Archive for the The Wrapups Category

Weekend Quickies

Posted in College Basketball, College Football, Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies, News/Current Events, Personal, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s a hit-and-run update this weekend (but thankfully not like the hit-and-run my wife suffered earlier in the week), as my personal schedule gets a little tighter — though I’m not going to complain about the reason.  I’m one of the lucky ones out there, as I’ve just picked up some supplemental income in the form of a new job.  That makes me one of the fortunate ones in a country where unemployment is now sitting at just under 10% and where unemployment is at a seven-month high — even as we’re smack dab in the middle of what’s supposed to be the biggest retail time of the year.

The Economy will be fine! We're going to recover any day now! Nothing to see here! Nothing to see!

It’s not just retailers shedding jobs, however — industry, financial institutions, and the government are all cutting their workforce — which makes some of the people making claims that we’re entering a recovery look about as clueless as the late Leslie Nielsen telling us there’s “nothing to see here.”  We’re a long way from getting to where we want to economically, and so long as our Congress continues to work in their own self-interests (and the self-interests of the people supporting their re-election bids) and we continue to ignore the problems that aren’t going away — the deficit, a loss of our manufacturing base, and the lack of creating new technologies to spur new industries, just for starters — then we’re going to continue heading in the wrong direction.

— Speaking of the deficit, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that while people being polled these days are in favor or cutting the deficit, viewing it (correctly) as a major problem our country is facing — they largely want the deficit to be slashed while not touching the programs that are important to them.  Well, of course.  It’s that kind of narrow thinking — and a belief of entitlement that our parents and grandparents never had, but that current generations have come to embrace — that’s led us into the quagmire we’re in now.  And unless everyone is prepared to ante up in the form of sacrificing something, then the problem won’t ever get fixed — until as a nation we find ourselves truly looking into the abyss (cue ominous music).

— I saw a large uptick in the traffic here over the last week, and a large part of it were people being drawn to the site searching for Jimmy Valvano-related items.  Jimmy V Week just ended, and for those of you who somehow aren’t familiar with the story, The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and the late coach Jimmy Valvano.  Over it’s over 18 years, the foundation has raised over $100 million for cancer research.  I wrote a piece about it last year around this time that included Valvano’s inspirational speech from the 1993 ESPY awards — yow owe it to yourself to listen to it if you’ve never heard it (and even if you already have).  Click here for the piece.

"Someday, the Heisman Trophy Club will just pretend I never got this."

— As we head into the weekend and the announcement of the Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday, my friend Steven pointed me over to direction of the Heisman Trophy Winners list at the official Heisman Trophy website — for a good chuckle (and once you’ve finished marveling at the days when players from Army, Yale, and Princeton could actually win he award) scan to end of the list and to the winners of this past decade.  See anyone missing?

While we’re at it, maybe we can take bets on whether or not Cam Newton will be conspicuously absent from the list as well in another five or six years.  If I had to guess, Vegas has that result off the board.

— And finally, the trailer for the new movie from Marvel Studios — Thor (based on the comic book hero of the same name) debuts today (at 6:00 PT).  All I can say is that, if the footage I saw that was leaked a few months ago is any indication, Marvel is hitting it out of the park again so far as their adaptations go.  With the Captain America and Avengers movies forthcoming, it’s a great time to be a comic book fan!

As soon as the trailer is available, I’ll try to get it up here — so check back later tonight!

— With that, I hope everyone has a great weekend — and I’ll see you back here next week.

Weekend Wrapup In The Form Of Bullet Points

Posted in Entertainment, NFL Football, Personal, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Since I had a busy schedule for the entire weekend, my posting on Friday had to be pushed back until today — in addition, since my schedule is still pretty hectic for the next couple of days, today’s  wrap-up is going to be briefer than normal, with a lot of short points rather than lengthier diatribes.  However, if time ends up allowing it after all, I’ll try to have something lengthier up later on — in the television world, I believe they would call that “bonus coverage”.  Or something like that.

But I wouldn’t necessarily count on it — I’m headed into the time of year when I’m preparing heavily for two main things: the plethora of fantasy baseball drafts I participate in, and arrival of several guests from out of town for the main one of those drafts.

