Growing up, one of my favorite shows had to be Get Smart starring Don Adams. The silly exploits of the hapless spy from CONTROL tickled my funny bone like nothing else. Turns out that Get Smart is the latest television property to be turned into a big screen feature, this time starring the hilarious star of The Office, Steve Carrell. The trailer looks funny enough, but I suspect they are saving the best bits for the actual release. I can only imagine Carrell’s riotous take on my favorite Smart gag, the Cones of Silence. I refuse to get my hopes up too high however, thanks to film disasters like The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched and Starsky & Hutch. I pray that Carrell will pull if off, if for nothing else but to save us from all of the reviews that will no doubt start with “Missed it by THAT much!” if he fails. I guess we’ll find out this summer.

Hat tip to Imagication for this post.

Oh, Me of Little Faith!

September 28, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, during a particularly nasty losing streak, I had pretty much given up all hope for my beloved Red Sox of ever making the finals this year. I watched as their 14+ game lead in the A.L. East slowly, but surely dried up. At one point, those damn Yankees managed to pull within 1 game of the lead, and so I had had enough. I brushed Boston aside and tried to focus on other things, all the while keeping one eye on Beantown.

Reverse psychology never worked so well! Tonight, Boston’s win over the Twins combined with the Yankees 9-10 loss to the Orioles in extra innings means that the Sox have won the A.L. East title for the first time since 1995. Just minutes after the Yankees game ended, the A.L. East entry over at Wikipedia was updated with the Red Sox’s achievement. Their win means that the Yankees’ stranglehold on the division is finally over and the Sox’s stunning victory over the Bronx Bombers in 2004 is now “complete”.

I have to hand it to these self-proclaimed “bunch of idiots”, they never gave up. Despite horrendous performances by Eric Gagne, badly timed injuries to Manny and Youklis, and a New York team that seemed at times, unbeatable, the Red Sox have emerged as this year’s champions. The Sox claimed the lead of the division way back on April 18th, and amazingly enough, never gave it back. The entire Red Sox Nation can now look forward to the post-season and take a small, but needed, sigh of relief. Next stop, the playoffs, and this time I promise not to look away!

I long ago gave up trying to predict how Wall Street rewards stocks. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, along comes a day like today and you’re back to oval seven. Today, Apple Computer’s stock hit a 52 week high of $153.18 for what appears to be no good reason. In fact, this occurred in spite of the fact that Amazon launched what could be considered the first real competition for the iTunes music store, Amazon: MP3. Do investors believe that Amazon’s entry into the market space will spur competition and keep Apple “thinking different”? Did Phil Schiller’s casual remark about unlocked iPhone’s becoming “bricks” bolster investors? Or perhaps they have begun to see the reporting of clueless “experts” like theStreet.com’s Scott Mortiz, as the fabricated bullshit that it is.

No matter what the cause, the $150 goal for AAPL has been met and suddenly $200 doesn’t seem all that impossible. The Christmas buying season is just around the corner. The iPhone is about to launch in European markets and there is now an entire new line of iPods in the channel. Despite some recent miss-steps, Apple has seemingly stayed ahead of competitors (Zune 2.0? Please!), scared the bejezus out of the cell phone carriers and given Mac users even more reasons to drool over hardware. Let Mortiz and company try to short the stock. Apple’s innovation along with revenue from this year’s product releases will push the stock to new heights. You can bank on it.

Disclosure: If you have not figured it out, yes, I own stock in Apple Computer.

Just Don’t Touch the Sink

September 23, 2007

I don’t always concur with Will Shipley’s take on things, but after reading his latest post entitled “Bush & Sons, General Contractors.“, I found myself shaking my head in total agreement. His clever allegory for the war in Iraq is all too true. I especially like this bit:

“I know I threw that party for my boys and said we were “done” years ago… but that really needs to be put into context, you see. When I said “done” I meant “done with the hard part,” which was convincing you to let us tear up your bathroom. I mean, we knew once we got in there wasn’t going to be any finishing for years. No, in retrospect, I guess I could have been clearer about that. But that’s ancient history, now. I mean, you’ve got a new toilet to look forward to, someday! Right, and a shower, if we get to it.“

The comparison of the Bush Administration to an inept bunch of pseudo-plumbers is an apt one. They scared us with false threats of leaks that could become floods at any second. When no cracked pipes were found, they justified further “repairs” with feeble arguments that they said weren’t apparent until they ripped up the floor. Unlike Will however, I believe the worst part of the entire affair isn’t the cost involved, but rather the horrendous number of people who have lost their lives on the “job”. Iraq long ago became the ultimate fixer-upper from hell for all involved.

Hat tip to Airbag for this post.

You’d think with amount of mind-numbing hype coming from Redmond these last few weeks that Halo 3 was the second coming of the video game industry. But then you’d be wrong, that was called the Wii. So unless Bungie has been keeping a really big secret, Halo 3 is just another first person shooter. Am I wrong? Can someone please tell me why Halo 3 is such a big deal?

I get the fact that Halo 3 is probably the most popular thing that Microsoft has ever “embraced”, which is sad in its own right, but do I have to have the Master Chief stuffed up my ass every minute of every day? This must be what it was like for all of those people who were sick of hearing about the iPhone in the weeks leading up to the launch. I guess one man’s plague is another man’s present. Go figure.

