjoy dark, moody shows when that sort of tone is appropriate, ie one of my favorites ever, Millenium - but that show dealt with such deep and complex themes that it warranted its foreboding tone. Something with a simple and inherently over the top premise (say, someone being ... kidnapped?) works so much better in my mind if it has the right mix of intensity and fun, or else it's just too difficult to get caught up in the ongoing saga.

The funny thing is that last year, the genre of choice was sci-fi mystery a la Lost, and since, in theory, I love that genre of television, I found myself watching endless new shows like Surface, Threshhold, Nightstalker, and Invasion, worried about how I could possibly watch that many new shows. As it turns out, I enjoyed approximately ZERO of those new shows, and most seemed to agree as ALL were cancelled! And now here we go with another go-round of "let's copy the genre show that's hot at the moment." Have we learned NOTHING, people?

And again, not to follow the company line, but I really do think NBC is coming out of the gate with a strong lineup.

30 Rock is probably my most personally anticipated new fall show. Yes, you heard that right. Tina Fey is very hit and miss with me (like Mean Girls, hated 80% of SNL over the last few years), but she has an awesome ensemble with her, Alec Baldwin~!, Tracy Morgan~! and the very talented Rachel Dratch. I don't know for sure, but this one could be a sleeper, especially with the comedy competiton so poor at the moment.

And yes, Studio 60 really is that good. There's no denying that the writing and acting on this one is at a level rarely seen on network TV. The question is whether its compelling enough material to keep you watching every week. I'm betting yes, but the jusry is still out. Ask me again when I've seen a few eps. But if you haven't seen it already, make sure to watch the pilot - on its own it really is an amazing piece of television.

Heroes is one that I have been looking forward to for a long, long time. Honestly I need to see more episodes to see what I really think. For us comic geeks, it is easy to look at this premise and see it for what it is - a simplified version of numerous stories, from X-Men to Watchmen to Planetary to Supreme Power to Rising Stars, which all have similar themes. Is this just Squadron Supreme-lite? 4400 with less panache? Maybe, but like Lost, this is a very open-ended show that could go in many directions, so it also, therefore, has pretty much unlimited potential if it is carefully steered in fun and exciting directions. I'm not sure yet if it will live up to the epic scope of the premise, but I'm willing to give it a few weeks to see.

Jericho on CBS has a tres-cool post-apocalyptic premise, but my big concern is if that premise will ever actually be the focus and explored fully, or if it will just be the token backdrop for one big soap-opera. Definitely one to give a bit of a chance before deciding.

ABC's Knights of Prosperity was a lot cooler-seeming when it was called Who Wants to Rob Jeff Goldblum. Still, Donal Logue is a very funny guy and I'm curious to check this out - Grounded For Life was underrated in my book and I am always up for a sample of this style of irreverent comedy.

The Nine still pisses me off because it stole my name for a series, but I am a bit of sucker for they-are-all-interconnected type stuff, which makes this as well as Six Degrees two new shows that intrigue me. Of the new fall serial dramas, these are the two that probably most impress me from what I've heard so far, with talent like JJ Abrams behind the scenes. But I am still kind of skeptical, as I've heard mixed reviews thus far.

And finally, back to NBC. 20 Good Years is a very traditional sitcom that has two very funny veteran comedians in John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor. If anyone can put a crazy spin on traditional, it's them, and after the premature death of Arrested D I am eager for more Tambor (though it will be hard to match his role as George Bluth Sr.). This is one more potential sleeper in my eyes, though does it have anything going for it beyond the talent of the two leads? Still, I think that comedy fans both young and old may find something to like.

Those are the shows I'm most looking forward to as of now - could change, as always, but who knows -- let me know what ya' think.

- Some other quick TV items: Man, I am plowing through Season 1 of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD and have Season 2 on tap.I know, 5 years ago says hello, but my HBO-less self has only seen a handful of eps up until now, before Best Buy's amazing $19.99 TV on DVD sale went into effect last week. Hilarious stuff and a must see for any fans of Seinfeld, aka pretty much anyone with a sense of humor.

