Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Political commentary regarding the American two party system

It's the day after the elections. It was not a presidential election year, but a few mayoral and gubernatorial seats were up for grabs. We have a democrat in the White House, but republicans won the governor's race in New Jersey and Virginia. I was listening to a few minutes of a right wing political talk show this morning. The host said that since these states will be led by republicans, that this shows that people are tired of Obama and it was a vote against him. Sometimes I wonder, how much difference does it really make who is in charge? Politicians on the left and right make empty promises just to get elected, and once they are in office those are forgotten. Did Bush do everything he had promised to his supporters once he got into office? I don't think so. Did he put prayer in every school or overturn Roe vs. Wade? Did he resolve things in Iraq and Afghanistan and capture Bin Laden? No. The aftermath of 9-11 provided a convenient excuse for ushering in a big brother society where liberties are taken away under the guise of not letting the terrorists win. Who are the real terrorists? Did Clinton do everything he had promised to his followers? No, he did not. Clinton or Obama did not outlaw all guns, or ban capital punishment in every state, or make gay marriage legal in every state. What did they do to help minorities? Liberals claim to be anti big business and they stick up for the little guy, but NAFTA was passed under the Clinton administration. I think that the free trade agreements have hurt this country in many ways. Good paying manufacturing jobs have gone overseas due to cheap labor. Not everyone is an intellectual who will want to go to college. Some people want to have a job where they work with their hands, and those jobs need to stay in this country. When factories and machine shops close and go overseas, it has a ripple effect on the rest of society. Those people get kicked out of their homes because they cannot afford them, and they do not contribute property taxes to the economy, and they do not buy as much so the sales tax is not contributed to as much as when they were employed also. Clinton, Obama, and democrats in general claim to be a friend to the unions but they have seen the power of unions erode significantly, and what have they done to help? Unions claim to be so powerful, but they can't keep jobs in this country, so how much power do they really have? I voted for Obama since I had issues with Bush regarding his handling of 9-11, Katrina, starting a war with the wrong country, and the economy going down the drain due to the housing mess and other factors. We still have people in New Orleans who were devastated by Katrina living in FEMA trailers that are making them sick. I thought that McCain would be 4 more years of Bush. Obama has claimed to be against the rich and for the poor, but what has he done in his time in office to help the downtrodden? He bailed out the "evil" rich companies in the banking and auto industries, and still some of them continue to flounder. I have issues with his fiscal policy and I don't think that punishing the rich is the answer since often they are the ones who provide the jobs in our country. The out of control deficit needs to be addressed and putting health care in the hands of the federal government is not the answer when it comes to getting the country on the right track financially. I think that politicians only look out for one person, themselves. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their cronies profitted off the war in Iraq, but I don't think that Clinton was any more of an honest person. It seems like we have a republican in office for awhile, we get frustrated with them, and think we need a democrat leading things. Then it goes back and forth ad infinitum. I am not a liberal, or a conservative, I'm just someone who is disillusioned with the whole process. Are there any politicians who really care about helping our country?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Show Biz Wiz Weight Loss Tips

OK, this is not really show biz related, but this is what's been on my mind and I can write about whatever I want on my blog, right?

I have been working on establishing a healthier lifestyle in order to lower my risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Also, losing weight will help me to get off some of the medicine I am taking, if not all of it.

I wanted to list some tactics that have worked for me so that others that read this blog might get some good tips. Also, writing things down and telling others about it will help me to stay motivated.

My wife read a book called "The Eat Clean Diet" by Tosca Reno, and we decided to both work on being healthier. The basic principle we follow is trying to eat basic, unprocessed, simple foods that we all know we should eat, but often don't. The cornerstones of the eating plan include the following;

fruits (fresh or frozen are best, with no additives, especially no added sugar)
vegetables (eating these are even more important than fruits, and try to get them fresh or frozen, with no additives, especially added salt)
lean meats such as turkey, chicken, fish and pork provide lots of protein for building muscles, eat red meat sparingly
dairy (skim milk, fat free plain yogurt, cottage cheese-small curd fat free is best, and real cheese, not processed)
whole grains (stay away from white bread and foods made with white flour) these will fill you up so you don't eat as much
a few "no brainer" foods that any nutrition expert would recommend would include; almonds, walnuts, and other nuts (unsalted), flax seed and oatmeal are 2 super healthy foods that can help to lower cholesterol, spinach and any other leafy greens (fresh or frozen with no salt added), and sweet potatoes (as long as they are not in a sugary syrup)
lots and lots of water, plain with no added flavors or sugar

