Friday, April 30, 2010

Wrapping up the work week

Greetings from the left coast where it's windy and the waves off the Santa Monica Pier are breaking high.

- The breakfast menu this morning had this nugget from comedian Steven Wright:  "I went to a cafe in Paris that advertised 'breakfast anytime.'  So, I ordered pancakes from the Renaissance period."

- The Los Angeles Times reported on the mental state of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers and cited no less an authority than radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  The Lakers lead their current playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-2--a series which most experts figured that L.A. would sweep or win easily.  Schlessinger commented on a rather common sports phenomenon of teams who have success thinking that they can "turn it on" at any time, make a run and win the game.  The doctor suggests that when these expectations aren't met, e.g., a bad pass or wayward shot, then self-confidence evaporates rather quickly.  "The minute that happens," Schlessinger said, "your game goes kerplunk."  Now, "kerplunk" isn't the most academic term for this malady but it certainly describes what has happened to teams like the NHL Washington Capitals (seeded #1 going into this month's playoffs but losing to #8 Montreal) and my Kansas Jayhawks, who lost to Northern Iowa in the second round of this year's NCAA Tournament.

- What major league pitcher, who played 60 years ago, wore the name of his hometown on the back of  his uniform?  Give up...?  It's Bill Voselle of Ninety Six, South Carolina.

- This is an amazing stat--the typical U.S. mobile user sends or receives more text messages than phone calls, with American teens averaging a whopping 2,899 texts per month.  For those keeping score at home, that's almost 94 texts a day!  (Source:  Nielsen)

- Have you seen the trailer for Sex and the City 2, opening May 27?  The girls on camels?  One has to wonder if this successful HBO and syndicated series, and popular big screen adaptation, will "jump the shark" with this second movie.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ride With the Devil

If you mention the name Ang Lee, most people will answer "the guy who directed Brokeback Mountain" or might cite other Lee films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hulk.  But, it's perhaps Lee's best movie which is garnering attention today.

Ride With the Devil is being re-released today by the Criterion Collection on both Blu-Ray and DVD.  And, with the release comes another opportunity for Devil to gain the audience following which it missed in theatrical release.

This movie, filmed in Kansas City in 1998, details the border fighting, during the Civil War time period, along the Kansas-Missouri border.  And, in so doing, the movie is the best demonstration I've found to tell people "watch this if you want to 'get' the Kansas-Missouri 'rivaly.'"  The movie was only shown in a handful of markets and pulled in a paltry $670,000 at the box office.

As many movies do, the home video release allowed Devil to find critical mass...and critical acclaim.  The movie starred future big names like Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Skeet Ulrich, Mark Ruffalo and Simon Baker.  A very young Jewel deftly played a war widow in the film.

Devil is one of my favorite films and probably the film that, when mentioned, gets the most quizzical looks from friends and acquaintances.  Now's the time, with the re-release, for all of you to finally check out this superb movie.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The train wreck named "Whitney"

Whitney Houston's much-publicized comeback has missed the gate and is speeding down the wrong track towards the train wreck we hoped would be avoided, yet could see coming.

Ms. Houston, touring in London, offered up a rendition of I Will Always Love You which was so bad that many in the audience exited the O2 arena.  While this is a very rough recording, you can catch enough of the audio to hear the failed attempts at reaching the high notes:

While the singer stayed onstage for about two hours, she often appeared out of breath and was very visibly sweating, long a problem for the talented performer.  And, this concert wasn't the only issue during her current tour--she failed to show for the first three gigs earlier this month due to a "respiratory infection."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yeah, but what about that cherry tree thing?

Former President George Washington--yes, that George Washington--is in hot water in New York.

The New York Daily News recently reported that Washington owes more than $300,000 in late fees to a New York library.  Reportedly, on October 5, 1789, Washington borrowed a treatise on "the Law of Nations," and a volume of transcripts from the British House of Commons from the New York Society Library in Manhattan.  And, he has yet to return the volumes.

Thankfully, library administrators say they are not actively pursuing the overdue fines.

Saturday morning coffee

- Seriously, is there a Facebook page dedicated to "praying for President Obama's death?" Ugh...

- I find it curious, if not downright odd, that the Chiefs used their second pick on a running back/receiver when they have such a glaring need for linebacker and offensive tackle talent.

