Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney buys Marvel Entertainment

I couldn't come up with a more creative headline for this if I tried. I just found out about this just a few short moments ago, and, I tell you, my head is still spinning.

Disney already owns the video rights to a number of past Marvel cartoon series, including the 1967 Spider-Man series, and the late 90's programs produced by Saban (which Disney bought a few years ago). Now, as the saying goes, they have the whole enchilada. There are those unenlightened souls already making light of the whole situation for their own amusement, of course, but this second Disney-Marvel union (Disney licensed some titles to Marvel several years back) will enable some of Disney's hottest shows (i.e. Hannah Montana) to make the transition to comics, if they choose to go in that direction, bolstering Marvel's presence with "tweens". Of course, there is the inevitable prospect of having ABC and/or ESPN personalities making cameos in Marvel Universe titles.

But what does this do to Marvel's pre-existing movie deals with Fox (X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool), Paramount (Iron Man), & Universal (Incredible Hulk)? Nothing. Marvel will finish out their plans for their movies, starting with "Iron Man II" next year. Beyond that point is open to speculation.

It's just amazing that it took this long. DC has been part of the now-Time-Warner family for more than 30 years, and has prospered. What's next? Fox buying Dark Horse Comics?

Friday, August 28, 2009

You'll see this in a TV-movie in about a year.......

I'm sure that by now you've read about Jaycee Dugard, 29, who was reunited with her family yesterday after being held captive for 18 years by Phil Garrido, 58, and his wife. During this time, Ms. Dugard had 2 daughters by Garrido, and the motivation for this part of the story is clear. Garrido's wife couldn't have kids of her own, so Garrido decided to rape Ms. Dugard into pregnancy. He even went so far as to take the two kids out in public, perhaps passing them off as his wife's kids, to maintain his deception.

And like the nutcases in the Elizabeth Smart case a few years ago, Garrido was on a pseudo-religious bent, claiming that God spoke to him in a box. I know someone who'll have a field day with that piece of bulloney. The bottom line is that Garrido is insane, to the point where he hasn't confessed to abducting Ms. Dugard off a school bus stop in 1991. America's Most Wanted did a feature piece back then, and you can be sure they'll have an update by the time they start running new episodes again next month. Ms. Dugard has retained custody of her two children, and in all probability, Garrido has forfeited his rights with his arrest. After all, the oldest child was born when her mother was still a minor!

Garrido is a registered sex offender, but I wouldn't be surprised that his lawyers will try to get him off on an insanity defense. However, since he developed his religious delusions within the last couple of years, I don't think that'll work. It's an open & shut case. He kidnapped Jaycee Dugard when she was 11, she had her first child at 14, her 2nd at 18, and neither child has ever been to school. Garrido wouldn't allow it, since it would have likely ended this case a lot sooner than it did. I don't know about the prospect of homeschooling, but that might be the only way the kids would've learned anything at all.

There are still a number of kidnap victims still unaccounted for across the country. Some, like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, might actually have been hidden in plain sight all along. If Phil Garrido really believed that God was speaking to him, that box should've contained a Bible. No, I think he began creating that delusion because he knew inevitably his charade would come to an end, and he didn't want to lose his extended family.

Watch. In about a month or three, we'll be reading about how someone decided this case should be made into a movie, and it'll be either on CBS or NBC or Lifetime. Television executives always see money in cases like this, grist for the mill to feed a generation bred on the curiosity of scandal. I'd prefer it not to happen. Let Jaycee have her life back. That's all that's really needed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A mall in general exile

Today's Albany Times-Union reports that the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) will terminate bus service to Latham Circle Mall effective next month. It's bad enough that the mall, which first opened more than 40 years ago as Latham Corners Shopping Center, has fallen on very hard times over this decade, with most of its tenants having moved out or closed completely for various reasons, but CDTA's decision leaves a lot of commuters needing to car pool if they want to go to the movies or dine at the Old Country Buffet.

This isn't the first time CDTA has done this with one of the old school malls. A few years ago, it was decided that the buses wouldn't go into Northway Mall, either, but rather, a bus shelter was built in front. The message being sent then and now, simply, is that Northway & Latham Circle are no longer popular enough to warrant being a destination for commuters. Most folks would rather travel to the cavernous Crossgates Mall. Latham Circle is supposed to be in line for massive renovations that would allow it to be competitive to and/or compatible with Crossgates, but that hasn't happened. Sort of like the perennial plans to renovate Proctor's Theatre in Troy, but nothing ever gets done there, despite all the talk.

If anyone wants to go from Latham Farms to Latham Circle, just to go to the movies or Old Country, come the end of September, the best bet is to have a car handy. Trying to walk across the dangerous Route 7, even when it isn't rush hour, is hazardous to a commuter's health. The same goes for crossing Wolf Road to enter Colonie Center, another mall that CDTA stopped entering. The company doesn't realize the dangers that their consumers now must face, and don't seem to care, either. Crossing Central Avenue to get from Colonie Center to Northway, or vice versa, holds the same hazard.

