Life in the Slow Lane

May 29, 2009

Can the Penguins get it right the second time?

Filed under: Sports,Television — pauljlane @ 2:27 pm

The Stanley Cup finals, pitting Detroit against Pittsburgh for the second straight year, begin at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

The Penguins lost in six games last year and look to avoid back-to-back runner-up sashes. Overcoming the final hump can be hard, especially in a rematch (just ask Bills and Cowboys fans about that), but the Penguins have been playing great lately and should give the Wings a tougher test this time around.

Here is the complete finals broadcast schedule, followed by highlights of the NBC conference call to discuss the series.

STANLEY CUP FINAL BROADCAST SCHEDULE
Game 1 Saturday, May 30 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.
Game 2 Sunday, May 31 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC TBA
Game 3 Tuesday, June 2 Detroit at Pittsburgh Versus 8 p.m.
Game 4 Thursday, June 4 Detroit at Pittsburgh Versus 8 p.m.
Game 5 * Saturday, June 6 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.
Game 6 * Tuesday, June 9 Detroit at Pittsburgh NBC 8 p.m.
Game 7 * Friday, June 12 Pittsburgh at Detroit NBC 8 p.m.

* Games 5-7 if necessary

•••

According to NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, the extra year of seasoning should benefit Pittsburgh.

“The theater will not intimidate Pittsburgh like it did last year in games one and two when they were shut out and they looked hopeless. They will look a lot better because of that experience of losing last year. Sidney (Crosby) has become a much better leader. (Evgeni) Malkin has become a much more effective player, especially in key times in games, and (Marc-Andre) Fleury is a much more refined goalie,” he said.

“We’re all excited to see what they can do in the second go around,” said analyst Mike milbury. “I think you’ve seen the two superstars, Crosby and Malkin, continue to grow up along with Marc-Andre Fleury. That growth pattern is going to be tested against what I consider to be the most intelligent team that I’ve ever seen; as a group that obviously has enough depth to handle a half a dozen players on the injured list and still manage to beat Chicago and advance to the final. It should be fun.”

Play-by-play man Mike “Doc” Emrick noted the difficulty in anyone winning hockey’s top prize once, yet alone back-to-back seasons like Detroit’s trying to do.

“It is the hardest prize to win – the combination of the tenacity that these guys have to be in the lineup and play as hard as they possibly can, as well as the fatigue factor that normally enters in when you have so much competition just to get to this point,” he said.

Pittsburgh looked like it might not even qualify for the playoffs near the midpoint of the season, when the decision was made to hire Dan Bylsma as coach. That, the commentators said, was the catalyst the squad needed.

“What Danny Bylsma brings is an intelligent approach to the game, educating players through a common sense approach. Rather than coaching them through intimidation, he coaches them through vocalization, imagery, passion and energy. And you can see that’s how they play. He turned these guys loose,” McGuire said.

“If nothing else, Dan Bylsma just wanted to let the guys have some fun and play the game with a little more passion and letting loose a little bit. They were able to find balance both offensively and defensively and boy it’s been a heck of a balance. A change in approach, and change in attitude, comes with a change in coaches,” Milbury said.

•••

Stanley Cup finals fun facts

• Red Wings forward Mirian Hossa skated for Pittsburgh against Detroit last year.

• Detroit has won 11 Stanley Cup championships; the Penguins have won two.

• Twenty-one current Red Wings players (total of 40 times) have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup compared to  five for the Penguins.

May 25, 2009

This is why people bash pro wrestling

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports,Television — pauljlane @ 11:47 pm

I try to defend you, pro wrestling. I don’t watch much anymore, but I say that you’re no more “fake” than “Lost” and “24” and that your superstars are very athletic. And then you do this.

