Wednesday, September 30, 2009
(1) The Simpsons ("Homer the Whopper") - Not a great episode, but the best among a mostly awful cartoon evening. Loved all the comic book nods.
(2) Family Guy ("Road to the Multiverse") - 100 times funnier when "The Simpsons" used the same plot during a Halloween episode 100 years ago.
(3) American Dad! ("In Country…Club") - Comedic Vietnam War spoofs have been played out since "Platoon". Secondary story ("Barbara Does Celine!") kept it out of the cellar.
(4) The Cleveland Show ("Pilot") - Not a fan.
MVP - Comic Book Guy stays true to his convictions on "The Simpsons" season premiere. I'll graciously ignore that his "Everyman" character was a polite rip-off of this guy.
Quote of the Night - "Nutter Butters AND Oreos?! DAMN!", Cleveland Brown ("The Cleveland Show")
The Simpsons – 5
Family Guy – 3
American Dad – 2
The Cleveland Show – 1
When/Where: FOX – Sundays at 8:30 PM
10-Word Premise: Black "Family Guy" (or Seth MacFarlane owns Rupert Murdoch's soul).
Starring: White guy Mike Henry as the lead Black guy; Sanaa Lathan as the stereotypically promiscuous Black single mother wif dat fat ass, boyyy!; Reagan Gomez-Preston as the stereotypically skanky Black teenage girl and Kevin Michael Richardson as the stereotypically unintelligent Black boy.
The Best Thang: If you like "Family Guy", you'll like this show. "The Cleveland Show" has the same pacing, the same broadly written characters and even the same "this is like that time when I…" cutaway gags. Hell, the first 10 minutes of the premiere episode was a "Family Guy" episode.
The Worst Thang: This sh*t ain't funny, son. Now, I know I'm talking to the Fox News generation – raised to believe Black folk are a hypersensitive, self-loathing lot, so you'll have to just trust me on this: I would've welcomed being offended if "The Cleveland Show" at least made me laugh. Last Sunday's debut couldn't carry its comedic weight (An R. Kelly piss joke? In 2009?!) and – here's where I get a wee bit racial – I can't take it seriously as an African-American satire when the premiere was written by three white guys. Oh, and confidential to the writers: Joe Torre is a manager, not a "coach". Jesus.
The Verdict: Mrs. Bootleg watched with me in stone silence. At least she didn't storm out of the room like the time she saw these guys on our TV. I've wanted to do something on this blog with FOX's "Animation Domination" programming block, but 25% of that block might be out before it ever had a chance to get in.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
When/Where: FOX – Fridays at 8:00 PM
10-Word Premise: Bickering Black family (is there another kind?!) under one roof.
Starring: Michael Strahan as the charming Black guy; Daryl "Chill" Mitchell as the smart-alecky Black guy; Carl Weathers as the "can't tell if he's crazy or wise" Black guy and CCH Pounder as Big Momma.
The Best Thang: Strahan's acting is somehow not the worst thing about this show. Hell, he's actually respectable – all things considered. But, it's the seasoned comic timing of Mitchell that makes "Brothers" just barely watchable. He does all he can – including a few too many gags about his own disability – and it's morbidly entertaining to see someone work so hard to make something out of this mess.
The Worst Thang: The FOX network not only exiled "Brothers" to Friday nights, but they're unloading their 13-episode order as fast as they can with back-to-back shows from 8:00 – 9:00 PM. A lot of the going-in reviews expressed astonishment that the esteemed CCH Pounder would lower herself to appear on a sitcom, but whatever alluring ju-ju she had on "The Shield" isn't evident here. She has no chemistry with Strahan and Mitchell (her own children!) and exhibits varying degrees of emotional expression simply by yelling slightly more or slightly less.
The Verdict: After the series premiere, I turned to Mrs. Bootleg and said, "Well, at least we can face the Black caucus and tell 'em we tried…".
Since a couple of you – 25% of my readership! – took me to task for bringing the mood of this lightly-read blog down with all my personal medical wah-wah-wah, I've taken to tweeting machine-gun updates in real time whenever I end up back in the doctor's office.
Unfortunately, I know that some of you are morally opposed to Twitter. An understandable stance and one I maintained for a long time, myself – until I realized my new cell phone came Twitter-ready. The next morning, I was on a plane to Albany for a weekend in Cooperstown and sharing every uninteresting detail with a bunch of people I've never met. It's like I had two blogs!
Anyways, y'all remember what went down back in early August, right?
My left pinky finger had been in a splint for five weeks, when I was finally able to get in to see a sports injury specialist on September 9. After waiting 15 minutes past my scheduled appointment time, I was forced to borrow Mrs. Bootleg's "sassy Black attitude" and use it on the unsuspecting receptionist. Fortunately, it was available, as my wife only dusts it off on those rare occasions when we're at Target together and she demands this week's sale price for something she bought the day before the sale began.
Sadly, it didn't work for me, as the receptionist conspired with the medical staff to pull that "the doctor will see you now" bit, only to have me wait for another 25 minutes in an examination room. And, what kind of medical care did I get after 40 minutes of nothing?
Doctor: "OK, Aaron, let's have a look at that finger. Apart from cleaning and re-wrapping it, has your finger been completely immobilized since your injury?"
Me: "Well, my primary care physician took it out of the splint about 10 days after I tore the tendon. He manipulated it a bit. Tell you the truth, that hurt almost as much as initial injury."
Doctor: "Oooh, he shouldn't have done that."
For only a $25 co-pay, I got two minutes of doctor's valuable time and was told to come back in two weeks. It seems the "healing clock" started over when my primary care guy played "pull my finger".
This past Wednesday, I was told I only needed the splint at night. My pinky finger still has next to no mobility, looks like a swollen Lil' Smokie and stinks like an old corpse. I've also got specific instructions to "buddy tape" my left pinky and ring fingers together whenever I'm "anywhere around Jalen". Yup, those were his exact words. My son's reached the point where doctors are dispensing medical advice tailored to his very existence.
I'm just so proud.
Monday, September 28, 2009
When/Where: ABC – Thursdays at 8:00 PM
10-Word Premise: "Dude, I had the craziest dream last night!" x 6,000,000,000.
Starring: Joseph Fiennes as not Dr. Jack Shepard; Sonya Walger as not Kate Austen; Jack Davenport as not Sawyer; John Cho as not Walt; Dominic Monaghan as not Charlie and Courtney B. Vance as the Black guy in charge who ALWAYS ends up being part of the conspiracy.
The Best Thang: Theoretically, everyone on earth is facing the same predicament – an unexplainable blackout of our entire population followed by visions of a universally specific point in the future. The performances of Cho and Brian F. O'Byrne as an FBI field agent and AA sponsor, respectively, had me hooked right out of the gate. Their characters were given two of the more intriguing visions (or, is it just one?) and both actors struck the right notes of confusion and anxiety.
The Worst Thang: I guess it's unavoidable, but considering the compelling subject matter, I was disappointed to see the writers go all in with so many clichéd prop bets. The love triangle? The recovering alcoholic? The precocious child who may be the key to it all? And, the potential deus ex machina factor concerns me, too. Maybe the writers already have an idea for an eventual endgame, but all these individual peeks behind the future curtain could end up being several seasons of red herrings, before any real answers are revealed.