Which means I have a brief vacation coming ahead — but not starting until next week — but it doesn’t mean we won’t have some great content upcoming as well.  I’ll have my second annual diary of the NCAA Tournament coming up on Thursday, and my notes on the upcoming fantasy baseball season will be arriving sometime around three weeks from now, just in time for the start of the season.

But in the interim, here comes my bullet point presentation on the weekend (and week) that was.  So without further ado, let’s get on with it, shall we?

— Lo and behold, the Chicago Bears apparently have an officially licensed NFL draft hat?  Don’t you actually need draft picks for that to come in handy?  Maybe I can get Jay Cutler to autograph one for me — I’m sure that will make up for the lack of any activity during the first day of the draft for my beloved Bears.

In other NFL news, there has been a flurry of other activity around the league.  In one of those moves, LaDainian Tomlinson has signed a two-year contract with the Jets, apparently to fill the role the departed Thomas Jones had with the team.  Unfortunately for New York, LT has lost a lot of tread off of the tires, and the likelihood of his making a positive impact with the team at 31 years of age and with nearly 3000 career carries isn’t good.  It’s much more likely that he’ll be taking away carries that should be going to the explosive Shonn Greene, which won’t help the Jets at all.

Meanwhile, Brady Quinn has been dealt to Denver in exchange for — well, not much of anything really.  Quinn never really got a chance to do anything in Cleveland, but he should at least be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job in Denver.  Of course, I’m not really sure it says much about your upside when Mike Holmgrem thinks that a washed-up, turnover machine like Jake Delhomme is a better option than you are.

— Instead of watching the draft, what I plan on doing is trying to catch up (before I fall behind) with the new WWII television series on HBO, The Pacific, which premiered last night.  The miniseries — which will run for ten hour-long episodes — is from some of the people who brought the critically acclaimed Band of Brothers to the small screen.  While Band focused on the European theater, The Pacific follows the action in the Pacific theater and the war waged against Japan.

If it’s anything as good as Band of Brothers, The Pacific will be well worth watching this spring and summer on HBO.

— Another good piece of television I’ve been watching for the last several weeks has been The World At War, airing on Friday nights (and repeated at other various times) on the Military Channel.

The World at War is a documentary originally run on ITV (a public service network in Great Britain) in 1973.  The series is noteworthy for a number of interviews with historic figures from the war (including Karl Donitz and Albert Speer), as well as raw footage from the time, much of which had never before been seen before the series was broadcast.

I remember commercials for the documentary series — then available on VCR tapes — being broadcast during local programming when I was younger, and never having seen it, I was thrilled at getting a chance to watch it now.  Even thirty-seven years after it originally aired, The World At War remains an excellent look back at the most momentous event of the 20th century.  While the documentary definitely has a more dated “look” to it, the content is relevant as ever.  For anyone who wants the whole series, it’s also available on Amazon for a great price as well.

Wrapping Up The Week That Was

Posted in News/Current Events, Personal, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Between my battle with the flu and my longer-than-expected look back at the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight from 1990, there wasn’t a lot of time this week for much else — but that’s what Fridays are for, right?

— My thoughts this week will be brief, as I have a wake to attend to tonight and the funeral tomorrow of one of my uncles who passed away yesterday.   This uncle was the husband of my aunt who had passed away almost a year ago exactly (I talked about it then here and here), and he’s going to be missed greatly by us all.

I’ve attended far too many funerals lately — such is the case when you’re one of the younger members of a very large family — and as I usually do at these times, I question my own place in the world and wonder about my own mortality.  As always, the lesson for me is to live every day as if it’s my last and with no regrets — and hope I make the world a little better place at the end of that day than it was when it started.  My late uncle certainly did that, and we were all better for having had him in our lives as a result.

— The big news story from yesterday was the suicide attack of  Texas man Joseph Stack,  in which he flew a small plane into the Echelon building in Austin, home to almost 200 IRS employees.  Stark had apparently had problems with the IRS over the years, and the attack — which so far has taken only the life of Stack himself — appears to have been directed at them.