Limit or better yet, eliminate these things from your diet;

diet pop or regular pop, these will spike your sugar levels, leaving you wanting more sweets
coffee with cream or sugar, if you must have it, drink it black
juice, especially with added sugar
eating out, this includes fast food and non-fast food restaurants
baked goods like cookies, donuts, muffins, cake, pie, etc.
ice cream
fried foods such as french fries, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, etc.
hot dogs
creamy soups or sauces
candy/milk chocolate (although some dark chocolate is OK in moderation)
processed foods (read labels and stay away from foods with lots of chemicals, preservatives, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

When grocery shopping get most of your food from the perimeter of the store. This includes fresh produce, dairy, meat, cheese, and eggs.

Think about why you are eating. Are you truly hungry or are you eating since you are bored, depressed, lonely or thinking that the fatty food will make you feel good? Dr. Phil McGraw says "You don't fix psychological issues with food." Food is not meant to be used as a form of entertainment. It is a tool we use to nourish our bodies. Spread out your meals so that you eat every 2 to 3 hours. You can have 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. Make a vow not to put unhealthy food in your body. Think of your body as a car. You only want to put the best "fuel" in your body to make it function smoothly. Life is all about choices. Making good choices will give you good results. Look at how you are doing and ask yourself how your current approach is working. Don't see this as a "diet" see it as a lifestyle that you will commit to for the rest of your life. Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.

One key that people often overlook is examining how many calories you take in through liquids. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar and have no nutritional value. Diet soft drinks are not good either since they contain aspartame, which has been associated with various health problems. Stay away from energy drinks, sports drinks like Gatorade, flavored iced teas or flavored water, alcohol, and milkshakes. If you have the vast majority of your liquid intake as simple, plain water, you will keep your body hydrated and lose weight. Unsweetened ice tea, black coffee or skim milk are fine now and then.

Finally, make it a point to do something active every day, even if it is only 15 minutes of activity. Exercise is important, but 80% of weight loss is eating the right foods in the right quantity. Find activities that you like to do. Little changes can make a big difference. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further away from your destination so you need to walk. Joining a gym is fine, but there are many other ways to get exercise. Take a walk, ride your bike, buy dumbells and work out at home, exercise with a workout video or a video game. The Nintendo Wii has lots of great games that will get your heart pumping. A body with strong muscles and a high functioning cardio vascular system will function properly and burn more calories when you are at rest. Slow and steady really does win the race. Take off the weight slowly and make sure to keep it off. Since 2001 I have lost 80 pounds and have kept it off. In 2004 I lost 35 pounds, and from June of 2009 to March of 2010 I also lost 35 pounds. I went from 285 to 205 as of March, 2010. I used to wear XXL shirts, now I wear size L. I used to wear pants with a 44" waist and now my pants have a 34" waist. Get rid of your old, big clothes. Getting back into them and gaining the weight back is not an option. Crash diets or fad diets may work in the short term, but the weight will not stay off since people tend to be on these radical diets only temporarily. Establish a lifestyle you can stay with for the long haul. Don't see it as going on a diet for awhile until you lose weight and then you can go off of it. A "cheat day" is fine occassionally but then get back on track. Living healthy does not mean you can never have sweets or salty foods again. If they are eaten very seldom, then they will be more of a treat.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Best Food Network Programs

I like a lot of shows on the Food Network. Even for someone who does not know much about cooking, it provides lots of shows for those who enjoy learning about food. I'm not really into the ones where it is just someone cooking for 30 minutes, but many shows will integrate travel or some sort of competition or reality programming. The network has quite a stable of entertaining personalities. Two of my favorites are Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes. The first show features chef and restaurant owner Guy Fieri as he travels the country visiting the most unique mom and pop eateries. Fieri was the winner of the reality show The Next Food Network Star a couple years ago. He also has a cooking show called Guy's Big Bite. He is obviously someone who is passionate about food, but he also is a gregarious, likeable person who brings a special energy to his show. Duff Goldman is a chef who started his own bakery, Charm City Cakes in Baltimore. He ended up getting a Food Network show called Ace of Cakes where we see the day to day operations of his bakery as he and his staff make elaborate cakes. Duff is the star, but his co-workers are also an interesting cast of characters. The humor of Duff, and the challenge of meeting deadlines and pleasing the customers makes it a fun show.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Food for Thought from an Eye-Opening Documentary

