Sunday, December 25, 2005
My favorite Christmas gift, hands down, has to be my new XM satellite radio. In the city where I live, there is one talk radio station and one NPR station. As a fan of talk radio, my options were limited. The local music stations offer little variety, and one must endure seemingly endless commercial breaks. You may wonder about the cost of satellite radio, and why you should pay for such a service when you can get broadcast radio for free. Plenty of info can be found at http://xmradio.com, but I'll give you an overview. As far as hardware, an excellent option is the Delphi Roady 2. The normal price is $50, but a current sale takes the price down to $30. This radio is affordable, and reliable. It can be used in the home or in the car. It has an AC adapter for indoors, and in the car, the power source is your cigarette lighter. Indoors you will want to point the antenna out a south facing window. The signal is transmitted wirelessly to FM radios in the home. In the car, an external antenna is held to the vehicle's roof with a powerful magnet. A more expensive option would be the MyFi, which has a normal price of $200, and a sale price of $150. This model has a built-in battery and antenna. The monthly subscription for XM is $13 per month. For that price, you get 160 digital channels with every type of programming imaginable. 109 channels have commercial free music, everything from rock to country, to jazz, blues, classical, and everything in between. XM's playlist includes over 2 million titles. If you're from generation X and a fan of the 1980s music like myself, an entire channel is dedicated to groups like Men at Work or Culture Club. Other channels are dedicated to music from different decades, like the 50s, 60s, 70s and 90s. 30 channels feature news, sports, talk and comedy. XM employs diverse radio celebrities such as Bruce Williams, George Noory, Art Bell, Matt Drudge, Jim Cramer and Phil Hendrie. Catch up on the latest news from CNN, Fox News, Bloomberg or MSNBC. If you're a fan of morning radio shows like Bob and Tom, Don Imus, or Howard Stern, check out Opie and Anthony or Ron and Fez on XM. A word of warning-not all programming is appropriate for all ages. Channel blocking is available. 20 channels on XM have local traffic and weather 24/7 for major urban areas. I think that satellite radio is an industry in its infancy, which will only grow over time. 30 years ago, people had a hard time justifying paying for cable TV, but now, the overwhelming majority of Americans have cable or satellite television. Currently 5.8 million people subscribe to XM and that number will only continue to grow. For all of you portfolio watchers, XM radio is currently about $29 per share. Its competitor, Sirius is approximately one quarter that price, at about $7 per share.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
After a 16 year absence, Oprah Winfrey returned to chat with David Letterman on December 1. Dave had said that he felt that Oprah hated him, and that's why she had not appeared on the CBS late night show. Winfrey denied disliking Letterman, and said that there never was a feud. Referencing the joke made by Letterman when he hosted the Academy Awards many years ago, Oprah presented Dave with an autographed picture of herself with Uma Thurman. The two talked about Winfrey's involvement as producer of the Broadway show version of The Color Purple. Oprah had received praises for her portrayal in the Steven Spielberg directed film. They also discussed Oprah's humanitarian efforts to help those ravaged by poverty in Africa. She is building a center which will help African girls to learn leadership traits. At the end of the interview, Letterman escorted Winfrey to the theatre a few doors down from Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theatre where her Broadway production will premiere. Hundreds of paparazzi snapped photos of the pair of TV icons. The average rating for The Late Show has been 4.3 million viewers. With the appearance of Oprah, the numbers soared to 13.5 million. Jay Leno's Tonight Show averages 5.8 million viewers.
Friday, November 18, 2005
In the 1970s Rob Reiner was known as "Meathead" from All in the Family where he played husband to Sally Struthers and son-in-law to Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapelton. Like other TV stars of the time such as Ron "Richie Cunningham" Howard and Penny "Laverne" Marshall, Reiner has had success behind the scenes as a film director. Let's look at some of the highlights of his impressive directing resume.
This is Spinal Tap (1984) If you haven't seen this, be sure to check it out. It's a mockumentary profiling a rock band and it's filled with great humor and many cameo appearances. If you like this, also check out Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, which feature many of the same actors from Spinal Tap.
The Sure Thing (1985) A romantic comedy starring one of my favorites, John Cusack. If you like Cusack, be sure to check out Say Anything, Better Off Dead and High Fidelity.
Stand By Me (1986) Based on a Stephen King novella, this is a coming-of-age story featuring River Phoenix and a chubby Jerry O'Connell.