From The Associated Press …

Vince McMahon got his takedown of Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke on the WWE television show Monday night.
Sort of.
During the World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw” show, McMahon shoved a mock Kroenke to the mat and the faux Kroenke fell out of the ring at the Staples Center. The wrestling card was switched from the Pepsi Center last week to Los Angeles because of Game 4 of the Lakers-Nuggets series being played in Denver. Originally, the date was held by the WWE.
In the TV skit, the counterfeit Kroenke, microphone in hand, sauntered toward the ring with a basketball under his arm. He handed the ball to an equally fake Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who was standing next to a phony David Stern and Jack Nicholson.
The imitation Kroenke then announced that he is “the owner of the soon-to-be NBA champion Denver Nuggets. And I cannot stand the WWE or its fans, for that matter.”
“Do you think that I care that I screwed thousands of WWE fans? I do not. I have much more important things to do with my team than worry about you people.”
McMahon then entered the fray, ambling into the ring and telling the pretend Kroenke, “None of this had to happen. All you had to do was pick up the phone, say ‘I didn’t think my team would make the playoffs, I screwed up.”’
Seconds later, McMahon shoved “Kroenke” after warning him, “When you push the WWE universe, they push back.”
The finale featured five-man tag teams wearing Nuggets and Lakers jerseys. The Lakers won, eliciting loud cheers from the Staples Center crowd.

May 22, 2009

Kiss on ‘American Idol?’ Sure, why not?

Filed under: Entertainment,Music,Television — pauljlane @ 12:45 pm

I was not a faithful “American Idol” viewer this past season by any means, but I did manage to catch bits and pieces of Wednesday’s finale.

Kiss as seen at the "American Idol" finale. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Kiss as seen at the "American Idol" finale. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Aside from the fact that Kris Allen actually won the darn thing, the biggest surprise for me came when I actually enjoyed one of the musical interludes.

I was cleaning the toys up in the computer room listening to the show, when Adam Lambert began singing Kiss’ “Beth.” It sounded, well, great, and then he introduced the band.

They came out (the audience was much more receptive than you’d expect a bunch of teeny-boppers and pop music clones/fans to be) and went right into “Detroit Rock City,” with Lambert joining Paul Stanley on the vocals.

I gotta tell ya, Lambert blew the band right off the stage. His performace was slightly theatrical (hard to notice when standing in between four makeup-clad guys) but it was still outstanding. He actually improved that song and the finale of the mini-set, “Rock and Roll All Night.”

One might expect an “Idol” finalist and Kiss to be polar opposites, but Lambert fit right in, both vocally and in terms of his stage presence. If he for some reason performed with the band again, I’d pay to see it.

Lambert would appear to have all kinds of options available to him after placing second on the show. But if he wanted to get into rock ‘n roll, he proved that there’d be a place for him. I know that Kiss only went on the show because of the earning potential “Idol” has, but they represented the Kiss Army well and, in the process, uncovered a potential new colonel.

I’d critique the rest of the finale here, but it stunk. All of it. Every minute. Except for Kiss, it was a waste of two hours.

May 21, 2009

The lost Daddy’s Little Girl/Crib Notes column!

Filed under: Life,Parenting — pauljlane @ 3:51 pm

In the features department, we have to print the edition a week ahead of time. Before Rigby was born, I wrote a column that was written as though he were born, but since he wasn’t by the time my deadline passed I couldn’t discuss him.

Of course, he was born on Jan. 17 (a Saturday) and I was able to write a column mentioning him before my Monday deadline. But while cleaning out my computer system today, I found that written-yet-unpublished column. Here it is for you to enjoy, in its unedited glory.