I have written on this blog in the past about documentaries such as No End in Sight, the many fine films of Michael Moore, and Super Size Me. I like films like these since they are thought provoking and they tackle important issues. They actually make you think, and therefore they do not attract mass audiences like some of the lowest common denominator drivel that ends up making hundreds of millions of dollars. If you see a documentary in a theatre, chances are it will have many empty seats, but those who are there are impacted. The latest documentary I have seen is called Food Inc. This exposes the dirty little secrets that the industry giants who fill our stomachs do not want you to know. Only a few huge conglomerates control what we buy in supermarkets. The movie looks at how agriculture has changed and how farmers are under pressure to deliver more product. Farming requires long hours, low pay and high debt accumulation, so the farmers must do all they can to maximize their yields. Food Inc. also looks at the political system and how the giants of the food industry have so much power. It follows a woman to Capitol Hill as she lobbies for more food regulations. Her son died from eating a hamburger tainted with e. coli. There are fewer inspections of food processing plants, and this leads to more diseases. It talks about how the unhealthy food is the cheapest, and how it is expensive to eat right. Fast food is quick and easy, and especially prevalent in poor neighborhoods where obesity and related health problems are an epidemic. The film takes a look at how slaughterhouses are employing illegal aliens to work in dangerous positions where they are exploited. It talked about organic foods, and how even Wal Mart has started selling organic food due to the rising demand. Watching documentaries which paint a bleak picture of society often make us feel powerless, but at the end of Food Inc. there was advice on how we can all have some power. All of us "vote" with our wallets, and when we buy food we are telling the food manufacturers that we want more of the same. We can have power to see more healthy foods if we support restaurants, farmers markets and supermarkets who sell organic, locally grown, unprocessed, healthy food.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nintendo's Wii System is a Groundbreaking Console

I have always loved video games, ever since the early 1980s when video arcades were thriving. Many of those arcades are gone, largely due to the popularity of home gaming systems. The Atari 2600 in the 1980s made it so people could stay home and play games rather than plugging quarters into a machine. I enjoyed my system, and spent countless hours playing games like Pac Man, Pole Position and Pitfall. Those games seem so primitive in comparison to the games we play today, but back then they were revolutionary. The Atari consoles led to gaming machines like the Nintendo 64, the Sony Playstation and the X-Box. Of course computer gaming was popular on the Commodore 64 and the Amiga, and on today's PCs. Nintendo put out the Game Cube and the DS, which allowed for portable gaming. Sony released the Playstation 2 and the portable PSP, and then we came to the current generation of gaming consoles. Sony has the Playstation 3, Microsoft has the X-Box 360 and Nintendo has the Wii. The Playstation 3 can play Blu Ray DVD discs, and all 3 of the current consoles can interface with the web if you have an internet connection that you can integrate. I bought a Wii last week, and there are a couple of things that make it groundbreaking. First, the Wii games are not played just by males of a certain age. Women as well as the elderly are finding that they enjoy games on the Wii. Second, the Wii has games where you actually move around and get some exercise. Video gamers have often been viewed as overweight men who are sedentary and play their games for hours on end. With the Wii, you can do some bowling, play tennis, baseball, do some boxing, and more. The controller's movements are picked up wirelessly by a sensor on the TV. If you move your hands, the player on the screen moves their hands. With the Wii Fit, it comes with a board you stand on and that picks up your movements. You can work on balance, you can do strength training exercises, aerobics, or yoga while in your living room. You can go for a jog on a virtual island, and you don't have to deal with rain, snow, hot or cold weather like you would if you were outside. The Wii Fit lets you set specific fitness goals for yourself. It will weigh you, and chart your progress. It really is amazing how far home video game systems have come in the past 25 years. With the current obesity epidemic in our country, I think that the Wii has come along at just the right time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Art of Romero Britto

