Friday, June 10, 2011

Movie Tattoos

Regardless if you’ve seen The Hangover 2 yet, you know that Ed Helms’ character Stu gets a face tattoo similar to Mike Tyson’s while on a drunken bender in Bangkok. What you may not know is that it’s causing all kinds of trouble. Apparently Warner Bros. filed court papers this week indicating they intend to digitally alter the tattoo when the movie is released on DVD. Tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill, who gave Tyson the Maori-style tattoo that the film references, sued the company for copyright infringement.

According to Entertainment Weekly, in order to prevent Whitmill’s request for an expedited trial, lawyers for Warner Bros. said: “If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, Warner Bros. does not intend to make any use of the allegedly infringing tattoo after the film ends its run in the theaters because Warner Bros. will digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Ed Helms’ face. As a result, there is no reason for the highly accelerated trial Plaintiff has asked this Court to hold on Plaintiff’s request for a permanent injunction.”

Hmm…sounds like S. Victor (sweet name by the way) wants to cash in on his artwork as soon as possible. As someone who thinks that tattoos are very personal and would be none too thrilled to discover someone copying any of my tattoos, I guess I can see where the artist is coming from. That being said it’s not Mike Tyson flipping out; it’s the artist who inked the tattoo on one of his customers. So does it make sense to alter the tattoo for the DVD version of the film? Won’t that completely miss the point/hilarity of the tattoo? As of now a mediation hearing is slated for June 17 and a court date is set for Feb. 21, 2012. I guess S. Victor will have to wait until next year to find out if his art is as coveted as he thinks.

In the meantime, I got to thinking about the significance of tattoos in movies. In movies like Momento and Waterworld, tattoos almost served as their own characters. In the former a man who lost the ability to make any new memories uses tattoos on himself to remember clues as he tracks his wife's killer. In the latter, the kanji and coordinates tattooed on the back of a young girl gives the location of the last dry land on Earth. For other movies, tattoos are there simply to make characters look more badass – i.e. Angelina Jolie in Wanted and George Clooney in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Either way, tattoos have been used to tell stories, depict personalities and even show where a person has been. They are a person’s history and there is no shortage of them in movies. While some people identify with their tattoos others just view them as works of art on their body. It will be interesting to see whether or not the courts rule in S. Victor’s favor or if they decide that he needs to get a grip. I would love to hear what Mike Tyson thinks…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Iconic Music Venue Celebrates 100th Anniversary

There are a few outdoor music venues in the United States that have gained recognition for being not just a venue but a destination. There’s the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin and of course, Red Rocks Amphitheatre right here in Colorado. While the other two are music destinations that people are always excited to visit to see their favorite band, Red Rocks is an iconic venue that has hosted some of the greatest musicians in history. If only those rocks could talk.

Last month marked the 100th anniversary of touring acts playing live concerts at Red Rocks. Legendary opera singer Mary Garden sang there in 1911 and famously claimed, “Never in any opera house the world over have I found more perfect acoustic properties. I predict that someday, 20,000 people will assemble there to listen to the world’s greatest masterpieces.”

And she was right. Since then music legends including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison, Stevie Nicks, U2 and Dave Matthews Band, just to name a few, have graced the revered stage.

What’s amazing about Red Rocks is that if you go to a show the venue provides a three-prong experience. First, you get to enjoy (or agonize over) a nice hike up those steps. There are some people who go there for an outdoors workout to run the steps and then check out the beautiful view at the top. Those who are attending a concert may or may not like the hike but everyone likes the view once they get to the top. It’s amazing to look out at all that natural beauty and then, almost as a bonus, you get to see one of your favorite musicians perform. And if you’ve ever seen a show at Red Rocks you know that artists bring out the big guns. It’s like there is something in the air – or the rocks – that reminds musicians why they love music and why they started playing in the first place. Seriously – all hippie bullshit aside Red Rocks speaks to people who are there whether you are performing, attending a show or just hanging out.

As far as the history of the venue goes – the City and County of Denver purchased it in 1941 for $50,000. Since then Red Rocks has done a lot for Denver; last year alone it contributed $1.85 million in tax revenue. The venue has held regular concert seasons every year since 1947 and can house 9,450 fans at a time.

Over the years many bands have filmed and recorded concerts at Red Rocks including U2’s legendary Under a Blood Red Sky in 1983 and Dave Matthews Band’s popular album Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95. Widespread Panic, the Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson and Big Head Todd and the Monsters have played the most shows at Red Rocks.

After concert industry magazine Pollstar awarded Red Rocks the honor of the best small outdoor venue for the 11th time, they decided to name the nationally coveted honor the Red Rocks Award and removed the venue from the running.

On a personal note, some of the best shows I’ve ever seen have taken place at Red Rocks. The day I moved to Colorado nine years ago I saw Tom Petty and Jackson Browne with my good friend J.P. Crum. It was quite a welcome to my new home. Since then I’ve also seen the Beastie Boys, the Foo Fighters, Journey, the Allman Brothers, Def Leppard and Ben Harper, just to name a few. This summer I hope to see a few more good ones – possibly Soundgarden, Kenny Chesney and Kings of Leon but either way I will visit Red Rocks at some point this summer. You can’t beat that view on a blue sky summer day in Colorado.

Monday, May 16, 2011

“Welcome To 2008”

That is what my cousin Marshall said to me when I told him that I finally purchased an iPhone yesterday. After much conversation that began in February about how my phone was from the 90s I finally made the big switch to a Smartphone and I’m very glad I did. These phones are amazing – they are like little handheld computers that also function as a phone. I know everyone else in America has either a Blackberry or an iPhone and already knows this but I’m excited about my new toy and I’m going to tell you why.

Obviously Smartphones have that name for a reason – their capabilities are seemingly endless as you can pretty much run the world from your phone. Email, Facebook, Google – if you want to look someone or something up you can do it in less than 30 seconds. Also, if you are in an unfamiliar city and are looking for the closest Italian restaurant or need directions to the ballpark your phone can help. It saves time, money and a lot of aggravation.

Speaking of aggravation – in the last six months I’ve noticed that not having a Smartphone was becoming increasingly limiting due to the fact that it wouldn’t let me store more than 50 photos on the phone, I couldn’t read a text while talking on the phone and I sure as hell couldn’t surf the Internet to look something up. If I saw a funny bumper sticker, sign or license plate I couldn’t share it. But now everything has changed and I haven’t had the phone 24 hours yet. I’m able to multi-communicate and if there is something I want my friends and family to see I can make it happen by pressing a few buttons.

In addition to the cool features I’ve already explored I’m looking forward to using my iPhone at upcoming concerts as I’ve heard that it will probably take better photos than my digital point-and-shoot I carry in my purse. I’m also looking forward to the music side of this phone – I haven’t transferred any music from my iTunes account to my phone yet but I will try to do it tonight!

So the bottom line is that what everyone says is true: “Getting an iPhone will change your life and you will never go back.” Thank you to Marshall Spooner, Justin Reed, Dave Mescon and the rest of the geeky tech guys in my life for giving me such a hard time and forcing me via peer pressure to buy this phone. And a big thank you to my mother for being so generous with her upgrades. It’s all happening.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Denver Derby Day!

Why is celebrating the Kentucky Derby such a big deal? Although it’s known as the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” I feel like it’s such a random event to celebrate. But don’t kid yourself- we celebrated this year! For the first time ever I attended the famous Denver Derby Party which has taken place at the Botanic Gardens in the past and has always sold out very quickly. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the party moved to Infinity Park and sold out weeks before the event – boasting close to 5,000 attendees. Featuring live band Super Diamond, special guest DJs and the best people watching I’ve seen in a long time, the Derby Party was the place to be this weekend. The hats, the dresses, the mint juleps, the seersucker suits and the fact that it was 80 degrees and sunny made the party something to talk about. The only downside is that the party’s reputation precedes itself in that it is quite the drinking fest – I definitely saw a few people literally falling down and being attended to by very patient and helpful cops and paramedics. Nothing too serious – just way too much booze.

What’s funny is that the party was five hours long and the race, as we know, is only two minutes. So why is this event such a big deal? Is it the allure of watching and betting on those magnificent Thoroughbreds or is it the dressing up in fun and interesting outfits?

