If you read only one blog full of ranting and raving about sports (local and otherwise), movies, TV shows, miscellaneous pop culture, life and other assorted flotsam and jetsam, make it this one!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My iTunes Shuffle Baker's Dozen 9-17-13

Okay, so this is just another sort of placeholder to show that this blog hasn't officially died...although honestly, I'm not quite sure why I keep posting (when I actually do, that is, and don't procrastinate on things like writing about the movies I've seen recently -- five, although none in the last two weeks)...

Someday We'll Be Together - Diana Ross and the Supremes
Bullet Proof Soul - Sade
Dance, Freak & Boogie - Nitelife Unlimited
Please (You Got That) - INXS
Say Say Say - Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
Cupid Boy - Kylie Minogue
Heartbreak Hotel (Hex Hector Club Mix) - Whitney Houston
I Love To Walk - The Simpsons
If I Never See Your Face Again (Paul Oakenfold Remix) - Maroon 5 feat. Rihanna
Wide Awake - Katy Perry
Old Flame - Kimbra
Rapunzel - Dave Matthews Band
Girl Afraid - The Smiths

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gaga: Release The Damn Album, Already!

This post from one of the people I follow on Twitter inspired this. He wrote, "I don't think I can wait another 2+ months for the new Gaga album!" My reply: "I don't understand how the music industry functions any more." And I really don't. I used to not only read but subscribe to Billboard magazine (which is odd for someone who doesn't work in the business) during the 1980s and into the 1990s. And as the years went by and new charts were created, and the methodology for compiling the charts, especially the Hot 100, changed, and as the magazine itself evolved, I lost interest in it.

But things were simpler back then: a record company released the first single from an artist's upcoming album. Then, within a few weeks or so, the album itself would arrive, followed by subsequent singles from that album until it was time for a new album, or perhaps a single from a motion picture soundtrack. (Of course, the number of singles would depend on the popularity of the artist and album.) The advent of music videos tweaked the process a little.

But the modern process is unreal. Singles sales pretty much died until the mp3 format rejuvenated it. Now, I don't know if there's such a thing as a single release unless it's digital. The only CD-singles I ever see are for dance mixes. The only vinyl records I ever see are full-length albums, because there's a segment of the music buyer that prefers the sound of vinyl to digital sounds. And the newfound popularity of buying individual songs seems to have caused people to lose interest in buying full albums, except for certain acts or albums that manage to sell big.

The digital format seems to lend itself to leaks of unreleased songs, which is part of the problem. Let's get back to Lady Gaga.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Too Long For Twitter: Credit Union Surprise

In the last month or so I've been using my debit/ATM card for purchases instead of running to the machine to withdraw cash. I used my credit union's app to transfer money from saving to checking via phone and then paid for food, etc. with the debit card. So convenient, right? Except I noticed today these $1.00 fees on my list of transactions in the last few days. It turns out that I get ten free ATM withdrawals and POS (point-of-sale) transactions per month. After that, it's $1.00 each.

Granted, credit unions are much, much better than the big banks, but still, this bothers me. If the point of the card is to keep people from having to run into the bank and get money from a teller, and to not have to process a paper check to pay for things, then why shouldn't debit card sales be free of transactions?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go withdraw enough cash to tide me over for a while.

Friday, August 23, 2013

HELP WANTED: Copy Editor. Apply Phila Daily News

Unless they're tied (which they weren't) only one team can be leading the NL Central at a time, unless they're tied.

I've written about these errors often in the last year or two. I haven't been pointing them out lately, but they're still going on. The other day a headline said someone was a "targed" of a lawsuit instead of a target.

And I haven't even gotten to my annual critique of their Sexy Singles promotion. Don't worry. It will arrive shortly.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Quick Reviews: Four Most Recent

Yeah, I keep procrastinating instead of writing about a movie right after I've seen it. It's a good thing I don't get paid for this. Of course, if someone would like to pay me, I'd be sure to stick to deadline. Anyway, I'll be pretty brief with these. Mostly not bad, but not really worth a ton of analysis.