The Princess Bride (1987) I have yet to see this one, but many people say that it's great.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) Many romantic comedies have tried and failed to catch the magic that is evident in this great movie. Also check out You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.
Misery (1990) If you've seen this creepy adaptation of the Stephen King novel, you'll never forget some of the scenes with Kathy Bates and James Caan.
A Few Good Men (1992) A military courtroom drama with a stellar cast including Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore.
North (1994) This was panned universally by the critics. Roger Ebert included it in his book of his worst reviews titled "I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie".
The American President (1995) Reiner teamed up with West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin to make this romantic/political comedy where Michael Douglas plays the commander-in-chief.
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
Rumor Has It (2005)
*Source for some material in this article:Entertainment Weekly magazine
Friday, October 28, 2005
You may have heard that Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed "King of all media", is leaving broadcast radio and will begin airing his show on Sirius satellite radio. He will do this in January, and his replacements have been named. One is not a huge surprise, and the other came out of left field. When Stern leaves, some stations will have Adam Corolla take over as host, and others will have David Lee Roth. Infinity Broadcasting will have Corolla on some of their major market stations, while Roth will be on others. I have been a fan of Corolla since his syndicated radio show Loveline, which he co-hosted with Dr. Drew Pinsky. He also was known for Comedy Central shows such as The Man Show, Crank Yankers, and his current TV show Too Late with Adam Corolla. The former 2 shows he developed with his buddy and ABC late night host, Jimmy Kimmel. So, a funny guy like Corolla getting a good radio gig was not a shocker. On the other hand, last thing I had heard was that David Lee Roth was working as a paramedic in New York City. No doubt he'll get quite a pay raise for his job as a morning drive radio host. He must have put on quite a show for his audition for the big wigs at Infinity to give him the job. I doubt that he has any radio experience. Anyway, Stern says that he's confident that his audience of 6 million listeners will follow him to Sirius next year. Subscriptions have jumped from 600,000 to 2.2 million since the announcement of Stern's deal. On the other hand, XM satellite radio is doing all right too, since their membership has jumped from 2.5 to 5 million.
*Source for some material in this article:Entertainment Weekly magazine
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Thankfully, the Rock Star Van Halen story, mentioned in my last blog entry, was just a rumor. Another rumor was circulating regarding Alice in Chains using the show to find a new lead singer, but that has proven to be false as well. There must be a better way to find a lead singer than to go on a cheesy reality show.
Speaking of reality, or maybe fabricated reality, is anyone else watching that trainwreck of a show-Breaking Bonaduce on VH1? The Partridge Family alum, Danny Bonaduce spends much of the show in therapy with his wife, drinking excessively and shooting up with steroids, and who knows what else. I know that he has had issues with addiction in the past, but one must wonder how much of this is grandstanding for the cameras in order to add drama to the show. After all, if it was about one big happy family, would they make a show out of it? I think not. I also wonder about the ethical questions of televising therapy, which should be a private matter. Reality shows like this one, the Surreal Life, and the one with Chritopher Knight , a.k.a. Peter Brady, have provided work for many "celebrities" whose career options are limited. So these has-beens hope that the reality TV trend never dies.
Look out Martha Stewart, here comes Rachael Ray! She just launched a new magazine called Everyday with Rachael Ray. The Food Network star, who has 4 shows and countless cookbooks she has authored, will have her own talk show starting next fall. She talked about it with David Letterman this week. Oprah Winfrey will help to get the show off the ground. Maybe Oprah can produce the same kind of success for Rachael as she did for Dr. Phil.
*Source for some material in this article:Entertainment Weekly magazine
Friday, October 21, 2005
From the say it ain't so file, according to the Bob and Tom radio show (which is a great show you should check out if you haven't), there will be a second season of Rock Star on CBS. Instead of looking for a new lead singer for INXS, the program will look for a singer to front Van Halen. Van Halen have been churning out great rock and roll since their groundbreaking first album in 1978. Their lead singer merry-go-round has included David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and for one album, former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone. I hope this story isn't true since a great band like Van Halen should choose another method of finding a lead singer. The group has recently performed some tour dates with Sammy Hagar, but they must have had a falling out. No matter who the next lead singer is, the group will retain its signature classic sound thanks to the virtuoso guitarist Eddie Van Halen, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony.