- Quote of the week: "We ought to have a tournament, the top 30 Champions Tour players verus the top 30 kids. Have a tournament on a 7,000 yard golf course. Same tees. Let's go tee it up. Let's hit it." That was Tom Watson on his suggestion that the older Champions Tour players take on the "kids," i.e., PGA Tour's top 30, on a course where length off the tee is not a mandatory but where shot-making, and a short game, are the difference. While Watson's idea is intriguing, I think players 11-30 on the PGA Tour would be vastly better than players 11-30 on the Champions circuit.

- It's Cedric the Entertainer's birthday today. In honor of his special day, let's look back on the first time I recall Cedric appearing on a national stage--in a Super Bowl commercial:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tourney expansion

Who would have thought, several weeks ago, that we'd be sitting here talking about NCAA Tournament expansion--and that the expansion would be by three teams?

While the decision is not quite final (it needs to go to the NCAA Board of Directors next week), the apparent move to a 68-team tournament stops, for now, the rampant talk of more extreme expansion.

The official piece of news today is that CBS is retaining the broadcast rights to the tournament. CBS will share the assignment of the tournament with Turner Broadcasting System so that every game of the tournament is shown live across four national television networks--CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. This will be a first for the 73-year old tournament.

CBS, in my mind, had been the underdog in this media rights race even though they were the incumbent. The betting line favored ABC/ESPN and their lineup of stations but, ultimately, the pairing of long-time NCAA partner CBS, with Turner, won the day. And, as usual, there is a lot of money involved.

The deal is for 14 years and $10.8 billion, and includes TV, internet and wireless rights. A unified sales force, from the two networks, will sell the advertising packages and a unified production crew will produce the games. While not spelled out, one could surmise that broadcast talent from across the networks will be used for the games, meaning Turner's NBA talent--guys like Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith--could be involved.

The first and second round games will be shown nationally across the four television outlets. CBS and Turner will split coverage of the regional semifinal games with CBS handling regional finals and the Final Four. Beginning in 2016, coverage of the regional finals will be split between CBS and Turner with the Final Four and National Championship game alternating, every year, between CBS and TBS.

Today's announcement is one more story in the building tale of the diminished influence of the prime networks. It is becoming harder and harder, if not impossible, for one prime network to keep control of a major video property like the NCAA Tournament, the Olympics...or even talk shows. As examples, Monday Night Football moved from ABC to sibling cable network ESPN; Oprah Winfrey is moving from daytime TV to start her own cable channel; and Conan O'Brien is now a TBS property with last week's announcement about his new late-night gig.

Today's news is good news for college hoops junkies. It eliminates--at least for the time being--the talk of a watered-down tournament due to an overabundance of teams. And, who doesn't like the idea of seeing any game of the The challenge now is that, with all 34 games planned for broadcast, we will be entertained by even more obscure broadcast team pairings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Musings from the LGA-BOS shuttle

- The Waldorf Astoria hotel was filled with women yesterday and, for a moment, it felt like I'd wandered into the wrong section at Bloomingdale's. Alas, the Women In Communications conference was being held there and no less than Oprah Winfrey was on hand. Ms. Winfrey attended the Matrix Awards luncheon, sponsored by the communications group.

- Apparently the success of Glee, FOX's smash show about high school choir, is causing enrollment in singing groups across the U.S. to increase.

- At midnight tonight, the doormen of New York will go out on strike unless a resolution can be reached before then between the union and property owners. If the doormen do indeed strike, I have potential employment for them at my abode, e.g., helping my wife bring in the groceries, taking out the trash, and other sundry responsibilities. There was a funny piece in The New York Times today for the citizens of those buildings with doormen--it helped explain how to get into the building, particularly if one's arms were filled with packages.

- Not surprisingly, AMC has responded to creator Matthew Weiner's comments yesterday about Mad Men where he suggested that 2012 would be the last season of the series. And, our quote of the day comes from that news report--"No one wants to see Don Draper wearing a leisure suit," read an AMC prepared statement, suggesting that the series wouldn't continue too far into the 60's and the less-than-fashion sense which came with the latter part of the decade.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mad Men news

The end may be set for Mad Men. Creator Matthew Weiner is reportedly saying that the AMC series will end in 2012 after its sixth season. Shooting for the upcoming season--Season 4--has just begun. This year's series will start in July.

Weiner dropped the news bombshell at an appearance at the National Association of Broadcasters convention. AMC did not have an official comment on the report.

The New York Post

One of the delights of coming to New York is grabbing a copy of the New York Post and checking out the "quality" journalism and daily gossip being dished up by this tabloid rag.

