Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: It's a Party Christmas (1982?)

During MTV's early years, the network would choose a different artist each year to record a special Christmas song. I think the last one of these was Buster Poindexter's "Is That You, Santa Claus?", around 1987-88 or thereabouts. Anyway, Tex-Mex New Waver Joe King Carrasco recorded "It's a Party Christmas" sometime around 1982 (not sure exactly on the year, so bear with me), just as an example of this practice.

Uploaded by Briandot5757:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whatever happened to Ranger Danger? Oh, the irony!!

To my knowledge, he was the last on-air host of children's programming, at least in my home state of New York. Not only that, but in the time he was on the air, Ranger Danger made the most of his effort to revisit the days when kids show hosts were actually quite common. The Ranger hosted WXXA's children's lineup twice daily, mornings & afternoons, up until the mid-90's, when the station was purchased by the now-conglomerate Clear Channel Communications, which has since sold the station to another interest.

The Ranger skits aired during the station's 2 1/2 hour morning & afternoon blocks (6:30-9 am & 3-5:30 pm), as well as during the 4 hour block (8 am-Noon) on Saturdays. The pratfalls and slapstick comedy were a throwback to the days when classic comedy shorts with the likes of The Three Stooges were part of local television fare.

Today, the Ranger may be gone, but his alter-ego of radio personality Uncle Vito rolls on, spinning classic rock on WPYX-FM 106.5 (PYX106), during afternoon rush hours on weekdays. In a fitting piece of irony, the Ranger poked fun at his "other job" in this series of vignettes, uploaded by the man himself on his YouTube channel:



Ah yeah!! The funny thing is, while the Ranger/Vito and I have never met, I have been mockingly referred to as Ranger Danger by some of my compadres due to my physical size being comparable to the Ranger's. Too bad there's no more syndicated children's programming on local television these days, as it's all on cable. I wonder, though, if PBS might be interested in enabling the Ranger to make a comeback......

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: The Night Before Christmas (1968)

Clement Moore's poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", has been adapted and/or parodied many times since Moore wrote the piece nearly 200 years ago. The Troy Record has faithfully reprinted the poem, which was first published in another city paper, the Sentinel, every year, for example, and the story has been adapted into an animated cartoon on more than one occasion.

One such case was in 1968, and, to tell you the truth, I don't even remember seeing this when it first aired, so I'm going to be seeing this as something relatively new, just like most of you. From what I've been able to ascertain, The Night Before Christmas was originally hosted by TV legend Art Linkletter (House Party), but the live-action framing sequences with Linkletter have, sadly, been lost to the mists of time. The voice cast is filled with familiar names to most TV fans, including Hal Smith (ex-The Andy Griffith Show), whose cartoon credits include Space Angel & Davey & Goliath, just to name a couple; Olan Soule, who had a recurring role on Dragnet at the time as a forensic scientist, and was also breaking into voice work (Filmation's first Batman series); and Virginia Gregg, who, like Soule, was a member in good standing of Jack Webb's repertory company with several appearances on Dragnet.



Hard to believe Christmas is a month away already......

Musical Interlude: Angeline is Coming Home (1995)

Let's take a time trip back to the mid-90's today, pilgrims. The Badlees, a roots-rock group out of Pennsylvania, were getting a ton of airplay on FM radio with "Angeline is Coming Home", the first single from their 1995 CD, "River Songs". The opening harmonica riff might make people think that the band was inspired by Blues Traveler, but that wasn't really the case.

The video for "Angeline" has a strong link to the TV series, E/R, as it was directed by series co-star Anthony Edwards, and features Julianna Marguiles (now starring on CBS' The Good Wife). I guess there was a mutual admiration society in there somewhere. Uploaded by fetchfilms to YouTube:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dunce Cap Award: Jeffrey Leving

Mr. Leving is a lawyer out of Chicago who has been retained by Mariah Yeater in her vain attempt to prove that singer Justin Bieber is the father of her son. A clear case of a fool & his brains being parted somewhere along the way, because he's fighting a lost cause.

On Tuesday, Bieber told David Letterman that "I can smell a weasel". Bieber had already had a DNA swab taken from his cheek, but that wasn't enough to satisfy Leving, who, according to a piece in today's New York Daily News, wants Yeater and her child present, along with legal teams for both sides, for another test. Doesn't that tell us what we already knew? That Yeater, a 20 year old San Diego woman, is making a desperate play for easy money? You bet it does. The gossip media had reported a few days ago that Yeater had asked a friend to delete a text that would acknowledge that she'd been lying all along, that Bieber, 17, isn't the baby daddy. Leving is enabling Yeater to extend her 15 minutes as long as possible, but let's face it, kids, he's going to have a hard time collecting his fee when he loses this case. Perry Mason, he ain't.

