Thursday, July 30, 2009

Picture This!

Today's edition of "Picture This!" is an especially esoteric one, connecting multiple decades of pop culture obscurity.

As I mentioned to my friends a while back, 80's British pop singer Yazz of "The Only Way is Up" fame rocked an awfully similar look to:

90's diet guru, motivational speaker, and general crazy person, Susan Powter!

Apparently none of them look like this anymore, but then again none of them are famous anymore either. Perhaps there is a correlation. Regardless, put any one of these crazy eyed, blond, short haired women in a bright pastel colored, Designing Women-esque power suit with massive shoulder pads and you've basically captured the exact opposite of what I want in a woman in terms of beauty and aesthetics.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bash For Clunkers

Well, it finally happened. After nearly five, All-American, four wheel driving, gas guzzling, turn over risking years, my dear old 2000 Dodge Durango is headed off into the sport utility sunset courtesy of the recent Cash For Clunkers program. As they say, the Good Lord giveth and the Good Lord taketh away. For my Durango, the Good Lord was my pops, Mr. Lee, who in his undecipherable, infinite wisdom bought this pre-owned motoring monstrosity which become my de facto car and it was Mr. Lee who decided he wanted to cash it in on the new federal plan and get a new minivan. While I certainly won't miss the distinct pleasure of cruising at a combined 12 mpg and essentially driving the real life equivalent to a Canyonero; I won't be completely excited to see it go. I will miss the elevated ride, the feeling of highway superiority that came with it, along with its uncanny ability to remain virtually unscathed in any parking lot fender bender; and, despite all my knocks against it, it still dependably got me where I wanted to go for the last five years, albiet in a laughably inefficient manner. However, I take heart in the fact that the cycle of Detroit based automotive life continues on in the Lee household; as one Chrystler company car is laid to rest, it is replaced by yet another Chrystler automobile: a 2009 Town & Country. So, in the end, domestically produced life goes on.

With all the new car buying and Cash For Clunker research and participation I've been engaged in recently, it sort of feels neat to be at the forefront an ongoing national new story. When the Today Show or the nightly news runs their little piece on American households taking advantage of the new program, I can say that's us. Now I know the feeling of identity (minus the feeling of embarassment) and participation fat people must feel like when they see all those news pieces about rampant American obesity with anonymous mid level shots of other fat people walking around in public.

While going through some recent headlines about the ongoing Cash for Clunkers program, I came across this rather novel perspective on the whole program. Really, no one in the mainstream media has covered this angle of the Cash For Clunkers story. All over this country there'll be hundreds of thousands of outdated, inefficient automobiles that are statutorily required to be destroyed one away or another, so why not let the local Tiger Schulmann's branch in on the fun? Okay, so the writer of the article may not appear to be the most credbile of experts on the matter (you wouldn't see too many shirtless muscle poses in the New York Times Op-Ed section) and the act of trying to destroy a multiple ton, solid steel automobile using martial arts seems potentially dangerous; but there is no denying the universal joy one gets from watching a car get destroyed.

I don't know about you, but my favorite part of those old Capcom SNES fighting/beat-em up games like "Final Fight" and "Street Fighter II" were the intermittent bonus levels that involved destroying a car with your character in a set amount of time. You would not believe how disappointed I was when "Street Fighter IV" came out sans car breaking bonus round (not even the slightly less entertaining barrel breaking round was to be found). It was a unforgivable missed opportunity by Capcom that deprived the world of beautifully HD-rendered 21st century, timed, century car smashing joy. It's what the people would have wanted. It's a ceaseless, inherent, primal desire for destruction and domination over our physical word that stretches through the ages from primitive Neanderthal rites of passages all the way to Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff".

So who knows? Perhaps this mass public car destroying fad will actually emerge and people all over America could take out their pent up daily frustrations by destroying or vicariously finding release in watching others destroy an old Ford Explorer or Dodge Ram. And just to give a crude rendering of what such a martial arts based scrapping of a car would look like and how it would be equal parts awesome and ridiculous, here's one man who is already living the dream:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can't Read Her Poker Face

You ever wonder when she's not topping the charts, wearing an outfit made of Kermits and masterfully manipulating every last rhinestoned detail of her persona as a staggeringly brilliant, Warholesque pop-art exercise in excess; that Lady GaGa secretly covers up the blinds, lets her hair down, puts aside her giant disco stick, puts on some sweat pants and eagerly watches the latest episode of "NCIS"?