On the sports side, the Kentucky Derby is probably the most anticipated horse race in the U.S. season. It is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is one and a quarter mile at Churchill Downs and is the first leg of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It is followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. A horse must win all three to win the Triple Crown. The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.

This year Animal Kingdom was the winner of Kentucky Derby 137 – a horse that no one expected to pull out the title. Was watching the race at the Derby Party exciting? Absolutely. But I wonder how many attendees actually remembered who won – or for that matter I wonder how many remembered the number of mint juleps they drank? Either way, the party was something to see and I’m glad I got to be a part of it. Seeing everyone dressed up was really fun and wearing a big hat was fun as well. I guess the allure was just being there – and celebrating the brilliance that is Kentucky Derby horses.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Steven Tyler Is Having A Moment

What decade is it? Steven Tyler is currently on the cover of Rolling Stone and People and for once it’s not because he’s back in rehab. Whether you watch the show or not, you know that he is one of the judges on American Idol which is why Tyler is getting so much well-deserved attention. Instead of showing up to work slurry his words and staring with cocaine eyes he is charming the audience, the contestants, the other judges and, most importantly, the viewers watching at home. People are loving his funny phrases and hilarious outbursts – it’s like everything that comes out of his enormous mouth is a sound bite. One of my favorites is something he said to a 16 year-old female contestant: “Girl, I have sandwiches under my bed that are older than you!” Who talks like that? Apparently Steven Tyler does and the world is eating it up.

Everyone knows that Tyler has been the front man for Aerosmith since the 1970s – a band that has had 21 singles on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. Here are a few you might recognize:

1975: "Sweet Emotion", #36
1976: "Dream On", #6
1976: "Last Child", #21
1977: "Walk This Way", #10
1977: "Back in the Saddle", #38
1987: "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", #14
1989: "Love in an Elevator", #5
1990: "Janie's Got a Gun", #4
1993: "Livin' on the Edge", #18
1993: "Cryin'", #12
1994: "Crazy", #17
1997: "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)", #35
1998: "Pink", #27
1998: "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing", #1
2001: "Jaded", #7

Of course with the kind of success this band has seen over the last four decades, decadence inevitably followed and Tyler was no stranger to booze, drugs and subsequently, rehab. He completed drug rehabilitation in 1986 and maintained sobriety until 2008 when he checked into Las Encinas Hospital rehabilitation clinic to recover from multiple leg surgeries. He made a public statement saying that his foot repair pain was intense and that the months of rehabilitative care and the painful strain of physical therapy were traumatic. In the late 2000s he developed a painkiller addiction for which he successfully received treatment in 2009. At the end of 2009, Rolling Stone reported that Tyler had checked into rehab for pain management.

Since then Tyler has gotten his act together and is now the most likeable judge on one of the most popular shows on television. That being said, Tyler hasn’t lost his edge – he is still the same badass rock and roll front man but rather than shooting heroin he is giving up-and-coming young talent the advice and encouragement they need to become stars. His band is also releasing a compilation album called Tough Love: Best of the Ballads which will hit the streets on May 10. Although Aerosmith has released greatest hits albums in the past, I’m assuming that Tough Love is a result of Tyler’s favorable turn as a judge on Idol. Hopefully album will do well but since there isn’t any new music on there and most Aerosmith fans already have the songs that appear on the disc it will be interesting to see what happens. On the other hand, Tyler’s turn on Idol may have earned the band a whole new crop of young fans who don’t have the songs yet. I guess we’ll see how it goes – but in the meantime, to quote our rock and roll hero, “Well hellfire, save matches, fuck the steep and see what hatches!”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What Happened To DualDisc?

Remember when records were a big deal (the first time) and they had a B side that allowed you to flip them over and play more music? Well a few years ago a group of record companies including EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and 5.1 Entertainment Group decided to release a type of double-sided optical disc that was like the record except it was a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. It was called DualDisc.

DualDisc is a double-sided optical disc product developed by the record labels mentioned above and it first appeared in the United States in March 2004 as part of a marketing test conducted by the same five record companies who developed the product. The test involved thirteen titles being released to a limited number of retailers in the Boston and Seattle markets. The test marketing was seen as a success after 82 percent of respondents to a survey (which was included with the test titles) said that DualDiscs met or exceeded their expectations. In addition, 90 percent of respondents said that they would recommend DualDisc to a friend. DualDisc titles received a mass rollout to retailers throughout the United States in February 2005, though some titles were available as early as November 2004. The recording industry had nearly 200 DualDisc titles available by the end of 2005 and over 2,000,000 units had been sold by the middle of that year.

So what the hell happened to them?

I remember attending a NARM convention with my mother in 2004 when they were introducing DualDisc. One of the swag gifts we were given featured this technology – it was a Dave Matthews album with their new music on one side and a concert DVD on the other. We were told the technology was going to revolutionize the record business.

Unfortunately, after graduating college in 2006 I’ve hardly seen DualDiscs. Were people just not that into a DVD on the other side of the disc or were they just not interested in watching a concert DVD at all? Or maybe it was too confusing for people to grasp – had we had been so trained to play the “correct” side of a CD that the idea of turning it over to a B side like a record was too unnatural to get used to? I hate to think that as a music-loving society we couldn’t handle the dual pressure so why has this format disappeared?

The challenge for the designers of DualDisc was to produce a dual-sided disc that was not too thick to play reliably in slot-loading drives and not too thin to be tracked easily by the laser inside the player. Engineers have tried to get around this by making the pits in the CD layer larger than on a conventional CD making it easier for the laser to read. The downside to this, however, is that the playing time for the CD layer of some early DualDiscs decreased, from the standard 74 minutes of a conventional CD to around 60 minutes.

Besides the loss of 14 minutes, the biggest issue was probably these two warnings that no one wanted to deal with:

1) “This disc is intended to play on standard DVD and CD players. May not play on certain car, slot load players and mega-disc changers.”

2) “The audio side of this disc does not conform to CD specifications and therefore not all DVD and CD players will play the audio side of this disc.”

The fact that a customer might be purchasing something that might not work in their various CD and DVD players was a gamble and quite frankly a pain the in ass. Why buy something that comes with warnings that are pretty much telling you that the technology isn’t going to work?

I’m hoping that record labels (or someone, anyone) figures out a way to make the DualDisc technology perform that way it should. I believe that given the proper technology we could get used to flipping discs again.

Watching The West Wing

In the last few years I’ve gotten more into watching TV shows on DVD rather than movies. For whatever reason I like finding a good show and then watching the seasons on DVD – I’ve done this with shows like Brothers & Sisters, Rescue Me, Grey’s Anatomy, 90210 and Californication, just to name a few. If I haven’t already seen episodes of a particular show I usually download the first few from season one on iTunes and if I like it then I buy the whole season on DVD.

My most recent choice (thanks to suggestions from several people but especially Heidi) is The West Wing and surprisingly I’m loving the show. Knowing it was a political show I was a little skeptical at first but I was also excited because I knew Rob Lowe and Martin Sheen were in it. For those who haven’t seen the show before, it is an ensemble drama set in the West Wing of the White House—where the Oval Office and offices of presidential senior staff are located—during the fictional Democratic administration of Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (played by Sheen). Written by Aaron Sorkin (the genius behind The Social Network) the show aired from 1999 until 2006. It’s no surprise that Sorkin wrote this show as the dialogue is creative, engaging, fast-paced and extremely well-written.

Also, the cast works very well together – so well in fact that from the very first episode I believed that they had actually been working together on a presidential campaign for years. In addition to Lowe and Sheen there are some familiar faces including John Spencer (who played FBI agent Womack in The Rock), Allison Janney (who played the nutjob principal in 10 Things I Hate About You), Bradley Whitford (Adam Sandler’s nemesis in Billy Madison) and Moira Kelly (the bitchy, spoiled ice skater in The Cutting Edge).

Each character seems to be the best of the best in their respective fields and they are as smart as they are smart ass. With so many people on the show it could get confusing or frustrating but it doesn’t – Sorkin leaves no room for any unnecessary, boring characters or storylines. One of the most interesting episodes so far is the one where the staff takes the President’s daughter to a bar and when a few college boys try to get fresh the FBI is there in seconds. It was awesome – and not a life I would ever want to lead.

From what I’ve read The West Wing received positive reviews from critics, political science professors and former White House staffers which is no surprise. The show seems to get better with each episode. In total, the show won three Golden Globe Awards and 27 Emmy Awards, including the award for Outstanding Drama Series, which it won four consecutive times from 2000 through 2003.

