Monday, March 31, 2008

Baseball's Opening Day

There's nothing like opening day. When you're a fan of a Major League Baseball team, or even a fan of the Pirates, Royals, or Rays, opening day signifies hope, possibility, and dreams of a World Series title.

Of course, if you're a fan of a long suffering franchise -- as I am being a Phillies fan -- it signifies hope, yes, but also the inevitable stress of a six month marathon season.

A baseball season can be torture for fans like me. All decade long we've been following a Phillies team that has been oh so close, yet oh so far. Good enough to compete and make it interesting, but not good enough to get over the hump.

The big hump that is.

Last year, they rallied from down seven games to pass the Mets with just 17 games to do it, without even needing a playoff game. That in itself, regardless of their quick exit from the playoffs, made the season a sweet success.

But that's just it. As great as that division title was, getting swept by Colorado in the NLDS still felt like a sucker punch.

The beauty of course, there's always next year -- or this year, I guess. The many nights I'll be nervously following games on Yahoo, waiting anxiously for the screen to refresh in the late innings hoping the Phils get a big hit, or prevent one.

Spending early mornings on the drive into work listening to the 4:00am ESPN Radio Sportscenter to get the score from the night before -- a method of getting the game result that I sometimes prefer, as suffering through a loss the night of the game causes a bit more of a restless sleep.

The inevitable feelings of joy following the comeback win that will be followed the next day by a giveaway loss.

Or the thoughts of, "I'm done with this team" after a bad stretch of games in May, only to be followed by the thoughts of, "this is their year" after a road series sweep in June.

To my wife and kids, I apologize for the 65-75 days this season that I'll be a little bit grumpier than usual. But, hopefully, there will be 87-97 days that hugs will last a few seconds longer than usual, too.

Let's face it, the season is a roller coaster. Fans all across the country are standing in line, very close to the start. Allt hrough spring training, we've been slowly making our way through the queue, and now that opening day is here, all we need to do now is get onboard, buckle up and get ready for the wild ride.

Or a wildcard ride. I'm not picky.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dexter: Bloody Good

And now, the latest entry in the continuing series, "Shows Mike never watched originally but is now caught up on and highly recommends."


First off, I have an excuse for not watching this show during its first two seasons. I don't have Showtime. But, with the show in between seasons, and needing a worthwhile drama to watch now that The Wire is done, and most network shows are still in limbo trying to recover from the strike, I decided to give this one a try.

What a treat.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, which on the one hand doesn't make much sense since there are now 24 episodes that have aired -- and the last new epsiode was three months ago -- I'm going to avoid talking about major plot points about either of the first two seasons.

I'm doing this mainly because my wife reads this blog, and I want her to watch the show, too (along with a dozen other shows that I love that she has no interest in), without knowing anything about it beforehand.

Also, I would assume that a fair number of other readers haven't seen the show either, and I'm simply here to priase it in an effort to get others like me to check it out.

Now, it's not like I'm going to pick up the phone today and order Showtime in time for season three later this year -- if I'm not going to order it for The L Word, I'm not doing it for Dexter, no matter how much I love it -- because thanks to DVD's, and various internet outlets, catching up on a show, or watching new episodes isn't as limited as it once was.

Here's all you need to know about the show: Dexter Morgan is a forensics expert with the Miami Police Department by day, and a serial killer by night. The catch...he only kills other killers. Now, isn't that enough to get you to watch?

Part of the joy of the series is watching Dexter, played brilliantly by Michael C. Hall, juggle his "hobby" with the normal day-to-day activities at work, and in his personal life.

Because he is who he is, and does what he does, he is a rather emotionless guy, and this also presents some interesting, and funny, situations where he needs to interact with friends, ladies, etc., while lacking some of the social skills that most of us have acquired over time.

What helps keep the show glued together are the voiceovers provided by Dexter throughout each episode. They're essential. It allows us a vital peek inside the mind of Dexter in a way that gives us the chance to understand, and to a certain extent, empathize with what he's going through, in a way the other characters on the show can't.

While I don't think the show is flawless -- certain plot developments, and a few cliches that are a alittle distracting -- the acting of Hall is fantastic. It's hard to imagine someone else handling the role so well.

It's well worth it. Ummm, a bloody good show? A cut above? A killer show?

You get the idea.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm 'Nuts' About Japanese Game Shows

I've been sitting here thinking of something to blog about, since it looks really lazy to still have my "Happy St. Patrick's Day" video leading off the blog five days later, but not much is coming to mind.

I'm a little late on the finale of The Wire, although that show was so good, I'll probably get around to it eventually.

I'm close to coming up with a blog praising Dexter (I've been catching up on that one lately), but I want to finish season two first.

But, since nothing else is sparking my brain, I think I'll just post a wacky game show clip from Japan. In fact, it may start a new trend. When the blog idea well is running a tad dry, I'll just spit out a youtube clip of a show that I wish we got to watch on a regular basis here in the states.