- So The Rock is now too good to be called The Rock?!?! Okay, "Dwayne," be that way. But the millions AND MILLIONS of The Rock's fans don't want the former badass-turned-Hollywood wannabe, once known worlwide as The People's Champ, to be some metro-ish dude named Dwayne, dammit all. That just ain't right.

Okay, as promised time for a MOVIE REVIEW.


Most film noirs don't have the burden of also being biographies. The noir is known for its stylized dialogue, outlandish characters, tragic and sudden plot twists, and clockwork-like plot-structure. So how can a movie be both a period, fact-based piece AND a classically-styled film noir? Well, Hollywoodland - the biographical story of how TV's Superman, George Reeves, fell from TV stardom to an unsolved, tragic death - somehow pulls it off.

Like all the best noirs, Hollywoodland is replete with sharp camera angles, pointed dialogue, and shadowy, morally-ambiguous characters seemingly trapped in a world of crime and corruption. But unlike most noirs, or even most mystery flicks, this one is based on a riddle that was never fully solved. This in turn makes the movie more of a message film and less a traditional mystery or noir movie. There are no tidy endings, no big twists, no real resolution. In some sense, this makes the film slightly less than wholely satisfying. But when looked at as more a meditation on the life of a tragic figure, an examination of how fame, power, and money - how Hollywood itself - is like a black hole that leads one to spiral into corruption, vice, and despair, and tragedy - Hollywoodland emerges as a movie with something to say - a tightly written, amazingly acted movie that makes up for its ambling plot with the overall quality of its production.

The cast is just loaded with talent. Adrian Brody channels the broken-down private-eye spirit of the greats as Simo, the down-on-his luck detective who finds redemption in the tragedy of his greatest case. Diane Lane delivers a powerful, Oscar-Worthy performance as George Reeves' adoring yet condescending object of affection. She does the whole Stella Dubois, fading-starlet thing to perfection. Robyn Tunney really surprised me as the sultry golddigger who seduces Reeves. From her somewhat bland supporting role on Prison Break, I had no idea she had this kind of acting ability and charisma. She did a fantastic job in this movie. Bob Hoskins is just classic here - doing what he does best as the aging, corrupt chief of MGM Studios and husband of Diane Lane's character. And like I said, Adrien Brody does a great job as the lead - I'd go so far to say it's by far my favorite role of his to date.

Now, the elephant in the room - Ben Affleck as George Reeves. Affleck has to be commended - he does a very good job here. But, I have to say that some of the praise I've heard for his work goes a little far. As good as he is, I never totally bought Affleck as Reeves, the way I did, say, Joquien Phoenix as Johnny Cash. Affleck is most natural, I think, when he's playing someone close to his own personality - a happy-go-lucky, slightly smug, maybe even preppy modern guy. Here he is asked to play someone of a different time, and he never fully transforms into a person of the 1950's the way Diane Lane or even Robyn Tunney does. Affleck is asked to embody George Reeves and he mostly succeeds, but i never felt like he goes all the way. As good as his perfomance is, I can't say it is on quite the same level as some of the truly A-list cast that surrounds him.

That being said, Affleck does reasonably well and does succeed at making George Reeves an extremely empathetic character - a once promising actor shrouded in meloncholy as his career prospects dwindle, despite being a hero to kids worldwide. Some of the excellently-scripted scenes - of Affleck as Reeves, watching himself laughed at on-screen as he tries a serious movie role, and as he tries to hide embarrassment while trying out for a pro-wrestling act, really resonate.

And some of the best moments for me the duality-infused scenes of Reeves as Superman - outwardly bringing joy to millions of kids but inwardly hating himself. I loved the scene of kids across the country running home to watch Superman, a perfect encapsulation of pop culture in the 1950's as the TV age dawned.

