Life in the Slow Lane

February 26, 2009

‘The Simpsons’ renewed for two more years

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 2:33 pm

Fox announced today that “The Simpsons” has been picked up for two more seasons, ensuring the show will be on for a total osimpfamily_vertical2ff 22 seasons and bringing it near the 500-episode plateau by the end of the extension.

This season, while not comparable to the seasons 4-8 glory years, has been better than several recent seasons. The jokes remain funny, the commentary relevant and Homer a baffling buffoon – really, no reason to stop things. Among the highlightsleft to come this season are an episode written by “Superbad” scribe Seth Rogen (Comic Book Guy creates a superhero named Everyguy, and Homer is recruited to play him in the film adaptation, with Rogen featured as Homer’s trainer) and a parody episode of “Prison Break.”

•••

“BEST. NEWS. EVER.”


FOX RENEWS HIT ANIMATED SERIES “THE SIMPSONS”

FOR TWO ADDITIONAL SEASONS


FOX has ordered two additional seasons of THE SIMPSONS, which will bring the longest-running series in primetime television history through its 22nd season. The 44-episode pickup ensures the series will reach an astounding 493 episodes. THE SIMPSONS airs Sundays (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX.


Since its debut on January 14, 1990, THE SIMPSONS immediately struck a chord with viewers across the country as it poked fun of itself and everything in its wake. With its subversive humor and delightful wit, the series has made an indelible imprint on American pop culture and has become one of television’s most iconic families.


“Best. 20 Years. Ever.,” a year-long global celebration honoring all things THE SIMPSONS, launched in January 2009 and will culminate on January 14, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the series’ debut.


The critically praised series has been bestowed with numerous honors, including a Peabody Award, 24 Emmy Awards, 23 Annie Awards, four Genesis Awards, nine International Monitor Awards and seven Environmental Media Awards. THE SIMPSONS holds the Guinness Book of World Records titles for Longest-Running Primetime Animated Television Series and Most Guest Stars Featured in a Television Series. Recognized as a pop culture icon, Homer Simpson’s annoyed grunt – “D’oh!” – is an official word in the Oxford English Dictionary, and THE SIMPSONS has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With record-breaking retail sales, THE SIMPSONS reigns as one the best-selling TV DVD properties of all time. In 2007, THE SIMPSONS celebrated an unprecedented 400 episodes, and the long-awaited “The Simpsons Movie” was released and went on to gross $526 million worldwide to date. Additionally, “The Simpsons Ride” opened in May 2008 at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, and Hollywood, CA.


THE SIMPSONS is a Gracie Films Production in association with 20th Century Fox Television. James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean are the executive producers. Film Roman is the animation house.

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February 25, 2009

Steven Page leaves Barenaked Ladies

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 11:23 am

A post on the Barenaked Ladies’ Web site states that singer/guitarist Steven Page is leaving the group by mutual agreement to pursue solo projects.

This will likely surprise most BNL fans as it did me. We saw the BNL a few months ago at Seneca Niagara Casino, and they put on a good show. The concert took place soon after Page’s legal troubles in New York state, which almost prevented him from crossing the border and performing stateside that night (he, his girlfriend and her roommate were charged with drug possession in July after police found cocaine at an apartment in New York state; all three secured a deal to have charges dropped if they stayed out of trouble for six months). The band members joked about it to a certain extent on stage that night, with Page displaying a good sense of humor about the whole situation.

The band’s remaining members say they will continue on. Plans are to record a new album and tour later this year, but it doesn’t seem BNL will be the same without Page rounding out the vocal harmonies (and the comedic ad libs during live shows, which are a big part of the reason to attend a BNL show).

Best known for “If I Had a Million Dollars” and the deplorable “One Week,” Toronto-based BNL  is also responsible for the much-better “Brian Wilson,” “Too Little Too Late” and “The Old Apartment.”

February 23, 2009

‘Extreme Makeover’ considering helping crash victims

Filed under: Life,Television — pauljlane @ 5:29 pm

I sent an e-mail last week to the ABC PR folks who handle “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” to ask them about whether they would act on the online petition seeking help for the Wielinski family, which lost its home and a family member in the Flight 3407 crash in Clarence, which killed 49 people on the plane and one person on the ground.