The Verdict: I liked "FlashForward", but wasn't blown away. The show's writers and producers are saying all the right things on the press junkets, including promises that they'll get us to "April 2010" by the end of the first season. I suppose I'm in for now, but if this show starts showing similarities to the glacial pacing of ABC's "The Nine" or "Invasion", then I'm out.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Jacksonville at Houston
Aaron: In the last two weeks, I've propped up the Jaguars and trashed the Texans '09 chances. That's why they play the games. I heard that on TV somewhere. ESPN, perhaps? Sounded prescient. Pick: Houston
Joe: The Texans' offense officially woke up last week. Somebody please tell Steve Slaton he's a part of the Texans' offense. Pick: Houston
Tennessee at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: Are we sold on the Jets defense, yet? All I read this week was how the Jets beat a declining Pats team as the buzz was more "blame the team that lost", not "credit the team that won". Pick: NY Jets
Joe: The defense is absolutely for real. The offense is gonna have its good days and bad days. Here comes a bad day. Pick: Tennessee
Green Bay at St. Louis
Aaron: Well, here's a home team that we can safely say is ALL figured out for 2009. No ambiguity with the Rams. No, sir. Pick: Green Bay
Joe: It's a comfort to know that, one week after royally fucking me over in my suicide pool by losing at home to the goddamn Bengals, they actually WILL beat a team they should beat. Yep. A real comfort. Pick: Green Bay
Washington at Detroit
Aaron: Nice piece in this week's Sports Illustrated on how baseball's Detroit Tigers have lifted the city with their success. The Lions, it would appear, are like unliftable and sh*t. Pick: Washington
Joe: They're gonna win one. And soon. And Washington is very bad. And they have to win sometime. And their QB is actually not bad. And Washington can barely score AND has a crappy quarterback. ...Shit, here I go. Pick: Detroit
San Francisco at Minnesota
Aaron: Have you heard that this is the first home game of the season for
Joe: The winner of this goes to 3-0 and earns frontrunner status in the race to become the season's weakest playoff team. Pick: San Francisco
Atlanta at New England
Aaron: Home wins over a mediocre Dolphins squad and a feisty, but not-so-good Panthers team have not yet convinced me that the Falcons can go into New England and beat the Pats in a game New England HAS to win (mostly to shut up the media). Pick: New England
Joe: Can we talk about how New England has managed to dig up yet ANOTHER scrappy, feisty, hustle-laden white wide receiver? I'm no socialist, but should we spread those guys throughout the league a bit better? Pick: New England
N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay
Aaron: At this point, the Bucs should just go all-in: bring back the Creamsicle-colored, "sassy pirate" uniforms and embrace their return to 1970s-80s form. They don't suck, they're retro! And, they suck. Pick: NY Giants
Joe: Sure, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, you both had fantastic receiving performances on Sunday night. But you know Plaxico Burress is doing angry pull-ups at Rikers Island, plotting his revenge. Pick: NY Giants
Cleveland at Baltimore
Aaron: The Ravens beat a crumbling, poorly coached San Diego squad last week and some talking heads are already declaring Baltimore as the team to beat this season. I'd mock them, but (1) I picked the Chargers to win and (2) I picked Cleveland to win last week, too. Pick: Baltimore
Joe: Having confidence in a Baltimore team is an odd thing indeed. But they finally put together something of an offense. Be afraid. Pick: Baltimore
Kansas City at Philadelphia
Aaron: I think you guys can take the rest of the NFL season off, Missouri. Pick: Philadelphia
Joe: What, no words on the impending football return of Michael Vick? Not looking forward to that dominating any and all coverage of this game for a week? Pick: Philadelphia
Chicago at Seattle
Aaron: I've decided to accelerate my usual "I'm not going to believe in 'Quarterback X' until his team is 8-2" stance. Lucky for you, Jay Cutler. Pick: Chicago
Joe: I really, really don't think we can attribute last week's Bears win to Jay Cutler. But they are up against Seneca Wallace, who has held my disbelief for many seasons now. Pick: Chicago
New Orleans at Buffalo
Aaron: Is Joe ever going to pick his beloved hometown team to win a game in 2009? We've got the potential for some season-long drama here, people. Pick: New Orleans
Joe: If I ever do, it won't start this week. Pick: New Orleans
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Aaron: Reverse that fluke last-second loss in week #1 and the Bengals would be 2-0! Within the confines of that hypothetical universe, they'd be 2-1 after this week. Pick: Pittsburgh
Joe: The Bengals could barely score against a bad defense against Denver, then seemed to move at will on what I still think is a good Packers defense. Will this reverse psychology strategy keep working. It definitely will. Pick: Pittsburgh
Denver at Oakland
Aaron: Watching JaMarcus Russell regularly over/underthrow open receivers while playing a blatantly dumbed-down offensive system with none of the passion you'd expect from a guy who's actively stealing $30 million from our misunderstood octogenarian owner just hurts my heart. Pick: Denver
Joe: Oakland's woes notwithstanding, they have to be the absolute worst 2-0 team this season, and maybe ever. That being said, picking Oakland in any context two weeks in a row is pretty dumb. Pick: Denver
Miami at San Diego
Aaron: Five years ago, Chad Pennington led the Jets into San Diego and knocked the Chargers out of the playoffs. If he can win here with the Dolphins…ah, who am I kidding? Pick: San Diego
Joe: I actually like the Chargers better with no Tomlinson at all than with a gimpy Tomlinson. Pick: San Diego
Indianapolis at Arizona
Aaron: So, now we live in a world where the Arizona Cardinals are featured in prime time on Sunday Night Football? Did John McCain win the election? Did John McCain win the election?! Timely. Pick: Indianapolis
Joe: I don't love the Colts on the road this season, but this feels more like an upset that would happen at 4PM while we're all watching something else than on Sunday night. Pick: Indianapolis
Carolina at Dallas
Aaron: Last week's NBC broadcast from the home opener of Dallas' new bajillion dollar stadium was as shameless as anything I've ever seen. Did anyone ever think the esteemed Al Michaels could out-hyperbole Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay when gushing over a new facility? Pick: Carolina
Joe: On another note, the glee with which other people in the sporting media take in Tony Romo's failures is kind of unseemly. What did that guy ever do besides foist Jessica Simpson on an unsuspecting ... oh. Right. Pick: Dallas
Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)
Joe (8): Giants (- 6.5) over BUCCANEERS; Bears (- 2.5) over SEAHAWKS; TEXANS (-3.5) over Jags
Tom (7): Saints (-4) over BILLS; Titans (+3) over JETS; Giants (-7) over BUCCANEERS
Aaron (1!): Colts (+ 2.5) over CARDINALS; Giants (- 6.5) over BUCCANEERS; Bears (- 2.5) over SEAHAWKS
Friday, September 25, 2009
When/Where: ABC – Wednesdays at 9:30 PM
10-Word Premise: Imagine "The Golden Girls" slightly sexier and 10 years younger.
Starring: Courtney Cox as the face of divorced middle-aged women everywhere – assuming all those divorced middle-aged women have had as much bad plastic surgery as Courtney Cox. Seriously, her mouth is like the unholy union of this grill and this grill; Brian Van Holt as the ex-husband who inexplicably landed her in the first place; Busy Phillips as the distraction in every scene because I can't take my eyes off her chocolate chip chest and Christa Miller as "Ethel Mertz" – cast solely to make the star of the show look hotter by comparison. Fine, you come up with a more timely reference.
The Best Thang: The 45-year-old Cox seems to be having the time of her life. Despite being the butt of most of the jokes, she kept chewing up scenery as the show rolled along – almost daring the writers to keep right on skewering her. Her conversationalist delivery of "crackalackin'" and "coochie-cooch" inspired me to use those words at least once a day for the rest of my life. And, her response to being caught in the act by her son had me rollin'. Put it this way: I've never seen an episode of "Friends", but if Cox brought this kind of comedic talent to that show, then I'm going to start listening when people begin a sentence with "Remember that time on "Friends"…".
The Worst Thang: WAY too many characters. After two viewings of the premiere, I've decided that Josh Hopkins' shallow, cradle-robbin' divorcé-hole (c'mon…that's brilliant – say it with the accent over the "e") is annoyingly redundant. Aaaaaand, sorry, Carolyn Hennesy. Your "Blanche Devereaux redux" schtick worked in the bar scene, but I've only got so many "Golden Girls" references in me for a weekly sitcom.
The Verdict: Someone told me that I listed "Cougar Town" as the one new show on Wednesdays that I would NOT watch. I…don't remember that. Besides, whatever I might've said – but, probably didn't – about it is forever buried in the TBG archives. This is a damn fine bit of self-effacing goodness, kids. Just keep your husband away from the camera and you'll ensure yourself a mid-level priority spot on my DVR, Ms. Cox. These are my terms. They are non-negotiable.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
When/Where: ABC – Wednesdays at 9:00 PM
10-Word Premise: Family = gay, straight or Al Bundy doin' young women.
Starring: Julie Bowen as the WASPy mom; Ty Burrell as the dad who spits dated urban slang as well as real white people; Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the flaming redhead – who just so happens to be gay; Eric Stonestreet as 50% of Nathan Lane in The Birdcage and Ed O'Neill as America's second-marriage role model.
The Best Thang: The show's mockumentary style fits perfectly with the machine-gun pacing and whip-smart writing. In the premiere, every adult character was written with a simple, defining personality trait – frazzled or oblivious or cantankerous or idealistic romantic – and allowed to play off their spouses before the final 10 minutes brought all the families together. Also, the baby oil pratfall, the Lion King bit and the BB gun. Those are all also "the best thangs".
The Worst Thang: One of Mrs. Bootleg's hottest – and wisest – friends shares my pathological disdain for child actors. Child actors don't "act", they follow direction. Tom Hanks is an actor. The dog in "Benji the Hunted" followed direction. The kiddies here could've been plucked from any mall in America: one is growing up too fast, one is the annoying kid brother and one will end up being smarter than the adults. The "Manny" character – an odd cross between "King of the Hill's" Bobby Hill and that Rico Suave guy – is exception here.
