Life in the Slow Lane

January 22, 2009

Help Buffalo win ‘Souper Bowl’

Filed under: Life — pauljlane @ 2:08 pm

Click here to vote for the Buffalo Bills in Campbell’s Soup’s annual “Click for Cans” contest.

The winning NFL city receives thousands of cans of soup for its food pantries. Buffalo is up against Green Bay in the finals. Green Bay was leading as of Thursday afternoon by about 29,000 votes.

As the AFC finalist, Buffalo will receive 12,000 cans of soup on top of the 1,000 cans every NFL city gets. Winning the overall crown nets one city an additional 5,000 cans.

Super Bowl facts and figures

Filed under: Life,Sports — pauljlane @ 1:03 pm

Following, from the U.S. Census Bureau, are some trivia tidbits about the two cities (phoenix and Pittsburgh) whose cities will take part in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

Phoenix (Arizona Cardinals)
• 5th: Where Phoenix ranked on the list of the nation’s most populous cities. The estimated population of Phoenix on July 1, 2007, was 1.6 million. Phoenix gained 34,941 people from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007, the second-largest numerical increase in the nation. (The Cardinals actually play in Glendale, Ariz., which had an estimated population on July 1, 2007, of 253,152, making it the 70th most populous city in the nation.)
• 24: Percentage of Phoenix residents 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2007; 77 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28 percent and 85 percent.
• 26 minutes: Average amount of time it took Phoenix residents to get to work. Seventy-three percent of the city’s workers drove to work alone, 15 percent carpooled and 4 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took workers an average of 25 minutes to get to work. (There is no statistically significant difference between Phoenix and the nation in the average travel-to-work time.)
• 40: Percentage of Phoenix residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20 percent.
• $48,061: Median household income for Phoenix. The national median was $50,740.
• $246,600: Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Phoenix. The national median was $194,300.
Pittsburgh (Steelers)
• 60th: Where Pittsburgh ranked on the list of the nation’s most populous cities. The estimated population of Pittsburgh on July 1, 2007, was 311,218. Pittsburgh’s population declined by 2,450 from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007.
• 32: Percentage of Pittsburgh residents 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2007; 87 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28 percent and 85 percent.
• 22 minutes: Average amount of time it took Pittsburgh residents to get to work. Fifty-six percent of the city’s workers drove to work alone, 9 percent carpooled and 18 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took workers an average of 25 minutes to get to work.
• 11: Percentage of Pittsburgh residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20 percent.
• $32,363: Median household income for Pittsburgh. The national median was $50,740.
• $84,500: Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Pittsburgh. The national median was $194,300.

January 15, 2009

Buffalo’s absence from NBC hockey schedule baffling

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 5:40 pm

Color me befuddled that NBC’s flex schedule for its NHL game of the week does not feature Buffalo at all this season.

The network will draw one game per week from a pool of a handful of games to televise at 12:30 p.m. Sundays. Hockey “hotbeds” such as Nashville, Florida and Atlanta appear on the list, but not Buffalo, a city always in the top five hockey-watching U.S. markets (Canadian teams aren’t scheduled since NBC can’t draw ratings points from the Great White North.

How does this happen? Buffalo isn’t having a great season, but you at least KNOW that people will watch. What, will 15 Coyotes watch when Phoenix appears on The Peacock? Some has some ‘splainin to do.

Here, from NBC is the season schedule.

2009 NHL GAME OF THE WEEK REGULAR SEASON FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE
(All Games Announced At Least 13 Days Prior)

Sunday, Jan. 18, 12:30 p.m. ET
New York Rangers @ Pittsburgh

Sunday, Feb. 8, 12:30 p.m. ET
Detroit @ Pittsburgh
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
Nashville @ Dallas

Sunday, Feb. 15, 12:30 p.m. ET
Colorado @ Detroit
Philadelphia @ New York Rangers
San Jose @ New Jersey

Sunday, Feb. 22, 12:30 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh @ Washington
Colorado @ Carolina

Sunday, March 8, 12:30 p.m. ET
Boston @ New York Rangers
Pittsburgh @ Washington
Phoenix @ New York Islanders
Colorado @ Chicago

Sunday, March 15, 12:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia @ New York Rangers
Detroit @ Columbus
Boston @ Pittsburgh

Sunday, March 22, 12:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh
New Jersey @ Boston
Los Angeles @ Chicago

Sunday, April 5, 12:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota @ Detroit
Pittsburgh @ Florida
Atlanta @ Washington

Sunday, April 12, 2:00 p.m. ET
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia
Detroit @ Chicago
Boston @ New York Islanders
St. Louis @ Columbus

Feature films and KFC, together at last

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies — pauljlane @ 3:20 pm
Mmm, chicken ...