In the end, I guess this movie just covers so many bases that it never focuse enough to be quite as great or insightful as a straight biopic like Walk The Line. Since the plot splits its time between Simo's search for answers to Reeves' death (was it suicide? a mob hit? a jealous fiance?) and flashbacks to Reeves' life, neither aspect quite feels complete or fully fleshed-out.

But in its own way, this movie achieves a level of greatness as simply an amazing collection of performances, and as a thought-provoking look at the veil of corruption that lay behind the glitz of golden age of Hollywood.

My Grade: B+

Alright, that's all I have time for now. Still to come - my Summer Movie Wrap-Up. PEACE.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

UPDATED: "There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men."

Just some quick follow-up thoughts on yesterday's 5 year anniversery of September 11, 2001:

- How quickly, it seems, that a day of mourning can become a day for politics as usual. The President's address to the nation - robotically and clumsily recited as per usual - mixed grief and sorrow with yet more justification for the war in Iraq. And the thing is, I am not even necessarily opposed to the war. I do think that, ultimately, it may be good for our country and the middle east. But I hate the fact that it is continually explained under false pretense, continually an issue that is explained to the nation by preying on emotions rather than intellect and logic. And even as this one issue - the war in Iraq - is hammered home as being justified over and over again, countless other security-related issues are ignored or played down. Safety in our ports, coalitions with international allies, a roadmap to peace in Israel, the broader issue of encouraging democracies rather than dictatorships to rise up in the Islamic world. Bush is a one-trick pony, and he simply lacks the ability to explain his actions with any real elegance or intelligence, instead, yet again, playing off of people's fears by evoking September 11th, 2001, as the be-all, end-all reasoning for all of his administration's plans. Ridiculous.

- And who saw Bush's crazy interview with of all people Matt Lauer? On one hand, I think Lauer was a bit naive to press so much on the issue of torture. While I agree wholeheartedly that torture is a last resort only, and I find the actions of Abu Gharib reprehensible, I don't think we need an ultimatum that says we never use extreme methods to extract information. If it means saving American lives, then sometimes you do what you have to, but again - only as a last resort. But still, the interview showed yet again what a total moron Bush is. Sure, Lauer was pressing a sensitive issue a bit, but Bush is the freakin' President here - why can't he just explain himself in a reasoned and clear manner? The fact that Bush had to resort to juvenile finger-pointing and absurd justifications is just sad. If you didn't see it, Bush kept poking his finger in Lauer's chest and saying how the terrorists were out to kill him and his family! Jeebus, THIS is the leader of the free world?

Check it out in all of its stupid hilarity HERE:

- Now, one guy whose speech did really resonate yesterday was Kieth Olbermann, whose MSNBC show Countdown yesterday featured a critical look at the American post-9/11 political landscape that, for me, hit all the right notes. Olbermann is one of the few liberal-leaning voices on TV who is so well-spoken and clear in his points that it's usually hard to attack what he is saying. Anyone who wants to hear a reflection on 9/11 that demonstrates true oratory skill, take a gander at this. And bonus points to Keith for so eloquently referencing one of the greatest episodes of TV of all time ...

Check it out:

By the way, how amazing is YouTube?

- And yeah, as I anticipated yesterday, most people, as I guessed, are so entrenched in their bubbles that major world events seem to pass through their heads like air, leaving room for Monday Night Football, Paris Hilton's latest publicity stunt, or the newest friend request on MySpace. I was somewhat shocked though sadly not entirely surprised that of all the people I talked to at work yesterday, not one made reference to anything related to world events. Is this a West Coast thing? A Hollywood thing? Is it just my little department here? I remember being in London during the start of the Iraq war, and at my internship there (at a TV production company) people constantly talked politics and every so often gathered 'round the television to take in the latest. But I guess I should take the hint when the LA Times, probably my least favorite paper I've ever read regularly, features the flimsiest political coverage you'll find, and the local newscasts are useless other than for catching the latest high-speed freeway chase. Also, I have talked to a few east-coast transplants here who agreed that the LA natives are not only just apathetic in general, but also probably feel much more removed from the whole 9/11 tragedy. To me, it still seems odd and strangely discomforting. Especially as, during my time at BU, as well as my semester in London, I think my peers and I felt right in the middle of all that was going on in the world - geographically, demographically, and mentally. I hate the feeling of living in a vaccum.