I am not an expert on the art world, but I know what I like when I see it. A few years ago I saw a TV show profiling the artist Romero Britto and I have been a fan ever since. I like his use of vibrant colors, and his works reflect an optimistic, whimsical celebration of life. Simply put, his art makes me smile, and in these challenging times, we all need that. Britto is of Brazilian ancestry and he resides in Miami, Florida. He has worked on designing art for marketing campaigns for companies such as Absolut Vodka, Disney, Pepsi, Volvo, BMW and Evian. For more information, check out

Monday, June 08, 2009

*The Sims 8 in 1* House Collection No. 1

This is an example of an elaborate Sims house that can be built if you have all of the expansion packs. There is a car parked outside of this house and there are websites where you can download cars and other items to put in your house. The original copies of The Sims do not include cars, and your sim cannot drive the vehicle. There are sites where you can download entire houses with all of the furnishings to integrate into your game.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Will Wright and the Virtual World of The Sims

The best selling PC game of all time will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Game developer Will Wright created The Sims and it was released in 2000 by Maxis/Electronic Arts. Wright also created other sim games such as Sim City, Sim Earth, Sim Copter and Sim Ant. In 1989, Sim City became a big hit and it was originally designed for computer systems such as the Amiga and the Commodore 64. This was an urban planning game where you were in control of developing your own city. The Sims was in development from 1995 to 2000, and it was played on a much more personal level than Sim City.

With The Sims, you create your own characters (sims), and you can design the house they inhabit. Will Wright has called it a "digital dollhose". The game was originally designed as an architecture simulation alone. Some pre-created Sims and houses are included with the game, but the most satisfying thing to do is create your own virtual world. If you want only one person to live in your house, you can do that. If you want a man, a woman and many kids you can do that too. The player is able to design the look of the characters, from the gender, clothing type, the look of the face, body type, etc. You can give your sims different personality traits such as whether or not they are clean, outgoing, active, and the like.

My favorite aspect of The Sims is that you can design their home from scratch. You start with a bare lot and you can determine the size of the house, how many bedrooms, bathrooms, what type of wallpaper, carpet, tile, paint, will be used on the house to make it exactly as you want it. You design where the furniture goes, the size of the rooms, whether or not there are pictures on the walls, what type of doors and windows the house will have, it's all up to you. There are cheat codes which can give you unlimited money to buy furnishings for the home. Otherwise, your sim needs to get a job and as they earn money you can buy virtual home furnishings. I find using the cheat code to be more enjoyable. Homes you design can be ultra luxurious. There are lots of virtual items to keep your sims busy and entertained. Each expansion pack you buy gives you more items for your home. You can build a swimming pool for your sims, which can be indoors or outdoors. Does your sim like electronics? Give them an arcade game, or a computer, or a virtual reality headset. If your sim likes sports build them a basketball court or give them a pool table. Creative sims can paint a picture, play the piano or the electric guitar. The yard can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. You can have a yard with trees, flowers, ponds, or whatever you desire.

There is not an "end" to the game. One of the main objectives is to keep your sims happy. There are 8 gauges at the bottom of the screen that show the status of your characters emotional status. The 8 categories include; hunger, comfort, hygiene, bladder, energy, fun, social and room. If the "bladder" status is low, click on the toilet and they will use it. If the "social" status is low, have them talk to other people in the game. If the "hygiene" gauge is low, have your sim take a shower or a bath. The best way to raise your "energy" status is to send your sims to bed. For a short burst of energy, have them drink coffee or espresso. Make sure your house you design has a kitchen or else the sim will go hungry and the "hunger" status will be in the red. Your kitchen can be however you want it. You can buy a refrigerator, a microwave, a stove, a trash compactor, a dishwasher, or whatever you want. Buy a book shelf for the house and your sim can study cooking. If the "fun" gauge is low, have them watch TV, play a video game, or listen to the radio. The "room" gauge is low if the sim is in a small, dirty, or dark room. Sims like large rooms with lots of windows to let in light.