The real selling point of 2 Guns is the Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg pairing, as law enforcement officials (undercover, but each thinks the other is an actual criminal) trying to bring down a drug lord. It gets much more complicated, with double-crosses galore. I just let go of trying to keep up and rode the wave of the two stars' having fun. My grade: B.

Speaking of drug lords, there's one in We're the Millers, and he forces a low-level drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) to make a pickup of pot in Mexico. To do this successfully, he decides to take family with him in order to avoid suspicion at the border. As he has no family, he recruits a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and a couple of teenagers, one a latchkey kid and one a runaway, to act as his family. At times raunchy but generally pretty funny. I can't entirely buy Aniston as a stripper, though. She's just too...nice. My grade: B-plus.

Elysium is a sci-fi film and a lesson. In 2154 the world is a real mess, and the wealthiest people have gone to Elysium, a space station/satellite/mini-world where life is perfect and disease is cured instantly with a short lie-down in a machine that looks like a tanning booth. Elysium is visible in the Earth's sky, like the moon, taunting those left behind with no hope of getting up there. So this is all a commentary on current events and the need for universal health care. Poisoned by an industrial accident and with five days to live, Max (Matt Damon) hooks up with a group who smuggles people onto Elysium to get their own diseases cured. Damon's fine, but Jodie Foster as a government official defending Elysium from the illegal immigrants is kind of a misfire. Still, it's watchable and food for thought, although the Tea Party nutjobs might disagree. My grade: B-plus.

And then there's Paranoia, which is pretty much a mess. It's about a guy (Liam Hemsworth, pretty but vapid; I think he has a total of one facial expression) who gets himself entangled in corporate espionage between two tech companies, run by a pair of former friends (Harrison Ford, with head shaved(!) and Gary Oldman). Ridiculous script and plot, and not particularly well-acted. What really got me was how some of it was filmed in Philadelphia but it's set in New York. But there are times when it's so obvious it's Philadelphia. Street signs, local establishments, the concourse under Broad Street that obviously isn't a New York City subway concourse -- and not only did they film inside the Comcast Center, but at one point you actually see the building's name. Really sloppy work. Fortunately, not many people will see it. When I saw it on Friday, it's first day of release, only one other person was in the theater with me. My grade: D-plus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Olympic Solution To The Russian Gay Thing

Something good MUST come from this! I know
Homer Simpson would approve.
There's been a large outcry from around the world against Russia for its recent onslaught of anti-gay laws and violence, particularly as it relates to two things: Russian vodka and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Among the many suggestions and counter-suggestions that have meandered into my brain via various media outlets:

Boycott Russian vodka, especially Stolichnaya. Put financial pressure on Russia.
Don't boycott Stoli -- the company isn't actually Russian-owned and is pro-LGBT.

Boycott the Sochi Olympics. That will hurt and embarrass Russia.
Don't boycott the Sochi Olympics -- that will only hurt the athletes who aren't allowed to compete.

Move the Olympics to another location. That will hurt Russia.
Don't move the Olympics -- logistically it just can't be done.

Athletes, coaches, officials and others participating in or attending the Olympics should protest while there -- for example, wearing items with the rainbow flag.
Athletes, etc. shouldn't protest -- the Olympics shouldn't be politicized (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA -- they've been politicized longer than I've been alive) and athletes may be disqualified or sanctioned. Plus these visitors may risk being arrested themselves. (Russian officials keep changing their tunes in this regard and the International Olympic Committee, engorged as it is by greed and corruption, doesn't have a clue how to react.)

No one should travel to Russia for vacation. Spend tourism money elsewhere.
...actually, I haven't seen a pro-tourism viewpoint here. But how many people actually visit Russia for pleasure when there isn't an Olympics? I have no statistics, but if you're not a Russophile like Johnny Weir, there are a lot more glamorous vacation destinations.

