Life in the Slow Lane

September 26, 2008

Copycat musicians dot the landscape

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 3:22 pm

To follow up on Sunday’s book review of “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” that appeared in Sunday lifestyle, here are some examples cited by the ahtour of that text.

First, here’s Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” certain elements of which were borrowed by The Beatles for “Come Together.”

Punk pioneers The Jam, in turn, borrowed from The Beatles in writing “Start!” Can you guess which “taxing” Beatles tune they took elements from?

Everyone’s heard The Beach Boys’ “Surfin USA,” but not as many people realize that they borrowed so heavily from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” that they were forced to give Berry a co-writing credit for the song.

Do you have any other examples like this? Discuss.

September 23, 2008

‘Nights in Rodanthe’ extraordinarily average

Filed under: Movies — pauljlane @ 3:25 pm

For every time you see David slay Goliath, there are 99 other times where the expected outcome will take place and the giant will win.

“Nights in Rodanthe” is firmly entrenched in the latter category.

The love story stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane, which in itself should be pretty much all you need to know about what you’ll get here. Both deliver decent performances, but they are given absolutely no room to soar in a script that’s as unsurprising as you could possibly get. Every chick flick stereotype is here.

Terse initial interactions? Check.

Sassy best friend? Check.

Dance sequence? Check.

Gradual realization of a mismatched romance in bloom? Check.

Heart-tugging twist at the end? Check.

None of that seemed to matter to many of the theater-goers during the screening we went to, as more than a few sniffles could be heart in the film’s concluding moments. So while you know exactly what you’ll get here, perhaps that’s what you’ll want.

Before you get to the inevitable ending, you start with Lane as a divorcee with an introverted boy and rebellious teen girl who blames her for the split with her dad. She agrees to watch her best friend’s North Carolina beachhouse while she’s away, with Gere as the lone guest during that time.

Not to be outdone in the baggage department, Gere – who plays a doctor – is in town to talk with the husband of a woman who died during a freak accident on his operating table. He’s also dealing with a son who moved to a small South American village to provide medical care (the son’s also a doctor) and blames his dad for much of what went wrong in his life.

While initially turned off by his host, Gere’s doctor quickly begins to warm up to her, the two eventually sharing drinks over dinner and a game of Spam basketball (they actually decided to clean out the kitchen cupboards, but all that really matters is they needed an excuse to bring the characters closer). And close they got in the aftermath of a wicked hurricane, which (all too conveniently) knocked out the lights for the night.

Just as the relationship begins to bloom, the doctor decided to find his son in South America. While awaiting his return, Lane’s character learns to – wait for it – appreciate life and what she has to offer the world.

Don’t go to this movie if you want anything different from the norm; there simply is nothing new whatsoever offered here. But if you enjoy the familiar, comfortable feel of a romantic story, “Nights in Rodanthe” might be worth cozying up with for a while.

GRADE: C

September 22, 2008

Josh Groban disgraces himself at the Emmys

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 4:52 pm

I challenge you to watch this entire video.

I REALLY tried, but it’s such an embarassment to a quality singer like Josh Graban that I couldn’t last three minutes. I don’t know what the point of this Emmy montage was, I don’t know what illicit act Groban got caught doing to get tied into it – but I know no one could possibly enjoy this. Nothing about this could have even potentially been entertaining.

If this isn’t enough ammunition in the argument of why award shows are garbage, you’re arguing with a completely irrational, borderline insane person.

September 19, 2008

Rashad Evans’ UFC KO relived

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 2:58 pm

As promised in Sunday lifestyle, here is the video of Rashad Evans’ knockout of Chuck Liddell at UFC 88.

September 18, 2008

‘Saturday Night Live’ goes presidential

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 9:38 am

To branch off of my column in this week’s Night & Day about the presidental skits from “Saturday Night Live,” let’s start with the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler skit from this past week’s episode.

Before Bill Clinton earned his permanent spot in history next to the stained blue dress, he was known as a simple Southerner who like food. Here, Phil Hartman does an excellent rendition, combining the president’s intelligence with his desire for a Big Mac.

This video wasn’t mentioned in the column, but here’s a hilarious clip where cast members try out to take over the role of Bill Clinton from the just-departed Phil Hartman.