I know the day will come within the next year or three that Latham Circle will close for good, but the blame for that will soon be shared between the mall's out-of-town owners and CDTA. One has driven away business by asking too much for rent, and the other by pinching pennies and putting consumers at greater risk.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009)

About two weeks after his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away after a lengthy illness, Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy lost his year long bout with brain cancer. It was just a few days ago that Kennedy tried to have legislation passed in his home state of Massachusetts to change the state's rules regarding special elections in order to fill a vacant seat in the Senate, hoping not to replicate the political conundrum that happened earlier several months back in New York. Now, we'll have to wait and see if his wish was fulfilled after the fact.

The "liberal lion" of the Senate, Kennedy was first elected in 1962, while his brother John was President. There will be, certainly, a special election of some kind in November to fill the void created by Kennedy's passing, 47 years after he was first voted into office. An era has ended, and the lion's roar has been silenced. Rest in peace, Teddy. You will be missed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summerslam predictions

Summerslam is billed as the "biggest party of the summer". Appropriately, this year's edition is in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Here's a quick look at the card.

ECW title: Christian vs. William Regal: This has "hot shot angle" written all over it. Regal was thrust into the #1 contender's role a week and a half ago, despite not having wrestled much on ECW since moving over in a cross-brand trade last month. His new allies, Vlad Kozlov & Ezekiel Jackson, won't be involved if the creative team gets it right. Too soon for a title change-over again, so Christian retains.

WWE title: Randy Orton vs. John Cena: These two headlined this same PPV 2 years ago, and it speaks volumes of the inability of Raw's creative monkeys to find someone to be moved up to put fresh blood into the mix. The pundits will tell you that any combination of these two, plus Triple H and Batista (currently on the DL) have headlined more PPV's in the last 3-4 years. No wonder they say Raw is duller than dishwater despite the Saturday Night Live-esque Guest Host format that's been in effect for nearly 2 months. Orton, in fact, is the dullest of them all. That's what happens when you're the #1 heel on the show and you're not allowed to have a real range of emotions. Time for a switch here, as Cena regains the title.

Legacy (Ted DiBiase, Jr. & Cody Rhodes) vs. D-Generation X (Triple H & Shawn Michaels): Open & shut case. Legacy left the DX team lying in the ring Monday, sealing their fate. Superkick, pedigree, ballgame over. DX wins to start their latest reunion tour.

WWE tag titles: Big Show & Chris Jericho vs. Cryme Tyme: Open & shut case #2. Cryme Tyme (JTG & Shad Gaspard) aren't quite ready to be the faces of the dwindling tag team division. Jericho & Show retain.

WWE World title: Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (TLC match): Jeff Hardy, along with brother Matt and Christian, helped make the TLC match famous some years back. However, nothing says lame duck champion like the reports that Hardy will take an extended sabbatical post-PPV, meaning that for Punk, the ducks are lined up in a tidy little row. Matt Hardy will pick up the baton for his brother, followed by John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, and the Undertaker. I'd not be surprised, either, if Jericho wants back in, too. Punk regains the title in what figures to be the best match on the show.

Intercontinental title: Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler had, I think, his best chance of winning the title last month, and didn't cash it in. Again, it's too soon to move the title to other hands, and, depending on who you believe, Rey was promised a lengthy run this time. Of course, when you factor in that your boss is a senile executive....! Pick-Mysterio.

Great Khali vs. Kane: 4 years ago, these two's roles were reversed. Now, Kane's the blase villain who's tortured Khali's interpreter/manager, Runjin Singh. They're now trying to claim Singh (Dave Kapoor) is Khali (Dalip Singh)'s brother. Stop the pain! Pick-Kane.

Montel Vontavious Porter vs. Jack Swagger: Swagger won the 1st meeting, but before that and since, he's picked his spots to press the issue. This from a former ECW champion? Yes, when Raw's head writer is an idiot. Swagger, though, would be a good bet to move into the main event and feud with Cena. Pick-Swagger.

Only the small minds in the creative office could screw this up, and they probably will.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sports' Three Deadly Sins

Today's athletes have been unfairly characterized as spoiled because they're being paid millions before playing a single pro game. The advent of free agency, starting in baseball in the mid 1970's, has led to this. But it's not entirely the players' fault a large majority of the time.

Late Monday night, the Washington Nationals signed their #1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a 4-year contract worth in excess of 15 million dollars. Yes, Strasburg has been hyped to the moon because of his success in the college ranks. History, however, tells us that there have been several pitchers similarly hyped into being drafted #1 overall, most recently Mark Prior, who have run into one roadblock or another, usually injury-related, stunting their major league careers. Prior, in fact, was released a few weeks ago by the San Diego Padres.

The blame for Strasburg's 2 month holdout lies with his agent, Scott Boras, who has a history of conning teams into overpaying for his clients, simply because he never made it to the bigs himself because of a knee injury suffered while playing in the minors in the Padres organization. So he lives vicariously through his clients, reaping the profits from those contracts. Apparently it doesn't matter to him that some of those clients also have become trouble magnets (i.e. A-Rod, Manny). It's all about the money.

