Friday, September 29, 2006
Now, I just hope Detroit is winning by then because I hate going to a game and seeing them lose!
Oh, Good Evening!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
McGruder's staple comic strip, The Boondocks, appears in more than 300 newspapers across the country. United Press Syndicate handles distribution and has been trying to get McGruder to tell them when papers can expect the strip to return. Apparently he's not taking their calls and didn't do much listening when his editor flew out to La La Land to convince him to honor the six month sabbatical agreement.
I'm wondering what's so difficult about at least giving his editor an update? If he wants more time off, why not ask for it the right way? Has Hollywood gone completely to his head making him think he's above treating his business partners with the same respect he would expect? I'll admit, the television version of The Boondocks is da bomb! I love the show and bought the first season DVD as soon as it hit stores. Cartoon Network renewed the show for another season on Adult Swim and I hear a movie is in the works. That's all great. But, the strip is where it all started. The strip, if you ask me, is the bread and butter. The strip is what makes the TV show and movie possible. I sincerely hope he's not going to kick that to the curb and silence that sharp political and social commentary voice.
Aaron, where are you? Come out of this "nigga moment" with the syndicators and get back on top of your game!
Oh, Good Evening!
McGruder photo from washingtonpost.com
Monday, September 25, 2006
Ask any Atlanta Falcons fan who suffered through last night's game and they will likely tell you the New Orleans Saints are for real. New Orleans reopened the Superdome with a convincingly strong performance against Atlanta. ATL 3 NO 23. The only thing that seemed to go the Falcons' way in this game was the opening coin toss. They called tails and that's what came up after former President George H. W. Bush flipped the coin. But, almost immediately, it was clear the Falcons talons were not sharp. A Michael Vick fumble went out of bounds which was a break for the Falcons. But a few plays later, the Saints blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for the first score of the game. They never looked back.
Everyone knows my heart belongs to my beloved, although victory starved, Detroit Lions. My secondary NFL favorite is the Atlanta Falcons so the loss is a bit painful. But there was a time when the Saints occupied that #2 spot for me. I finished college at Southern University in Baton Rouge and also spent more than four years living in Jackson, Mississippi. New Orleans was the closest NFL city to both. So, seeing the Saints return home to a Superdome full of cheering fans with much of America watching on ESPN Monday Night Football and produce a convincing win over an Atlanta team that was looking like one of the best in the league through Week 2, was inspiring.
Now-- if I can just keep my dear friend, fellow football lover and rabid Atlanta Falcons fan, Angela Robinson from trying choke me for writing this the next time I see her.
Oh, Good Evening!
Among the celebs in attendance: The Honorable Michael Misick, Premiere of the Turks and Caicos Islands, with his First Lady, LisaRaye Misick (both, in photo with me!); The Honorable Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Emmy Award winning television journalist Angela Robinson; Ronnie DeVoe of New Edition, actress and author Jasmine Guy, Executive Director of the TCIFF; Da Brat (did she really need to bring an entourage?), rapper and LisaRaye's half sister; and Bill Vaughan, publisher of the Tasty Clips and Poli-Sigh electronic newsletters. I truly don't know how I get invited to these A-List events (actually, I do but saying I don't sounds so much more interesting, don't you think?) but I sure feel blessed!
It's not often that a person of humble beginnings in northwest Detroit gets to hang out and meet the First Couple of an island territory. The Turks and Caicos islands fall under the British monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor as her representative and the Premier (formerly Chief Minister) runs the government.
Michael Misick came to Atlanta in January 2005 to accept a Trumpet Awards honor. I remember meeting him at the sponsors reception that Sunday. A very distinguished gentleman who arrived with all the pomp and circumstance of a head of state. He was seated two tables away from the party I was with. Also at his table was Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a former contestant on The Apprentice who became a household name during that show's first season. My date for the evening was my dear friend and Godsister, Angela Robinson. We commented to each other that Omarosa appeared to be on a mission to secure a new husband before she officially got rid of her current one. Omarosa and her husband of five years, Aaron Stallworth, divorced in June 2005.
Her plan might have worked had Misick not met LisaRaye the following night at the awards dinner. This photo of me with LisaRaye, which made all of my male co-workers extremely jealous, was taken at that dinner. Do I need to say any more about why the then honorable chief minister instantly became the honorable chief smitten-ster?
Michael and LisaRaye were engaged by September and planned a December wedding. That was postponed due to scheduling conflicts in both of their busy schedules. April 8, 2006 was the big day and from what I saw on Saturday, they appear to be in true wedded bliss.
Congrats to the Misicks! Oh, and happy belated birthday to LisaRaye. She apparently was so into being the dutiful First Lady at Saturday's event, the fact that it was also her milestone 40th birthday was never mentioned. You go, girl!
Oh, Good Evening!
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers each came into today's game looking for their first win. Green Bay got it. GB 31 DET 24 Which means, the Lions are now alone at the bottom of the NFC North standings, down 2 games (really, 2.5 games) to the first place and undefeated Chicago Bears.
Our season may be over already after just three weeks.
Oh, Good Evening.
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Friday, September 22, 2006
Carmakers are jumping on the E85 bandwagon, producing more and more models that will run on the fuel produced from corn. E85 is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline touted as a great way to help wean America from its dependency on foreign oil and help American farmers who grow corn. Both are noble thoughts, but for me this debate boils down to a simple question- "What's in it for me?"
According to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, "E85 help(s) reduce American dependence on foreign oil, but because Ethanol is produced from crops grown in the U.S., it can also help stabilize commodity prices. And because E85 is a viable, home-grown alternative to gasoline, E85 provides competition, which is good for consumers."