There’s no video of Will Ferrell as George W. Bush available from the show, but here’s a video shot elsewhere that exhibits the perfect persona he created for the sitting president.

And finally, here’s a clip with Dana Carvey as Ross Perot (way better than his George H.W. Bush) and Hartman as his running mate, Admiral Stockdale.

September 12, 2008

Crystal Beach documentary offers fun memories

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 1:39 pm
The Comet was Crystal Beach's main attraction for decades.

The Comet was Crystal Beach

Watching “Remembering Crystal Beach Park” stirred up images that had been buried in my head for two decades.
As a member of the last generation to experience the Ontario theme park (I was 11 years old when it closed in 1989), some of my earliest recollections involve that theme park, which my parents took us to every summer.
The documentary, airing several times over the next week on WNED, will stir up countless memories for those among us who remember the park, which opened in 1888. The special uses still photos combined with extensive vintage video to recreate the park experience and history.
Crystal Beach is where I rode my first roller coaster (the Giant Coaster, which saw some 20 million riders over its 80-year existence) and beach, which wasn’t huge but seemed too beautiful to belong in the Niagara Frontier.
Given my age, I spent most of my time in the kiddie park, which the film reveals was custom built in the 1950s by the Herschell Carrousel Factory in North Tonawanda (I rode the vintage airplane ride so many times one year the attendant gave me a giant toothbrush trophy to commemorate the achievement).
Also given my age, I was too little to ride The Comet, the park’s signature coaster and still considered by many enthusiasts to be one of the top coasters in the country. A staple at Crystal Beach for nearly a half-century, the ride was moved to Lake George upon the park’s closure; the special concludes with a group of Crystal Beach making the cross-state sojourn to ride the coaster one more time, with one 77-year-old man having that as the top item on his “bucket list.”
Not that the show focus entirely on my time, of course. Among earlier recollections are the Canadiana, the giant passenger boat that brought people from Buffalo to the park and featured a giant dance floor, and the primitive nature of early rides, which had no safety guards and nothing for riders to hold on to but each other.
Even for longtime visitors of the park, there will surely be forgotten gems rediscovered with this program; I completely forgot about the awesome garbage bins, for example, which were shaped like animals in a carnival display, begged for your trash and swallowed it because of the bin’s vacuum suction through the animal’s mouth.
There’s a lot here, but at roughly 41 minutes the program is just the right length; any longer, and the film might have started dragging a bit.
As it is, “Remembering Crystal Beach Park” offers an outstanding drive down Memory Lane for anyone with any recollection of the park — and a good source of information for those who don’t.
IF YOU WATCH
• WHAT: “Remembering Crystal Beach Park”
• WHEN: Noon Sept. 13, 3 p.m. Sept. 14 and 5 p.m. Sept. 20
• CHANNEL: WNED (Channel 17)
• GRADE: A-

‘Nightmares’ more dramatic on this side of the pond

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 9:20 am

I finally had my first chance Thursday night to watch the Fox version of “Kitchen Nightmares,” the show that sees celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay whip lousy restaurants into shape so they can turn around their fortunes.

I’ve watched the BBC version of the show for some time now, so it was good to see the U.S. version to get a comparison between the two.

As one would expect, the U.S. version relies more on controversy and “dramatic moments” to keep viewers turned in. The narrator (the same voice from “Hell’s Kitchen”) kept going on about “You WON’T BELIEVE what happens next” or “it’s unbelievable” or whatnot, which for some reason those in the TV business seem to think American viewers need. The British version of the show has none of that, yet the program itself provides more than enough reason for me to stay tuned in. Even the intro puts the spotlight on the drama rather than the restaurant’s renovation, which should be the real point of the program being on the air.

As for the show itself, it largely is the same quality program on both sides of the pond. For a reason that may never make sense to me, though, Dee Snider made an appearance to help the restaurateurs pass out fliers for their grand reopening. Do they think we Yanks need celebrities to hold our interest, as well? Snider being there wasn’t bad, it was just … really, really odd.

There also was a focus on the footage of the restaurant’s owner blowing up at Ramsay and his employees, which is a necessary part of the story but got a bit overblown. The show probably would have flowed better with more action shots (although granted, Thursday’s show had a more cranky owner than is seen in most weeks on the British version).