Obviously, no matter what Stack’s problems might have been — whether real or imagined — his course of action was reprehensible.  I noticed that his rambling “manifesto” — a six-page letter detailing all of his grievances — was being posted in its entirety on a number of news web sites, including MSN’s, as of yesterday.  My question is a simple one — why?  Even if there’s a kernel of truth in anything he said, why would any news organization give a platform to a terrorist (and that’s exactly what Stack’s action makes him)?  In doing so, all these news organizations are doing is adding fuel to the fire of the next person to try something similar, comfortable they will be in the knowledge that a violent act at innocents will result in their “message” gaining a widespread, national audience.  Better for such messages to be tossed into the fire where they belong instead.

— Today’s other big news was the press conference by Tiger Woods — and if someone can tell me what the point was supposed to be behind it, I’d sure like to know.  Woods doesn’t owe anyone an apology for his actions — except for his wife and family — and maybe his sponsors.  His behavior was certainly reprehensible enough, but he didn’t say anything today that anyone in the public eye needed to hear — or that surprised anyone in the slightest (if he had come out today and said instead, “Screw it — I’m rich and famous and plan on getting as much tail as I can in the future” — then it would have been noteworthy).

Today’s press conference — with no questions allowed — was a sham and little more than a carefully, crafted public statement.  The only thing that might have been of interest to the sporting world would have been if Woods had announced a upcoming return to the Tour.  Instead we got a whole lot of nothing — and a waste of time for anyone who bothered watching.

— That’s it for my abbreviated take — I’ll be back on Monday.  Enjoy the upcoming weekend.

A Scam Alert, Walking In A Winter Wonderland, And A Brand New Feature

Posted in Idiot Alert, News/Current Events, NFL Football, Personal, Rants, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by thelasthonestman

With Valentine’s Day upcoming this weekend, I give to everyone the gift of a look back at some of what got my attention this past week:

**  Scam Alert ** This morning, I was online paying bills when I got a nasty surprise checking my phone bill from AT&T.  My bill is always pretty much the same each month, give or take a penny — I use the same services each month, with no long distance calling (that’s what the cell phone is for) or other variable charges affecting the total.  Today, however, I noticed immediately that my bill had jumped up by an even $20.  A little digging revealed that I was getting hit with a charge from a 3rd-party called Headwind Media — with my account getting charged a CMI Exclusive Monthly Fee of $20.  Who’s Headwind Media and what services was I getting for that $20?  I had never heard of them — and was 100% certain that I hadn’t signed up for anything — so I quickly made a call to AT&T. They were able to put a hold on the charge, pending further investigation that I had to do (since, according to them, this other company wouldn’t talk about the issue to anyone other than me, since I was the one who had “ordered” the service).

What are companies like Headwind Media looking for? An all-day one of these who's not paying attention to their bills.

As it turns out, Headwind Media is something called a “Social Celebrity Network” — what that means, your guess is as good as mine — and they claimed that I had ordered their service and committed to a contract online.  They also claimed that they had gotten personal information from me at that time to verify the order.  When I pressed them on what information they could have possibly had other than the public info which would be easily obtainable with even the slightest bit of digging (e-mail address and home phone, just for examples), they weren’t able to give me anything — in fact, the person I talked to actually tried to get me to tell him other personal information (which, if I had been gullible enough to give to him, they then presumably would have claimed they had already in order to hold me to this supposed contract).

It took a few minutes of my life that I’ll never get back, but I got the service canceled, a credit posted to my phone bill, and I now have a block on the company with AT&T so they can’t do it again.   I had a similar situation crop up with the company three or four months ago (I got a “order confirmation” from them in my inbox on that occasion, but I had stopped that occurrence before it ever hit my phone bill).

After searching online, I saw that this is apparently a popular scam, with stories of other people suffering similar aggravation pretty commonplace.  The advice, as always, is that a struggling economy leads to more and more instances of rip-off/scam artists practicing their tricks.  It’s always a wise idea to read through all of your bills closely, to scrutinize every charge, and to make sure that whatever you’re being charged for, it’s something you actually are receiving — and that it’s something that you actually authorized.  Stopping fraudulent charges beforehand is far less of a headache than trying to recoup the money after they’ve already gotten it.