She's got to turn it off sometime right?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

But it's just a sweet, sweet, fantasy baby.

Now that the 2009 Major League Baseball season has officially passed its hump day and entered into the second half, it's that time once again for me to take stock in my fantasy baseball fortunes. As some of you readers may recall, I had posted two individual entries detailing my two yearly Yahoo! fantasy baseball teams way back at the beginning of April when the season was just beginning; when expectations were high, optimism was abundant, Manny Ramirez was free of steroid suspicions, and the Mets were fielding a competitive major league team. Oh, how long ago it all feels.

So how "gang aft agley" have my best laid fantasy plans gone? How surprisingly successful have been some of my outside hunches turned out? How cruelly or well has the unpredictable, invisible hand of the DL treated me? Did I really expect Jeff Francour to have a turn around season? Let's tally up the damages shall we?

Team 1
The Chan Ho Parks
Current Rank: 1st out of 12
Real Life All Stars: 9 (1B Prince Fielder, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, SS Hanley Ramirez, OF Curtis Granderson, OF Carlos Beltran, SP Ted Lilly, SP Zack Greinke, SP Chad Billingsley, RP Mariano Rivera)
Team MVP: SP Zack Greinke
Team Underperformer: 1B David Ortiz
Waiver Wire Star: OF Michael Cuddyer

The Good:
When your team is in first place, the good obviously comes more easily. At the risk of completely jinxing my dream season, I have to say the Chan Ho Parks are cruising along in their league, enjoying a comfortable double digit lead over the second place team. The team's success is buoyed by a pitching staff that is tops or near the top in every major pitching category. A huge amount of credit goes to first half MVP SP Zack Greinke, the 11th round afterthought 3rd pitcher who started out the year with a historic display of pitching dominance; perhaps the greatest start to a season in the rotisserie baseball era. He has somewhat cooled off over the past month but his numbers are still outrageous. Hitting wise, the team has top ranked power and batting average numbers which offset my league worst stolen base rank and middling runs scored. Everyone has essentially lived up to or surpassed their drafted expectations with a few minor exceptions.

The Bad:

The only real disappointment of the team was the thus far worthless season of the completely broken down 1B David Ortiz who the auto drafter saddled me with after showing up at the draft a little late. Fortunately I had plenty of other options to replace him with. Of course it's not hard to replace someone that until recently could only fit in the utility slot. 2B Jose Lopez has been relatively productive for a 2B, but hasn't quite lived up to my personal hype. Waiver wire pick up 1B, OF Nick Swisher was red hot at the beginning of the year but soon fell out of his everyday roster spot.

The DL:
As is the case with most successful teams, a light DL is usually a big key to success. For most of the season, the only resident on the DL was SP John Smoltz, who was a late draft flyer without much expectation to play anyway. The recent loss of OF Carlos Beltran has definitely hurt though (although obviously not as much as it hurt the real life Mets). Aside from that, the team has been a model of health.

Some of the more exceptional players will probably regress but if everyone plays to their expectations (and thus far there has been no indication that they won't), then I think I can ride this hot start straight to the title. Injuries are the only real threat to derail my lead.

Team 2
Team Korea All Stars
Current Rank: 4th out of 12
Real Life All Stars: 9 (C Joe Mauer, 1B, 3B Kevin Youkilis, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 3B Evan Longoria, OF Brad Hawpe, SP Ted Lilly, SP Zack Greinke, SP Zach Duke, SP Edwin Jackson)
Team MVP: SP Zack Greinke
Team Underperformer: SS Jimmy Rollins
Waiver Wire Star: SP Edwin Jackson

The Good:
The 4th place standing, although above average, actually short changes this team. This team has spent most of the season around 2nd and the current spread between 2nd and 4th is so thin that the spots constantly fluctuate. With that being said, the best this team can hope for is a 2nd place finish given the fact that the first place team is completely dominating the league with nearly 25 more points than the second place team. As for my team, I've once again enjoyed the fruits of a SP Zack Greinke (and SP Ted Lilly) containing pitching staff. In addition, my staff was saved by the waiver wire pick ups of both all stars SP Zach Duke and SP Edwin Jackson from the same day. Hittingwise, it's been fairly strong and consistent all around. Oddly enough, despite the All Star nod I don't even regularly start 2B Freddy Sanchez as I've opted for the versatile and surprisingly productive 2B, 3B, SS Macro Scutaro.