Boras first made headlines when he sold JD Drew's parents a bill of goods conning them into thinking that their son shouldn't sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, ultimately signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The bottom line is, Boras is a greedy con artist who has the Major League Baseball Players' Association enabling him to continue unabated. He shouldn't.

Earlier today, after informing the Minnesota Vikings he wouldn't sign with them 2 weeks ago, Brett Favre changed his mind and signed a 2-year deal. Apparently, a late season meltdown last year with the New York Jets didn't convince Favre enough that it was time to hang up the cleats once and for all. Favre continues to tarnish his reputation by playing these cat & mouse games during the off-seasons, leaving the fans and the press twisting in the wind. ESPN certainly was obsessed with the story, claiming he was negotiating with Minnesota when other media outlets reported that no such meetings were taking place. Worse, Favre will immediately be thrust into the starting lineup in Friday's pre-season game.

It's not so much about greed with Favre. It's about pride, because he wants to go out a winner, when his last two seasons have ended with defeat, and it's about the spotlight, being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but not the elite QB. Favre's diminishing performances during the 2nd half of 2008 with the Jets convinced me he was done. I'd venture to say that Favre isn't even a top 10 QB anymore, not when you have Tom Brady, the Mannings, Philip Rivers, emerging talents like Joe Flacco & Trent Edwards and incoming QBs Mark Sanchez (who replaces Favre with the Jets) and Matthew Stafford in the league. Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook, one of the more lower profile agents in the business, is probably shaking his head in disbelief just like the rest of us, even though he's going to get paid anyway.

If the Vikings don't make the playoffs, I'd not be surprised if Brett plays this game of chess again next spring. But how many times is this going to go on until something happens that forces Favre out of the game once and for all, something that he can't control?

Greed, pride, and a need for the spotlight. You've heard of the 7 Deadly Sins? Sports has at least three, if not all of them and then some. In the 80's, First Lady Nancy Reagan tried to convince us to just say no. Wrestler CM Punk has been recast as a villain in the WWE because he is using the same message in a less than sincere manner. However, it's a message that needs to be heard. Now.

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

There wasn't a "Good, Bad, & Ugly" review last week because Raw was so wretched from the jump, but this week is a different animal, in the "go home" show before Summerslam on Sunday.

Actor and former WWE writer Freddie Prinze, Jr. hosted this week's edition. Predictably, he owned up to being a long time fan, and still having many of the older action figures still in his closet. The comedy started early when Santino Marella, starving for airtime, came out dressed as the Fisherman from "I Know What You Did Last Summer". Marella was trying to convince Prinze to land him a gig in a movie, even going so far as to be a walking advertisement for Prinze's next TV gig, a role on Fox's 24 when it returns next year.

Sidebar #1: Marella is better served being sent down to Florida Championship if the creative staff can only come up with marginally funny comedy bits for him to do. It's gotten progressively worse for him over the last two months.

Marella departed, and WWE Champion Randy Orton came out, demanding to be removed from the main event tag match. Well, I saw that one coming. Prinze wouldn't budge, so Randy decided to attack. Anything to get on Access Hollywood and all the other gossip shows, I guess. Prinze was laid out with an over-the-back backbreaker. That is to say, Orton drapes his victim across his own back to execute the move.

The match quality was hit and miss again. The best match on the show, unsurprisingly, was the first one, a US title match between current champ Kofi Kingston and former titlist Carlito Colon, who last held the belt for a few months in 2004 while he and the US title were on Smackdown. Colon has acquired the services of Rosa Mendes as his new valet, the end result of their successful teaming on Superstars last week. Rosa, unfortunately, wasn't much help. She just stood there, looking pretty. After a back & forth battle, Kingston retained after hitting Trouble in Paradise, a twisting, spinning front enziguri. Carlito sold it great, as a young veteran should.

The other title match on the card saw Mickie James defend the "Divas" title vs. Gail Kim, who earned her title shot last week. These two matches were booked for Raw because they won't have room for them at Summerslam. Blame that on the creative team. Anyway, we've seen better from both women. The match ended rather abruptly, as it appeared that Gail may have been legitimately concussed on a botched attempt at blocking Mickie's standing tornado DDT finisher, only to get a love tap of a roundhouse kick, then a forearm shiver, to end it.

Sidebar #2: This was just brutal, despite the talent involved. You have to hope that Gail isn't legitimately injured, because that is the last thing WWE needs right now.

They spent the bulk of the first hour hyping the latest reunion of DeGeneration X (Shawn Michaels & Triple H), but this got old in a hurry. Hunter couldn't even start his spiel before Legacy (Ted DiBiase, Jr. & Cody Rhodes) ambushed the duo and laid them out, sending a clear message that they will be there to put up a fight at Summerslam.

Sidebar #3: All well & good, but it would take a minor miracle for Legacy to win, because it's so obvious now that they're being set up to lose. Again.