- For a dose of smart-ass levity, you can't beat the snarkiness of crazy political blogs like The Wonkette. While yesterday I wasn't really in the mood to be told not be self-serious and reflective (hey, everyone else as doing it!), today I find this pretty funny. Their sentiment was correct, timing though was a bit inappropriate:

To quote: "If you have a blog, you’ve probably written about it. If you’re on your third giant beer at Recessions’ happy hour, you’re telling your neighbor about it right now.
Sorry America, but no one cares. Unless you were buried in the rubble of the north tower alongside a mustachioed Nic Cage, your story is completely uninteresting and can be repeated almost verbatim by 3 or 4 million other Americans."

Hey, don't blame me for the crass attitude - it was them who said it, not I! But something the more cynical side of me finds funny, though it would probably be a lot more funny if I was actually someplace where people actually talked about world events! (see above)

- Alright, don't worry all you entertainment junkies - soon I will be back with some more regularly-scheduled blogging, including PRISON BREAK thoughts, a review of HOLLYWOODLAND, and the TOP MOVIES OF SUMMER 2006. Until then, to mix up the political and entertainment angles a bit, I leave you with the quote that Keith Olbermann cited in the segment linked to above, the closing narrative to one of the finest and still most socially relevent works ever produced for TV. Ladies and gentleman, the seminal words of Rod Serling, still as meaningful as ever, from the Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due in Maple Street," airdate March 4th, 1960:

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own - for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things ... cannot be confined to ... the Twilight Zone."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering September 11, 2001

In a way, it's tough to really look back with much clarity on 9/11, because in many ways we are still living it. We're still fighting the "war on terror," still hunting for Osama Bin Laden and still dealing with terrorism on multiple levels. That being said though, September 11th was a giant wake-up call, and yet, here we are, five years later, and it already seems like the memory is starting to fade into a hazy fog of news bytes and random, flashes of sound and imagery that are now forever associated with that day.

And what's worse - it's all too easy to let anger or dissatisfaction with the Bush administration cloud our focus. It's easy to transplant anger towards terrorists and beam it in the direction of George W. Bush, but in the bigger picture, these terrorist groups are pretty indifferent ot whether a leader is Democrat or Republican, and what was attacked were the basic ideologies of America - that, more than anything, is what they hate.

So even as I type this now, thinking of the tragedy and the horror of what happened in September 2001, it is hard not to mix sadness with anger and wonder why it is that Bin Laden is still out there, why our President can single out an Axis of Evil yet pressure Israel to make a stopgap peace treaty with Hezbollah, why the war on terror has to mean abuses of power, greed-fed alterior motives, and a constant justification for a misguided and mishandled war in Iraq.

And on these counts, we have a right, as Americans, to be angry. Perhaps the most sickening thing to come out of the post-9/11 world was the sudden mindset that people who disagree are somehow traitors to the country. Just because the events of 9/11 were so black and white - that doesn't mean that everything else is. It doesn't mean that a war in Iraq is automatically equivalent to fighting the war on terror. It doesn't mean that free speech has to be compromised, or that the desire for unity equals a need to conform or be cast out.