Mariah Yeater was already given a pair of weasel ears. Jeffrey Leving, for being so stupid as to take on this case, gets a pair as well, plus the obligatory Dunce Cap for continuing to perpetuate her scam on her behalf.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Toons: Linus the Lionhearted (1964)

The following was originally published in my other blog, Saturday Morning Archives, one year ago today.
==========================================
Those of us who grew up during the 60's & 70's will fondly recall the Linus the Lionhearted balloon that appeared every year at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. While the balloon was retired nearly 20 years ago, let's look back and see just how it came to be, or, at least, from the viewpoint of Linus himself (Sheldon Leonard). Toontracker uploaded the edited open, framing skits, and closing to this program to YouTube:



I freely admit that I barely remember seeing Linus the Lionhearted, if at all, as a toddler. We all know that Sugar Bear was the true breakout star, as he lasted the longest of Post Cereals' mascots. In fact, I'm not even sure if he's still around. Linus was ultimately booted off the air after a 3-year run on ABC after the FCC determined that it was little more than a glorified commercial for Post's line of cereals. Of those, only Alpha-Bits (represented by mailman Lovable Truly) and Super Golden Crisp (formerly Super Sugar Crisp, Sugar Bear's cereal) are still around. By the way, that's Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show) as Billy Boid, Linus' sidekick.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here's an ad campaign that needs to go away...... (2011)

It was funny the first time around, when TV legends Betty White (ex-The Golden Girls) and Abe Vigoda (ex-Barney Miller) appeared in a 2010 ad during the Super Bowl, but now, this Snickers ad campaign using celebrities to substitute for ordinary, hungry schlubs is getting out of control.

The first follow-up featured singer Aretha Franklin and singer-actress Liza Minelli, the latter getting edited out of the shorter version. During Super Bowl 45, we had this next item, starring Richard Lewis (ex-7th Heaven, Anything For Love) and Roseanne Barr, whose recent reality series just got sent to the dumpster.



This spot is back in circulation, probably because the follow-up, with Joe Pesci ("Goodfellas") and Don Rickles (ex-CPO Sharkey) may have offended some people, for all we know.

What would save this campaign is if the ad agency got the rights to use certain cartoon characters. Somehow, though, I get this vision of Family Guy's dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers patriarch, Peter Griffin, being used, and that bothers me.......

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Oscar Ortega-Hernandez

You've heard about this clown, I'm sure, by now.

A week ago, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, a student at Idaho State University, drove over 2,000 miles to Washington with one goal in mind----to kill President Obama. What this guy didn't know was that the First Family was away on vacation, and he wasted his bullets firing into an empty room.

A few days later, Ortega-Hernandez was arrested in Pennsylvania. A New York Daily News headline stated that the suspect claimed that the President was the Antichrist. On Inside Edition earlier today, a video of Ortega-Hernandez was shown where he claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus. Ok, so this punk is looking to get off on an insanity defense of the worst kind. If you believe the video, he is giving people the perception that he is a false prophet. Prison isn't the place for him, though. If he really is mentally ill, as it has been suggested, sending him off to a Federal prison would be the worst case scenario. Placing him in a psychiatric hospital makes more sense.

It's too easy to say he's a few spuds short of a bag of potatoes, or he's missing a few taco shells, or any variation on that tired line, but suffice it to say he's raised red flags with his comments. Instead of a crown of thorns, since he thinks he's Christ reborn, he's getting a pair of weasel ears.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NBC wants to resurrect "The Munsters". Should they, in light of recent failures?

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."--George Santayana.

NBC has had rotten luck in reviving older shows recently. They've been fortunate to get a 2nd season out of Parenthood this time, considering the first television adaptation of the Ron Howard comedy that starred Steve Martin lasted just one season. More familiar properties like Knight Rider & Bionic Woman have gotten quick hooks the 2nd time around because of poor scheduling, and don't get me started on their opting against a David E. Kelley-produced revival of Wonder Woman, which never got green-lighted for even allowing a pilot to air.

So now comes word that yet another property from the Universal vaults (Wonder Woman, being from WB, is the exception to this group) is being revived by NBC. The Munsters spent 2 seasons on CBS almost in direct competition with its lone contemporary, The Addams Family, from 1964-66. NBC received a script from Bryan Fuller, whose last series, Pushing Daisies, lasted a year on ABC just a few short years ago, cancelled due to low viewers despite being a critics' darling. What Fuller intends to do, with The Munsters' 50th anniversary due in 2014, is turn it from a sitcom into a drama. Uh, wait a minute. There's something inherently wrong here.

Before I get anywhere else, let me just give you the season 2 open to the original series, complete with Jack Marshall's kick-ass surf-rock score.......



That theme was so popular, radio stations began playing it to fill time. WPYX in Albany was one such channel. Apparently, according to a Yahoo! article, Fuller might've been inspired by the sudden success of ABC's freshman fantasy drama, Once Upon A Time, moreso than NBC's own Grimm, which is trying to be Law & Order crossed with Night Stalker, or something along those lines. However, I'm not really sold on a dramatic take on The Munsters, unless they want to have Marilyn, the human member of the family, suddenly get into a "Twilight"-style relationship, and given the timing of this announcement, with the 4th movie in the "Twilight" series opening this weekend, is more than just a coincidence.

Oh, by the way, there was one previous revival, back in the 80's. Here's the 3rd season open to The Munsters Today, uploaded by TheMunstersOfficial....



Granted, John Schuck (ex-McMillian & Wife) wasn't quite as tall as Fred Gwynne, but he must've done something right to get 3 years with this series. Lee Meriweather (ex-Barnaby Jones, Time Tunnel) was ok as Lily, and most people are familiar with Jason Marsden from his cartoon work in recent years. Something just didn't look right about it, but the fanbase embraced it just the same.

I'm having a hard time getting my head around the thought of a dramatic take on this franchise, but NBC, and their bosses at Comcast, had better pay heed to Santayana this time......

