Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Charlie Sheen

Lindsay Lohan should take notes and try not to follow the lead of this week's weasel.

Charlie Sheen may have just flushed his career right down the toilet in one fell swoop. In an interview with radio shock jock Alex Jones, Sheen dared CBS to pull his hit sitcom, Two And a Half Men, off the air because of his off-air antics, which have become fodder for the tabloids.

Twice in the last few months (at the very least), Sheen, son of actor-activist Martin Sheen, has landed on the front pages of the tabloids after being either arrested or hospitalized---or both---after violent berserker rages following binges on drugs and alcohol. In one instance, he trashed a hotel room and locked up his roommate du jour, a 20-year old porn actress, in a closet, naked. Sheen just can't stay away from the vices that are ruining his career. He's grown up in the decadence of Hollywood, and doesn't know how to live any other way. He's gone through one marriage after another for the same reason. Rehab, anger management course, therapy. None of this is helping him at all.

Earlier today, Sheen called into the Jones show and fired off a rant against Alcoholics Anonymous, CBS, & Chuck Lorre, the creator-producer of Two And a Half Men, and issued his challenge to CBS to pull the show. Real smart, Charlie. NOT! It seems fitting that he chose Jones' broadcast to vent his spleen. Jones is one of those conspiracy nuts who has written books and produced videos presenting his viewpoints, however skewed they might be. Sheen may have given Jones enough ammunition to launch into some vitriol of his own toward the television industry, or Hollywood in general. A short time ago, CBS called Sheen's bluff, and placed Two And a Half Men on hiatus for the rest of the season, discontinuing production.

In truth, it's the prudent thing to do. Sheen, on the surface at least, is unwilling to listen to reason, and while he had reportedly entered rehab to address his issues, it doesn't appear as though he's taking it very seriously. If he did, he wouldn't have put his career in jeopardy with his antics over the last three months.

Think back to his role as erratic pitcher Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn in "Major League". Substitute Charlie Sheen's personal life for the baseball diamond. Sheen has let the success of his television show---and the Hanes commercials with Michael Jordan---go to his head. Off screen, however, Sheen has forgotten one important asset. Self-control. He either is unwilling to fully immerse himself in rehabilitation to cure his addictions, or would rather embrace those addictions at the risk of his career, if not, at worst, his life. Insofar as we know, he hasn't been accused of shoplifting, unlike Lindsay Lohan, who's half Sheen's age, and yet is also putting her career at risk because she can't seem to stay out of trouble. Ms. Lohan's facing jail time for supposedly stealing a necklace, and is wearing one of those ankle bracelets that are supposed to guard against the use of alcohol.

As I said at the beginning, Lindsay should pay close attention to Charlie Sheen's situation, and, using reverse psychology, commit herself to rehabilitating her career before it's too late. In Charlie's case, if it isn't too late, it may be sooner than anyone thinks. In his 1984 hit, "The Authority Song", John Mellencamp wrote that "I fight authority, authority always wins". Today, CBS was the authority, and all Charlie Sheen gets as a consolation prize is a set of weasel ears.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dwayne McDuffie (1962-2011)

Comics and animation fans will recognize the name of Dwayne McDuffie for his work in both fields over the last 20-25 years. McDuffie started his career as a writer for first Marvel, and later DC Comics, and was one of the co-founders of Milestone Media, a company that specialized in creating African-American superheroes.

McDuffie passed away on Monday, one day after his 49th birthday, less than a week after attending a premiere for WB's latest DC direct-to-video movie, All Star Superman, which, ironically, is in stores today. McDuffie wrote the script for the film, and had previously shepherded one of his Milestone creations, Static, to television, leading to the Kids' WB! series, Static Shock, which launched in 2000. McDuffie was also a writer and producer for Justice League Unlimited, and while at Marvel created the miniseries, Damage Control, as well as having written a revival of the 70's anti-hero, Deathlok.

As of this writing, no one is sure about the cause of death, but what is certain is that a very talented, innovative, creative force was taken too soon. Rest in peace, Dwayne.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The WWE needs a creative writing course

The following was originally published on my blog, The Reaction Zone. I've edited it just a tad, since it was written on 2/18.
Six nights ago on Smackdown, the world found out the worst kept secret on the show. It was Dolph Ziggler who'd ambushed Teddy Long in his office 4 weeks ago, and Long himself returned to force the confession from Ziggler's co-conspirator and soon to be ex-lover, the covetous Vickie Guerrero, who claimed Dolph dreamed up the plot.