With all the political bullshit I hear about on a daily basis, whether its write-in candidates for Denver City Council or the birther issue for the millionth time, it’s nice to watch political drama that’s both interesting and fictional. I look forward to watching the rest of season one and I hope that it continues to be as good as the first seven episodes.

Barcodes! Tags! Smartphones!

Until recently I thought that barcodes were the black and white squares you scanned on the back of products at grocery stores and record stores to pay for your items. Clearly I’m behind on the times and clearly I need a Smartphone. (Yes Marshall and J.Reed, I finally admit it).

If you open a magazine and pay attention there are now small colorful Microsoft “tags” that enable those with a Smartphone to snap a photo or scan the tag which will then take you to an accompanying web site or video. Entertainment Weekly has included tags that will take you to summer movie trailers while Snowboarder features tags that will bring you to their web site. Even advertisers are jumping on the barcode bandwagon which is a good move – it links those who are reading hard magazines to those who spend more time reading online.

Here’s how it began: High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) is the name coined by Microsoft for its technology of encoding data in a 2D “barcode” using clusters of colored triangles instead of the square pixels traditionally associated with 2D barcodes. It has been licensed and serves as the basis for the Microsoft Tag mobile tagging application.

The technology was created by Gavin Jancke, an engineering director at Microsoft Research. Jancke has said that HCCB was not intended to replace traditional barcodes. Instead, “it’s more of a ‘partner’ barcode” and that “the UPC barcodes will always be there.” He continued, “Ours is more of a niche barcode where you want to put a lot of information in a small space.” The Microsoft Tag reader is compatible for Internet-capable mobile devices including many based on the Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Java, Android, Symbian S60, iPhone and Java ME platforms.

The question is whether or not this little tag trend is going to catch on and I think that it already has. Not only do these tags provide ways for the reader to learn more and see more, whether it’s a cool web site or the latest trailer for Hangover 2, it is also very cool. Taking a photo with your cell phone that immediately directs you to a web site that contains information, photos and videos concerning something you already think is interesting? Sign me up. Now I just have to wait until my AT&T upgrade kicks in at the end of June so that (as my hilarious cousin and friends would say) I can join 2011.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ticketmaster Is Ruining Lives

As a person who loves live music I have the displeasure of dealing with Ticketmaster on a frequent basis. Since its 2011 and most tickets are purchased online I usually have no choice but to use Ticketmaster if I want to see the band or artist of my choice. Although I am willing to spend more money for good seats when it comes to live music I absolutely detest seeing my ticket listed at one price only to see it skyrocket after “service” and “convenience” fees. Convenient? Convenient for who??

If Van Halen wants to charge me $150 to sit close I’ll pay it – what I don’t want to pay is another $20 just for using Ticketmaster. A friend of mine recently went to buy tickets for popular San Francisco music festival Outside Lands. He thought he was paying $185 per ticket but once the Ticketmaster monster swallowed him up and spit him out he was paying $210 per ticket. Needless to say he was not happy.

Now that I’ve complained for two paragraphs let me provide some background on this beast. Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc. was a ticket sales and distribution company based in West Hollywood, California with operations in many countries around the world. In 2010 it merged with Live Nation to become Live Nation Entertainment. Usually Ticketmaster's clients (promoters) control their events and Ticketmaster acts as an agent, selling the tickets that the clients make available to them. Apparently, Ticketmaster does not receive any of the advertised ticket prices when a ticket is sold. Instead, Ticketmaster makes their money from service fees and because buying tickets through them is usually your only option I would call this a monopoly- wouldn’t you?

The worst part is that the consumer doesn’t get any kind of discount for buying more tickets. In the newspaper business if you advertise for 12 months instead of six you get a better rate. In the abyss that is Ticketmaster the more money you spend the more you get charged. How the hell does that make any sense? It doesn’t.

So what can be done? Alternative ticketing companies have emerged but due to Ticketmaster's exclusive agreements with a large percentage of venues none of them have the range of the almighty Ticketmaster. As a result, people turn to scalpers, brokers and Craigslisters in an effort to do whatever they can to avoid extra fees. Some small venues give you the option to buy tickets at their box office to evade fees but these places are few and far between and their box office hours seem to get shorter and shorter.

I’m hoping that some hot shot attorney figures out a way to sue Ticketmaster into being fair and not overcharging people who just want to see some live music. In the meantime, try using other sites and try not to jump off a building when you see that your additional fees are equivalent to a third of your initial ticket price.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Baseball Season!

Although basketball is my favorite sport to play and watch there is something alluring about baseball season in America. I grew up playing with my Dad, my cousin and then on softball teams - which was during a time when baseball movies were all over the place. And I couldn’t get enough of them.

Between 1988 and 1994 baseball movies ruled the theatres and my childhood memories:

Bull Durham (1988)
Major League (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Babe (1992)
A League of their Own (1992)
The Sandlot (1993)
Rookie of the Year (1993)
Angels in the Outfield (1994)

Other classics that were released more recently include:

For Love of the Game (1999)
61* (2001)
Fever Pitch (2005)

Don’t get me wrong – The Natural (1984) and Bad News Bears (1976) are classics as well but not ones that I really grew up with.

This weekend I will be going to my first Rockies game of the season so to get myself geared up I present a list of my favorite baseball movies of all time (in order by year) and why there are so damn good:

Bull Durham – Featuring heavy hitters (pun intended) like Kevin “Mr. Baseball” Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, this movie about how a minor league baseball team evokes one hell of a love triangle is so much fun to watch. Costner and Robbins, who play the catcher and up-and-coming pitcher, are so young and talented you can see why they are now household names. Meanwhile, Sarandon is a force to be reckoned with – and she hasn’t aged a day since.

Major League – This one was all about Winning! Way before Charlie Sheen went off the deep end he was hilarious as diagonal haircut-sporting, 100 mph pitch-throwing, skull glasses- wearing Ricky “The Wild Thing” Vaughan. And Tom Berenger wasn’t so bad to look at either.

Field of Dreams – Everyone knows this is THE baseball movie. The “Stairway to Heaven” and “Free Bird” of baseball movies. I don’t even have to go into why this movie carries so much magic – you just have to watch it. If you haven’t seen it – step away from the blog and buy it, rent it, Neflix it or steal it. Now.

The Babe – John Goodman perfectly depicts Babe Ruth becoming a legend and everything that comes with it. Starting with his father abandoning him at an orphanage to realizing his ability to hit homeruns to his bad drinking habits – this movie is all heart.

A League of Their Own – Apparently casting big names in baseball movies is a good way to go as this one brings together Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, John Lovitz, Gary Marshall and Bill Pullman. This movie is the epitome of my childhood as I was playing softball at the time and had an incredible team. With so many quotable lines (“There’s no crying in baseball!”) and a story with such a huge historical relevance, this movie (again with the puns) smashes it out of the park.

The Sandlot – “You’re killing me smalls!” How many times have we heard people say that? A coming-of-age movie about a kid who moves into a new neighborhood and finds friends through baseball shows how the sport has brought so many different kinds of people together for so many decades.

For Love of the Game – Costner does it again – this time as an aging pitcher who flashbacks his life and career while pitching the perfect game. Exuding both humility and sincerity, Costner (with the help of Kelly Preston) shows the other side of being a professional baseball player who is forced to see the light at the end of his career.

Thanks for the memories and see ya at Coors Field on Saturday!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hi I'm John Mellencamp

Last night 59-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee John Mellencamp put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen when he played for two straight hours at the Buell Theatre in downtown Denver. As humble as he is talented, he introduced himself to the audience as if we didn’t know who was standing there before us and sitting next to my mother, who has seen virtually everyone except John Mellencamp, I was thrilled to be witnessing a rock and roll legend.

Since buying the tickets in October 2010, I had read a few interviews Mellencamp gave where he said that if people were looking for a greatest hits show they should stay home. Although I was happy just to have the opportunity see one of the true pioneers of rock and roll – someone who is up there with Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen – I was a little disappointed at the idea that I wouldn’t get to hear at least a few of the classics. Wow was I wrong.

