Friday, May 20, 2005

Peace Has Been Declared...

...between Vienna Beef and Alpha Baking Company! If you live in the Chicago area, you will no longer have to buy twenty-four hotdogs and buns in order to have an even number. Now you will be able to purchase only one package of eight hotdogs and one package of eight buns and that will be it!

I'm not sure why this classifies as news because I bought an eight-pack of hotdogs and an eight-pack of buns at my local grocery last weekend. I mean I know that this has been a staple joke of observational comedians for years but I just don't really remember it ever being a real problem. Apparently it is though since the packaging inequality results in a waste of over 2 million buns a year.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Apprentice: The Musical (!)

I just finished watching the Apprentice finale tonight and right at the end, The Donald was hyping next season, the spinoff with Martha Stewart and he also dropped in a comment about an Apprentice musical.

Apparently this is old news from way back in January, but it is the first I hear of it and frankly I think that The Donald might just be on the verge of overexposure. I'll admit that after watching the first season, my impression of The Donald did change. He was given much needed humanity by his appearance on the show. I thought it was very funny when he poked fun at himself on Saturday Night Live. And again in several commercials. But I think that we are reaching Donald Trump saturation level. I suppose that an Apprentice musical could be entertaining...I'll admit I wasn't too sure about the Apprentice TV show when it started, but doesn't it seem a little strange trying to translate the show into a Stage production? Then again stranger things have happened.

In related news, I saw an article yesterday about what it actually means to be the Apprentice. Then again it was reported in Newsweek so there is no telling if the story is even true.

UPDATE: Here is another article about the Apprentice Musical.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Big Day

So this is it. The big day some people have been waiting for since January. Tonight at midnight around the country, tireless fans of Star Wars will be watching the final chapter in the saga. I almost can't believe that the day is finally here. I won't be in the theater tonight unless someone calls me up and says, "I have a free ticket and I've been holding a place in line for you at the front. Come on down!" No, I'll be waiting until next week to see the movie after the inevitable crush of fans and sell-outs of theaters is mostly passed. Once the fanatics have seen it this weekend, the rest of us regular fans will get to partake in the final installment. To all those who will be attempting to see the movie tonight, May the Force be with you...You're going to need it!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Responsibility in Media

It's pretty amazing (or maybe I shouldn't be so surprised) that this post concerns the second of two stories that have been reported incorrectly for the past week. The first was the story of Dave Chappelle and the erroneous report that he had checked himself into a mental health facility. As we found out this morning, the reports of his breakdown were exaggerated.

The second story to be debunked today concerns reports that guards and interrogators of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated copies of the Koran. This was reported in Newsweek last week. Erroneously.

The weekly news magazine said in its May 23 edition that the information had come from a "knowledgeable government source" who told Newsweek that a military report on abuse at Guantanamo Bay said interrogators flushed at least one copy of the Koran down a toilet in a bid to make detainees talk.

But Newsweek said the source later told the magazine he could not be certain he had seen an account of the Koran incident in the military report and that it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts.

The worst part about this incident is that the story was picked up by major world media and it spread this inaccurate story to Muslim countries who promptly rioted causing numerous deaths.

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza.

Well isn't that just great! I'm all for the media acting as a check and balance for government, but you can't wish a story to be true and print it. I am really starting to wonder what's more important to some of the major media outlets: the truth or trying to impugn a war that some of them disagree with.

If this story is true, than by all means it should be reported, but there is a very simple matter of fact checking that goes into writing a news story. I'm not a journalist and have never taken a journalism class but I do know that I wouldn't report on controversial news and expect it to be credible without some corroboration. That would be something I would expect a tabloid to do. But maybe I'm just naive about journalism.

And what was the reaction of Newsweek?

"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

Newsweek, which said opponents of the Afghan government including remnants of the Taliban had used its report to fan unrest in the country, said it was not contemplating disciplinary action against staff.

"This was reported very carefully, with great sensitivity and concern, and we'll continue to report on it," said Newsweek Managing Editor John Meecham. "We have tried to be transparent about exactly what happened, and we leave it to the readers to judge us."

So they are not responsible in any way? It's up to the consumer to determine if they are at fault? Didn't they learn anything from what happened to Dan Rather? Read more opinion here.