Here are the gems from today's edition:

- Eight tollbooths are being closed on Staten Island.
- A photo of a multi-day bearded, sloppy khakis-wearing David Letterman with a bag of flowers.
- On what they termed "serial matrimonialist" Larry King: "...he walked down the aisle for an eighth time--he married one blonde twice--without drawing up a prenup. That's like Larry, 76, stepping into a blizzard in a bikini. How can he be so unprepared for the inevitable frostbite?"
- Shaq had his son deliver a death threat to his estranged wife's new beau. His son, by the way, is six.
- "It doesn't come with a mouse--but Apple's iPad has become very popular with America's most technologically cool cats. YouTube has posted more than 385 videos of kitties playing with the world's most expensive cat toy."
- A "Countdown to LeBron" feature, i.e., "With the July 1 free agent signing period set firmly in their sights, the Knicks continue to count down to LeBron.

And, the Post loves headlines which feature phraseology like today's "KO," "splitsville," "bullish," "ballistic," "nuke," "raps," "nix," "rubber-room doom," "thugs, and, of course, "sex."

You can't get this kind of reading material just anywhere...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Burning Kansas - circa 1970

Forty years ago this month the University of Kansas in Lawrence was the site for some of the most radical, and violent, demonstrations which took place nationwide in protest of the war in Vietnam. The anti-war mood across the country had grown increasingly more impatient and with it came more extreme displays of protest.

On April 8, termed "Strike Day," many students boycotted class and reportedly several thousand people stormed Strong Hall, the administration building, to protest the denial of a promotion to a faculty members who spoke out against the Chicago 8 trial. That night, activist Abbie Hoffman spoke before a crowd of 8,000, wiped his nose with an American flag and was quoted as saying "Lawrence is a drag."

In the time period between April 13-22, young white radicals (called "street people") and black liberation militants started what amounted to a small guerrilla war. Arson, firebombing, shots fired by snipers and bombings took place, primarily in the predominantly black sections of east and north Lawrence, as well as an area near KU called "Hippie Haven." Three nights of emergency curfew were imposed as a result and the Kansas National Guard was called in to assist in patrolling the streets. On April 20, an arson fire destroyed part of the Kansas Union, inflicting over $1 million (in 1970 dollars) damage as students assisted firefighters in trying to stop the blaze.

The anxiety caused by these various events, and the fear for student safety, caused then Chancellor E. Laurence Chalmers and university officials to put into place a procedure in early May where students were allowed to leave campus early--they were allowed the choice of skipping the last three classes and taking the final, taking an incomplete and finishing the work later, taking the letter grade already earned, taking credit/no credit for the class, or attending classes and taking the final as usual.

The controversial decision, refused by many faculty, not surprisingly was embraced by students, most of whom took the grade already earned, avoiding the final and allowing them to leave campus in order to start summer vacations early.

The spring of 1970 was one of the darkest periods in the history of KU--the events of that spring helped eventually force out Chancellor Chalmers (who Kansas Board of Regents members thought was "too permissive), it caused both parents and students to question attendance at the school, and it drew the nation's attention to a campus that became dubbed "Little Berkeley." It ultimately took the calming leadership of Chancellor Raymond Nichols (1972-73) followed by Chancellor Archie Dykes (1973-1980) to bring students, faculty and the community back together.

Dive of the week

This week's dive of the week is, what else, a barbecue joint. And, after two sub-par outings at recent barbecue visits locally (to Hayward's and Snead's), I went back to an old reliable today and the place did not disappoint.

Rosedale Barbecue in Kansas City, Kansas has been, as they say, "smokin' for 75 years." Their meat is as tender as ever and the fries, as remembered, come to the table piping hot. The beer is cold, the waitresses are friendly, and the joint reeks of the atmosphere one seeks in a good 'cue joint--not too fancy...just really, really good food.

Rosedale's fare is pretty standard--the usual lineup of barbecue staples (beef, pork, turkey; burnt ends; ribs, of course; and the typical side dishes.) They feature Boulevard's lineup of brews and Stewart's soda. But, don't come here expecting Coke or Pepsi products--the cola is RC, short for Royal Crown, and it's a wonderful taste remembered from my youth. They also have RC Diet Cola and RC Cherry.

Check out Rosedale the next time you want to wander from the usual barbecue haunts in Kansas City--it's located on Southwest Boulevard just south of 7th Street Trafficway.