There have been 7 expansion packs released for The Sims. The Sims 2, The Sims Online, and The Sims 3 have also been released. More than 100 million copies have been sold in this franchise. Perhaps the reason why so many copies of the games have sold is that 50% of Sims players are female. This is a departure from the typically male dominated world of video games. The Sims is different from most games since it is a non-violent, non-sports, non-driving game. Expansion packs and their release dates include the following;

Livin' Large 2000
House Party 2001
Hot Date 2001
Vacation 2002
Unleashed 2002
Superstar 2003
Makin' Magic 2003

Starting with the Hot Date expansion pack, playing The Sims became more enjoyable since your characters were no longer limited to their own neighborhood. With Hot Date, there is a new part of town where your sim can take a date or look for new people to meet. The new area has restaurants, parks, retail shops and vacant lots where you can design your own retail establishments. In Vacation, you can send your sim to recreational areas where they can swim, do outdoor winter activities, and get away from the daily grind. Unleashed gives your sims the opportunity to acquire pets, and there is yet another new neighborhood to explore. Superstar has a Hollywood-like area where you can try to make your character into a music, movie or TV star. Makin' Magic has a new area with amusement parks and magic themed activities. All expansion packs have many new items as well as new lots for designing more homes.

These sims characters are not invincible. If they do not eat, they will die. Sometimes a house will catch on fire, and if the fire is not put out, either by the sim themselves or by firefighters, the sim will die. If a sim is swimming in a pool and there is no ladder to get out, they will die.

Many copycat sim games have been created where you are in control of your own world, but none have reached the overwhelming success of The Sims. One of the most popular sim-type games was Roller Coaster Tycoon where you can design your own coasters, theme park, and you try to keep your customers happy. This was released by Microsoft and they also developed Zoo Tycoon, where you run your own zoo. Will Wright worked in conjuction with the creator of the popular Civilization PC game series Sid Meier to make Sim Golf. In this you can design your own golf course. You are in control of how long the holes are, if there are sand traps, trees, water hazards, etc. Your golf course can have a clubhouse, a driving range, restaurants, a hotel, all in the name of keeping your customers happy, and to keep them coming back. You can watch customers play your course, and you can see what they like and don't like about it.

* Some information came from

Thursday, June 04, 2009

History of Late Night TV

With all of the recent changes in late night TV, I decided to find out a bit about the predecessors to today's late night hosts. Different networks have tried to establish late night franchises, and some have had more success than others. I will look at the different personalities which have contributed to the genre. The above pictures show some of the greats in late night TV. From top: the original host of The Tonight Show, Steve Allen. The next picture shows Tom Snyder who hosted The Tomorrow Show and The Late Late Show. The third picture shows Johnny Carson doing his "Carnac" bit. The bottom picture shows from left to right; Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien.

The network that has been the most successful in establishing a late night audience has been NBC. Saturday Night Live has aired from 11:30 pm to 1:00 am on NBC since 1975. The Tonight Show is the third longest running TV show in history, only eclipsed by Guiding Light and the Hallmark Hall of Fame. When the show started in 1954 it was 90 minutes in length, airing from 11:30 pm until 1:00 am. Its first host was Steve Allen, and he did the show from 1954 to 1957. His original announcer was Gene Rayburn, who later spent many years hosting The Match Game. Allen was known for his man on the street bits and David Letterman has cited him as an influence. The next host of the show was Jack Paar, from 1957 to 1962. His announcer was Hugh Downs, who later worked for ABC for many years as host of 20/20 with Barbara Walters. In 1960, Paar's show became one of the first programs to air in color. He left the show after becoming frustrated with the network for censoring his material. The next host would change late night TV forever and become one of the most beloved icons in entertainment history. Johnny Carson hosted the show from 1962 to 1992 and he got his start entertaining people as a magician in his home state of Nebraska. In 1970, The Tonight Show moved its operations from New York City to Burbank, California. Johnny's show had announcer/sidekick Ed McMahon as a significant aspect of the show as well as fantastic big band jazz music from trumpeter Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Orchestra. When Johnny retired in 1992, Jay Leno took over and hosted until 2009. It has been reported that Carson wanted Letterman to take over but NBC wanted Leno, who was seen as more of a safe bet and he was not known as an edgy, trouble maker like Letterman. Carson wrote some jokes for Letterman, and this was acknowledged by Dave after Carson's death. Letterman sometimes does a "Stump the Band" bit on his show, preceded by music leader Paul Shaffer doing an homage to Carson's Carnac character. To have the right to do these, Letterman must have received clearance from Carson, which is more proof that Carson favored Letterman over Leno. When Jay Leno took over the show he fired Carson's entire staff and did not acknowledge Johnny on his first episode. The animosity between Letterman and Leno exists to this day. In June, 2009, Conan O'Brien took over for Leno as the 5th host of The Tonight Show.