The competition thing sounds good but, in reality, doesn't mean much to me for one very important reason- it's not a level playing field. Why do I say that? Three reasons: Availability, price, and efficiency.
The number of fueling stations offering E85 to consumers is growing but remains extremely limited. Currently, an estimated 600-700 stations sell E85 nationwide. There are tens of thousands of gasoline stations in this country. In terms of competition, E85 is at a serious disadvantage.
E85 prices vary across the country. In the upper Midwest, where corn grows abundantly and most ethanol refineries are located, drivers can find E85 priced nearly 50-cents cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline. Here in South Carolina, the price of E85 is about the same as regular unleaded gasoline. In terms of competition, I call that a draw.
This is something very few people talk about in terms of E85. There is a marketing blitz to promote E85 as a great alternative fuel but the information disseminated rarely mentions anything about efficiency and overall cost to the consumer.
According to data published by the federal government in its annual fuel economy guide, flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) travel fewer miles per gallon running on E85 compared to gasoline.
The 2006 Fuel Economy Guide published by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency lists the efficiency and estimated annual costs of operating all vehicles sold in the U. S. and subject to fuel economy standards. Not a single vehicle listed as an FFV in the guide gets equal or better fuel economy running on E85 versus gasoline. Not one.
Consider these examples:
- E85 MPG: 16 City/23 Highway
- E85 Annual Fuel Cost: $1578
- Gas MPG: 21 City/31 Highway
- Gas Annual Fuel Cost: $1376
Ford Crown Victoria
- E85 MPG: 12 City/18 Highway
- E85 Annual Fuel Cost: $2142
- Gas MPG: 17 City/25/Highway
- Gas Annual Fuel Cost: $1650
Dodge RAM 1500 4x4
- E85 MPG: 9 City/11 Highway
- E85 Annual Fuel Cost: $3000
- Gas MPG: 12 City/15 Highway
- Gas Annual Fuel Cost: $2538
Because E85 does not produce the same amount of energy as gasoline, vehicles burn more E85 to get the same performance as burning gasoline. For the vehicles listed above, drivers would pay between $202 and $492 more for fuel each year. In terms of competition, my choice would be clear- E85 loses.
In his 2006 State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people, President George W. Bush outlined The Advanced Energy Initiative which included calling for more research in developing "cutting edge methods of producing ethanol" from corn and other materials. "Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years," he said.
That is a fantastic goal, but meaningless to the average consumer if automakers can't figure out a way to produce engines that are, at the very least, as efficient running on E85 as they are running on gasoline. Engines that run more efficiently on E85 would be ideal.
So, back to the question "What's in it for me?" The facts are very clear: E85 is not significantly cheaper than gasoline; E85 is not as readily available as gasoline; E85 does not burn as efficiently as gasoline; and it would cost me more to burn E85 versus gasoline each year. E85 may be the smart environmental choice, but it clearly is not the smart economic choice for the average consumer. At least, not right now when, for most people, every penny counts.
Oh, Good Evening!
I went to see the film Wednesday night before leaving Atlanta on my way home from vacation. While it's no Oscar contender, it's a good film. I found myself fully engaged in this combination Boyz N The Hood and The Longest Yard movie.
Gang members end up in a California juvenile prison where their two detention officers convince officials to let them start a football program to help instill discipline, commitment and pride in the young men who, up to this point, have known nothing but gang banging and selling drugs.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Walking Tall, Scorpion King) and Xibit (Pimp My Ride) star along with several young newcomers. Gridiron Gang is based on a true story and as the end credits roll, you get to see clips of home video from the real coach and some of the players.
If you like touching drama mixed with some hard hitting football game sequences, you'll love Gridiron Gang. It's a touchdown on my scoreboard.
Oh, Good Evening!
"Huh?" I responded.
Oh, Good Evening!
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Say hello to Manny! That's my father and his beautiful 2006 GS430, both in front of his northwest Las Vegas home. If I didn't care much for Lexus before, I do now. Folks, in the words of South Park's Eric Cartman, this car is "super sweet!"
Late last year, Dad traded in his fourth generation ES300, which I never liked much, for this fine machine, a third generation GS. When he first told me about it, I couldn't believe he had done it. Not so much that he got the new car. I get my love of cars and the desire to drive the latest and best from him. But, I didn't think an 80 year old man needed all that power under the 430's hood. A GS 350 would have sufficed. Well, the car is something else. In addition to a great engine, the GS430 has some outstanding features. And, since I love gadgets, I'm in heaven everytime I get in the thing.
First, there is no key. Just a key fob. As long as you have that key fob in your pocket, when you walk up to the car and touch the door handle, it unlocks. When you get in, all you have to do is push a button and the car starts. It has a satellite navigation system that keeps you from getting lost. It's voice command activated and interacts with Bluetooth enabled cell phones. The climate control is completely automatic. The audio system is state of art Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound with a 6-disc, in-dash CD/DVD player and 14 speakers! Also, the seats have active ventilation to keep your back cool on hot days, warm on those cold ones.
This list of features goes on and on. But the real joy is putting your foot on the accelerator. When you do, the car really takes off thanks to 319 lb-ft of torque from the 4.3 liter V-8 engine. Smooth, fast and sporty. Just the way I like it.
If I were to buy a Lexus, this would be the one. It's truly h-o-t, hot!
Oh, Good Evening!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Rachel had a surprise guest for her studio audience (The home audience saw the secret in the taped preshow tease) on this morning's show.) Her big benefactor- Oprah! Harpo Productions is producing Rachael Ray and the queen herself dropped by to check out her investment. They cooked up some kind of homemade pizza that looked good and according to Oprah, tasted great.