Mmm, chicken ...

Everyone has questions that linger inside their heads for years, perhaps ultimately unanswerable queries that haunt them on a regular basis.

What’s the meaning of life?

Why are we here?

What movie ties in most closely to each respective part of a chicken?

Fear not, poultry purveyors. Your answers to that third question are here at last. Here, in no particular order, are the films that relate best to each respective part of a chicken.

HEAD: “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”. The most-hated of all six films in the “Star Wars” franchise, “The Phantom Menace” as part one (actually released fourth in the series) is just like a chicken’s cranium. The bird can’t exist without it, but once it’s served its purpose it’s quickly disposed of with little mind payed to it afterward. “The Phantom Menace” offered valuable background information, but it’s the least watchable of the films and probably won’t be viewed a second time except by the most die-hard of fans.

BREAST: “The Shawshank Redemption”. Not the first movie/piece of chicken you’ll pull, but it always satisfies, remains vastly underrated and once you consume it, you remember why it remains in your rotation. It’s meaty and juicy, to boot. Not a No. 1 pick for most people, but nearly always in the Top Three.

LEG: The Joker. I’ll defer to a movie character here as opposed to a film, drawing from Jack Nicholson’s Joker in “Batman” and Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight.” The Joker is the first pick for every Batman fan in terms of a villain they want to see, just like all the legs vanish from the bucket before anyone even thinks about the other pieces. There are fans of both the light (Nicholson) and dark (Ledger) offerings, which offer greatly contrasting options yet both have something that anyone can enjoy. All in all, probably the tastiest offerings in their respective mediums.

WING: “Animal House”. Great at parties, full of spice and zest, easy to handle, not too much to it so as to overwhelm the consumer, leaves everyone smiling.

NUGGET: “The Wizard of Oz”. Just like flying monkeys and talking scarecrows, only the strangest, most creative mind could have come up with the chicken nugget. No one really knows what it’s made of, no one knows why it exists and no one knows why they love it – but love it they do. The McNugget, by comparison, would be Michael Jackson’s “The Wiz.”

BUTT: “Speed Racer”. What happens with a chicken’s butt? Nobody really knows, just like nobody really knew that “Speed Racer” came into theaters last summer.

January 14, 2009

Now this is why …

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — pauljlane @ 2:47 pm

… “American Idol” has pretty much no credibility left, and why we as a society are on the brink of total collapse. I will now go put my head through a window, chew on the shattered shards of glass and then drink a boiling cup of lemon juice.

‘Idol’ thoughts as Fox show returns to the air

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — pauljlane @ 1:41 pm
The bikini girl from "American Idol" might be a most searched item on Google in the coming days, but she's just not that great a singer.

The bikini girl from "American Idol" might be a most searched item on Google in the coming days, but she's just not that great a singer.

I didn’t catch every minute of the season debut of “American Idol” on Tuesday night, but here are a qouple thoughts on what I saw:

• New judge Kara DioGuardi is nice enough, but she doesn’t add much to the show. Her catty moment with “Bikini Girl” provided a few manufactured tense moments, but otherwise she’s little more than a saner version of Paula Abdul. Not that she’s bad, as she has a decent eye for talent, but she doesn’t add anything to warrant her inclusion as judge No. 4 this year.

• As for bikini girl, Katrina Darrell got through on a 2-2 vote to Hollywood (the guys voted for her of course). I’m sorry, but she stands no chance of going anywhere once her clothes are back on. Her kiss with Ryan Seacrest did, however, create the awkward moment of the year (yes, I am confident enough to make that declaration on Jan. 14).

• As for the staged moments, enough. Let the singers’ talent or lack thereof carry the show – which it can. We don’t need vignettes, labels on the auditioners or any other fake drama. Simple stories like the guy who works on the oil rig (Michael Sarver) tell themselves, so that should be as much as we hear from people who aren’t judges or singers.

• Does having a new graphic and a fourth judge really merit calling this the “New” version of “American Idol?”

• Tuesday’s telecast drew 30.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the top-rated show of the 2008-09 TV season (the Jan. 3 Indianapolis-San Diego NFL playoff game was the No. 1 program previous to Tuesday). Those 30.1 million viewers are down 10 percent from last year’s “Idol” season debut (33.4 million) and way below the 37.4 million who watched the first “Idol” episode of 2007, which ranks as the series’ highest viewership to date. Those numbers are down – it will be interesting to see whether people continue to tune out this season – but any other show on television would love to hit a “down note” like that.