NBC decided they wanted to add another late night show to air after Johnny Carson, so in 1973, Tom Snyder started hosting The Tomorrow Show and this lasted until 1982. From 1982 to 1993, David Letterman took over the 12:35 am time slot with his show Late Night. His band was led by Paul Shaffer, who had previously worked on Saturday Night Live. After being denied the job hosting The Tonight Show, Letterman was fed up with NBC and his show was taken over by Conan O'Brien. Conan was known as a writer, not a performer and he got off to a shaky start. He had been a writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live, and he is a Harvard graduate. Conan hosted the Late Night show from 1993 to 2009, before leaving to host The Tonight Show. Conan's announcer on the 12:35 am show was Joel Goddard. His band on the 12:35 am show and on the 11:35 pm show is led by Bruce Springsteen drummer, Max Weinberg. His sidekick on the 12:35 am show for many years was Andy Richter, who left to pursue TV and film opportunities. He will be back with Conan as sidekick/announcer on the 11:35 pm show. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon took over for Conan in 2009.

NBC decided to add another show after the 12:35 am show, when the interview show Later started in 1988. This aired from 1:35 am to 2:05 am and was hosted by Bob Costas until 1994. This was a change of pace for late night TV since this was a show with one guest, no house band, and no studio audience. From 1994 to 1996 it was hosted by Greg Kinnear, who had hosted Talk Soup on the E! network. Kinnear left to focus on his film career and from 1996 to 1998 the show rotated various hosts. Cynthia Garrett hosted from 1998 to 2000. For the next 2 years this time slot was filled with SCTV reruns, a sketch comedy show which featured Martin Short and John Candy. From 2002 to the present, the show in this time slot has been Last Call with Carson Daly, who previously hosted TRL on MTV.

CBS got into the late night talk show game in 1993 when David Letterman left NBC, and his show was called The Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman wanted an 11:35 pm show, and since he did not get The Tonight Show, he figured that at least at CBS he could go head to head with Leno. Many staff memebers have worked with Letterman since the days at NBC, including musicians Paul Shaffer, Sid McGinnis, Will Lee, Anton Fig, stage manager Biff Henderson and producers Maria Pope, Jude Brennan and Barbara Gaines. Letterman's announcer for many years was Bill Wendell and the current announcer is Alan Kalter.

From 1995 to 1999, the 12:35 am slot on CBS was filled by Tom Snyder who hosted The Late Late Show. Former host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, Craig Kilborn took over for Snyder, and he did the show until 2004. From 2004 to the present the show has been hosted by former cast member from The Drew Carey show, Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson. The show has been produced by Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, since the beginning. This company also produced the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

ABC has dabbled on an off in late night and from 1967 to 1969 a late night show was hosted by rat pack member Joey Bishop. His sidekick was a then little known Regis Philbin. Nightline has been on ABC for many years at 11:35 pm, but this is a news show, not a typical late night talk show. In 2003 Jimmy Kimmel started hosting his own talk show after Nightline, at 12:05 am and his show has become the longest running ABC late night talk show since Dick Cavett hosted from 1969 to 1975.

In the early days of the Fox network, Joan Rivers had a late night show, but it only lated a year, starting in 1986. The sketch comedy show Mad TV aired on Fox from 1995 to 2009 from 11 pm to 12 am Saturday nights. Former Seinfeld writer Spike Feresten had a show on Fox called Talk Show with Spike Feresten. This aired from 2006 to 2009 on Saturdays. Fox has cancelled Talk Show and Mad TV.

Many other have tried to helm late night talk shows, some more successfully than others. Arsenio Hall had a late night syndicated show from 1989 to 1994. Chevy Chase did not fare as well since his late night outing only lasted 6 weeks in 1993. Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak had a show from 1989 to 1990. NBA legend Magic Johnson did not have much luck with his late night show, lasting only 3 months in 1998.

In the fall of 2009, NBC will try a new experiment when they move Jay Leno to have a show from 10 pm to 11 pm weeknights. The struggling network saw it as a way to hang on to Leno, as well as a way to cut costs since the one hour dramas that typically air in the 10 pm hour are expensive to produce. We will have to see how this affects the ratings for NBC affiliates' 11 pm newscasts as well as how many viewers stick around to watch Conan at 11:35 pm.

