Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmy hits-and-misses

Last night's Emmy telecast was one of the most entertaining in years. So, given that you all immediately turned to this website today to check in on the Emmy Awards aftermath, here are our "hits-and-misses" from last night's event.

- Hit: Jimmy Fallon. The opening number set the tone and Fallon put his personal stamp on the event throughout the night. If anything, he wasn't used enough.

- Miss: No award for either Kyle Chandler or Connie Britton for Friday Night Lights. Yes, I know it's a personal crusade of mine but this show, and its actors, deserve more recognition.

- Hit: Claire Danes' dress. It was elegant, it was pretty and it was perfect for her. My pick for "dress of the night."

- Miss: It pains me to say this but...January Jones. What was up with that dress? And, did the hair even see a comb, brush or styling spray?

- Hit: Speaking of January Jones, how about Jason Sudeikis? The KU boy stepped up big time with his coming out as Jones' new beau.

- Miss: Al Pacino's hair. Dude...

- Hit: Heidi Klum and Seal. It's beauty and cool. It's spunk and "the voice." Our favorite couple of the evening...

- Miss: The pre-show shows. Can the networks' please find someone who can do a decent "interview" without the inane "who are you wearing tonight?" Answer - "No one. But Monique Lhuillier DID design this dress."

- Hit: The recognition for Mad Men, Modern Family, The Pacific and Glee.

- Miss: Archie Panjabi winning Outstanding Supporting Actress. Yes, she's good as is the show, The Good Wife, but there were more deserving actors in this category.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday morning coffee

- We're getting close, sports fans--college football starts this week. Stay tuned to see some of my thoughts about the upcoming season. We'll preview the Big 12 and Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State in the days to come.

- The Emmys are tonight and here's hoping that Friday Night Lights finally gets recognized.

- Do you have to be "mean" to be a good athlete? The sports page of today's Kansas City Star seems to be immersed in the whole topic of whether "good guys" can succeed in sports. And, this week's Sports Illustrated has a cover story on the Cincinnati Reds titled "Time to Get Mean." Attach a comment if you have an opinion.

- Well, this is disappointing. Famed activist Erin Brockovich reportedly owes $2,600 in back taxes, according to the State of California. Of course, given the budget situation of the Golden State, I'm sure they're bird-dogging tax debts rather vigilantly these days.

- People who I wish we never read about or viewed in the media again: the Kardashian sisters, Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson, Bristol Palin, anyone from Jersey Shore as well as any Real Housewives reunion.

- Facebook is not only under attack via the big screen, but now perhaps by Google. Kevin Rose, the tech entrepreneur who founded Digg, tweeted that "Google to launch Facebook competitor soon." If it happens, the duel would pit the world's dominant search company against the world's dominant social networking site. (The reference to the big screen has to do with the upcoming film, The Social Network, which portrays Facebook's founding in a rather unflattering manner.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things I love about business...

- Audio-visual equipment which never, ever works.
- People who reside in the office building where a meeting is taking place...yet join a conference call in order to "attend" that meeting.
- "Business casual" which has become code for "I'll wear to work what I wear on the weekend."
- "No weapons" signage at entrances into office buildings.
- Business language, with the basic tenet being "I'll sound smarter if I use more and/or longer words."
- Powerpoint presentations. Whatever happened to just talking about an issue?
- Favorite business words this week, which include "perspective," "timeframe," "surgical," and "discrete" (which often gets misspelled, thus totally changing the meaning in a rather embarrassing fashion.)
- "I'm not a creative guy but (insert idea/creative suggestion here.)"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday afternoon nuggets

- We missed it--yesterday was Robert Plant's 62nd birthday.

- Here's a shocker: The University of Colorado announced that Tyler Hansen has won the starting quarterback job over Cody Hawkins, son of head coach Dan Hawkins. Hansen got significant playing time last season after Cody Hawkins' slow start, but the two shared the role over the final few games of the season. Most pre-season pundits are picking Colorado to finish anywhere from third to fifth in the Big 12 North division. And, Hawkins is generally considered to be the coach in the league who is truly on the "hot seat," so this decision to start the more talented Hansen is the coach's first right move this season.

- I'm not sure if this is a compliment...or a dubious honor. McAfee, the software security company, has named Cameron Diaz as the "most dangerous celebrity to search for on the internet." The company figures out search phrases which contain names of public figures, then determines how many of those searches lead to sites with viruses, spam, adware or other malware. Diaz's name, in a phrase, leads to a 10% chance that you will encounter "sketchy material." The others who made the top ten are: Julia Roberts, Jessica Biel (last year's "winner"), Gisele Bundchen, Brad Pitt, Adriana Lima, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Nicole Kidman (tie), Tom Cruise, Heidi Klum and Penelope Cruz (tie), and Anna Paquin.