The show is very energetic. DUH! It's Rachael Ray. The set is pretty cool, too. The kitchen has an orange stove and powder blue fridge! Rachael says a friend found the stove on eBay! Also, the studio audience seats move. So, when Rachael moves from the talk set to the kitchen set, the audience follows and is always close to the action.
Aside from the occasional appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Oprah doesn't make too many guest appearances on TV talk fests and Rachael knows it. She herself said it would be hard to top show #2 as she thanked O for all of her support.
I don't think I'll be a regular viewer, but the show looks pretty good on first inspection. We'll see how it does in the ratings.
Oh, Good Evening!
Monday, September 18, 2006
I was learning all about her issue with, what turned out to be her husband, and I really did not want that knowledge. She tells him, "I say I love you and you don't care." Then come a few choice words about how he was making an ass of himself and, "that's why I left you at the bar!" Click! She hangs up.
The young woman apparently could tell through her perephial vision tha I had turned to look at her and was none too pleased that she was disturbing my solitude, distracting me from enjoying my juicy, very well prepared steak. The next thing I knew, she was apologizing, which I appreciated. However, I did not acknowledge the apology with so much as a look because I didn't want what came anyway- further
explanation of the problem.
"I got married a year and a half ago in Las Vegas and now it looks like I'll get divorced when I get home from being in Las Vegas," she said through tears. TMI! I just want to enjoy my dinner!
Then, the husband calls back and it starts all over again. I tried to ignore her but couldn't resist taking the photo and sharing. After another minute or so of yelling into the phone, the young woman asks her hubby, "What do you want me do to get you to come back to the room with me?!?"
"Just tell me, I'll do anything," she continues. Then she jumps off the stool, grabs her cigarettes and says, "I'm leaving this bar because I'm sitting her yelling at you." This happens just as John, the bartender, asks me if she's bothering me because if she is I have to kick her out.
The girl must be a mind reader. I finished my steak in peace.
Oh, Good Evening!
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Zumanity is an adults only show. No one under 18 allowed, and with good reason It's all about sex, sex and more sex. The warmup acts include two comedians waving dildos in audience members faces and one joke that includes biting a banana placed in a provocative position on the comedian's body. It's not over the top, though. You know what you're going to get when you buy the ticket so it's all in fun.
Women- and some men- in the audience get chills when the "Cuban Candy Bar," Alex Castro, struts on stage. He tosses roses in the audience then proceeds to do a sexy strip tease right down to his birthday suit. No full frontal nudity, though. Several well placed model heads keep you from seeing the nuts on this Almond Joy. I heard a few sighs of disappointment at the conclusion of that act as Alex and Crew descended down the round elevator that is built into the stage, one of four. Later in the show, Alex returns in a skimpy bathing suit but does little more than lay on the floor with the other cast members in what becomes the big Eyes Wide Shut style orgy finale. He's a stripper- no more, no less.
Another interesting act is the two aqua nymphs exploring their sexuality in a water bowl routine. This was probably the the most sensuous act in the show. It was interesting watching the two acrobats perform in the confines of the bowl which isn't even body length in diameter.
Common in Cirque du Soleil shows, Zumanity includes acrobats flying on silk drapes, another doing hoop tricks while flying through the air, a contortionist who can do things with his body that had me and many others in the audience groaning, and comedy. The host is a guy in drag. He's pretty good. Very Liza Minnelli like. And, of course, the staple of Cirque shows is live musicians and singers. The music is great, though because of the sexy burlesqueness of Zumanity, die hard Cirque fans might find the soundtrack a bit below what they are used to.
I'm a big Cirque du Soleil fan. Any time one of the traveling shows comes within a few hours drive of Columbia, I'm there. I've seen Varakai and Delirium in Charlotte and Allegria in Atlanta. Corteo is coming to Atlanta this winter and I already have my ticket. Of the resident shows, I've seen La Nouba at Walt Disney World. Zumanity is the first of the Vegas shows I've seen. While I would love to see all of the other four, I probably will only make it to Mystere at Treasure Island. It's still an affordable and accessible ticket. O at Bellagio, Ka at MGM Grand and LOVE at The Mirage are all very expensive tickets and hard to come by. But I'm sure they're all great and if I can, I will see them. And, you should too.
Oh, Good Evening!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Turnovers on the first two possesions which led to a Chicago touchdown and field goal respectively. Then, everytime the Lions did something good, it was called back on a penalty. Including what could have been a momentum changing Boss Bailey interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. Instead of being within 10 points of the Bears, we ended up going down 24 after Chicago proceeded to carry the drive right down the field and into the end zone.
We're 0-2 to start the season and 0-1 in the NFC North division. We host the equally hapless Packers next Sunday. I would love to say that's an easy win, but I can't. Even when the Packers suck, Brett Favre finds a way to win at Ford Field. Or, the Lions find a way to lose a game they should win. We desperately need to win next Sunday. Realistically, we are exactly where we should be right now. We weren't supposed to beat Seattle or Chicago and we didn't. We should beat the Packers. If we don't, Lions fans can start looking forward to next season.
Oh, Good Evening!
I'm sitting in a Las Vegas sports bar watching the Detroit Lions play the Chicago Bears and something that bugs the crap out of me when I'm in my living room is ten times worse over the sound system here. WHY ARE COMMERCIALS SO MUCH LOUDER THAN PROGRAMMING?!?!?!
WHY?!?! Somebody please explain that to me?
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Saturday, September 16, 2006
We showed up at the hotel, picked up our tickets from Will Call, then registered as possible contestants. We got name tags just like the contestants on TV and we sat in the audience hoping, like everyone else, to get a shot at playing a game on stage. Neither of us made it to contestant row, but several people around us did and it was fun serving in their cheering section.