— Snow is falling everywhere it seems.  Even those of us who’re living in the South aren’t immune to the white stuff — my wife saw snow flurries driving to work this morning, and there was snowfall in parts of Texas (including more than a foot in the Dallas area), Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and Alabama.

Meanwhile, many cities on the East Coast saw record-breaking amounts of snowfall themselves.  This is now the snowiest winter on record for the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. — which was essentially shut down for the 4th day in a row.  People across the Eastern States have been faced with the loss of power and difficulty in traveling.  Thankfully, with the exception of some isolated occurrences, it never turned particularly deadly.

My own memories of blizzard conditions comes from living in the Chicago Metropolitan Area as a young boy, where I witnessed firsthand the great Chicago Blizzard of 1979.  The one thing I remember best from that year (besides the days I didn’t have to go to school) was that the response by the city to the storm was underwhelming, and the perception that the city government — particularly the mayor’s office — had been ill-prepared for such an event played a large part in the upset election of Jane Byrne as mayor over incumbent Michael Bilandic (who had taken over after the death of Richard Daley), making her the only female mayor in the city’s history.  With many local officials in the snow-affected areas feeling the heat (particularly Washington mayor Adrian Fenty), there’s a chance that history might repeat itself in the form of voter discontent in the future over storm response.

Beware: Idiots Ahead

— And finally, a new feature on the blog will be the Idiot Alert — where we’ll look at massive idiocy wherever it can be found.  Unlike the attempts to hand out Ro-Sham-Bo and Le Boo Coaching Awards on a semi-regular schedule, the Idiot Alerts will be given purely at random and when the situation arises.   With that in mind, anyone wanting to contribute a nominee is more than welcome — send your Idiot-worthy note to thelasthonestman@ymail.com and you may get a shout-out here.

Today’s Idiot Alert is for a guy masquerading as a sports journalist on some site called the Bleacher Report (which according to some, is no more than a site allowing random posts by pretty much anyone and often featuring the dedicated ramblings of biased homers).  Which might explain the suggestion by someone with the suspiciously-sounding name of Steve Montana — who claims that the gutsy call by New Orleans head coach Sean Payton to open up the 2nd half of the Super Bowl was little more than a “cheap and dirty” play and an example of poor sportsmanship.  In his piece, Montana goes on to claim others head-scratching gems — such as the fact that the Saints outplayed the Colts only “for the most part”, and that an NFL rule should be enacted banning a team from attempting an onside kick to start a half.

Other than the fact that Montana is likely the owner of a phone number with a 317 area code (Hey, Headwind Media — why don’t you sign him up for your great service?), I would have normally marveled at his complete ignorance of the NFL rules in general, as well as what constitutes “fair play”, as well as the ridiculous bias that could only come from someone who was a Colts fan — or at least a close relative of someone in the organization — if I hadn’t realized that he only intended to be funny and that he wasn’t serious.

So, he was trying to be funny, right?  Definitely sarcastic, no?  Uh …. err …  you mean, he’s wasn’t — he’s … he’s actually serious?

Fail.

Congratulations, Steve Montana — you’re responsible for our first-ever Idiot Alert!  For your own safety, in the future make sure to stay away from any sharp objects — as well as your computer keyboard!

— With that, I hope everyone enjoys the weekend and stays safe in you’re in part of the country that’s experiencing a winter wonderland.   I had hoped to have another piece up for yesterday, but time constraints (and having a plumber all day at the house) has forced me to push that back to Monday.  Join me then for a look back at the Greatest Upset In Boxing History.  What was it?  If you don’t already know, come back then to find out!

Before The Big Game, A Wrapup For The Week

Posted in Entertainment, Games, Movies, News/Current Events, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s that time of the week again, so let’s dive right in with a look at some events of the past five days that had people talking:

— One of the factors that influenced the decline of the car industry in America over the last few decades was the perception from consumers that American automotive products were inferior in quality to their foreign counterparts. But there’s a chance that we might see some change in that thinking in the wake of the current issues facing Toyota, which announced a safety recall of 2.1 million vehicles back on January 21 due to the possibility of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms.  This recall came on the heels of another one back in September of last year, in which 3.8 million vehicles were involved.