What disturbs me is the infighting I've seen regarding these ideas. Maybe it's just my finding links and comments on Twitter, but it seems both supporters and opponents of these boycotts are doing a lot of nasty sniping at each other. While they agree that something needs to be done, they aren't exactly putting up a united front.

That has to stop. I'm for any boycott that anyone wants to do. I'm in favor of not buying Russian vodka. I'm in favor of moving the Olympics (more on that in a moment). I'm in favor of boycotting the Olympics, if any governments decided to do so. I don't really care what's done, but something must be done to stop the injustices in Russia. But I'm not in favor of fighting and insulting each other.

As far as moving the Olympics out of Sochi, I think there's a way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

DC Nov. 2012: Newseum, Pandas, Memorials

Back in November I took a trip to Washington, DC. I spent a couple of days touring around, trying to hit a couple of spots I hadn't seen before (or not in a long time). As it turned out, I also saw some NBA action between the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers, with the 0-12 Wizards inspired by my presence to actually win a game. Here are a few photos. The entire set is here. (Sorry, I'm not putting up the slideshow here tonight.)


Among the interesting items at the Newseum was this copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer from shortly after Abraham Lincoln's assassination. The Inquirer hasn't really changed much since 1865.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Quick Review: The Wolverine

So, we've had a lot of successful, popular movies in recent years featuring Marvel Comics characters, and one thing that many of these films feature is the scene during or after the credits, setting up a future film. Despite this, so many people left the theater when I saw The Wolverine tonight that it was just shocking to me. Haven't people learned by now? You don't leave a Marvel flick until the surprise in the credits. Too bad for them. Anyway, poor Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living the life of a hermit, tortured by dreams of his deceased love, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and by all the death and misery he's experienced. He's tracked down by a woman tasked with bringing him to Japan to see a dying tech company CEO, whose life Wolverine saved when the United States dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. He says there's a way to remove Logan's healing abilities, allowing Logan to finally find peace through death. The story mixes in family intrigue, romantic entanglements, corporate maneuvering...and ninjas. Lots and lots of ninjas. Its's a mostly interesting film, very different from typical superhero-type films until a twist at the end. And don't forget that scene during the credits...My grade: B-plus.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quick Review: Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim, set in the near future, begins with a prelude: the world is in peril by Kaiju, giant monsters from another dimension or something that arrive through a portal deep in the Pacific Ocean and begin destroying coastal cities. The countries of the world unite their resources to create Jaegers -- enormous fighting machines, piloted by humans. For some reason, these machines require two humans to work them, and they have to have their minds united by a mental link called "the drift." This, in our current era of drone aircraft, just seems odd. For a time this is a success, until more powerful Kaiju arrive. The Jaeger program is then discontinued in favor of a plan of defense so ludicrous I won't even spoil it. Anyway, there are four remaining Jaegers and the head of the program has a plan to close the rift once and for all...well, enough of the plot. Essentially, this is like a combination of Godzilla and other monsters vs. these guys (and I wouldn't have known of this without having seen an episode of that show a day earlier thanks to my friend Kurt's love of the show) with a dash of other movies thrown in. Both the machines and the monsters are lumbering, and as everything seems to takes place at night, often in rainy conditions, or at the ocean floor, it's hard to see exactly how the Kaiju differ from each other and the fights are at times a bit muddled. That's kind of inept filmmaking to me. It's just a little too derivative to take seriously, considering the prerelease hype. My grade: C-plus.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mural Arts Program Bus Tour

I took this tour back in October. The city's wonderful Mural Arts Program has a number of bus/trolley tours, walking tours and even a bike tour. More info can be found here. This particular tour focused on North Philadelphia, and we ended up, among other places, seeing El Centro de Oro and the colorful storefronts on Germantown Avenue. Also, check out my photo blog for another unique self-portrait. (I made a few comments on some of the photos, so you may want to check out the main page...or I think you can click on the pics to see my comments...)

Since Flickr has increased their free space to a Terabyte, I'm using it again for my photo sets. That means, if all works properly, I can embed slideshows again!

By the way, do you think this is supposed to be Michael Jackson?