Monday, August 22, 2005

This & That

I haven't been posting here lately. Part of it is the lack of interesting stuff in my life. Another was that I was working on another story for the local newsweekly. Since I got that done (and hopefully published in the coming week), I'll go over some odds and ends.

Due North

It's offical...this Thursday, I'm going to Toronto. This will be the third time I've gone north of the border, and the first time I get to use my passport. The occasion? The Canadian National Expo, which boasts to be the third biggest comic book convention in North America. Getting the flights was a bitch...I'll have to stay over one more night and leave early Monday morning. On the plus side, I'm staying over with a friend, so that takes a dent out of the budget.

I don't have too many goals for the trip. One definite is that I have about a dozen blank pages in my sketchbook, and I want to get 'em filled up. I've had the same sketchbook since Comic Con International way back in 2000. The cover's frayed and loose from the spiral, so I just want to put it to rest. Also, I'll do what I do outside the cons...explore the city. I feel that if I just go to a big city for the conventions, then I'm a dork-plus. In addition to the forays into the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and the like, I've also been to the Sears Tower, Hancock Building, and Wrigley Field. Even if you're not a baseball fan, you have to go there. Game day is like a carnival in the surrounding neighborhood. There's a pipe organ (which I could've sworn played Beck's "Sexxlaws"), ivy on the walls, a rousting rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" (I think Andy Pafko did it when I went), and a statue of Harry Carray outside. There's even a small barricade around it, so fans can't put their beers on it as tribute. I don't think I can go see the Blue Jays while I'm in Toronto...but since the stadium is in the neighborhood, I'll have to see how things shake out.

Play Ball!

Finally got to see some New York-Penn League action this weekend. Friday, I took the local rail to see the Staten Island Yankees. Naturally, I picked a dreary night, where the starting time got bumped back to 7:50. The Baby Bombers ended up winning en route to a probably division title...but I barely remember anything about it. The stadium is nice, but I think there's a sense of urgency. For are $9 and $11, but they offer $5 seats on the day of the game, way out in the deep sections. The team has also offered discounts to Yankees fans, including the Bleacher Creatures. Yeah, a bunch of boorish boobs who ride on the successes of the Yankees...those are the people I want to share a venue with. Have I mentioned that if Braden Looper had taken care of business in the Bronx a few months back, half the Creatures wouldn't be around today? And I kept hearing about Friday night's doubleheader against the Brooklyn Cyclones...which kinda made me sad, since I won't be there. Two seven-inning games under $10? How can anybody refuse?

(Tangent: The last twinbill I went to, I only stayed for the first game. I should note that Game One went seventeen innings. I had bought two scorecards, and I was forced to use the second one. I think that I didn't have to do anything the following day, but I wanted to save my sanity.)

Two days later, I went with my mother to Coney Island to see the Cyclones. Totally different atmosphere. The only edge I'd give the Baby Bombers is that they have better mascots. Brooklyn has Sandy and Pee Wee, two giant seagulls. Staten Island? Has cows. There's Scooter the Holy Cow (taken from Phil Rizzuto's nickname and familiar catchphrase), Red (after legendary announcer Red Barber) and Huck (short for "Huckleberry," another Rizzutoism). Today, Hall-of-Fame pitcher Juan Marichal signed stuff for an hour, and threw a strike for the ceremonial first pitch. I got my first bobblehead doll ever, that of Cyclones announcer Warren Fuselle (whom you might know from his work on This Week In Baseball). The Cyclones did their bit, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to lead the Aberdeen Ironbirds 4-3. Of course, since this is a Mets farm team, they just had to cough up the lead, finding themselves down 6-4 in the eighth. But unlike my visit to Shea, we got a happy recap; the Cyclones got five runs in the eighth, and won 9-6. Good times all around at KeySpan Park...probably why it's the site of the first-ever NYP All-Star Game this Tuesday.

(Tangent: wanna know what makes the experience even better? No Party Marty. Back when I first went to KeySpan, Marty was this one guy employed by the team who would try to rev the crowd up. I hated him. Look, I know that keeping score in a short-season single-A game is kinda mental...but dammit, I want to watch the damn game, not get into a wave. Funny story...when I went to the Petrides School in 2002 for the Baby Bombers' league championship rally, I overheard a priest...some dude in a collar, I dunno what they're called...disrespect Marty. That made my day...that, and the schoolkids singing "We Are the Champions." Good times.)