Americans borrowed this show from England, like we do many programs, but we didn’t necessarily improve it. It’s still imminently watchable, but the BBC version is just a wee bit better, proving once again that the copy is never quite as good as the original.

I don’t need the accent, but those Brits make a bloody good TV show.

U.S. VERSION: B+

BRITISH VERSION: A-

•••

This is new today from Fox, which has secured Ramsay’s services for both his series and other specials to air on the network.

FOX has sealed a new deal with world-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay. The arrangement will keep Ramsay at the network for several more years and includes an agreement to produce two more installments of the sizzling series HELL’S KITCHEN, another season of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, a yet-to-be determined special and another series.

“Gordon has done an amazing job of creating exciting franchises for FOX,” said Mike Darnell, President, Alternative Entertainment. “From the first time I met him, it was clear that he would be a big star in America. He has become one of the ‘faces of FOX,’ and we’re thrilled that he will be on our network for years to come.”

In HELL’S KITCHEN, hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay turns up the heat as he puts wannabe chefs through a culinary boot camp as they try to slice and dice their way to the top. HELL’S KITCHEN 5 is scheduled to air midseason. Season Four of HELL’S KITCHEN finished as the highest-rated season in the show’s history, ranking No. 1 for Summer 2008 among Adults 18-49.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES explores the softer side of Ramsay where he attempts to turn one ordinary and empty restaurant into the most popular, sought-after venue in town. Chef Ramsay coaches, cheers and challenges the restaurant staff, all the way from appetizers through dessert. KITCHEN NIGHTMARES currently airs Thursdays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Simple recipes for your next brown bag lunch

Filed under: Life — pauljlane @ 9:13 am

Here, courtesy of Gannett News Service, are the promised brown bag recipes from the Sunday Lifestyle section.

Michael Violand, owner of Venture Catering In Indianapolis, says packing healthful lunches is one way parents can help kids eat better and develop good eating habits – or change bad ones.
“Through education and habit, things can change, especially for school kids,” he says, noting that he packs lunches for his two youngest children. “It’s a learned behavior.”
But kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a healthful packed lunch. Adults can cut costs as well as calories by bringing lunch, too.
Instead of indulging in cafeteria or take-out fare that can quickly add up to loads of calories and a hefty lunch bill, bring your own eats.
“Bagging lunch can pay off in health benefits as well as in your pocketbook,” he says.
Violand created these lunch-worthy recipes, which focus on fresh, simply prepared vegetables, chicken and pasta, as a welcome change.
HERBED PENNE WITH SIMPLE GRILLED VEGETABLES
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 servings Simple Grilled Vegetables (recipe below), cut into three-quarter-inch pieces
one-half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
one-fourth teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups hot, cooked wheat penne (about 8 ounces uncooked)
one-fourth cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
one-half cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add Simple Grilled Vegetables (recipe follows) to pan; cook 4 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Stir in one-fourth teaspoon black pepper and crushed red pepper. Remove from heat.
Combine pasta, basil, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining one-fourth teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Toss well. Add Simple Grilled Vegetables; toss well. Sprinkle with cheese. Serves 4.
SIMPLE GRILLED VEGETABLES
8 4-inch portobello mushroom caps (about 1 pound)
4 medium red bell peppers, quartered
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 4 slices (about 1 and one-quarter pounds)
Cooking spray
One-half teaspoon kosher salt
One-fourth teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 and one-half tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Heat grill to medium-high. Arrange mushrooms (gill sides up), bell pepper quarters and onion slices on baking sheet. Coat vegetables with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with black pepper. Drizzle vinegar over mushrooms. Place vegetable on grill rack; grill 5 minutes on each side, or until tender.
VEGGIE CHILI
5 and one-half cups water
three-fourths cup bulgur wheat
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup each chopped onion and red bell pepper
2 tablespoons salt-free chili powder
2 teaspoons each minced garlic and ground cumin
1 28-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 15.5-ounce can low-sodium black or white beans, rinsed
one-half cup chopped cilantro
Reduced-fat cheddar cheese, reduced-fat sour cream, lime slices (optional garnishes)
Put bulgur and 3 cups of the water in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover; microwave until bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add onion and pepper; saute 5 minutes. Add chili powder, garlic and cumin; saute until fragrant.
Add remaining 2 and one-half cups water, tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini and corn; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in beans and bulgur; heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Garnish if desired. Serves 4.
TROPICAL LIME CHICKEN
For salsa:
one-half cup pineapple tidbits
1 medium mango, peeled and chopped
one-fourth cup chopped sweet red, yellow and orange bell peppers
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For chicken:
3 tablespoons plus 1 and one-half teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
one-eighth teaspoon pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
1 cup uncooked couscous
In a small bowl, combine salsa ingredients; cover and refrigerate until serving.
In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the lime juice, oil, lime peel and pepper; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
Drain and discard marinade. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear.
Meanwhile, cook couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken atop couscous and top with salsa. Serves 4
GRILLED VEGETABLE PITAS WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PESTO MAYONNAISE
one-fourth cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared pesto
2 whole-wheat pitas, cut in half
4 lettuce leaves
4 servings Simple Grilled Vegetables
one-half cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (or feta cheese)
Combine mayonnaise and pesto. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise mixture into each pita half. Stuff each pita half with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 serving Simple Grilled Vegetables and 2 tablespoons cheese. Serves 4.