The Truth About Dave Chappelle

This morning, Time Magazine has published and article/interview with Dave Chappelle from South Africa to dispel the rumors of being in rehab or a mental institution. It seems he has traveled to South Africa to spend time with a friend/advisor whom he has known for a while. Dave's problem is that many of the people around him have become Yes Men since he has gotten the $50 million deal and he just wants to get back to a place where he can get honest opinions on things and not just hear that he is a genius and that this or that sketch idea is a great one. I for one am glad to hear it and it just goes to show how quickly rumors can fly in the world of print media. It's pretty amazing really. I for one thought they were just rumors when I first heard them, but then once I saw them in print, I couldn't help but trust the media and their sources. So now, after I have read the article in Time, I wonder how much I can trust the accuracy of this article about Comedy Central scrambling to fill the void in their programming schedule. Really, I'm just glad that Dave is doing just fine and that hopefully he can get production of his show back on track soon.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


After a few recommendations, I watched Primer last night and have to say that I enjoyed the suspense of the story but I am honestly a little confused. It is quite an interesting story that I knew very little about going into it and I am hesitant to write much about it lest I ruin the experience for anyone else.

It is a very low budget (approximately $7000) indie film that won a couple of awards at the Sundance Film Festival last year. It has a typical indie thriller feel in that it has a slow start but you can tell that it is building towards something. I was careful to pay attention to a lot of the details because I find that these kinds of movies require a lot of attention and focus. It is definitely not for someone who wants to watch it while doing something else that requires any attention.

What I can tell you about the story is that four young men who work in the high tech industry by day have a side business in a garage much like Bill Gates and other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs did when they started. They work on inventions together hoping to create the next big thing that they can market to major companies and sell for lots of money. They are struggling to reach that goal but find themselves moderately successful with small sales of consumer computer equipment. Two of the men are content with their level of success while the other two want more and so delve into a project on their own. They begin with one intention but accidentally stumble onto a technology that is both exciting and terribly frightening. As they try to understand what they have discovered, they begin to learn a lot about themselves and each other that is quite disturbing.

I know that my description is vague but if I write any more, I will betray some of the secrets of the movie that I think are best to be experienced while you watch.

As I watched it, I felt that it was a lot like the movie Pi so if you are a fan of that, you'll probably like it; otherwise, it would probably be best to stay away. It is the type of movie that builds up a sometimes contrived story and then leaves the audience wondering after it is over. I like to think that I can understand complex ideas in film but admittedly, I was left with a few questions about some confusing plot points myself.

After finishing the film, I felt partially satisfied with my comprehension of it but also felt the need to get more insight. I consulted the internet and immediately came across the official movie site, I should warn you that some plot points will be spoiled if you look at the website so do so only if you have already seen the movies or if you have no intention of doing so. The site actually offers a fair amount of information from the films creators but also has a very good discussion board to bounce around ideas about the film.

I think that before I return this one to Netflix, I'll be watching it a few more times and definitely listen to the commentary to get what I can from the writer/director/star of the film. In any event, if you appreciate good science fiction presented in a subtle and thought provoking way, you may really enjoy this film. Just don't expect to completely understand the film when it's over without doing a little independent thinking and perhaps reading some other opinions. But it is worth it to make the extra effort.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Dennis Miller

CNBC was planning to cancel Dennis Miller's talk show next month but when he heard the news, Dennis Miller decided to call it quits at the end of the week. It's a shame that CNBC didn't do a better job of promoting the show because I think Dennis Miller is very funny and is deserving of success. But his show just couldn't compete with the other networks' "shouting shows" like Hannity and Colmes and the O'Reilly Factor. Those shows do nothing for for me and seem to only seek to divide people into extreme pro and con camps where no agreement can be possible.

The other thing that irritates me is that people say that Dennis Miller just isn't funny anymore. That couldn't be further from the truth. The truth is, he has said some things that some of his friends in the entertainment industry don't agree with. It's sad really because I have always thought he was a pretty funny guy as far back as when he was the anchor of Weekend Update on SNL.

Dennis Miller is one of the wittiest and well read comedians that I have ever heard. I like to think that I am pretty well educated but some of his references do go over my head. But still, that's a lot better as far as I'm concerned than a couple of good jokes tied together with cheap laughs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

7 Days Was All She Wrote

So here we are officially seven days away from the release of the last Star Wars movie. I know I have made some jokes and perhaps mocking posts of some of the super fans, but I have always enjoyed Star Wars even if George Lucas is an egomaniac and has made some questionable decisions over the past few years that have affected the integrity of the Star Wars brand. But I am still excited about the end of an era so to speak.