Surreal Sight

Going back to Friday. There I am, walking down the street, heading back to my car. Suddenly, I see something thye made me wish I had a cameraphone (and since I don't even customize the ringtone, that's saying something). First, there was a fancy white car, driving at a snail's pace. Behind that was a white stretch limosuine. And between them? A honest-to-God coach pulled by two white horses. Not a carriage, folks. A freakin' coach, straight out of Cinderella. There were people dressed for a wedding in said coach. Didn't stop me from laughing. I wasn't ridiculing's just that it was a dreary Friday on a deserted street, and I had to see that. It was all I could take, y'know?

Reality Stuff

Still watching shows...though not that many, to be honest. Since it's late, I'll be brief.

The Amazing Race: I've been keeping up with the repeats on GSN (motto: "You want The Mole? How about Dog Eat Dog instead?"), and I'm up to TAR4 now. TAR3 was the roughest edition...eight great legs, followed by one disaster after another. It's one of those things where I mean to go into on this Flo & Zach not getting eliminated bascially doomed the season. Next thing I know, John Vito & Jill are travelling the wrong way, en route to one of the saddest eliminations ever. Then front-runners Ken & Gerard (the comic relief team, the ones that usually finish fourth overall) and Derek & Drew (hunky twins/alpha males that usually win the Race) commit a double brainfart in Vietnam trying to find a route marker, and D&D ended up going home. After that, I took part in a roundtable column on RNO, predicting that Ken & Gerard would win. This is from the school of thought derrived from Doc Brown hissing, "We must succeed!" to Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II; any other outcome was unthinkable.

The end result? Flo quit, like, a jillion times AND had a breakdown that would later be chronicled on VH1's 40 Greatest Reality Show Moments...and that was the only TAR moment on the list (Frats and Guidos in the Battle of Beijing? The Boston guys passing Tara & Wil in San Fran? The freakin' lawyers getting schooled by Phil Keoghan over the definition of "walk"?!? Not good enough, apparently). But she won...Zach managed to run the damn race with all that dead weight, and we got the first sucky ending in the show's history. Worse, crotchety older couple Teri & Ian, whom the vultures had been circling since the second leg, finished second, while the capable Bros. Duphiney landed in third. Multiply the ugliness by fifty, and you have TARCon3. The place was cramped, I could barely move around...oh, and Flo won half a million bucks. Sure, there's been far worse than her since then, but that night sucked eggs.

Adding to the melancholy was the news that John Vito & Jill are no longer a couple. The deal was that Jill originally applied for the first season with her brother, Frank Thomas ("FT") They didn't make it, and FT ended up getting killed on 9/11. Jill found herself with John Vito, who was one of FT's friends, and they ended up getting on TAR3. Truth be told, they weren't good at racing...stuff always broke down on them, or they'd get the short end of the luck stick. They finished first in one leg...after finishing last in a non-elimination leg, they burnt their Fast Forward, as they had to eat giant blocks of cheese. They figured that they'd have two legs to get their acts straight...but there was another non-elim, and they didn't get a third chance. What do fans remember? The lack of bitchiness that was prevalient amongst the other boy/girl teams. The inability to snap at setbacks (Teri & Ian get the Fast Forward rug? Go to the Detour!) They put diesel gas into a diesel tank (don't laugh...four teams messed that up.) It also helped that Jill might be the single greatest female Racer ever. She prodded JV to a chartered bus when he wanted to hang back. She tossed a caber that was more than twice her size. She fell down, and didn't give herself enough time to go "boom!" Not to take away from John Vito...he was a wonderful product of Italian engineering, and he pulled his weight. At the end of the Race, when Flo's going on about her relationship with Zach and not finding love, the camera pans to JVJ, just smiling at each other. And the news that they're spiltsville? Kinda heartbreaking, really. I wish 'em both well. Heck, with Flo dating Derek, maybe Jill snapped up Zach. Wait, now I'm picturing Jill in one of his goofy headbands. Brrrrrrrr.

The Real World: Austin: I'm half paying attention these days. Has there been a more brutal season for a cast member then Danny's? First, some rowdy damn near puts his eye out in a street brawl. While he ends up getting snuggly with Melinda, he ends up getting surgery, as well as too many shots of his hand over the eye. Valentine's Day comes...ah, memories of another Danny getting surprised by boyfriend Paul, who brought food from their favorite restaurant. Our Danny goes all out preparing for a romantic date with Melinda...clothes, presents, non-refundable dinner reservation, etc. And then? His father calls to tell him that his mother died. Next thing, we're in that painful zone where you can't bring yourself to hate any of these jokers. Last time that happened was the 9/11 episode from the Chicago season. I hope Danny comes back...he's a tool with a squishy center, and I'll probably end up recapping him Challenge-after-next.