The Bad:
The two biggest disappointments on the hitting side were Team Underperformer winner and first round pick SS Jimmy Rollins who has been in a slump for most of the year and 5th round pick OF Matt Holiday, who appears to have lost all his slugging powers after leaving the state of Colorado. On the pitching side Cliff Lee has pitched decently but has come nowhere near his Cy Young season last year, especially on a lousy Indians team. There was also one other negative first half pitching performance that was so exemplary in its awfulness that I have to give it, its own category...

The Chien-Ming Wang:
Would you believe he was drafted by me one place ahead of All Star SP Ted Lilly? There has been a historic fantasy knock against the guy due to his paltry strikeout numbers and average ERA and WHIPs, but he had a reputation as being at least a dependable source of wins. Of course that was before he put together possibly the worst three consecutive starts in modern baseball history. In 6 innings of total work over three starts he had managed to give up 23 runs for a monstrous era of 34.50. I immediately banished him with extreme prejudice but I think the team is still paying the wages of those three horrible starts.

The DL:
The team has been pretty healthy as a whole. The only major DL stint is the current one that SP Brandon Webb has been on since leaving the first game of the season. had it not been for my timely waiver wire pickups, the team would have probably completely fallen out of contention without its ace. Although, it sure would have been nice to have his dependable numbers all year.

Barring a wave a crucial injuries or a series of sustained slumps for the team in first, the best I can hope for with this team is to get that second place sized piece of the pie. I would not be disappointed in this team one bit if it turned out that way, under most seasons this would be a top team. Optimistically I'm thinking 2nd, but more realistically I'm expecting 3rd or 4th.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Piece of the Pie

Well, another All-Star Game, another annoyingly close American League victory. Thirteen years of NL winlessness (we'll always have that tie game in 2002). It makes me yearn for the NL glory days when Jeff Conine was winning All-Star game MVPs and Ozzie Smith would be doing backflips.

While the game was ostensibly close yet strangely unexciting, the other major competitive events of the night could have been found in the ubiquitous Domino's commercials, like the one above, detailing the escalating back and forth battle of words between various regional Domino's factions in support of their particular "American Legends" pie.

All I have to say is shame on you Domino's.

These are trying times for the American people. This nation is currently struggling through such adversities like an extended economic recession, continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, international threats from abroad, the death of Michael Jackson, and the impending August release of "GI Joe:Rise of Cobra". It is during these trying times that we need to put our personal differences aside as American citizens and recognize that it is only through cooperation and teamwork that we can bring back prosperity.

Domino's partisan pizza rhetoric is definitely not what this country needs. Instead of the "Cali Chicken Bacon Ranch" loving residents of Los Angeles trading insults and ugly stereotypes with the "Memphis BBQ Chicken" patrons of Memphis or the Philly Cheese Steak" eating residents of Philadelphia engaging in verbal fisticuffs with "Pacific Veggie" fans of Venice, they should all learn to respect and embrace their unique nuanced differences and realize that in the end they are all disgusting Domino's pizzas.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I CAN Go For That!

If you're like me, you've no doubt found yourself many times surfing around the Internet, enjoying the wide expanses of the information superhighway, only to be become suddenly overwhelmed by a burning desire to hear one of Hall and Oates' countless hit singles. "Sara Smile", "Private Eyes", "Method of Modern Love"; whatever it may be, you just have a burning thirst for some H2O. You also don't want to waste precious time and effort on loading up your mp3s or searching through your currently play list. You definitely don't want to deal with opening up another window and searching and finding uploaded music videos of the songs on Youtube. Until now you were stuck with these limited options; expound precious energy and effort on manually loading up your favorite Hall and Oates mega hits via one medium or another or just letting that feeling pass in wretched frustration.

