Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who's your cousin?

I don't know why, but lately I haven't been able to summon any creative musings to blog about. You could say that my creative process has been all "blogged" up. And everyone knows that the 53rd rule of blogging is: "when confronted by "blogger's block" look for inspiration on another blog." Done.

In this case I take my cue from the The Swamp. This is the Chicago Tribune's "Washington Bureau" weblog which mostly has posts relating to the much talked about Presidential race between Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama and John McCain. In this post, Frank James talks about a recent AP article in which Chris Child, a genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society has spent three years tracking down the distant relatives of our Presidential Candidates. Yes, I am writing a post about a post about an article. The Internet RULES!!

So apparently Obama is 10th cousins with George Bush. McCain is 6th cousin with Laura Bush. Hillary is distant cousin of Camilla Parker-Bowles. I have one pressing thought about this: Who cares? I do find entertainment value that Obama and Brad Pitt are distant relatives, but that's about as far as it goes.

My first thought was, "Man. I wonder who I'm related to?" My second thought was, "Would it matter?" The answer to that is no. Say I pay someone to do this and I find out that I'm 7th cousins with Donald Trump, do you think I'll be invited to do whatever it is his daughter does on the Apprentice? Probably not.

I understand the novelty interest in Genealogy, but I'm not sure of it's practicality. I have been told that I am 50% Irish. And though it hasn't stopped me from celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I don't feel Irish. I feel American and showing me that the majority of my family tree ends up back in the Emerald Isle doesn't really help. I've been to Ireland twice and neither time I showed my passport were they like, "Aww, welcome home there lad." In fact they said, "How long are you going to stay . . .why are you here . . . what's in your bags?" The only thing that would peak my interest would be a strong genealogical connection to anything Guinness. Even Alec.

So maybe some of you can inform me why I should care about where I came from besides a possible distant relationship with the likes of someone famous? Say Brent Musburger?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Greatest Show on TV?

It has been well documented that HBO's debut of The Sopranos in 1999 was the beginning of a fresh new business model for cable television. Stations like HBO had depended on the logic that people would pay to see content in which they very rarely had a hand in producing.

Sure, people subscribed to HBO to see good movies, bad movies, boxing, etc., but there was not much room for growth. Then someone had a really good idea. Invest a lot of money in the production of their own shows. Good actors, good writers, good directors, good producers. And being on HBO, the shows can play well outside the friendly boundaries of network TV.

Truth be told, The Sopranos wasn't HBO's first show of this ilk, it was just the most popular. Oz debuted in 1997. Talk about pushing the limits. Yikes. You wanna scare kids straight? Make them watch Oz. Since then a number of shows in this model: Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Da Ali G Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, Entourage, Big Love, Rome, Flight of the Concords, and more. Not all were award-worthy, but the quality of programming was much better than you'd find on any other station. And I haven't even mentioned the best one.

The Wire debuted in 2002 and this past Sunday aired the last episode of its 5th and final season. The main focus of the show is the ongoing war on drugs in the city of Baltimore. Characters of every rank on both sides of the law are well-developed; from the hoppers on the corner to the drug kingpins, from the cops working the beat to the Mayor.

The show is produced and mostly written by David Simon, a long-time Baltimore police reporter (who also wrote and produced "The Corner", a docu-drama that appeared on HBO in 2000). Simon knows personalities and hard truths of the city very well, and it shows in his work. He has even casted non-actor natives of the city for smaller roles in the show.

One of the more unique qualities of the show is its focus in each season on a different storyline of the city. The first season focused on drug trade. The second on the ports. The third on the mayoral politics. The fourth on education, and the fifth on the newspaper. This design has allowed new characters to be ushered in and out of the story each season, while still maintaining the large and incredibly talented ensemble that make up the core of the cast.

Another trait that stands out about the show is that its quality never diminished with each new season, as is the case with many dramas. In fact, the 4th season of the The Wire was the greatest season of television I have ever watched. I remember reflecting during the middle of the season that there had not been one klunker or filler episode. Every one had me glued to the TV and having to snap out of the context of the show when it ended. That is an incredibly high standard that many of my other favorite shows, including The Sopranos and Lost, haven't accomplished.

As you may have noticed, I can't give the show enough praise. The writing, acting, directing and producing are all top shelf. So I recommend the next time you want to rent a movie, you pick up the first disc of the first season of The Wire. Now, I've totally set you up for disappointment. You won't watch the first few episodes and have the same opinion I do now. But if you like the first disc, keep watching. It only gets better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

They Sure Du Bai

With one of the fastest growing GDP's in the world - "Singapore on Steroids" as a friend of mine labeled it - the United Arab Emirates knows how to spend their money. The capital, Abu Dhabi, is nothing to yawn at, but Dubai is no doubt the country's jewel.

Check out this amazing photo layout of the development in Dubai. Granted, some of them are artistic renderings of what's to come, but given what already exists I don't think the drawings of what's to come are exaggerations.

Some of the more interesting points:
  • Dubai is said to have 15-25% of the world's cranes.
  • Dubai is currently constructing what will be the world's tallest building (by 40%). And also another building that will be 30% taller than that. Imagine how pissed you'd be if you lived on the top floor and realized you forgot your phone in your car. I guess you'd just have to use your phone machine to make you a new one.
  • Dubai has more construction workers than citizens.
  • Dubai dumped Halle Berry and doesn't return her phone calls.
  • Chickens in Dubai lay golden eggs, and they are served at Denny's.
  • Denny's in Dubai are called al-Denny's.
  • Dubai is building the largest mall in the world. It will be dubbed "The Mall of American Money".
  • Dubai can see Jacob.
  • You may also be curious about the weather in Dubai. Guess what, it's sunny.

Lastly, a couple months ago Coovo told me that his sister was going to Dubai. I told him that was crazy - if girls get kidnapped in Jamaica what did he think would happen in Dubai? Then Coovo reminded me that she wasn't going to Kabul, and she was going with a group from work. I told Coovo to have her bring back one of those golden eggs. Mmm-mmm.