But in any case, that is why it's hard to look back just yet. We are still, as a country, trying to figure out what the hell 9/11 meant, and what to do about it. In Washington, you have an old-guard regime, or people who wish they were the old-guard, who saw us get attacked, whose eyes lit up, who said "Yes, we know what to do here, it's jsut like the old days. We'll lace up our boots, wave our flag and gun down the fascists who dared to attack the greatest by-God country in the world." Sorry boys, things are different now - and there's never going to be another Big One like World War II because things are so much more complicated now than we thought things were back then.

I mean, they are talking about bringing Al-Jazeera to the US! We have model US citizens taking flight training courses with the intention of hijacking a civilian airliner. The dominant political party in our country represents the conservative movement, which now stands for serving the religious right, the oil companies, the gun manufacturers, and the neverending war in Iraq - wrapped up for all to enjoy in one tidy little, messed-up package. And the liberal movement is basically a bunch of platform-less whiners whose mani platform is bitching at everything the conservatives say and do, which puts them i nthe strange position of having to prove that they are tough on terror yet anti-war. But ... I'm sorry, how are those two different again? Okay, putting down the Kool-Aid now. I mean, wow, it was only months ago that people were burning Dixie-Chicks CD's for, praised-heavens! - an anti-war song! Nope, sorry folks, we're a long way from the Uncle-Sam-Wants-You days of the 1940's.

So since trying to wrap our collective heads around where we are as a country since September 2001 is clearly a bit premature (I'm stil lwaiting for Frank Miller's soon-to-be-released Batman vs. Al-Queida comic book, that should sum it up pretty well ...) , let me remember the day itself on a smaller scale.

Five years ago today ... wow, seems forever-ago when I think of it like this, I was a sophomore at Boston University. Only recently had I moved back to Boston for my second year as a then-journalism major, and I was still getting accustomed to my new suite in Shelton Hall on scenic Bay State Road. It was an interesting building - it was said to be haunted by the ghost of Eugene O'Neal, the famous playwright, who died there back when it was still a local hotel. But I wasn't worried about ghosts. I was more worried about my new living situation, a two-room suite shared with a somewhat random group of friends - I think I was kind of the common link between them. On one side of the suite, the bigger side, when you first walked in, was the room belonging to myself and Dan "Remdog" Remin. On the other side was an interesting reality-show-waiting to-happen - my friends Aksel and Dan Levin shared that room. Anyways, on that Tuesday, I was up early. Had a doctor's appointment - I think my first in Boston, which was kind of nerveracking, I mean it always is when you go to a doctor for the first time apart from the one you've probably been seeing since you were an infant. In the waiting room, I could hear a radio faintly in the backgound, but was only half listening. But I started to pay attention when I heard the receptionists talking baout the report intently. Something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center ...? An accident? Did it collapse? Was it on TV? My curiosity was piqued as I went in for my appointment, and as I exited I asked if there had been any update. That's when the word "terrorism" came into play, and at that point it was obvious that this was something BIG. I ran to the T after my appointemnt - it was still early, and already the chatter was starting. Previously, I remember, the big talk in the news had been a smattering of shark attacks and the mystery of Gary Condit and the scandal surrounding his missing former intern (whatever happened with that?). A slow summer for news had just been blown wide open. I rushed back to my apartment and turned on the TV. Of course we didn't get cable (BU policy), but it didn't matter - every network had the same thing. I think only Dan Levin was home as well, and the next few hours are basically a giant blur as I try to recall them. I just remember staring at the TV, in shock and horror, watching Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw try to make sense of what was going on. The seasoned newsmen were all equally steadfast, yet the sense of disturbing history-as-it-happened was all too palpable. The second tower went down as I watched, feeling sick and frozen, and then as the afternoon approached, I had class. What was I supposed to do? Were people going to actually go? I remember clearly going to my British Literature class, taught by this ancient professor. There was no way I could concentrate on Chaucer or whoever at the moment. I had to get out of there. But to my disbelief, the class was going on as usual! Early on, some guy raised his hadn, or maybe it was a girl, can't remember. They said that they had family in New York and had to leave and check up on them. The professor allowed it, but still, the class went on! After two excruciating hours, mostly spent, mentally, somewhere far away, as I furiously doodled Captain America, Superman, and Uncle Sam in my notebook, I ran home again, and kept watching TV, glipping between the networks, where Telemundo had become CNN and QVC as well. Soon I had another class - journalism. The professor there was a tough woman - no-nonsense. So after a bunch of bleary-eyed students dragged themselves to class (and surely there were a few who didn't bother to show up), the professor almost looked eager to exploit the opportunity at hand - this was what journalism was all about, she said, these kinds of moments. So get to work, get online, and write me a story about everything that's happened so far today. Holy crap, I didn't know if I could do that. If I was going to write anything, it would have to be some fantastical tale where Superman swooped in and saved us all, where a supersoldier named Steve Rogers high-tailed it to the middle-east and whooped some terrorist ass same as he did Hitler's in the Big One. So as I tied not to pass out, I somehow wrote my story, and I may have decided then and there that I was not cut out to be a newspaperman.

