Thursday, December 30, 2010

Co-Weasels of the Week: Roger Goodell, Brett Favre, & Ed Rendell

This was just too easy.

After the first major snowstorm of the season tore through the Northeast on Sunday, prompting the NFL to move the Eagles-Vikings game to Tuesday, the first Tuesday game in the league since 1946, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell ranted that the NFL had, in effect, wimped out by not playing the game as scheduled. The blizzard wouldn't have actually touched down in Philadelphia until much later on Sunday. As it turned out, there were only five inches of snow on the ground by the scheduled 8:20 kickoff. However, the league, acting in the interests of public safety, for its fans as well as the players and officials, opted to err on the side of caution and postpone the game, the 2nd postponement in 3 weeks, both involving the Vikings. Oh, by the way, Minnesota won the game. I guess Gov. Rendell wasn't watching the Weather Channel (a cable cousin of NBC)....!

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had earned a reputation as a hard-line authority figure ever since he was appointed to succeed Paul Tagliabue as commissioner a few years ago. The seemingly endless number of suspensions handed out to players for off-the-field violations is proof of that. So why did Goodell whiff on what would've been a defining moment in his administration?

I think everyone knows the story by now. A heretofore little known website, Deadspin, broke the story earlier this season that Vikings QB Brett Favre had sent some vulgar, graphic messages, including some pictures allegedly of his private parts, to one Jenn Sterger, who, like Favre, was employed by the New York Jets during the 2008 season. At the time the story broke, the Jets were already dealing with a more recent problem, with reports that a cable reporter, Inez Sainz, had been hassled by some players in the team's locker room. Coincidental timing? Maybe. The NFL took forever to conduct its investigation, and on Wednesday, had closed the case by fining Favre $50,000 for not being more forthcoming and/or cooperative in the investigation.

$50,000 is pocket change for Favre, you see. The fine amounts to a mere slap on the wrist, which, understandably, didn't sit well with Sterger and her legal team. They would've been happier if Goodell had taken a more pre-emptive action and suspended Favre while the investigation was ongoing, rather than drag out the drama. Recall that Eagles QB Michael Vick made a much-ballyhooed comeback in 2009 after sitting out two seasons for the dog fighting case. Favre is treated with kid gloves. Why? Favre has something Vick hasn't had. An endorsement deal.

Favre also does commercials for Wrangler jeans, and had also shilled for Prilosec (a Procter & Gamble product). In short, Goodell, like other authority figures in sports, is still beholden to corporate America and their interests. Favre played on, until his iron man streak ended on December 13, and the commercials continued to play. In comparision, golfer Tiger Woods lost a majority of his endorsements when his public image was shattered a year ago at this time. Yes, he played on, but for the first time in his career, didn't win a single tournament during the season. The scandal still weighs heavily on him, even though he might not admit it.

By the same token, Favre tried to blot out the drama surrounding him. Kinda hard to do, when you're the biggest waffler this side of Eggo during the off-season. Favre's already said he's retiring. He's saying that to avoid a suspension, and that makes him no different than, say, for example, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in baseball. Where Goodell fails is by kowtowing to the corporate interests and protecting Favre as much as possible, instead of punishing him. In effect, he let Favre slide, and that is so wrong. If Favre were to play his little game again next summer, deciding again to come out of retirement, Goodell should be waiting for him with a year's suspension, maybe more, just to prove he meant to do it after all.

At the end of the day, we have 3 weasels. Rendell for his blind posturing and ignorance of public safety in the face of disaster. Goodell for not taking a harder stance on Favre. Favre for not being man enough to 1) admit what he did was wrong, and 2) walking away from the game again, this time to avoid a stiffer penalty than what was imposed. He's only heightening his guilt this way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Teena Marie (1956-2010)

She was one of the first white artists signed to Motown, and a protege of funk legend Rick James ("Super Freak"), but the first time I actually heard something by Teena Marie was after she'd left Motown for Epic. Teena (born Mary Brockert) passed away Sunday at 54, reportedly from natural causes, and the MTV generation might remember what really was her biggest hit, "Lovergirl", from 1985.

The following clip comes from the artist's VEVO channel:

I confess that I wasn't that big a fan, but to read how it was she, and not Charlene ("I've Never Been To Me") a year later, who was Motown's first white female star, was a stunner. "Lovergirl" was the only song of Teena's I'd ever heard. Now, however, she's joined Rick James, her mentor and one-time boyfriend, in Heaven's chorus. Rest in peace, Teena.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

If PT Barnum was a publisher......

"There's a sucker born every minute."---P. T. Barnum.

"We snack on danger, we dine on death, and dead men make no money!"---Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand), sometime in the 1980's.

The last part of the late wrestler's bold declaration doesn't hold a lot of water anymore, considering how, for example, Sony released a posthumous Michael Jackson CD just a few weeks ago, and they claim to have more in the can, due to a backlog of material Jackson had recorded before his passing in 2009. Of course, profits are still being made on other deceased musicians such as Elvis Presley & John Lennon.

Marvel Comics' Joe Quesada & Dan Buckley subscribe to the Barnum theory, because, once again, they're teasing the death of a major comics character, hoping to juice up sales on a flagging iconic title. In this case, it's the Fantastic Four.

In 2009, Marvel had Captain America killed off, then brought him back a few months ago. DC didn't quite do the same with Batman, opting instead for an intricate story arc that had the Dark Knight lost in time before being brought back to the present a couple of months back. DC, of course, famously killed off Superman for a period in 1993-94. In each case, it wasn't so much generating mainstream publicity as fishing for extra sales. In the case of Quesada & Buckley, it's all about attention, and how to go about it. However, it's getting old real fast.

A wire service article on the pending FF story arc appeared in some newspapers earlier this week, and around here, the only paper that had the story was the Albany Times-Union, which put it on page 2 of their Dec. 23 edition. Not sure about any others, but I do know that my hometown paper whiffed, as usual. They're routinely a day late and a few dollars short on wire service articles.

There are rumors that, after 2 feature films that weren't exactly very popular with the fan base, Marvel is considering starting over again with the FF at the movies. If this is actually going to happen, why kill off one of the central characters, even for a short time? In 2010-11, there aren't going to be too many people who will fall for this trick again. You know how this is going to play. They'll go ahead with their plans, and, after a few months, bring the deceased back to life in a more-complicated-than-it-has-any-right-to-be story arc. Quesada & Buckley have presided over some pretty stupid story ideas during their tenure at Marvel, but they are risking a severe backlash, especially when you consider that Marvel is now part of the Disney family. No way would Disney allow these two jackals anywhere near Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck, so let's stop with the faux bloodletting, ok?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

On video: Stamp Day for Superman (1954)

The producers of The Adventures of Superman were commissioned by the US Treasury to produce a special episode of the series, slightly shorter than usual, to promote stamp collecting. There is the usual (for this series) drama of Superman (George Reeves) rescuing Lois Lane from a robber on the lam, of course. "Stamp Day For Superman" was uploaded by Nuclearvault to YouTube:

To my knowledge, "Stamp Day For Superman" was not included with the rest of the series during its syndicated runs after production had ended.

The Goodtimes VHS copy I have also includes 8 of the classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoon shorts from the 40's. The last, "Secret Agent", appears to have been partially recreated, as the Paramount logo is missing at the end of the short. Also, the feature, "Superman vs. The Mole Men", which I have on a separate tape, is an unadvertised added attraction, and is missing the opening credits. "Stamp Day" is not completely perfect, either, but is intact.

Rating for the tape: B--.
"Stamp Day For Superman"---A.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Wonderful Christmas Time (1979)

Earlier this month, we presented John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)". In the interest of equal time, it's Paul McCartney's turn, with his peppy, positive 1979 offering, "Wonderful Christmas Time". Enjoy.

Merry Christmas.

Co-Weasels of the Week: Noah Ellis and the editors of the NY Post

Plenty of weasel ears to hand out on Christmas Eve.

First stop is New York. By now, everyone has heard about the latest scandal involving New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. Deadspin, quickly turning into the Wikileaks of sports, especially in New York, claims that it is Ryan's wife, Michelle, appearing in a series of foot fetish videos that have appeared on YouTube. The New York Post made this a page one story on Thursday. Rival New York Daily News did the same, but only in their local editions. The copies that were distributed outside NYC had a different front page story. The Post, like its British cousin, The Sun, subscribes to the belief that, in the words of TNA's Eric Bischoff, "Controversy Creates Cash", which was the title of Bischoff's 2007 autobiography. The Chicago Tribune had some fun (The Jets play the Bears this week), designing their article on the scandal in the shape of---what else?---a foot. However, the key word in all this is, alleged. For the 2nd time this year, the Post editors get tagged with weasel ears for throwing respect, dignity, & common sense out the door in favor of catering to the lowest common denominator, or, as the News' Bob Raissman would say, the "Valley of the Stupid".

Next, we go across the country to Beverly Hills, where restaurant owner Noah Ellis has banned a Los Angeles Times critic from his eatery because of a past reputation of negative reviews. Hogwash! If Ellis is that sensitive about the perception of his business, barring a specific critic for petty, selfish reasons is the wrong way to go. It's one thing to bar particular customers because of bad, boorish behavior, but if the critic is an influential writer, Ellis is risking losing a lot of future business. Critics' judgements are subjective, based on their experience on a particular visit. Ellis, you would think, would understand that, but apparently, he's developed a very thin skin. Perhaps he's gotten one too many negative reviews from other critics, and is afraid another one, appearing in the Times, would be too damaging. Shame, shame, shame on Ellis. Weasel is not a delicacy in most restaurants, but Ellis is certainly behaving like one, so he is so deemed to be one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

.......And they say death comes in threes........