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Musical Interlude: Old Man (2011)

I happened across this video while watching TheCool.TV earlier today. Redlight King's a relatively new rap/rock act that released "Old Man" earlier this year. While the rhymes, of course, are new, part of the chorus comes from the original version, written and sung by rock icon Neil Young. Redlight King has a VEVO channel, from whence we get this "Old Man"......



I think Neil would be proud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Toons: This Is America, Charlie Brown (1988)

One of CBS' last Peanuts projects was an ambitious miniseries, entitled, This is America, Charlie Brown, which had Charlie and his friends inserted into various points in time. If this sounds familiar, well, it does borrow the concept of the 1974 series, US of Archie in that regard.

Alena K uploaded a sample of the series opener, "The Mayflower Voyagers", which explains the how's & why's leading to the origin of Thanksgiving Day.



After the miniseries ended, CBS lost the rights to Charles Schulz's beloved characters to ABC, which has aired "The Mayflower Voyagers" twice in the last three years. WB owns the video rights, but have not decided to reissue the miniseries on DVD.

No rating, as I never saw this when it first aired.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Musical Interlude: Runnin' Down a Dream (1989)

Animated music videos were becoming quite common in the late 80's. The trend started with A-Ha's adventurous "Take On Me" and Peter Gabriel's claymation-heavy clips for "Sledgehammer" & "Big Time", and continued with Elton John's "Club at the End of the Street". Tom Petty, a label-mate of John's at the time, decided to take this route with "Runnin' Down a Dream", which was the 3rd single from his solo debut, "Full Moon Fever", in 1989.

Co-written by Petty with Heartbreakers guitarist and frequent writing partner Mike Campbell and Traveling Wilburys bandmate Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), "Runnin'" pays homage to one of the more surreal comic strips of the Golden Age, Windsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland. The Heartbreakers appear in a very brief cameo. Uploaded by the band's VEVO channel:



Enough said.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weasel of the Week: Nik Richie

It's bad enough that some supermarket tabloids trade on fabricated stories to sell copies in order to feed the public's appetite for useless details about whomever and whatever. Now, there's a blog that deals in gossip and satire, and proud of it. And it's getting the owner of the blog in deep trouble.

Nik Richie is the man in charge of TheDirty.com, which made headlines after it became public knowledge that the blog accepted an anonymous posting that has destroyed the character of a high school English teacher who moonlights as a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader.

Sarah Jones has said that because of the lies spread via TheDirty, some of her students have refused to take her class, believing the unsubstantiated garbage to be fact. Sarah happens to be happily married, but according to TheDirty, she's supposedly been with several Bengals players and has contracted sexually transmitted diseases, among other things. In an effort to set the record straight, Mrs. Jones was given an opportunity to confront Richie on national television. The meeting airs tomorrow on Anderson Cooper's syndicated talk show. According to a Yahoo! article, Richie compares himself to a librarian, and claims to have no control over the posts. Having checked out the site myself, I see a disclaimer that says Richie is not responsible for the content. Au contraire!

What Richie is doing is inviting trouble of the worst kind. For one thing, he made the wrong comparison. Instead of likening himself to a librarian, and defaming librarians all over the world in the process, he should've compared himself to radio shock jocks like Howard Stern, Opie & Anthony, et al, who encourage the nothing-happening, small-minded Tom, Dick, & Harry Jabronies of the world to go ahead and invent stories on the air with no regard to consequences or repercussions.

The way I look at it is this. If you don't have proof to back up your claims, then back off. In case you haven't noticed, not all tabloids see the same story the same way. If they've all got the same cover subject, say for example, last week's celebrity flavor, Kim Kardashian, they'll have a different spin on the same story, creating further tension where it isn't needed. What Nik Richie has to concern himself with is the prospect of a defamation of character lawsuit lodged against him because he's serving as an enabler to a bunch of goofs with little or no regard for common courtesy. A woman's careers are being unfairly decimated, and why is that? We don't know the root cause, and maybe never will, unless Anderson gets to the bottom of the matter, or someone else does later, but what we do know is that for being an enabler and a Pied Piper to a legion of would-be tabloid writers, Nik Richie gets a pair of weasel ears. If he can actually find it within himself to hand up the jabroni(es) responsible for the defamation of Sarah Jones, we'll find a way to send them weasel ears, too.

Updated, 11/10/11, 9:32 am (ET): TheDirty.com first posted their false reports about Sarah Jones in October 2009, taking a picture of Jones and Bengals placekicker Shayne Graham that was from a charity event out of context. The accusations of STD's came a couple of months later. I've since discovered that Nik Richie was, in fact, hit with a libel suit last year, and, per a Kentucky judge's ruling, Richie was supposed to pay Mrs. Jones $11 million dollars in damages. Apparently, he hasn't ponied up, which may be why they've gone to Anderson Cooper, rather than one of the courtroom shows, to resolve this problem......

A pillar of decency falls

For all of the corruption and back-door-dealing that goes on in college athletics, the NCAA has never investigated Penn State for any recruiting violations of any kind in football. Iconic, Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno has run a clean program. His devotion to the school is such that he turned down an offer from the then-Boston (now New England) Patriots to be their coach more than 40 years ago.

However, like so many other schools, Penn State is dealing with scandal, but it's not the usual case of overzealous boosters offering money & gratuities to student-athletes, the kind that cost Jim Tressel his job at Ohio State earlier this year. No, it's far worse.