Now, Dolph (Nick Nemeth) is a sharp cookie, being a college graduate and all, but even he knows better than to assault his boss, knowing what the consequences would be. Vickie lied to have Edge "fired", a desperate act to give her boy toy the World title when Ziggler couldn't win it on his own. That didn't even last the night, and Ziggler goes into the WWE's record books as another 5:00 champion (think Jillian Hall a couple of years ago after cheating Mickie James out of the Divas title), but he shouldn't be.

Let's go back and put this into perspective.

On January 21, Long confronted the Corre (Wade Barrett/Ezekiel Jackson/Heath Slater/Justin Gabriel). During a match between Alberto Del Rio and visiting Raw superstar R-Truth, Long is ambushed in his office. The first responders? Vickie Guerrero & Dolph Ziggler, the two people who stood to gain the most from Teddy's prolonged absence. With Vickie's track record, Smackdown was in trouble. Vickie would stop at nothing, with no one to checkmate her, to screw her "ex-husband", Edge, out of the World title. She might've succeeded, too, if not for Long's timely return. Like, did you really think they'd hold him off until they came to his home city of Atlanta for Wrestlemania? Hmmmm, well.......of course not.

Guerrero immediately threw suspicion onto the Corre, who of course denied it. For once, Barrett & his crew were innocent. Perhaps sensing that Long would be returning soon, Guerrero got desperate, and concocted a tall tale about having evidence that would prove Edge did the deed. Unfortunately, as any fan of mysteries would tell you, Vickie had actually given away the real culprit. Her motive was obvious to everyone.

That brings us to Friday. A 12 man tag was scheduled as the main event, but was bumped to the curtain jerker spot so Vickie could continue with her power abuses. That was the wrong way to book the show.

Instead, the correct booking would've been for Vickie to be out to open the show. Edge would then come out, categorically deny any involvement, and his proof would be in the form of the returning Long. It would take about 5 minutes for Guerrero's plot to totally unravel. She'd accuse Ziggler, as we saw, but if the writers had any sense at all, they'd let Ziggler speak for himself and dump Vickie, revealing that it was her idea all along. Long had already figured out the motive. The power-hungry widow wanted the GM's job back, but couldn't openly plot against Long.

Also, unless Ziggler is either moving to Raw or being assigned to Tough Enough (which has begun taping), creative took the wrong person off the show. Guerrero should've been "fired" in answer for the irrational, "wrongful termination" of Kelly Kelly two weeks ago. Expect Kelly to return tonight at Elimination Chamber or next Friday, unless she too is involved in the new Tough Enough. Vickie's daughter, Shaul, is in training at FCW, and from what I read, Vickie came off as a babyface at a recent show. As a heel, her act is stale, and she has no redeeming value. What better way for her to be sent down to learn how to adopt a face persona than to get her comeuppance once and for all, disappear for a few months, then return as Shaul's manager. Of course, the temptation is there for Vickie to retain some heel characteristics, but that would be the wrong way to go. Vince McMahon has too much invested in Vickie to pull her off television at the moment. Problem is, that's the direction they need to take right now. The "nuclear" heat that Vickie generates on a weekly basis could easily become "X-Pac heat" if it goes on too much longer. The fans see her as being a teflon heel, someone you can't get rid of, no matter how hard you try.

However, there is an opening. Say Ziggler shows up tonight, hat in hand, asking Long for an opportunity to tell his side of the story. Remember, going into Friday, Smackdown had 2 faces (Edge & Rey Mysterio) and 4 (now 3) heels in the Elimination Chamber. Dolph could turn face by handing up Vickie as the brains behind the whole scheme, which everyone already has figured, since it appears creative isn't interested in a face run for Drew McIntyre just yet. Since Vickie threw Ziggler under the bus, why not return the favor? Unfortunately, the creative teams the WWE employs lack the proper training to craft a proper storyline from beginning to end.

The solution is real simple. Hire someone to put the writers, most of them Hollywood rejects and/or comics geeks (i.e. Brian Gewirtz), through a complete creative writing course. For some, it might be a refresher course, but the only other alternative is to go old school and let the wrestlers collaborate and create their own storylines. Triple H, an old schooler at his core, could be the man to bring about that sort of change if/when he steps in to succeed the creatively fading Vince McMahon, and that can't come soon enough.