That is until now.

Just when you thought between the ubiquitous sea of spam and viruses, the perverse clutter of porno sites, and the pointless, narcissistic cacophony of social networking, that the Internet had all but failed its grand promise to society as a transcendent medium that would eliminate barriers, both natural and cultural, leading to unparalleled progress and collaboration among the human race; it comes up with something that restores our faith in its usefulness.

This fan made labor of love ingeniously utilizes the various resources of the Internet to bring an unmatched Hall and Oates experience. It takes the videos from YouTube, provides its own lyrics, links to retailers of the song and album on Amazon and iTunes, and even gives a novel "Did You Know?" section via wikipedia; all complimented by an elegantly simple interface. In addition, the way it's all set up makes it a completely legal channel to enjoy the music. This was what the Internet was made for; compiling and making use of disparate streams of information to create a wholly beneficial and useful collaboration that's greater than the sum of the parts.

There is, however, one thing to point out. Although the site uses the artwork and design scheme from their definitive, 5 star AMG rated, 2001 greatest hits collection (the aptly titled) "The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates", it's actually not a direct representation of that album. It is missing a few tracks like "It's a Laugh" and the criminally underrated "Adult Education". Still, aside from that, nothing short of brilliant. Perhaps this concept of the fan made, dedicated greatest hits shrine, will become a whole new web based phenomena.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Five More (Slightly Belated) Random 4th of July TV Marathons That Have Very Little to Do With The 4th of July

Is it safe?

The biggest problem with static, date specific, holidays like the 4th of July is that it falls on a weekend every two out of seven years thus greatly weakening their work stopping powers. It was only by the grace of a last minute change of heart by the boss that I actually got Friday off and the benefit of the three day weekend. Unfortunately there are many a workplaces that don't subscribe to the artificial three day weekend policy when it comes to weekend 4th of Julys. I say it's downright Un-American to nullify the classic July 4th three-day weekend just because of a technicality on the calendar. Denying a hard working American their patriotic right to celebrate their nation's birth by over-eating, over-drinking, playing around with dangerous explosives, and watching copious amounts of marathon television? What did our Founding Fathers fight for anyway then?

I must first apologize for the slight belatedness of this year's five marathons. I am quite aware that a good portion of the day and many a marathons have already passed before I realized my posting obligations (I've personally been soaking up the old "Twilight Zone" marathon since yesterday evening). While we may be getting a slightly late start, I assure you, faithful readers, that the following marathons are guaranteed to last at least through the late evening hours (and some well into the 5th). So without further needless delay here are this year's five most random marathons.

BET - Sister, Sister
Really? "Sister, Sister"? I know the BET lineup isn't exactly stacked with long-running, classic shows, but I really think they could have done better than "Sister, Sister". It's not that I have anything against those sassy Mowry sisters (the Williams sisters of the American sitcom), I watched my fair share of their five or so year run on the WB when I was in middle school. What exactly is there about the completely generic, white America friendly, nature of this show that just screams Black Entertainment Television. Comparatively,"Sister, Sister", makes "The Parent 'Hood" look like a Gil Scott-Heron spoken word album. I would have preferred a "Wayans Brothers" marathon or maybe some sort of day long, hastily put together, Michael Jackson retrospective.

Possible Spin for the 4th: I guess you can look at the cast of "Sister, Sister" as a sort of dramatization of the fulfillment of the American Dream. Tamara's well to do father Ray is a self made man with his own company and a giant house that everyone moves into. Tia's mother Jackée is enjoying the fruits of the American promise of upward mobility by moving into Ray's big house. Tia (the smart one) is a model student and upstanding example of how education and a strong family support system can improve anyone's station in life. Tamara's goofing off and constant partying also, in a away, demonstrates the American Dream that minorities can have entitled lazy idiot children just as well as rich old waspy families.