Last weekend, former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who left Penn State after the 1999 season, was charged with sexual assault. The victims were all young boys who were involved in Sandusky's charity program for troubled, at-risk youth, which has an office on the Penn State campus. Former player Mike McQueary, now an assistant to Paterno, was a graduate assistant when he first turned in Sandusky to Paterno, who then reported it to his immediate superiors. Those superiors never bothered to contact the police, and so it went on. And on and on. Those superiors, Tim Curley & Gary Schultz, resigned on Monday. Earlier this morning, the scandal claimed another victim, as it was announced that after 46 years of coaching the Nittany Lions, Paterno, who faced down detractors calling for his dismissal many times over the last decade, would resign after the season. The school owes him as much as the opportunity to coach one last bowl game. The Lions are 8-1 and one of the "surprise" teams in the Big 10, after all.

We are accustomed by now to the familiar images of a Penn State student dressed up as Paterno, with a lifelike face mask that includes Paterno's signature glasses, flanked by two others dressed as generic football players, mugging for the camera every chance they get. Paterno has gotten the honor of having a statue in his likeness erected in front of Beaver Stadium, in much the same way some pro teams honor their Hall of Fame stars (i.e. Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks). When the season ends for the Nittany Lions, likely in January, the search will begin for a new coach, and a new era, one of redemption & reclamation in the face of scandal, will begin. It will do so without school President Graham Spanier, whom reports say may be gone before the day is over, another victim of the fallout.

We've been accustomed, also, to the stories of young boys supposedly having been sexually abused by Catholic priests. To think that this lewd, sordid behavior was going on in a pillar of higher education, one with a national reputation, would've been absurd a decade ago. Curley & Schultz stand accused of covering up Sandusky's lurid actions, all in the name of protecting the program and the school brand. Paterno has not been charged with a crime, nor should he be. Spanier, on the other hand, should, because as school president, it falls on him to be held most accountable. That Paterno was forced out isn't so much a virtual victory for his detractors, who wanted him gone years ago, but a case of protecting him and his legacy from being further soiled. Unfortunately, we live in an age where the media isn't satisfied with just the facts. They service an allegedly unquenchable thirst for curiosity and the most minute of details, no matter how insignificant it might be. There are those in the tabloid end of the media spectrum that won't be satisfied until some dirt is dug up on Paterno, even if it is fabricated for the sake of selling a few extra papers.

Joe Paterno is being allowed to walk away with his dignity still intact. The same can't be said for his bosses, who have to hang their heads in shame because they don't have much choice. They gave up their integrity & dignity when they decided one man's indiscretions needed to be concealed for the sake of protecting the image carefully built over time. They should've known that even though this was different than the usual boosters-out-of-control that have plagued other high profile schools like Ohio State & USC, that image was bound to be tarnished, somehow, some way. It's just the way it works in today's society.

You never read about things like this in smaller schools. You pray you never have to. For all our sakes.

Updated, 11/9/11, 11:13 pm (ET): Penn State has fired both Joe Paterno & Graham Spanier, effective immediately. The school simply wasn't willing to wait for the season to end and let Paterno walk away gracefully after all. A sad, sad end to an amazing 46 year run.

A changing of the political guard

We've seen it happen in Presidential elections over the years, and sometimes, too, in the Governor's race. When one party is in charge, the public will vote it out after a few years, and the cycle will repeat itself every so often.

We saw that 3 years ago, when, after George W. Bush was the most ridiculed President in modern times, America voted in Barack Obama, at the time a junior Senator from Illinois. Of course, we know what's happened since then. The GOP has its own Obama in Herman Cain, but he's already embroiled in scandal similar to that of golfer Tiger Woods, rather than questions about his birthplace. His chances of winning the Republican nomination next summer are growing slimmer by the day.

At home, the voters in Troy elected Rensselaer County Legislator Lou Rosamilia as the next Mayor on Tuesday over Republican Carmella Mantello. As was discussed here the other day, the GOP all but gift-wrapped the election by making a pair of critical mistakes that sabotaged an otherwise clean campaign.

The first was challenging a petition filed by independent candidate Jack Cox, Jr., whose family has had an acrimonius history with city government. While a local judge let the petition pass, the state Appellate Court upheld the challenge, citing a handful of fraudulent signatures on the petition. While Cox may or may not be rightfully held accountable for the lapse of due diligence, the Appellate Court's strict guidelines mandated that even one bad apple would spoil the whole petition. Cox initially stated he would wage a write-in campaign, but one week before the election, he withdrew, and pledged his support of Rosamilia.

Before the week was out, the GOP released a more traditional attack ad that was meant to question whether or not Rosamilia, a long-tenured teacher at Hudson Valley Community College, was worthy of being Mayor. As I wrote the other day, I didn't see the entire ad, just the last few seconds, but I was told by those who did that it was a slipshod, almost amateurish production, as if they were in a rush to get the ad out, a last, desperate bid to influence voters. Problem was, the voters had, in effect, already made their minds up, if the Gramercy polls sponsored by The Record were any indication. As of Sunday, Rosamilia's lead in the polls had swelled to almost 11 points. All that was left was the formality of the election itself.

Between 10 & 11 pm Tuesday night, it was over. Mantello conceded the election.