As it is, I had Vickie & Dolph pegged 4 weeks ago. It just played out like an ordinary television show. Smackdown---and Raw, for that matter--aren't ordinary television shows. From a creative point of view, however, they are designed like they are, and that is the WWE's biggest problem. One that Vince McMahon insists on ignoring, but can no longer afford to do so.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Man vs. Machine: Who won?

Over the last three nights, Jeopardy! has presented "The IBM Challenge", in which the company entered a super computer, Watson, into a two-game series against two of Jeopardy!'s most successful contestants, Ken Jennings & Brad Rutter. I watched the show the first two nights, during which the first game was played, and missed the second game due to other commitments.

What did we learn? For one thing, Watson was, at first, fallible, and after the first night, Rutter was tied with Watson. Jennings, surprisingly, was having trouble keeping up. On Tuesday, it was over in a hurry, as Watson, adapting to the game as it went along, blew away the competition. Wednesday night's game, as I understand, was more of the same, as Watson earned the $1,000,000 first prize, which is being donated to Worldvision. In terms of game play, Watson accumulated over $75,000 in cash winnings over the three nights, a figure that some human contestants can reach in the same amount of time or less, depending on skills. In short, Watson made this game seem-----wait for it----elementary.

The reason the first game stretched over two nights was because the show was turned into a partial infomercial to explain the development of Watson and the genesis of "The IBM Challenge". Things return to normal tonight, but one wonders if this could be duplicated on other shows, like, say for example, To Tell The Truth, should that be revived again. I highly doubt it, but if they come up with another computer named Holmes........!

On DVD: Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

Based on the acclaimed DC Comics miniseries written & illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, "Justice League: The New Frontier" takes a different look at just how our favorite heroes came together against a common threat. Wonderalan uploaded the trailer to YouTube:

The casting is, to be succinct, eclectic. There is the predictable, such as Lucy Lawless, who will be forever remembered for her star-making role as Xena, Warrior Princess, as the voice of Wonder Woman. You then have Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as the Flash, David Boreanaz (Bones) as Green Lantern, and Kyle MacLachlan (ex-Twin Peaks) as Superman. Where they made a mistake was in using Jeremy Sisto (ex-Law & Order) as Batman. It was not a perfect fit. On the other hand, Miguel Ferrer (ex-Crossing Jordan) was cast as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, and was a better fit in that role than Carl Lumbly was on Justice League & Justice League Unlimited .

The story moves at a rapid pace, clocking in at a mere 75 minutes, which meant that Cooke's story had to be compressed when it really shouldn't have. A more thorough, complete, made-for-cable miniseries, to match the books themselves, which I've read, would've made more sense. There are special features attached, including a timeline history of the Justice League and its comics forebears, the Justice Society, which is worth watching.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Death has been busy lately

There have been quite a few fatalities the last few days, so it's time to catch up.

Betty Garrett may be remembered more for the television roles that resurrected her career in the 70's than the work she did in movie musicals, starring with the likes of Frank Sinatra & Red Skelton, among others, years before. Our generation is familiar with Ms. Garrett from supporting roles on All In The Family and Laverne & Shirley. Betty passed away on Sunday at 91.

While he never headlined his own show, Kenneth Mars was a reliable supporting player, having appeared in Mel Brooks' original "The Producers" & "Young Frankenstein", and had a recurring gig on He & She back in the 60's. Mars was 75 when he passed away last weekend.

Chuck Tanner's only World Series win was as the manager of the "We Are Family"-era Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979. Tanner also managed in Chicago (White Sox), Atlanta, & Oakland during his career. He was 81.

Finally, the New York Buzz of World Team Tennis became the latest local sports franchise to disappear, merging with the downstate NY Sportimes for the 2011 season, and thus the Buzz have "died" after 16 seasons (1995-2010), the last couple of which were played indoors in Albany, first at the Washington Avenue Armory, then at SEFCU Arena on the campus of the State University at Albany, where two matches will be played this summer.

What killed the Buzz was, predictably, a lack of buzz at the box office. People weren't willing to support the team unless they were able to bring in A-list stars from the pro circuit, which happened 2-3 times a year. The Buzz had a short season schedule, anyway, and most people might've considered them an afterthought, especially with the NY-Penn League's Tri City Valleycats right across the river. In order to pay for the opportunity to bring in the likes of Martina Hingis, among others, the Buzz had to charge extra for tickets, a practice that gets decried in New York City when the Mets & Yankees jack up prices for games involving marquee players from visiting teams (i.e. Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Ichiro).