Saturday morning coffee

- Quote of the week: Here's what Conan O'Brien had to say about his return to late night television on TBS, "In three months I've gone from television network to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I'm headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly." O'Brien had been rumored to be close to finalizing a deal with FOX, but agreements between FOX affiliates and certain syndicated shows stopped a deal. The new TBS show will begin in November and will pit Conan directly against Jay Leno and The Tonight Show.

- Rumor has it that a divorce is being finalized between Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, with the proverbial final straw being the creepy Nike ad which showed Tiger and a voice-over from Earl Woods, Tiger's father. Nordegren was reportedly none too pleased with the commercial.

- It's Earth Day this coming Thursday. And, did you know that this special day is now 40 years old? Interestingly, within that time period, average gas consumption by American automobiles has gone from 13 miles per gallon, in 1973, to 27.3 mpg for the 2011 model year.

- A new biography on Oprah Winfrey--unauthorized, of course--claims that O greatly exaggerated her childhood poverty, engaged in several lesbian affairs, and has a very distant, cold relationship with her mother. This isn't new territory for author Kitty Kelley--she's dished up similar dirt on Jacqueline Onassis, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor. So, I guess Oprah should be proud to be hanging in that company...

- Finally, here's a trick for all of you, ahem, fast drivers out there. In Florida, a women beat a ticket for running a red light when her husband, using a stopwatch, found that the yellow light at the intersection lasted only 3.8 seconds and not the required 4.5 seconds.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The joy of air travel

Yes, I know, I have gained a rather cynical view of air travel over the past several years. But, is it any wonder? Consider the latest escapades in the friendly skies this week:

- The passenger who comes down the aisle, eyes the empty middle seat (in the exit row) between my business colleague and me, and demurely says "can I be the rose between your two thorns?" Now, before you get too excited, let me explain that said passenger was 60+ and, to be kind, average in looks. She then proceeds to spread out all of her "gear," invade space on both sides of her arm rest, and spill tomato juice on my colleague.

- The guy in front of me, on our return flight, who tries to convince the rather large man who decided to sit in that row's middle seat, to move back one row to the exit aisle, of which I was an inhabitant. When the large gent didn't budge, the guy in front of me on the aisle decides that the middle seat on my row wasn't too bad an option...and moves back.

- The heated exchange between two women who, upon landing, were jostling for position in the aisle in their hurry to exit our aircraft.

- The three children--all under the age of five--who highlighted our trip out this week with loud behavior and general undisciplined activity. Their parents, of course, acted as if the rest of us should be enthralled with the cuteness of their children.

The on-demand, now generation

One would theorize that younger consumers are passionately opposed to paying for content--that the generation raised on YouTube, Facebook and now Hulu does not want to shell out any dinero for the content they seek.

In a new white paper issued by Advertising Age, the publication's researchers have found that's not necessarily the case. A variety of research techniques were used to explore media habits, preferences and expectations from this young adult, media-consuming segment. What they found was a group who spends, on average, seven hours and 38 minutes with media per day, which is up more than an hour since 2004 data.

To this young adult group, the value of content online can be just as worth a price tag as cable or network TV shows...and they're also not averse to advertising. However, if it IS advertising it had better be good advertising and it should not take a long time to load.

Here are three things the white paper noted as key expectations for those who plan to market to this segment:

Instant gratification. This generation is used to getting what it wants and it wants it now. They text instead of talk. They download instead of buying CDs. They DVR live TV and then fast-forward through commercials. They look up any information they want on the internet.

Free is good...but will pay, if necessary. This group is used to getting content for free (see YouTube and Hulu) but they also understand that there might be a price to pay for more desirable content. That price might be the need to view advertising or it could be paying a small fee (e.g., iTunes.)

Best quality with no compromises. Ad Age calls this group "digital natives." And, that audience grew up during a digital technology revolution. Everything is small, shiny, beautiful--digital TVs, music and video players, smartphones, laptops and on and on. The consequence for marketers and industrial designers is that the standard for technology and design is very, very high.

In sum, not only we as marketers need to understand these insights but it also pays to understand this when interacting with this group. This is the age of "now" and technology and applications are being designed every day to help us live in the now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quote of the day

John McCain told Newsweek magazine, "I've never considered myself a maverick." Really!? Isn't that the whole approach his presidential campaign took, particularly when bringing uber-maverick (if that's truly the right descriptor for her) Sarah Palin onto the ticket?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Masters - a fitting finish

Is it just me or did it seem fitting that The Masters ended with Phil Mickelson getting his third green jacket and a heartfelt, prolonged hug and kiss(es) from his wife, Amy, after the 18th hole? And, Tiger Woods, the week-long story of the tournament--until late in the day today--was left to think about his three-putt from six feet on 14 and ponder his next appearance on a PGA Tour golf course.