Before Mellencamp came on stage there was an hour-long documentary on the making of his latest album No Better Than This. We caught the last 15 minutes of it and when it was over I realized how much influence Johnny Cash has had on our believed Johnny Cougar. After a short intermission the theatre’s lights went down and, like clockwork, the auditorium boomed with one of my favorite Cash songs of all time – “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” It gave me goose bumps.

After Cash set the tone the announcer came on and said: “Ladies and gents, from Bloomington, Indiana, John Mellencamp.” The crowd went insane and it was on. While Mellencamp is short – he may or may not be able to clear the height requirement to ride roller coasters – his voice, personality and charisma are massive. He is a storyteller and songwriter who has been a real American rebel his whole life and as a result his songs bleed truth. He is also a performer and a real showman as he never stopped moving for the 120 minutes he played – dancing, talking and smiling. He was in constant motion. He is also one of the most gracious artists I’ve ever seen as he thanked the audience at least a dozen times – everyone was so excited to be there and he was too. You could see it in his face.

Although the music never stopped the show was sort of broken up in three parts – the first and third Mellencamp was backed by his extraordinarily talented band that consisted of his lead guitarist who has been touring with him for 40 years, another guitarist dressed in a full suit, a bass player who played traditional and upright bass, a drummer, piano player, accordion player and the most talented of all, the fiddle player. This ensemble was so good it reminded me of Springsteen’s legendary E-Street Band. Every single musician on that stage was getting done – going above and beyond to make the show the best it could be. It was overwhelming.

The middle part of the show featured Mellencamp by himself on acoustic guitar talking to the audience and telling stories. He intertwined these stories with songs in a vignette-like format which made me feel like he was talking just to me. He talked about his grandmother, the devil, the women that have come and gone in his life, being a sinner and how “there is nothing worse than a dangerous old man.” During his acoustic set he stripped down classic favorite “Small Town” and then told the audience that while walking around downtown a man named Jerry came up to him and asked him to play “Jackie Brown.” Mellencamp explained that he hadn’t planned on playing the song but he did it for Jerry.

Mellencamp and his band ended the show with more favorites like “Jack and Diane,” “Pink Houses” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” but he put a new spin on every single song. And it was a good spin. A great spin. The songs were so different that you almost didn’t recognize them from the first few notes but it worked. I was actually surprised when he played “Pink Houses” because in the beginning of the show some asshole in the front row screamed, “John! ‘Play Pink Houses’” and, being the cool guy that he is, Mellencamp said to him in a very jovial manner: “I told you guys this wasn’t going to be a greatest hits show. Do you know how old I was when I wrote that song? I was like 27 years old. I’m 59 fucking years old now - give me a break!”

While Mellencamp is clearly one-of-a-kind, the Johnny Cash influences were not only in his documentary but also in his style of playing. Like Cash, Mellencamp holds his guitar like a rifle and blatantly talks to the audience in a deep, raspy voice that is as alluring as it is badass. He tells the audience he doesn’t care about the past, “life is short even on its longest days” and “save some time to dream.” There is something to be said about seeing a legend live – they have a different swagger, a different voice and they have real stories. Mellencamp has written and does write every single one of his songs. People just don’t do that anymore and it shows. If John Mellencamp’s music tells the stories of a sinner then I’ll go outlaw with him any day.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Long before people incessantly started posting what they were doing on a social media web site the word twitter was associated with what happens in the springtime. The word twitterpated was first heard in Bambi (I love that movie so don’t make fun of me) when Friend Owl said, “Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.” For those who are unaware of this word, twitterpated describes the feeling people get when they are excited about something.

Even the Urban Dictionary provides definitions for twitterpated: 1) to be completely enamored with someone/something 2) the happy jumpy feeling you get that causes you to smile uncontrollably 3) the way birds and other animals act during mating season (as seen in Bambi). See….the Urban Dictionary adores Bambi too.

Anyway, springtime has a lot of perks so it makes sense that people are in a good mood. Here are ten reasons why everyone is excited this time of year:

-The weather is getting warmer and the sun stays up longer.
-Wash Park Volleyball. Enough said.
-Outdoor concert season! Red Rocks! Fiddler’s Green! Botanic Gardens! Four Mile Park! They all have live music and it all takes place outside.
-NBA playoffs – this is fun as long as the Heat and the Nuggets make the playoffs. I’m thinking the former is a shoe-in but following all the Melo-drama the latter’s future is up in the air. Keep your fingers crossed.
-Hiking in the mountains and seeing all the wildflowers.
-Opening Day – for those who love baseball it’s a rite of passage but for those who simply like sports and drinking in the middle of the day it’s nice to have another afternoon activity option.
-Things start getting green again – especially for those of us who live in places where there are four seasons.
-Summer is just around the corner which means there is a whole lot of outdoor fun to be had.
-It’s award season and contest season.
-Patios and rooftops begin to open up which means lots of hanging out and sipping on cool drinks!
-Swimming pools open! Hello tanning, cooling off in the water and grilling on the pool deck!
-People start traveling and Colorado happens to be beautiful in the summer so book those plane tickets.

In the meantime start looking for your flip flops and sunscreen kids – April is rapidly approaching which means it’s just a sleigh ride (water slide?) into summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give Tribute Bands A Chance!

For all the tribute band haters our there I have news for you: Tribute bands have made their mark on pop culture and from the looks of things they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. People want to see their favorite music live but if their favorite bands and/or artists are either dead or no longer performing, tribute bands are the only option. As history has pointed out, sometimes tribute bands are so good that members can replace original members of the real band. Remember back in 2001 when Rock Star told the story of when Judas Priest replaced their lead singer with a guy who played him in a tribute band? Miracles do happen.

Obviously that kind of thing doesn’t happen too often but in the meantime there are some excellent tribute bands out there that are actually doing the original bands justice. But first let me point out the different between a tribute band and a cover band: A tribute band strives to capture every aspect of the imitated artist’s voice, actions and appearance while cover bands just play other people’s songs. Also, tribute bands usually name themselves based on the original band’s name, one of their songs or even one of their album titles.

Although initially created to honor the original band, some tribute bands have been around for many years and have earned their own fan base and the best example of that is the all-female AC/DC tribute band called Hell’s Belles. They have been featured in several magazines including Rolling Stone and have toured all over the country selling out venues as they go. I’ve seen them twice and I’m telling you right now that if any members of AC/DC wanted to take the night off one of these girls could take over – they are that good. Lead singer Jamie Nova hits every Brian Johnson/Bon Scott note and her stage presence is infectious. Also, Adrian Conner (with her unmistakable bleach blonde dreads) could trade guitar riffs with Angus Young any day. It’s her show – no question.

More recently I saw Appetite For Destruction and not only did these guys look like the members of Guns N Roses but they sounded and played like them. Seriously. I was so impressed that lead singer Chad Atkins could handle Axl Rose-sized notes while running around in a red bandana and doing the classic Axl back-and-forth, sway-like-a-snake moves. It was like I was back on the Sunset Strip circa 1988. And of course Mike Edington makes Slash proud with the way he shreds his guitar – talk about a tough act to imitate. Wow.

Other tribute bands I’ve seen:

Blue Suede Shoes: The Ultimate Elvis Tribute featuring Scot Bruce and Mike Albert

Badfish: A Tribute To Sublime


All three shows were great it was nice to have the opportunity to see Elvis songs like “Hound Dog” and Sublime songs like “Don’t Push” and of course the KISS anthem “Rock & Roll All Night” live by people who really love the music.

Tribute bands I’d like to see:

Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band

Hot For Teacher: The Van Halen Experience

A few more tribute band fun facts:

The Beatles have the highest number of listed tribute bands – 12!

Strangest tribute band: Dread Zeppelin - playing music by Led Zeppelin in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator on vocals. (Can’t make that shit up!)

As a whole I’ve had good experiences with tribute bands but there have been a few negative experiences such as 80s tribute band Steel Panther and Metallica tribute band It Should Have Been Lars. I wrote a very negative post about the former on December 20 and I stand by it. They had the look, could play their instruments and the lead singer could nail the notes but all of their incessant chatter was annoying. Also, I wanted them to play songs by Motley Crue and Def Leppard, not their own songs. I’m all for bands creating their own music but that’s not the point of their shows. Meanwhile, It Should Have Been Lars opened for Appetite For Destruction and they were awful. With bad wigs and a bad attitude, the lead singer opened the show by saying: “In case you all were wondering I am old enough to make fun of Metallica. I hate this band!” Wow – thanks for that. If you hate Metallica why are you singing their songs? I should have James Hetfield kick your ass for comments like that.