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sometimes you can go home again.......

A sure sign that World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon is feeling the heat of financial competition from the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) is McMahon's announcement on the February 7 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw that there would be a guest host at Wrestlemania 27, scheduled for April 3 in Atlanta. One week later, on Valentine's Day, after a week of speculation, the host was revealed to be a former champion making a triumphant homecoming.

Dwayne Johnson, also known as "The Rock", leaked the news himself on his Twitter account on Sunday, but most folks thought it might be a tease. Shortly before 11 pm (ET) on Monday, the "tease" became reality, as Johnson stepped back into the persona that propelled him into superstardom more than a decade ago. While Johnson stated that he wasn't going to be at Wrestlemania to promote his next film ("Fast Five"), there will be people, especially the ones in charge of gossip shows and websites, who will make the connection nonetheless. Johnson, in the course of a nearly 20 minute promo, made some cutting remarks toward current champion and fellow crossover star Michael "The Miz" Mizanin, as well as John Cena, who'd reportedly had made some remarks about Johnson over the last year or two.

The pieces of the puzzle come together rather quickly, you see. Unable to lure former WWE & UFC champion Brock Lesnar back into the fold, McMahon went to plan B and, having all but discontinued the practice of having guest hosts on Raw (actress Ariel Winter of Modern Family, who is co-starring with Triple H in "The Chaperone", opening this weekend, was the unadvertised guest last night), and having previously fielded rumors of Johnson hosting Raw in much the same manner that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin did last year, offered Johnson the opportunity to return, 7 years after his last Wrestlemania appearance. Johnson joked that singer Justin Bieber, who is rumored to be Atlanta-bound that weekend, was offered the host's job first, but no one seemed to be buying that story.

7 years ago, Lesnar battled Bill Goldberg in what would be the last match for both men with WWE. Goldberg retired, and, of course, we know what's happened to Lesnar. Austin was the referee for that match. Now, picture the same scenario with or without the WWE title on the line, and substitute Mizanin, Cena, & Johnson, in that order, for Lesnar, Goldberg, & Austin. The difference this time is that Cena & Mizanin are assured of sticking around beyond Wrestlemania, but it's easy to picture Johnson "laying the smack down" on both Miz & Cena, the same way Austin did with Lesnar & Goldberg before him.

Rest assured that the one thing that McMahon accomplished Monday was proving Thomas Wolfe wrong. Sometimes, you can go home again.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter in the City 2011----a shameful sight

When I first moved downtown in 1979, just weeks before my 16th birthday, we'd experienced a pattern of winter weather somewhat similar to what we've had this season so far. The snowbanks that line our streets today are about the same size or bigger than they were 32 years ago. Another common thread in this case is the lack of action taken by the Public Works departments in the cities of our region.

Those same snowbanks are making traffic more of a hazard than usual, and so far, as of this writing, it is left up to each business or homeowner to arrange for snow removal to clear space. One prominent store chain hired a dumptruck to clear their parking lot about a week ago. Too bad they didn't consider the sidewalks around the store's outer perimeter. The DPW crews are nowhere to be found, as if they don't think they have the responsibility. Guess what, guys? You do.

Equally appalling is the lack of rock salt on the sidewalks to melt down the ice. Sure, the forecast calls for warmer temperatures this week, but then you have the threat of flooding. A threat that could've been avoided if the DPW crews were able to clear the snowbanks in a proper, orderly manner. This is not just confined to my hometown, either, by the way. It's the same where I work and attend church (2 other cities). The sidewalks become narrower and more dangerous. In Watervliet, for example, I get off the bus at the Elks Club in order to get to church, but the street corner is covered with a snowbank almost as tall as myself. You have to get about halfway down the block before getting onto the sidewalk, navigating a minefield of ice patches as you go. It's not fun. One misstep, and you fall flat on your face or on your backside.