USA Network - James Bond
This is seriously one of the most weak-ass marathons I have ever seen. It's just five random James Bond movies from 9 am to 11 pm. I think there were just regular weekdays on Spike TV that played more Bond movies. This random fiver of movies, aside from failing in terms of length of marathon programming, also fails in terms of depth of marathon programming. For the first two you have "Dr. No" (the fairly boring first film) and "Thunderball" (vintage Connery); and then the next two jump ahead about four decades and three Bonds, to "The World is Not Enough" and "Tomorrow Never Dies" (adequate Bronsnan). Finally the day is capped off with the new "Casino Royale". It seems pretty obvious that the good folks at USA tried to slap together a "marathon" with the cheapest and easiest Bond films they could get their hands on. Makes you miss those old month long nightly Bond movies on TBS.

Possible Spin for the 4th: It's definitely a hard sell for the 4th when you have a marathon of Eurpeon movies about a British secret agent who travels to exotic locations that rarely include the United States. In addition, the most prominent Americans in the series have been: generally useless CIA second banana Felix Leitter and the bumbling Sherriff J.W. Pepper. I guess you can say that James Bond touches on general American values of resourcefulness, toughness, ingenuity, and heroism; but then again what culture doesn't value those traits (please no French jokes)?

Disney Channel - Hannah Montana
Disney Channel goes with the "showcasing your prestige show" route with its Hannah-thon. This is a preemptive announcement of the marathon since it's actually slated to begin at 1 pm tomorrow. So if you were ever thinking about watching a ten hour block of Hannah Montana on a Sunday afternoon, then this is your opportunity. Apparently it all leads up to the premiere of an hour long new episode, so it's a nice little pot of gold at the end of the long rainbow. If only all marathons could reward you like that.

Possible Spin for the 4th: I guess Hannah can bee seen as a wholesome, ideal, all American, girl next door. I'm not sure what kind of songs Hannah sings, but I'm sure they're not subversive or Anti-American. On a deeper level, one might read the constant tension and conflict between her real identity and her stage persona as demonstrating the complex duality of our great nation; the rich and varied tableau of the American population and landscape and our historic and current struggles to reconcile our realities with the lofty goals of equality and prosperity that we were founded on. Or something like that.

Discovery Channel - The Deadliest Catch
This appears to be another case of a channel showing off their money programming via marathon. I've never actually seen a full episode of this show but I'm amazed by the surprising success of it. I mean, wouldn't the novelty of watching crabbers pulling in cages full of crustaceans in inclimate weather wear off after the first season at the most? It's not like fishermen are dying every other episode right? Is it really the deadliest catch when there's no dying on camera? All the marketing would seem to indicate that every episode involves the crew braving towering "Perfect Storm"-esque waves and fighting sea monsters straight out of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". The risk can't be that high, otherwise the price of a mediocre dinner at Red Lobster's would be astronomical.

Possible Spin for the 4th: Well, few things are more American than straight up hard working ambition and gumption. From the harsh beginnings of the early settlers, to the gritty patriots that fought for Independence, to the hearty pioneers of Manifest Destiny, to the men who've walk on the moon; daring Yankee ingenuity and ambitiousness (as demonstrated by the fearless crew) is what made this country into the superpower it is today.

TV Land - Andy Griffith Show, Roseanne, Leave it to Beaver
TV Land is taking an interesting route by cobbling together three shows to form one long marathon. Looking at the schedule, Andy, Roseanne, and the Beaver are working in rotating shifts. Currently, it's Andy Griffith until 8 when Roseanne takes us through the night until the Beaver takes over sometime tomorrow morning (actually. if these schedule is accurate, there will be a slight 4 hour break from the marathon from 8 to 12 for an airing of some show called "She's Got the Look" and Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July"). I like how the shifts were set up. Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver, with their sugary, idealistic 50's-60's sensibilities and story lines clearly belongs in the daytime hours; while the gritty, decidedly unromantic, modern day suburban slice of life that is "Roseanne" belongs after dark.

Possible Spin for the 4th: All three shows, despite their differences are pretty choice examples of middle class Americana. Leave it to Beaver basically set the standard (although a completely ridiculous and unattainable one) for the ideal American suburban life. Andy Griffith showed a similarly idealized, portrait of small town life as simple and light as its whistling theme song. Roseanne, while being in sharp contrast to the other two shows was still cut from the genuine American sitcom cloth, showing the daily trials and tribulations of average working class Americans.