Keep your eyes open for any tribute bands coming your way – as long as they aren’t Steel Panther or It Should Have Been Lars and you like the music go see them! It should be a good time. When you do please let me know who you saw and what you thought!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lady Gaga Can Do No Wrong

Even though Lady Gaga’s latest single is clearly a rip off of several Madonna songs, it seems that everyone in the world (15 countries to be exact) thinks “Born This Way” is the best thing to come out of music in a long time. With just this song, Lady Gaga broke records held by the likes of Britney Spears, Beyonce and Aerosmith.

-Released as the album’s lead single on February 11, “Born This Way” debuted at the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100.
-The song became the 1,000th number-one single in the chart's history and the nineteenth song to debut at number one.
-“Born This Way” became Lady Gaga's eighth consecutive top-ten single, first to debut at number one and her third number-one single.
-The song sold 448,000 digital downloads in three days; the most downloads in a first week by a female artist. (The record was previously held by Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me”).
-It simultaneously became the first number-one debuting song on the Hot 100 Digital Songs chart to show an increase in downloads in its second week since 2008’s ubiquitous Beyonce single, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
-Subsequently the song has held the number one spot for five weeks making it the only song to debut at number one and stay there for a month since Aerosmith’s “I Don't Want to Miss a Thing” in 1998.
-“Born This Way” went on to break the record for fastest-selling song in iTunes history, selling one million copies worldwide in five days.
-The song has sold over 1.650 million paid digital downloads in the United States to date.

While I can see Lady Gaga’s appeal to any human who has ever liked Madonna, colorful couture, crazy accessories and dance music, I’m shocked by how she continues to turn out hit after hit. With popular songs like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “Speechless,” “Paparazzi,” “Bad Romance,” “LoveGame” and “Telephone” to her name it’s amazing that she has only been in the game since 2008. There are artists who spend years trying to achieve this kind of fame and success in the totality of their careers and this woman has done it in only three years. Although “Born This Way” has proved once again that Lady Gaga is a pop star there is one question that remains: How long will she be able to keep this streak going? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Actors With Big Egos?

I’ve had plenty of discussions with people on the difference between arrogance and confidence and usually the general consensus is a) there is a fine line between the two terms and b) confidence is much more widely accepted than arrogance. That being said, when it comes to the entertainment world, having an ego might help you create your very own wildly popular television show that stars you playing you.

From what I’ve seen, it’s mostly male actors who create television shows where the lead character is loosely based on themselves. Some of these shows are great while others are annoying but nevertheless, they all are or were very popular:

Two and a Half Men: I will start with this one only because it is clear that Charlie Sheen has taken over the world. I think this show sucks and I cannot believe that (until recently) it was one of the highest-rated shows on TV featuring TV’s highest-paid actor. To see what all the fuss was about I turned on a few episodes a few months before Sheen Madness began and although there were a few funny lines the dialogue and storylines were predictable and the sight of Sheen in bowling shirts made we want to never bowl again. As I’m sure everyone knows now, Men was about two brothers and the son/nephew they take care of together. Not only was Sheen’s character named “Charlie” but with all of his womanizing and drinking he played a very PG version of himself in the show. I’m assuming that the fact that Sheen was basically playing himself attracted viewers back when Sheen was considered charismatic and fun – now, not so much.

Seinfeld: The show notoriously described as “the show about nothing” still has a following to this day. Jerry Seinfeld (as himself) and his buddies were a crazy foursome that America could not get enough of for over a decade. I believe that the show depicted Seinfeld as who he really is (the shows usually ended with him doing a stand-up routine) and that the rest of the gang were happy to join in the fun. People refer to Seinfeld lines and episodes all the time and although the show went off the air in the late nineties, it lives on through reruns and people constantly quoting Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine.

Everybody Loves Raymond: I was never a fan of this show and the few episodes I saw were not only boring but were designed like every other family sitcom ever created. Like Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano played himself and I’m sure pulled episode material from his stand-up routines. Except this time he had a whole family acting with him. Either way, this show, like Men and Seinfeld, was extremely well-liked and won a bunch of Emmys over the years. Why? I couldn’t tell you.

Californication: I can’t say enough good things about this show –it’s so clever, well-written, well-acted and David Duchovny is brilliant as writer/alcoholic/womanizer Hank Moody. He is charismatic, funny, too smart for his own good, unapologetic for being exactly who he is and he totally gets away with it. Everyone wants to be Hank even though they are constantly rolling their eyes at him. He is a walking contradiction as he has no edit function, drinks and does drugs, is a father to a terrific daughter, has an undeniable love for music and can’t resist women but is so talented that he can’t help but be successful. In On 2008, it became public knowledge that Duchovny (like Moody) had trouble resisting women and checked himself into a rehabilitation facility for treating sex addiction. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Rescue Me: Denis Leary is clearly not a fire fighter but there is no question that he is as biting, sarcastic and mouthy as his alter ego Tommy Gavin. Have you ever seen Leary do stand-up? Have you heard his song entitled “I’m An Asshole” or watched him being interviewed on a late night show? He is hilarious – a fast talker who is funny and, most importantly, a great storyteller. On Rescue Me the Gavin family is a big part of the storyline and Leary definitely pulls from his real-life family for these characters – including their names. His character also tells stories on the show that actually happened to Leary throughout his childhood. One of the best shows on TV with one of the most complex and ballsy characters ever, Leary gets it done. I will be sad to see this one go after its upcoming final season.

The reason these shows work is because these guys are good actors – even if they are playing version of themselves. While there are clearly some I prefer more than others, all of these shows have earned critical acclaim. Turns out, writing what you know is an expression for a reason.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Off The Reservation

That should be title for Charlie Sheen’s new Twitter and Ustream pages because there is literally no turning back for this guy. What is Sheen trying to accomplish with his crazy talk about warlocks and goddesses while referring to himself as a rockstar? Does he really have this many screws loose or does he just no longer care?

At this point everyone knows that Sheen has gone off the deep end/off the reservation/is having a stage five meltdown and is on the strangest public media tour/trip we’ve ever seen. Everyone also knows that he was not only fired from his television show but also from Time Warner in general. His career – for all intents and purposes – is done.

My question is this: Is he pulling a Joaquin Phoenix? Is all of this craziness about getting attention or has he really lost his fucking mind? I’m still not sure if Phoenix’s weird behavior was real or if he was just doing it to get a rise out of people but if I recall, no one cared as much about Phoenix as they do about Sheen. In fact, while Phoenix was making weird videos and talking about being a hip hop star, Sheen’s face is on every magazine in the supermarket including Entertainment Weekly and People.

Another difference between Sheen and Phoenix and the rest of the nutjobs I wrote about in my February 25th post (such as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Mel Gibson) is that Sheen is entertaining. He is a train wreck in the most bizarre and arrogant way possible and no one can look away. His latest U-stream rant is called “Torpedoes of Truth Part 2” on which he films himself talking to his friend Bob (who is the epitome of an enabler as he laughs at everything Sheen says and tells him he’s brilliant) while smoking and drinking. Sheen calls the bottle of booze a “secret elixir” but makes a point to take swigs off camera because he’s not getting paid for drinking it. Ok Charlie – have another. Or maybe you should put that bottle down before you make an ass out of yourself for the millionth time.

Sheen also says things like “technology is bitchin’” and looks like a crack addict who hasn’t slept since 1988. His hair is going 100 different directions and he literally can’t stop talking nor can he sit still. Instead his eyes dart all over the place as if there are creatures surrounding him – and who knows, maybe there are. Remember this is Sheen’s world – we’re just watching it.

Here are some more gems:

“Their plan is shit, mine is gold.”
“Winner winner, Sheen dinner.”
“Bob, you too have a magic brain.”
“People are trying to interrupt my brilliance.”
“What’s not to love? It’s my life. Winning!”
“We are in the cyber pocket of greatness.”
“Did you notice that the word ‘hell’ is in the word ‘helicopter’? Just sayin’.”

But don’t just take my word for it – see this for yourself. Just know that it aint pretty:

So why have Sheen’s antics taken over pop culture for the last two weeks? Why are we so enthralled? Is it because scripted reality shows are no longer doing it for us and we need a former movie/television star to not only freak out but to record the freak out as well? I’ve heard predictions from people that he will be dead in six months. Who knows. I guess we’ll just keep watching until he is no longer entertaining or until the media stops giving him attention.