•••

Free at last. Free at last. My wife thanks God that Little Lane No. 2 is free at last.
Our wait is finally over, as we welcomed our second child into the world this past week.
What are the gender and name? I can’t tell you now. This column had to be written before the delivery due to this section’s early deadline, so as I type I actually still await the baby’s arrival (the doctors promised that the baby would be induced if not delivered this past week, so that’s how I can write with confidence that the baby is here as you read this).
So while I eagerly await my first meeting with my second child — and begin to seriously ponder what this space will be called next time I write this column — I have a couple observations I’ve made over the past couple weeks to discuss.
• I am not just sucking up when I say my wife’s tolerance for pain is superhuman.
For weeks — months, really — she’s dealt with the immense discomfort of carrying our child. As I went to work each day, she took care of Penny while unable to find a comfortable position in which to sit … or walk, or stand, or lay down.
She had me feel her stomach a few weeks ago, and my hand met the baby’s foot as it pressed into my wife’s ribs — the leg fully extended and rigid, with not an ounce of give to it. I complain when I get a paper cut on my thumb, and she deals with being kicked in the gut on the inside while also straightening up the house and playing with Penny.
Is it annoying for me to make late-night sponge candy runs and call local eateries inquiring about the power of their eggplant parmigiana to induce labor? Maybe a little. But once my task is done the inconvenience is over, while her discomfort is constant.
She has to use the bathroom every 60 minutes or so, can’t sleep for more than a couple hours a night, struggles to get upright and has spent days at a time with insufferable nausea — and she’d do it all again in a snap.
Not to discount my love for my children, but a mother’s love truly is amazing.
• As Penny’s vocabulary has continued to expand, she’s begin to conduct basic conversations with us, most of her sentences being no longer than two words long (with an accompanying point toward what she wants) yet completely comprehensible.
Recent visits with family, though, have showed me that it might be as much the parental bond as Penny’s brilliance (and she IS brilliant) that leads to our interaction.
My family came over not too long ago, and even as I knew exactly what Penny was asking my mother prompted her to repeat it or quizzically pondered what Penny was trying to say (it’s OK for me to mention my mother in this circumstance because, like I said, a mother’s love allows for forgiveness).
I found myself a couple times defiantly repeating the blatantly obvious messages Penny was telling my mother, wrapped in disbelief that my mom couldn’t comprehend her granddaughter.
But then I began to re-examine the issue. My wife and I spend the most time with Penny, and we’ve gone through a great deal of trial and error to decipher much of what she’s saying (one example: When Penny says “dada,” she could be referring to me, Cookie Monster or Elmo’s goldfish Dorothy, depending on who/what she’s looking at).
We’re used to her speech, so it therefore is much easier for us to understand Penny’s meaning (which, judging by several fitful nights of sleep she recently had while stuck with a cold, we have yet to fully get). Heck, we’ve even helped her coin some of the phrases she’s adopted (”nana” means “The Backyardigans,” “mih” means “milk,” “teese” means “macaroni and cheese”), so it makes sense that other people might sometimes get lost when Penny speaks.
Actually, on second thought, Penny’s too smart not to be understood. My mom just needs to clean out his ears.

May 20, 2009

2009-2010 fall television schedule is set

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — pauljlane @ 11:39 am

Following, in alphabetical order, are the fall TV lineups as announced this week by executives at the four major networks. Exact debut dates have yet to be determined.

Here’s the link to my Night & Day story, which offers more details on the changes each network is making next year.

ABC
Monday
8 p.m. – “Dancing with the Stars”
10 p.m. – “Castle”
Tuesday
8 p.m. – “Shark Tank”
9 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars Results Show”
10 p.m. – “The Forgotten”
Wednesday
8 p.m. – “Hank”
8:30 p.m. – “The Middle”
9 p.m. – “Modern Family”
9:30 p.m. – “Cougar Town”
10 p.m. – “Eastwick”
Thursday
8 p.m. – “Flash Forward”
9 p.m. – “Grey’s Anatomy”
10 p.m. “Private Practice”
Friday
8 p.m. – “Supernanny”
9 p.m. – “Ugly Betty”
10 p.m. – “20/20”
Saturday
8 p.m. – “Saturday Night College Football”
Sunday
7 p.m. – “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8 p.m. – “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
9 p.m. – “Desperate Housewives”
10 p.m. – “Brothers & Sisters”

CBS
Monday
8 p.m. – “How I Met Your Mother”
8:30 p.m. – “Accidentally on Purpose”
9 p.m. – “Two and a Half Men”
9:30 p.m. – “The Big Bang Theory”
10:00 p.m. – “CSI: Miami”
Tuesday
8 p.m. – “NCIS”
9 p.m. – “NCIS: Los Angeles”
10 p.m. – “The Good Wife”
Wednesday
8 p.m. – “The New Adventures of Old Christine”
8:30 p.m. – “Gary Unmarried”
9 p.m. – “Criminal Minds”
10 p.m. – “CSI: NY”
Thursday
8 p.m. – “Survivor”
9 p.m. – “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
10 p.m. – “The Mentalist”
Friday
8 p.m. – “Ghost Whisperer”
9 p.m. – “Medium”
10 p.m. – “Numb3rs”
Saturday
8 p.m. – “Crimetime Saturday”
10 p.m. – “48 Hours Mystery”
Sunday
7 p.m. – “60 Minutes”
8 p.m. – “The Amazing Race”
9 p.m. –  “Three Rivers”
10 p.m. – “Cold Case”