- Merrie Harris, an exec with a Manhattan ad agency, encountered a homeless man on the streets of New York last week. Rather than giving the man money, Harris lent him her American Express card due to her lack of cash. After 10 minutes, the man returned--he had the AMEX card and a bottle of water he'd purchased. Harris, who volunteers at a homeless shelter, said she "knew the man was coming back."

- Yesterday was an interesting day for sports columnists. First, we locals had an opportunity to listen to/view a three-hour encounter session between departing Kansas City Star columnist Jasosn Whitlock and radio personality Nick Wright. The public airing of "why I'm leaving" included an emotional Whitlock lashing out at his former bosses at the newspaper. Then, Jay Mariotti, a regular on Around the Horn on ESPN, was arrested in Los Angeles on a domestic violence felony charge. He was held on $50,000 bail and released shortly after Noon today.

- In the "what might have been" department, a new book claims that Monica Lewinsky actually had her sights set on George Stephanopoulos instead of Bill Clinton. The book claims that White House staffers knew that Lewinsky was shameless pursuing Stephanopoulos, now on ABC's Good Morning America, but he rejected her advances as well as her constant desire to go get him coffee at Starbuck's.

- I'm about finished with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and now cannot wait to see the coming U.S. version of the movie, which will star Daniel (James Bond) Craig.

- Speaking of big screen adaptations of books, A Place in the Sun will air on TCM on Monday at 1:45 p.m. ET. The movie is taken from Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy--one of my all-time favorite books. The film co-stars a stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

- Staying on the movie theme, The Big Chill will be shown on Encore next Friday, August 27, at 4:10 p.m. ET. This comedy-drama not only gave us a terrific ensemble cast, but perhaps the most popular movie soundtrack of the 1980's as well. The music from The Big Chill opened up a whole new audience's ears to 1960's rock-and-roll and Motown hits.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mid-week musings

- Happy Birthday to Lee Ann Womack, who turns 44. Womack's "Last Call" is an all-time great country song.

- Rumor has it that Jason Whitlock had one too many dust-ups with Kansas City Star management and thus his extended vacation has now turned into his formal departure.

- Color me blown away that Brett Favre didn't stay retired. Seriously, the guy is still one of my top five all-time favorite NFL players, but this annual mini-drama was old two years ago.

- Did you hear about the inebriated 19-year old moron who, at Disney's California Adventure last night, joked with friends, "Wouldn't it be funny if I fell?" as he waited in line at Tower of Terror. He then, of course, did fall--about 20 feet to the ground. No worries--he only suffered some abrasions, looking very stupid in the process.

- If you liked Sydney Pollack's 1975 classic, Three Days of the Condor, you'll love AMC's Rubicon, the series which debuted on August 1 in the Sunday evening time slot prior to Mad Men.

- Speaking of Condor, one of my favorite movie lines was uttered by Joe Turner (Robert Redford) in that movie: "Listen, I work for the CIA. I am not a spy. I just read books! We read everything that's published in the world. And we feed the plots--dirty tricks, codes--into a computer. And, the computer checks against actual CIA plans and operations. I look for leaks. I look for new ideas. We read adventures and novels and journals. Who'd invent a job like that!?"

- Who are my other favorite, top five, all-time NFL players, you ask? In no particular order: Gale Sayers, Willie Lanier, Dan Marino, Lance Alworth and Favre.

- ESPN Magazine's College Football issue is on newsstands. And, in the magazine, several college players are asked a variety of questions. On the question of favorite uniform, Oregon's multi-option unis were the favorite. Wyoming's brown and baby puke yellow were the least favorite duds.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Murray's music collection...and new career

I was reading the Los Angeles Times today on one of the legs of my multi-segment journey from Kansas City to Los Angeles to Irvine to Oakland to San Francisco. And, buried back in section AA was a story on one Murray Gershenz.

It seems Murray, who is 88, has a music collection which includes no less than 400,000 albums--from operatic performances on Edison cylinder tubes to Big Band music on 78-rpm discs to early rock hits on 45s to LPs to cassette tapes and CDs. His collection is housed in a two-story cinderblock building in Los Angeles complemented by space in two nearby warehouses. Gershenz is trying to sell the collection but, thus far, has not had any suitors willing to pony up for a collection he values at $3 million.

What caught my eye in the story, though, is not that Murray is trying to sell his valuable collection but that he's doing it in order to focus on a "budding career as a character actor." Mind you now, Murray is 88--not exactly an age where one's career, in anything, "buds."