Rosamilia's rapid rise within the city Democratic party mirrors that of President Obama. Just two years ago, he was elected to the County Legislature in his first bid for public office. I believe Obama was elected to the Senate on his first try, as well, I'm not sure. The door opened for Rosamilia after Clement Campana, the long time City Council President, withdrew from the race in July, amidst the continuing voter fraud scandal that marred the 2009 elections. Said scandal had no bearing on the race for the Legislature that year, however, but the ramnifications were felt in this year's Council election, as restaurant owner Mike LoPorto, who was among those implicated in the scandal, was defeated in his reelection bid.

For more than 4 decades, Lou Rosamilia has been a teacher, first at LaSalle Institute, then at Hudson Valley. Come January 1, as Mayor of Troy, he will govern the largest class of them all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dwight "Heavy D" Myers (1967-2011)

To prove the adage that celebrity deaths usually come in groups of three, the trifecta is completed today with news of the passing of rapper-actor Dwight Myers, better known by his stage name of Heavy D, at the age of 44. Myers reportedly collapsed in front of his home. Cause of death otherwise is unknown as of this writing.

Heavy D swam against the rising tide, if you will, of gangsta rap in the early 90's, as he dropped rhymes that brought more positive messages. His most successful crossover hit came in 1991 with the bouncy "Now That We Found Love", in which Heavy D & the Boyz are joined by R & B singer Aaron Hall on backing vocals. Heavy D also found time to appear on Michael Jackson's 1992 hit, "Jam", from the CD, "Dangerous". In fact, Heavy D's rap nearly overshadows Jackson's vocals. Toss in guest appearances by Kris Kross and Michael Jordan, and, well, of course it got major airplay on MTV. Heavy D also appeared on Janet Jackson's 1991 hit, "Alright", among other credits.

As time passed, Heavy D ventured into acting, like some of his fellow rappers. In fact, what is likely Heavy D's last film role is the current movie, "Tower Heist", starring Eddie Murphy & Ben Stiller.

Courtesy of Heavy D's VEVO channel, here is "Now That We Found Love".



Now, who would've won a dance-off between Heavy D & MC Hammer? I guess we'll never know. Rest in peace, Heavy D.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Joe Frazier (1944-2011)

40 years ago, Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali to retain the heavyweight boxing championship. The way Ali has spun it since, you'd swear he actually won the fight, but he would subsequently beat Frazier and settle the score.

Today, Ali and the rest of the world are mourning "Smokin' Joe", who passed away at 67 after a brief bout with liver cancer.

The Ali-Frazier series was part of the Silver Age of Boxing, if you will, an era that also saw the likes of George Foreman, Jerry Quarry, and Earnie Shavers emerge. They were not only athletes, but personalities. Ali made movies, commercials, and even lent his likeness & voice to a Saturday morning cartoon. Frazier decided to moonlight as a cabaret singer, and even recorded for Motown.

Sonnyaveronajr uploaded this video to YouTube, which has Frazier, backed by an orchestra, queueing up a highlight reel of some of his greatest fights, while singing "1st Round Knockout".



It's fair to say that when "Smokin' Joe" came along, they broke the mold. Rest in peace, Joe. You'll be missed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weasels on both coasts

I wanted to hand out just one set of weasel ears this week, but we'll settle for 2, or, actually, more, depending on one case.

The first Weasel, you can imagine, is Mariah Yeater, 20, the California woman who has accused singer Justin Bieber, 17, of fathering her 3 month old child. TMZ.com reported on Friday, and the story was picked up today by the New York Daily News, that Bieber wasn't Ms. Yeater's first choice. According to TMZ.com, Little Ms. Baby Mama first claimed it was her ex-beau, John Terranova, of Las Vegas, whom she confronted 11 months ago. That escapade led to her being arrested when she pulled a Britney Spears, if you will, going postal on a car window. Terranova, like Bieber, denied being the father. Nearly a year later, Ms. Yeater turned her attention to Bieber because, she claims, he's the only other one who could've done the deed. Riiiiiiiiiiight. Sure, and chickens have lips.

Seems to me that Ms. Yeater is doing this for the money, after all. She can't remember who the father really is, can't be bothered to locate the dude, and figures, well, I can make a big payday going after someone famous. She claims now that her brief encounter with Bieber in a Staples Center restroom lasted less than a minute and that Bieber felt embarassed and blew her off. Somehow, I kind of doubt that ever actually happened now. She apparently can't find a job, either, to support her newborn, isn't going to school, so she's looking at a quick payday that'll set her for life. Nuh-uh. We're looking at seeing a mug shot of her real soon. They say that she could be busted for having sex with a minor, since Bieber was 16 at the time of the alleged incident, but it's more likely now that a slander/libel suit and/or charges of filing a false report or fraud will be headed her way, along with the weasel ears.

Closer to home, the race for Mayor of Troy is coming down to the final days, and the Republican Party is getting desperate. They succeeded in getting independent candidate Jack Cox, Jr. knocked off the ballot on a legal technicality, and Cox, after initially opting for a write-in campaign, changed his mind earlier this week, and formally dropped out, throwing his support behind Rensselaer County Legislator Lou Rosamilia, who has a slim lead in the Gramercy poll sponsored by The Record.