You don't get Bob Barker at The Price Is Right LIVE. We had veteran game show host Todd Newton guiding us through the fun. Newton has hosted such shows as Hollywood Showdown and Whammy! The All New Press Your Luck, both of which aired on the Game Show Network. He was great on the Bally's stage. Our announcer is another veteran of game shows. Randy West's voice has been heard on Hollywood Showdown, Supermarket Sweep and The Weakest Link, among other shows. He was absolutely hilarious during the audience warmup before the show started. "I took a Viagra last night and it got stuck in my throat," one joke started. "I had a stiff neck all night long!" That joke had my brother rolling. That's West (far left) in the photo, taken after the show, with Newton (far right), me and the two show models who played the "Barker's Beauties" roles. I'm telling you, this was as close to the real thing as you get.
Despite his absence from the production, you do get plenty of classic Bob Barker moments during the 90-minute show which includes several collections of clips from 34 years of TPIR on television. You also get contestants row, items to bid on to get on stage, and several of the classic pricing games we all know and love. Cliffhangers, Plinko, the Race Game and Hole in One, among others. They even brought out the famous "Big Wheel" for a Showcase Showdown! Folks got to play for real prizes and cash. A guy sitting behind us got on stage and won a new refrigerator! A woman won $400 playing Plinko. Another woman won $250 spinning the "Big Wheel." A man won an inflatable kayak and a new LCD television in the Race Game. Nobody won the showcase which included, "a new car!" Both contestants overbid. As did I, by $386!
If you make it to Vegas and can't get tickets to see Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, or one of the five Cirque du Soleil shows- each are sold out just about every night- check out The Price Is Right-LIVE. Remember, it's the only show that will give you a chance to win back what you spend on the tickets and possibly more.
Oh, Good Evening!
My brother, Joe, told me this band was a dead ringer for Prince's group, complete with a Morris Day extra attraction. He was right! Purple Reign is the name and front man Jason Tenner is fantastic at doing The Artist.
The group plays various venues around Las Vegas throughout the week. We caught them at their weekly Friday night engagement in the Chrome Showroom at the Santa Fe Station Hotel and Casino. It was truly a party in the well known Purple Paisley tradition. This guy is good! He has the mannerisms, the costumes, the dance moves and most importantly, the voice. When the show opened with the familiar spoken introduction to "Let's Go Crazy" being delivered by a figure in silhouette, I thought Prince, himself, was on stage. Don't take my word for it, judge for yourself!
He did old school Prince (Head, Controversy, I Feel 4 U) , new school Prince (Musicology) and everything in between (1999, Sexy M.F., Raspberry Beret, Erotic City, and more)! The show included two sets and midway through each, a Morris Day ringer came out and did favorites by The Time (Jungle Love, Cool, The Bird and more). We danced, we sang, we had a purple poppin' good time! And, here's the best part- this concert only cost us $5 each! Only in Las Vegas!
Oh, Good Evening!
Located one block off the strip at the corner of Sahara and Paradise, right behind the Sahara Hotel and Casino, The Drive is setup adjacent to the Las Vegas Monorail station. Built on 11 acres of desert, the off-road course is within the approximately half mile performance track. Both proved to be quite a bit of fun and very enlightening.
Registration begins with a mandatory breathalyzer test to make sure you haven't had too much fun in the casino to safely enjoy the fun on the courses. I passed with flying colors. Then it's off to the driver's license checkpoint. Once you fill out and sign the form, and answer a few questions for marketing purposes, it's on the cashier. Regular price is $10, however Nevada residents receive a $1 discount and GM MasterCard members receive a $2 discount. I quickly whipped out my GM card and bought two tickets. Each ticket gets you drives in two vehicles; two laps each if you do the performance course, one lap each on the off-road course.
Our first stop was the off-road course. I was eager to give Dad a ride in a HUMMER H2 and me the chance to see what they can are truly capable of doing in off-road situations. This photo shows a couple of the smaller but equally capable H3 models on the course. The side inclines are 40-degrees left and right. When driving through them, you feel as if the vehicle is going to tip over! Then, there's the 60-degree incline hill. When you hit this thing and start going up, all you see is the sky, as if you're about the launch in the Space Shuttle. It is practically straight up. You reach the top and level off momentarily before starting the ride down. Our instructor told me to keep steady pressure on the brakes and ease her on down the hill. Dad got a little scared in the back seat when all he could see was the ground below but the H2 did exactly what the brochures and salesman say it will. She also handled the rocks, logs, and 16-inch step with ease. Dad was impressed and so was I. But, I'm not sure I'll be taking my personal HUMMER off-roading. (LOL)
After finishing the off-road experience in our H2, I decided to use my remaining three drives on the performance course. I started with the brand new Saturn Sky roadster, which had just arrived at the Drive site a couple of days earlier. Taxi cab yellow with a black canvas top and black leather interior, the Sky is a hot looking car. (Though, I would NEVER buy it in yellow!) Since the initial offering of the car only features a 177 HP/177 lb-ft, four cylinder engine, I wasn't expecting much in terms of acceleration and handling. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I put her in first and hit the gas- the model at the track was 5 speed manual which, unfortunately, the chaperone wouldn't allow me to take beyond second gear- the Sky had quite a bit of spunk. I enjoyed the ride, but practically speaking, the Sky- and it's corporate cousin, the Pontiac Solstice- is a weekend play car. There is little to no storage space inside the car and the trunk is only big enough to hold a duffel bag or two, if your lucky. Drop the top, which stores in the trunk, and you can knock that down to half a duffel bag. But, at roughly $25,000, it's a reasonably priced weekend play car.
Next, I took on the venerable Corvette Convertible. It was quite windy on Friday so they wouldn't let us drop the tops on the roadsters, but who cares when you're driving a Vette! It's all about feeling the power of that 400 HP, 400 lb-ft of torque engine! And, boy was it sweet! The two laps went by quickly, but they were well worth $4!