Fox
Monday
8 p.m. — “House”
9 p.m. — “Lie to Me”
Tuesday
8 p.m. — “So You Think You Can Dance”
Wednesday
8 p.m. — “So You Think You Can Dance Results”
9 p.m. — “Glee”
Thursday
8 p.m. — “Bones”
9 p.m. — “Fringe”
Friday
8 p.m. — “Brothers”
8:30 p.m. — “‘Til Death”
9 p.m. — “Dollhouse”
Saturday
8 p.m. — “COPS”
8:30 p.m. — “COPS”
9 p.m. — “America’s Most Wanted”
Sunday
7 p.m. — “The OT” (National Football League postgame show)
8 p.m. — “The Simpsons”
8:30 p.m. — “The Cleveland Show”
9 p.m. — “Family Guy”
9:30 p.m. — “American Dad”

NBC
Monday
8 p.m. – “Heroes”
9 p.m.—”Trauma”
10 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”
Tuesday
8 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser”
10 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”
Wednesday
8 p.m. – “Parenthood”
9- p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”
Thursday
8 p.m. – “SNL Weekend Update Thursday” (multi-episode run)
8:30 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
9 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30 p.m. – “Community” (moves to Thursdays 8-8:30 p.m. after multi-episode run “30 Rock” returns)
10 p.m. – “The Jay Leno Show”
Friday
8 p.m. – “Law & Order”
9 p.m. – “Southland”
Saturday
8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
9 p.m. – “Trauma” (encore broadcast)
10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (encore broadcast)
Sunday
7 p.m. “Football Night in America”
8:20 p.m. “NBC Sunday Night Football”

May 13, 2009

Is season seven of ’24’ the best ever?

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 10:57 am

With the seventh season of Fox’s “24” set to conclue with aq two-hour airing Monday, May 18, now seemed like a good time to rank this season — which has jack-bauer-24beee outstanding — with the previous six — some of which have not been so good. Here they are, in reverse order. And here is the story I wrote for Night & Day to advance this latest season.

7. Season six started of well enough, with Jack thrust back into the bomb-stopping business after being release from Chinese prison. But the subplot at the end of the season involving his former love interest, Audrey, was putrid, and getting Jack’s father and brother involved in the mayhem was a bit ridiculous, even for a show that requires as much suspension of disbelief as this one. Then you had Russians and Chinese and I’m pretty sure the Harlem Globetrotters trying to capture the sacred device – it was just too much.

6. Season four started with sweeping changes, as nearly everyone from the first three seasons except Jack, Chloe and President Keeler was back for round four. About halfway through the year, though, it was as though the writers knew they were in trouble and signaled to the bullpen, because Tony, Michelle, Aaron and former President Palmer all re-emerged mysteriously. The season had Jack working for Secretary of Defense James Heller because he got fired from CTU. He – naturally – is reinstated after it’s realized only Jack can handle the job, which this time involved a series of Middle Eastern terrorist cells  that plotted to obtain the nuclear football, launch a missile and kill Heller.

5. Season five started with Jack as – gasp – an oil laborer, as he’s laying low after having faked his death to avoid capture at the end of season four. He’s been framed for the deaths of Palmer and friend Michelle Dessler, as well as the attempted slayings of Tony and Chloe. He’s forced to emerge, however, after Russian separatists take hostages at an airport, then launch biological attacks at several places, including CTU (RIP, Edgar, you were so darn lovable). Jack uncovers that this plot is tied to President Logan (perhaps the man who was the best character to loathe in this entire series) . Logan eventually implicates himself in the day’s wrongdoings, but Jack is captured by the Chinese just as the season ends (he’s still wanted for his involvement in a raid and slaying at the Chinese consulate).

4. Season two started with Middle Eastern terrorists trying to detonate a nuclear bomb in L.A. and ended with Jack and his cohorts trying to uncove the true mastermind so that the U.S. wouldn’t incorrectly retaliate against the wrong country. The first season to see Palmer as president (perhaps the best fictional president ever) saw him trying to uncover traitors in his cabinet while dealing with a wife whose personal agenda superceded their relationship. Everything turned out OK, but attempted hit was put out on Palmer at the end of the season, resulting in a cliffhanger for the ages.