The Verdict: Believe the hype, people and get in on the ground floor. The premiere struck a wonderful balance between subtle comedy, slapstick and a few uproarious moments. For once, I'm NOT going to be the last guy on a new TV show bandwagon. Instead, I'll be the one waiting at the water cooler to discuss "Modern Family" – the funniest new show of the season (pending my eventual viewing of "Cougar Town").
When/Where: CBS – Mondays at 8:30 PM
10-Word Premise: Thirty-something woman + twenty-something man + one-night stand = baby!
Starring: Jenna Elfman as the aging oven (w/bun), Jon Foster as "donor", Ashley Jensen as the voice of "Groundskeeper Willie" and Grant Show as the recurring conflict with the main characters.
The Best Thang: Foster is shockingly awesome as the boy-toy Elfman's character hooks up with. I was expecting the "charming Neanderthal" template that worked so well in the 1980s, 1990s and a few months ago. Instead, Foster's "Zack" seems to be the voice of reason and wants to be a part of his baby's life. Thankfully, his on-again off-again roommates fill my caveman quota. But, in a good way!
The Worst Thang: In the first 60 seconds of the premiere episode, Jensen's "Olivia" – best friend to Elfman's "Billie" – laments attending another office dinner party because she's slept with everyone there. A moment later, she suggests Billie "perk up her nipples". I am convinced that 30-40% of the one-liners written for Jensen were done with the misguided idea that her Scottish accent would make them funnier. It doesn't.
The Verdict: I was ready to abort after the first 10 minutes of Elfman's frenetic mugging. Things calmed down once Billie and Zack had time to sort things out. As long as the secondary character focus is shared equally between Billie and Zack's friends, then I might be able tolerate this show. If – as it appears – we'll be seeing MUCH more of Olivia and Billie's sister, I'm out.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Office - "Gossip"
Run-on Plot: Michael Scott spreads several untrue rumors around the office to cover up an earlier rumor he spread that turned out to be true except – by chance – another rumor from Michael's second wave of rumors turns out to be true, too.
Good: Right out of the season six gate, we get one of the three annual episodes that (kind of) focuses on a secondary character. Who'll be next? Erin the new receptionist? One of Angela's cats?
Not-So-Good: Am I the only one who needs closed captioning to follow John Krasinski's smarmy mumbling? Enunciate, Halpert!
Pam & Jim's Insufferably Adorable Index (IAI): 9.5 (out of 10)…ultrasound pictures, playful sassing over a "shotgun" wedding and the precious pregnancy disclosure!
When/Where: NBC – Thursdays at 9:30 PM (moves to 8:00 PM on October 8)
10-Word Premise: Smarmy lawyer falls from grace, attends high school with ashtrays.
Starring: Joel McHale as the a-hole who'll learn the error of his ways…every week, Gillian Jacobs – who really does look like Elisabeth Shue and Chevy Chase as an amalgam of every character Chevy Chase has ever played (and I'm including the voice of "Cho-Cho" in The Karate Dog in that assessment).
The Best Thang: When I was a kid, every sitcom seemed to be based around the main character's weekly schemes. I don't watch enough sitcoms today to know if McHale's "Jeff Winger" character will be refreshing, a throwback or a copycat in that regard. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, and look forward to episodes later this season in which he hatches a plan to come up with Mr. Furley's rent money and tricks Ricky Ricardo into letting him play in the band.
The Worst Thang: The supporting cast was…well, let's be kind and surmise they just didn't have much to work with during last Thursday night's premiere. I'm not sure how much funny can be squeezed from an Indian guy with Asperger's, a cocky ex-jock, a sassy (natch) middle-aged African-American woman and a paranoid high school dropout. And, what was the expiration date on that carton of Chevy Chase? 1988? 1989?
The Verdict: There might – MIGHT – be the makings of an edgy, acerbic show here. It'll sink or swim on the performance of McHale and the avoidance of turning his character into a sarcastic one-note joke. Ken Jeong and John Oliver have recurring roles as members of the community college faculty. When I type that out, I'm not sure it sways me. I'll stick around for a few more weeks, though.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
"Just finished 'The Wrestler'. I'm gonna say it: overrated. Like, a lot."
-- from my Twitter feed, September 11
I don't say this often enough, but I love my readers. All eight of ya. I genuinely appreciate you guys for taking the time to read what I've written and the kind words of support I've received from many of you over the years.
And, with that out of the way…
In the immediate aftermath of my innocuous tweet, I received two or three equally harmless responses. The next day, I received a few private tweet responses and e-mails – including a couple that took me to task for my sentence fragment opinion.
With a week to digest the movie, I'm ready to jump into what I liked and what I didn't like about "The Wrestler".
Good: I'm nowhere near qualified to declare Mickey Rourke's performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, but you'll get no argument from me. I especially loved the tangible nuance he gave his Randy "The Ram" Robinson character. The effusive encouragement he gives to a star-struck upstart after they wrestle. His mortified response to the nametag he's forced to wear as a part-time supermarket deli employee. Even the delicate way he handles his reading glasses. Allow me to be the one billionth person to call Rourke the best thing about this movie.
Not-So-Good: Let's just get this out of the way…I give Marisa Tomei credit as she did all she could with a clichéd and underwritten role. I'd have had no problem with the whole "stripper with a heart of gold" nonsense, but the script veers off into this inexplicable parallel subplot where Tomei's "Cassidy" character experiences the Cliff's Notes version of Rourke's "am I too old for this sh*t" storyline.
Good: The movie respects the wrestling business. If you've never watched pro wrestling, this is a pretty big deal. The wrestlers are portrayed as real people in the locker room and outside the arena, while the fans aren't written as knuckle-dragging mouth breathers.
Not-So-Good: "The Wrestler" frustrated the hell out of me sometimes. There were parts of the story that were inevitable: the deli clerk gig wasn't going to work out for a former pro wrestler and "The Ram" and Cassidy would have their falling out. The payoffs for these scenes didn't work for me. I mean, c'mon, who punches a meat slicer?
Good: I enjoyed "The Wrester", but mostly because of Mickey Rourke and the subject matter. It even kept Mrs. Bootleg's attention from beginning to end. Sure, I had to endure questions like, "Why is that guy called 'The Ayatollah' when he's Black?", but whatever.
Not-So-Good: Evan Rachel-Wood is fine as Robinson's daughter, but the handling of her character was right out of the "estranged angry-at-daddy" cookie-cutter factory. She makes it very clear she wants NOTHING to do with her father – even after finding out he's had a heart attack and has confronted his own mortality. A few scenes later, he shows up at her door with some second-hand clothes and all is forgiven? In their next scene together, Robinson's blown it again and his daughter makes it very clear (again) she wants NOTHING to do with her father. Are we sure? What if he brought her some used shoes?
Not-So-Good: Dude…that ending. I'm absolutely OK with the ambiguity. But, everything leading up to the climactic moment was more than a little silly, don'cha think? The stripper being allowed to stroll right into the wrestler's dressing room – and just moments before The Ram's big match. The promo Robinson cuts before the match. The Ram and Ayatollah "calling spots" during the match – filmed in a way that made it seem like they'd stopped wrestling entirely while engaged in a casual banter the entire crowd could hear. And, finally, that last shot of The Ram leaping off the turnbuckle.
Again, I liked the movie. I'm just saying the flaws were more pronounced than many fans of the film would admit.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Current Weight: 168.8 lbs.
It was Mrs. Bootleg's birthday last Monday. In the weeks leading up to it, I'd repeatedly asked the wife how she wanted to celebrate – only to have her respond with indecision and/or indifference. This was a far cry from my planned-in-advance idea to annihilate the animal kingdom for MY birthday feast back in March.
All I knew for certain was that Jalen's Smokin' Hot Babysitter was scheduled to show up at 6:30 PM on the Saturday night before Mrs. Bootleg's birthday. 24 hours earlier, my wife STILL didn't know what she wanted to do. I found her on the laptop perusing Joe Reid's Low Resolution blog for movie ideas:
"SEE?! Joe Reid liked 'Julie & Julia'! Let's see that."
Mrs. Bootleg always refers to Joe by his full name. This kills me for some reason. It's similarly awesome to see my wife rely on Joe as our family's cinematic conscience. All this time, I thought Black women leaned towards Roger Ebert for some unexplained reason. But, what do I know?
Not long before the sitter arrived, Mrs. Bootleg had finalized her birthday plans: dinner and a movie. Or, maybe, a movie and then dinner. Oh, yeah…this evening will end well.