• Please, please do without the montages at the end where all the bad contestants sing the same song, then they splice together five-second snippets (Tuesday’s massacre came at the expense of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”). Seriously, wouldn’t the airtime be better devoted to another auditioner or two, or at least another mini-profile on a contestant? Useless tripe such as this gives the average “Idol” telecast more fat arond the edges than, well, me.

January 13, 2009

Baseball writers with Hall of Fame votes are morons

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 4:13 pm

rickey-henderson-939-stolen-bases-1991-photograph-c10103677

OK, maybe such a generalization isn’t fair. But there are a few in the ranks of the nation’s baseball writers who tarnish the good name of the many quality people who hold this job.

Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson were voted Monday into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and they’ll take their places in Cooperstown this summer. Their election brings up two strange points.

Rice, the Red Sox legend, made it in his 15th year of eligibility. If he was good enough this year, why wasn’t he the first 14 times? There have been several years during his time of eligibility when only one other person was elected (Ozzie Smith in 2002, Goose Gossage in 2008), so a lacking of quality candidates isn’t it. It’s not like he played since he first appeared, either, so he couldn’t bolster his numbers. The writers who flip-flopped must just hold to some outdated, childish, idiotic notion that he didn’t “deserve” to be a first-timer, or to go in on a “good year” (such as when George Brett, nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were inducted in 1999), or whatever.

As for Henderson, he made it in his first year of eligibility, but the all-time stolen bases king and game’s prototype leadoff hitter was only named on 511 0f 539 ballots (94.81 percent). How was he not a unanimous selection?

Granted, no one has ever been a unanimous pick (TOm Seaver, at 98.84 percent in 1992, was the closest). But why? Do some writers hold bitterness because their favorite wasn’t unanimous, so no one can be? Are they jealous that they aren’t as rich and athletic as these players? Do they just want to be talked aobut and have attention,a nd choose to do so by not nominating an obvious pick?

Whatever the reason, they’re pathetic people.

The Hockey Hall of Fame set the example that other sports should follow. Following Wayne Gretzky’s retirement in 1999, the hall waived the five-year waiting period and immediately inducted. The NHL also retired his No. 99 leaguewide, ensuring no one would ever again wear his number.

Yes, it breaks tradition. But you’re allowed to do something, even if “it’s always been done” another way. Hockey should be commended for even considering such a breech of etiquette. Exceptional players deserve certain exceptions.

Even with the “tradition” and “lore” of the national pastime, MLB would make a great move if it waived the waiting period for future sure-things such as Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (I hate the Yankees, but the truth is the truth). it won’t because that might offend a few of the old-timers who insist on things being how they always were, but the idiots who wouldn’t vote for Henderson this year have no right to tell anyone else how to do things when they can’t get the easiest of decisions right.

Maybe this old-school insistence is why baseball continues to fade from the nation’s consciousness. Wake up, writers.

January 9, 2009

New ‘Transformers’ poster revealed

Filed under: Movies — pauljlane @ 12:52 pm

Here is the newest poster for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which is due out June 26. The nostalgia factor made me go see “Transformers” in 2007, and while I expected to be entertained by the action the film surprised me with its level of humor and a slight, teensy bit of intelligence (and, yes, lots of action). here’s hoping the sequel doesn’t drop off.

In other “Transformers” news, the first trailer will run during the Super Bowl (as if you needed a reason to watch the game).

Foreboding, isn't it?

Foreboding, isn't it?