For example...wouldn't you love to gather the family around this game show that punishes contestants that can't get through tongue-twisters without screwing up by giving them a kick in the nuts?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Powerful Presidential Speeches

Well, there's a bit of a break now between Democratic primaries. Are you tired of speeches yet? It'll be interesting to see, no matter who gets elected, how powerful their speeches as president will be.

When it comes to powerful, memorable presidential speeches, three names come to mind; Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and of course, George W. Bush.

Thanks to David Letterman for providing the research...

Which reminds me, as horrible as he's been as president, I'm still going to miss Dubya. Watch this next clip, look me right in the eye, and tell me you won't miss him.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Piers vs. Omarosa

I'm not ashamed to say that I have enjoyed Celebrity Apprentice about as much as anything else on television right now. Okay, it's not on par with The Wire, or Lost, but still, I can't believe how entertained I am each week with this silly little show.

I'm giving Celebrity Apprentice those high marks in relation to very low expectations entering the season. Plus, the emergence of Piers Morgan as one of my favorite reality show contestants ever.

I've watched every season of The Apprentice, but when it was announced there would be a celebrity version, I was less than enthused. That was before I saw the list of those selected.

Tito who? Nadia Comeneci? Omarosa from season 1? Hoo-boy, that's some list. Carrot Top and the Joe Isuzu guy were unavailable, I guess.

But, since it was Trump, who is always entertaining on this show -- intentionally, or not -- I gave it a try, and without a doubt, this has been the best season ever.

The main reason: The ongoing battle between Piers Morgan and Omarosa. It's been a thing of beauty. And, now that Omarosa has been fired, I'm hoping the fun doesn't go away.

Lost in all of the drama this season is the fact that Morgan has been dominating the field, and should be a shoo-in for the finals. Morgan has been the runaway star of the show.

I never paid much attention to his work on America's Got Talent, and on the heels of Simon Cowell's success on American Idol, I dismissed Piers as a cheap knockoff of Cowell. You know, the nasty Brit who is hard to please, blunt, and booed lustfully by the audience.

After having watched him work his way through Celebrity Apprentice, I love this guy. And it isn't just Omarosa that he's handled so well. He arguably had the best line of the year a few episodes ago when confronting Vinny Pastore (The Sopranos) in the boardroom.

Pastore was upset that Piers called him a fat Italian.

Pastore: "You called me a fat Italian!"

Morgan: "I did not call you a fat Italian. I called you a very fat Italian."

Cheeky nutter.

I loved the way he stood toe to toe with desparate wanna-be star Omarosa after she attacked his family, and his parenting skills about a month ago on the show.

This week in the boardroom, she claimed he was a homosexual. Trump asked Piers -- who was watching back in the suite -- if he wanted to come in and defend himself. Morgan headed straight to the boardroom and planted a kiss on the cheek of a petrified Trace Adkins.

Even Trump cracked up at that one.

Moments later, Omarosa was sent home packing, after suffering the worst defeat in Apprentice history.

And Morgan moved up another notch on my "guys I never thought I'd enjoy watching on TV, but am suddenly now rooting hard for to win a charity reality show" list.

Cheers, Piers.

Here's Omarosa getting desparate, and then getting fired.

Piers vs. Omarosa in the boardroom from episode 7 (part 1)

Piers vs. Omarosa in the boardroom from episode 7 (part 2)

Monday, March 03, 2008

Star Mangled Banner

Today is National Anthem Day. The Star Spangled Banner became the U.S. National Anthem on March 3rd, 1931.

Seems like the right time to look back at some memorable renditions of the anthem from the past...good, bad, and ugly. In no particular order:


Head Banger at the hockey game

Cop Rock

Mo Cheeks' best assist ever

Marvin Gaye

Whitney Houston

Wayne Messmer at the 1991 NHL All-Star Game. I still miss the Chicago Stadium.

Cop Rock the Sequel

I could only find the audio of the classic Carl Lewis butcher job.

Someone named Sissel, who at least knew the melody

Saturday, March 01, 2008

George Carlin Still Going Strong

George Carlin returns with another HBO Standup special tonight.

There's no doubt that George is one of the all-time greats, and I've included some of my favorite clips from his career below.

There are dozens of clips out there. These are just a few.

I've been a Carlin fan since I was a teenager, when I wore out an old 8-track of one of his routines from the 70's. Was always fond of his take on the persistence of farts, and his classic observance, "If you have 24 odds and ends on a table and 23 of them fall off, what do you have, an odd or an end?"

My favorite Carlin special was 1996's Back In Town. Funny as hell, and you gotta just love the way the show starts, with Carlin jogging to the theater from across the street, and literally hitting the stage running. He just absolutely kills for 60 minutes.

And by the way, what does it take, 5 steps to go from the sidewalk to the stage at The Beacon?

The opening segment from that special is the first clip below. The other parts of the special can be found by clicking on these links. Part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7.

Obviously, all of these clips contain most, if not all of those darn seven dirty words, and a few other choice ones, too, so grab the earmuffs for the kiddies, and don't let the boss listen.

Back In Town Part 1

Other classic Carlin...

Saving The Planet

Baseball vs. Football

Common Experiences