We left the house around 6:45 PM. And, despite her annoyingly overt disinterest in the proceedings, Mrs. Bootleg sure spent a lot of time fixing her hair and finding an outfit. She looked classy enough for me to ditch my usual shorts and t-shirt ensemble. Instead, I went with jeans and a long-sleeve.
Too bad, I haven't bought a pair of jeans since I dropped about 20 lbs. last summer. If this was 1994 and baggy, off-your-ass jeans were still in-style, I might've been able to pull it off. As it were, I looked even more emaciated than usual. And, much to Mrs. Bootleg's consternation, I still refused to wear a belt even though it would've been hidden by my overflowing XXL shirt. A belt with jeans is uncool, right? It's akin to wearing shorts with the shirt tucked in, isn't it? 1994 was also the last year I knew anything about the unwritten fashion "rules". It's possible they've changed.
Right out of the gate, Mrs. Bootleg's plans had apparently changed, too:
"Let's go see 'District 9', instead. Joe Reid liked that, too."
I've previously mentioned that Stately Bootleg Manor is completely run by my wife. She handles the finances, plans the vacations, cooks, (kinda-sorta) cleans…the whole deal. Despite this skill set, she remains…umm, "challenged" when it comes to arranging things we don't do too often.
"The movie starts at 7:00 PM, dude. It'll take us 15 minutes just to drive to the theater, find a parking space and wait in line just to get to the ticket window. We're either going to be in the front row or forced to sit separately."
Mrs. Bootleg "decided" to do dinner first.
Zócalo is some sort of weird fusion between Spanish and pretentious. The exterior is upscale and classy, but the colors are L-O-U-D. Their somewhat pricey menu belies the cheesy sports bar quality of three prominent flat screen TVs hanging on the walls. (Of course, the TVs were showing the fourth quarter of the Ohio State/USC game, so I'm willing to forgive and forget on this one.)
Drinks: Mrs. Bootleg opted for a mojito. This is a drink that shouldn't be. Across the long, glorious history of sustenance, mint has been an overpowering impediment on the road to delicious. Take the slightly bittersweet, yet understated simplicity of chocolate chip ice cream. Mint chocolate chip ice cream? An abomination. Lamb curry can be a delightfully spicy dish. Lamb with mint jelly? Jelly on meat? And, Lord, don't get me started on mint juleps. Bourbon never hurt anyone until it was muddled with mint leaves. Fat Tire beer for me.
Appetizers: Quick quiz – what are the two appetizers Mr. & Mrs. Bootleg always order if they're available on the menu? Crab cakes and calamari, yes! Longtime readers are rewarded on this lightly-read blog, kids. The "crispy harina masa ("massa?!") fried shrimp and calamari" was soggy and bland. The tomato-lime sauce it came with had the taste and consistency of baby food. Meanwhile, the blue-corn crab cakes weren't much better. I maintain people order crab cakes because they don't like the taste of crab. I wanna taste the bread crumbs, seasonings and dippin' sauce. These tasted like crab. Ick. Grade: 1 (out of 5) for both.
Entrées: I went with the blue-crab stuffed king salmon. Topped with a lime butter sauce and served over a bed of cilantro rice, this…was…phenomenal. The mild salmon taste wasn't at all overwhelmed by the generous amount of fresh crab meat. And, I could've guzzled the lime butter sauce straight from the spigot. Mrs. Bootleg opted for the chili-rubbed bone-in ribeye. I had a few bites and wasn't digging it. The steak was drowning in "tomato-ancho pan gravy" and had a burnt aftertaste. Grade: 500 for the salmon, 1.5 for the steak.
Dessert: About ten years ago, I traveled to Georgia on business and found a place that served a deep-fried strawberry cheesecake. To this day, it remains the greatest dessert I've ever eaten. Zócalo's roasted banana cheesecake checks in at a strong second. The texture reminded me of a firm banana bread batter, while the buttery, brick-thick graham cracker crust could've been served by itself. I came this close to licking a plate in public. Grade: 500
Postscript: Mrs. Bootleg was (sigh) "too full" to go to a movie, afterwards. Instead, we went to a nearby bar, drank a beer and played Ms. Pac-Man until we were certain Jalen was asleep. Whee.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Last Week's Results:
Carolina at Atlanta
Aaron: I don't want to oversell this. Really, I don't. But, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme might be the worst thing to come out of Carolina since Rae Carruth was found hiding in the trunk of a car in Nashville. Trust me, just Google him. Pick: Atlanta
Joe: It's the fact that he's not coming out of Carolina that seems to be their problem. Pick: Atlanta
New Orleans at Philadelphia
Aaron: Saints QB Drew Brees is doing a damn fine impersonation of 1984 Dan Marino. Eagles fill-in QB Kevin Kolb is more Koy Detmer. The '84 Dolphins went 14-2. The '09 Saints won't. Pick: Philadelphia
Joe: I like this new "random facts, tied together with numerous loose ends" approach to NFL analysis. Evolve or die, Ron Jaworski! Pick: New Orleans
Houston at Tennessee
Aaron: I'm not ready to commit to the Titans after an impressive showing vs. Pittsburgh last week. I am, however, SO ready to set fire to the Texans bandwagon after the Jets punched Houston in the mouth on Sunday. Pick: Tennessee
Joe: The ease with which the Steelers were able to carve up the Titans secondary has to concern them a bit, yes? Pick: Tennessee
Minnesota at Detroit
Aaron: Dear Detroit…stack the defensive line and force Old Man Favre to beat you with his withered arm. If this option were available, I'm sure it would've worked in Nintendo's Super Tecmo Bowl. Pick: Minnesota
Joe: Another week, another excuse for me to chicken out of calling the Lions' historic "first win in many, many games." Damn you, Peterson! Pick: Minnesota
New England at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: I might've mentioned this on Twitter, but ESPN.com's Bill Simmons – a diehard d-bag Pats fan – said that there were three fanbases who took football too seriously: Packers, Raiders and Bills. Super Bowl XLII, Pats fans. WFAN, Jets fans. Pick: New England
Joe: If the Bills' heartbreaking loss to the Pats on Monday was good for anything (it wasn't), it would be that it gives the rest of the NFL to cop an attitude other than "pants-shitting deference" in regards to America's New Team. Pick: New England
Arizona at Jacksonville
Aaron: University of Florida QB Tim Tebow is originally from Jacksonville. My theory is that the residual faith in Jesus Tebow left behind in J'ville is stronger than Kurt Warner's occasionally publicized and oft-underreported faith in Our Lord. Pick: Jacksonville
Joe: The Cards and Jags tend to play weird, out of character games against the Niners and Colts, respectively, so it's not like we can glean anything useful. I'll err on the side of
Oakland at Kansas City
Aaron: We had an agreement, Raiders. You were going to suck and I was going to settle in for a sports fan's nuclear winter until pitchers and catchers report next February. Don't, Oakland. Don't make me give a damn about you guys. You'll break my heart and I'll love you even more. Just…don't. Pick: Kansas City
Joe: Come on, Heartbreaker Raiders! Pick: Oakland
St. Louis at Washington
Aaron: Last year, an awful 0-4 Rams team went into Washington and defeated the Redskins, 19-17. This year's Rams are even worse, so does that mean they'll win by more? No, moron, it does not. Pick: Washington
Joe: Two different 0-16 teams in back-to-back years? YES WE CAN! (And with that, we as a society will officially retire "Yes We Can.") Pick: Washington
Cincinnati at Green Bay
Aaron: Are we, as a country, ready to come to grips with the possibility that maybe – just maybe – Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco aren't ever going to be as good as they used to be? This whole "physical skills erode as you get older" is a very real phenomenon, people. Pick: Green Bay
Joe: Cincy played so goddamn poorly last week that they can't even bitch about getting beat by the single luckiest play in the history of the NFL. Pick: Green Bay
Tampa Bay at Buffalo
Aaron: Are you ready to talk about last Monday night, Mr. Reid? Pick: Buffalo
Joe: No. Pick: Tampa Bay
Seattle at San Francisco
Aaron: By this time next year, I predict we'll be seeing 49ers coach Mike Singletary yukking it up in one of those Coors Light fake press conference commercials. Pick: Seattle
Joe: The battle for NFC West supremacy (aka, NFL mediocrity) begins NOW! Pick: Seattle
Pittsburgh at Chicago
Aaron: For years, pundits have been making excuses for the consistent mediocrity of teams led by QB Jay Cutler. It's the defense, the coaching or the dysfunctional culture. Alternate theory: Cutler's an assh*le and none of his teammates have his back. Pick: Pittsburgh
Joe: Still seems pretty stupid of Brian Urlacher to injure himself just to spite Jay Cutler, though. Pick: Pittsburgh
Cleveland at Denver
Aaron: Sorry, Broncos…one fluky last-minute win against an equally awful squad does not convince me. Devour this cupcake and then we'll talk. Pick: Cleveland