* Some information from

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Future of TV and the Internet

I think that it is obvious that the world of traditional television is merging with the internet. I saw an ad in Entertainment Weekly magazine for a TV from Samsung with a feature called Internet@TV. Yes, it's a flat screen HDTV with great resolution, but it has access to websites too. It has widgets you can use to check news, stock quotes, weather or sports scores from the internet. You can check out Twitter, see what's for sale on E-bay, and look at pictures from Flickr on your living room TV. In the future people will watch a show, and when they go to commercial they can check their Facebook page or buy something off Amazon. Netflix has a box that can be connected to a TV so that movies and shows can be watched immediately. For that matter they can be watched via the Netflix website too. Who will need to get them through the mail? As it is now it seems that most either watch internet videos on a desktop computer in a home office or they watch it on a laptop. In the future all living rooms will have TVs where people will sit on the couch with the family and watch videos from You Tube or This is exciting, but between watching shows via websites and/or on a DVR where people skip through commercials, will local businesses want to buy commercial time on TV?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Films of John Hughes

Writer/director/producer John Hughes had an amazing career. His teen films of the 1980s had a significant impact on Generation X. Just check out this amazing filmography;

1983 Vacation (screenplay)
1984 Sixteen Candles (writer/director)
1985 Weird Science (writer/director)
1985 The Breakfast Club (writer/director/producer)
1986 Pretty in Pink (producer/writer)
1986 Ferris Bueller's Day Off (writer/director/producer)
1987 Planes, Trains and Automobiles (director/producer/writer)
1989 Uncle Buck (director/producer/writer)
1990 Home Alone (writer/producer)

He was also involved in sequels for Home Alone, Vacation and Beethoven. He additionally has worked on the following films; Mr. Mom, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Great Outdoors, Dutch, Curly Sue, Maid in Manhattan and many more. Since the early 1990s, he has written under the pen name of Edmond Dantes. Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1950, and he got his start as a writer for National Lampoon magazine. No doubt, anyone who had their formative years in the 1980s will look back fondly at many of these works. It would require a high level of creativity to come up with all of these amazing works. He was behind the formation of "The Brat Pack" which included actors such as Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Anthony Michael Hall. The group also included those from St. Elmo's Fire such as Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. John Candy appeared in 8 of Hughes's films.

Without John Hughes the world may have never known about Molly Ringwald. Her trilogy of The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles made her a teen icon who was featured on the cover of Time magazine. She has acted in many projects in France and has appeared in a Broadway revival of Sweet Charity. She stars in the ABC Family program The Secret Life of the American Teenager. When VH1 did a countdown of the 100 greatest teen stars she ranked #1.

* Some material for this essay came from and

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Oscar Results for 2009

Best Picture-Slumdog Millionaire (this won a total of 8 Academy Awards, also including best score, best song, best editing, best adapted screenplay, best sound mixing and best cinematography)
Best Directing-Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Actor-Sean Penn (Milk)
Best Actress-Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Best Supporting Actor-Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Supporting Actress-Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Best Animated Feature-Wall-E

I was glad to see Slumdog do so well. It was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.

*Some information from

The Man and the Mouse

My wife and I recently took a trip to Walt Disney World outside of Orlando, Florida, and I was thinking about the impressive empire that Disney created. The Disney company bought 28,000 acres in Florida to build the theme parks. The construction of Magic Kingdom was launched in 1967, and it opened in 1971. Epcot opened in 1982, Hollywood Studios in 1989 and Animal Kingdom in 1998. Walt Disney never saw the park bearing his name since he died in 1966. His brother Roy died in 1971, only 3 months after the opening of the Magic Kingdom. We saw all four parks and visited one each day. Disney's Florida properties also include two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon). There are also 2 Disney areas that have lots of retail/dining/entertainment venues and they are called Disney Downtown and Disney Boardwalk. We went to Disney Downtown and they have a House of Blues, a Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Cafe, several Disney stores, a Lego store, a riverboat that serves seafood, and a performance venue for Cirque du Soleil. There is also a Disney Wedding Pavillion, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex and the Walt Disney World Speedway. In addition to all of this, the area also has 23 Disney owned and operated hotels and 5 golf courses. Anaheim, California's Disneyland opened in 1955, and Walt Disney wanted to open a park that would attract visitors from the eastern portions of the U.S. Walt Disney World employs 66,000 people, and it is the largest single-site employer in America.