For the moment, Toyota has halted both the production and sale of eight of its popular models, and its public image with consumers has been taking a beating.  Not helping has been a slow response by the car manufacturer to the safety issues with its products, and the accusations being levied that Toyota attempted to cover up the problem, rather than address it.

Car manufacturers in the United States are silently hoping that this will be an opportunity for them to turn the tide and get American car buyers back in the habit of purchasing American-made cars.   In addition, both Ford and GM, hoping to take advantage of Toyota’s bungling, have begun offering additional money to car buyers who wish to trade in their Toyota models and purchase something else.  This January saw what U.S. car makers hope to be the beginning of a trend:  sales of Ford and GM posted double-digits sales increases, while Toyota’s sales dropped 16 percent, ending up with its lowest numbers in more than a decade.

It’s been a long time since anyone could feel good about the direction of the car industry in this country — this issue may have given American companies a window to better compete with their foreign counterparts.  Time will see if they take full advantage of it.

— A week ago, I wrote about the ridiculous rumblings coming from the family of deceased actress Brittany Murphy, in which her husband and mother were preparing for possibly suing Warner Brothers studio, who they were publicly claiming were responsible for the actress’ death.

Here’s to hoping the lawyers they were planning to hire haven’t already cashed their retainer checks, as yesterday the Los Angeles coroner announced the results of Murphy’s autopsy — officially, the actress died accidentally from a combination of pneumonia and prescription drugs.  While more details are expected to be announced sometime in the next two weeks, it’s pretty clear that the family’s hopes of cashing in on a loved one’s tragic death concerns that Warner Brothers drove Murphy to her death were completely baseless.

If you take a visit to the entire article I linked to just above, you’ll see at its beginning a picture of Murphy that makes you wonder why someone in her family hadn’t gotten her to seek medical attention sooner for something.  In the photo (the time at which was taken at isn’t stated, but I would imagine it was in the past year of her life), the actress looks pale, gaunt, and certainly unhealthy (in contrast to the photo here above).  Murphy’s family denied that she had any sort of eating disorder, but seeing her in that photo makes you pause to wonder.

Pictured here: Board Game Blasphemy

— The most classic of all board games is arguably Monopoly, and it was announced at this year’s Toy Fair that, in recognition of the game’s 75th anniversary, Hasbro is launching a new version of the game with some radical changes for those of us who’ve played it countless times over the years.  Unfortunately, none of those changes appear to be any good.

What’s not to like about this edition?  Where to begin?  Paper money (and the idea of banker) — gone (replaced be — what else in this day and age — a credit card.  Maybe in the spirit of staying relevant to the times, the game can raise the interest rate to 29.9% with no warning when you’re in the middle of a turn).  The familiar metal tokens — gone (replaced by cheap-looking clear plastic stand-ups with pictures on them).  The houses and hotel — shrunken down to a “there’s no way you won’t lose them” size.  And the game board is smaller and round — it looks like a poorly-baked pie, with slices that represent the properties — instead of the familiar square board that represents streets laid out around a city block.  And on top of all of that, it looks like the properties have been changed as well — so bye-bye to Boardwalk and Park Place.

There have been a number of hybrid Monopolies released over the years — in addition to a collector’s edition classic version, I actually own the “Here and Now”, “Spider-Man” and “Looney Tunes” versions of the game as well — so this isn’t anything new, and I can’t fathom that Hasbro would replace the time-tested version of the game, especially since modern updates (with higher rents and bigger denominations of money) like the aforementioned Here and Now haven’t proven to be nearly as popular with the game-playing public.  If Hasbro does plan on this being a standard Monopoly game of the future, however, it might prove to be as wise a decision as Coca-Cola made in introducing New Coke — and about as ill-advised.

— And finally, with the Super Bowl just days away, I’ll have a special column up this weekend with a football-themed Ro-Sham-Bo winner — and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with either the Colts or the Saints!  So check back sometime tomorrow for that, and everyone enjoy the Big Game on Sunday — hopefully, it lives up to its promise.