Joe: What a terrible matchup. Remember the heyday of this rivalry? The Catch! The Drive! Bernie Kosar must be rolling in his grave. Rolling and not finding an open receiver and taking a sack. Pick: Denver
Baltimore at San Diego
Aaron: I've gotten so used to Chargers RB Ladanian Tomlinson standing motionless on the sidelines n' contributing nil in January that I didn't know what to do when he assumed his usual playoff spot in Week #1! Hoping for 15 more weeks of this! So giddy! Pick: San Diego
Joe: Your complete disregard for LT's talent makes me assume you wouldn't change this pick knowing that he's out for the game. Pick: Baltimore
N.Y. Giants at Dallas
Aaron: It's the heavily-hyped lid-lifter for the Cowboys new bazillion dollar stadium. Here's hoping for several tight shots from NBC's Sunday Night cameras on Dallas owner Jerry Jones' several tight facelifts. Especially the tears. Pick: NY Giants
Joe: It's late. I'm out of cogent analysis. Tony Romo is cute. Pick: Dallas
Indianapolis at Miami
Aaron: Well, my "Colts are in decline" theory didn't pay off last week, so I'll amend it to "Colts are in decline, but will win a few games early before collapsing in November". Airtight, that one. Pick: Indianapolis
Joe: Taking their cue from the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated success of 30 Rock, Miami's offense will make their season premiere in mid-October. Pick: Indianapolis
Confidence Pickin' (with current scores)
Joe (3): COLTS (-3) over Dolphins; RAVENS (+3) over Chargers; LIONS (+10) over Vikings
Tom (1): NY Giants (+3) over COWBOYS; Ravens (+5) over CHARGERS; Bengals (+9) over PACKERS
Aaron (0): Seahawks (+1) over 49ERS; Patriots (-3 ½) over JETS; BILLS (-4 ½) over Buccaneers
Shows I'm Already Watching: Those of you reading this know I've been prone to quoting The Simpsons in my writing on rare occasions. These quotes are almost exclusively from the first ten seasons of the show – otherwise known as "when it was good". Now, don't let this get out…but, The Simpsons is kinda-sorta good again. No, not "GREAT" good…just good-good. Oh, come on…it's the show's 20th season this year. Program it onto your DVR, at least. What have you got to lose? I'm also still watching Family Guy and American Dad. The former is running on fumes (phasing out "evil Stewie" for "gay Stewie"?!) and the latter has turned into the "effeminate alien-in-disguise show".
New Show to TiVo: I know what you're all thinking. "If that n***a says 'The Cleveland Show'…" Well, you might wanna skip down to the next section. Yes, the previews look…uh, what's the opposite of "funny"? And, Family Guy's "Cleveland" character is the most uninteresting of Peter Griffin's triad of chums. So, umm…well, here we are. Hey, wait…! According to Entertainment Weekly, Cleveland lives next to a family of talking bears! I'm in!
New Show with No Chance: Sorry, Bored to Death. I don't have HBO.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Shows I'm Already Watching: As part of the Lonely Blogger Policy, I'm obligated to use the following contrived caveat when discussing my Friday evening viewing…ahem: "Even though I'm RARELY home on Friday nights"… Seriously, though, if you're reading this and you wanna hang out on Friday…maybe play some Wii or watch me eat/review some new fast food in real time…call me. Fun fact: the original Law & Order (NBC) has enjoyed a little renaissance over the past two seasons. Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson have great "buddy-cop" chemistry, while Linus Roache has comfortably settled into the Assistant District Attorney role. Favorite episode from last season: Shooter McGavin guest starred as a murderer who believed he was the illegitimate son of John F. Kennedy. Who played his mom? Blanche Devereaux.
New Show to TiVo: What the…? A brand-new show on the FOX Network with a predominately African-American cast and the word "Brothers" in the title? It's like I went to sleep and woke up in 1997! Look…I know that Brothers is a shallow attempt to capitalize on the imaginary magnetism and make-believe affability of erstwhile NFL superstar Michael Strahan. I know that this show will be lucky to outlast similar ethnic sitcoms like Luis (FOX, 9 episodes), Wanda at Large (FOX, 9 episodes) or…this. Sometimes, though, you've just gotta support a show that's featured in Jet Magazine's weekly TV schedule.
New Show with No Chance: He's a con man who knows the criminal mind. The other guy's an FBI agent. Together they are White Collar - a new drama on the USA Network! Think of it as 48 Hours – 27 Years Later. The teasers even promise a recurring role for Tiffani
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Shows I'm Already Watching: I'm still watching The Office (NBC), even though I grudgingly accept that it will never again reach the consistent comedic heights of its first three seasons. Last year's "Michael Scott Paper Company" storyline was a funny – and sometimes fascinating – diversion, but after a few weeks everything was disappointingly back to normal. Even Ryan – the former intern turned coked-out corporate executive charged with defrauding shareholders – returned to his position as…intern. The highlight of the upcoming sixth season is a pregnancy storyline. Why am I still watching The Office?
New Show to TiVo: Yup…I'm on board with FlashFoward (ABC) and I don't care who knows. I'm already amused by how every write-up of the show includes quotes from writers and producers who are doing everything they can to distance their hour-long serial drama from Lost. Two paragraphs later, there are quotes from Dominic Monaghan and Sonya Walger – Charlie and Penny from Lost, respectively, who are starring in FlashFoward. Hey, I'm a sucker for "our entire planet hangs in the balance" nonsense. As long as it doesn't move at the glacial pace of The 4400, I'll stick around all season.
New Show with No Chance: I don't wanna sound like the old crank that I actually am, but back in MY day, vampires were neither young nor sexy. They were kindly old Muppets who wore monocles and taught preschoolers how to count. They were part of a
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Shows I'm Already Watching: How many clues will you need to guess the mystery show, kids? (1) Entering its 11th season, this long-running drama crossed over into self-parody several years ago. (2) Last season, saw the return of a semi-major character who was written out of the show by way of the witness protection program five years ago AND – for the second straight season – the introduction of a new recurring good guy character who turns into a bad guy in the season finale. (3) TV legend Carol Burnett, 102, guest starred last season as a the owner of a strip club…who was accused of murdering her husbands "black widow" style...and, slept with her much-younger nephew. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, everyone!
New Show to TiVo: You have to understand what it was like to be a teenager during the peak years (1987-91) of Married…With Children. It was practically casual soft-core pornography by the staid television standards of the time. And, before it turned into the sad one-note joke of its later years, Married… was also one of the better written sitcoms of its era. This season, Ed (Al Bundy) O'Neill stars as a sixty-year-old divorcee who ends up marrying a Columbian half his age in Modern Family (ABC). Something smells like inappropriate! I've got a soft spot for O'Neill's comic chops and not even the shrill presence of Shelley Long as O'Neill's ex-wife can keep me from giving this a shot.
New Show with No Chance: How long has ABC's Cougar Town been in development? I ask because I'm reasonably certain "cougar" hasn't been a prominent part of the American lexicon since we were all enamored with "Stifler's mom" in the original American Pie movie. Wait a tic…that was "MILF", wasn't it? Bah, no matter. I've got no real history with the show's star Courtney Cox. I'm apparently the only man alive who's never seen an episode of Friends, Cox's husband annoys me to no end and ENOUGH with the botox, Courtney.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Shows I'm Already Watching: I was into The Biggest Loser (NBC) for one season. That was in 2007 and I haven't been back. Why? Because on New Year's Day 2007, I weighed 190 lbs. Today, I'm between 165 – 170 lbs. I don't watch the show, because I don't need to. I'm down 20 lbs. and in perfect health! Seriously, though…I'm not watching any of the current Tuesday shows, so let's find one to date for awhile.
New Show to TiVo: Back when I was just That Bootleg Boy (Boy?!) TV used to air these little not-so-little things called "miniseries" – a week-long block of two-hour "event" programming. 1977's Roots was the gold standard for miniseries, but I was far too young to appreciate it. In 1983, NBC aired V over several nights. My grade-school friends and I ate up the alien invasion premise and it spawned a short-lived weekly drama. 25 years later, ABC is bringing V back. I totally plan to watch the series premiere while simultaneously yelling "What were you thinking?! You left Lost for THIS?!" at star Elizabeth Mitchell.