While Prinze got all the hype as the host, WWE snuck in another actor under the radar. Chavo Guerrero, Jr. was put in yet another gimmick match vs. Hornswoggle, this time a falls count anywhere match. Now, on paper, this kind of gimmick favors the veteran Guerrero, since he can find as many allies as he can to help him, just as 'Swoggle would. However, no help was coming. Choosing between two doors in the backstage area, Guerrero heard a click and chose the one to his right, only to be met with a paint can rapping him between the eyes. 'Swoggle emerged on the other side, surveyed the area, and covered his enemy. Referee Justin King caught up and tolled the count. Post-match, Mark Henry came out, but he was a decoy. The paint can was a gag straight out of the "Home Alone" movies, and sure enough, Kevin McAllister himself, Macaulay Culkin, emerged next. Chavo was speechless. Enough said. Hopefully, that's the end of this storyline.

Meanwhile, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin is making a move toward challenging for the US title. Ditching the armbands and the long pants, Miz, following the lead of Chris Jericho, is now sporting short tights. The yin/yang logo on the front will remind some of Rob Van Dam, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Miz dismissed Evan Bourne in an all-too-short match with the "Skull Crushing Finale", a full nelson dropped into a front leg sweep, a la Jeff Jarrett's "Stroke" finisher.

Sidebar #4: Miz needs a better name for his new finisher.

Jack Swagger & MVP weren't given time for their entrances, and the match was just starting after a commercial. It only goes a minute or two before Swagger is DQ'd for ignoring the ref's 5 count in the corner. Their hostilities will resume at Summerslam. Nice to tease, but not like this.

The main event was another short affair, and after being sent to a "local medical facility" earlier, Prinze returned and made it a lumberjack match at the last minute, two weeks after Orton bullied Jeremy Piven into doing the same thing. Surprisingly, Orton, in front of the home town fans, played face in peril, rather than the arrogant, selfish champion we expected to see. Unsurprisingly, John Cena collected the fall for his side, pinning Chris Jericho after the Attitude Adjustment. Jericho & Big Show, the tag champs, were made to look like chumps even after the match when they took advantage of Orton RKO'ing Cena. The lumberjacks bought Cena some time, and then the former champion dismissed Jericho & Show himself to end the show.

Raw division predictions for Summerslam:

WWE title: Orton over Cena. I'll be shocked if they put it on Cena at this point. I'd rather they did, but I just can't see it just yet.
DX over Legacy
MVP over Swagger

We'll have full predictions this weekend.

Robert Novak (1931-2009)

I had first learned of this when a "breaking news" headline appeared online this morning, but it wasn't until a few moments ago that I was apprised of the details of Robert Novak's passing at 78. Novak, a long-time fixture on CNN, appearing on Crossfire and The Capitol Gang, among others, in addition to a weekly TV version of the newspaper column he authored with Rowland Evans, Jr., succumbed to cancer earlier today.

Novak came under fire a few years back for revealing Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, but he is far better remembered for his lengthy run co-hosting Crossfire, first with Tom Braden, then with a succession of co-hosts. Novak might've been a cranky conservative, but his sharp barbs got a few laughs whenever I watched Crossfire at a friend's house in the 80's. Who knew these political columnists and pundits could actually be funny? I digress, of course. Novak left CNN in 2005, returning only to promote his autobiography 2 years ago. He will be missed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

TNA=Totally Negligent Airheaded Wrestling

Let's say you run a mid-major corporation that few had heard of until about 7 years ago. One of your holdings is a wrestling promotion that, depending on whom you ask, is either the #2 or #3 promotion in the country, and the man holding your promotion's championship belt is arrested two days before a pay-per-view title fight for, among other things, drug possession and aggravated stalking of a female co-worker he briefly dated earlier this year. What do you do?

In TNA (Total Non-stop Action) Wrestling, that question is unfortunately left unanswered, because co-owner and TNA President Dixie Carter, part-owner of Panda Energy, the mid-major corporation in charge of TNA, didn't do the right thing for business at Hard Justice, which took place last night in TNA's cozy home arena, the Impact Zone in Orlando.

TNA World Champion Kurt Angle, the 1996 Olympic Gold medal winner, was arrested Friday in a Pittsburgh suburb, and was found to be in possession of Human Growth Hormone. He also reportedly had been stalking his ex-girlfriend, fellow grappler Trenesha Biggers, otherwise known as Rhaka Khan. Angle & Biggers had a brief relationship earlier this year that amazingly didn't elevate the younger wrestler's profile within TNA. Instead, Biggers has been mired in the TNA doghouse and was nearly fired a couple of months back. Angle was released on bail and allowed to return to Orlando for the PPV.

What TNA should've done is have Angle drop the title to either Sting or Matt Morgan, his two challengers. Instead, Angle retained, pinning Morgan after a chair shot to the head. Angle does have some influence in how TNA is programmed or booked, and they seem to be unwilling to deviate from their master plan, which would be to have Angle lose the title at their Bound For Glory PPV in October. All Angle needed to do was remember a similar high profile case in WWE 3 years ago as precedent for him being forced to lose the title before he wanted to.