Johnny Carson was a reclusive man who was rarely seen in public. Since his passing in January, information has been learned about why he was so private. The F.B.I. has a 400 page file documenting the many death threats and extorsion plots against the late night legend. Trumpeter Doc Severinsen has recently commented on how Carson was a shy man who didn't like socializing in large groups, but he also kept to himself out of fear for his life. Sidekick Ed McMahon has written a book about his time with Johnny which will be in bookstores soon. It should be an interesting read.
*Source for some material in this article:Entertainment Weekly magazine and Inside Edition
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Napoleon Dynamite was one of the best movies from last year, and it's the funniest movie I have seen dealing with high school since Sixteen Candles. Unlike most movies today, it is not filled with profanity, sexual innuendo or violence, which is refreshing. These aspects do not need to be present to have a memorable film. I have heard that much of the cast and crew are Mormon, and they have made a clean, yet inventive and intelligent movie. It didn't have a big budget, and it was not advertised much, but many know about it from word of mouth.
Napoleon Dynamite (yes, that's the character's name), is a nerdy high school kid from rural Preston, Idaho. He starts the movie with no friends and no girlfriend, and a strange family. He's the only boy in the happy hands club, which is an organization which performs sign language to music. He likes drawing, especially mythical creatures such as a liger, which is half lion and half tiger. His family has a pet llama named Tina. He wears snow boots every day, even in the summer. His parents are never mentioned, but he does have a grandmother who is seen briefly. His brother Kip is an uber nerd like Napoleon, and he spends his time chatting with women on the internet and dreams of being a cage fighter. The boy's uncle Rico sells Tupperware-like products and lives in the past, wishing to go back to 1982 where he was on the high school football team. As the movie progresses Napoleon becomes friends with Pedro, who is a new student in the school from Mexico. Pedro asks out Summer, the popular girl who is played by Hailey Duff, the sister of Hillary. She turns him down, but he gets a date to the dance with Deb, a shy but sweet girl who does glamour shot photography and sells boondoggle keychains to raise money for college. Napoleon has an interest in Deb and she seems to like him, and at the end of the movie there is a hint that the 2 of them may develop a relationship. Napoleon and Pedro are both active in future farmers of America, and Pedro runs for class president. In an unforgettable scene, Napoleon clinches the presidency for Pedro with an entertaining dance performance.
This movie has a sweetness and a quirkiness that is seldom seen today and I'd recommend it highly for all to see.
Monday, September 26, 2005
One of the best movies from last year, along with Napoleon Dynamite and Fahrenheit 9-11 was Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me. The film looks at fast food, obesity and eating habits of today's American population. Spurlock blames fast food restaurants in general for the ever expanding waistlines in society, but spotlights the food and marketing of McDonald's. He put himself on a 30 day diet of nothing but food from the golden arches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He had 3 doctors charting his health throughout the experiment, and even the doctors were surprised at the effect of the food on his body. It's an interesting piece of work which spawned a book by Spurlock titled Don't Eat this Book. Here are some interesting quotes from that work;
"Obesity related illnesses will kill 400,000 Americans in 2005-almost as many as smoking."
"It takes seven hours of straight walking to burn off a supersized Coke, fries, and Big Mac."
"Most nutritionists recommend not eating fast food more than once a month"
I know personally how fast food can pack on the pounds. I lost 40 pounds, and I give much of the credit for that weight loss to eliminating fast food from my diet. I used to eat it 4-5 times per week.
Here's an especially disturbing quote from Spurlock's book-
"You want to hear something really disgusting? The cattle industry buys millions of dead cats and dogs from animal shelters every year, then feeds them to the cattle who end up in your burger. Oh, and they do the same with roadkill."
Doesn't that make you want to go get a meal at McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's?
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
If you want to see some thought provoking, excellent movies, check out these from Michael Moore;
- Roger and Me This film put Michael Moore on the map. It told about how Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan has been devastated economically by the closing of GM plants. In the movie, Moore tries to track down GM CEO Roger Smith and ask him about the rationale behind closing down the factories. It demonstrates how the ruthless business tycoons will do anything to increase profits, even if it means putting thousands out of work.
- The Big One This film is the least prominent of Moore's works, but it has some great moments. Moore confronts Nike CEO Phil Knight and tries to find out why Nike employs underpaid, underage workers in Indonesia to make their shoes. It also deals with workers at Border's book stores forming a union to get better working conditions. Moore visits the factory where Payday candy bars are made to discuss recent layoffs.