This week gave us tantalizing theater--the return of Woods, the occasional glimpses of his non-mortal shot-making (e.g., Wood's shot from the rough on nine on Thursday), a first round 67 by 60-year old Tom Watson, and a four-day run at the championship by fan favorite Fred Couples. But, ultimately, it was Mickelson--golf's poster boy for family living and fatherhood--who won the day...and the week. We were treated to the emotional embrace of the winner with his wife and were treated to thoughts of "how fitting"--how fitting that Mickelson beat nemesis Woods and, in the meantime, was rewarded after a difficult year given his wife, Amy's, struggles with breast cancer as well as her mother's combatting the same disease.

Given Woods' return, and Mickelson's victory, we can now look forward to the next chapter in this rivalry book--the U.S. Open in June at Pebble Beach.

LIz - #9?

Elizabeth Taylor is on the prowl again. The woman who could easily be dubbed the most famous actress in U.S. movie history appears to be set to wed for the ninth time--this time to 49 year old Jason Winter. Winters is CEO of Sterling Winters Management, an entertainment representation company.

Taylor most recently was wed to Larry Fortensky, notable among Taylor's past hubbies because of his occupation as a construction worker. Liz's other husbands have included Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton (twice), and John Warner.

According to US magazine, several of Taylor's friends have affirmed that the couple is in love and they approve of Winter as the next "Mr. Taylor." Apparently, Winter purchased a home in Hawaii for the couple and they visit there quite frequently.

Take me out to the ballgame

It's baseball season and all across the country fans are embracing the opportunity to head back to the ballpark, to enjoy a dog-and-beer, and perhaps to expose their youngsters to this very American of games.

In Chicago, one child's exposure to the game took a very different turn in that other American tradition when a parent takes a son or daughter to the game--the visit to the restroom.

Dr. Paul Nemeth, a lifelong White Sox fan, took his six year old to U.S. Cellular Field on opening day--a day they had planned since last season. During the game, after one too many soft drinks, Nemeth's son had to go to the restroom so the pair went to find the nearest facility. While standing in line for the urinal, Nemeth heard sounds coming from a nearby stall and noticed a man's legs and feet quivering noticeably. Being a trained emergency room doctor, Nemeth banged on the stall door, asking "you okay!?" A woman's voice answered, "leave us alone!" Moments later, a young man exited the stall, arms raised high in triumph; his companion left the stall hurriedly with a jacket over her head and face.

The saddest point to this story is the reaction of many of the other men in the restroom--the bathroom sex perpetrator was treated to high fives and "attaboys!" Meanwhile, a young father had to answer questions from his son--questions he had no expectation of receiving on a day hopefully reserved for baseball and father-son bonding.

Maybe this was just an Opening Day phenomenon--a day when baseball draws more of the fan who's interested in counting the number of adult beverages consumed versus the sacrifice fly driving in the go-ahead run on the field. Or perhaps it's indeed an example of the changing behavior of fans and the boorish activities which are becoming too prevalent in our professional sports stadiums around the U.S. Regardless, I'm tired of it and I feel badly for parents who hesitate to take a son or daughter to games, knowing that their fate could be a foul-mouthed, beer guzzling Neanderthal sitting behind them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Men--be true to yourself

Not surprisingly, men who believe in themselves and view themselves objectively get more out of romantic relationships, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

A survey by researchers at OSU gave 62 college-age couples three separate tests pertaining to their personalities and relationship health. They found a clear correlation between those displaying "dispositional authenticity" and those reporting good, positive romantic relationships. So, what's "dispositional authenticity?" It's the ability to stay true to who you are.

Those who possess dispositional authenticity are more intimate with their partners and they also display few destructive relationship behaviors. What's interesting is that men who have this trait usually date women who are the same way. Conversely, women with this trait are no more likely to have a partner who is true to himself.

This likely explains the reason for the whole chick lit/chick flick-romantic comedy genre, huh?

Saturday morning coffee

- Let's give a birthday shout-out this morning to actor Harry Morgan, who's 95. Morgan is best-known for his role as Colonel Sherman Potter on MASH. Morgan won an Emmy for his performance of the tough, yet fatherly, Potter.

- George Strait and running mates Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack rocked the Sprint Center in Kansas City last night. Over 19,000 fans packed the place for this mega-country show. Quick, name another performer like Strait, who basically just comes out and sings, who can fill an arena on a consistent basis? I can't think of one...which affirms the power of Strait's personal appeal, his songs and his singing craftsmanship.