My grammatically-challenged pen pal from Long Island was the first to tip me to the news of the passing of radio & television announcer Fred Foy. Curiously, he gave Mr. Foy a little more credit for time spent, as he claimed Foy was 90. In fact, Foy was 89. Foy is known to most of us as the announcer, both on radio & television of The Lone Ranger for much of its run. As I noted in an earlier post, actor Gerald Mohr was also an announcer on the show. Later on, Foy was the announcer for Dick Cavett's ABC late-night talk show.

Earlier this week, we said goodbye to actor Steve Landesberg, whose portrayal of brainy-to-an-extreme Det. Arthur Dietrich on Barney Miller may well have been a forerunner to John Ratzenberger's similarly over-intellectual Cliff Clavin on Cheers. Landesberg succumbed to cancer at 65. Landesberg had enjoyed a career comeback, largely in films such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", over the last few years.

Finally, this one's more figurative than literal. The New York State Theatre Institute, which has presented productions in Russia over the years, was shut down on Wednesday, but while the press will have you believe the final curtain has rung----and the cavalier attitude of Larry Schwartz, an aide to outgoing Gov. David Paterson in criticizing NYSTI's current boss, David Bunce, was no help----there is always the possibility that NYSTI could return once Andrew Cuomo is sworn in as Governor on January 1. NYSTI, founded in 1974, has called the Schact Fine Arts Center at Russell Sage College home for the last few years, after spending their first few years across the river at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. I've had the privelege of attending a number of NYSTI productions over the years, the last being "King Island Christmas" last year, and I for one am disappointed by the Paterson administration's unwillingness to support NYSTI. Its impact on the arts at home and abroad has been immeasurable. You'll forgive me for the obvious pun, but for Gov. Paterson to turn a blind eye to NYSTI is inexcusable. Never mind the behind-the-scenes corruption that soiled NYSTI's reputation earlier this year and led to its demise (for now). While there will still be theatre productions in the upstate NY area, NYSTI to me is, and may always be, the gold standard.

Countdown to Christmas: Gabriel's Message (1987)

"Gabriel's Message" is based on a hymn originally written in the 13th century. Sting recorded this song initially for "A Very Special Christmas" in 1987, and has since reissued it on his own CD, "If On a Winter's Night". Snidelywhiplash uploaded this clip to YouTube:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Rev. Linus Van Pelt explains the true meaning of Christmas (1965)

Most of us may have gotten our first Bible lesson in 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas and didn't realize it. Over the years, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz used Linus to recite various Biblical passages. In this clip, Linus, without the aid of the Bible, recites a passage from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 2. 


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Cricket on the Hearth (1967)

Here's a Rankin-Bass production that somehow has been lost to the mists of time, having not gotten as much airplay as the rest of the R-B line. Cricket on the Hearth is based on a story by Charles Dickens ("A Christmas Carol"), and, as with virtually every other R-B special, is star-packed, with an all-star cast headlined by Danny & Marlo Thomas. Marlo was starring in That Girl around this time, so this might've aired on ABC, I'm not sure. The cast also features actor-singer Ed Ames (Daniel Boone), Abbe Lane, and Roddy McDowell as the titular cricket. Also, Hans Conreid reunited with Danny Thomas, as he'd been a regular on Make Room For Daddy before turning to animation.

Right now, let's take a look. Turns out this was a collaborative effort between Rankin-Bass and Danny Thomas' production company he had with Aaron Spelling.

Seeing as how I've never seen this show, I cannot rightly give it a rating. It is, however, available on DVD in a compilation package.

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas with the Monkees (1986)

In the early years of MTV, back when they played music 24/7, it was a tradition to have an artist shoot a Christmas music video in the studio with the VJs and other staffers. One of the best was this bit with the Monkees. Davy Jones, Peter Tork, & Micky Dolenz were touring as a trio, marking the 20th anniversary of their TV series. The 4th Monkee, Mike Nesmith, opted against it, and was all but retired. However, you'll see him before this medley is done. Antifrodis uploaded this clip to YouTube:

Now, don't Davy & Martha Quinn make a cute couple? A few years later, the two would be reunited, doing an informercial for one of those Time-Life CD compilations. Apparently, "Downtown" Julie Brown didn't know the words to "Jingle Bell Rock" by heart, otherwise she'd know that you glide in, not on, a 1-horse sleigh. Her campy antics, though, nearly killed the video.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blake Edwards (1922-2010)

Word has just come across the wires of the passing of writer-producer-director Blake Edwards at 88.

The mere mention of Edwards' name will have people thinking of any number of hit films, including the original "Pink Panther" series, "Victor/Victoria", "The Days of Wine & Roses", "Breakfast at Tiffany's", "The Great Race", & "10", as well as an iconic television series from the early years of that medium, Peter Gunn. At the time of his passing, Edwards was in the process of developing a Broadway production based on "Panther", as well as an original work.

Rest in peace, Blake.

Weasel of the Week: Sal Alosi

If you're a football fan, this one's pretty obvious.

Alosi is a heretofore anonymous strength & conditioning coach for the New York Jets who became public enemy #1, at least in the eyes of the press and the Miami Dolphins, on December 12 when he leaned out from the sideline with his knee to trip up the Dolphins' Nolan Carroll. What was his motivation? I get that it's a long-standing rivalry between the two teams, but this just goes beyond common sense. Carroll could've been seriously injured, but he wasn't, and he re-entered the game later on. Miami won, 10-6, to split the season series (the Jets won at Miami earlier in the season).

The Jets, knowing they're under more scrutiny from the New York media than usual after appearing on the HBO pre-season series, Hard Knocks, not to mention the fact that their 2nd year coach, Rex Ryan, has become a media magnet, took action, suspending Alosi indefinitely after it came out that Alosi instructed some of the players to form a wall on the sideline to prevent Carroll or anyone else on the Dolphins from seeing what he was planning to do. The next likely step is Alosi being fired, probably before the end of the regular season.

Yahoo! Sports referenced a college game from years ago as a precedent set for Alosi's actions, but the only other incident that I can think of in the college ranks was when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes assaulted a Clemson player several years ago. That ultimately led to Hayes leaving Ohio State, having soiled his reputation and that of the university. What Alosi did was similarly uncalled for, adding more fuel to the fire between the Jets & the Dolphins, who don't play each other again until next season. By then, Alosi's folly will be a distant memory, punctuated by the weasel ears he gets for further tarnishing the Jets' collective image, as if it wasn't already soiled this season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Rev. Fred Phelps

"How do I know you're not sick? You could be some deranged lunatic!"--The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), "Parents Just Don't Understand", 1987.

Yesterday, Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former Presidential hopeful John Edwards, was laid to rest, but if you thought that was the end of the story, you're in for a surprise.

Yes, it's after the fact, but the hate mongers of Westboro Baptist Church are back in the news. They're among the top searches on Yahoo! today, after announcing on Thursday that they were planning to picket Mrs. Edwards' funeral, claiming there are matters in her personal life, aside from the breast cancer that ultimately led to her passing, that these people find offensive. The article I read on CNN's website doesn't specify exactly what these venomous hypocrites are referring to, but the mere fact that Rev. Fred Phelps and his congregation decided to extend their 15 minutes of infamy yet again at someone else's expense is really all you need to know.

The tabloids had a field day when it was revealed that John Edwards had had an affair, so you'd think Phelps would've targeted him. Uh-unh. I'd say Phelps is nuttier than a can of cashews, but then again, that would be an insult to cashews and other nuts of the edible variety.

Phelps claims to be an "old time" minister. No preacher that I've known, heard, or seen on television preaches hate. In the case of Fred Phelps, hypocrisy wears weasel ears, and thus, the bad reverend becomes the 2nd person to have achieved Weasel status twice. Can someone direct the Westboro flock to the nearest sensitivity training course? Reality has called, and they don't want to answer.

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Time is Here (1965)

From the seminal classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, here is "Christmas Time is Here", uploaded by Hitsofthecentury. The song opens the show, but ya wonder just how Pigpen can generate a cloud of dust while skating..........

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If you really don't know anything about wrestling, you might be a writer for WWE......

It's well known that Vince McMahon doesn't want his writers to have any prior understanding of the wrestling business, and he couldn't be more wrong if he tried. It's like, you write the script the way he wants it, or you don't have a job. In truth, it actually helps if you know something about wrestling history, which automatically disqualifies ye humble scribe from ever working for McMahon.

Let me give you a couple of recent examples.

1. Announcer Michael Cole has been behaving more like a total jerkweed on the air since NXT launched at the end of February. His cheerleading for current WWE champ Michael "The Miz" Mizanin (ex-The Real World) is something a color analyst biased in favor of ring villains such as Miz would do, not the play-by-play announcer. That's not the issue here. What is the issue is the fact that on Monday Night Raw, Cole was the victim of an RKO (jumping Ace Crusher, more commonly known to American wrestling fans as a Diamond Cutter) by former champion Randy Orton, and was not heard from the rest of the night. 4 nights later, on Friday Night Smackdown, Cole was right back at the desk, as if nothing happened. An argument can be made that they were short on announcers since Todd Grisham was noticably missing, replaced by Josh Mathews, who'd filled in for Cole on Monday, but that is not enough of a legitimate excuse. A week earlier on Raw, Cole's blatant interference on behalf of Miz cost his broadcast partner, Memphis legend Jerry "The King" Lawler, an opportunity to win the WWE title, even though it looked rather obvious Lawler wasn't going to win anyway. This breach of ethics on Cole's part would have gotten him booted from the broadcast team, but Raw's anonymous general manager did nothing. Speculation is running rampant that Cole himself could be working covertly as the GM, but they're stalling on the reveal as long as they can, and that's another problem.........