In Defense of Kid Nation

September 20, 2007

Let me just say that I do not have children of my own. If I did, my view of the new reality based television show from CBS about 40 tykes in the New Mexico desert might be different, but I doubt it. Having watched the premiere episode, it seems obvious these brave kids have taken on an adult-sized challenge with courage and passed with flying colors. Kid Nation just might be poised to become the next big hit, as well as do something that TV seldom does – enlighten and inspire its audience. Unfortunately, the production was criticized as soon as the premise leaked. Critics alluded to violation of child labor laws, blamed greedy parents and warned of potentially life threatening situations even before a single minute had aired. Newsweek’s Joshua Alston has said that Kid Nation is an example of “how low popular culture can go” and made the inevitable comparison to William Golding’s 1954 classic novel, Lord of the Flies. A group of children, left to fend for themselves in the wilderness with no adult supervision. What will happen? Will chaos ensue? Will the children turn on each other and start dropping boulders on kids they want to “vote out”? As it turns out, chaos yes… boulders on kids, not so much.

Although we see the occasional bouts of anarchy (hey, these are children), what shines through is how well the children adapt. Led to an abandoned town in New Mexico, these 40 kids learned how to function as a society for 40 days without the benefit of parents, teachers or even guardians. The adult host and the camera crew would appear to be the only supervision given, but the show’s producers also provided for instant, around the clock medical attention and counseling for any child that required it. Reports do indicate that several minor injuries occurred on set including a sprained ankle, a burn due to cooking with hot oil, and one child ingested bleach accidentally. Ask any parent and I’m sure they’ll tell you that a single injury is one too many, but in exchange each child got a guaranteed $5K, chances to win $20K more, plus a once in a life-time opportunity to learn responsibility, make new friends and challenge themselves.

Kid Nation succeeds because it has just enough structure to keep the children focused running the town and working towards those coveted golden stars. Prizes and challenges aside, best part of the show is the kids themselves. The parents of these children should be proud, and with good reason. Sophia, age 14 helped feed the entire posse even though she’s never cooked before. Greg, age 15 helped another child who had a muscle spasm onto the back of a wagon and pulled him into town. Michael, age 14 stood up during a shouting match and lent a calm opinion to the town’s ruling council. And Taylor, age 10, resisted the urge to return to her family, and instead helped lead her yellow team to victory over older and stronger kids to become the town cooks. All of these children are remarkable and I’m delighted that their parents have allowed us to get a sneak peak at their pride and joys.

I’m sure in the weeks ahead, it won’t all be teamwork and high-fives in Bonanza City. Problems will arise, just as they do in real life, and these resourceful sons and daughters will have to figure out how to deal with them. They have already shown the type of resilience that many adults can only dream of. If I did have children of my own, I would let them participate and gain as much from the experience as they possibly could. Today’s kids are coddled, fawned over and more often than not, spoiled. Kid Nation might be a game show, but at the end of the day, these young ones will take home much more than just prize money. They will have the satisfaction of knowing they were a part of something life changing. They will look at themselves and other children in a different light, and perhaps all of us watching at home will too. I suspect TV viewers will see the good parts of the show, forget the burn and the bleach, and reward CBS with a winner. Nothing would be a more fitting tribute to these kids’ brave nation.

Digg It!

It may seem to the casual reader that I have a bone to pick with cooking shows, but that’s just because they deserve it so much. I happen to think Bravo’s Top Chef is one of the best reality TV shows going, but even I’m having a hard time swallowing what head judge, Tom Colicchio, has been serving lately. This season, Colicchio’s behavior has gone from endearing to simply annoying. He’s been freaking the contestants out with his tendency to hover in the Top Chef kitchen while they are cooking. His criticisms of their food will go from “that was bad” one moment to “that was the single worst thing I’ve ever eaten” the next. He tends to think that no challenge is unfair, even ones that have little, if anything to do with a restaurant chef’s day to day job. And call me crazy, but any classically trained chef that doesn’t know how to properly hold a knife and fork, has no business telling others how to do their job.

There are large parts of Colicchio, and his participation on the show, that I enjoy. He apparently knows his stuff when it comes to cooking and is not afraid to be blunt with the contestants. If things are going south, he’ll let you know, and generally he’s pretty fair when it comes to who is performing and who is falling behind. His presence “grounds” the show from its inherent affected nature and lends credibility to its production. But at the same time, his level of patience has decreased while his need to critique has skyrocketed. The slightest flaw in the contestant’s cooking now has a tendency to set him off. On last week’s episode CJ’s brocoolini turned out to be the worst thing he’d ever eaten on the show. Never mind the fact that none of the chefs had ever used an oven on a commercial airliner before, or even prepared meals that had certain height requirements (yes, you read that right, height requirements). Colicchio seems to be becoming more and more jaded with each season, and I fear his likeability is suffering. It’s easy to sit in judgement on other people’s creations, and since I’ve never actually seen him cook, I don’t know if he’s just talking out his ass, or he has the truffles to back it up.

I’d like to suggest that Bravo inject a bit of humility into Top Chef by announcing a “Contestant’s Revenge” episode. I propose that for one episode, Colicchio, Padma, Gail and any other guest judges who have the courage, compete in their own mini challenge. They’ll get an impossibly small budget to work with, a miniscule amount of time in which to prepare and compete, and then be forced to serve their concoctions to the Top Chef contestants and a few snotty food critics thrown in for good measure. They say you don’t really know a chef until you’ve sauteed a mile in his pan. How about it Tom, can you take it as well as dish it out? I think we’d all like to see. In the meantime, I know a great place you can go and hone your table manners. I hear they have an opening.

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