New Show with No Chance: When Mrs. Bootleg found about this year's TBG TV preview, she had just one request – "Be sure to make fun of NCIS: LL Cool J". Done! LL is a much better actor than during his In the House days, but despite a consistent – and occasionally solid – resume, I'm not ready to buy into him playing a character with the words "Special Agent" in his name. And, YOU Chris O'Donnell. Robin! More like Ruin! Maybe the first NCIS: Los Angeles case should be "who nearly killed off the Batman movie franchise"? It was you, Chris O'Donnell. YOU~!
Monday, September 14, 2009
I've mentioned before that San Diego leans HARD towards conservatism whether it's politically or socially.
When my sleepy community of Rancho Bernardo decided to turn a long-abandoned restaurant into a Hooters, the blue-hairs came out in force to protest at several city council meetings. The drunks! The debauchery! The drunken debauchery! Two and a half years later, the RB Hooters is still open and if you swing by at noon for lunch, you'll find several dirty old men (both figuratively and literally) have beat you to a booth by arriving an hour earlier.
Now, I'm not much of a local news broadcast guy, but Jalen caught a cold over the weekend and stayed home from school today. As I turned on the TV and prepared to administer a prescription of previously DVR'd cartoons, I found our local FOX affiliate airing today's weather forecast.
I vaguely remember a bit of annoyed chatter from the usual killjoys – mostly at my office – when Chrissy Russo first hit the FOX 5 airwaves. "Did you SEE what she was wearing?! Harrumph!" Y'all know how angry old women can be, right? So, I took it upon myself to analyze Ms. Russo's meteorological performance with my cell phone camera and – as you can clearly see – she's professional, qualified AND tastefully dressed:
Besides, any member of a local news team who's featured on an outfit of the day page at the channel's official website has ALL of Aaron's professional respect and admiration.
Shows I'm Already Watching: Nothing. Huh…then, what the hell am I doing on Monday nights? A few years ago, everyone told me to start watching Heroes. Before long, everyone was bitching about Heroes. Damn it, America, which is it? I've never seen a single episode of Two and a Half Men despite its omnipresence in syndication – sorry, I still blame Jon Cryer for ruining Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. And, the whole "nonconformist doctor who WON'T wash his hands" premise of House has never intrigued me. Omar Epps – a working Black actor! – notwithstanding.
New Show to TiVo: You aren't giving me much to work with, Monday night. Are there really only two new shows debuting on Mondays this fall? Fine. In a mild upset, I'll go with Jenna Elfman's last chance at television relevance - Accidentally on Purpose (CBS). She plays an older woman who gets pregnant by a younger man. Ugh. Well, at least it's 30 minutes shorter than Trauma.
New Show with No Chance: If I'm going to watch an hour-long medical drama, it's going to be part of the "freak show series" on Discovery Health. Sorry, Trauma (NBC), but there's nothing you can show me that could top Mystery Diagnosis: The Woman with a Knife in Her Head or Half-Ton Dad.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
No time for a proper introduction, so we'll go with a truncated version of the same tired refrain: Tom, Joe and I will be picking three games against the spread all season. 3-2-1 confidence points (in descending order of the below listing of the picks) is in effect. They're white, I'm black…they live in New York, I live in California. We're the original Odd Couple, etc.
Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS: In week 14 of last season, I made a prediction that the Raiders were going to break out of their awfulness to defend their home turf against the hated Chargers. I figured with a combination of Tomlinson and Rivers being sullen and the Raiders trying to be respectable, they'd at least keep it close. I will not make that mistake again any time soon. The Raiders continue to make inexplicable personnel decisions and a fully healthy Chargers team is going to cover this spread before the half. At this point, I officially feel bad for Raider fans.
PANTHERS (+1) over Eagles: So, let me get this straight. The defense lost their coordinator to cancer in the offseason. Their best defensive player is suiting up for the Broncos. Their injury-prone (and reportedly somewhat injured) but awesome running back turned 30 last week. If their quarterback happens to go 0-2 in the first two weeks, his entire city will turn on him (again) and want him to replaced with Michael Vick. They don't have Correll Buckhalter to bail them out anymore. All of this makes them the road favorite against the Panthers? I think not. The Panthers win this outright.
Cowboys (-5.5) over BUCS: To sum up the Bucs: their starter is Byron Leftwich. Their running back was let go by the Giants. They fired their offensive coordinator last week. Their coach is one year older than me and has never even been a coordinator. And on top of all of that, the Cowboys have Mr. September at the helm. The only reason I have reservations here is because it's possible the Cowboys are already looking to their primetime home opener against the Giants next week. Can you have a sleeper loss in the first week? We'll find out soon.
PATRIOTS (-11) over Bills: In a game with this little defense, the Bills could play well and lose by two touchdowns. I'm not expecting them to play well.
SEAHAWKS (-8) over Rams: Could the Rams maybe be worse this season than last season?
Cowboys (-5.5) over BUCS: I'm not quite buying the addition-through-subtraction re: Owens, but I do think three healthy RBs gives Dallas sufficient advantage.
PATRIOTS (-11) over Bills: Here are the scores from the last three times these two teams have met with Tom Brady under center for the Pats: 38-7, 56-10, 28-6. You know what that means…another week's worth of even more insufferable than usual "BS Report" podcasts. Sorry, Joe.
Chargers (-9) over RAIDERS: Like most people in an abusive relationship, I've made excuses for Al Davis and the Raiders over years. The petty '80s vendettas with QB Steve Beuerlein and Hall of Fame RB Marcus Allen. The borderline extortionist efforts that the team employed for a new football home in the '90s. The entirety of this past decade. No more. I'm officially in "profit from my team's mediocrity" mode. Hello, online gambling account! Good to see you again.
Chiefs (+12.5) over RAVENS: I s'pose I should find a reasonable underdog. I don't gamble enough to know this as gospel, but anytime a team like the Ravens – a unit that seems to win/lose every game by a score of 18-12 – is a double-digit favorite over anyone, I'm leery. LEERY~!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
For the fourth straight season, Low Resolution's Joe Reid and I will be picking every NFL game straight-up. You know the introductory Week #1 bit by now: Joe's white, I'm black. He lives in New York, I live in California. I play Jack Handle, a retired cop who shares an apartment with a retired criminal. We're the original Odd Couple!