2. Since late June, Raw has been governed, seemingly in absentia, by the mystery GM, whose red herring teases have suggested people as diverse as Stephanie McMahon (who previously served a short term as GM herself in 2008-9 on Raw, and was Smackdown's 1st GM from 2002-3) and Rowdy Roddy Piper, but the audience can see right through such transparent scams. The general consensus seems to be that the fan base is growing impatient for the reveal, which, if they hold to current plans, will be anti-climatic by next month's Royal Rumble PPV. Count me among those who believe that Cole has been working this scam, but the Uncreative drones don't know how to create a suitable backstory. It actually writes itself. Cole (Sean Colthard, a former radio news reporter) has been with WWE since the dawn of the "Attitude Era" in 1997, and would know just about everything there is to know, enough to try to fool the fans into thinking who the GM might be. However, this storyline should've reached its conclusion 2-3 months ago, and is running on fumes now. The sooner the reveal, the better we'll all be.

3. Smackdown's World champ, Kane, is supposed to be a bad guy these days. So why is a long-time villain like Edge, who is supposed to have reformed, acting like he has reverted to his old ways by kidnapping Kane's "father", Paul Bearer, who was written off the show last night? This is the sort of ambiguous storytelling that was prevalent in the "Attitude Era", but as TNA has found out and ignored, such methods don't have a place in pro wrestling in 2010. This is something that could've gotten some foundation by denoting past issues between champion & challenger, dating back 5 years, but McMahon wouldn't allow it, thinking, wrongly of course, that the average wrestling fan has a sound byte mentality and doesn't retain enough of the information processed from viewing.

As usual, McMahon's ignorance of the general wrestling audience is his undoing. Last night's Smackdown was panned by fans on one message board I frequent, largely because the Kane-Edge-Bearer storyline had lasted two weeks too long. Former Freebird Michael Hayes is the show's head writer, but rumors have him on the chopping block because the series has lost ratings in the two months since it moved to SyFy. Again, this sounds like the sort of knee-jerk reaction McMahon would have, and to dump Hayes now would be a mistake. Not that moving to TNA would improve things down in Orlando, because it won't, and because TNA is irretrievably lost in its own morass of stupidity, but because the quality of writing on Smackdown would actually decrease instead of increase.

So what needs to be done? Well, DUH! The agent-producers McMahon has on staff, retired veteran grapplers such as Rick Steamboat, Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, & Mike Rotundo, would be of greater help if they were added to the creative team. The failed Hollywood rejects McMahon keeps hiring are not the answer, and never have been. Actor Freddie Prinze, Jr., on his 2nd tour of duty with the creative team, is a fan, but he knows enough about what McMahon wants out of him to avoid any hangups. However, it's time to put that fan's knowledge to good use. McMahon's not going to be around forever, contrary to what he told Jeremy Schaap of ESPN a year and a half ago. Creatively, he's spent, bankrupt. While he may be physically fit, the ravages of old age, and one too many unprotected chair shots over the last 20 years, have taken their toll on the old man. In order to keep WWE viable and relevant in the 21st century, Vincent K. McMahon must accept the fact that he needs to cede control of the company right now, and spend the sunset years caring for his five grandchildren. The longer he stalls and stubbornly tries to soldier on, the worse it's going to be. The sad part about it is, he's the only one who doesn't get it. And when he finally does, it may be too late.

Yeah, it sounds like I've said this before, and I have, but it needed to be repeated.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Happy Christmas (War Is Over) (1971)

In memory of John Lennon, who passed away 30 years ago today, we present his other big hit of 1971, "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)", in which he's joined by his wife, Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band, and the Harlem Community Choir.


Remembering John Lennon (1940-1980)

30 years ago today, the world mourned the loss of a music legend.

Former Beatles co-lead singer John Lennon was assassinated by a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, who had obtained Lennon's autograph some hours earlier. The incident garnered far more media attention than the passing of Elvis Presley some 3 years earlier. Howard Cosell broke the news during Monday Night Football, perhaps the most important moment of Cosell's tenure at ABC.

Lennon, they say, was taken far too soon at 40. He had the foresight, however, to have plenty of music recorded for future release, and the double album, "Double Fantasy", went straight to number 1, producing the hits, "(Just Like) Starting Over", "Woman", & "Watching the Wheels", all of which either hit #1 or landed in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

To me, Lennon's biggest single was 1971's "Imagine". Although I would debate the point of some of his lyrics, in truth, Lennon was postulating what life would be like in a perfect world. Here's the video:

I wasn't that big a Beatles fan growing up, but it did become an acquired taste as an adult. I wonder, though, what John Lennon would've thought if he knew that some of his songs, such as "Revolution", have been licensed to use in commercials (Nike) in the intervening years since his passing. I guess we'll never know.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Children Go Where I Send Thee

The late Tennessee Ernie Ford may be better known for pitching Martha White muffins and hits like "Sixteen Tons", but he also knew how to appeal to children. One example comes, I believe, from his self-titled TV show in the 50's, in which he performs "Children Go Where I Send Thee", which, as Ernie himself explains, can be adapted into a Christmas carol rather easily.

Come to think of it, this is the only time of year where I hear this song nowadays. How about you?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don Meredith (1938-2010)

Word has just come across the wires of the passing of former NFL quarterback Don Meredith at the age of 72.

Meredith was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in their initial season in 1960 out of Southern Methodist University (SMU), and was named the starting quarterback in 1965. While Meredith never made it to the Super Bowl as a player, he would later get there as an announcer for ABC. Meredith was inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor in 1976.

Meredith retired after the 1968 season, and turned to television, first by joining ABC's Monday Night Football as a commentator. Meredith's trademark was crooning "Turn out the lights, the party's over!" once a game was definitively decided. Meredith left ABC for NBC in the mid-70's for three seasons, then returned to ABC, returning to Monday Night Football for a few more seasons before retiring from broadcasting in 1984. Meredith also dabbled in acting, appearing on Police Story, and was a commercial spokesman for Lipton Tea.

Meredith passed away as the result of a brain hemorrhage. In all probability, Monday Night Football, now on ESPN, will pay tribute to Meredith during tonight's broadcast.

Rest in peace, Don.

Countdown to Christmas: Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

By the late 70's, Rankin-Bass was looking for original ideas in order to continue producing Christmas specials for the networks. ABC took a flier on Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, based on a song co-written by Gene Autry. Singer Roger Miller ("King of the Road", "England Swings", etc.) is the narrator.

Nestor will, I think, be in rotation on ABC Family over the next three weeks. Sorry to say, I've never seen the complete story, so I can't give it a rating.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advertising for Dummies: Miller High Life goes to the dogs (2010)

You've seen this spot a zillion times during sports programming in recent months, but this simply couldn't be passed up. The Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show takes place every February, right around Valentine's Day, at Madison Square Garden. This year, Miller Brewing and their ad agency thought it might be a good idea to shoot a commercial backstage at the dog show as part of a new series of ads where they're not only pitching traditional Miller High Life, but the new Miller High Life Light (not to be confused with Miller Lite). Moonbatty uploaded this 30 seconds of silliness to YouTube:

You know, of course, that the Miller spots over the last 4 years have brought some rewards for actor Windell Middlebrooks, who landed a gig on Disney Channel's Suite Life on Deck as a result. He's not given much to do aboard the S. S. Tipton, but maybe the Sprouse twins can get him into a commercial with them for Dannon yogurt..........

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Countdown to Christmas: Run-DMC's Christmas in Hollis (1987)

From the 1st "A Very Special Christmas" CD is an amusing number from hip-hop icons Run-DMC, who have a VEVO channel on YouTube, from whence we bring you "Christmas in Hollis":

Apparently, Santa hasn't had time to discipline some of his elves.......

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On DVD: Famous TV Detectives (1957-63)

For once, Alpha Video didn't completely deliver the goods on one of their video compilations. "Famous TV Detectives" brings together episodes of Peter Gunn, Burke's Law, & Richard Diamond, Private Detective, but while the episodes themselves are entertaining, there are a couple of issues I have with this package. We'll start with Richard Diamond, which finishes the disc.

There are two episodes of Diamond presented here, neither of which features Diamond's sexy "secretary", after a fashion, Sam, so any hope of seeing some early Mary Tyler Moore goes out the proverbial window. One episode, "Picture of Fear", appeared on an earlier compilation I'd acquired from Radio Spirits a while back, but the advantage Alpha has on their print is the use of original commercials as they were first presented, in this case for Maxwell House coffee. Diamond had started on radio with Four Star co-founder Dick Powell in the title role. The TV version launched David Janssen (later of The Fugitive, among others) into stardom. Regis Toomey (Burke's Law) turns up in the 2nd episode.

Updated, 9/10/13: Here's "Picture of Fear:

Speaking of Burke, "Who Killed Jason Shaw?", from 1963, features the likes of Tammy Grimes, Keenan Wynn, and Burgess Meredith among the guest stars. However, the villain of the piece is a suspect you'd least expect. A classic whodunit done right. Where Alpha fails, however, is deleting the Four Star logo at the end of the show (the famous banner logo had not yet been created during Diamond's run). Sci-fi fans will remember Gary Conway for his later starring gig on Land of the Giants.

Updated, 9/17/13: Here is "Who Killed Jason Shaw?":

The biggest, most glaring problem comes with Peter Gunn, which still airs 5-6 days a week on RTV (check local listings), making it easy to recognize that Alpha subbed out Henry Mancini's famous theme song for a bargain basket imitation, done strictly on the piano. I discussed this with my brother the other day, and he opined that it might be because Alpha wasn't willing to pony up royalty fees to Mancini's estate. Certainly seems that way. I had a VHS compilation of Gunn that had the iconic theme intact. Of course, Alpha shamelessly acknowledges their "special edition" of Gunn was issued in 2008.