But, if you watched Mad Men this past Sunday night you saw Gershenz in action--he had a part as the old gentleman, living with his wife in Don Draper's apartment building, who wants to know if his spouse brought home any pears.

So, let's make our personality-of-the-day Murray Gershenz--album collector and character actor--who has now appeared on television's hottest drams and will next be seen in a "big role" on House in mid-September. At this rate, Murray can afford to take his time and sell his collection for the right price--his newfound acting fame is paying the rent!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Ominous title, isn't it? For those who frequent this blog, you know that my description of this space doesn't include forays into topics like grief or Christianity or pain or longing or the human condition on a deeply emotional level. That will change today...and likely today only.

You see, a year ago, a good friend of many of us was killed in a tragic automobile accident. It was tragic because of how it happened. And, it was tragic not that another human being on this Earth was killed, but because this human being happened to be a father of three young boys, a loving husband, and a vital member of his community.

I know that deaths happen every day and amidst those deaths are similar stories of men and women dying too young, of families left behind, of communities shocked at the loss of a leader. I get that and don't suggest that this loss takes precedence over other similar situations. I write about this one only through the personal experience of a deeply felt loss and through my observations of the aftermath.

Our friend touched many, many lives. He was a vibrant presence who, while small in stature, could fill up and light up a room. He had an amazing wit which he used to his advantage--to put a person at ease, to elicit a laugh, to defuse a situation, or to simply help someone understand that he cared.

The outpouring of affection after this death was real. How could this happen!? What will we do now!? How can we help? And, in the midst of these questions came grief.

The dictionary defines grief as deep sorrow. There have been books written about the topic, sermons preached about the topic, psychoanalysis conducted on the topic and counseling groups arranged on the topic. There are stages of grief and levels of grief--it seemingly affects us all in different ways. There is no manual, no sermon, no counseling session that can solve grief. Is there anything else in life as complex?

The year since our friend's death has, at least for me, been one of reflection. What do I do differently knowing that life is so fleeting? How do I matter in this world? How can I help those who have lost, so suddenly, in life? And, how do I consider the relationships I have with others such that I make a difference?

The grief is still there. They say that time heals and I believe that to be the case. But, I also believe that a portion of me is gone, never to be replaced. That portion was filled by my friend and what he meant, just as a part of me was taken when other friends have passed.

Is there a final point--a punctuation to be made to this post? No--this topic deserves its own blog, or blogs. I write this brief post on grief today simply to state what might be the obvious--it's been a year and I still feel pain and loss. It's been a year and I still don't understand why bad things happen to good people.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wrapping up the work week

- Yes, I know that more is being made of the Steven Slater story than perhaps is warranted. But, it does bring to mind the origin of the line "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" In case you've never seen the movie, it's Network and the sentiment is voiced by the late Peter Finch, who won an Oscar for his role as Howard Beale.

- Speaking of air travel, I was on four different flights this week and every one of them was completely packed. No wonder travelers and flight attendants are grouchy at one another.

- It's looking more and more like Shania Twain will assume a judge's chair on American Idol as, reportedly, negotiations with Jennifer Lopez have broken down. Steven Tyler is still in the mix as well although, according to TMZ, he wants Idol execs to "lay out the bread" if they want him to come onto the show.

- Dexter McCluster looks to be the most exciting addition to the Chiefs roster this season. The team, however, was less than impressive in the opening exhibition game tonight versus the Atlanta Falcons.

- Mike Kelly has a radio voice. He should stay on radio because his, ahem, physical presence isn't made for television. No offense to Kelly--some folks are just meant to be on radio (e.g., Royals announcer Bob Davis.)

- New USC Athletics Director Pat Haden revealed that dishonored Trojan alum Reggie Bush reached out and talked with Haden by phone. Haden described Bush's comments as "contrite." It truly is sad to see Bush's college legacy tarnished as the guy was an incredible presence on the football field. (And, of course, on the field was where Bush wasn't in a key third-down situation in the 2006 Rose Bowl versus Texas, which USC ultimately lost. The offensive coordinator on that USC staff was none other than current Trojan head coach, Lane Kiffin, and was the first well-publicized example of when Kiffin's ability to coach on game day came into question.)

- Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO at Hewlett Packard, is in a fierce battle for the U.S. Senate in a fall California election versus Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer. However, Fiorina's former employer is contributing more to Boxer's campaign. The HP Political Action Committee has donated more to Boxer--about $7,300 compared to the $2,900 for Fiorina.