An attack ad paid for by "friends of Carmella Mantello", on behalf of the Republican candidate, has begun airing, and, while I have not seen the ad in its entirety, what I do know is that the GOP strategy now consists of distorting facts to try to manipulate voters and swing votes their way. Business as usual, I know, but I have to believe that after Cox was bounced from the ballot, there had to be more than a few disenfranchised voters that might've taken offense at the GOP's tactics. Eliminating Cox may actually end up being a tactical error on the GOP's part, and the attack ad might just be the final nail in the coffin. For the GOP, that is. As I said before, the Mayor's office tends to alternate between the two major parties every few years, and now it's the Democrats' turn, it would appear. We'll know for sure come Tuesday.

What is sure is that the anonymous political strategist responsible for the ad has also earned the weasel ears. Just when you think we can go through a full political campaign without any mud being tossed around, there's always going to be someone lurking in the shadows. Since the Rosamilia campaign hasn't taken any cheap shots, why should the GOP? As I asked before, what are they afraid of?

Andy Rooney (1919-2011)

This one hits close to home.

Long-time 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney passed away Friday at 92 after a brief illness, a month after he'd made his last appearance on the Sunday night news magazine show on CBS.

Rooney, originally from Albany, didn't just speak to the American people every week on 60 Minutes for the better part of 33 years. He was one of us. He spoke for those of us who had the same issues he did. Here's an example of one man's take on the world around him, as Andy admits being out of touch with today's music. Uploaded by CBSNewsOnline.



Andy was famously parodied on Saturday Night Live in the 80's by Joe Piscopo, who later did a Rooney skit on his 1985 comedy album, "New Jersey", not to be confused with the more famous Bon Jovi CD of the same name, which came out a few years later. If there was ever a literal embodiment of Everyman, it's safe to say Andy Rooney was it.

Rest in peace, Andy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What's wrong with Nickelback?

If there's one thing I don't get, it's the haterizing going on in Detroit over the Canadian rock group, Nickelback, who've been selected to appear Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field to provide halftime entertainment for the Lions-Packers game, airing on Fox.

Yes, Detroit has a rich history in music, from Smokey Robinson & Stevie Wonder to Aretha Franklin & Bob Seger to Ted Nugent & Kiss to Eminem & Kid Rock. But to read of Lions fans having a serious cow over Chad Kroeger and company playing on Thanksgiving, with the Lions a playoff contender for the first time in at least two decades, makes no sense. What I think the people of Detroit fail to understand is that this may not have been the Lions' call. I think the league and its TV partners, in this case, Fox, make the decision based on who could bring in the most ratings.

Nickelback has been a constant presence for at least the last decade, and Kroeger, their lead singer, has recorded not one, but two tracks with guitar icon Carlos Santana. Now, if that doesn't tell you anything about how popular the band is, I don't know what does, except maybe this 2007 all-star clip for "Rockstar".  The guest list includes Detroit's own Kid Rock, Nugent, and Kiss bassist-vocalist-turned-reality star Gene Simmons, ex-Piston Grant Hill, Chuck Liddell, the Playboy Girls Next Door, Wayne Gretzky, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Eliza Dushku, Twista, Wayne Gretzky, and the Teutels from American Chopper, just to name a few......



Nickelback, of course, has loaned out the use of a more recent single, "Burn it to the Ground", to WWE as the theme for Monday Night Raw, but what in the name of Slim Shady has got Motown up in arms over the band in the first place? The Yahoo! article I read didn't elaborate, only saying there are people asking the NFL to find someone else to play in place of Nickelback. Like, I know Thanksgiving has already come & gone in Canada, but what other excuse could there be? Maybe bringing in Santana to jam with the band could be a compromise, but if you've got a better idea, please share it here, okay?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who's telling the truth?, part 2

In a clear cut case of he said/he said, Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain is placing the blame for the emergence of allegations of sexual misconduct lobbied against him whilst he was the head of the National Restaurant Association on a former colleague who is now working for Texas Governor Rick Perry's campaign. Perry's camp, in turn, is accusing Mitt Romney's camp.

It's the price Cain has to pay for coming out of seemingly nowhere to capture the public's imagination at recent GOP debates. He's upset the applecart within the party, which was apparently ready to all but anoint either Romney or Perry, the latter some might perceive as the 2nd coming of George W. Bush, now that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has dropped out of the race. Hopefully, Mrs. Palin was able to give Cain some advice on how to handle the tabloid media sharks who pounce on things like this. Once they smell a story, they won't back off until they're satisfied with the details.

Did Cain actually commit any wrongdoing? It's hard to say. His accusers, of course, hide under the shield of anonymity, and in this day and age, it's sensible, since they don't want the media hordes hassling them 24/7, either, forcing them to relive the nightmares they claim to have from alleged incidents involving Cain nearly 20 years ago.

Would this be the sort of thing that ultimately costs Cain the nomination next summer? We don't know that for sure. It would be a juicier story, however, if he did, becoming the GOP's answer to President Obama, whose rapid rise at the end of the last decade to the White House secured his place in history as the first African-American President. Cain aspires to be the 2nd, but it seems there are forces within the GOP itself that don't want that to happen. While it can't be proven who actually leaked the information to the press, the story will linger through primary season, all the way to the GOP convention, and perhaps beyond. By then, the public will be so sick & tired of the scandal, they'll be looking for someone else.