We cannot overlook the fact that the 2nd of the two Gunn episodes offered here features Ross Martin (Wild, Wild West) who was co-starring on another series from the same producers, Mr. Lucky, around the time Gunn was on the air, I believe. Has anyone ever wondered if Craig Stevens (Gunn) was separated at birth from Jack Webb (Dragnet)? In some cases, their facials are almost the same.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's "The Fuse", with Ross Martin:

So, out of the three shows, only Richard Diamond goes unscathed.


Richard Diamond: A-.
Burke's Law: A. (We'll forgive the lack of a logo)
Peter Gunn: B--(points taken off for phony theme music).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Word has just gone over the wires of the passing of actor Leslie Nielsen at the age of 84 after a battle with pneumonia.

Nielsen distinguished himself as both a dramatic & comic actor, appearing in films as diverse as "Forbidden Planet" & "The Reluctant Astronaut" before 1980's "Airplane!" re-established Nielsen as a gifted comic performer. On television, Nielsen starred in The New Breed, The Bold Ones: The Protectors, Bracken's World, and Police Squad!, the latter of which was spun off into a series of feature films under the "Naked Gun" title. Nielsen also was cast in a live-action feature film version of the venerable Mr. Magoo animated shorts, but that film ran into criticism from advocacy groups over the exploitation of nearsighted persons such as Magoo.

In recent times, Nielsen had returned to dramatic acting, starring in a one-man Broadway production, "Darrow", a biography of famed lawyer Clarence Darrow. I would not be at all surprised to find tributes on the cable channels in the form of marathons of movies and/or Police Squad! over the next few days.

Rest in peace, Leslie. You'll be missed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Michael Brea

Mr. Brea is a struggling actor, whose only credit of note was a gig on Ugly Betty a while back. Brea made headlines this week when he brought home a Masonic sword, then proceeded to slash his own mother to death, claiming that she was possessed by the devil. Brea claimed it was "God's will". I call it blasphemy, as well as murder.

If I had a dollar for all the people who used this same excuse for their crimes, I'd be rich. Let's face facts, folks. Michael Brea is the one who is not of sound mind, deceived by voices in his head that he thinks are coming from God. His mother didn't deserve this, right before Thanksgiving. Appropriately, Michael Brea, as of press time, is at Bellevue in New York, in their prison ward. He let his frustration over being unable to land another acting gig distort his sense of reality.

The articles I read tell of a quiet young man, and, predictably, those around him cannot understand why Brea attacked his own mother. This scene has played out so many times, it has become a cliche unto itself. Brea's actions suggest that he, not his mother, was possessed. For him to claim he was acting as an agent of God is a hollow, defensive mechanism. Any lawyer that buys into this will begin arguing for an insanity defense. Did Brea really know what he was doing? That will be for the courts to decide. For now, he gets a set of weasel ears for his blasphemy after the fact.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

8 years after the seminal A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS, the Peanuts gang added a Thanksgiving tradition, which had its 2010 airing on November 18 on ABC. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has the usual slapstick comedy from Snoopy & Woodstock, and the ageless gag of Lucy playing a football prank on Charlie Brown. Udontknowwhatluvis uploaded this clip to YouTube, showcasing Linus, who leads the gang in a Thanksgiving prayer:

You'll notice that Peppermint Patty sounds more like a boy. Well, it turns out that, in fact, in a rare reversal of casting tradition, the producers actually cast boys to voice Patty and her best friend, Marcie. As women have done boys' voices for years, a tradition that continues today with Nancy Cartwright on The Simpsons, they figured, why not go in the other direction? As you probably noticed, it didn't quite work out so well.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Common sense wins the last dance

After all the drama over the last few weeks, intensified by scandalous accusations, Dancing With The Stars wrapped its fall season Tuesday night, and in the end, age prevailed over youth and politics.

Actress Jennifer Grey, who'd led the competition virtually from the start, outpointed Kyle Massey (ex-That's So Raven) and Bristol Palin in the final round to claim the mirrorball trophy with professional dance partner Derek Hough. In the end, the Tea Party's efforts to carry Ms. Palin over the top were nullified. Publicity surrounding rumors of fake e-mail addresses and other means of "ballot stuffing" prompted a record-setting number of calls following Monday's broadcast. It seems that for every vote for Ms. Palin was answered with at least 2 or 3 more for her competition, as if America was saying, we don't want this show tampered with by political agendas. Amen!

Dancing is set to return in the spring, hopefully without the stunt casting that caused so much trouble this time......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: B. C.: The First Thanksgiving (1973)

I remember seeing this when it first aired. Johnny Hart's legendary comic strip, B. C., was brought to life just this one time, in 1973. Once you get past the opening segment where B. C. himself is doing a Jack Benny routine, you'll find this is very entertaining. Cargoplex uploaded this clip to YouTube:

Most folks these days associate B. C. more with a golf tournament that bears his name (it also stands for Broome County, where you'll find the city of Endicott, which hosted said golf tournament for years), than this little-seen special, which hasn't seen the light of day in years.

Rating: B+.

The last man you'd expect to be a champion

Some of you might remember Michael Mizanin from MTV's Real World and Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Nowadays, the alternate persona he created on Real World, that of "The Miz", has become a steady, if not also annoying, presence, on WWE television.

Mizanin entered the "$1,000,000 Tough Enough" tournament on Smackdown in 2004, only to finish 2nd to eventual winner Daniel Puder. Puder, however, didn't pan out with WWE, making his only PPV appearance at the 2005 Royal Rumble, and was released less than a year later. Before '05 was out, Mizanin was called up, serving as a "host" on Smackdown, but that gig didn't really do him any favors. He swapped his microphone for his tights & boots a few months later, and he was on his merry way.

Consider what the man has done in the last 3 years alone. 2 US titles. 3 tag team titles. And, as of last night, history. Mizanin cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase on Randy Orton, who'd already been laid out by Wade Barrett and Nexus, and won the WWE title.

There are those who will decry Miz's title reign as the second coming of actor David Arquette, who was given the WCW title 10 years ago in order to help sell the movie, "Ready to Rumble", in which wrestlers such as Diamond Dallas Page & Bill Goldberg co-starred with Arquette. Miz, because of his media connections already in place, is the kind of champion Vince McMahon wants as we near the end of 2010. TMZ and other outlets have already done articles. It's all about raising WWE's media profile, especially in the aftermath of former CEO Linda McMahon's failed bid for the US Senate earlier this month. Just the kind of stunt you'd expect from Vince.

Arquette lasted just a month as champion. Miz figures to last at least one, maybe two, before reality sets in and he loses the title. Mizanin is the first Tough Enough graduate to hold the WWE title. Pretty heady stuff, but unless Miz talks about it himself on Raw next week, and I imagine he will, don't expect the announcers, especially Miz's #1 cheerleader, play-by-play announcer Michael Cole, to acknowledge much of the past. Six years after being second best in a tournament for a million dollars, Michael Mizanin feels like a million dollars now. However, the pressure is on him now to prove he can finally, once and for all, cast aside his MTV past and stake his claim to being among the WWE's elite. 8 years of hard work, starting after his Real World gig had ended, prepared Mizanin for last night. To borrow a line from the late Hall of Famer, Gorgeous George, Mizanin is the new "sensation of the nation", at least in the eyes of TMZ and tabloid media.

Past champions like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, & John Cena have done the talk shows, Saturday Night Live, etc., and Miz will follow that same path. Being champion, however, will change a man. Miz is the annoying bad guy now, after he failed to win the fans' affections 5 years ago, but the more WWE puts him out there as an ambassador for the company, the more likely it is he will become their hero. It won't happen overnight, of course, but, in McMahon's wacky world, stranger things can, have, and will happen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Toons: Mouse on the Mayflower (1968)

In the days before local stations began airing news at the noon hour, NBC would follow their Thanksgiving Day coverage of the Macy's parade in New York with a variety of specials. These days, that 12 noon (ET) slot is reserved for a dog show sponsored by Purina and hosted by John O'Hurley (ex-Family Feud, Seinfeld). In 1968, though, Arthur Rankin, Jr. & Jules Bass, looking to add to their holiday resume, 4 years after Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, decided to give Thanksgiving a try with Mouse on the Mayflower

 Edit, 11/10/22: A copyright claim was placed on the video, so we've replaced the video with a screencap of the title card:

It's a shame that Mouse doesn't air anymore, and I'm not sure if it's available on DVD. I remember watching this at least once or twice as a little rugrat back in the day, but I don't recall seeing it from start to finish. Mouse does establish the now-familiar formula of using better known guest voices to complement the omnipresent Paul Frees, a formula that would serve Rankin-Bass well for the next couple of decades with their annual collection of Christmas specials. 

 Rating: A-.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Steve Hagwell

Mr. Hagwell is the commissioner of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), and he's at the center of a local controversy this week.

One week ago, after his RPI team lost to Union, a loss that would be avenged the next night, Seth Appert, the Engineers' coach, played a video of a controversial play at the end of the game, in which a potential game-tying goal was waved off by referee Bryan Hicks. Hicks claimed the Union goalie was interfered with. The video evidence presented by Appert seems to say otherwise. It was a heat of the moment situation. As Ed Weaver wrote in today's Record, had Appert waited an hour, he wouldn't have played the tape. Instead, the tape was used as evidence to suspend Appert for 1 game, next Friday night as part of a Thanksgiving weekend tournament.