- Bowling for Columbine Moore won the Academy Award for this documentary which deals with violence in America and the NRA. It dealt with the Columbine High School shooting and asked the question-"why is there so much gun violence in America?" Moore compares America with Canada and it turns out that Canada has just as many guns, but has much fewer gun related deaths.
- Fahrenheit 9-11 This brilliant work exposes many facts about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq that had been censored by the press previously. Moore talks about how the Bush family and the Bin Laden family have been friends and business partners for years. He also shines a light on how Bush and his buddies are profiting from the war in Iraq. The longer the war lasts, the more Bush profits, due to his investments in defense stocks. The band Megadeth has an album called "Killing is my business-and business is good". This could be the slogan of the Bush administration. The movie tells about how 9-11 acts as a tool used by the current administration to keep Americans living in fear. When people are scared, they will be much more willing to give up their liberties guaranteed by the constitution. Bush is willing to sacrifice the lives of American soldiers to further his agenda, which is deplorable. He calls himself a Christian? He's far from it, and as Michael Moore said in his Oscar speech-"Shame on you, mister Bush!" I couldn't agree more.
Also check out Moore's TV series The Awful Truth, now available on DVD. He also did a series called TV Nation.
For factual evidence of the claims made in Fahrenheit 9-11, check out www.michaelmoore.com.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
I admire the current crop of actors, actresses, and musicians out there, but they all owe a debt of gratitude to those pioneers in TV, music and movies who paved the way for them. Therefore, I present a list of the best old school entertainers who have stood the test of time. These are people we will still be talking about 50 years from now.
- Johnny Carson
- Bob Hope
- George Burns
- Frank Sinatra
- Jackie Gleason
- Milton Berle
- Dean Martin
- Sammy Davis Jr.
- Jerry Lewis
- Elvis Presley
All of these greats are gone now, with the exception of Jerry Lewis. And as the MDA Labor Day Telethon nears, I recall fond memories of the days when Jerry would have many on the list on his telethon. I especially enjoyed seeing Sinatra and Davis Jr. One year on the telethon there was a reunion between Jerry and Dean Martin, who hadn't spoken in years. Most on the list lived long lives, especially Hope and Burns who lived past the century mark. This was probably attributed to the fact that they made a living doing what they loved.
Friday, August 19, 2005
For the week of August 1-7, 2005, the top 5 rated shows were all from CBS. CSI, Without a Trace, CSI: Miami, NCIS and Two and a Half Men led the way respectively. This seems to be the era of one hour crime dramas. The Law and Order franchise has kept NBC afloat, since their sitcoms seem to be struggling. Everybody Loves Raymond and The King of Queens, both from CBS, were the only sitcoms to make the top 25. The success of Friends has not proven to fuel another hit for its spinoff, Joey. One has to wonder how much longer NBC will keep Will and Grace on the schedule too. The Tuesday and Thursday versions of Big Brother are doing well, even though it's the 6th go around for the reality show. It is hosted by The Early Show's Julie Chen, who is the wife of CBS CEO, Les Moonves. With American Idol on hiatus and Desperate Housewives losing its momentum, FOX and ABC have few shows that are thriving.
*Source for some material in this article:Entertainment Weekly magazine
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Remember the days of must see TV on NBC? The peacock network used to rule the ratings, especially on Thursday night. Shows like Seinfeld, Friends, and ER garnered monster ratings for NBC, but the best lineup on NBC had to be in the 1980s. Will this lineup ever be matched again?
- 8:00PM The Cosby Show
- 8:30PM Family Ties
- 9:00PM Cheers
- 9:30PM Night Court
- 10:00PM LA Law
- 11:30PM The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
- 12:30AM Late Night with David Letterman
- 1:30AM Later with Bob Costas
Now the #4 network out of 6, I'm sure NBC wishes they could recapture some of the magic from the 1980s. Thursday nights are now ruled by CBS with the #1 show, CSI.