- It's a big television Sunday tomorrow, so get your DVRs ready. The final season of The Tudors starts on Showtime at 8:00 p.m. CDT. Over on HBO, Treme, the new series from David Simon (The Wire) starts at 9:00 p.m. which is right after episode five of The Pacific. And, all of this will be happening after the conclusion of The Masters, on CBS, which right now has a ratings blockbuster leader board (Woods, Mickelson, Couples, Watson, Poulter, Westwood...among others.)

- Speaking of The Masters, yes, those are funky golf shoes being worn by Fred Couples. The Champions Tour player, who led after round one, is wearing shoes made by Ecco. They're spikeless and are more like a cross-training sneaker, which is one reason Couples was able to walk up and down Augusta's rolling fairways without any socks.

- Quote of the day: Phil Knight, head of Nike, on the controversial ad from his company which showed Tiger Woods staring straight at the camera appearing to listen to the voice of his late father, Earl Woods. Knight said, of the ad which has already been pulled off the air, "We like the ad. It certainly got people talking." Indeed...and isn't that the legacy approach of Nike's advertising? Personally, I found it creepy and a poor move by Team Tiger this week--the week of The Masters which is step one in remaking Woods' image in the eyes of the public.

- Tiger redux: I'm not sure that most understand the enormity of what Woods accomplished on Thursday at Augusta. To come out, after a hiatus from competitive golf since October, and shoot a personal first round best at a very difficult course, is amazing. Woods' shot, on the ninth hole, from off the fairway where he bent his ball around a grove of trees to get within ten feet of the hole, was something mortals just don't do. (And, to then make the putt for his birdie...) It was an incredible performance.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Things I'd like to see...

- Shania Twain's new show succeed. In case you missed it, Twain will star in her own reality show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Why Not? will follow Twain as she works to resurrect her career and her personal life after a very public split with husband Mutt Lange.

- A Tiger Wood-Tom Watson pairing on Saturday or Sunday this weekend. Watson was leading The Masters today until fellow Champions Tour golfer, Fred Couples, shot a 66. Woods trails Watson by two strokes and could be paired with the 60-year old this weekend, if they both have good rounds tomorrow. Watson made some pretty harsh remarks about Woods during the height of Tiger's personal crisis of the past five months.

- A Kansas City Royal relief pitcher who can actually protect a lead. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

- An announcement that the rumored summer tour of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac will actually happen.

- Kate Gosselin booted from Dancing With the Stars.

- A reality check by those who are espousing a 96 team NCAA basketball tournament. Seriously, people, who wants to see an opening round match-up of Colorado versus Providence? (Don't laugh--it could happen next year if the tournament expands.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Quotes of the week

- Sid Phillips is one of the World War II vets whose story is being told in the current HBO series, The Pacific. Said Phillips, in an interview with the London Times, "The horror of war to the veteran is the daily life." To depict that, he said, "we'd have to throw you in a mud hole, leave you there all night with no toilet paper and skip breakfast in the morning, with a warship shelling you all night long. That's what war was like...but it does not make for great TV."

- Mike Freeman, writing on, had this to say about the sports cliche of "white men can't jump." Wrote Freeman about Northern Iowa, Cornell and Saint Mary's, all teams which surprised by advancing far into the NCAA Tournament, "Each of these mostly white teams is athletic as hell. You don't play on, or beat, the nation's top basketball teams if you're not an elite athlete. Yet even players succumb to this backward thinking. I'm convinced that top-seeded Kansas got beaten because its players watched Northern Iowa warm up and thought, 'We can take these guys. Jeez. Look at 'em.' And then Kansas got smoked--by some talented athletes who happen to be white."

- A Florida woman apparently robbed a bank because robbery was on her "bucket list." Patricia Edwards said, from jail, "I think everyone should have a list of things they want to do before they expire." I wonder how many things on Edwards' list were things she can now do from her jail cell?

JImmy Fallon channels Kate Gosselin

In case you missed Kate Gosselin on Dancing With the Stars this week, late night host Jimmy Fallon does a dead-on impersonation:


I hate to say this--I mean, it's heresy for a devoted fan like me--but, perhaps it is time for 24 to retire and go away.