My final drive was in the Cadillac STS-V. Since it's a sedan, Dad was able to go along for the ride. The STS-V has a supercharged V-8 engine that produces 469 HP and 439 lb-ft of torque. It was sweet, too! Dad loved the way I hit the first turn after brisk acceleration.
When most attractions in Las Vegas cost $50 and up, this is great fun at a rock bottom price. Too bad it will go away in November. Folks, The Drive is live!
Oh, Good Evening!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Throughout the course of this season, Knight has been praised for his stellar designs and impeccable construction. He has wowed designer Michael Kors to the point I'm thinking Kors might hire the guy, if he doesn't win. ELLE Magazine Fashion Director Nina Garcia loves his work- week in, week out- and she's not easy to win over. Host and executive producer Heidi Klum likes his designs so much, I'm thinking she might consider hanging out with Knight if she weren't already married to singer Seal and pumping out babies for him. OK, that's probaby a stretch.
It is truly amazing how Knight and his fellow contestants crank out designs on Project Runway. The challenges are demanding and seem impossible. Can you imagine coming up with a sketch in 15 minutes, hearing that your budget is $100, having 30 minutes to shop for your black and white fabric which you have to use every last bit of, and only having one day to pull it all off?
I've got my fingers crossed that my boy from the ATL gets to drive off in the SKY with the $100,000 to start his own line! In the words of Project Runway co-host Tim Gunn, "Carry on!"
Oh, Good Evening!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Obviously, this photo shows the couple in happier times, but this relationship has been more a wedded miss than wedded bliss. I don't care how many times Whitney tried to get people to believe that everything was just fine.
Their 14-year marriage has been marred by Brown's numerous arrests, court appearances and jailings, drug addiction and allegations of domestic abuse. Houston's image has taken a nose dive in recent years and she has battled her own addictions, going through drug rehab more than once. Apparently, crack wasn't that whack! Her voice is nothing compared to what it was when she was pumping out Grammy Award winning material and wowing fans on concert tours. This marriage ultimately destroyed a great career.
Legendary recording executive Clive Davis discovered a young Whitney Houston years ago and turned her into a glamourous and sophisticated appearing future diva. She couldn't just sing, she could "sang," as they say in the church. She was destined to become the next Diana Ross or Aretha Franklin or Gladys Knight in terms of lasting star power and appeal. Then she hooked up with Bobby. From that moment on, the facade that Clive created started chipping away. We got to know the "real" Whitney. The ghetto fabulous gal from Jersey.
Bobby was just here in Columbia with his New Edition partners. They taped a concert DVD at the University of South Carolina's Koger Center. I could not attend but I'm told it was off the chain. I'm also told that Bobby looked high as a kite at his various after party appearances. I wouldn't be surprised if he truly was. Remember, he doesn't smoke marijuana every day, just every other day. At least that's what he told Diane Sawyer. Maybe he was having one of his bad bi-polar days during the visit.
Filing for divorce could be Houston's first step toward true recovery. But I fear the damage to her image and the voice that could help her back to stardom is too severe for a full recovery to her previous status. I will pray for her and 13-year old Bobbi Kristina, Whitney and Bobby's daughter. She's the one true blessing to come out of the marriage. Let's hope the young teenager doesn't suffer too much in the split.
Oh, Good Evening.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I was awakened by the telephone shortly before 9:00 AM on that morning. It was my mother calling from Detroit to see if I was watching the news. I turned on my television and changed the channel from ESPN, I went to sleep the night before after watching the late night edition of SportsCenter, and turned to NBC's Today which is what Mom was watching. As Mom was explaining that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, I was hearing Katie Couric and Matt Lauer talk about the pictures being broadcast at the time-- black smoke billowing from the tower after a plane had crashed into it. I thought it had been a small plane of some kind and with few details available at that time-- the crash had just happened minutes ago-- I waited for more information. Then suddenly, I saw another airplane come into view. This aircraft didn't appear to be a small personal aircraft, but a commercial airliner. In a matter of seconds, this second plane flew right into the other WTC tower. Clearly, something was not right. I said into the phone, "Mom, I have to go!" I hung up, jumped in the shower, got dressed, and raced to work.
As the morning progressed, a third plane was crashed into The Pentagon outside Washington, DC; a fourth plane was believed to be headed for the U. S. Capitol Building or possibly The White House but crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania; and back in New York City, less than two hours after the initial impacts, the World Trade Center towers collapsed. These were all devastating images to watch as thousands of people were killed in seseless acts of terrorism and other died in the aftermath.
Within months we saw many dramatic television shows write the attacks into their storylines in tasteful and sensitive ways. And now, five years later, we're beginning to see feature films related to the attacks. United 93 and World Trade Center, the most prominent of the projects. While both of these films have received stellar reviews for their storytelling, accurate depiction of events, and sensitivity to the material, I haven't been able to bring myself to view either because I'm just not ready to relive the horror. I don't know that I will ever be ready. It's just too painful. I made the mistake of turning on Today this morning and upon seeing the video of the hijacked planes flying into the towers mixed with live images of people visiting Ground Zero for today's memorial activities, found myself sobbing- almost uncontrollably- as if the attacks had just happened.
Life will never be the same after 9/11. As a society, we now look at people of Middle Eastern descent with suspicious eyes. Justified? Maybe. Does that make it right? No. We see all Muslims as radicals and threats to our global safety. Justifed? Maybe. Does that make it right? No. Air travel is hugely more inconvenient, with extensive and exhaustive new security guidelines. Justified? You bet! Does that mean we have to like it? No. We won't even talk about the psychological effects of 9/11 on our soceity-- young, old, and in between.