Weekend Wrapup For The End Of January

Posted in Entertainment, Movies, NBA Basketball, Sports, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2010 by thelasthonestman

My look at the Saints impact on New Orleans will be up on Monday, as well as my predictions for the Super Bowl.  Until then, some tidbits from the week that was:

–The news of actress Brittany Murphy’s death at the tender age of just 32, just before Christmas on December 20, was sad enough.  Now that tragedy is being compounded by misdirected anger and blame – or at the worst — greed — from family members in the wake of Murphy’s death, as the latest report is that the late actress’ husband and mother blame Warner Brothers for her death — and they’re prepared to sue the studio over it.

The official cause of death has yet to be released, pending toxicology reports.  However, Murphy ‘s husband Simon Monjack is claiming that her death from cardiac arrest is a result of stress from being released by Warner Brothers from the sequel to the animated film Happy Feet two weeks beforehand.  It’s a belief that is apparently being supported by Murphy’s mother Sharon — and Monjack is apparently planning to file a wrongful-death suit against the studio.

While I empathize completely with Murphy’s husband and mother — the loss they’re feeling is no doubt unimaginable — a frivolous lawsuit isn’t the way to deal with their grief.  Actors and actresses are replaced in roles by studios on a daily basis, and the world of Hollywood is ripe with stressful situations — that’s simply part of the business.  Losing a job definitely causes untold amounts of stress — but it’s not something that can or should be used as a reason to go to court.  Millions of Americans lost their jobs in the last several years — jobs that represented their entire livelihoods — and some of them certainly suffered physically from the stress involved.  They’re not all looking to sue their former employers — nor should they be.  This is a lawsuit that hopefully never gets filed — or if it does, hopefully it gets tossed quickly out of court where it belongs.

— Things I won’t be typing into my Google search anytime soon?  How about the phrase “Greg Oden’s junk”?

"Now with AT&T, you can get more coverage than ... Holy Crap! That's a picture of a fifty year-old, injured center's junk!"

The second-year and often-injured Portland center apologized yesterday for the nude photos of him and his … errr … manhood that are circulating around the internet as we speak.  Apparently, the photos were self-taken by Oden with a cell phone and sent by him to an now ex-girlfriend a little under two years ago.  Apparently, when you’re spending more time rehabbing injuries off the court than actually playing on it, there’s a wealth of time to kill.

My only question is this:  when are people who are famous going to learn to stop taking pictures (or videotapes) of themselves in compromising or embarrassing situations?  If the numerous sex tapes and nude photos of celebrities, even minor ones, that have circulated over the web over the years should tell you anything, it’s that if you take a picture of yourself naked it will end up on the Internet at some point.  That’s just a simple fact.  So to all aspiring actors and actresses, sports stars, and the like — it’s real easy to keep yourself out of these situations — and that’s to keep your private lives (and privates) really private and without a permanent record of some type that’s waiting to be leaked (unless you’re Scarlett Johansson, in which case I implore you to leak away).

Hopefully Oden can put this behind him and get back to more important matters at hand — which is being the second coming of Sam Bowie to Kevin Durant’s Michael Jordan.

— This week, James Cameron’s latest film Avatar reached some pretty elite company as it became the highest-grossing film at the worldwide box office ever and poised itself to take over the all-time domestic box office crown as well (which would put it in front of another Cameron epic, Titanic) (though those numbers are highly inflated by today’s higher ticket prices in comparison to, let’s say, Gone With The Wind).  It’s spent seven consecutive weeks as the number one film in the country, and it shows no sign of slowing down at the ticket windows.

So what am I missing here?

I may be one of the few people left who hasn’t seen the movie so far — which is something unusual for me, since I’m both a fan of a good science-fiction tale as well as for Cameron’s past films.  And yet, not only have I not seen Avatar — I haven’t really been possessed by a desire to see it.  I’m much more excited about the prospects of seeing Iron Man 2 this summer, and even when I did find my way to the theater on New Year’s Eve, my movie of choice (with tickets to Avatar available) was Sherlock Holmes instead (a box office success in its own right, and a film I enjoyed immensely,as I seem to enjoy everything that Robert Downey, Jr. does lately).

When the previews for Avatar were flooding the airwaves … well, what can I say?  I thought they looked interesting, but they just didn’t scream out “Must see this immediately” — to me, at least.  Apparently, I’ve been alone in that thinking, and that’s left me wondering whether I dropped the ball on checking this out.  The good news is for me, however, that if I want to see it in the theater, I’ll still have my chance for a while.

