Life in the Slow Lane

August 31, 2009

‘Backyardigans’ offer exciting (and scary) element to morning

Filed under: Entertainment,Parenting,Television — pauljlane @ 11:54 am

Part of Penny’s standard morning ritual is to ask for “The Backyardigans” to be put on the television and to sit in my lap while I feed Rigby. She always asks for “new one,” but we have to reply that there aren’t any, since she’s seen all her DVDs a bazillion times and the On Demand offerings are also repeats.

Well, the On Demand added a new episode this morning.

And it was one we hadn’t seen!!

“Really?!” my wife said, sitting up from the couch in mild excitement.

“Yep,” I replied as I turned up the volume, with Penny doing a happy dance next to me at the thought of her request actually being granted.

A minute later is when we realized how we’d reacted. Not to knock “The Backyardigans,” but since I see (and remember) them more than Penny – who likes the show as background noise when she plays – I’ve had my fill. So to have an episode I haven’t seen is, well, not exactly a treat, but it’s far less painful to watch.

Just to have one where I didn’t know the dialogue and couldn’t sing along, to not know the ending, was an unexpected surprise.

Yep. This is my life.

August 28, 2009

Book closes on ‘Reading Rainbow’

Filed under: Entertainment,Parenting,Television — pauljlane @ 2:08 pm

I was sad to see today that the popular PBS show “Reading Rainbow” will no longer be produced.

Created nearly 30 years ago, “Reading Rainbow”introduced generations of young viewers to book (I can remember resisting the call of the outdoors as a youngster to watch the program at 10 a.m. daily before running outside to play for the balance of the day). Host LeVar Burton did a terrific job of making reading fun.

I am sad that my children won’t get to experience the show (although there are videos in existence). Their love of books is already evident even at an age where they can’t yet read, but without “Reading Rainbow” I might have given up reading completely before I even entered my teens. Not only that, but theshow turned me on to numerous titles I might otherwise have missed out on.

Fare thee well, “Reading Rainbow.” You will be missed.

August 27, 2009

Ready to beat ‘The Fresh Beat Band’

Filed under: Entertainment,Parenting,Television — pauljlane @ 1:10 pm

I have yet to see a full episode of “The Fresh Beat Band,” Nickelodeon’s latest kids show that centers around singing, but I’ve seen enough of the promos to know that I never want to.nickelodeon-the-fresh-beat-band

Four kids – including two guys with the ridiculous names of Twist and Shout – go around singing about what seems to be anything they encounter on the street. The songs feature award-winning lyrics such as “Peel banana, feel banana, keepin’ it real banana” and other messages meant to enrich the lives of our younger generation (in fairness, the song does always catch my daughter’s attention, and she’ll sing “Banana, banana” when the promo pops up).

I realize that I am not the target audience, and I only have to not put the show on and that will be the end of it, but something about this show just irks me. Apparently, I am not alone in this sentiment.

Having grown up on the likes of Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry, this doesn’t do much to the adolescent portion of my brain. Whatever the intent, it’s just annoying drivel, and poorly done at that.

Don’t believe me? Just watch this video. If the “street-wise rapper kids can relate to” character doesn’t even rap as well as I do, then it’s time to hit the reset button.

Actually, two footnotes first: What are the odds that these people can actually play a musical instrument, and when did a DJ’s turntable become a musical instrument (it’s a method of creativity, sure, but not an instrument).

August 19, 2009

Favre’s return doesn’t do much to sway Vegas

Filed under: Gambling,Sports — pauljlane @ 10:48 am

Most football fans, sick of Brett Favre’s back-and-forth retirement, are more apathetic upon hearing of his latest return to the NFL, this time with the Minnesota Vikings.

Photo by The Associated Press

Photo by The Associated Press

Apparently, Vegas’ biggest bettors are, too.

According to information from R.J. Bell of pregame.com, the Vikings’ Super Bowl odds barely budged upon news of Tuesday’s signing of Favre. Where they had 20-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl prior to Tuesday, those odds only crept up to 17-to-1 with Favre, which indicated to Bell that big-time gamblers aren’t interested.

“A vast majority of Super Bowl future action comes from small bettors – the type who take a $20 shot on their gut feelings. Brett Farve is clearly a major factor in this type of bettor’s mind,” he said.

More significant, Bell said, is Minnesota’s projected win total for the coming season. The number started at 9.5, and it didn’t budge upon Tuesday’s news.

“A vast majority of season win total action comes from big bettors who are extremely sharp in their opinions. This sharp group has concluded that the addition of Farve is irrelevant to Minnesota’s chances this season,” he said.

Of note, Favre got more respect last year when he forced a trade from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets. The Jets’ win total before their 2008 training camp started was 7, but it leaped to 8.5 once Favre joined the squad.