I asked a series of questions about the Wielinskis specifically and the casting process in general. Following is the response I received:

“We, like the rest of America are deeply saddened by the tragic plane crash in Buffalo, NY, and our hearts go out to all the families who have been affected.  We have received the petition and are reviewing it, but we do not comment on the casting process. We truly appreciate the effort involved and are always thrilled to see a community coming together to help each other.”
— Anthony Dominici, Executive Producer

If you ask me, ABC’s getting involved with this matter is a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t tune in to that episode, and who wouldn’t give ABC karma points for helping the surviving mother and daughter of this tragedy? And while they’ve said they don’t want to rebuild on the crash site, who woud disagree that the Wielinskis need any help they can received? It’s a no-lose situation.

For the unititiated, “Extreme Makeover” follows a team of fixer-uppers as the renovate and/or rebuild homes for families affected by tragedy, such as those with a sick child or in which one of the caregivers loses their job.

Voting under way on all-time Buffalo Bills squad

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 2:04 pm

As part of the team’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Buffalo Bills have opened up voting on the team’s Web site for the public to select the all-time Bills squad.

Voting is now underway for offense and special teams, with defensive and coach voting to take place later on. Voting will end April 19, with the all-time team to be unveiled April 25.

Some choices (Jim Kelly) are obvious, but others (Thurman Thomas or pre-incarceration O.J. Simpson) will be tougher. Also, while Andre Reed is the obvious No. 1 wide receiver, will you pick Lee Evans, Jerry Butler, James Lofton or Eric Moulds for Nos. 2 and 3? The final results should be interesting.

The team also unveiled a 50th anniversary logo that incorporates the classic and modern Bills helmet logos (it can be viewed on the team’s site). Various contests will also be held on the team Web site and through local grocers. The Bills also announced a bunch of other sponsorships, but I won’t get into those here.

Is anyone out there excited about this anniversary, or is there more trepidation about the team’s perilous state within the Western New York community? Please share your thoughts.

February 19, 2009

Heavy hittes give Fallon early late-night boost

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 11:45 am

NBC is holding nothing back during Jimmy Fallon’s first week in the 12:35 a.m. time slot being vacated by Conan O’Brien.

The network announced today that Robert DeNiro and Van Morrison will appear on the debut telecast March 2, with Tina Fey and Cameron Diaz among other big names to take a seat during Fallon’s first week.

NBC would appear to need to take every chance possible to keep the Peacock atop the ratings (even with Conan’s farewell on the way, CBS; Craig Ferguson has steadily gained in the ratings). That’s why, despite the hesitation of many viewers, NBC had to go with an established talens such as Fallon – like Conan a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus – as opposed to a relative unknown such as Conan, who was plucked from a writing gig with “The Simpsons” to take over for David Letterman and who literally grew into the star talent he is now in front of America’s eyes.

I don’t stay up that late anymore, so the move probably won’t have any impact on me, but what do you late-night viewers think? Are you looking forward to seeing Fallon? Do you think Conan can do as well an hour earlier? And what of Jay Leno’s move to prime time (which I think is a brilliant move, cuz people love Leno)?

•••

Here, from NBC, is the full release.

Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” along with Producer Michael Shoemaker, have announced that two-time Academy Award-winning actor, director and producer Robert De Niro will guest star on the show’s premiere Monday, March 2 on NBC at 12:35 a.m. ET. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer Van Morrison will perform from his critically acclaimed “Astral Weeks,” named by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003 as one of the top 20 albums of all time.
Also slated to appear on the show during it’s inaugural week are such stars as Tina Fey, Jon Bon Jovi and Santigold (Tuesday, March 3); Cameron Diaz and Billy Crudup (Wednesday, March 4); Donald Trump, Serena Williams and Ludacris (Thursday, March 5); and Drew Barrymore and Mario Batali (Friday, March 6).

February 18, 2009

Should Niagara University get an at-large NCAA tourney berth?

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 2:28 pm

Interesting article here by ESPN’s Pat Forde, a portion of which is devoted to the dearth of NCAA hoops tourney berths available to mid-major squads.

Two local teams – UB and Niagara – seem poised to ride the bubble speculation in the next couple weeks, with the Purple Eagles making an especially strong case for inclusion should they not win their conference tournament. It seems unlikely, but Forde makes an argument that’s hard to argue with.

As for the Bulls, they’re head and shoulders above the rest of their conference, so all they have to do is not screw it up.