So, who's really at fault? Was it someone in Perry's camp, upset that Perry isn't at the head of the pack? I doubt very seriously it'd be anyone in Romney's camp. As a Mormon, the 2nd most famous Mormon in the Northeast after basketball star Jimmer Fredette's rapid rise this past Spring, for that matter, I think it goes against Romney's inner nature to engage in such mudslinging. Lord knows, though, that he's had to endure less damaging insinuations in past attempts at earning the nomination. Right now, that isn't what's important to the news media, and that's a shame.

Leonard Stone (1923-2011)

Word has just come over the wires of the passing of character actor Leonard Stone, just one day shy of his 88th birthday, after a brief bout with cancer.

Baby boomers will remember Stone for a variety of roles, including stints on General Hospital and Dragnet, during the 60's. In the 80's, Stone made a brief comeback, appearing in a dozen episodes of L. A. Law as a judge. His film career includes "Soylent Green" & "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory". Perhaps the most unlikely place he'd make a return to television in later years was when he appeared as a contestant, with no acknowledgement of his past acting accomplishments, on Wheel of Fortune, in 2000. He was a runner-up that night. Come to think of it, if Jack Webb hadn't cast himself as Joe Friday on Dragnet, chances are Stone might've landed the job himself. He certainly could've looked the part.

Rest in peace, Leonard.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who's telling the truth?

Celebrity gossip can be like a mine field. You have to sort out what's true and what isn't, because the one publishing the stories won't. They're in business to exploit the stars' fame in the hopes of upgrading their bottom lines. Sometimes they're right, but in many cases, they're wrong.

Today's case of gossip fact or fiction centers on Canadian-born singer Justin Bieber. According to a story making the rounds online and in print, a 20 year old California woman claims Bieber is the father of her 3 month old child, the result of a hookup in a restroom at the Staples Center in Los Angeles following a concert last year.

Bieber and his representatives, of course, were quick to deny the allegations, believing that the woman made up the story. The woman in question wants the 17 year old Bieber to take a paternity test.

It's too easy to simply say, she's making this up and doing it for the money. Not only that, but it goes against Bieber's squeaky clean image. It's bad enough some online haters accuse him of being gay just by the way he looks. That comes with the territory. On top of that, Bieber also has a high profile girlfriend in singer-actress Selena Gomez (The Wizards of Waverly Place), who's had her share of issues of late involving stalkers, as previously documented here. If it turns out that Little Ms. Baby Mama is in fact lying, and trying to shake down Bieber for a quick payday, the only thing she's going to get is jail time.

Meanwhile, the storybook wedding of reality TV vixen Kim Kardashian and NBA player Kris Humphries, who played last year for the New Jersey Nets, is over after 2 months and change. The tabloids and paparazzi who hound the sisters night & day got to be too much for Humphries to handle, as he's not used to that kind of attention. Now, stop for a second. The NBA is in a lockout, which also affects Khloe's husband, Lamar Odom. The tabloids aren't in a feeding frenzy over that pair just yet, only Kim & Kris, who wed in August, with the wedding recorded for the E! network. The Kardashian sibs, much like Paris Hilton, live for the sake of publicity, rather than do the sensible thing and actually work for a living. Paris' excuse, of course, is that she was born into a wealthy family with the virtual silver spoon. Kim's oversized butt has become a punch line unto itself, spoofed by Eminem, among others, and she's living off that, rather than try to live it down. Being in LA, it's her ticket to stardom.

The New York Post has gone so far as to claim the wedding was a sham all along, an accusation Kim & her mom have denied, not that it's ever stopped tabloid media before. It is tabloid media, after all, that has enabled the Kardashian sibs to continue their lifestyle, and let it play out in front of the cameras because it's the easiest way to get rich.

The problem here is that Kim knew all along the NBA was in a lockout. All she had to do, really, was talk to her brother-in-law. So why did the Star, on top of a fake cover headline claiming actress Jennifer Aniston had gotten married, claim Kim was after Kris to go to work? It's not like he's getting a job at Tiffany's any time soon. It's all about feeding the beast of public curiosity, for those people who live for learning every detail, no matter how minute, no matter if the celebrity in question isn't bound for immortality in terms of fame.

If Kim had any sense at all, and right now, I doubt that very much, she'd reconsider her career goals. Her problem is that in the course of 72 days, she was the only one getting income between her and her soon-to-be-ex, ignoring the lockout and the inability of Kris to make a living. Doesn't that qualify her as being, well, insensitive? Can't say for sure. As far as she sees it, Kris not working puts a damper on her, because it's not putting any extra money in her pocket. It wouldn't be fair to qualify her for Weasel of the Week honors, so we won't-----yet.

With apologies to a certain NBC show, in this writer's opinion, Kim really is the Biggest Loser because of that same lack of sympathy & sensitivity. Rather than stand by her man in a time of need, she'd rather stand by her pocketbook and her moneymaker. Real lame.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

DC's "New 52": What I'm reading

We're now 2 months into the reboot of the DC Universe, so I thought I'd finally get around to reviewing what I've read to this point. Your actual mileage may vary.

Justice League: The story starts in the middle of the action, which is not always the best way to go about hooking your readers. What we do know is that the current era of superheroes has been retconned to the point where it supposedly started five years ago. Hello, McFly! Who are they trying to kid?

In fairness, my brother suspects that this may be fallout from the Flashpoint miniseries, and, as I speculated to him over the weekend, it may be leading up to another mega-crossover event next year. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, but that, in truth, is the last thing DC should be doing right now. Why establish a "new" universe when all you're going to do is tear it down in the end?