3. Season three began with the news that Palmer survived the assassination attempt. Jack, dealing with a heroin addiction, is forced to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel so that he can intercept a deadly virus that’s going to be sold in a deal involving said gang. Jack’s daughter Kim, meanwhile, is brought on board at CTU and is compelled to prove herself to doubters who cry nepotism. She becomes involved with Jack’s new partner, Chase, who ends up with his life in Jack’s hands by season’s end. And, oh yeah, Jack so satisfyingly got to finally get revenge on Nina, the traitor who assassinated his wife in the first season. And finally, Palmer’s family gets involved in dirty dealings that force him to drop his re-election bid rather than resort to immoral actions that violate his principles.

2. Season seven saw the dissolution of CTU and started with jack under investigation for his illegal actions while a government employee, including torture. These tactics are soon utilized, though, after the president and the FBI want him to help in stopping a plot to take over the nation’s vital computer systems. All the events eventually tie in to a U.S. group of private security firms that want to have cause to seize control of military operations here, raising their profits and power. Long thought dead, Tony re-emerges as an ally, but his true intentions are uncovered near season’s end. Chloe is also back as the day’s events unfold in Washington, D.C.

1. Season one doesn’t seem like it will be topped. As Jack gets involved in stopping an attempt on Palmer’s life (he was in Los Angeles for a presidential primary), his wife and daughter are kidnapped by terrorists tryig to use them to force Jack to carry out the murder. Nina, an employee of Jack’s at CTU, is eventually found out to be a traitor, and she kills Jack’s wife in a last-ditch attempt to evade capture. The plot was clar, the action was intense, the drama was palpable, the characters were excellent – just great television all the way around.

May 8, 2009

She’s a persistent one, that daughter of mine

Filed under: Life,Parenting — pauljlane @ 11:30 am

For a short while, Penny was infatuated with my first name, uttering it as though “Paul” was the word that meant every single person, place and thing she saw.

That habit thankfully died out after a few weeks, but a second wave of Pauliosis has overcome that baby girl, one that’s still a tiny bit amusing even as it’s becoming clear that it will be harder to shake this time.

Last weekend, Penny suddenly reverted from Daddy back to Paul. She’d say Daddy just to suck me in, then smirk, utter Paul and gleefully continue as I corrected her time after time.

My wife suggested ignoring her using my given name, which I’ve tried throughout this past week. That’s not so easy, though, when she so cutely says “Paul, Paul, Paul” while grabbing my face with both hands and trying to turn my head so that I’m looking right at her. I attentively respond whenever she sneaks a Daddy in there, but it’s quickly replaced with another Paul, and the game goes on.

Penny’s also started calling her maternal grandmother by Ma’s first name, which is kinda cute but equally not so good.

We really have no idea what’s triggered this relapse. It will be corrected in time, but the time in between will involve a lot of gentle correcting and ignoring, both of which are not what we want to spend our time doing with Penny.

And Penny’s doing a lot of resisting – stubbornness, it might be called by some people. I don’t know where she possibly have gotten that from, certainly not Dear Ol’ Dad.

May 1, 2009

I could watch the Kentucky Derby … or I could bathe in a salt water-filled bathtub lined with barbed wire

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 11:24 am

So all week, I’ve heard plenty of talk about the Kentucky Derby, the “granddaddy” of all sporting events.

Huh?

Who really cares? There’s not really any sort of horseracing circuit or league, so it’s not like there’s a season or year-long contest (as insipid as NASCAR is, at least it has that) for us to ge to know the horses (as if such a thing were possible).

No one’s heard of these horses before this week, yet the sports pundits try to pontificate on the merits of this one versus that. All of a sudden, everyone’s a horse expert.

Not even the Carolina Hurricanes bandwagon has this many converts.

These horses will race at the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, then they’ll be done with big-time racing. Stud farm, glue factory, whevever. End of story.

And how can people actually get excited about non-humans racing, especially when watching actual humans race is so barely viewable? The horses that have been bred since birth by force to risk their lives for the humans’ benefit go around the track while being whipped, then the human takes the credit while the horse is put back in its trailer, attached to the back of a truck and shipped to the next track.

THIS is fun?

NASCAR falls under the same umbrella – something else does the actual racing, but the human doing the piloting is praised. Absurd.

If it’s the betting aspect of horseracing you like, well, you know that there are baseball, hockey and basketball games to bet on, right? At least with those, the participants choose to push their bodies beyond natural limits. And if you don’t like human sports, they have these crazy things called casinos that would be more than happy to take your money.

So as a good part of the sporting world stops Saturday afternoon to watch 2 minutes of animal abuse, this sports fan will be doing something else – ANYTHING else.

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