I was born in August 1977 a mere three months after the release of the original Star Wars film. My parents saw it that summer and so my mom was very pregnant with me at the time. Perhaps that's why I love it so much. I was exposed to it in the womb. But whatever the reason, I have stuck with it through all these years. Like the excitement of the idea of the Special Editions and getting to see them all in the theater. Or the disappointment of The Phantom Menace after all of the hype leading up to it.

It will be sad to know that there will not be any more Star Wars movies after this, but at the same time, it's been 28's probably time for this whole thing to get wrapped up once and for all. I know that there are persistent rumors that George Lucas will someday make another trilogy but I sincerely hope not. As much as I love Star Wars, Lucas has managed to taint the brand by his excessive merchandising and inclusion of horrible characters so that he can sell more action figures (Jar-Jar Binks, I'm talking to you!). And I'm really not sure how I feel about Darth Vader selling M&M's or Yoda using the Force to get Pepsi in a restaurant. Pretty shameless really.

But from what I am reading about the final installment, it might actually go out with a bang and not with a whimper. We'll all see in a week or so. I for one will not see it the day it is released. I vowed to to play that game again since I saw The Phantom Menace on opening night. It was not worth it. I saw Attack of the Clones about a week or two after it was released and was better off for it. No hype, no anticipation. I just got to sit there and enjoy it without waiting in a line for hours at midnight. In honor of this last week before the release of the movie, pay a visit to Jeff Tweiten's blog that he has been doing since January from outside of a movie theater in Seattle. That's right...the guy has been out there "in line" and blogging for five months. When he wakes up in the morning on May 20, I have a feeling that he might be a little regretful of how he chose to spend most of the first half of 2005. Or maybe he'll be glad. I guess we'll have to wait and see how good or bad Revenge of the Sith is!

Fame Is Hard

Not that I would know, but I like to think from the interviews that I have seen, Dave Chappelle is a pretty normal guy. I mean he is happily married, has a few kids and lives on a farm in Ohio(!) to avoid the craziness of LA or New York. So when you go from a guy who has spent more than ten years doing stand up comedy and playing bit roles in bad movies to suddenly getting paid $50 million to do two more seasons of your successful TV show, there is probably a lot of weight on your shoulders.

Well the interesting recent developments for Dave Chappelle continue. The AP is reporting that Dave has checked himself into a mental health clinic in South Africa. Why South Africa? Who knows. But this must be pretty serious because he has apparently been AWOL since April 28 and this is the first anyone hears of his whereabouts. I hope that the treatment and the rest will help. Supposedly, about five episodes worth of sketches have been filmed for the new season. Here's to hoping that Dave gets better and can finish the season and then we can all see what is probably very funny stuff.

More From The Culture of Death

The Daily Record is reporting that an interview with John Lennon's killer will be aired on a British television show to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his murder.

As a huge fan and student of the Beatles, I am appalled that Lennon's killer is going to get any recognition in the remembrance his death. Many in the Beatlefan circle refuse to print or even utter the killer's name because he claims to have committed the murder to "steal [Lennon's] fame." It might be interesting from a psychological perspective to understand how someone could commit such an act, but airing an interview and documentary about the killer himself walks a very fine line.

John Lennon is dead and there is nothing that can change that but I don't really feel that there is any need to continue to glorify his murder by continuing to publicize the perpetrator of his murder. John Lennon's life was not worth more than anyone else on Earth, but because he was one of the most famous musicians of the modern era, his murder and murderer became a major part of history. However, shouldn't we deny the murder that which he was trying to achieve by his actions? Otherwise, we are all guilty of this sick man's fame.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