Weekend Wrapup Returns

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, MLB Baseball, Movies, News/Current Events, Sports, Television, The Wrapups with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2010 by thelasthonestman

And it’s on to the weekend — and some quickie thoughts on subjects in the news:

Now that I'm done helping destroy NBC's prime-time schedule, I'll get back to putting you to sleep when I'm supposed to be doing it -- and not sooner

— Jay Leno is … the bad guy?  It’s certainly feeling like that these days.  In the sequel to the Late Night War that once saw Leno selected in a then-controversial decision over David Letterman to succeed the legendary Johnny Carson as the host of the Tonight Show, it looks like Leno’s disastrous foray into prime-time will be coming shortly to a merciful end.  This occurred after ratings for Leno’s five-night-a-week-suckfest cratered so badly (NBC was expected a ratings hit, but nothing of the magnitude that Leno “delivered”), that affiliates across the country — possibly as many as a quarter of them — were preparing to issue NBC an ultamatum of their own: lose Leno’s show, or be prepared to watch them abandon it themselves for reruns of Seinfeld and whatever else the local stations could program on their own.

Faced with an affiliate revolt, NBC had no choice but to pull the plug on the ill-conceived Leno vehicle — but the decision to shift Leno back into the 11:30 EST time slot — and to bump Conan back 30 minutes — has created more problems.  O’Brien has rejected the change in time for his own show, and now things are apparently headed for an ugly divorce between Leno’s heir and the network — which will possibly land Conan with upwards of $30 million, and should leave him free from his contract and available to pursue a show at a rival network, possibly FOX.

If nothing else, this drama has proven to be more entertaining already than anything Leno was throwing out there, and if early public sentiment is an indication, people are viewing Leno as the heavy (and NBC as the accomplice).  What does it mean for Leno’s ratings, if he returns as the host of the Tonight Show?  Probably not a whole lot, but if Conan ends up with a competing show, it’s almost certainly going to be pulling audience primarily from Leno; if you were watching Letterman or Jimmy Kimmel already, you’re likely not going to be watching Conan now — O’Brien’s audience will be what he takes with him from NBC.

The clear winner here so far is O’Brien, whose show has seen its ratings increase as this has played out.  Long-term, it may be Letterman who sees The Late Show cement itself as the top show in the late-night wars.  What can’t be disputed though, is that The Tonight Show isn’t what it once was, and the name doesn’t bring forth the feelings it used to (and hasn’t, even before O’Brien took over for Leno less than a year ago).  The Tonight Show that a lot of people grew up with ended when Johnny Carson stepped down — and now, after all of this current turmoil has passed, it’ll be a successor to Carson’s juggernaut in name only.

— For me, this week couldn’t have provided a bigger juxtaposition then that of the crisis that’s taking place in Haiti currently and the joke that was a number of Wall Street CEO’s in front of Congress defending, not only their massive irresponsibility in helping create the huge financial crisis we’re still in the middle of, but their own avarice in continuing to pay themselves massive salaries and bonuses, even when having their slimy hands picking the back pocket of the Amercian public that bailed them out.

As the horrors in Haiti unfoled, we saw poverty, despair, and destruction at a level that most of us have never seen before.  Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — and that was before the massive earthquake of this past week.  After this tragedy which has left tens of thousands dead and a country’s infrastructure in complete ruin, Haiti is in desperate need of any assistance it can get from the international community, in a race where every dollar or supply is literally to save lives that are hanging precariously in the balance.

Maybe some of that aid could come from some of those Wall Street Rip-Off Artists who showed an amazing lack of remorse over their actions which have crippled a large portion of the U.S. economy.  One of those men was Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, who in an incredible understatement said, “We did make mistakes and there were things we could have done better.”  You think?  That’s on par with Lindsey Lohan saying she’s made some bad personal decisions over the last few years and “could have done better”.