September 10, 2008

Who do you have to pay to win an MTV award?

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 3:43 pm

Take a look at the following music videos.

Can you honestly say that Britney Spears’ video was the best of the lot.

No, of course not. No sane person could. yet it was Spears who took home three MTV Music Video Awards this past weekend for that piece of garbage.

Granted, choosing between these five is a bit like deciding whether to be stabbed in the left eye or right eye. But Britney’s sweep, combined with the overwhelming love she got at the ceremony, makes this writer think that her people paid off someone to garner the honors in attempt to salvage her reputation.

After all, what better stage than MTV – scene of last year’s disastrous comeback attempt by Spears – to resurrect her never-should-have-had-one career?

She can’t sing, she has little charisma, yet she refuses to go away. What more can America do to get rid of her? Gimme an idea and I’ll start the petition.

For those who care, here’s the complete list of winners.

— Video of the year: Britney Spears, “Piece of Me.”
— Female video: Britney Spears, “Piece of Me.”
— Male video: Chris Brown, “With You.”
— Rock video: Linkin Park, “Shadow of the Day.”
— Hip-hop video: Lil Wayne, “Lollipop.”
— Pop video: Britney Spears, “Piece of Me.”
— Dancing in a video: The Pussycat Dolls, “When I Grow Up.”
— New artist: Tokio Hotel

September 9, 2008

‘Prison Break’ equally impressive in week two

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 11:26 am

Showing no letdown from its season premiere, episode two of “Prison Break” on Monday provided evidence that the entire fourth season should be exciting.

Monday’s episode saw the felons’ quest for the six data cards take them to an Internet server in Anaheim, a short drive from their Los Angeles base and the place where a partially deleted e-mail could be stored that could clue them in to their next step. They nearly averting disaster, albeit in a ridiculous fashion – Michael Scofield pulled a fire alarm that sucked the oxygen from the server room, but his brother Lincoln Burrows charged from the exterior with a fireman’s ax, through the entire building and smashed the window at the last second.

But why nitpick the details of a show with such an absurd (in theory) plot, right? They got the info, but at the same time the government was pulling the plug on the plan to bring down The Company, which meant that the convicts would have to go back to prison. Michael escaped, though, and presented the feds with enough promising information to keep the project going.

I’m most interested to see what will happen with T-Bag, the serial killer who’s tracking down Michael to seek revenge for being left for dead too many times. He’s assumed the identity of a now-dead former inmate and is in pursuit of this man’s bonus check from his employer. You know this man is pure evil, but seeing enjoy the creature comforts of his new apartment provided brilliant relief from the show’s drama, as he seemed to enjoy his hot shower, large pizza and adult-themed movie like he hadn’t had those things in years (which he hadn’t). The writers were wise to add that in, that these guys are still people who have been away from reality for a very long time.

Anyway, the show will resume at 9 p.m. Monday with the felons continuing their pursuit of the remaining five cards. I’m excited to see what will happen – or as my wife put it, “How did they make this so (freakin’) good?”

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