- According to a new survey by Morpace, 34% of AT&T iPhone users are waiting for the phone to be available on another carrier before upgrading.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sports value...and where our local teams rank

A recent edition of Forbes plotted out the most valuable sports teams and athletes. There are a few surprises but, mostly, an acknowledgment of where the most value resides in the world of professional sports.

Interestingly, it is a non-U.S. team which is first on the team list--Manchester United, the soccer powerhouse of the English Premier League. The estimated value of Man U is $1.8 billion. Owned by the Glazer family--the fact that an American family owns this franchise is of great consternation to most in England--the team boasts the star power of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. They receive revenue through relationships with the likes of Nike ($470 million over 13 years plus a 50% share of profits on merchandise) and Aon (shirt sponsorship at $34 million annually.) And, MUTV, the team's dedicated television channel, is shown in 192 million homes.

Next on the list is a group of teams which should be of no surprise--the Dallas Cowboys ($1.65 billion), New York Yankees ($1.6 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion) and New England Patriots ($1.361 billion.) In total, there are teams/clubs representing five sports: soccer (nine teams), motorsports (two teams), basketball (two teams), baseball (five teams) and football (all 32 NFL teams.)

Where do local teams rank? Not surprisingly, the Kansas City Royals--a poster-child for small market baseball--don't make the top 50 list. The Kansas City Chiefs check in at the #19 spot--ahead of major market or more recently successful brethren like the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs' estimated value is $1.027 billion, which is just slightly higher than the Colts' $1.025 billion and just behind the Cleveland Browns' $1.032 billion.

Musings for a new week

- That Charlie Sheen is quite the guy. First, he scores a nice plea deal in his assault case, then decides to party it out at the Playboy Mansion. That's what most actors in the middle of a rocky marriage situation do, huh?

- "It wasn't a lie. It was ineptitude with insufficient cover." (Don Draper in Episode Two of the current season of Mad Men)

- Former Sopranos actress Jamie Lynn Sigler is no longer dating New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. There was no word out of Sigler's camp as to whether she intended to re-unite with Turtle (Entourage.)

- ranks Kansas City as a top 10 city for young adults. Our metro area was listed in some heady company--Austin, Houston, Washington, Portland and New York also made the list. The criteria for this list are low cost of living, rich culture and active nightlife, as well as the number of people in the area who are less than 35. KC received props for below-average rent costs, low cost of living, and innovative jobs in sectors like technology and research. The city was dinged, though, for limited cultural offerings.

- Speaking of Entourage (i.e., for the ill-informed, picking up on the Turtle reference above), next season will be the last for the HBO series. And, it sounds like series' execs are talking about a "short order" season--perhaps six episodes--in order to pave the way for a coming feature film, which has been long-rumored but never verified. A film could be a good thing as this season's storyline is, honestly, aimless and boring thus far.

- Bad word-of-mouth is building for Dinner for Schmucks.

- And, on this date in 1988, Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in one of the most controversial player transactions in hockey, and sports, history. The trade left many Canadians feeling victimized and caused Gretzky to be branded a "traitor" by many in his home country.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Last Rodeo

Brooks & Dunn have been at the top of the country charts since the duo began their professional career together in 1991. Their first four songs hit number one and the duo has never looked back...until now.

Billed "The Last Rodeo," the current tour marks the last time that the award-winning, commercially successful twosome plan to perform together. Their "Last Rodeo" made its stop in the heartland last night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

The beauty of Brooks & Dunn has always been their consistency at producing hits which run the gamut from ballads to up-tempo, with rock influences, to gospel. The broad array of styles has kept the band, and duo, fresh and allowed them to have broad appeal--their sound bridges the gap from country-pop to traditional country. Both men write, sing and play but it's most often Ronnie Dunn's majestic voice which is on display in the majority of their hits.

Unfortunately, last night's performance was marred by a sore throat which Dunn admitted was bothering him. He still managed to hit most of the right notes, particularly on "Believe," his vocal highlight of the evening. Unlike the past show when I saw them, Kix Brooks was more on display last night, showcasing his vocal chops, and ability to work a crowd, with songs like "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" and "The Last Rodeo."

Last night's show was country professionalism on display. The musicianship of the band was tight, the interplay with the crowd pushed all the right fan-artist relationship buttons, the arena audio got progressively better during the performance, and two master songwriters--and singers--left the stage having fulfilled yet another capacity crowd. I wasn't surprised--they've been doing it now for 20's nice to see guys like this going out on top.