Pressed to explain the rationale behind the suspension and/or Hicks' judgment, or lack thereof, Hagwell opted to clam up. "No comment", he said, over and over again. It's not the first time that Hicks has screwed RPI in a game against Union, according to Weaver. On February 7, 2009, Union won a game in overtime on a goal that should've been disallowed due to interference on the part of a Union player. Hicks blew that call.

Blown calls happen all the time for one reason or another. But the leagues take a dim view of coaches & players questioning the integrity of their game officials, often issuing fines or, in Appert's case, a suspension. Problem is, by issuing such penalties, the leagues are sweeping a glaring problem right under the rug. Referees and umpires are human, prone to mistakes, and thus must be held accountable for those errors, especially if it affects the outcome of a game.

Weaver is questioning why Hagwell decided to suspend Appert. The only official explanation is that it had to do with the coach's "actions" after the game last Friday. All he did was play a video illustrating a glaring mistake made by a game official with a past history of bad calls against RPI. If that was an offense, why didn't Hagwell, when given a chance to clarify his position, acknowledge it as such? What need is there to cover it up?

In this case, the wrong person is being punished. Bryan Hicks has now screwed RPI at least twice in the space of three seasons. His commissioner is covering for him by suspending Seth Appert, who made the bold move of presenting the evidence in a public forum. RPI, if they so chose, could consider taking action to rectify this problem, but do they risk their standing in the ECAC by doing so?

They say justice is blind. In this case, it shouldn't have to be. Hagwell gets a set of weasel ears for playing see no evil and trying to cover for a referee's bad judgment. If there was ever a need to change the culture of officiating and its relationship with players and coaches in sports across the board, the time is now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dancing towards travesty

I will freely admit that I am not a regular viewer or a fan of Dancing With the Stars or any of the current crop of reality shows. Dancing finishes its current cycle on Tuesday, but if the results leading up to this point have been any indication, we're in for the worst finish in the series' history.

The problem centers on Alaska teenager Bristol Palin, daughter of the former governor, Sarah Palin. The younger Palin has repeatedly had the lowest scores, but has been saved by audience vote week after week. One poster on Toon Zone's message board noted that there are people using false e-mail addresses in order to enter multiple votes for Bristol, doing everything possible to extend the family's 15 minutes of fame.

It doesn't help that TLC just launched Sarah Palin's Alaska, as if the former Vice Presidential candidate and Tea Party darling needs any more face time. The Tea Party, clearly, is stuffing the phone lines in support of Bristol, at the expense of more talented performers such as singer-actress Brandy Norwood (ex-Moesha) and former NFL QB Kurt Warner, late of the Arizona Cardinals. Actor Kyle Massey (ex-That's So Raven) is also in the finals, and I believe the other spot went to Jennifer Grey ("Dirty Dancing"). The producers are doing nothing to stop the "ballot stuffing", which only increases the chances of Bristol winning on Tuesday. If she wins, it will be the biggest travesty to hit Dancing since singer Drew Lachey upset NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and former WWE diva Stacy Keibler in 2006.

Usually, one of the supermarket tabloids will headline that a show like Dancing is fixed in favor of a certain contestant. I haven't seen that yet this season, when it looks more obvious that there is a fix in the voting. Maybe they're waiting until it's over this time, so they don't look like the collective boy who cried wolf. If they're lucky, common sense and justice will prevail on Tuesday, unless Bristol finds a glass slipper and proves her detractors wrong on Monday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weasel of the Week: David Weaving

David Weaving is serving a sentence for manslaughter after he'd struck and killed a Connecticut teenager, riding a bike, with his car several months back. The case is back in the news because after the victim's parents filed suit against Weaving, he's turned around and filed a counter-suit, claiming said parents were guilty of "contributory negiligence" in allowing their son to ride his bike, I'm assuming, in open traffic. Weaving is asking for $15,000 in damages.

Basically, this counter-suit is sour grapes on the part of Weaving, who obviously didn't see the kid until it was too late to slam on the brakes and stop his car in time to avoid contact. But who in their right mind would try something like this? The case is closed, Weaving's doing his time, but apparently, he still feels he was wronged by the system. From a legal standpoint, they're saying "it's just part of the process". Oh, really?

If Weaving paid closer attention to the traffic, he wouldn't be in this fix. He's trying to shift the blame for the accident on the victim. Real swift, pally. NOT! I've got a set of weasel ears for you, direct from mamby-pamby land.

A correction

I had previously stated that the late Seattle Mariners' announcer Dave Niehaus might be up for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was reminded via a newspaper article today that Niehaus had been given the Ford Frick Award (for announcers) just 2 years ago for his contributions to the team and the game. My bad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One last reward for "The Boss"

On Monday, it was announced that the late New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, would be on the Veterans Committee's ballot for consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2011. Said committee will also consider three other Yankee greats of note, including pitchers Ron Guidry & Tommy John and Steinbrenner's favorite whipping boy during the 70's & 80's, Billy Martin, who won 5 World Series titles total, 1 as a manager, and 4 more as a player in the 50's.

Steinbrenner is virtually a lock to be elected on the first ballot, since it would be a year after his passing if he is inducted next July. If "The Boss" goes, then it would only be fitting that Martin, who shared many a back page headline in the New York tabloids with Steinbrenner, would go in with him. Would Guidry and/or John go in with them? Right now, I'm not so sure.

Steinbrenner & Martin, though, might not be the only posthumous entries. Longtime Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus passed away on Wednesday, and you have to believe there will be some politicking going on in the Pacific Northwest for him to go in as well.

I cannot recall if there's ever been any other time where anyone has earned posthumous induction into Cooperstown within a year of his passing. If it hasn't happened, then Steinbrenner's would be the first. The WWE, whose Hall of Fame doesn't have a tangible location at present, but should, to mollify its detractors, inducted the late Eddie Guerrero in 2006, less than 6 months after his passing, so there is a precedent, after a fashion.

Steinbrenner's memorial became the centerpiece of Monument Park at Yankee Stadium II over the summer, representing his larger-than-life standing as a baseball icon. The only thing bigger would be the celebration of his induction into the Hall of Fame. The only thing that would stand in his way would be the suspensions in the 70's & 90's, but that would be offset by the 7 World Series titles the Yankees won under his stewardship (1977-78, 1996, 1998-2000, 2009). They point to the fact that Steinbrenner restored the Yankees' winning tradition, though it took three years to reach the playoffs (Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973), and was at the forefront of the free agent feeding frenzy that has spiraled out of control since its inception in the mid-70's. 38 seasons (1973-2010) as owner. 7 Championships. 11 AL pennants. A zillion headlines, and multi-media appearances by the dozen. There is no question about when or if he goes in. It's virtually a slam dunk.

Best use of scoreboard animation in a music video (You Make the Rain Fall, 2010)

Kevin Rudolf's "You Make the Rain Fall", which features a rap by Flo Rida, is also the theme to WWE NXT for its current cycle. The series is now on WWE's website after being dropped by SyFy at the end of September, but this video appears on one of Time Warner Cable's Music Choice on Demand channels, and, well......judge for yourself, pilgrims. Rudolf has one of those VEVO channels on YouTube, from whence we get the clip.....

The censors blotted out the words, "loaded gun", which I don't think they would've done 20 years ago, but it wasn't blotted out when WWE uses this same song. Go figure.

Monday, November 8, 2010

On DVD: Four Star Playhouse: The Dick Powell Anthology, Volume 1 (1953-55)

Four Star Playhouse was one of the studio's first television series, and a showcase for the four partners in the company. The three constants were Charles Boyer, David Niven (both of whom would star in The Rogues) and Dick Powell, the former film & radio star who was, essentially, the major domo in charge until his passing in the early 60's.

Of the four episodes selected in this Alpha Video collection, only one, "The House Always Wins", has the full opening. Alpha engaged in a little bait & switch by emphasizing the presence of comedy legend Jack Benny, but Benny only appears in a brief cameo in this episode. Powell plays a nightclub owner in this episode, trying to keep the existence of a gambling casino within the club a secret from a prying police detective (Regis Toomey, later of Burke's Law). Also, Powell is seen as a lawyer (defending Charles Bronson), a cab driver (paired with one of the men who brought The Shadow to life on radio, Bill (billed here as William) Johnstone), and an executive in need of a vacation, whose daydream sequence looks like the kind we'd see on Rod Serling's Twilight Zone just a few years later. Dina Merrill (Mrs. Cliff Robertson) co-stars in this tale, which leads off the disc.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's "The House Always Wins". It served as a pilot for the subsequent spin-off series, Dante, which starred Howard Duff in the title role:

Powell had already been known for his versatility as an actor long before making the transition to television, but by this point was spending more of his time behind the cameras. It's a pity they don't try to revive the anthology format in television nowadays. Networks would rather spend the money developing as many "reality" shows as possible to save money and create stars out of average folks, or give established stars some additional shine. I'd rather have something like this on cable than endless marathons of Jersey Shore or any other mindless "entertainment".

Rating: A-.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Troy, NY----City of Champions?

What hath the Tri City Valleycats wrought?

The hits just keep on coming in Troy. First, it was the Valleycats winning the NY-Penn League title nearly 2 full months ago, defeating Brooklyn to bring their first championship home. Then, the Troy Fighting Irish, representing the city in name only (home games were in Schenectady for some unknown reason), won their semi-pro football league title. Now, championship fever has reached down to high school level.