Monday night's episode was riveting television, as usual, and featured the death of a primary character from this season's story. However, Season 8 has featured a CTU mole, an attached storyline which seemed to have nothing to do with the primary focus of the season, the usual "it'll take me 20 minutes to get there" (even though this season is set in New York) and now the return of a major character from seasons past. All of these pieces are regurgitated plot twists which devoted fans of 24 have seen once too often.

I'll continue to tune in because I still believe it's the best weekly network hour on television. It's clear now, though, that each season has become tougher and tougher to write for, thus the need for the show to be closed out from the small screen before the unthinkable "jumping the shark" occurs--none of us would want Jack Bauer to go out that way.

Seven hours are left in this season's "day," with the conclusion on Monday, May--fittingly--24.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Big Dipper lives on at KU

A collection of letters, postcards and newspaper clippings are being given by Barbara Chamberlain, the sister of the late Wilt Chamberlain, to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, the basketball great's alma mater.

The collection will include correspondence from Chamberlain to others who have played a part in the history of basketball in the U.S. and at KU--people like coaches Phog Allen and Dick Harp. Also in the letters is one sent to Chamberlain from then Oklahoma City coach Abe Lemons where Lemons writes about the tough game between KU and OCU where players were deliberately fouling Chamberlain in an attempt to get him upset.

The correspondence will reside in the University Archives, the repository for documents and records pertaining to the history of KU.

Monday, April 5, 2010

San Francisco Giants "tweet up"

This is such a San Francisco thing...

Idle musings

- We're in Season 8 of 24, making me wonder what Jack Bauer's been doing the 2,912 other days over that same time period.

- The moustache on Matt Howard of Butler reminds me of the low quality 'stache on Larry Bird of Indiana State in 1979.

- How many people attending The Masters will be on the first tee on Thursday, when Tiger hits his first shot, just to say "I was there."

- Another baseball season...and another blown lead by the Kansas City Royals' bullpen.

- Speaking of Tiger, his press conference today still didn't answer the big question, "so if you were driving and backed into a fire hydrant at the end of your driveway, how exactly did you get facial lacerations?"

- I've just started a terrific book, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It's about the grief that Didion went through after the death of her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne.

- Why do we drive on highways and park on driveways?

- As I watch The Pacific (HBO), and see the scene of a soldier writing home with pencil on paper, I'm reminded of the lost art of penning a letter.

- Head coach Brad Stevens of Butler will be first on the list of any major college program seeking a coach after the 2010-2011 season.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vanity Fair on Tiger

I'll warn you now--the attached link contains a very sobering, painful portrayal of Tiger Woods. The story, in the current issue of Vanity Fair, outlines Woods' dalliances with three women, out of a list which continues to grow, and offers up a description of a public personality who was enabled to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and with whom he wanted.

So, in advance of Woods' appearance tomorrow at Augusta National in a "press conference" with the media, I provide the following:

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Quote of the day

In last night's West Virginia-Duke game, star Mountaineer Da'Sean Butler went down with what looked to be a serious knee injury. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins came out on the floor to comfort his star and could be clearly heard saying to referee John Higgins, "They don't foul, do they John. This kid's an All-American."

Higgins, a Big 12 referee, and Huggins, of the one-year coaching stint at Kansas State, have had their share of run-ins before, even if only during that one season. But, the quote affirmed those of us who question Higgins' refereeing prowess as well as those who insist that there is an inequality in how games are called when Duke is involved.

It is "Hoosiers" for the college crowd

Is the script playing out any more perfectly? Tiny Butler, the darling of the NCAA tournament, will now take on mighty Duke, the team people love...or hate, on Monday night in the final game of this college hoops season. The story line for this one will be told way too frequently between now and tomorrow night but, suffice to say, there are way too many similarities to the classic sports movie, Hoosiers:

- Butler as tiny Hickory High with Duke as the big city school with the shiny uniforms and stud athletes.
- Lucas Oil Field as the modern day equivalent of Hinkle Fieldhouse, which served as the big arena where the Indiana state championship game was played in the film. (And, yes, Hinkle is where Butler now plays its regular season games.)
- Gordon Hayward, Butler's star, in the role of Jimmy Chitwood who was the guy who hit the winning shot for Hickory in Hoosiers.

Do I expect Butler to win? No--Duke's inside game with Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers has made me a believer and last night they ran their half-court sets masterfully. When Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are hitting from outside, Duke is hard to beat. Yet, I'm also the same guy who predicted that Michigan State and West Virginia would advance so, what do I know!?

Will Butler's storybook season end like Hickory's...or as another "great season, but couldn't win the last game?" We won't know until 10:30 p.m. tomorrow but, for now at least, it's terrific theater.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Seriously!? Butler...!?