In 2006, Rob Van Dam was picked up for drug possession. At the time, Van Dam held both the WWE & ECW titles, and dropped them both in separate matches within a 24 hour period on July 3-4. Van Dam was subsequently suspended, and never really was given a fair chance to challenge for either belt again. A year later, Van Dam was out of the WWE altogether, and, save for a couple of guest appearances on Raw, hasn't stepped back into the ring all that much since, despite rumors that had him on the Stamford-to-Orlando shuttle. Mere weeks after Van Dam's arrest, Angle was cut by WWE, and was quickly signed by TNA, despite the fact that Angle was damaged goods when he left WWE after nearly 7 years with the company.

A true businessman would've followed the precedent set by Vince McMahon, and Angle would be sitting at home in Pittsburgh today, contemplating the mistakes he's made since divorcing wife Karen at the end of last year. Dixie Carter doesn't know as much about the wrestling business as McMahon or even Angle does, and is easily convinced that as long as Angle is free on bond, he can still be counted on to continue as champion. However, it isn't the right move, no matter how they spin it. TNA had a chance to build for the future by putting the title on Morgan, a former Tough Enough contestant who had two stints with WWE before being cut for good in 2005, and start anew, but they didn't, all because of management's unwillingness to deviate from the master plan. And they wonder why TNA is always looked upon as a 2nd or 3rd rate promotion.

There is only one solution, and that means giving up the master plan. Angle cannot continue to be the centerpiece of TNA as long as he has criminal charges hanging over his head. At 40, Angle is on the downside of his career anyway. The right thing to do is to have Angle drop the title ASAP and then spend the rest of 2009 on the sidelines, suspended until his case is settled. For Dixie Carter, this requires ignoring the selfish interests of Angle and the Main Event Mafia and repairing TNA's public image, a project that already is on the level of urban renewal. In the Sahara Desert, if you know what I mean and I think you do. I think Quincy Jones still has this sign available for use in the TNA locker room, dating back 24 years:

Check your ego at the door!

For the good of TNA's present & future, the time for change is now, not later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NFL=New Found Life

Michael Vick has done his time for his involvement in a dogfighting ring that got him suspended from the NFL 2 years ago. He has been a hot topic this preseason because there has been speculation on where he'd play next, since the Atlanta Falcons officially released him while he was still in prison.

So, on Thursday night, it came as a major shock that Vick, the once celebrated quarterback out of Virginia Tech, had signed a 1 year deal, with an option for a 2nd year, with the Philadelphia Eagles. Originally, the Eagles were one of the teams that had zero interest in Vick, but that was before backup QB Kevin Kolb, a 3rd year pro, went down with an injury. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, serving as an advisor to Vick, had stated on NBC on Sunday that Vick would sign with a team this week. It took just 4 days for Dungy's prophecy to come true.

Vick won't be eligible to play in a regular season game until after the first six weeks of the season, though he will see action in the last 2 pre-season games. However, not everyone in Philadelphia is on board with this decision. ESPN ran some audio clips of fans calling the local radio affiliate. The reaction there is mixed. On the other hand, the radical zealots of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have promised protests. What else is new with those clowns? They can't let it go. The man has done his time, paid his debt to society, etc., and yet they insist on persecuting him? It's all about leeching some publicity for themselves. That's what groups like PETA are all about, really. They butt in where they don't belong, unwilling to accept the fact that Vick has paid for his sins. Maybe Dungy, a born again Christian, can locate PETA's home office and send them some Bibles.

Will Vick be enough of a difference for Philadelphia such that they could be players for the NFC East title? Maybe. Will this save his career? Probably. All a man ever needs is the opportunity to prove he can make up for mistakes already made. Michael Vick has that chance. All he needs is support and respect, not scorn. He'll be on 60 Minutes this weekend. Next stop? Probably The 700 Club.

Les Paul (1915-2009)

Musician. Inventor. Icon. Les Paul was all of these, an influence on many of today's guitarists, including Slash, Jimmy Page, & Eddie Van Halen. Paul passed away earlier this week at 94 after a bout with pneumonia.

Paul was a regular on the top 40 charts in the 50's with his then-wife, Mary Ford, but is better remembered for creating a number of innovations still used in the music industry today, including multi-layered, multi-track recordings, and of course, the guitars. I am not certain if Paul is already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but he is in the Inventors' Hall of Fame. If he hasn't been enshrined in Cleveland yet, he most certainly will be next year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

John Quade (1938-2009)

Some of you might not recognize the name, but if you watched 80's series like The A-Team, for example, you'd probably remember him playing a henchman to some cheesy bad guy. John Quade, it turns out, also had a respectable movie career, mostly in westerns, which I wasn't aware of until I ran across a blog that had reported on his passing at 71.

Character actors like Quade were pretty regular in episodic television during the 70's & 80's. It was steady work, and you just don't see men like Quade anymore. He will be missed.

Does Vince McMahon hate Canada, or what?

It's clear from seeing Raw this week that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon hasn't exactly had a soft enough spot in his heart for Canada. He had guest host Sgt. Slaughter repeatedly poke fun at our neighbors to the north in 3 skits that were about as amusing as watching paint dry. Slaughter (Robert Remus) might've been better off plugging the #1 movie, "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra", given his contribution to the GI Joe mythos in the 80's.