One year after falling in the Class A Super Bowl to Burnt Hills, Troy High, back in Class AA, won the championship Friday night in Colonie, dismantling Shenendehowa with surprising ease, 38-0. Of their 10 wins this year, Troy has posted 6 shutouts, a far cry from the luckless, winless, dark days when I was a student there 30 years ago. With the tradition that Shen has, you'd think this would've been a shootout that would've ended up, say, 45-44, or something. Nuh-uh! I watched the game on TV, and was stunned. Troy's defense was as advertised, and shut down Shen star Bronson Greene. The game was essentially over after the 3rd quarter. Shen's Hall of Fame coach, Brent Steuerwald, had warned in Friday's Albany Times-Union that his Plainsmen couldn't afford to fall behind early against Troy. Unfortunately, the message didn't get through fast enough.

Tonight, Lansingburgh will try to do what Troy couldn't a year ago, and that is beat Burnt Hills for the Class A title. If they succeed, it will be another notch on the belt for the city. Meanwhile, Troy rolls on to represent Section II in state playoffs, presumably against Section IX champ Monroe-Woodbury.

Back when I was at Troy, the football team was so bad, they couldn't execute a simulated goal-line offense-----at a pep rally! It was that bad. No, I take that back. If they were dared into a pickup game of touch football with the cheerleaders, they'd probably have lost that, too. Just kidding.

Now, if only they could do something to make the basketball team more competitive at the start of the season........

Weasel of the Week: Charles Nagel

There is a fine line between fandom and fan obsession. Charles Nagel, supposedly an aspiring songwriter from Philadelphia, crossed that line when he began stalking and harassing actress Kathryn Erbe (ex-Law & Order: Criminal Intent). On Friday, Nagel was found guilty, but was cleared of interstate stalking charges.

Nagel went so far as to convince his 12-year old daughter to say that she, not her dad, drew a picture of a cockroach on a picture of Ms. Erbe's daughter, coupled with a caption balloon that says, "I'm ugly". I cannot see how a child at that age can buy into her father's delusions to take such steps, and so I believe the younger Nagel was coerced somehow into taking the rap for the graffiti. Nagel himself has claimed he was duped by an online "imposter". Right. The jury didn't buy that defense one iota. While there have been people pretending to be others, including other celebrities, on social sites like Facebook & MySpace, it's easy to tell an imposter from the real star. Seeing as how I am not on either of those sites, I couldn't give you an honest, first-hand account, but if you asked the right questions....!

What Nagel needs, more than anything, is psychiatric help. Jail isn't going to be much help unless he seeks treatment and reconciles himself to the fact that he was in the wrong.

For implicating his own child in his delusional actions, Nagel earns the weasel ears.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The curse of being Vince McMahon

Once hailed as a visionary in professional wrestling, Vince McMahon can't seem to make any headway in any other venture, and that misfortune has extended to his wife, Linda. Consider the litany of McMahon's failures over the last 20 years.......

The World Bodybuilding Federation (early 1990's). McMahon started to make an inroad into the bodybuilding market that was virtually monopolized by the Weiders around 1990. First, there was a magazine comparable to the fluff mags that McMahon produced for the then-World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). In 1991, McMahon launched the WBF, and followed that by adding a weekly TV show, BodyStars, which debuted on USA in April 1992, only to be cancelled 9 months later. The WBF folded at the end of 1992.

ICOPRO (1990's). McMahon sunk his money into this line of nutritional supplements, which his WWE & WBF talent promoted weekly on TV. Today, ICOPRO is just a faded memory, and McMahon sort of poked fun at this folly a few years back, hiring wrestler Mike Bucci to play a heel fitness guru named Simon Dean, a flopped negative parody of fitness icon Richard Simmons.

Xtreme Football League (2001). In 2000, McMahon began beating the drums for a winter-spring football league that would help gridiron fanatics deal with the NFL's offseason. Franchises were placed in markets large (NY, Las Vegas, Los Angeles) and small (Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando). However, McMahon reckoned without the media bias that had been built up against him over the "Attitude era" content of his wrestling programs. Gadflies like Phil Mushnick of the New York Post (and, at the time, TV Guide) essentially warned viewers away, for all the wrong reasons. It didn't help that McMahon also relied on some of his own announcers, including Jim Ross, Memphis legend Jerry "The King" Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman (now with ESPN), to call the games. The XFL lasted just the one season, folding in April 2001 after the league crowned its only champion.

WWE Studios (2006-present). McMahon has only had one real box office hit, and that came when he was given an executive producer credit for "The Scorpion King" (2002), which jet propelled Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock) into superstardom as an action hero by going straight to #1, despite negative reviews from some critics. Jonathan Foreman, writing for the New York Post, blasted the movie, even though it read as if he hadn't really seen it and slammed it just because of the WWE tie-in.

4 years later, with Johnson long gone from WWE, McMahon decided to launch his own film division. The critics have savaged virtually every film to come from WWE, with one lone exception to date. "Legendary", which paired John Cena with screen vets Patricia Clarkson & Danny Glover, received glowing reviews before a brief 2 week run in theatres in September. While the movies aren't making hay at the box office, McMahon is making his money back in DVD rentals/sales, and that's why he continues to crank out the flicks. Cena has another one due next year, and there are also films on the board starring Randy Orton and Triple H (who has 2 in the can), the latter of whom hasn't made a movie since "Blade: Trinity" 7 years ago.

Finally, there was Linda McMahon's run for US Senate as a Republican candidate from Connecticut. As I noted last night, there's been no connection between the McMahon family and the Tea Party movement, not that the Tea Party would've been of any help. Vince McMahon, as I suggested last night, sabotaged his wife's campaign with an ill-advised comedy skit on Monday Night Raw, failing to realize that a regional Senate race is of little consequence to a world-wide audience. As of press time, there were indications that Mrs. McMahon might give it another try in 2012, but if I were Linda, I'd make sure Vince stayed far, far away from the fray this time.

Try as he might, Vince McMahon may never be able to succeed outside his own professional balliwick, if you will. If Donald Trump taught him anything about business, McMahon probably ignored it. His loss.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The easiest of elections

The Governor's race in New York, despite the back & forth attack ads between Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Tea Party-backed Republican Carl Paladino, was a foregone conclusion long before New Yorkers took to the polls this morning, and word from various news outlets confirms it.

While I have not bothered to follow election night coverage on local channels---I hardly do anymore---I let my curiosity get the best of me and I decided to check a couple of local sites, to see the result, rather than wait for the morning papers.

It turns out that New Yorkers made history today by electing Cuomo, son of former governor Mario Cuomo, as the next governor, replacing David Paterson, who opted not to seek election amid a scandal at the beginning of this year. Paladino, realistically, never had a chance despite "upsetting" luckless Rick Lazio in the primary 2 months ago. In fact, Paladino killed his chances himself by contracting foot-in-mouth disease with some of his remarks the last few weeks. That created the perception in voters' minds that Paladino, who could've passed for a lookalike of the late actor Dennis Hopper, in this writer's opinion at least, was too much of a loose cannon to be counted on to lead the state for at least 4 years.

This marks the 2nd straight election that voters chose a sitting attorney general as governor (Eliot Spitzer, now a CNN talk show co-host, was elected in 2006). Cuomo, though, wasn't the only AG to move up in rank, if you will.

Over in Connecticut, in a race that gained national attention, that state's AG, Richard Blumenthal, held off former (and likely soon to be) WWE CEO Linda McMahon, but in truth, Linda's husband, Vince, may have sunk his wife's chances with an ill-advised comedy skit last night on Monday Night Raw, in which Mr. McMahon tried to sell the audience on the idea that he's been in a coma for at least 4 months, after an on-camera beatdown in the ring. Actor Freddie Prinze, Jr. ("Scooby-Doo", "Wing Commander"), back in the employ of WWE, played the attending physician while McMahon wore a hospital gown littered with bumper stickers of his wife's campaign and a Blumenthal poster hung on his backside.

What killed that skit dead was the public knowledge that McMahon stumped for his wife at a WWE event in Hartford on Saturday afternoon, his first public appearance at a WWE event since June. Last night, McMahon jokingly suggested while in character that maybe he'd make a run for the White House in 2012 (he'll be 67 by then), but, considering his wife's defeat tonight, that plan is but a pipe dream by now.

At no time during the campaign, though, was Mrs. McMahon even considered to be a part of the Tea Party, which thus can breathe a sigh of relief.

At this rate, no matter how much the Tea Party wants to push former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who failed in a VP bid 2 years ago, as a Presidential candidate in '12, voters would be more likely to vote in a ventriloquist dummy by then than stomach Mrs. Palin, who has become way more overexposed than any of McMahon's wrestlers combined, for 4 years.

Don't scoff at that last paragraph. It may be written in jest, but stranger things have happened, and probably will.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spook Rock: Don't Pay The Ferryman (1983)

Scottish singer Chris DeBurgh made his first splash onto the American charts with the haunting "Don't Pay The Ferryman", from his album, "The Getaway".

Edit, 6/28/2020: Had to replace the video again. We're going back to the combination of concert footage from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and actual video footage. The original video has been a victim of copyright enforcement to the point where it's no longer available online in its purest (original) form.

DeBurgh would have only one more major hit, "Lady In Red", just a couple of years later, and that still gets played regularly on adult contemporary stations. "Don't Pay The Ferryman", with its gothic themes, is a great Halloween treat. Is it just me, or does DeBurgh look like he was auditioning for a remake of Dark Shadows in the original video?

Edit, 9/29/22: Now, we have the original video back as it aired on MTV. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weasels of the Week: Judge Paul Wooten & the Estate of Clare Menagh

We live in an excessively litigious society. That much has been a given for quite a while. But how low can a lawyer go?