As we mark the fifth anniversary of the attacks, we pray for those killed and for their families who live on without their loved ones. We pray for our troops who continue to wage the War on Terror, however misguided some say the battle is. We pray for our President who believes he is making decisions in the best interest of the United States of America and the world. And, we pray for those who would wage terror on America and other parts of the world, for they are the ones who really need God's help.
Oh, Good Evening.
There are some things I do all the time when I visit Las Vegas. I love hanging out on The Strip and checking out the various themed resorts. New York-New York, Paris and Caesar's Palace are my favorites. Also, the premium outlet center is a must visit for fantastic shopping deals. This year, I will also visit GM's new autotainment attraction, The Drive on Sahara at Paradise.
From what I've read, The Drive offers two driving experiences to those who visit. One is a sporty track where you get to drive some of GM's hot muscle cars like the Chevy Corvette, Cadillac CTS-V and Pontiac Solstice through tight curves, and chicanes.
The other track is an off-road experience that allows you to see exactly what the HUMMER H2 and H3 can do. Also, the all-new 2007 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban are available for testing. As a HUMMER driver who has yet to take his vehicle off-roading, I'm looking forward to checking out The Drive so I can find out, first hand, what my vehicle is truly capable of.
Many people have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to drive a HUMMER H2 particularly now that gasoline prices are sky high and the H2's fuel efficiency is basement level low. But if you like rugged vehicles and the prospect of going places that most vehicles can't, the H2 is a dream drive. Of course, I think it's a dream drive on-road, too. The H3, while smaller in size, is the H2's performance equal in virtually every way.
In terms of sheer fun, GM is offering some great options for car enthusiasts. Topping the list is the Corvette. I haven't driven one of these beauties since I was a teenager. Boy, was that a thrill. I think I was 17 or 18, home from school for the summer when one of my father's friends came by in his new, shiny red Corvette. I was literally drooling over the car and I asked the gentleman if he would take me for a ride. His response was, "you know how to drive, go ahead." And, he tossed me the keys. I drove that car around Southfield, Michigan for a good 30 minutes with the biggest grin on my face. When I returned home, it was difficult to give the keys back.
I can't wait to drive one of the latest 'Vettes. I also want to check out the new Pontiac Solstice roadster and the Caddy CTS-V and STS-V. I plan to put the pedal to the metal and DRIVE! I'll let you know how they all perform.
Oh, Good Evening!
(Photos from GM)
While paging through the current issue of Road & Track magazine over the weekend, I came across this photo/illustration of a possible new offering from Volkswagen. The related write-up talks about plans to bring back the sporty VW Scirocco to the U.S. market which would be good for VW since the Scirocco was pretty good seller in the 70's and 80's.
Judging by the photo, the new Scirocco, planned for introduction in 2008, would be a good looking ride. However, the article mentions the estimated starting price will be under $30,000 with power ranging from 115 to 200 bhp. With those numbers, I hope that starting price would be well below $30k and not just $5 below. I wouldn't pay $29,995 for a so-called sports car that only packed four cylinders and 115 horses.
General Motors has announced its new 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty for up to five years on all 2007 model cars, SUVs, and light duty trucks. For most models, this is a big increase from the former three year/36,000 mile or four year/50,000 mile warranties previously offered. GM says it now offers the best warranty coverage in the industry.
“We’ve been telling everyone how strong GM’s cars and trucks are in terms of value, design, quality and durability. Now we’re going to back it up,” Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said. “This new warranty, combined with GM’s outstanding quality, competitive pricing, relevant technologies and a strong new lineup of cars and trucks, provides motorists with an unprecedented level of value and peace of mind.
According to GM, the new 100,000 mile warranty covers 900 components related to the engine, transmission, transfer case (if applicable) and final drive assemblies on all 2007 Chevrolet, Pontiac, GMC, Buick, Saturn, Cadillac, HUMMER, and Saab cars and light trucks sold in North America. Bumper-to-bumper protection for non-powertrain components remains at current levels which include four year/50,000 miles for Buick, Cadillac, HUMMER and Saab; three year/36,000 miles for Chevrolet, Pontiac, GMC and Saturn.
GM vehicles are certainly looking better these days. The new GMT900 trucks (Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra) and SUVs (Chevy Tahoe-Suburban-Avalanche/GMC Yukon/Cadillac Escalade), Pontiac's Solstice and Saturn's Sky and Aura models are hot looking cars to me. If they all drive as well as they look, get the fuel economy that GM boasts and quality improvements are strong, things could start looking up for the world's largest automaker. I certainly hope so, for my mother's sake. She's a GM retiree and needs her checks!
Oh, Good Evening!
Sunday, September 10, 2006
NBC's Sunday Night Football with Al Michaels and John Madden in the booth is a big winner. But that was a given since ABC's Monday Night Football with the same pairing was a big winner. Hands down, they are the best broadcast team in football. ESPN's decision to take Monday Night Football in a direction with which Michael's was uncomfortable with proved to be an unexpected plus for NBC which had already signed Madden. Enough said about that.
I'm less impressed with NBC's Football Night in America pre-game show. Not because I don't like the talent-- the team is very good-- it's mostly because I don't like the set. It seems dark, un-football like, and far too busy on screen. The u-shaped anchor desk has a three-panel video display on the front and a big NBC logo sits on the floor. The backdrop appears to be a big bookcase, but when the director punches up a close up shot, you can see that it's actually several "windows" on a video array. Whenver the director uses the wide shot showing all four anchors at the desk, I'm distracted from whatever they're talking about. I don't like it.