January 8, 2009

Winter/spring 2009 TV schedule features new shows, returning faves

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 11:06 am

Following, courtesy of Gannett News Service, is a listing of new shows set to debut this winter/spring, as well as some returning favorites.
New Shows
• Jan. 9: Howie Do It, NBC
Contestants are pranked by Howie Mandel, who is sometimes in disguise.
• Jan. 18: United States of Tara, Showtime
Toni Collette as a mother with multiple personalities. Created by Steven Spielberg.
• Jan. 21: Lie to Me, Fox
Tim Roth plays a man who can tell if people are lying. Good for work, not at home.
• Jan. 27: Trust Me, TNT
Tim Cavanagh and Eric McCormack play friends working at a Chicago ad agency.
• Feb. 13: Dollhouse, Fox
Eliza Dushku has had her personality wiped clean; she gets a new one each week. Created by Joss Whedon, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame.
• Feb. 15: Eastbound & Down, HBO
Danny McBride plays a former major-leaguer returning to his hometown. Will Ferrell is a producer.
• March 9: Castle, ABC
Nathan Fillion gets another shot at TV stardom, playing a horror novelist who helps police.
• March 19: Kings, NBC
Modern-day drama based loosely on David vs. Goliath. Ian McShane and Christopher Egan star.
• March 24: Cupid, ABC.
Remake of the beloved-but-canceled series about a man who may be Cupid or may be crazy. Bobby Cannavale stars.
Returning shows
If you’ve been wondering where your favorite shows are, there’s a decent chance they are returning in the next few weeks. Networks are bringing back a lot of new shows; here are some of the most notable.
• Jan. 12: 24, Fox
• Jan. 13: American Idol, Fox
• Jan. 16: Friday Night Lights, NBC
Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi
• Jan. 18: Big Love, HBO.
Flight of the Conchords, HBO
The L Word, Showtime
Hole In the Wall, FOX
• Jan. 21: Lost, ABC
Burn Notice, USA
• Jan. 27: The Closer, TNT
• Jan. 29: Hell’s Kitchen, Fox
• Feb. 2: Chuck, NBC
Heroes, NBC
Medium, NBC
• Feb. 4: Life, NBC
• Feb. 12: Survivor, CBS
• Feb. 13: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fox
• Feb. 15: The Amazing Race, CBS
• March 1: The Apprentice, NBC
• March 9: Dancing With the Stars, ABC
• March 10: Rescue Me, FX
• March 11: South Park, Comedy Central
• March 12: Reno 911, Comedy Central

January 7, 2009

‘Gran Torino’ excels on all levels

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies — pauljlane @ 12:03 pm

large_eastwd

Never have racial epithets been so pleasingly tolerable as when uttered by Clint Eastwood.

The crotchety old may he plays in “Gran Tornio” weaves such slurs into his daily conversation with an unsettling poetic grace, his gravelly voice and facial expressions adding a hint of comic stoicism to language that most people ordinarily wouldn’t tolerate.

But Eastwood makes it work in “Gran Torino,” a film about a Korean War veteran forced to re-examine his set-in-stone way of doing things amidst a rapidly changing society. Eastwood, who also directed and produced the film, will likely garner more well-deserved attention this award season, as this movie worked all the way around.

Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a retired widower who treats his lower-middle-class property like it was amidst the disputed territory for which he fought 50 years earlier.

Trying to live out his final days in peaceful solitude, Kowalski is interrupted first by the obnoxious young priest (Christopher Carley) who promised his wife he’d look after her husband, and then the oldest daughter, Sue (Ahney Her), of the Hmong family that settled next door to him. As he tries to shoo away these outside influences, Kowalski is forced into the middle of things after gang-bangers who are fighting with his neighbors bring the dispute onto his front lawn.

The film gets its title from Kowalski’s prized possession, the vintage automobile he keeps in mint condition in his garage and that he helped build on the auto plant assembly line in 1972. The car becomes the target of the gang when its members try to initiate Sue’s brother, Thoa (Bee Vang), into their group. Caught at gunpoint in the act, he runs away and decides to avoid the gang’s influences – at least in theory.

The rest of the film involves the gang’s reluctance to leave Kowalski’s neighbors alone, and Kowalski’s reluctance in accepting that people of the same heritage that he was trained to hate in war were now such a big part of his life. Sue’s charm and unorthodox attitude toward race relations helped sway him, though, as did Thoa’s maturation during a two-week stint during which his family forced him to work for Kowalski toregain family honor (Kowalski had the teenager clean up the downtrodden house across the street, then in a humorous moment took orders from other families in the neighborhood to have him do chores at their homes).

The humor in this movie as a whole is its most surprising element. Some of the things said in this film would be atrocious anywhere else, but you can’t help but laugh at them when they come out of Eastwood’s mouth (for language and violence, this film is a solid R and should not be seen by young eyes). As the film progresses, the same epithets he used in earnest in the beginning were uttered for comedic effect by the end, creating several funny moments of banter involving his Asian neighbors, who weren’t shy about firing back.

Many people will go into this film expecting to see the usual, hard-nosed Eastwood acting crazy and ready to fire his gun at any moment. Those film-goers will get their share of Dirty Harry, but they’ll also see a softer side of the tough guy, perhaps an acknowledgment of his escalating years or an attempt to earn redemption.

As Kowalski seeks his own redemption by the film’s end, you can’t help but feel the pain that he kept to himself for decades – the decades of not relating to his children, of being disconnected from society and of memories of the atrocities he committed in Korea. You’ll feel vindication, as well, both for the character and that great cinema still can be made.

GRADE: A

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