SET LIST: Play Something Country; You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl; Mama Don't Get Dressed Up For Nothing; Put a Girl In It; You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone; Ain't Nothing 'Bout You; Last Rodeo; Lost and Found; That's What She Gets For Loving Me; It's Getting Better All the Time; Cowgirls Don't Cry; My Next Broken Heart; Red Dirt Road; She Likes to Get Out of Town; Believe; Rock My World (Little Country Girl); Only In America; My Maria; Boot Scootin' Boogie.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Night Lights finale

Tonight's episode of Friday Night Lights on NBC ends Season Four of this critically acclaimed, but struggling for viewership, series. My assessment of this next-to-last season is that the show, while good, is having a hard time developing characters given the shifting nature of kids moving through high school and into young adult life.

The series foundation is the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor. Eric, played superbly by Kyle Chandler, is Dillon East High School's head football coach. Tami, another great acting job by Connie Britton, is principal of Dillon High School, Eric's former school and employer. These two have one of the most genuine husband-wife relationships on television and it evolved nicely this year given Eric's move to East Dillon and the resulting tension of two spouses working at opposing, rival high schools.

The Taylors are an example of what has worked best with this show in Season Four--the development of adult characters. Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), a local businessman in Dillon, has been with the show since the beginning and his character evolved nicely this season due to his unflagging loyalty, and friendship, with the Taylors. Other adult characters have been successfully woven into the show this season as new families were introduced into the series due to Coach Taylor's move to East Dillon, and the expanded storyline.

It's with the teens in the show where I have issue. Julie Taylor's (Aimee Teegarden) character has not developed and now is nothing more than a grating irritant on the show. Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) is the one everyone hopes will get his life turned around...but never seems to succeed such that the storyline is now totally predicable. Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) provided some of the best drama in the first three seasons, and his role in dealing with the death of his father was a highlight of this season. Saracen's character then promptly disappeared as he headed to Chicago to flee the aftermath of this family tragedy.

New student actors have been added to the show and blended in well. It's the Dillon High School graduates--Riggins, Saracen, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly)--who caused a few struggles with this season's series performance.

Season Five will be the last of Friday Night Lights. It's too bad as this show, even with the challenge of keeping a series fresh as characters come-and-go, is some of the best writing and ensemble acting on television. The production values have waned a bit as NBC tried to reduce expenses associated with the show, but it's still one of the most compelling dramas on the small screen.

If you have not watched this show, there's still time--go rent the Season One DVD now!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How hot is it...?

- Goodness, it's so hot that even the "heat" jokes aren't funny anymore. This is brutal and, apparently, pay back for last year's mild Kansas City summer.

- A lawsuit has been filed, by shoppers, against the 99 Cents Only Store. The reason? The chain has raised the price of its items to $0.9999. The chain's CEO, Eric Schiffer, said that the increase was for a "very tiny amount" but admitted that prices are then rounded up to $1.00 at the cash register. The "tiny" increase nets out a tidy $12 million more annually.

- Isn't there something a bit spooky about the fact that Mel Gibson has been getting "career advice" from none other than Britney Spears? According to In Touch magazine, "Mel has been talking to her a lot."

- Bill Clinton, who just married off his daughter, Chelsea, is now viewed more favorably than current president Barack Obama and immediate past president George Bush. According to a Gallup survey, Clinton is viewed favorably by 61% of the public while Obama is viewed favorably by 52% and Bush by 45%.

- Did I mention that it's hot?

- Kansas is in the news. According to The Wichita Eagle, the final roll of Kodachrome film that Kodak produced was processed this month in...Parsons, KS. Why Parsons? Kodak, which has retired this film brand, selected photographer Steve McCurry to shoot the last roll. McCurry photographed images in New York, India and...yep--Parsons.

- We're two episodes into Season Four of Mad Men and, already, this season is promising to rebound from last season's often lackluster performance. Yes, it was still the best work on television last summer but the writers seemed to struggle with what to do with certain characters until the final episode, which thus led to this season's early fireworks. The one question I have is with Jon Hamm's Don Draper character. Is Don currently just suffering a case of holiday loneliness, or does it go deeper than that? Is he truly troubled by the loss of his family? And, what of his sampling the company fare--and I don't mean the food and beverages--after the office Christmas party? Stay tuned...

- Here's a dubious record--NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler said that league officials told him his head-on collision, this past Sunday in Pocono, was the hardest recorded in the history of the sport. There wasn't a quality replay of Sadler's crash into the wall but enough was caught on camera to tell the story of this frightening accident. The previous "record" for a hard hit was held by Kyle Petty, who crashed at Bristol in 2003 at 80 Gs (80 times the force of gravity.)

- Okay, okay, you asked for it. Did you hear the one about the fire hydrant? It's so hot outside that a fire hydrant begged a dog to pee on it.