In addition to Michaels and Madden, here's what I do like about the NFL's return to NBC:
- The Theme Music. It screams Roman gladiator loud and clear and that's what NFL players are-- gladiators!
- The Graphics. Unlike FOX, which puts graphics on the screen in such a way that it looks like they are painted on the field, NBC is using what I would call a subtle graphics presentation. The score/down/clock graphic doesn't block your main view of the screen; player notes are vibrant and easy to read; animated wipes are crisp. They add information to the game viewing experience withouth becoming the game viewing experience.
- Jerome Bettis. For a rookie front-line studio analyst, he appears amazingly comfortable on camera. That's not to say I though he would struggle. I knew he would be good because I had seen him do some stuff on the NFL Network. But NFLN puts a lot of players and former players on TV and most of them are not that good. It's a different ballgame at NBC but just like his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, The Bus showed up fully fueled ready for a long, smooth ride down the broadcast highway.
- Sterling Sharpe. Not that there's a sibling rivalry going on, but Sterling on NBC and Shannon on CBS is an interesting dynamic. I like both of the Sharpe brothers and in this case, Sterling adds real life to the NBC studio team. Bob Costas is Bob Costas, which is to say he's solid but not very exciting. Chris Collinsworth isn't bad, he isn't great. He's just OK to me. And, Bettis is still adjusting to life in a studio instead of on a field. Sharpe can be life of this party and I expect he will be. His insights are great and he has no problem expressing them.
- Andrea Kramer. She's one of the best sideline reporters in the business. Hell, she's one of the best reporters, period, in the business. In a time where many sideline reporters are just pretty faces with nice bust lines and not an ounce of journalism background, Kramer is a deep digging, fact finding, comprehensive reporter who asks all the right questions and gets real stories of interest for football fans. NBC did a good thing luring her from ESPN to work with Michaels and Madden.
- Game Time. 8:30 PM start is only 30 minutes earlier than what ABC had for its Monday night games, but that half hour means a lot. A game that ends around 11:30 in stead of midnight or later means a lot to the rabid fan who's been watching football all day and night and has to get up for work in the morning. Granted, this really isn't a change since ESPN's Sunday Night Football also started at 8:30 PM. But, Monday Night Football on ABC always started at 9:00 PM and would often run beyond midnight making that morning turnaround rough for fans.
For the true NFL fan, it's hard for any network to screw up coverage of a game. We watch for the football. Not the announcers; not the graphics; not the theme music; not the studio hosts. We watch for the hard hitting action that is pro football at its best, pure and simple. That said, NBC's Sunday Night Football is no better or no worse than NFL brodacasts on Fox, CBS, or ESPN. Next to join the fray-- the NFL Network, which begins live game broadcasts on Thanksgiving night.
Oh, Good Evening!
It's a new day on FOX NFL Sunday and it's not entirely pretty. James Brown, who hosted what became known as the #1 NFL pre-game show on television since its inception in 1994, left FOX after the 2005 season to return to CBS where he is now hosts The NFL Today.
I've been looking for more detailed information about why JB decided to vacate his FOX position but I can't find anything. Since he will also call NCAA basketball games at CBS, I can only assume that's something he really wanted to do since he is a former college (Harvard) and pro (Atlanta Hawks) basketball player. Brown also lives in Washington, DC and may have been tired of making the cross country trek to Los Angeles for the weekend NFL gig. The CBS pregame show is based in New York, a much shorther plane hop from DC.
Regardless of why Brown left FOX, his departure has completely changed the pregame show that I, and many others, had grown to love. There is still a JB in the host's chair as FOX Sports named Joe Buck the new host. Buck also continues as the network's lead play-by-play guy so the pregame show now originates from whatever stadium from which he's scheduled to call the game. I didn't see the Week One pre-game show, but I did see the post-game show and I didn't really like it. It wasn't bad, but I didn't like the nearly identical setup to ESPN's very popular and hugely successful College Football Gameday show which originates from the location of a top matchup each Saturday. It just didn't seem to work for me. Kind of like the CBS attempt to move it's NFL show outside one season. (Is it still outside?)
Another disappointment for me-- the lack of diversity on the studio team. With JB's (James Brown's) departure and JB's (Joe Buck's) arrival, the main team is all white. And when you think about it, FOX has gone from having 50% diversity on that team-- Ronnie Lott was a member of the crew from 1996-1997-- to 25% diversity, to 0% diversity. Though, I'm sure FOX officials would say the team isn't all white because Curt Menefee, an African American, sits in the host chair during halftime because Joe Buck is in the booth calling a game. I'm sorry, that's weak. And, no offense to Menefee, but he's no James Brown. Not even close. Also, Best Damn Sports Show Period host Chris Rose handles Game Break updates fro Los Angeles, though we never see him.
I guess we'll see how this new format with the new faces plays with viewers. I'm not impressed after my first look, and you know the old saying-- "First impressions are lasting impressions." I'd consider switching to ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown but former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin gets on my last nerve.
Oh, Good Evening!
I'm pumped. And, so are the Lions. We're only midway through the second quarter and already, Detroit has blocked two field goal attempts, forced and recovered a fumble, and jumped out to a 3-0 lead, which Seattle just matched by converting their third field goal attempt. Don't get me wrong, I'm not celebrating by any means. But I'm encouraged by the team's intensity. GO LIONS!
UPDATE: LIONS LOSE OPENER
SEA 9 DET 6
While it would be easy for me to say, "same result, different season," it really isn't. Yes, Detroit lost the game, but the defense was awesome, and the offense will blow up as soon as quarterback Jon Kitna gets in sync with his primary receivers. Kevin Jones is showing signs of of the form he had during the second half of his rookie season, and the offensive line looks improved. They just have to get the ball in the end zone!