The Best of Friends

After talking about it for months and knowing for sure it was going to win an Oscar for Best Picture, I finally saw The King’s Speech. Everyone I talked to who had already seen it said it was definitely the best movie they had seen in a long time so I was really looking forward to it. Although I really did enjoy the movie there were part of it that dragged – but the best parts of the movies were without a doubt the scenes in which Colin Firth (King George VI aka Bertie who has a severe speech impediment) and Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue, his speech therapist) were interacting. The two of them were entertaining, genuine and really fun to watch. What begins as a very awkward meeting (on Bertie’s part) turns into a very cool friendship that lasts the rest of their lives. This friendship reminded me a few other “buddy films” that are nothing short of classic:

Shawshank Redemption – The companionship between Andy and Red is giving me chills as I write this. If the two of them hadn’t met in prison they would have never crossed paths but the mutual respect and camaraderie between them is uplifting even in the worst situations.

Andy Dufresne: If they ever try to trace any of those accounts, they're gonna end up chasing a figment of my imagination.
Red: Well, I'll be damned. Did I say you were good? Shit, you're a Rembrandt!
Andy Dufresne: Yeah. The funny thing is - on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook.

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid – One of my favorite westerns of all time about two buddies who rob banks and end up fleeing to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are hilarious as their banter reminds me of an old married couple – who carry six shooters.

Butch Cassidy: Well, the way I figure it, we can either fight or give. If we give, we go to jail.
Sundance Kid: I've been there already.

Thelma & Louise – Two badass bitches hit the road in a 1966 Thunderbird after shooting a rapist. Wearing shirts with cut sleeves and cowboy boots they spend most of the movie running from the law – and they are not messing around. (It also helps that this movie features Brad Pitt’s debut as the hottest young southern male to ever wear a cowboy hat).

Thelma: Hey Louise, better slow down, I'll just die if we get caught over a speeding ticket. Are you sure we should be driving like this, I mean in broad daylight and everything?
Louise: No we shouldn't, but I want to put some distance between us and the SCENE OF OUR LAST GOD DAMNED CRIME!

Wedding Crashers – One of the funniest comedies of the last decade, this movie features Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson at their best playing best friends (Jeremy and John) who crash weddings. Very charismatic and always the life of the party, these guys are the epitome of buddies with their back and forth repartee that consist of delivering ubiquitous lines like “You lock it up!”

Jeremy: Have you even shot one of these things before?
John: The whole 17 years we've known each other I've been sneaking off to go on little hunting trips around the world. No, I don't even know what the fuck a quail is!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscars 2011

Is it me or was this year’s Academy Awards ceremony a little bit on the boring side? While I must admit that my negative attitude could be the result of me losing my Oscar pool by one stupid category, I still think that this year’s ceremony was missing something. Or maybe a few things. Where was the drama? The amazing dresses? Sure there were some beautiful pieces worn by Jennifer Hudson, Penelope Cruz and of course Anne Hathaway but I still think Hollywood’s finest were going through the motions. Clearly I can’t get enough of Jeff Bridges or Robert Downey Jr. but I seriously thought the stars were going to bring more of their A-game to Hollywood’s biggest night. Here are the highs and lows:

-I was excited to see James Franco and Anne Hathaway double team the Oscars but it was Hathaway’s show. Did Franco hit some pineapple express on the bong before going on stage? He could barely open his eyes and acted as if this gig was just another day on General Hospital while Hathaway worked overtime to be fun, clever and cute.

-Kirk Douglas – Tough to watch but he was very funny. Exploitation or giving a true legend the chance to be in front of his fans?

-Melissa Leo – Congrats! The Fighter was one of my favorite movies of the year – in fact I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time – and Leo was one of the reasons it was so good. Way to drop the “F” bomb in front of millions of people. Alice Ward would be proud.

-Why were Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem dressed like twins?

-Loved David Seidler’s speech when he won Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. I felt for him just like I felt for Colin Firth’s character.

-Anne Hathaway is a triple threat – a great actress, funny and she can sing! J-E-A-L-O-U-S!

-I liked the idea of the history theme but it felt forced.

-I love that Robert Downey Jr. is not afraid to laugh at himself – he is fantastic in every way.

-Loved Tom Hooper’s mom story when he won Best Director. Is it me or does he kinda look like James Cameron?

-It doesn’t get any classier or more legendary than Eli Wallach. (See The Holiday circa 2006).

-Always happy to see Jeff Bridges – so cute and so cool. And yes, I realize he’s old enough to be my father but whatever – he’s awesome.

-Is it me or does Sandra Bullock get funnier and cooler every year?

This year was interesting as there were so many quality movies to choose from – my favorites were without a doubt The Fighter and Social Network – but I really wish that Oscar night had done the movies justice. I’m thrilled that Christian Bale won for Best Supporting Actor – he was the force of that movie – but I’m honestly over seeing Best Actress winner Natalie Portman’s face. Maybe next year Hathaway will host the Oscars on her own and maybe cinema’s most dramatic people will actually show some more emotion.

Off The Map Observations

Shonda Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice Rhimes has done it again. She has managed to create another show about hot doctors saving lives while trying to keep their emotional baggage at bay – but this time they don’t work in an expensive Seattle hospital or at a wellness center by the beach. Instead, these doctors are “somewhere in South America” and are doing a Doctors Without Borders thing in an effort to run away from their problems.

Here’s the deal so far…

There are the newbies:

-Dr. Lily Brenner is the goody goody who lost her fiancée in a tragic car accident and has her eye on a fellow doctor from the minute she arrives in the jungle.
-Dr. Mina Manard (who is played by Meryl Streep’s daughter) is no-nonsense and is constantly looking for the best cases. She accidently killed a kid in an E.R. she used to work for in the United States and is doing some “time” in the amazon to pay for her mistakes.
-Dr. Tommy Fuller is the screw up who is estranged from his family and got into plastics before going to the jungle.

The vets:

-Dr. Ben Keeton is the resident hottie who occupies all kinds of cliché. He looks like Sawyer from LOST, has a drinking problem, lost his wife and kid a few years ago and has many women who have their eye on him. He keeps his wife on life support so her trust fund can bankroll the clinic – saying this guy has series issues is the understatement of the year.
-Dr. Otis Cole is a recovering addict who apparently was in so deep that he refuses medication in dental procedures. He and Dr. Zita Alvarez are “dating” and are both equally hard on the new doctors.
-Charlie is the very charismatic local kid who helps out at the clinic by translating for the doctors still learning Spanish.
-Dr. Ryan Clark is by far the most annoying person on the show – and happens to be dating Dr. Keeton.

I find it interesting that Rhimes uses some of the same actors she’s used on Grey’s on Off The Map. Jason George (Dr. Cole) played Bailey’s love interest, while Valerie Cruz (Dr. Alvarez) played the wife of a patient who suffered a severe nail gun accident – a case that seriously hit home for Meredith. There have also been several guest patients visiting the amazon that also played guest patients in Seattle. Clearly, these actors love working with Rhimes – or it could be that ABC pays really well.

So far so good with this show even though it’s not reinventing any wheels just yet. But what it is doing is keeping my interest by providing great acting that is taking place in an exotic locale that does not include polar bears or black smoke. Since I’ve recently deleted Private Practice from DVR because I couldn’t take the never-ending depressing storylines, I’m hoping Off The Map continues to please.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Top 10 Nutjob Celebrities

After two decades of bad behavior with no consequences in terms of his popularity and ability to work, everything changed yesterday when Charlie Sheen’s extremely popular television show Two and a Half Men was canceled for the season. The cancellation was due to Sheen’s extended rant on the Alex Jones Radio Show on which he discussed his mental curing abilities, ninja training and magic fingertips. The most consequential part of Sheen’s rant was his verbal lashing of Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre -- whom he later challenged to an ultimate fighting match.

Sheen’s craziness inspired me to list the 10 nuttiest celebrities in Hollywood. Here we go….you can’t make this shit up!

1) Charlie Sheen – Although this is the abridged version, Sheen’s rap sheet makes the Robert Downey Jr. of the 90s look like a saint:

• Jan 28, 2011: Sheen again checks into rehab to deal with what ails him.