More on Dave Chappelle

In my scanning of the internet this morning, I came across this article about Dave Chappelle's recent production stoppage on Chappelle's show and possible reasons for it. It doesn't really give a definitive answer but the article does mention the speculation that has been blowing around lately: that Dave feels like he is under intense pressure to make the new season as good as people think it can be; that he has writers block; and that he has been partying too much and has a drug problem. The article also makes note of Comedy Central being a bit worried about some of the subject matter that Dave takes on and that it may be trying to control the content of the show more than Dave likes. I can see how Comedy Central might be worried about that because Dave has had some very funny sketches about very taboo material starting with the very first episode. If this proves to be reason, than I will personally feel like Comedy Central has lost some credibility. I've always felt like Comedy Central supported some pretty edgy shows like South Park, the Upright Citizens Brigade and Strangers With Candy without massive amounts of censorship. If they were to overly control Chappelle's Show, I'd feel like they were doing it because they are afraid that they might lose sponsors and some viewers. But you can't deny that Chappelle has successfully captured the male 18-35 demographic that I always hear is the most highly sought after for any TV program. We shall see what happens but I certainly hope that Comedy Central doesn't feel like a $50 million dollar deal gives them the right to disallow Dave to do the jokes that made him so popular and funny in the first place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dave Chappelle...MIA?

I was watching an episode of Chappelle's Show on Comedy Central on Sunday night and during one of the commercial breaks, there was a plug for Season 3 starting on May 31. That was then, this is now. According to reports, production on Season 3 has been halted.

Rumors abound on the subject from "Dave has had a nervous breakdown" to "Dave has completely disappeared." I'm not sure what's going on but it would be a shame if Dave actually pulled a Brian Wilson and secluded himself from the public for the next twenty years. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, check out this very funny article by Maddox entitled "You're Not Dave Chappelle, And You're Not Funny." It's pretty damned accurate and really I couldn't blame Dave for having a nervous breakdown because of stuff like this.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Beatles Catalog

According to reports, Bank of America has sold Michael Jackson's loan on the Beatles catalog to a private investment firm. This could be the first step towards the catalog reverting back to it's rightful owners. There was a time when I felt like this was very important. For musicians in general, I think it is, but in recent years, I have become less comfortable with the idea for a couple of reasons.

First, Yoko Ono would be on of the owners as she represents the estate of John Lennon. She didn't actually break up the Beatles, but that still doesn't mean that I like the idea of her having a controlling interest on material she took no part in creating.

Second, Paul McCartney has become more and more irritating as he has gotten older and I just don't know what he might do. On his last live album, he recorded quite a few Lennon/McCartney songs but he chose to change the writing credits to "McCartney and Lennon." Now this might not seem like much considering he was the principle songwriter on the tunes in question, but that is just revisionist history. The Lennon/McCartney credit is as well known as Lieber/Stoller or Goffin/King. Just because you are still alive and your songwriting partner isn't does not give you the right to choose what the credit says forty plus years later. That's like George Lucas going back and messing with all the original Star Wars movies and acting like they are the definitive versions and make sure that the old ones never again see the light of day. Frankly I just don't trust Paul to not try to totally rewrite the Beatles history. If he gets his grubby mits on the catalog, all bets are off.

This news doesn't indicate that McCartney and Ono will get the catalog any time soon, but things seem to be moving in that direction. I really don't see how Jackson can keep the songs even if he survives his trial. He is just flat broke and that's no joke!

The Shins

After three long years of near misses, I finally saw The Shins tonight!

Twice I missed their shows in my old home of Austin, TX due to prior out of town engagements and once I missed seeing them on a trip to Chicago due to my late knowledge of the show and the fact that it was very sold out.

But this time, I was in town when they rolled through Nashville. It was all that I'd hoped for and more. I really love their songwriting so much and they were very successful in replicating the dramatic and beautiful sound on their albums in a live setting. Based on the crowd, I have to think that some people would never have discovered the wonders of the Shins without the help of the Garden State soundtrack. That's a great thing for an inde rock band but it is a sad commentary on the lack of access the general public has to such great music. But no matter how you hear about them, it's hard not to love The Shins and the wonderful noise they make.

The opening act was even good! Usually, they are entertaining, but you want them to move on so the headliner can play. But this was one of the few times that I have really appreciated the opening band. They were The Brunettes and their sound was an interesting amalgam of pop music. They had lots of noticeable musical influences, namely pop and vocal harmony bands of the late '50s and '60s. A more contemporary but still indie comparison I noticed almost immediately was to Imperial Teen. Incidentally, Imperial Teen is another opening band that I enjoyed almost as much as the headliner of that show (the reunited Breeders in case you were wondering).

Now if only I could get to see The Arcade Fire, I would be up to date with seeing all of my current "favorite" bands!