Are local hoops fans excited about the prospect of two local squads dancing into March this year (along with Syracuse University’s likely return after a two-year absence from the tourney)? Share your thoughts.

Review of Bacon Brothers’ ‘New Year’s Day’

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 2:20 pm

As promised in print, here is my review of the latest Bacon Brothers album, “New Year’s Day.” Here is the preview story I wrote that appeared in Night & Day.

If you’re left unsure of how to feel after listening to the latest album from the Bacon Brothers, don’t worry.
With touches of blues, country, island music and folk rock, “New Year’s Day” takes the listener all over the emotional map.
The final destination, at least, isn’t a half-bad place to end up. bacon-brothers
Adding to the cornucopia of sounds is the fact that the brothers — Kevin and Michael — swap songwriting and vocal duties. The listener assuredly does not get the same recording twice, with each person adding their own touches to the song they’re leading.
The record opens with “Go My Way,” which features a lively bounce accented by a bluesy, syncopated guitar line. This song is easily the most active effort on the record, as many of the remaining tracks have a more laid-back feel.
“Almost Got Rich” offers a Counting Crows light rock feel, while an off-beat Jamacian rhythm backs “Bunch of Words.” And locals get their props on “Tell Me What I Have to Do,” a folksy ballad that opens with a mention of the region’s main attraction: “Can’t walk on water, I barely swim at all/But give me a sign and I’ll climb in a barrel and go over Niagara Falls.”
This album, like the Bacons’ previous efforts, will not make the band famous (for their collaborative musical efforts, at least). But both men know how to work a pen and guitar — although a few of the tracks on this album are instantly forgettable — and their final product is an indication that they enjoy their music regardless of how it’s received compared to their full-time work.
Grade: B

February 17, 2009

French recipes, films to complete that France-themed night

Filed under: Life — pauljlane @ 2:48 pm

As promised in print, here, courtesy of Gannett News Service, are some French recipes and France-related films to complete your France-themed night.

French-themed flicks
Here’s what to watch after you’ve eaten your perfect French meal:
“Beauty and the Beast” (1946, written and directed by Jean Cocteau)
“An American in Paris” (1952, starring Gene Kelly)
“To Catch a Thief” (1955, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly; directed by Alfred Hitchcock)
“And God Created Woman” (1957, starring Brigitte Bardot)
“The 400 Blows” (1959, directed by Francois Truffaut)
“Breathless” (1961, directed by Jean-Luc Godard)
“Belle du Jour” (1967, starring Catherine Deneuve)
“The French Connection” (1971, starring Gene Hackman)
“Last Tango in Paris” (1973, starring Marlon Brando)
“La Cage Aux Folles” (1979)
“Babette’s Feast” (1988)
“La Femme Nikita” (1991, directed by Luc Besson)
“French Kiss” (1995, starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline)
“Chocolat” (2001, starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp)
“Amelie” (2001, starring Audrey Tautou)
“Paris, Je T’Aime” (2006)
“Ratatouille” (2007)
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007, starring Mathieu Amalric, directed by Julian Schnabel)
“La Vie En Rose” (2007, starring Marion Cotillard)