But of course, being a jounalism student in late 2001 and early 2002 meant a constant stream of assignments that ineveitably related back to September 11th. In one article about the possibility of a draft, dated 10/4/01, I wrote:

"At this point it appears doubtful that a draft will become necessary, with increased emphasis on covert missions carried out by highly-trained special forces units. Still, a generation of America’s youth realizes that new challenges and serious threats loom in their horizons. Whether or not they decide to trade in their joysticks for machine guns, or even their MTV for CNN, Generation Y finds itself redefined by the tragic events of September 11th."

But anyways, if I remember correctly, that was the last class I had that day. Once again, I ran home to Shelton Hall, this time with all of my roommates present, and once again, I was glued to the television. My friends and I tossed around theories, ideas - what would happen now? But the story kept evolving and becoming more horrific. The Pentagon - that was just even more unbelievable. The third plane, so amazingly dramatized recently in United 93. The uncertainty about Bush - this is who we have in the White House at this particular moment in time? And of course, being at BU, with so many people hailing from NYC, from CT, from New Jersey - everyone was worried about someone, or worried about someone who was worried about someone. And again, since we were in Boston, we felt at the center of it all, in our own way. After all, the flights had been from Boston to LA, the terrorists operating out of our own Beantown prior to the hijackings. Every day there was a new worry - Copley Square was closed off numerous times as various bomb threats were reported. There was the whole anthrax scare. Every sporting event became , simultaneously, a forum for patriotism and a potential terror target. And everyone kept talking about how Warren Towers was the largest non-miliatry residence in the northeast or something, and how in all of Boston it was one of the biggest potential targets for a terrorist attack (and everyone wondered if, in the event of an attack, those damn elevators would actually work properly ...).

And then there were all the weird little cultural things that happened as a result of that day. One of the weirdest things I remember was that Aksel had tickets to a John Mellencamp concert which I think was on September 12th. None of us wanted to go (I think Aksel may have went?), but at the time I just couldn't comprehend pumping my fist to "Hurts So Good" and enjoying it as I would normally. Suddenly, in those months, all the comedians became serious (though The Onion did the nearly impossible - published a special, post-September 11th edition that was both moving and hilarious), and suposedly, irony was dead (I guess nobody anticipated that, five years later, a bunch of bloggers would be ironically anticipating the release of a movie called Snakes on a Plane ...). The New York Times was suddenly a hot item on e-bay, and I began saving every week's issue of Newsweek, with my usual collector's instincts ratcheted up as each new newspaper, magazine, etc felt like a piece of history-in-the-making. And oh yeah, radio stations stopped playing a bunch of random songs from the likes of everyone from Drowning Pool to John Lennon. Thanks for the sensitivity, guys.But yeah, it was a weird time to be a college student, a weird time to turn 19 years old, which I did a few weeks after September 11th, 2001. Just before that happened, I wrote a try-out piece for the Daily Free Press at BU that never got published. I wrote:

"Our generation has never really had a purpose. We have never had a cause ... Our lives are often defined by fantasies and banalities – concerts, shopping, fashion, movies, television ... Will our generation step up to the plate as our grandparents did and leave a legacy of strength and heroism? Most likely, we’ll remain in our bubbles checking stocks and IM’ing our friends and watching the world change through the pictures on our television screens. But maybe something else has changed ... All I know is that on September 28th I turn 19 – but that doesn’t seem to mean quite so much now... although my birthday was still a few weeks away on September 11th, I feel that I, and maybe some of you too, already did some serious growing up."

So, has anything changed? Yes, everything has, of course. The landscape of the world has irrevocably changed, and yet, it feels like we are in this kind of holding pattern, still waiting, still waiting, for the other shoe to drop.

In the meantime, we just continue to do what we always have - overreact to the little things (leave those water bottles behind) , underreact to the big picture (aka the real war on terror), puff out our chests and make bold declarations, and lower our heads and look back in sad remembrance, and ask all the usual questions that have yet to have any real answers materialize (Are we safer? More secure?).

But I guess my point is, the reason why I'm even writing this, is that the worst thing, the worst thing that there can ever be when tragedy strikes, is denial.

So I'm sure I'll go to work on Monday, tommorow, or today, or yesterday, depending on when you read this. I'll plug away and eget through my daily tasks, and likely be surrounded by people with the usual jokes and smiles and complaints that accompany every Monday, the same routine that keeps people from focusing on anything other than the immediate tasks at hand. But probably, like that day five years ago, I'll be doodling an S-Shield on a scrap of paper, and imagining and reflecting and mentally wandering and wandering what happens next and thinking, as will many of us: "Has it really been five years already?"

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Just a few random thoughts to help you get through the day ...

- So, Facebook is all crazy now. And the legions of disturbed Facebook users have responded by ... FORMING ANTI-FACEBOOK FACEBOOK GROUPS. Interesting, and tad bit ironic, wouldn't you say? I am simulateously annoyed, disturbed, and slightly intrigued by the the new site, which now tells you on its main screen every Facebook-related activity that all of your Facebook friends did. And I mean everything. As in:

Guy You Met Once In College is now friends with Girl You Don't Know.

That One Girl You Know is now single.

Guy You Haven't Talked to Since High School has joined the I Love Hanson group.

And so on ...

So yeah, kind of ridiculous, though, in the short term, I admit, kind of entertaining. With everyone being able to see your every move on Facebook now though, I guess I had better hold off on joining the She-Ra Is My One True Hero group, at least for now. But I hope that they get rid of this stupid new "feed" feature eventually, as it is really pretty creepy even if it doesn't present any info that wasn't already public. It will be interesting to see how the website responds to such a groundswell of criticism though. And what the hell am I doing on Facebook anyway? I graduated two years ago! Well kids, just remember, old man Danny was there when Facebook FIRST STARTED, back when only schools in the Northeast were even included! And I had to walk five miles every day in the snow to get to class! And candy only cost a nickel!

Damn kids and their social networking whatzimabobs.

- Speaking of getting-old rants of doom, remember when MTV played videos? Sorry, I know, I've gone off about this subject approximately 5 billion times by this point, but I forgot to mention previously how badly the most recent MTV awards sucked. The few rockbands that even got awards, with the exception of AFI, totally blow! Panic at the Disco (exclamation point withheld)?!?! Sorry kids, last I checked they don't rock and/or roll. And how unintentionally hilarious was the whole Video Vanguard award for HYPE WILLIAMS? First of all, the man's name is Hype. That should tell you something right there. Second of all, hearing Kanye West introduce Hype was ridiculous, comparing a guy who makes rap videos that are basically rip-offs of B action movies to Picasso and Warhol? Crediting among his great achievements the use of pyrotechnics and widescreen? Are you freakin' kidding me? My friends and I have been joking about this for the last few weeks ...