No time to lick wounds. We go to Chicago next Sunday for an NFC North division matchup against the Bears and it's a must win situation for the Lions. An 0-2 start to the season could be very deflating.
Oh, Good Evening!
The score: SAC 75 DET 80.
More than 19,000 fans, the second largest crowd in WNBA playoffs history, were on hand at Joe Louis Arena in Downtown Detroit for the big win. The game was played at JLA because of a previously scheduled concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Shock's regular home arena.
Point guard Deanna Nolan was named WNBA Finals MVP after scoring 24 points in Game Five and averaging 18 points for the series.
This is the second title in four years for the the Shock. They defeated the Los Angeles Sparks to win the 2003 title.
The Palace of Auburn Hills will now change its address from 4 Championship Drive to 5 Championship Drive. And, they earn a return visit to The White House to meet President Bush. Way to go ladies!!!!!
Oh, Good Evening!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Now that the season is underway, I need to pass along a few ground rules:
- DO NOT call me on Sundays after 1pm ET. I will either be watching football or I will be at a football game. Either way, I DO NOT WISH TO BE DISTURBED!
- DO NOT text message me on Sundays after 1pm ET. I will either be watching football or I will be at a football game. Either way, I DO NOT WISH TO BE DISTURBED!
- If you invite me to your home on Sunday afternoon and you are not watching football my response will be, "HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?!?!"
- DO NOT talk negatively about the Detroit Lions to me. I don't care that the team hasn't had a winning season in forever, hasn't been to the playoffs in forever, and has never been to-- let alone won-- a Super Bowl. Detroit is MY team. If you can't say anything nice to me about the Lions, don't say anything at all.
- Did I mention DO NOT call me on Sundays after 1pm ET?
- Always remember-- NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV is the BOMB!
- If you have any control over the weather, keep thunderstorms away from my house on Sunday afternoons. Heavy rain messes up my DirecTV reception.
- If I call you and say I have tickets to a game and invite you to go with me, just say YES and join me. I don't want to hear about how you don't like football, crowds, or drunken fans.
- If you are buying me a gift during football season, there is no need to call and ask me what I would like. Just get me something from the Detroit Lions line! (A jersey, t-shirt, team hat, season tickets, etc.) If it's got a leaping lion on it, I won't be disappointed and you won't have your feelings hurt.
- Did I mention DO NOT call me on Sundays after 1pm ET? Oh, well I forgot to mention that this rule applies to any day with scheduled NFL action.
Remember, these rules are in effect thru the conclusion of Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007. The penalty for violating any of these rules is automatic humiliation by verbal lashing.
Oh, Good Evening!
Okay. I didn't like the debut of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric on Tuesday but I gave the newscast another chance on Wednesday and I'm not on the road to conversion.
Day Two of the Couric era featured an exclusive interview with President Bush at The White House. I know the networks periodically land one-on-one interviews with the leader of the free world-- Brian Williams with NBC had an exclusive with President Bush in New Orleans last week-- but Katie getting Bush on her second day in the chair left me thinking The White House played along with an effort to make her look more like the network command anchor, kind of like those on the West Wing payroll work to make Mister Bush look more like a president in control on a daily basis. But, more power to her and the Eye for landing this week's presidential exclusive.
My big disappointment and concern about Day Two was that for the second straight night, there were no reports from any correspondents of color in the newscast. No Byron Pitts; no Russ Mitchell: no Joie Chen; no Vince Gonzales. It was like eating bland fried chicken from Piccadilly when the spicy variety from Popeye's is so much better. And, then came the announcement that Rush Limbaugh would be the featured "freeSpeech" commentator on Thursday. Good grief! (Sigh!) Maybe she'll invite Rev. Al Sharpton to do Friday's segment.
Oh, Good Evening!
Justice (Wednesdays, 9pm on FOX): Jerry Bruckheimer Television produces this high speed, high tech legal drama that focuses on a high profile law firm where the specialty is defending clients in high profile cases. Yeah, I know that sounds like most other legal dramas. The hook here-- you don't know how the crime was actually committed until the end. I LOVE IT!!! Give it a look. Stars include Victor Garber (Alias), Kerr Smith (E-Ring), Eamonn Walker (OZ), and Rebecca Mader (The Devil Wears Prada).
Vanished (Mondays, 9pm on FOX): A U. S. Senator's wife mysteriously disappears from a charity dinner in her honor and the search to find her will take all season. It will also reveal a series of other secrets that add more mystery and intrigue to the story. It's got elements of 24, which I think is the best damn drama show period, that make this one work for me, too. Stars include Gale Harold (Queer as Folk) as Special Agent Graham Kelton, John Allen Nelson (24) as Senator Jeffrey Collins, and Joanne Kelly (Slings and Arrows) as the mysterious and missing Sarah Collins.
Other shows on my TiVo Season Pass List:
- 24 (FOX)
- Prison Break (FOX)
- Desperate Housewives (ABC)
- Boston Legal (ABC)
- CSI: Miami (CBS)
- Las Vegas (NBC)
- Ghost Whisperer (CBS)
- Noah's Arc (Logo)
- Nip/Tuck (FX)
- American Idol (FOX)
- Project Runway (Bravo)
- The Boondocks (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
Oh, Good Evening!
Last night's 20-point road victory over the Sacramento Monarchs evened the series and reclaims home court advantage for the Shock. It would be so nice if Detroit could celebrate at least one professional league championship during this unprecedented season of success. The Pistons and Red Wings fell short and it looks like the Tigers are fading, each after building the best records in their respective leagues. The Shock have the third best record in the WNBA but right now, have the best shot at winning a title.
Let's go ladies! One game, winner takes all! Focus, bear down, and make it happen!
Oh, Good Evening!