Artistically, I don't have a problem. Jim Lee is no stranger to drawing Batman, of course, but tying the reincarnated League's "origin" to the late Jack Kirby's classic villain, Darkseid, is stretching things just a tad. Writer Geoff Johns is going to have to convince me in the next 4 issues if this is a keeper.

Ratings:

Art: A-.
Script: B.
Overall: B+.

Batgirl: Save for a 1-shot special in 1987, Barbara Gordon never headlined her own book as Batgirl. That's the sole selling point to this series, really, and ace writer Gail Simone has created a brand new villain to set up a psychological thriller to start the series. By the end of issue 2, Batgirl has already deduced the identity of the villain, Mirror, but the game's not over yet. The events of The Killing Joke are still part of the canon, but it supposedly happened 3 years ago, not 23. And you thought "Marvel Time" was slow?

Ratings:

Art: B-.
Script: A+.
Overall: A-.

Men of War: Meet this generation's Sgt. Rock. Joseph Rock, when we meet him in issue 1, is just a corporal, but somewhere along the way to issue 2, is promoted to Sergeant, just like his famous grandfather. I like the artwork by Tom Derenick, but I'm not on board with where they're going with the series beginning in issue 2. The Navy SEALS backup, drawn by Phil Winslade, is more grounded and realistic. I feel as though Rock will be spun into his own book in due course, and that will give this feature some room to breathe.

Art: A-.
Script: B.
Overall: B.

The above rating encompasses the two features.

Demon Knights: Who'd ever think that Etrigan, the Demon, who marks his 40th anniversary next year, could fall in love? Well, he has, at least in medevial times, and his soulmate is that period's incarnation of Madame Xanadu, who in the modern era had a brief dalliance with the Spectre several years ago. Etrigan's human host, Jason Blood, also has the hots for Xanadu, but she's only interested in his yellow-skinned alter-ego. Sound familiar? Grant Morrison's gender-flipped retcon of the Shining Knight is here, too, and I shan't be surprised at all if Etrigan eventually gets her out of her chain mail down the line. He coming across as more randy than ever, and I'm not so sure that's a good thing. I like the artwork, but the Etrigan/Xanadu/Jason triangle sounds way too much like a ripoff of the whole Superman-Lois Lane-Clark Kent deal from eons ago, but also as a means of luring the fans of the "Twilight" franchise into a different division of the horror genre.

Art: A-.
Script: B.
Overall: B.

All-Star Western: 40 years ago, Jonah Hex made his debut in the original incarnation of this series, which later had its title changed to Weird Western, which soldiered on after Hex was spun off into his own book, ending in 1980 (Hex's 1st solo series lasted until the mid-80's). Now, co-authors Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti have sent Jonah to 19th century Gotham City, where he teams with a psychologist to track a serial killer and in the process, uncovers a secret society among the wealthy and well-to-do. Moritat captures Hex perfectly. In issue 2, another alum of the 70's All-Star Western, El Diablo, returns, also written by Gray & Palmiotti, with Jordi Bernet, a student of comics & cartoon legend Alex Toth, handling the art, in the backup feature. Worth every penny.

Art: A+.
Script: A+.
Overall: A+.

I, Vampire: 31 years ago, readers of the original House of Mystery were introduced to Andrew Bennett and his estranged lover-turned-archfoe, Mary, Queen of Blood, and over the next three years, readers were treated to a sprawling, terrifying serial that eventually moved from the back pages to being the lead feature. The solicitations for this new series had changed Andrew's surname to Stanton, but wiser heads ultimately prevailed. Mary is now a scantily clad vampire temptress trying to lure Andrew back to her side, but that ain't happening. In the original series (to be collected in trade paperback in January), Bennett eventually gained a mortal girlfriend, but it's too soon to tell if history will repeat itself. The artwork suggests the influence of Mike Mignola (Hellboy), but the atmosphere is appropriate.

Art: A.
Script: B.
Overall: B+.

Having seen the first two issues of the current Catwoman series, perhaps I shouldn't be too shocked by what writer Judd Winick (ex-The Real World) has concocted, taking Batman & Catwoman's relationship to a more graphically erotic level, but this quick? I guess it's meant to get people talking, and that's worked. By the same token, ex-Teen Titan Starfire, starring in Red Hood & the Outlaws, is no longer the naive space tart who fell in love with Robin almost immediately upon arriving on Earth 31 years ago. Now, she's just a tart. Period. Not good, especially for fans of the 80's Titans. I've only read about it, but being a long-time, old school fan, there's something aesthetically wrong in my view. Catwoman went for the jugular with its intended target audience right away, but I think perhaps a little too soon. I'd have saved the foreplay for sometime around issue 6, which, appropriately, falls around Valentine's Day, at which point things would've been a little more established.

It goes back to what I said earlier about the whole concept. Flashpoint started the ball rolling, and the way DC has it set up, they're building to another event in 2012 that will strain the readers' wallets and imaginations. If I were Dan DiDio, I'd wait at least two years to allow the "new universe" to be fully formed and established before attempting another mega-event. But, hey, I'm not a hard-core collector anymore, so, in the eyes of DiDio and the Time Warner beancounters, what do I know? Pilgrims, you don't wanna know.