Earlier this year we lost Johnny Carson, who in my opinion, was the best entertainer in the history of television. For 30 years, from 1962 to 1992, Johnny was part of our lives and he captivated us with his wit and charm. Unlike many hosts today, he actually listened to his guests and cared about showcasing them, rather than himself. Countless young comedians got their start by appearing on Johnny's show. David Letterman, Roseanne, Ellen Degeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling and many others credit The Tonight Show for launching their careers. The boisterous Ed McMahon and the trumpet virtuoso Doc Severinsen were great sidekicks who added a lot to the feel of the show. Carson grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska and had an interest in entertaining at a young age. As a child he put on magic shows and would sometimes do card tricks on The Tonight Show. When Carson retired, he wanted David Letterman to take over. But he was overruled by the NBC executives who instead hired the unfunny, but non-controversial Jay Leno. It's a shame that a show that had been hosted by Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson would be turned over to someone like Leno. He doesn't listen to his guests, he's not funny, and he mercilessly kisses up to his guests. David Letterman would have been a much better choice for Johnny's replacement. Letterman has had a late night show on NBC from 1982 to 1993, and he has been on CBS since 1993. So, he's 7 years shy of Johnny's 30 years in late night. Conan O'Brien, who has had his show on NBC since he replaced Letterman in 1993, will take over for Leno in 2009. Conan was previously a writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, and he should be a good replacement for Leno. A Harvard graduate, O'Brien has a flair for comedy and he makes his interviews entertaining with his funny observations.
Executive producer Mark Burnett hoped to create another hit with Rock Star INXS for CBS, but he's come up short this time. CBS was counting on Rock Star to be their American Idol, but ratings have been disappointing. Burnett struck gold with Survivor and The Apprentice, and networks love reality shows since they're cheap to produce. Rock Star seeks to find a replacement for Michael Hutchence, the former lead singer for INXS, the Aussie pop group which had hits like "Devil Inside" and "New Sensation". CBS has done well ratings-wise with reality shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race and Big Brother. But they have had misses like The Will, Wickedly Perfect and the horrible "The Cut" with fashion maven Tommy Hilfiger. The catch phrase on "The Cut" uttered by Tommy Hilfiger when a contestant leaves the show was-"You're out of style". It's not exactly in the same category as"The tribe has spoken", or even Trump's "You're fired". When someone gets booted off Rock Star INXS, the phrase is-"Sorry, but you're just not right for our band, INXS." Sorry INXS, but you're just not right for CBS. Still the most watched broadcast network, CBS gets a large share of their viewers from their many hour dramas, like CSI, CSI Miami, Cold Case, Without a Trace and NCIS. Rock Star INXS had been airing 3 days per week on CBS. But due to low ratings, CBS is taking the show which had aired on Monday, and they are showing it on Sunday on their sister cable station, VH1.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I decided to post my thoughts here regarding movies, music, TV, theatre, etc. I've always loved the arts and respected those who make a living doing something creative and artistic. Many don't have an appreciation for good music, concerts, or Broadway musicals but I always have. I like making lists of my favorite movies, TV shows, musical groups, and the like and I'll do lots of that here. I recently submitted a top 5 list to a local newspaper of my favorite films by a great film director, Woody Allen. While I don't condone what he has done in his personal life, I have always respected his writing and directing talents.
Top 5 Woody Allen films-
1. Annie Hall (it beat out Star Wars for the best picture Oscar!)
2. Manhattan (great score featuring the music of George Gershwin!)
3. Play it Again Sam (not directed by Woody, but it showed off his chemistry with Diane Keaton!)
4. Everyone Says I Love You (Woody's only musical, featuring an all-star cast including Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore!)
5. Hannah and Her Sisters (a great tale filled with comic angst and one of Woody's best performances along with Mia Farrow!)
When discussing great directors, one has to include Martin Scorsese. If you haven't seen these, check them out.
Top 5 Martin Scorsese films
1. Taxi Driver
2. Raging Bull
5. Cape Fear
The Aviator and The King of Comedy were great Scorsese flicks also.
Not many 3 hour films can hold my attention, but here are 3 that I loved and they left me wanting more.
Top 3 three hour movies
1. Scarface ("Say hello to my little friend!")
2. Casino (Brilliant, from the first frame to the last, with flawless performances by DeNiro and Pesci).
3. The Godfather ("I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse!")
Someone in their mid-30s like myself looks back on the 1980s with fondness and nostalgia. How great is VH1's "I Love the 80s"? Therefore, I must include the following list.
Top 5 1980's era teen comedies-
1. The Breakfast Club
2. Sixteen Candles
3. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
4. Ferris Beuller's Day Off
5. Say Anything
That's a hard list since there are so many others, such as Weird Science, Better Off Dead, Risky Business, Back to the Future, Pretty in Pink and more.