"Pyro in music videos? That was HYPE!"
"Widescreen? HYPE."
"Bling? HYPE."
"Crazy explosions? Hot dancers? That text thingie in the corner that tells you the name of the song? All HYPE."

So yeah, MTV is a joke, and even Jack Black, who gave an embarrasingly terrible effort as host of the show, could do little to help yet another indicator that MTV has hit rock bottom.

- But, speaking of music videos, I suddenly get this new channel called The Tube which is actually kind of awesome. Anyone else get this? It seems to just play a constant stream of random videos, concert footage, and other performances new and old. In one span I saw Tom Petty, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, No Doubt, Blondie, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, INXS, and Gnarls Barkley. Not bad at all - kind of the Jack FM of music television.

- Here's a little piece of brilliant observational humor: why is the adjective "Jewish" always preceded with "nice?" I want a nice Jewish girl. I am going to a nice Jewish wedding (Liz). I want a nice Jewish home. The constant association with Jewish and nice is, well, nice and all, but where are the girls looking for a gruff, take-charge Jewish boy? Why can't it be a badass Jewish wedding? It's time us Jews were allowed to be more than just nice! Right, Bill Goldberg?

Just kidding, kidding, don't write letters. Nice isn't so bad.

- Yesterday I was very proud of my usage of time once I got home from work. Despite not getting home until almost 7:30, I managed to fit in a number of activities. Let's examine:

7:15: picked up drycleaning from Flair's

7:30 - 8: ate dinner while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

8 - 8:30: researched flights to CT online for the High Holidays, decided upon schedule.

8:30 - 9: Jogged outside with the I-pod.

915 - 10: worked on my Office spec script, on which I made a major creative breakthrough.

10 - 11: made excellent progress in God of War and kicked large amounts of virtual ass.

11 - 11:30: answered various emails online

11:30 - 12: did some reading

12 am - went to sleep

I know, exciting right? But my point is yesterday was a rare day when I accomplished numerous things that I wanted to, and also had time for other fun activities. With this in mind, that will prrobably be the last such day I have in a while, due to a combination of factors including general laziness, the start of the new Fall TV season, and miscellaneous. Tragic, isn't it?

- What else?

- The Protector comes out this weekend ... Tony Jaa sounds like he is pretty kickass from what I've heard. Luckily I have an unwatched copy of Ong Bak at home ready to be viewed, so I can sample the Bruce Lee-esque stylings of the new king of martial arts.

- Hollywoodland also is out, with a free screening at Universal. Hard to tell if it's more of a biorgaphy of George Reeve or more of a straight-up film-noir, but should be interesting if only to see Ben Affleck playing the guy who played Superman. It's getting some great reviews though, and the price is right.

- So, I will be in CT for a few days from the 20th to the 25th. A lot of that time will be spent with family and doing holiday stuff, but nonetheless - CT people (if there are any of you left) - let me know if you're around.

- This morning as I was getting ready for work a song came onto my MP3 player that both moved an inspred. Yes, I'm talking about one of the holy quartet of TGIF theme songs - the theme to Perfect Strangers, baby (the other three are Step By Step, Full House, and Family Matters). But if you need a pick-me-up to get you through the rest of the day, take a gander at these uplifiting lyrics - words which carried Balki and Cousin Larry through innumerable hilarious adventures:

Sometimes the world looks perfect, Nothing to rearrange.
Sometimes you get a feeling
Like you need some kind of change.
No matter what the odds are this time,
Nothing's going to stand in my way.
This flame in my heart, And a long lost friend
Gives every dark street a light at the end.
Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.
The rain and thunder The wind and haze
I'm bound for better days.
It's my life
and my dream,
Nothing's going to stop me now.

Man, I think I just shed a tear as I copied and pasted. Words to live by though, words to live by.

On that note, I am out. Take it easy everyone.