* Some information from

CBS Cancels Guiding Light

The longest running television drama is going off the air. The Guiding Light started as a radio show in 1937. It has been on CBS television since 1952. Many soap operas have seen ratings decline over the years. The Guiding Light recently changed its on air look and shot much of the show outdoors on location in New Jersey. This was done in an effort to cut costs, and some cast members have taken pay cuts. CBS currently airs soaps from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm eastern time. They have been the ratings leader for daytime dramas for years, and many soaps on other networks have disappeared. NBC only has one soap left, Days of our Lives. The other daytime hours need to be filled by local affiliates. CBS is looking for a lower cost alternative to air in the time slot, which is 3 pm to 4 pm eastern time. The final episode will air on September 18, 2009. The producers say they may try to resurrect the show by airing it on a different network, perhaps on cable.

*Some information from and

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"The Wrestler" is a Triumphant Comeback for Mickey Rourke

Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes art imitates life. Like his character in the film The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke has had a life filled with ups and downs, with career highlights happening in the 1980s. Rourke was Hollywood's leading man with such films as Diner, 9 and a Half Weeks and Rumble Fish. He then got a reputation of being hard to work with and he had challenges with substance abuse. He tried earning a living as a boxer in the early 1990s but had limited success and returned to acting. He had a semi-comeback a couple years ago with Sin City, but The Wrestler has critics hailing him like he has not experienced in a long time, and the film is accumulating many awards and nominations.

The Wrestler is about Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a man who packed arenas in the 1980s but whose career has slowed significantly as he has aged. He still wrestles in small venues but he needs to supplement his income by working in a grocery store. He lives a sad and lonely life in a trailer, when he can afford the rent. One scene has him spending the night in his van since he has been locked out of his home by his landlord. Bruce Springsteen did a song for this film. After watching it I thought of Springsteen's hit from the 1980s-Glory Days, which could easily have been a theme song for this work. The Wrestler is a sad movie that is about past victories, past mistakes, growing old, and the search for happiness in a world which can be cruel. "The Ram" has not been a good father and he tries to reconcile with a daughter he hardly knows. He tries to establish a relationship with a stripper at a club he frequents, played by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, Untamed Heart). She is wounded just like he is and she is reluctant to open up her life to him. The Wrestler is about physical pain and the toll that a career in the ring has on the body. But the emotional pain felt by Rourke, his daughter and Tomei is even more devastating.

This film was directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also did The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and This Film is Not Yet Rated. It has an approval rating of 98% on It is not a film for everyone. It has some violent, gory, disturbing scenes, but it is still a great work which will win many awards.

Here is a quote from the movie when Randy talks to his fans:
I just want to say to you all tonight I'm very grateful to be here. A lot of people told me that I'd never wrestle again and that's all I do. You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. You know in this life you can loose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don't hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I aint as pretty as I used to be but god damn it I'm still standing here and I'm The Ram. As times goes by, as times goes by, they say "he's washed up", "he's finished" , "he's a loser", "he's all through". You know what? The only one that's going to tell me when I'm through doing my thing is you people here.

Some information from and

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ron and Fez Show on Sirius/XM

My favorite show on satellite radio is the Ron and Fez show. It is on XM 202 and Sirius 197 from noon to 3 pm weekdays. Ron Bennington and Fez Whatley have worked in Tampa, Florida and Washington, DC before coming to New York City. Ron used to be a stand up comedian and he owned a comedy club in Florida. They have many sidekicks and recurring characters on the show such as producers Earl Douglas and David "East Side Dave" McDonald. The show takes a humourous look at what's going on in the world of sports, entertainment, politics, or anything else that is on their minds. Ron is an outstanding interviewer and he hosts an XM show called Unmasked where he talks with comedians about their influences, their style of comedy, and the like. Fez has an odd view of the world and many phobias which he is not afraid to share with listeners. Fez grew up in Florida, and Ron was raised in Philadelphia where he was childhood friends with "Don Vito" Margera from the show Viva La Bam. Above I posted a photo from week 12 of the battle of the beards between Dave and Fez, with Fez on the left.