In New York, the answer seems to be pretty low. By now, you're probably aware of the lawsuit filed against little Juliet Breitman, who was 3 months shy of her 5th birthday last year when she and a playmate, Jacob Kohn, also 4, were riding bicycles with training wheels on them when they struck an elderly woman, Clare Menagh, who suffered a fractured hip. Three months later, Mrs. Menagh passed away, but not before filing a suit against the toddlers and their parents, citing negligence. Her son, a lawyer by trade, has picked up the fight.

Making matters worse is Judge Paul Wooten. Citing a 1928 ruling, Wooten decreed that the suit can proceed, since the "defendants", if you will, were past the age of 4. Technically, 4 years, 9 months, in Ms. Breitman's case. These kids have just started school, and are being sued? How crazy is that?

The New York Daily News blasted Wooten in their op-ed page today, and appropriately so, giving him a "Knucklehead Award", which is sort of like the Dunce Caps I periodically hand out. Instead, Wooten, and the ambulance chaser he endorsed to go ahead with this suit, each earned a set of weasel ears. They're treating two kindergarteners like common thieves, even though they were under parental supervision when the incident occurred, and for what?

I've heard of cruel tricks on Halloween, but this is just flat wrong.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spook Rock: The Lurch (1965)

Oh, for the days when variety shows dotted the schedule in much the same way "reality" shows do today. Shindig was one of those shows that routinely featured stars of other ABC shows of the period. Shindig! also spawned some imitations, one of which was the syndicated Shivaree, which lasted just 1 season. In the Shivaree clip presented here, The Addams Family's Ted Cassidy, appearing in character, of course, performed his novelty hit, "The Lurch", named for his character on the show.

The only other time that Cassidy did any actual "singing", if you can call it that, was when he performed the theme to the animated series, Atom Ant, which also premiered in 1965.

Now, let's see how many radio stations can, ah, dig this up on Halloween......!

James MacArthur (1937-2010)

News has just come across the wires of the passing of actor James MacArthur at the age of 72.

MacArthur, the son of stage & screen legend Helen Hayes, is best remembered, of course, as Danny "Danno" Williams in the original Hawaii Five-0 (1968-80), but he also had a relatively modest film career of his own, with credits including "Kidnapped" & "Swiss Family Robinson". Perhaps the proudest moment of his career came MacArthur acted with his mother in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 in 1975. Miss Hayes had come off a short run in NBC's Snoop Sisters when she appeared on Five-0. MacArthur left the series 4 years later, prior to the start of the series' final season.

More than likely, there will be a tribute dedication graphic attached to a forthcoming episode of the current Five-0, in which Scott Caan, a second generation actor himself, plays Williams.

Rest in peace, James.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dunce Cap Award: Gene Steratore (& friends)

Steratore, of course, exhibited the stereotype of game officials that has been perpetuated for seemingly forever on Sunday when he ignored the obvious, and mis-ruled a fumble in favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went on to beat Miami as a result. Of course, the Dolphins have a gripe, but as of this writing, the NFL hasn't issued any sort of apology for this act of incompetence. The conspiracy theorists, and there are probably quite a few in Dolphin teal & white, will point to the fact that Steratore is a Pittsburgh native, so some home town bias might have been at work. That theory can't be proven or disproven, but at the end of the day, Steratore goofed, plain & simple.

Should the two teams meet in the playoffs, maybe the Dolphins should petition the league to have anyone but Steratore be the referee. Or, at the very least, have the arbiter take a lie detector test to prove he wasn't on the take. It's either that, or serve coffee instead of beer at the concessions that day......

Spook Rock: Dead Man's Party (1985)

From the Rodney Dangerfield comedy, "Back to School", Oingo Boingo serves up a devilishly hot rock track from the film's soundtrack. And speaking of devilish, that would describe singer Danny Elfman's facial expressions early in the clip, uploaded to YouTube by njstud1980:

I am not sure if this has been used in an actual horror movie. It probably has, but this is the only clip I could find.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When is a nut not a nut?

This week's "Weasel", Grim LeRogue, tells the New York Daily News in today's edition that his bull-rush onto the field at Yankee Stadium earlier this week wasn't as malicious as was originally reported. Instead, it was all a publicity stunt to sell a book, which, unlike our initial report, has nothing to do with 9/11. Instead, it's some self-help manual aimed at kids. Unsurprisingly, LeRogue is currently being treated at Bellevue, and now he's trying to distance himself from the more negative images of the incident, including a picture of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez with a gun drawn on the picture and aimed at his head.

What Mr. LeRogue, nee John Rogan, fails to understand is that in these sensitive times, the media will assume the worst when they see something controversial and/or dangerous in content. No amount of self-spin-doctoring will completely reverse the initial press diagnosis, if you will, but let's give the guy a little credit for trying to be contrite.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Grim LeRogue

If it happened anyplace else during the baseball playoffs, it wouldn't get as much play in the papers as it does now. However, because it's 1) New York, and 2) the target was Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, it becomes a bigger story than it has any right to be.

The man calling himself Grim LeRogue, born John Rogan, ran onto the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday, bent on attacking Rodriguez, simply because he wanted to make an impression on Rodriguez's actress-girlfriend, Cameron Diaz. It turns out that not only has LeRogue had a long standing hatred of Rodriguez for whatever reason (excessively rich might be a start), but he's also----feel free to cringe---a fan of Osama bin Laden, and is under the delusional impression that bin Laden, in turn, is in love with singer-actress Whitney Houston, and was bent on killing Houston's estranged husband, singer Bobby Brown. While we can't confirm anything related to bin Laden, we're sure LeRogue hasn't got a clue.

According to a New York Daily News article today, a friend of LeRogue's believes that this week's weasel did this stunt to call attention to a 9/11 conspiracy tome he is shopping. Just what we don't need. Another idiot buying into baseless conspiracy theories about the 9/11/01 terror attacks. He's being evaluated at Lincoln Hospital, according to the article. Ok, so Bellevue wasn't available. Maybe they ran out of beds.

What we also learned is that LeRogue is a high school dropout. That was his first mistake. While he might've gained a few fans for trying to kill Rodriguez, a pariah in baseball circles because of past admissions of use of performance enhancers, coupled with the excessively high salary he commands (courtesy of Scott Boras), LeRogue made his biggest mistake by making his play on a national stage. While he might not have been caught on camera, he did end up making headlines. For all the wrong reasons.

Heaven has a new disc jockey (Boom Boom Brannigan 1918-2010)

To listeners in upstate New York, he was their answer to national icons such as Dick Clark and Wolfman Jack. He was also one of the last old school disc jockeys still working into the present day. Today, the radio & television community in New York is mourning Joseph Motto, alias Boom Boom Brannigan, who passed away Wednesday at 82.

The only time I saw Brannigan in person, the impression I gleaned from seeing this man was that maybe, just maybe, he was separated at birth somehow from the late singer Roy Orbison. He had the same hair, not quite the same style sunglasses. It was at an outdoor concert in Albany sometime in the late 90's, if memory serves. I didn't get to talk to the man, but the fact that he was still active in radio in, at the time, his fifth decade in the business, was amazing.

Brannigan is best remembered for having spun the hits at WPTR & WABY in the 50's, 60's, & 70's, and even owned a station of his own during the 90's. Whomever said that James Brown was "the hardest working man in show business", apparently never met Boom Boom Brannigan.

Rest in peace, Boom Boom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Johnny Sheffield (1931-2010)

Fellow blogger Sam Wilson (Mondo 70, Think 3 Institute) just tipped me off to the news that Johnny Sheffield has passed away.

Sheffield, who debuted opposite Johnny Weismuller in "Tarzan Finds a Son", then went on to play another jungle hero, Bomba the Jungle Boy, succumbed to a heart attack on October 15 at the age of 79. Sheffield retired from acting after the Bomba series ended in the mid-50's.

They say celebrity deaths often come in threes, and this time, there was a particular theme, as Sam pointed out in responding to my earlier posting on Tom Bosley. We first lost a mother figure (Barbara Billingsley), then a father (Bosley), and now a child (Sheffield). Very strange.

Rest in peace, Johnny.

Tom Bosley (1927-2010)

Word has just gotten out on the passing of another cherished television favorite.

Veteran character actor Tom Bosley has passed away after a bout with heart failure at 83. After making the rounds as a guest star on several series during the 60's and early 70's, Bosley was cast as hardware salesman Howard Cunningham on Happy Days. The role had been originated by Harold Gould in a pilot episode on Love, American Style, but when Gould became unavailable due to scheduling conflicts, Bosley took his place, and the rest is history. After Happy Days ended its run, Bosley began taking on more dramatic parts, most notably as Sheriff Amos Tucker on Murder, She Wrote, before leaving for his first starring role in The Father Dowling Mysteries as a crime-solving priest.

Bosley also lent his voice to a number of animated series & specials, including the syndicated series Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home (1972), and the American version of The World of David the Gnome, which aired on Nickelodeon in the 80's and early 90's. Bosley also narrated the Rankin-Bass Christmas special, The Stingiest Man in Town, a sort-of adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". During his run on Happy Days, Bosley did a series of commercials for Glad trash bags.

Rest in peace, Tom. You'll be missed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bob McNamara (1934-2010)

Many of us who grew up in upstate New York during the 60's and 7o's became acquainted with sportswriter-turned-sportscaster par excellent Bob McNamara, who passed away over the weekend at 76.

McNamara started his career with the Knickerbocker News before shifting to television, and making his on-air debut with WTEN in 1966. My first memory of him, however, was after he'd moved to WRGB sometime in the early 70's. He was, in this writer's opinion, one of the first reporters to put an emphasis on high school sports in our area, showcasing the most outstanding players of the week during football & basketball season. McNamara moved to WNYT in the 80's, where he retired, albeit reluctantly, in 2001 after a public dust-up with a PBA volunteer at a regional tournament in Latham. The station suspended McNamara, who opted instead to retire rather than serve out the suspension and return to work, choosing to relocate to Florida. His career as a sports journalist was over.

