Life in the Slow Lane

October 28, 2009

Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ is a fitting final chapter

Filed under: Entertainment,Movies,Music — pauljlane @ 10:56 am

We’ve all seen Michael Jackson the superstar, MJ the sideshow, MJ the accused felon, MJ the child prodigy, MJ the medical experiment gone wrong and Jacko.Michael Jackson's last show rehearsal at STAPLES Center on June

Who knew that it would take until his early demise for the world to see Jackson’s human side?

“This Is It,” which chronicles the final rehearsals before what was to be Jackson’s farewell concert stint in London this past summer, shows us Michael the person. He had a sense of humor, was a bit of perfectionist when it came to his work and had a better understanding of music than he was probably ever given credit for.

Sure, the film gives fans what they want: extended cuts of hits like “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It.” But you also get Michael chewing out a bass player for lackadaisical musicianship, encouraging his guitar player to completely put herself out there on stage and getting chided by Kenny Ortega (who co-produced the concert and made this film) for playing it safe with his voice.

We’ve become so saturated with imitations and satirical takes on Jackson that it’s been easy to forget what the real Michael Jackson was about. Yes, he had a high voice, and (as my wife pointed out) his frequent nose jobs caused his glasses to slide down every time he spun. But he was genuine, empathetic and … well … sweet. Whether the world would have thought that way if he didn’t die in late June due to a medication overdose will never be known, unfortunately.

Jackson had more troubles than most third-world countries during his final few years on Earth, but this film indicates that London audiences would have been in for one whopper of a farewell show. He still had his vocal chops, his trend-setting dance moves (which his background dancers simultaneously showered with praise and struggled to master during cutaway segments of them rehearsing) and his command of an audience (nearly every song was interrupted by his suggestion for a pause, extended keyboard run or other bit of flair).

The audience at the preview show I attended was wowed by all of this, with multiple exclamations made throughout the film and a rowdy round of applause offered up at its conclusion. He’s not around to see it, and it’s not in the venue he imagined, but that’s still precisely what Jackson would have wanted. Kudos to Ortega and the film’s other creators for giving him a fitting farewell. GRADE: A-

October 26, 2009

Protest the New York state license plate fees

Filed under: Life,News — pauljlane @ 1:45 pm

New York state, in another “eff-you” to its residents, is about to charge people — twice! — for license plates next year.

As of April 1, New York wants to charge every driver $25 per vehicle to get new plates. And then if you want the same number, you have to pay another $20 for the privilege.

What an absolute joke and abomination of what public servants should be. Is anyone in Albany actually desirous to keep people here? Our leaders sure don’t seem to act that way.

Click here to sign a petition protesting the move.

October 20, 2009

‘Home Run Derby’ is a fun, nostalgic viewing

Filed under: Entertainment,Sports,Television — pauljlane @ 1:54 pm

Imagine my sheer delight one recent evening when I came across “Home Run Derby” on ESPN Classic.

Hank Aaron on an episode of "Home Run Derby."

Hank Aaron on an episode of "Home Run Derby."

The vintage TV show pitted the game’s greatest hitters of the 1950s and 1960s against each other for bragging rights and four-figure cash prizes (which were valuable back in a day when players often worked off-season jobs).

I got to see Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle square off. The campy feel of the show was as great as was the amazement of seeing the game’s two best hitters of that era be willing to do it. It was fantastic to watch two historical great, neither of whom I ever got to see live, hit BP in an empty minor league stadium in pursuit of $5,000. Each player even did commentary when he wasn’t at bat. They weren’t flashy or boastful, but rather they were apparently genuinely interested in winning in a sporting fashion.

The series is available on DVD and airs sporadically on cable from time to time. But be sure to give it a watch if you ever encounter it. Baseball is still a good game now, but the show will allow you to glimpse a time when it was truly great.

This is why we should abolish reality television

Filed under: Entertainment,Life,Television — pauljlane @ 12:41 pm

If Balloon Boy isn’t enough, here’s this idiot, as reported by The Associated Press. Granted, he showed a bit of initiative, and the stock market isn’t what it once was for newbie investors, but still, come on.

•••

The winner of reality TV show “Big Brother” has confessed to using his $500,000 prize to buy thousands of oxycodone pills and resell them, authorities said.
Adam Jasinski, 31, of Delray Beach, Fla., has been charged with attempting to sell 2,000 pills in Massachusetts to a government witness.
Federal prosecutors said Jasinski was arrested Saturday after he flew to Boston and showed the witness a sock containing two plastic bags filled with oxycodone, a powerful painkiller that is a popular street drug because of its euphoric effects.
As agents tried to arrest Jasinski at a strip mall in North Reading, he struggled and threw the sock under a car parked nearby, Todd Prough, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an affidavit filed in court.
Jasinski won $500,000 last year on the CBS reality show in which contestants live under constant surveillance and vote once a week to evict each other in hopes of becoming the last houseguest standing and winning the grand prize.
Prough said in the affidavit that Jasinski told him that he has been using his winnings to buy thousands of oxycodone pills and has been reselling them along the East Coast for the past several months.
Jasinski’s lawyer, Valerie Carter, did not immediately return a call Tuesday.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine on a charge of possession of oxycodone pills with intent to distribute.

October 19, 2009

There has to be life out there … doesn’t there?

Filed under: Life,News,Travel — pauljlane @ 3:37 pm

I remember doing a group exercise in college during which we discussed myth vs. reality. One of my groupmates said she believed in ghosts, and another said she thought zombies were real.

Strange, I thought, but I wasn’t there to be judgmental. When my turn came up, I said I believed that there is life somewhere, somehow that’s not on Earth.

I was laughed at so loudly the professor had to stop the exercise to shush them.

Don’t mistake my statement for a belief in little green men flying saucers in New Mexico. But with so much universe out there, there has to be other life, even if it’s life with which we’ll never make contact … I think.

That’s why announcements such as this one, that 32 more planets have been found outside our solar system, get me so excited. I would love to have new life discovered in my lifetime. It’s not just a validation thing, but it would be the finding of all-time, the greatest discovery in the history of man.

Imagine if we actually found someone (or something) else out there. Just to know that we’re not alone in the universe is a fascinating concept.

In another life – ya know, the life where I didn’t marry the love of my life, have the two best babies in the world, was good at advanced math and weighed about half of my current tally – I might have ended up an astronaut. Aside from joining one of the most elite groups every (those who have seen Earth from the outside), my childhood interest in astronomy was piqued by the desire to prove that something else is breathing somewhere.

Scientists recently discovered that there’s water on the moon, further proof that there might have, at one time, been non-Earthbound life in our solar system. No government conspiracies, no bent-on-destruction races with advanced technology, no “Star Wars” type cantinas with plenty of hostile patrons.

Just another race, like ours, that’s kinda curious about the nature of the universe.

That’s not such a laughable concept. Right?

October 7, 2009

2009 Charlie Brown ‘Great Pumpkin’ Halloween airdate announced

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — pauljlane @ 3:52 pm

ABC announced today that this year’s airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”great-pumpkin-charlie-brown
will take place at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. The date was originally announced as Tuesday, oct. 27, but ABC shifted it back a day.

My daughter has quickly grown to recognize and love Snoopy, and this is the first holiday special I’ll be watching with my infant son, so color me excited.

There’s no word yet on the Thanksgiving or Christmas airing for Peanuts or any other series.

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