At present, there are only 2 Canadian babyfaces (fan favorites) on the roster, Gail Kim, who won her match on Monday, and ECW Champion Christian. Edge, currently on the disabled list, may yet be in line for a face run after nearly five years as a heel (villain). Chris Jericho, who has dual citizenship (born in Long Island, grew up in Winnipeg, trained in Calgary, now lives in Tampa), could've had the Calgary faithful on his side for his main event match vs. John Cena, except for a backstage skit in which he dissed the Canadians for their naivete, as it were. You can't have it both ways, dude.

Over the years, a vast majority of the Canadian grapplers, both male & female, who've worked for WWE in its various incarnations have been cast as villains for one reason or another. Fans in certain provinces of Canada may never forgive McMahon for the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 Survivor Series, but they can't be too happy with the way their athletes are presented to American audiences. Small wonder, then, that whenever WWE travels to Canada, the "Great White North" is referred to as "Bizarro-Land" because McMahon can't control the fans' emotional ties to their countrymen. It's time McMahon came to the realization, however, that the "WWE Universe", as he likes to refer to his fan base, isn't made up of people with short attention spans exclusively. Older fans will remember angles as far back as, say, 6-7 years ago, and can reference the past in internet discussions.

McMahon knows that even though television ratings are stagnating for his product, there isn't much in terms of legitimate competition. TNA routinely shoots itself in its collective foot by recycling old storylines poached from WWE and/or WCW's past. The Main Event Mafia, for example, is a thinly veiled reincarnation of the New World Order, which was the primary storyline for WCW in its last days (1996-2001), regardless of how many times it was revamped and reimagined. Ring of Honor's deal with HDNet is a little self-defeating, since the network isn't available in much of the country, especially after Time Warner Cable dumped HDNet a few months back in a money dispute, yet added MAV-TV (like HDNet, owned by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban) to replace its sister network on its roster. ROH would be well served to switch to a more accessible network (FX, you see, is looking to be a player in the wrestling business, and......!) within a year's time. Neither company can sustain itself on DVD sales alone in the long term. However, that's no excuse for McMahon to let WWE wallow in poorly written and plotted programs that are more apt to drive viewers away than attract them.

If Vince really cared about the Canadian fans, he'd have signed Canadian born actor Mike Myers ("Austin Powers", "Cat in the Hat", "Wayne's World") to host this week's show, and saved Slaughter for another time. Raw has turned into wrestling's answer to Saturday Night Live because McMahon lets himself be beholden to NBC-Universal's Bonnie Hammer, who's in charge of USA & SyFy. It won't last forever due to the up & down numbers, and those inconsistencies will force a change back to the GM system, probably in time for Wrestlemania 26 next Spring.

As Forrest Gump once observed, "Stupid is as stupid does". Since Vincent K. McMahon has the final say on creative decisions, even though daughter Stephanie might disagree, his poor judgment is reflected in the Hollywood rejects they've hired to write their shows. Now in his 60's, McMahon isn't as sharp creatively as he was 20-25 years ago, but his own ego and pride won't let him accept the reality of how the business has changed around him. Insulating himself in his own, ah, pocket universe may yet be McMahon's undoing, and he'll only have himself to blame, not Canada or anyone else.

Only in France.......

The Associated Press is reporting that a French woman who recently converted to the Muslim religion was barred from a public pool because she wanted to swim wearing what is being called a "burquini", a variation, if you will, on the Muslim burqa that women of the faith are required to wear. French officials have concerns about the spread of bacteria and other germs because the "burquini" can be worn all day in or out of the pool. This 30-something woman wants to abide by her religion, which is understandable, but would this situation occur here in America? I don't know, but if it did, it'd probably be filed under "News of the Weird" or something along those lines.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009)

By now, you've known that Mrs. Shriver, who passed away early Tuesday after a lengthy illness, founded the Special Olympics back in 1968, enabling disabled athletes to have their own global competition, and was actively involved with the program as late as last year. Unlike her brothers, Mrs. Shriver didn't attract the attention of the scandal-obsessed tabloid media, but you can bank on the fact that if there wasn't any real dirt on her before, some opportunistic parasite will try to invent some kind of salacious story to destroy her reputation, just because of the Kennedy name.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Advertising isn't rocket science, but........

It may all depend on what you're interest is, but the vast majority of commercials these days tend to be designed for the viewers with lower than normal IQ's. It just happens that way.

Take for example GEICO's newest corporate mascot, "The Money You Could be Saving With GEICO". A stack of cash with plastic eyeballs sitting atop of it. The latest commercials would have you believe it can operate a cell phone or throw a basketball. Utter balderdash! If GEICO thinks this inanimate object can be groomed as the successor to the gecko, they're obviously on something. Not on to something, mind you, but on something. I think you get my drift.

It's nice to be entertained and informed at the same time. Time Warner Cable hired actor Mike O'Malley (ex-Yes, Dear) a year ago to be their spokesman, representing the average consumer. The ads can be a little annoying at times, but it's a perfect counterpoint to the comic ads that DirecTV has been running with a generic cable company boardroom debating the merits of satellite vs. cable. That gets old in a hurry. Miller beer made a star out of an otherwise obscure actor named Windell Middlebrooks with their "common sense" series of spots, now in its 3rd season. Middlebrooks has since parlayed this gig into a recurring role on Disney Channel's Suite Life On Deck as a security guard, and is working on a new series for CBS.