I, for one, certainly would feel better about betting on a Favre-led team than a Tavaris Jackson-led team or Sage Rosenfels-led team, but the Vikings enter this season with a solid team regardless of the quarterback, so I can see much of the big money not being impressed by the signing. More impressive would have been Favre if he took the focus off of himself for two minutes and actually decided to stay retired for more than three weeks.

August 18, 2009

Boo to you, SU

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 2:35 pm

The Syracuse University football team announced that it will play “home games” in the coming decade at the new stadium being built in New Jersey for the NFL’s Giants.medium_s3p5saxp62vdqzfw

As an alum who might have driven the 2 1/2 hours to see USC and Notre Dame, all I have to say is: What the heck?

I understand at 82,500, the new stadium’s capacity far exceeds that of the 50,000-seat Carrier Dome. And I get that any exposure in the media mecca of New York City is good, especially for an ailing program.

But there’s something to be said for fan service. My wife and I went to the Carrier Dome to see the Orange beat Notre Dame 38-12 in 2003 (we were rooting for different sides). Neither team went to a bowl that season, but the Dome was as raucous as I’d ever seen it – and I attended the school during the McNabb Years. The fans got into that game like none I’d ever seen at ANY football game, and the Dome proved the perfect host for the Fighting Irish.

Sure, there are a fair number of alumni in the NYC area, and Syracuse locals can easily make the four-hour drive to Jersey. But playing there will take away what semblance of a home-field advantage SU has left (and likely bring in more Golden Domer supporters; NYC is bing enough to have plenty of ND alums, after all). Fans who have supported the team through the bleak stretch of the past five years deserve to see the marquee names in central New York.

And they don’t get much more marquee than USC, which has never played in the Carrier Dome. So once SU finally signs a home-and-home series with the Trojans, they up and move the game. Great.

OK, I could just drive the 6/12 hours to Jersey if I really wanted to. But that’s not the point. As drab as the Carrier Dome may be, it’s home for the Orange program. A plethora of fans like myself have plenty of good memories in that building, and it would only be fair to have the big draws come to Syracuse.

But, as has been the case for years now in big-time sports, the dollar trumps the fan every time.

August 13, 2009

Disney’s a big-time recycler – of itself

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies — pauljlane @ 12:46 pm

My wife brought this to my attentio: It seems as though Disney really, REALLY loves the dance moves it first created.

I found a couple Youtube clips that show many of Disney’s films using the same dance sequences in its different films. Perhaps hiring a new cartoon choreographer is too pricey?

Does it matter? Not really. But it is interesting once it’s brought to your attention.

August 12, 2009

‘Video Games Live’ is a nerd’s paradise

Filed under: Entertainment,Games,Music — pauljlane @ 11:15 am

Walking into the Artpark mainstage to see the recent “Video Games Live” concert, it was clear that I was among people

Yeah, I'm a dork. But at least I got to stand next to a giant inflatable Super Mario.

Yeah, I'm a dork. But at least I got to stand next to a giant inflatable Super Mario.

who still possess the mindset about gaming that I used to (I still love games, mind you, but my time for them has diminished).

After posing next to the giant, inflatable Super Mario, I had to walk past people a “Guitar Hero” contest and people dressed as Zelda, Little Mac from “Punch-Out” and the princess from the “Super Mario” series to get to my seat.

I expected to enjoy the show – which features a symphony orchestra (in this case the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) performing songs from video games, with the games playing behind the orchestra on giant screens.

What I didn’t expect was to see so many people so fervently into the event. And once I got the past the fact that they’re  bit nerdy (hey, so am I), it was fun.

The house was only about half-full, but those who were there saw a terrific show (and, at nearly 2 1/2 hours, a longer show than I expected). Created by Tommy Tallarico (who has family in Niagara Falls) and Jack Wall, the show features plenty of great music, several interactive components and some neat surprises (such as the local cover band Armcannon being brought out to play songs from “Super Mario Bros. 2”).

Anyone who thinks this sounds like kids’ stuff, well, might be right. But if you can forget about the music’s origins, close your eyes and listen, you WILL be blown away. From the eerie, solitary feel of the “Metroid” theme song to the passionate “Halo” soundtrack and the ominous sounds from the “Castlevania” game series, video game music is actually pretty good.

The co-creators have made more than 60 distinct segments for their show, and they choose about 15-20 for each performance (each segment highlights a different game/game series). Both Wall and Tallarico participated throughout the show, with Wall conducting the orchestra and Tallarico playing several guitar parts – including, during one especially fun stretch, when a teenager came on stage to play Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” on “Guitar Hero,” an Tallarico nailed Joe Perry’s lead guitar part. C’mon, that’s just plain, pure fun right there.

Sure, there were several songs that I didn’t know (at 30 years old, I am practically aged out of the gaming target group already). But hearing the “Tetris” theme once again and having the “Super Mario” music played at warp speed on the piano (complete with the high-pitched “dink-a-dink dink-a-dink” that accompanied the character’s picking up an extra life) brought back some great memories and provided quite an entertaining evening.

For at least one night, Western New York’s dorks had their day.

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