These recipes speak French to your palate
Make a meal from the menu items here to suit your tastes.
MOULES MARINIERES (MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE)
6 and one-half pounds cultivated mussels
two-thirds cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon saffron threads
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped shallots (10 to 15 shallots)
one-third cup minced garlic (12 to 15 cloves)
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, drained (8 ounces)
three-fourths cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
one-fourth cup fresh thyme leaves
2 cups white wine
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with 4 quarts of water and flour and soak for 30 minutes, or until the mussels disgorge any sand. Drain mussels, then remove the “beard” from each with your fingers. If they’re dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water. Discard any mussels whose shells aren’t tightly shut. Soak the saffron in one-fourth cup hot tap water for 15 minutes and set aside.
In a large (12-quart) non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the saffron with the soaking water, the tomatoes, parsley, thyme, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don’t burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.
COQ AU VIN (CHICKEN IN WINE)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 or 3 thick slices bacon, roughly chopped
1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into six pieces
1 handful flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
8 to 10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, rinsed and halved (optional)
20 whole baby carrots, cut in half
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 large sweet onions, chopped, or 2 cups pearl onions
1 bottle red wine (white works, too)
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Transfer to a large plate.
Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour in a paper or plastic bag.
Brown the chicken in the pot, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to the plate with the bacon.
Saute the mushrooms (if using), carrots, garlic and onions in the pot until they just begin to brown, 5 minutes. Pour half the wine into the pan and cook over high heat for about 8 minutes.
Add the broth and the remaining wine. Bring to a boil and add the chicken, bacon, and herbs.
Return to a boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
GARLIC MASHED POTATOES
one-fourth cup garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 head)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
one-fourth cup heavy cream, half-and-half or crhme fraiche
In a small saucepan, bring the garlic and oil to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook uncovered for 5 minutes, or until the garlic is lightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside. The garlic will continue to cook in the oil.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. With a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the water, reserving the cooking water, and remove the garlic from the oil, reserving the oil.
Process the potatoes and garlic through a food mill fitted with the medium disc. Add the reserved olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, the pepper, cream and three-fourths cup of the cooking water to the potatoes and mix with a wooden spoon. Add more cooking water, if necessary, until the potatoes are creamy but still firm. Season to taste and serve hot. Makes 6 servings
TARTE TATIN (CARMELIZED APPLE TART)
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 large Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples, peeled and cored (8 ounces each)
Juice of 1 lemon
One-fourth cup unsalted butter
1 sheet Puff Pastry
4 mint sprigs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve all the sugar, then add the corn syrup. Turn the heat up to high. Use a pastry brush dipped in clean water to wash away the sugar deposits on the inside of the pan until the sugar stops splashing the sides. When the mix starts to caramelize and becomes a golden brown, take the caramel off the heat and immediately pour into four 8-ounce ramekin molds, to a depth of three-sixteenths of an inch each.
Slice the apples in half vertically. Lay the dome side down into the molds. Pour 1 teaspoon of lemon juice over each apple in the molds. Add 1 tablespoon of butter in the dip of each apple where the core used to be.
Roll out the puff pastry to one-eighth inch thick; allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Cut four, 4 and one-half inch circles with a fluted pastry wheel and place them on top of the apples.
Bake the apples in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. To check if the apples are done, use a paring knife to lift the puff pastry slightly. The apples are done when they look translucent; there should be no resistance in the apple.
Cool tarts slightly for about 5 minutes; turn the ramekins over onto a tray. Let the pastries sit for about 5 more minutes and take the molds off. Place a mint sprig at the top of the apple and serve with ice cream. Makes 4 individual servings.
POMMES FRITES (FRENCH FRIES)
3 and one-half pounds russet potatoes
Canola or peanut oil as needed
Salt as needed
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch sticks (you can use a mandolin for this job). Hold the potatoes in cold water until you’re ready to blanch. Just before blanching the fries, pat them dry with clean linen or paper towel.
Add the oil to a deep fryer or a deep pot; there should be at least 2 or 3 inches of oil to fry the potatoes. Heat the oil to 300 degrees.
Blanch the potatoes in 2 batches. Maintain the oil temperature until the fries are cooked yet have no color, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
When you’re ready to serve the fries, heat the oil to 360 degrees and cook them in batches until they’re crisp and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, sprinkle with salt, and serve immediately.
Note: The word “blanch” literally means to whiten. To blanch the fries means cooking without coloring. This two-stage cooking method will ensure a crisp surface with a fluffy interior. Makes 6 servings.
EPINARDS A LA CREME AUX OEUFS DURS (CREAMED SPINACH WITH HARD-BOILED EGGS)
8 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
3-4 pounds spinach, stems removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, minced
one-half teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the salt and spinach, pressing the spinach down into the water with a spoon. When the water returns to a boil, cook the spinach until just tender, about 2 minutes. Pour into a colander, then rinse with cold water to halt the cooking. Using your hands, squeeze the spinach dry. Chop coarsely and set aside.
In a frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it foams, add the shallot and saute until translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until the spinach has lost all of its moisture, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the salt and pepper, and stir in one-half cup of the cream. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and gradually adding the remaining one-half cup cream, until the mixture is thick and creamy, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
To serve, spoon the spinach onto a warmed platter or shallow baking dish and arrange the egg halves down the middle. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

More from my baby Penny Lane

Filed under: Life,Parenting — pauljlane @ 11:08 am

YouTube sensation, I’m tellin’ ya.

February 13, 2009

The most irresistable kids in the world!

Filed under: Life,Parenting — pauljlane @ 10:34 am

Here are my precious babies, the next Youtube sensation.

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