Also, I've beaten Joe in every year we've done this and he's gracefully accepting said beatings. Last year, m'man Tom Daniels got a little mouthy and tasted the back of my prognosticating hand, as well. For space consideration, you can follow Tom's picks here. It's Week #1, kids. Quoth Southwest Airlines: It's ON. Here now are two quick pics of Joe Reid and Tom Daniels taken from last weekend's football pickin' caucus.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Joe: And so begins the Super Bowl defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers! The same team nobody thought had enough offense to even win the AFC last year! Of course, Tennessee is a team with an even sketchier offense (stronger running game, but a disaster in the making for a passing game) and who will have to struggle mightily not to regress from last season's charmed 13-3 campaign. Am I just going to shrug my shoulders, admit I have no idea, then pick the home team? No! I will also classily decline to mention the Ben Roethlisberger rape allegations! Pick: Pittsburgh
Aaron: Well, since Joe stole ALL my week #1 material (trust me, I've seen his picks) I'm forced to resort to my C-level stuff. Anyone else notice that Steelers DB Troy Polamalu is now a spokesperson for Head & Shoulders shampoo? It's a great spot, but I can't lie: Troy Polamalu is no Ironhead. Pick: Pittsburgh
Kansas City at Baltimore
Joe: Oh, hello Baltimore. Once more into the breach where I give you absolutely no respect for an entire season, followed by an ill-advised backing of a Chad Pennington-led Miami team in the wild card round, you say? Oh, not so fast. Pick: Baltimore
Aaron: I was sorry to see KC fire Herm Edwards, but ecstatic to see him immortalized as part of the Coors Light "press conference" campaign. As a Raiders fan, these are the football-related things that excite me these days. Pick: Baltimore
Philadelphia at Carolina
Joe: How exactly did the Eagles become the trendy pick for the Super Bowl team out of the NFC? Tell me this isn't due to the addition of the overrated Jason Peters at tackle. That said, the traditional yo-yo nature of the Panthers -- plus the fact that this is the healthiest you'll see Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook all year -- makes me lean Eagles here. ...Oh, right, also: Vick Vick Vick PETA dogfighting wildcat Vick. Pick: Philadelphia
Aaron: We learned two things from the Michael Vick fallout: (1) Angry white people believe dogs are 90% human ("He thinks he's one of the Models, Inc.!") and (2) most of those people still eat meat, wear leather and use shampoo that's been test-smeared into the eyes of kittens. Pick: Philadelphia
Minnesota at Cleveland
Joe: You have no idea how much I want to pick Favre's Vikings to fall in the first week, on the road in inhospitable Cleveland. So when that happens, remember who was too chicken to call it. Pick: Minnesota
Aaron: Everyone's looked at the schedule and predicted the usual Favre path: decent for a few weeks, peaks around Halloween, precipitous decline and epic December collapse. Sorry, but this year I just can't wait! Pick: Cleveland
Miami at Atlanta
Joe: Looking at the full week, I feel like I'm taking too many predictable teams. Time to do something stupid! Pick: Miami
Aaron: Last year's "innovation" will undoubtedly lead to eight Dolphins home games where the fans impatiently demand the "wildcat" offense. It'll be like fans screaming "Do 'Freebird'!" at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Pick: Atlanta
Detroit at New Orleans
Joe: Okay, NOW is time to do something stupid. Detroit gets their first -- and perhaps only -- win of the year, right off the bat. ...Ahhh, I can't do it. Pick: New Orleans
Aaron: Every year Joe and I have done this, I dig myself into an early hole with bad picks galore before Joe's cockiness does him in. That said, the Lions have to win at least ONE game before I pick them to win, uh…well, one game. Pick: New Orleans
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Joe: Jacksonville, yet another team I consistently give zero respect. Last year, that really paid off for me. Think of how badly Cam beats me if the Jags were halfway decent. Pick: Indianapolis
Aaron: It never fails. Each season I foolishly buy into at least one media-created storyline that ends up biting me in the ass. This year it's "the Colts are on the decline". Sounds reasonable to me. No, no…I'm not interested in your evidence to the contrary. Pick: Jacksonville
Denver at Cincinnati
Joe: The Broncos seem to be a train wreck, while everybody seems to be calling for a Bengals offensive resurgence. Can we at least all agree that Chad Ochocinco is a delight? ...No? what's it gonna take, people? Pick: Cincinnati
Aaron: Can't say I ever remember a team and fanbase turning on a new coach as quickly as the state of Colorado has on Josh McDaniels. Brian Griese is not walking through that door. Rueben Droughns is not walking through that door. Pick: Cincinnati
Dallas at Tampa Bay
Joe: What's with all these teams who seem in such disarray entering Week 1? And shockingly, I'm NOT talking about the Cowboys. I think they're in for a mediocre year, but they can outpace this dismal Bucs offense. Pick: Dallas
Aaron: Kudos to the Bucs for setting up new head coach Raheem Morris for complete failure just so they'll have more time to find the guy they really want at the helm. Ten years after the Packers did the same to Ray Rhodes! And, what do those two guys have in common?! Yup, their first names begin with "R". Pick: Dallas
N.Y. Jets at Houston
Joe: If it wasn't Mark Sanchez's first NFL game, on the road, I'd be in for another slow Texans start. Alas. Pick: Houston
Aaron: Joe is picking the "Houston, We Have a Problem" headlines in Monday's New York tabloids. I'm going with the "Mark Sanchez is Jesus" back page from the always restrained and rational Tri-State fan base. Pick: New York
St. Louis at Seattle
Joe: I'm perhaps looking to this Hasselbeck/Houshmandzedeh pairing more than any other subplot in Week 1. If they click, Seattle immediately becomes contenders. Pick: Seattle
Aaron: You won't find insight like Joe Reid's anywhere else on the internet, dear readers. Pick: Seattle
Washington at N.Y. Giants
Joe: Stupid Jason Campbell, holding me back from picking against a Giants team in flux. Pick: NY Giants
Aaron: Racist. Pick: NY Giants
San Francisco at Arizona
Joe: I'm annoyed that everybody is bandwagoning a Super Bowl swoon for the Cardinals. That being said...this seems like a game they lose Week 1, right? Pick: San Francisco
Aaron: Even if holdout WR Michael Crabtree sits out the entire season, what's the over/under on how many fewer 2009 receptions he'll have than Raiders' WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (picked three places before Crabtree)? 5.5? Too high? Pick: San Francisco
Chicago at Green Bay
Joe: The Bears will be good, bit it'll take a few weeks. The Packers are going to win their division. Pick: Green Bay
Aaron: Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese… How will Jay Cutler escape those long shadows? Pick: Chicago
Buffalo at New England
Joe: Oh man. Okay. Only three weeks ago, I was optimistic: No-huddle offense; great depth at RB and WR. A healthy linebacking corps for the first time in ever. But the bottom has fallen out in a serious way, highlighted by shitcanning the offensive co-coordinator, RB Dominic Rhodes, and out starting left tackle (!) within five days of each other. Plus the schedule looks positively rapey, starting with the g-d Pats. This is fixing to be the ugliest season I've seen. Pick: New England
Aaron: Uglier than the 2001 Bills team that went 3-13 under the tag team tandem of Alex Van Pelt and Rob Johnson? At least that season led to the number four overall draft pick, which the Bills used to select T Mike Williams. The Sporting News called Williams the fourth biggest draft bust of the past 20 years. Uglier than that, Joe?! Pick: New England
San Diego at Oakland
Joe: In all my pre-grief over the Bills upcoming abomination, I momentarily forgot to pick the Chargers to destroy the Raiders. Oversight addressed! Pick: San Diego
Aaron: As an Oakland sports fan, I signed off on 2009 back in April. See y'all next year. Pick: San Diego
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Jalen's "Grandma Bootleg" came down for a visit over Labor Day weekend. I love my mother. Really, I do. But, it's taken 5 ½ years for me to trust her with my 5 ½ year-old son. On Thanksgiving Day 2005, Jalen nearly walked into a hot oven as Grandma Bootleg left the oven's door open while basting the turkey. That same day, she tumbled down a small set of stairs while carrying the boy.
My mom means well – like the time we left an under-the-weather Jalen with her and returned to find him under two thick blankets, running a fever of 102 – but, I feel a lot more comfortable with her grandparenting when a parent is around to watch over her.
On Saturday night, me and Mrs. Bootleg went to the movies. Even under my mother's indifferent eye, I knew he was in good hands. As my mom exclaimed when we returned home, "He went right upstairs and turned on the A's game!" That's my boy.
So, yeah…"Extract". There were a handful of well-received movies playing at our local Googleplex, including "Inglorious Basterds", "District 9" and "Julie and Julia". I didn't think Mrs. Bootleg could look past Tarantino's penchant for blood, guts and gore to see the critically-acclaimed flick underneath. My wife's the same woman who told me Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake "scared" her, so "9" was out. And, it's looking like I'm getting dragged to "Julie and Julia" this weekend. So, yeah…"Extract".
I will always (heart) writer/director Mike Judge for "Office Space", but he's been suckling from the collective teets of that film's cult following for 10 years. It's time to accept his cinematic legacy just might be the bad Bill Lumbergh impersonations found around any office in America.
"Extract" revolves around a small-town, small business owner (Jason Bateman) who's wallowing in a personal and professional rut. Mila Kunis is the piping-hot con artist who steals Bateman's heart and has designs on stealing a lot more. The quirky company employees and a bizarre turn by Ben Affleck as a bartender/illicit pharmaceutical rep provide the comic relief.
The biggest – and it was hard to single one thing out – problem with "Extract" is that every single character is colossally unlikeable. All of 'em.
Joel - (Jason Bateman)…hires a gigolo to seduce his wife, so that he'll feel less guilty about his own adultery.
Cindy - (Mila Kunis)…steals from co-workers, lets others take the fall. Uses hotness to manipulate almost every man in the movie.
Suzie - (Kristen Wiig)…married to Joel, but content with sex-less sweatpants-wearing existence. She and the gigolo…well, they…yeah. They do.
Dean - (Ben Affleck)…crazy-bearded and incoherent. Plays Joel's best friend and confidant. A blight on every scene he's in.
Brian - (JK Simmons)…Joel's right-hand man at the plant, he hates every other employee with a passion and can't wait for Joel to sell the company.
Step - (Clifton Collins)…yokel who loses testicle in freak workplace accident. His character is written as someone who deserved it, then Judge attempts to build sympathy for him as the mark in Cindy's con. He's an a-hole again by the end of the movie.
Brad - (Dustin Milligan)…the gigolo. You'll want to punch him in the mouth after 10 seconds. Talks like 1990s Gen-X "slacker" archetype.
Joe - (The Late Gene Simmons)…Jesus, make it stop.
I could hear every chair squeak and every last drop of soda sucked through the straws of everyone in the theater. "Extract" felt like a sh*tty sitcom pilot with it's two-dimensional clichéd characters (Hey, it's the annoying neighbor!) and repetitive "comedic" devices (Hey, the annoying neighbor won't leave!)