The only thing I'm asking for here, pilgrims, is a little cooperation from the DPW's to clear the streets before there's a threat of flooding. The DPW's, rightfully, should be working in collaboration with homeowners and businesses to clear the snow, and I'm not sure if that's the case at all. We don't want to risk any and unnecessary lawsuits now, don't we?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Video Valentine: "So Much In Love" (late 70's)

"So Much In Love" was originally recorded by the Tymes in the 60's, and to my knowledge has only charted twice more. The Eagles' Timothy B. Schmidt recorded a solo version for the 1982 movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", and All 4 One recorded an a capella version about 10 years later. Before either one of those versions, however, comes this offering, courtesy of Sha Na Na, from an episode sometime in the late 70's, I think. Johnny Contardo is serenading Ginger (Pamela Myers, who was also the show's announcer), while the rest of the boys kibitz to get the laughs. Too bad no one saw fit to try to release this cover as a single.....! Uploaded by Faerydancer to YouTube:

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Dunce Cap Award: Jerry Jones

Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is shouldering some of the blame, along with the NFL, for a seating snafu at Super Bowl 45 that left 400 fans without seats for the big game.

You see, there was some construction that was supposed to be done in time for the game, but Old Man Winter put a crimp in those plans with an ice storm that disrupted plans to put some additional seats in Cowboys Stadium, Jones' Palace of Excess in Arlington. League officials are saying today that they thought the problem would've been fixed by game day. No such luck. The league is offering freebies, including tickets to next year's game in Indianapolis, but what if the newly crowned World Champion Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers don't make it back for the game next year, assuming there is a 2011 season with the threat of a lockout looming? A refund would be nice, but the league's not willing, it seems to pony up the money anytime soon.

That's where Jones, who spent two lifetimes' worth of savings on his new stadium, could offer some relief. A blogger on Yahoo! noted the expenses incurred by those 400 fans in traveling from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere to make it to Arlington for the experience of being at the Super Bowl. With his deep pockets, Jones could prevail upon the league to reimburse those fans the full expenditures.

This is one of those cases where the league and its owners, as well as its players, often characterized in labor disputes as being shallow and greedy, could put that aside, and in a grand gesture to the fans across the league, band together to offer restitution. Will that happen? It should, but it doesn't mean it will.

As that blogger noted, Jones and his staff had plenty of time well before the ice storm hit. Cowboys Stadium had been idle since the Cotton Bowl last month, meaning that they had nearly a full month to put those seats in place and secure the structure. As the poet Robert Burns wrote, the best laid plans of mice & men often go astray. And so it did for Jerry Jones, the 1st 2011 recipient of the Dunce Cap.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Irving Picard

Picard is a legal trustee entrusted with recouping monies lost by victims of convicted financier/con artist Bernard Madoff. However, he made headlines this past week when someone on his legal team leaked contents of a sealed document that alleged that the owners of the New York Mets had actually profited from Madoff's illegal dealings, and weren't so much the victims they've claimed to be.

Predictably, Fred & Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz fired back, dismissing the claims as baseless, painting a picture of Picard as another greedy ambulance chaser, as he is seeking $300 million from the Mets, who now are looking for a minority partner to help run the team.

Talk about kicking someone when they're down. The Mets seem to have been cursed, given the rash of injuries that have short-circuited their efforts the last two years in their new ballpark, Citi Field. To them, Picard is piling on. Picard is claiming the Wilpons & Katz knew about Madoff's dealings. They say, no way. How could they, when Madoff fleeced them as well? All Picard is doing, the Wilpons argue, is going after the biggest fish out there, and that's them.

To Picard, I say, if you can't prove anything, then back off, apologize, and at the very least offer to help rather than hinder the Wilpons' efforts to reorganize. As another famous Picard often said, "Make it so!". Until then, you're just another weasel.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tyler Perry's new Cross to bear

There is already much debate online as to the decision to cast actor-filmmaker Tyler Perry as detective Alex Cross in the next feature film adaptation of one of James Patterson's novels. Perry would be filling the gumshoes left by Morgan Freeman, whom one must assume won't be available whilst filming "The Dark Knight Rises", which is due next year, but the selection of Perry by director Rob Cohen ("The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor") has raised eyebrows. Reading the report on Yahoo! and the subsequent feedback, there are folks already raising the prospect of Denzel Washington instead of Perry.

Look, cut them some slack, ok?

Perry is well known for his "Madea" series of urban comedy-dramas, with another due later this year, and has 2 sitcoms on cable (House of Payne & Meet the Browns, both also airing in syndication as well as on TBS). It's been 18 years since Freeman first played Alex Cross in "Along Came a Spider", and the understandable rationale is that the producers want someone younger. Perry's willing to take the risk and try to prove himself capable of acting in a production not of his own making. I get that he wants to raise his profile and avoid being typecast. I applaud the initiative. Now, let's see what happens.