Conversely, Bud Light's "Drinkability" spots have already jumped the shark with the magic marker gimmick ads. Making things worse is a spot that is set in another boardroom where a hip junior executive is tossed out of a sixth floor window (I think), complete with chair, fortunate for a nearby tree to break his fall, just because he suggested---jokingly, he'd claim at the end of the spot---that the beer be taken out of the corporate budget. If you don't drink beer (and I don't), you might find this morally offensive on a number of levels.

Speaking of offensive, that brings us to local advertisers like the Fuccillo Auto Group. Billy Fuccillo has gotten heat, at least if you go by The Record's "Sound Off" column, but I haven't seen a guy this intense, aggressive, and enthusiastic about promoting his local business since those legendary Crazy Eddie ads in New York back in the day. "Huge", I guess, is the new "insane".

On the average, you have 30 seconds to a minute to sell your product and get your message across. You don't want to bombard your prospective customers with mixed messages and lots of noise. Unfortunately, noise, like sex, sells. It's a sorry, sad truth of this generation. How else to catch someone's attention and divert it from their other interests (i.e. video games)?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is the value of bad advice?

9 months ago, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree made a highlight reel catch against Texas to win an important game for the Red Raiders, knocking the mighty Longhorns from the top of the polls.

A little more than 3 months ago, Crabtree was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1st round of the NFL Draft. As of this writing, Crabtree has yet to sign, and has claimed he won't, even going so far as to sit out the season and re-enter the draft next year.

It seems Crabtree was promised by the agent he hired, Eugene Parker, that he would be among the top 5 draft picks, specificially between #s 3 & 5. It didn't happen. Parker, and some of Crabtree's family and friends, are flooding Crabtree's ears with ideas, including the year-long holdout, getting him thinking he deserves the money befitting a top 5 pick. They've seen the Oakland Raiders sign their 1st round pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey, for around 25 million dollars, and think Crabtree, because he played on a higher profile team, is worth that much.

Well, I've got two words for Mr. Crabtree. Prove it.

Rightfully, a rookie should accept the way the cards have been dealt. Take the offer that's there ($20 million), report to camp, and show the coaches that you're the kind of player they had in mind when they drafted you. There are too many cases of young, untested players coming out of college too soon, demanding A-list money when their skills aren't fully formed. We have seen this in basketball, too, with kids using college as a mere steppingstone, leaving after 1 season, convinced by scouts and agents that education isn't as important as it used to be. Well, if at least 70-80% of these kids took economics classes, they'd realize that they're taking shortcuts to realize their dreams. Some make it work (i.e. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James in the NBA, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings), others don't.

Some agents think they know what's best for their clients. Eugene Parker made a promise that went unfulfilled, and now he's scrambling to make good. Michael Crabtree is squandering the talent he has because of too many people in his ears, filling them with bad advice. Re-enter the draft? From what I've read on message boards today, everyone believes that if Crabtree decides to wait a year, he'll fall to the 3rd round or later next year.

Holding out is never a good idea, and yet this happens every year, with rookies and veterans alike, the latter seeking to renegotiate existing contracts based on a perception of respect, or lack thereof. Woody Allen & Steve Miller had it right more than 30 years ago. Take the money and run. Tom Petty said that the waiting is the hardest part back in 1981. For Michael Crabtree, and others like him, waiting is not and cannot be an option. The time to act---and play---is now.

John Hughes (1950-2009)

Acclaimed filmmaker John Hughes, best remembered for hit movies like "Sixteen Candles", "Home Alone", and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", passed away earlier today from a heart attack while walking in Manhattan.

Hughes, 59, found his niche in youth-oriented comedies such as the above three, plus "The Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink", and "Weird Science". Interestingly, the only Hughes films I've ever seen were "Home Alone" (when it was shown at the Palace Theatre a couple of years back) and the more adult-themed "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles", with Steve Martin & John Candy. Hughes hadn't directed a movie since "Curly Sue" in 1991, but his influence is still felt in some of today's comedies. Hughes helped build the careers of Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Steve Carell, Macaulay Culkin, and others, and turned a former Presidential speech writer named Ben Stein into a cultural icon ("Bueller? Bueller?").

Somewhere, even Ferris Bueller is bowing his head in prayer. Farewell, Mr. Hughes. You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monday Night Raw: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

This week, it's more about ugly, as in bad comedy overshadowing the card at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Actor Jeremy Piven (Entourage) hosted, aided by "Dr." Ken Jeung, one of his co-stars in his new film, "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard", opening 8/14. In truth, while the fanboy mentality was present, it was more embodied in the little known Jeung ("The Hangover"), who ignored the fact that outgoing ring announcer Lillian Garcia had already introduced Piven, did his own intro. His wardrobe suggested Jeung was the love child of the late Grand Wizard of Wrestling and former WWE star the Godfather, but he was way beyond over the top. Piven & Jeung's opening segment set the tone for the night, and despite the best efforts of The Miz & John Cena, who'd face each other again in the main event, they couldn't save this drivel.