In a story reminscent of Hoosiers--and, yes, I know it's an overused analogy--Butler forced Michigan State into a sloppy game, withstood poor shooting plus injuries to two starters, and beat the Spartans by two to advance to Monday night's NCAA Championship game. Butler will face the winner of Duke versus West Virginia.

This is an amazing story and involves the smallest school to ever play for a NCAA hoops championship--in their hometown, no less--who tonight extended their winning streak to 25 games.

It's trite but Butler truly seems to be a team of destiny. They make it uncomfortable for the opposing team to find any rhythm, they have players who are better than you would expect, and there is a baby-faced coach on their sideline who is doing a masterful job at prepping his team for tournament play. Whatever the outcome of the Duke-West Virginia game, this Butler team has captured the imagination of hoops fan across the country.

Saturday morning coffee

- Yes, as expected, those who had to be first to get the new Apple iPad camped out last night at locations across the country. Here are scenes from last night/this morning at the Apple flagship store in New York:

- It was sad to hear yesterday's news about John Forsyth's passing at 92. Forsyth is best known as the voice of Charlie in Charlie's Angels (he never appeared on screen but was central to the show) and later as Blake Carrington from the TV prime-time soap, Dynasty. It was as Carrington where Forsyth's suave good looks and terrific voice fit so well for the character of a dapper, ruthless oil baron. Forsyth got his start in acting due to his voice--he parlayed a summer job as announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field into radio acting and, eventually to stage, big screen and television.

- Today's predictions: Michigan State, and vet coach Tom Izzo, end Butler's Cinderella run and West Virginia ekes out a win over Duke, setting up a fun clash on Monday between two coaches who preach toughness--Bob Huggins and Izzo.

- There's still something special about opening day in Major League Baseball. For those of us in Kansas City, it provides us, once again, the opportunity to think that "this year is the year." That feeling lasts until about mid-May, at which point we can then turn our excitement to the approach of summer. No franchise has lost more games in the past decade.

- The Tudors begins next Sunday evening, April 11, on Showtime. It's one more quality series now being produced by a pay cable station. Check it out...

- And, happy birthday to my bride today!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mid-week musings

- 24 may be ending but FOX is expecting an advertising bonanza for the two-hour finale in May. The network has set a price of $650,000 for a 30 second commercial on the drama's final episode. The series is concluding next month after a successful eight year run.

- In the "this is sad," category, Chesea Clinton's fiance has agreed to pay her $10 million if he ever cheats on her. According to The National Enquirer, Clinton was so traumatized by her father's indiscretions that she is reticent to trust the men she has dated.

- The long-awaited iPad from Apple goes on sale Saturday. And, today's New York Times had two product reviews--one aimed at techies and one aimed at the rest of us. Universally, the reviews of this device from the mainstream media are very, very positive. Reviews from techies/geeks tend to be a bit more reserved. My prediction is that this device, like the iPhone, will engender long lines this weekend, lots of love from Apple devotees, and ultimately will evolve to a much better iPad when version two is introduced later this year or in 2011.

- I wonder if Joe Biden thinks this blog is a "big f----n' deal?"

- If you've not seen ESPN's 30 on 30, it's well worth the watch. The episode on the rivalry (probably too diplomatic a word) in the early to mid 1990s, between Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers versus the New York Knicks, was a riveting re-telling of Miller's clutch performances and mano a mano verbal battle with resident-fan-of-all-things New York, Spike Lee.

- Yes, it's April Fools Day. And, no, none of the above is a joke...

Tourney field set to expand

Did you enjoy the first and second rounds of this year's NCAA Tournament? Did you enjoy Ali Farokhmanesh letting fly a late-game three to take down overall #1 seed Kansas? If not that, did you enjoy the run of St. Mary's into the Sweet 16 and, in the process, upsetting #2 seed Villanova? How about Cornell, as a 12 seed, beating up on Temple and Wisconsin and also advancing to the Sweet 16?

It's all about to end, college hoops fans--the freight train called "expansion" is about to change the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament, if today's report is correct. And, why shouldn't it be--the expansion speculation has been rampant since before this year's tournament began.

The new, expanded tournament will supposedly not involve more time away from class and will not eliminate the successful, profitable conference post-season tourneys. It will, however, provide early round matchups which will not offer up the consistent drama on demonstration in this 2010 installment of the best college sports event on the planet. And, that, hoops fans, is a shame...and a mistake.