Rest in peace, Bob. You've earned it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Carl Paladino

The Republican candidate for Governor stuck his foot in his mouth with some insensitive remarks directed at gays earlier this week, and while Paladino has back-tracked, predictably, reports have surfaced linking Paladino as the owner of at least one or two buildings that had housed gay bars. Whether Paladino realized or not to whom he was renting the spaces, maybe he should've checked his records before giving the NYC tabloids plenty of front page fodder for a couple of days.

Not surprisingly, Paladino has been characterized by the media as being homophobic, and his remarks may in fact come back to haunt him in next month's general election, because he may have completely alienated a key voting bloc. It's not the sort of thing that the Tea Party wants to have to deal with as November 2 approaches, but then, for the GOP in general, if Paladino is the best they can offer to challenge Andrew Cuomo, well, they might as well gift-wrap the keys to the executive mansion.

Last I knew, the last Buffalo businessman who tried to run for Governor, Tom Golisano, didn't make this kind of noise, and didn't have to. Paladino, though, is giving Buffalo a worse name than the Bills are in the NFL. Who'da thunk that was possible?

Two more for the reaper

The news has crossed my desk of two celebrity passings today.

First, and foremost, cherished TV housewife Barbara Billingsley (Leave it to Beaver) passed away at 94. Ms. Billingsley had not been seen much since the last TV revival of Beaver had ended some years back. She also won over a generation of children as the voice behind the nanny on Jim Henson's Muppet Babies during the 80's.

Speaking of the 80's, British actor Simon MacCorkindale gained a fair amount of fame here in the US starring in one of Glen Larsen's rare bombs, Manimal, which lasted one season on NBC. MacCorkindale would move on to shows such as Falcon Crest and Counterstrike, the latter a cable series that lasted about a year or two in the early 90's. MacCorkindale passed away at 57 after a bout with cancer.

Rest in peace, Barbara & Simon, you'll be missed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On DVD: "Black Magic", aka "Meeting at Midnight" (1944)

No one would ever think there would be any sort of supernatural content in a Charlie Chan mystery, but such was the case in 1944's "Black Magic", which, when it was aired on television, was retitled, "Meeting at Midnight", for reasons unknown.

Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland), who had joined up with Team Chan by this time, has signed on as a butler for a wealthy couple who are holding a seance. We are also introduced to Chan's daughter, Frances (coincidentally played by an actress named Frances Chan), whom Dad refers to as the "Beauty of the Chan family". Oh, indeed. Anyway, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is called in when the police determine Frances is a suspect in a murder.

The Chans and Birmingham are in nearly every scene the rest of the way, and this movie flies by very quickly. Just to illustrate the absurdity of it all, Charlie pretends to be a psychic to joke around with the local police, and has some sort of gimmick strapped to his back. He ends up captured by the villain and, under hypnosis, is made to walk to the roof of a tall building, but Chan wakes up in time. Ultimately, he decides he's going to conduct a seance of his own to unmask the killer.

Let's just say that the killer isn't who you'd think it is, and leave it at that.

Not the best in the series, of course, and Toler had better outings than this one.

Edit, 5/3/17: Here is the complete film. 

Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On DVD: Tarzan & the Lost City (1996)

One advantage to having a day off from work is having time to play some DVDs that have collected dust on my shelf for way, way too long. And, then, there's the harsh reality that there were some bad investments sitting there.

Critics panned "Tarzan & the Lost City" when it came to theatres in 1996, and I wondered why. It just happened that I bought the DVD practically dirt cheap, which should've been a sign.

Anyway, our story has Tarzan (Casper Van Dien, "Starship Troopers"), just days away from marrying his lady love, Jane Porter (Jane March) when he gets a vision of an African village burned to the ground by treasure hunters trying to find the lost city of Opar. Jane's not digging the idea of Tarzan, aka John Clayton, aka Lord Greystoke, heading back to Africa, but she follows him anyway. Nigel Ravens may make claims of historical discoveries when it comes to seeking Opar, but it's the jewels and other riches that are luring him. You know, the usual lust & greed that get in the way of common sense.

But as Tarzan discovers, his time away from the jungle has made him soft in the eyes of some of the native tribesmen. Now, he has two challenges. One, to protect and preserve Opar, and, two, to restore his heroic reputation.

Now I begin to understand why the critics were all over this movie like a cheap suit. It's just that. Cheap. As Tarzan, Van Dien just doesn't fit the part. Looks too much like a yuppie. Small wonder that there wasn't a sequel.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's the trailer:

Rating: D.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weasel of the Week: Dioner Navarro

Two years ago, Dioner Navarro was the starting catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who at one time was a top prospect of the Yankees.

Today, however, with the Rays on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Texas Rangers, Navarro is nowhere to be found in the Rays' dugout. Navarro, in a clear case of "what have you done for us lately", was left off the Rays' ALDS roster in favor of Kelly Shoppach, whom the Rays acquired from Cleveland in the off-season, and rookie John Jaso. Navarro's not the only one who was left off the 25-man roster, but others who were, such as Willy Aybar, remained with the team, ready to be activated at a moment's notice in case of an injury or managerial decision. Aybar, in fact, was added to the roster, replacing comeback kid Rocco Baldelli after Wednesday's 5-1 loss.

It may seem like sour grapes, but Navarro should know better. His actions suggest that his next move may be to ask the Rays to either cut him or trade him, allowing him to ply his trade elsewhere next year. I'm sure the Yankees would love to have him back, only they already have a heir apparent to Jorge Posada in second year man Francisco Cervelli. The Rays will happily oblige, provided that, if they trade him, they get something of value in return. Letting him become a free agent does nothing for the Rays in the long term.

Navarro does get something out of this post-season, though. A set of weasel ears.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Representing in name only.....

This has been bothering me for a while now, and I feel it's time I addressed an issue ignored by the local press.

While my home city of Troy celebrated the Tri City Valleycats' rise to the NY-Penn League championship last month, there were two other teams that claim to call Troy home, but don't play their home games there. Instead, they're playing in Schenectady.

The Hellions of Troy, a women's roller derby team, had their home matches at Frear Park's ice rink last year. I'm not certain about attendance figures, but when fliers for the 2010 season began appearing, one glaring change caught my attention. Instead of returning to Frear Park for a 2nd season, the Hellions moved their home base all the way to Schenectady, specifically at Rollerama. What was wrong with staying in town and moving to the Knickerbocker Ice Arena in Lansingburgh, if there was a problem with Frear? Were they drawing enough people to Frear at all?

The one problem I could see with Frear was that it was off the bus line. By moving across town to Lansingburgh, it'd be a little easier for folks to take the bus, needing only to walk 3 blocks east to reach the arena.

A tougher pill to swallow has to do with the Troy Fighting Irish, a semi-pro football team that is playing for its league's championship this weekend, which, if they win, gives the city their 2nd championship in as many months. However, after playing their home games at Troy High the last couple of years, the Irish moved to Schenectady High this year.

In each case, there was no mention of why the teams moved to the Electric City, leaving only speculation as to the reasons for the moves. I would submit that during the summer months, attendance would be a problem, with most folks gravitating to Joe Bruno Stadium to see the Valleycats, but nothing was ever stated in the press that I could discern.

For the Hellions, there are no league titles to be had, that I know of, but for the Fighting Irish of the Collar City, a league championship rings a little hollow this year, because they're actually representing Troy in name only on the field. It would be in the best interests of the teams and the city to return to Troy in 2011. That's all that's really needed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Time to put the haters in their place

Today, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Albert Snyder vs. Fred Phelps, the controversial pastor of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. At issue is whether or not Phelps' now-infamous protests at military funerals, including the one for Snyder's son, Matthew, fall under First Amendment guidelines protecting freedom of speech.

Phelps and his congregation have made headlines for their extremist, anti-gay views, claiming that God is punishing America for its tolerance of gays & lesbians. No, He's not. Matthew Snyder died serving his country, and, as his father alleges, Phelps and his group tarnished the funeral with their presence.

Marge Phelps, daughter of the pastor and lawyer for the church, has argued that the only way Albert Snyder even knew they were at the funeral was from reading news accounts. Albert Snyder is claiming that the Westboro congregation intentionally inflicted emotional stress. Who's right and who's wrong is now up to the Supreme Court to decide.

However, the actions of the Westboro congregation have been shameful, disrespectful, and irresponsible. Fred Phelps has come across as being irrational in his hatred of gays & lesbians. Nearly 35 years ago, Anita Bryant publicly railed against gays & lesbians, giving up an endorsement deal to do commercials for Florida orange juice, but she never went so far as to attend a total stranger's funeral to force her views on anyone else. Fred Phelps has crossed too many lines in trying to impose his viewpoint on others, and while some analysts believe that Phelps will get the benefit of the doubt, it will be the wrong decision.

A funeral is a solemn occasion. A crackpot with an axe to grind has no business being anywhere near it for any reason whatsoever. Phelps' habit of holding protests at military funerals, such as the one for Matthew Snyder, ruins the sanctity of the occasion, and it needs to be stopped. If Phelps wins, it's a win for anti-gay groups because they'll be given license to copy Phelps' tactics, only instead they'd probably trespass onto the cemetery just to get on the news. This is a case where the First Amendment cannot be used to justify the actions of a hate-mongering group that already is smearing the Bible's teachings with their rhetoric.