• Feb. 23, 2010: Sheen voluntarily checks himself into rehab, a move his rep referred to as simply a “preventative measure.”

• 2009: Sheen is arrested on felony menacing charges and spends Christmas in a Colorado jail after wife Brooke Mueller tells cops the actor threatened her with a knife. Sheen ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault and was ordered to spend 30 days in rehab, undergo domestic abuse counseling, and was placed on probation.

• 2005: Denise Richards files for divorce and publicly accusing Sheen of carousing with prostitutes and gambling, while discussing his drug and alcohol problems.

• 1998: Sheen enters lockdown rehab after being hospitalized for a drug overdose which was necessary after his father, Martin Sheen, turned him in for violating his parole.

• 1997: Sheen pleads no contest to battery charges brought by former girlfriend, model-actress Brittany Ashland, who claims Sheen threw her onto his kitchen floor and split her lip. He earned a year's suspended sentence, two years' probation and a $2,800 fine.

• 1995: Two words: Heidi Fleiss.

• 1990: Sheen accidentally shoots then-fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm. That same year he enters rehab for the first time to treat an alcohol addiction.

2) Mel Gibson – Being anti-Semitic is completely unacceptable. End of story.

3) Lindsay Lohan – When you steal, get caught doing drugs, are in and out of rehab and constantly find yourself in court you could call yourself Charlie Sheen – that is if you actually made money being an actor. Go away Lohan. Just go away.

4) Kanye West – “Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Either Kanye needs to never attend award shows or he needs to learn how to sit down and shut up. I’m thinking the former is more likely.

5) Naomi Campbell – Just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean you can throw things at people. Put down your copy of Mean Girls before you hurt another assistant.

6) Michael Richards – Being racist is completely unacceptable. End of story.

7) David Hasselhoff – There is a reason why Comedy Central chose you to be the latest idiot celebrity to be roasted. Actually there are several reasons which include but are not limited to: Baywatch, self-tanner, the drunken cheeseburger home video, Knight Rider and calling yourself “The Hoff.”

8) Casey Kasem – Nobody likes a dog hater. Get a grip.

9) Britney Spears - Shaving your head and then attacking members of the paparazzi with an umbrella doesn’t exactly make you the best role model for your kids, nor does it make the public like you. Thank you for getting your act together – or at least your public image – so the world could move on to other crazies.

10) Paula Abdul – If it walks like a nutjob, talks like a nutjob and acts like a nutjob then it’s probably a bag of nuts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

For Ber

Bernise Jenkins was a force to be reckoned with. She was no-nonsense, she was tough and she was the best. She raised my mother, my aunt, my two uncles, my cousins and me. She shaped all of us. My grandmother hired her in 1953 – a year after my mother was born – to help her take care of her kids. And take care of them she did. Ber was part of our family from the moment she stepped into our lives and that never changed.

For two generations she took care of us. She was there for Marshall’s little league games, for my softball games – she carted us around everywhere. She even introduced us to her friends in Overtown – they loved us. She called us her white children. She always told the story that when I would bite Marshall she would tell him to bite me back. (I don’t recall being so mean to my cousin but there was no arguing with Ber!) When I pouted she made fun of me and made me laugh so hard that I forgot what I was pouting about in the first place.

She was an amazing cook – Ber’s French fries were the best without question. My mother loved her fried chicken – it was like it tasted better because Ber made it. Whenever we fought Ber was there to break it up – when something great happened she wanted to hear all about it. Her bulletin board might as well have been page 6 of the New York Times. Everyone wanted their picture on her bulletin board – that meant you were in. I remember when she first met my boyfriend Rodney – she loved him! She thought he was so handsome and the first thing she showed him when I took him to her house was the photo of the two of us she had on her bulletin board. That was it – he was in.

Ber always had her opinions- whether we liked them or not – and she always told us exactly what she thought. It didn’t matter what the topic of conversation was, Ber had an opinion. She also loved sports. Football and basketball were her favorites and she and Marshall would talk about the Dolphins and the Heat for hours. Just like our grandfather she always wore baseball caps and they were always in support of her teams. It didn’t matter what was going on – if there was a game on television she was watching. No questions asked.

Bernise became “Ber” when Marshall and I were little and couldn’t manage to pronounce her full name. And it stuck. She was Ber from that moment on.

In the last few years Ber’s health started to fail and if it wasn’t for my mother and aunt she wouldn’t have received the top notch care that she needed. Her loving nieces Betty and Michelle were there every step of the way and if it wasn’t for Julia, Carliqua, Janet and Anabelle, Ber would not have been as comfortable and happy as she was in her last few years. We will forever be grateful to them for everything they did for her – the woman who took care of our family for six decades.

When someone mentions Ber it’s hard not to talk about Bok as well –her partner for 20 years. They were a great pair and every time we walked through the door of their house they were always happy to see us. I miss them and the look on their faces because they made coming back to Miami so much better.

Mom always told me that our grandmother called Ber “Helen of Troy” when she was young because she always had men running after her. That makes me laugh but doesn’t surprise me because everyone always wanted to be around Ber. She was a lot of fun and always made you feel like you were her number one priority.

We will miss Ber more than anything in the whole world. She was our rock – kindhearted but tough as nails at the same time. We respected her opinion and always wanted to know what she thought – and she would tell us. Our family is forever grateful to Ber and everything she did for us. She was important to each and every one of us and I know for a fact that Ber stories will be told for many generations to come. We miss you and love you Ber.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grammys 2011

Has it really been a year since I started this blog? My very first post was about the 2010 Grammys so I’m excited to be writing about my favorite awards show again.

My review of music’s biggest night:

-Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Florence Welch and Yolanda Adams showing 18-time Grammy winner Aretha Franklin the respect she deserves. Those are some huge voices. WOW.
-Christina Aguilera (almost) making up for her Super Bowl shit show.
-Madonna – I mean Lady Gaga – got everyone’s attention but it was nothing compared to last year’s dueling piano performance with Sir Elton John.
-Bruno Mars going black and white for what was a surprisingly great performance – not bad for a kid who used to be an Elvis impersonator.
-Loved the country music presence at this year’s Grammys – it shows how much the genre has grown and how popular it has become.
-Dear Usher and Justin Bieber – get over yourselves. Love, Laura
-Bieber and Jaden Smith? What is this? Fisher Price My First Grammys?
-David Letterman’s #9 surprise at the Grammy Awards: New music laws prohibit rhyming “ladies” with “Mercedes.”
-Letterman’s #4 surprise: Academy president finally explains the difference between “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year.”
-Ladies and gentleman – Bob Dylan. Backed by what seemed liked 100 banjos and playing harmonica like it was 1975 even if only for a few seconds….so awesome.
-Lady Antebellum is one of my favorite country groups – they never disappoint.
-Cee Lo channeling Elton John in that sequin and feather outfit. His voice is so infectious that the accessories are fun rather than over-compensation. And the Gwyneth Paltrow duet – surprising because for some reason it worked.
-John Mayer, Nora Jones and Keith Urban – two guitars and three Grammy voices all singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Short and sweet but very well done.
-Three of music’s biggest names – Eminem, Rihanna and Dr. Dre – blowing everyone away. Rihanna’s voice is the perfect juxtaposition to Em’s aggressive voice and lyrics – and so is the mystery woman’s voice who was singing the hook for “I Need A Doctor.” For the record, since I don’t think anyone introduced her, the woman in question is Skylar Grey.
-Esperanza Spalding– loved her acceptance speech. Thank you for being so thankful.
-Mick Jagger paying tribute to Solomon Burke as he jumped around the stage like it was 1975.
-Random crowd shot of an 80s-haired Cindy Lauper.
-Rihanna pulling double duty tonight with two fabulous albeit different performances.
-Lady Antebellum cleaning up and winning three of the major categories including Record of the Year which I thought was for sure going to be taken home by Em and Rhianna or Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.
-It’s hilarious that CBS decided to have actors from its shows present several awards – I like all the actors but this is the Grammys not the Emmys.
-Was Arcade Fire trying to induce seizures?
-And did they really beat out Eminem for Album of the Year? FAIL.
-Kris Kristofferson doesn’t look a day over perfection. Very cool to see the man who gave Janis Joplin her biggest hit.
-Arcade Fire plays another song….ugh….ok turning the TV off.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Two Eras of AC/DC

If you’re a fan of AC/DC there are a few things you know for sure: 1) They are one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. 2) Their hits will always get people excited. 3) They assured us that rock and roll ain’t noise pollution. 4) They’ve had two singers over the years that are so good and so similar that it’s extremely difficult to distinguish who is singing which song. So, here is a little trivia for all the AC/DC fans out there:

Original lead singer Bon Scott was born in Scotland before immigrating to Australia in his childhood. He was AC/DC’s captivating front man from 1974 until his death in 1980.