The opening match was the first of two returns from last week's Beat the Clock tournament (Cena-Miz IV was the other), pitting Jack Swagger against Evan Bourne. This was more like a protracted squash, as Swagger took out his frustrations on Bourne and never let up, ending with the Doctor Bomb (the gutwrench powerbomb invented by "Dr. Death" Steve Williams) for the pin. That wasn't the end, though. Swagger added a pair of springboard Vader Bombs, and went for a 2nd Doctor Bomb before MVP made the save. Swagger already owns a clean pin over MVP, but doesn't want a rematch? Are we back to square one with that? 'Fraid so. You have to remember that the creative team apparently doesn't keep track of everything.

Backstage, Jeung's mouth kept getting him into trouble, such that Piven occasionally would stick a pacifier in to shut him up. Curiously, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, & Rosa Mendes were all in the office with Piven & Jeung, watching a preview screening of "The Goods". Judging from what I've seen, I don't think I want to pay money to see it.

Big Show wanted a match with Shaquille O'Neal, but that probably isn't going to happen until, say, Wrestlemania 26 next Spring, provided the Cleveland Cavaliers allow Shaq a night off to make that gig, and I doubt it. Show gets US champ Kofi Kingston instead, having already beaten Kofi in a non-title tilt on Superstars a couple of weeks earlier. The colossus dominated again, but made the mistake of ignoring the referee while delivering a series of kidney punches to Kingston, leading to Show being DQd, so Kingston remains the US champ, but didn't look like one.

Chavo Guerrero acted as if he was mistaking Piven for first Joe Rogan (current UFC commentator), then Jon Favreau (who has appeared on Entourage). Instead of getting Hornswoggle for the 5th time, Chavo is instead put in with Mark Henry. Enough said.

The token women's match du jour was a tag match pairing Divas champ Mickie James and Gail Kim vs. Beth Phoenix & Jillian Hall. Any storyline teases from last week regarding the face team were ignored, and perhaps just as well. Phoenix reasserted herself as a championship contender, pinning Kim after the Glam Slam.

Triple H asked for and got a handicap match vs. Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase, Jr. of Legacy. Considering the violent feud between HHH & Legacy the last several months, and the fact that Legacy has screwed the "Cerebral Assassin" out of the WWE title, this was a HHH squash win, right? Wrong! Just when you think you've got this "Game" all figured out, he goes and loses to two younger, hungrier talents. Rhodes scored the biggest pin of his career after a Cross-Rhodes neckbreaker.

Carlito & Primo Colon's family feud is back on after a brief truce at Night of Champions. The older, more experienced Carlito gets the measure of Primo this time after a Backstabber.

Cena-Miz IV is a lumberjack match, which on paper not only gives Miz a fighting chance, but also allows for Randy Orton to get in a few cheap shots on Cena prior to their next title date at Summerslam on 8/23. Not only that, but Piven & Jeung turned on Cena and the audience by stacking the deck with all heel lumberjacks. Now, this is wrong-headed booking, and it doesn't always work. Cena beat the odds yet again, and caught Miz trying to use Jeung's pimp cane. The Real World alum ended up nailed with the Attitude Adjustment and was pinned. Worse, because of a pre-match stip enacted by Piven, Miz is off Raw and cannot be in LA for Summerslam!!

So where does Miz go from here? Maybe he comes back next week on a technicality. Maybe he goes back to ECW, from whence he'd been drafted just 4 months ago, only to fall flat on his face in a 1-sided feud with Cena while not wrestling in singles on TV against anyone else (Creative's fault). Maybe he goes to Smackdown to settle some unfinished business with John Morrison, his former tag team partner. Or it could be time to send him down to Florida for a gimmick adjustment, or he has another MTV gig forthcoming to occupy his time. I knew they made a mistake sending him to Raw, and now they're paying for it.

Meanwhile, they're now starting to not only tease a DX reunion (HHH was on the phone, ostensibly with Shawn Michaels), but a split, only this time with HHH as the face and HBK as the heel, reversing their last feud from '02. Expect DX-Legacy at Summerslam, followed by the falling out a few weeks later. It's just a feeling.

Of course, WWE's much better off if they overhaul the Raw creative team, but that'll never happen.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The answer is at home

It has been 4 days since 5 year old Khayzier Pugh was struck & killed by a unmarked police vehicle on 4th Street between Tyler & Polk Streets in South Troy. According to today's Record, the child's family is still looking for answers, plus an apology from Troy Police Det. John Wright for what happened.

In truth, the family should be asking themselves one salient question: Who is really at fault here? It isn't Det. Wright. According to reports, he was driving below the speed limit. At 5, Khayzier still needed an adult to chaperone him to the South Troy Pool, where he had a cousin waiting for him. At the time of the accident, there was no adult present. Therefore, the fault lies with the family. Khayzier's aunt Jessica was in her mother's apartment when the accident happened. Were there any other adult relatives available that could've acted as a guardian/chaperone in this case? We don't know, and probably never will.