On the plus side, Jalen was still alive when we got home. We took that as a victory.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Mrs. Bootleg and I have this little thing we do. If we're watching TV and something comes on that's shocking, silly, incredulous, etc., we'll exchange knowing glances to each other from across the room. Obviously, it's not original. It's just a little thing we do.
The Notorious B.I.G. (a/k/a Biggie Smalls) biopic "Notorious" shattered our household record for quick innocuous looks to one another. Within the first 30 minutes.
Good: The 122-minute runtime flies right by. Viewers get a small glimpse at a prepubescent Christopher Wallace that gives way to the high school dropout-cum-drug dealer version that quickly leads into "the rappin' years". For better or worse, the film doesn't spend too much time on any one aspect of B.I.G.'s life.
Not-So-Good: The hasty pacing really hurts the B.I.G. character. "Notorious" tries to paint him as a conflicted, nuanced persona, but he comes across as a naïve, impulsive and abusive a-hole for most of the movie before his life-altering epiphany in the film's final 10 minutes.
Good: Closest to the real thing – (1) Antonique Smith nails the heartbreaking vulnerability of B.I.G.'s wife Faith Evans. The scene where she's confronted with Tupac's allegations is powerful stuff. (2) Naturi Naughton endearingly hams it up as Lil' Kim. (3) Remember that ONE dance that Puff Daddy did in every video from 1995-1997? Derek Luke has it down.
Not-So-Good: Farthest from the real thing – (1) Anthony Mackie's turn as Tupac Shakur was almost comically insulting. Mackie looks nothing like Shakur and the 1996 real-life version of 'Pac was already a bad caricature. The producers couldn't find the dude who played Tupac in Scarface's "Smile" video? (2) B.I.G. sidekick Lil' Cease (Marc John Jefferies) is played as a glorified gopher who fetches weed and women for all the grown-ups. All that was missing was a "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Biggie?" line. (3) Angela Bassett is cast as Biggie's mother, Voletta. Biggie's mom is a dark-skinned Jamaican with a molasses-thick island accent. Bassett is 80 shades lighter and reads her lines with no accent until it appears out of nowhere after the movie is almost over.
Good: If you're a fan of the era, this movie will be a fun, frivolous kick. Well, OK, everything except the whole unsolved murder part.
Not-So-Good: Executive produced by Sean "Diddy" Combs, every character comes across as flawed in some way…save for Sean Combs. He's painted as a visionary who led the east coast rap renaissance in the mid 1990s with his old-school samples and pop beats. Why, without him, Biggie would've never graduated from the mixtape circuit.
GAAHHH!: There's a graphic – and I mean graphic – love scene between Biggie and Lil' Kim. It's the most frightening five seconds in cinematic history. I don't wanna ruin anything, but picture four enormous breasts and a gallon of flop sweat
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
On Sunday, Brewers 1B Prince Fielder crushed an extra innings walk-off home run to beat the Giants. Fielder and the Brewers celebrated with an obviously pre-planned routine as Fielder emphatically stomped on home plate while his surrounding teammates collapsed en masse. Y'all can check it out here. While channel surfing on Monday, I came across the predictable old-school "disrespecting the game" meme from the Talentless Bill Ripken of the MLB Network in response to the Brewers' antics. I wanted the opinions of two real baseball fans, so I hit up Eugene Tierney of Tailgate Crashers and Tom Daniels of One New York East Coast Bias Life for their thoughts. Me first.
Aaron: I loved it. L-O-V-E-D it. And, I'm generally not a fan of the porcine Prince or his douchebaggery (called "intensity" by Brewers fans). No one wants baseball to follow football's lead where random tackles are celebrated like winning the lottery or basketball where the preening and superficiality often overshadow the game. But, if the Brewers want to give their fans a memorable moment – in what's been a forgettable season – then, go crazy. The game was over and it was a cool visual. Baseball really needs to get over itself.
Eugene: The things a non-contender will do to make themselves feel better about not being good. The Brewers are well known (at least in St. Louis) for being a classless team when it comes to celebrations - any walk-off homer becomes a cause to untuck the jersey and make an a** of themselves. Too bad that extra inning win doesn't mean anything more than just another game played.
The sad thing is about the Brewers is they could be good, but their childish behavior shows why they won't make it out of a series in October.
Ochocinco and T.O. would be proud.
Tom: I had friends visit for the holiday weekend so I didn't catch this until late last night on ESPN. When I saw the celebration two things surprised me: 1) the ESPN anchor didn't use the opportunity to editorialize a little on either how awful or awesome it was and 2) when I flipped to MLB Network, they hadn't already shifted to 24/7 righteous indignation mode.I've never understood the issue with post-game celebrations. You won. The team accomplished its goal for the day. I understand why teams have an issue with, say, Joba Chamberlain celebrating a fifth inning strikeout like he just single-handedly won a pennant but winning a game? Converting a save or a walk-off hit?
Besides, for anyone who has a problem here -- I'm not quite sure how this is any different then a "hop around on the plate" mob, David Ortiz's/A-Rod's helmet flip, or AJ Burnett's pie-in-the-face gimmick.And let's not pretend Albert's never admired a shot out of the box -- lest we forget his NLCS shot off Brad Lidge that might still be traveling. Or the 2006 Cardinals throwing the "Jose" chant back in the Met fans' faces.
Eugene: I don't have a problem with celebrations, when there is something to really celebrate. What did the Brewers accomplish with the win? One game closer to being a .500 team - no real need for a choreographed celebration for a game that will be forgotten in a week. The 2 instances you mentioned were both in the post-season, when the games were important (plus, Albert isn't the nicest guy around -- a hell of a player, but I've never cared for him as a person).
Tom: Forgotten in a week. You just outlined why no one should care about post-game celebrations either. If it was bad enough, Prince will eat a fastball next year. But it's likely he won't because by the time the Brewers play the Giants again this will be long, long forgotten.
Aaron: People still think that a generation of kids have been turned off of baseball because of World Series night games or exorbitant ticket prices or one of a dozen other tired excuses. The reality is that Major League Baseball – and those who play it, run it and report on it – actively tamp down individual personalities while simultaneously expecting casual fans to be lured by three-and-a-half hour games, repetitive pitching changes and teams that are playing out the string.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I haven't eaten at Pizza Hut in close to 15 years.
For those of you who would NEVAH eat "chain pizza", the previous sentence doesn't mean much. But, if you'd told me in 1995 – when I was living alone, getting by on $8.00/hour and subsisting off of whatever nonfat frozen yogurt I could smuggle from Heidi's Frozen Yogurt Shoppe in Long Beach (where I managed eight or nine well-to-do high school kids who'd never before known a Black guy) – that me and Pizza Hut would go our separate ways, I wouldn't have believed you.
Growing up, they were the first pizza brand that my family was loyal to – which is to say Pizza Hut must've printed tons of coupons because my mother didn't buy anything unless she had a coupon for it. In the early 1990s, my friends and I discovered Pizza Hut's all-you-can-eat lunch buffets, systematically bankrupting one franchisee after another.
A few years later, one of my friends began delivering for Pizza Hut. I lived two blocks away, so he'd bring over unwanted "mistake" pies (pepperoni, pineapple and jalapeño!) or just, uhh…"smuggle" out orders, pick up a six-pack and kick it with me at my place while he was supposed to be working.
In 1995, Pizza Hut introduced Stuffed Crust Pizza nationally. Cheese and pepperoni baked into the crust?! This kind of crazy-talk needed a pitchman who was universally loved and could relate to the working class need for inexpensive, low-quality meals:
Anyways, my friend got fired from his delivery gig after a month or so. Here in 2009, I am pretty much burned out on ALL pizza – good and bad, mom n' pop or chain. This will happen to all of you when you have kids and they eat it at every meal.
In the past week, pizza and I have gone from simply "not dating" to outright hatred. Have you seen Pizza Hut's "JACKPOT" spot featuring SNL alum Jim Breuer?
Who carts around an entire pizza box to a basketball game? And, flaunts it between two anorexic TV extras, no less?
Who above the age of eight gathers their friends over for "pizza night"? And, what kind of DJ (wait, a girl DJ?!) would spin music with one hand and a slice in the other?
Who gets THIS excited over pizza? I mean, really…no one on the set thought of telling Jimbo to take it down a notch or four? No one?
Full disclosure: I've spent almost 30 minutes re-watching the commercial and pausing it right in the middle of each "JACKPOT" line. This kills me for some reason. He looks so silly. Try it!