Those in positions of power with these mammoth financial institutions — businesses that currently hold far too much influence and control over the lives of the average American citizen — continue to live in a world that has no relation to the one that real people, like you and I, live in — and it’s because of that insulation for the real world and its consequences that we should have no faith that any of them are going to do anything but what’s good for their own wallets — and to hell with the damages they might cause to the general public or the economy itself.  President Obama is looking into new taxes on these banking companies as an answer to the latest reports of obscene profits and bonuses paid, but that won’t be enough to change the climate of greed that permeates these companies to their rotten cores.

The direction for the new Spider-Man movie wasn't really what we were expecting

— The announcement came this week that Spider-Man 4 is DOA, and that in its place, we’ll be looking at a complete “reboot” of the franchise, sending director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst to the curb.  Apparently, disagreements about the future of the film series between Sony and Raimi were too much to smooth over, and the studio has decided to go into a different direction (though still somehow intending to release the next film in the summer of 2012, as originally planned).

I’ve got mixed feelings about this news.  I’d already detailed some of the earlier squabbling between Sony and Raimi and my concerns that the franchise was headed for cinematical disaster.  While I blamed Sony initially, now that there’s more details leaking out about the take Raimi wanted to do with the film, it’s starting to look like taking the series away from Raimi wasn’t such a bad call after all.  The plot (if you want to call it that) sounded like a bad rehash of the 2nd Spider-Man movie, and it would have in all likelihood been worse than Spider-Man 3 was.

But even if you get a new director — and a new star (as Maguire had said he was only interested in returning to the role of Raimi was in the director’s chair) — is that any reason to start completely over again?  If that’s Sony’s approach, then it’s going to be a huge mistake; a reboot of a franchise is only necessary if it’s strayed completely away from its core (Batman and Robin) or if it’s been a suitably long time since the franchise began (rebooting Bond with Casino Royale).  Neither applies to the Spider-man franchise, which is barely a decade old and, the mediocrity of the third film aside, has stayed as true to the vision of Spider-Man as this huge Spidey fan could have hoped for from a big-screen adaptation.  Certainly, there were missed opportunities along the way — and continuity changes for the movies that I wouldn’t have gone with — but, all told, the first two movies were about as good as it gets for superhero fare, and there’s no reason that Sony can’t continue along where the 3rd movie left off.  Cast a new Spidey, go with a new villian (Dylan Baker and the Lizard, for example), bring Dunst back for a well-paid cameo and bump her off (paralleling the loss of Peter parker’s first love, Gwen Stacy, in the comics) — and you’re off and rolling.

Instead, if the early reports are to be believed, Sony looks to be headed on an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the Twlight-phase and turn Spider-Man into some sort of teen drama.  If that’s their approach — and it won’t be surprising, since most movie execs have no respect for the source material or its target audience (which is why Marvel Studios, which does, had such a critical and commercial hit with Iron Man), then they’re going to find themselves with a once-golden franchise that’s been run into the ground.

He's a frog, you say? I can't believe it!

— And finally, there’s Mark McGwire’s “stunning” revelation earlier in the week that he’d taken steroids during his career — an announcement that, as a friend of mine stated, was about as shocking as Kermit coming out and announcing that he’s a frog.

There’s already been a lot of talk about the subject and what it means to McGwire, baseball, and the steroid scandals that have rocked the sport — so there’s not a whole lot I have to add.  Suffice it to say, I’m not surprised he admitted it, as in his eyes, doing so represents the only way he can lessen the distraction he would cause the Cardinals this year as a member of their coaching staff — as well as the only way (he thinks) he might still find election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame someday.

But if I had a vote, it still wouldn’t be coming to him.  It’s my opinion that he still isn’t telling the whole truth about what he used and why he used it, and it’s still clear to me that the whole reason he’s a Hall candidate anyway — the home runs — were in some way fueled by his steroid usage, which makes his entire career output suspect since we’ll never be able to quantify what he would have done without them.  I don’t feel a bit sorry for McGwire — who seemed to be fishing for sympathy in his interviews this past week — since he knew the price of taking illegal steroids (or should have known it) when he did so.  You lived the life of an sports hero for several years because you cheated, Mark (whatever your excuses might be) — now, you’ve paid the price.  As it should be.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone — and we’ll see you on Monday for a look back at the NFL playoff games from this week.