On the bright side, we got two redeemable cast members this season. Aside from hitting the "groupie drawer," Nehemiah has proven to be a rock, especially with his being there for Danny before and after the bad news broke. Nehemiah seems to have a good head on his shoulders...even when giving props to Wes for a random conquest, he tells the others that Wes is not that attractive. Then there's Lacey, whose backstory comes across as a BMP wet dream (parents were hippies-turned-conservatives, she had extremely limited access to popular culture, she's a rhymes-with-"urgin'," etc.).She's just somebody whom you smile and nod your head when she says something. Also, she's got a wheelchair-bound boyfriend. It's just something new to bring to the table. The rest I can take or leave at this point...though Wes might need to be hit upside the head with something blunt.

Battle of the Network Reality Stars: Most of the reviews I read scalded this six-week series. Bill Simmons lamented over this take of the old Battle of the Network Stars. "They should have just started the show with Richard Hatch beating Gabe Kaplan to death with a bed post," he wrote, "that's the only way it would have been more depressing.

As a veteran Challenge recapper (I know, I suck), something like this was bound to happen...and I'm okay with it. It's a mishmash of 32 reality stars competing on four teams for fame and fortune. The lineups on the teams make a bizarre kind of sense. For instance, the Green Team falls in love with Chip McAllister, and they make him their captain. The Red Team doesn't have a duo from The Amazing Race, so they plug in then-roommates Coral Smith and Melissa Howard, two of my fave folks. And naturally, Coral ends up leading her team. How? She's Coral. Whatever she wants, she gets. I've recapped her in four seasons, and I still don't get it. For the Dark Blue Team, the captaincy comes down to a game of rock-paper-scissors between Hatch and Mike Mizanin, leading to the creation of Team Miz. Yeah, Mike leading a team? Not gonna be pretty. Finally, the Light Blue Team ended up randomly selecting Gervase Peterson to lead...which made Jonathan Baker (the absolute worst person to ever do TAR) fume. And when a poseur tool like Mike Malin (I'm sorry, "Mike Boogie") points out that Jonathan is a tool...well, he's that big a tool.

The events were taken from the original series. One surprise was how well Victoria Baker runs. Actually, since she's married to Jonathan, I shouldn't be that shocked. In the Dunk Tank, everybody wanted Coral, her 32DD breasts, and her too-small top in the tank. In the best moment of the episode, Matt Kennedy Gould (forever branded "Joe Schmo") got Miz into the tank. After two misses, Mike goes into his "You can be good, you can be bad, but you'll never be Miz"'s as predictable as his Dave Chappelle-as-Rick James impression. And just as Mike's going on about how this is his reality? Matt dunked him. Very sweet stuff. The jousting kinda sucked...especially with diminutive Charla (whose "I wanna prove I can do what normal people can do" spiel kinda falls apart without normal people around) forcing Swan winner Rachel Love Fraser to a draw, Melissa getting knocked off by friggin' Ryan Starr (whose no-talent ass needs a whumpin' after her time on The Surreal Life), and friggin' Jonathan (who still insists he was edited to look the asshole) getting the win by beating balding bozo Bradford Cohen.

Since we got reality people, we gotta have voting. With Team Gervase on top, the other three squads had to vote somebody out. Chip had to watch as wife Kim volunteered to leave. I got spared the pain of Melissa getting tossed, as Heidi Bressler (whose ugliness can stop a bullet) stepped forward to leave, after giving up on the joust. On Team Miz, nobody quit, so they voted out Charla, since she's still a dwarf, and they'd like to win. Hard to argue...and Charla brings up something about Ryan backstabbing her. It comes from nowhere, it sounds paranoid as heck...but it's Ryan, so I'm on Charla's side. But the big twist is that the bootees get to pick cards to go to new teams. As a result, Heidi and Charla swap teams, while Kim stays with her man (and provokes a "good things happen to good people" interview from Will Kirby, aka "Dr. Evil" from Big Brother 2). But the teasers say that people will be going don't get too attached to these people.

Seriously, you gotta see this show. Minimum, you get to see folks that you never saw my case, that's Wendy Pepper and Duncan Nutter at the forefront. You get interaction from folks from different shows (including the horror that is Theo's impression of Chip, and Chip thinking that Theo's won at everything, not getting the memo about Battle of the Seasons). The official site has footage from stuff that didn't make it onair...including Coral and Sue Hawk wanting to take Victoria out, and Chip getting Coral in the dunk tank yet again (it was for his team, he claims). And the icing on the cake? Melissa's recaps. Nothing like reading her father and nephew's takes on her in action.

Damn, I've been writing for two hours, so I'll stop now. I still got some ranting in me about the new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, as well as the impending horror of The Real Mean Girls. I'll try and cover that before my trip.

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