After passing out in the car on the way back to friend Alistair Kinnear’s house after a night of heavy drinking in London, Scott was left in the car. Since Kinnear was unable to move him, Scott was left in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott the next morning, Kinnear rushed him to the hospital where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott’s death and the official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure.”

Bon Scott’s Biggest Hits:

Whole Lotta Rosie
If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
Highway To Hell
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)

After Scott’s death the band briefly considered ending AC/DC but then decided that Scott would have wanted the band to continue. They auditioned several candidates for his spot but a few days after hearing Brian Johnson sing “Whole Lotta Rosie” from Let There Be Rock and Ike & Tina Turner's “Nutbush City Limits” he was hired.

A few months later, AC/DC, with Johnson on the mic, recorded Back In Black, which would turn out to be their biggest-selling album ever. The album was certified platinum three months after its release, and by 2007 it had sold more than 22 million copies in the United States and over 45 million worldwide, making it the fourth highest-selling album ever in the US and the second highest- selling in the world. Johnson had made his mark and had showed the music world that AC/DC could continue on.

Brian Johnson’s Biggest Hits:

Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
Back in Black
You Shook Me All Night Long
Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
Rock 'N Roll Train

AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003. In 2009 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) upgraded the group’s US sales figures from 69 million to 71 million, making AC/DC the fifth best-selling band in US history and the ninth best-selling artist, selling more albums than Madonna, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. The RIAA also certified Back in Black as double Diamond (20 million) in US sales.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV

Everyone watches the Super Bowl for different reasons and only one of them has to do with football. Obviously if your team is competing then of course the game is a really big deal. For the rest of us, it’s all about the commercials and the halftime show. So let’s start with the commercials. I was happy to see that music was a big theme in this year’s commercials and of course I always appreciate the clever ones as well. These were my favorites:

1) Budweiser: I always look forward to Budweiser commercials because I love the Clydesdales! This year didn’t disappoint with the commercial taking place in a western saloon with an angry cowboy who becomes a very happy cowboy when he gets his Bud. He is so happy, in fact, that he breaks into song – Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” – and the rest of the bar sings along with him. A nod to the bus scene in Almost Famous? Either way, it was my favorite commercial of the Super Bowl.

2) Volkswagen: Coming in a VERY close second, the commercial with the little kid dressed as Darth Vader was awesome. After unsuccessfully trying to perform a Jedi mind trick on a dog and a baby doll, he is “successful” when he tries it on his Dad’s car. A.k.a. His father’s car has a remote start. The kid’s body language is hysterical – he is so startled and excited that his trick worked that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. The look on the father’s face is priceless as well.

3) Car Max: “I feel like a kid in a candy store…like a mermaid at a swim meet… like an acrobat in a mattress store…like a hippie in a drum circle.”

4) Mercedes Benz: Any commercial that starts with Janis Joplin singing “Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz….” is bound to be great. And it was. Seeing all the different makes and models was very cool and seeing Puff Daddy (Diddy? Dirty Money?) get his car stolen was the perfect ending.

5) NFL: Loved the montage of characters from some of the most iconic television shows in history getting ready to watch some football: The Simpsons, 90210, Seinfeld, Friends, Happy Days, Cheers, etc. At the risk of sounding cheesy it was like seeing a montage of old friends.

6) Chrysler: The homage to the city of Detroit was full of hope and surprisingly, Eminem. I found myself, if only for 30 seconds, cheering for the city’s comeback. Somewhere Kid Rock and Bob Seeger were raising their glasses.

7) Best Buy: Ozzy Osbourne asking, “What’s a Bieber?” Good question.

Ok, onto the halftime show. After reading the mixed reactions on Facebook, clearly not everyone loved the Black Eyed Peas. But I found positives and negatives to the performance:

What was good:

-SLASH!!!!!!!! The notorious Guns N Roses guitarist is ALWAYS a welcomed musical guest and I sure as hell wasn’t expecting to see him appear on my television screen. I loved his glitter glam top hat and seeing him play the iconic “Sweet Child O’ Mine” guitar solo was amazing. Fergie – you are a lucky girl!
-The choreography was visually pleasing and all those lights with all those people looked very cool. I can’t imagine the amount of time it took to practice and put all of that together but they did it.
-Even though I’m not a fan, surprise guest Usher was fun – seeing him jump over and land in a split was also pretty impressive.

What was NOT so good:

-The group sounded terrible and the live auto-tune voice was not helping at all.
-Even though the number of hits Black Eyed Peas has is notable, their songs might as well all be called “In Da Club” because that’s the only place they are appropriate.
-The only people I know in that group are Fergie and so when the other two members sang it reminded me why they aren’t famous.

Clearly the Super Bowl is going to be the topic of conversation tomorrow so please share your thoughts and opinions with me!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turn On Lights Out

Apparently boxing is making a comeback. Although there is no shortage of famous boxing movies from the past few decades – all the Rocky films, Raging Bull, The Hurricane, Ali, Cinderella Man– there has been a recent surge of boxing in pop culture. With the help of one of the best movies I’ve seen in awhile, The Fighter, and the newest FX television series Lights Out, boxing is seemingly everywhere.

While I’ve never really watched boxing on TV, I have covered a few amateur fights at the Denver Athletic Club which have always been exciting. That being said, I’ve never gone out of my way to watch HBO fights or boxing reality shows like The Contender until I saw the previews for Lights Out and thought it looked interesting. I also figured that if FX’s track record indicates anything (this is the same network that brings us Rescue Me, Sons Of Anarchy and Justified) the show was going to be gritty, hardcore, well-acted and contain a TV-MA warning before each episode. And I was right.

Lights Out stars Holt McCallany as aging former heavyweight boxing champion Patrick “Lights” Leary who struggles to find his identity and support his wife and three daughters after retiring from the ring five years prior. Leary’s career came to an end when his wife Theresa gave him an ultimatum to either stop boxing or lose his family. Unfortunately, this ultimatum came right after Lights loses a match he should have won after taking horrible advice from his father/former trainer. Now the loss (which was also his last time in the ring) haunts Lights on seemingly a daily basis as his neighbors, family, colleagues and people of the press constantly bring it up.

In addition to his father, Theresa and the girls, Lights’ family also includes his brother and businesses manager Johnny and their sister who owns a diner. After paying for his brother to go to business school, putting his wife through medical school, currently paying for his three girls to attend private school and their palatial house complete with a neatly manicured lawn, Lights is tapped out for cash. He should have all the money in the world but instead he is missing payments on the house and cars and is being chased down by the IRS. His financial problems leave him at a tough crossroads as he is battling the urge to return to boxing or reluctantly accept a job as a brutal debt collector. Meanwhile, Lights may be suffering from a form of dementia commonly found in boxers. Of course Lights doesn’t want his wife and children to know about the financial or health issues so he is, according to Theresa, “back to lying like the old days.” Clearly we will see what she means in future episodes – unless Lights gets back in the ring to fight the boxer he unfairly lost to five years prior.

While McCallany plays Lights with a calm, cool demeanor one wouldn’t expect from a boxer his character is a cliché so far. He keeps having flashbacks of his fighting days, specifically his final fight, and there’s no question he misses being in the game. Physically McCallany looks like a boxer who hasn’t missed a day of training and although Lights continues to be a local legend who draws people asking for autographs while calling him “champ,” the legend is fading. Like his brother Johnny says – “you were a champ but five years was a long time ago.”

How the series will go remains to be seen but I find myself very interested in what Lights decides to do with his life and how he plans to turn it around. I hope he stops doing these embarrassing public appearances (kids’ birthday parties, hosting bingo nights, mattress commercials, etc.) and does something great. I’m assuming he will get back into boxing but who knows – FX features ballsy shows for a reason and, like Lights himself, they are not afraid to do something unexpected.