Friday, May 30, 2008

The Greatest Show on TV

For anyone who cares, I will NOT be spoiling any parts of the show in this post. I say this because it is a documented fact that "if you attempt to talk about an episode they have not seen yet, (white people) will scream and cover their ears." Since you're reading this, screaming and covering your ears probably wouldn't do much to deter spoiling the show. It would be hilarious to watch, though.

I don't watch a lot of TV, but with the aid of Tivo I am most certainly dedicated to a select few shows. In March I wrote a post entitled "The Greatest Show on TV?", chronicling my love for The Wire. I had been planning that post - without the "?" at the end of the title - since early January, when the show's 5th and final season began. In February, LOST began its 4th season, and I had to question my conviction that The Wire was the best show on TV.

(...I have to admit that I realize how stupid it sounds that was/am taking my rankings of Greatest Show so seriously. Perhaps that would be another entry in the Stuff White People Like blog. But anyway, back to being white...)

Last night was the 2-hour finale of the 4th season of LOST. If you aren't watching this show by now, you should start. The 80 minutes of programming last night was better than 95% of the movies in theatres.

LOST is many things. It's probably best categorized as a sci-fi drama, but has some excellent comic timing, and well, you can't deny that some of the actors - while being great actors - are also great eye-candy. It's writing, acting, and producing are superb. It's sci-fi element does require a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief, but somehow it stops just short of asking you to believe anything ultra-corny or cheesy. In that respect, it's almost like Star Wars but without Jar-Jar Binks.

LOST certainly has a Trekkiness to it. There are fans who go a little beserk. There are forums and podcasts all over web discussion theories related to the show's plot. But somehow the creators have been able to give the show a Matryoshka doll / treasure hunt quality to it for the dude who turned his apartment into the Swan Station, and yet make the show accessible and fun for the fan who just likes to watch the new episodes. I fall somewhere in between.

So give LOST a look if you haven't yet. My guess is that by the 3rd episode you'll be hooked, caught up in a couple months and then anxiously awaiting season 5 like the rest of us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bring Back the Hick

Odds and Ends: The blog now has an email address for all those who would like to write in with questions or requests for one of Ryan's mustache combs. Contact us at With this new email technology, I think it's safe to say we're taking this blog into the 1990's!!

NBA Playoffs: I rarely pay attention to the NBA's regular season aside from catching a few highlights on the popular UK program Sports Centre. But I do like to watch the playoffs. By that time, all games are played with a purpose, and you get to watch some freakishly talented humans compete. At this point in the playoffs, we're down to the Celtics vs. the Pistons in the East and the Lakers vs. the Spurs in the West. Great match-ups. The old dynasties vs. the current dynasties.

Any combination of these four will make for a good series, but it is hard to not pull for a Lakers-Celtics finals. If you watched basketball in the 1980's, you were either a Celtics fan or a Lakers fan. I was a Celtics fan. This was mostly because my best friend and all his older brothers were, but looking back on it, unless your team was playing him how could you root against Larry Bird? Has a more unassuming body ever gone on to dominate a sport? People often talk about "the next Michael Jordan". I mean no disrespect to Jordan's legacy, but I think it would be just as fun to see "the next Hick from French Lick".

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

As Beck would say, "How's it Made?"

Where it's at?

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, and sports isn't on, I have found where it's at. I've had my run with Scrubs, Walker, Texas Ranger and the late night shows. Seinfeld died at least 5 years ago, and CSI was never enough a mystery. Syndicated cable has let me catch up on my history -- missed sitcoms and should-have-seens. And then there's the trademarked history channel and the family band of education cable, for lack of a better description.

"The Learning Channel," e.g.

(Random fact: Did you know that in NYC circa 1907, the mailman (mailperson) used to make deliveries 7 times a day? That's like instant messaging via quill.)

And so in my ramping down time, I've found a new go-to show, when sportscenter is somehow still talking about the NFL (and the freakin Senate? (we don't have problems with leadership in this government; the NFL is a matter of national importance! (let me go deeper, you are paying senators to investigate whether or not some NFL coaches videotaped other teams practicing))) and the Twins game is over and no other baseball is on TV.

This show is called "How It's Made".

This is one of the best shows of all time. It's nerdy and informative. It has a soundtrack that would make a seasoned porn star blush. And I'm pretty sure it comes mostly from Canada, with so much overt modesty and weird-brand-names in tact. (There are plenty of shows featuring fine American craftmanship, do not despair.)

They usually feature 3 items per half hour show. They walk you through the process of making each item, with a serious voice-over somewhat similar to Jon Miller's in both timbre and descriptive depth as well as lots of close shots of people's arms/fingers doing stuff or machines doing stuff in slow motion.

(Let me paraphrase (Roller's imitation of Jon Miller:"The pitcher had the ball, and then... he threw it! And the catcher, caught it!!") hilarious and dead on. I know lots of peope who hate Joe Morgan with a passion, but Jon Miller to me is the worst.)

So this is the basic flow and pace of the show.
They take the spools of cotton fiber...
Next, a worker smooths out the rough spots in the first mold to get a finer mold...
Heating the cakes to 450 degrees for 7 minutes ensures...
Seven layers of lacquer are added to protect the...
The attacher and the fastener produce 4,700 blibbits per minute.

And each one ends up with a slightly cheery statement of how this thing ends up in your house.

The simple descriptions are necessary because you have no idea what is going on. What's an extruder? I know now. Sorta. Heating and cooling are extremely important, so is moisture, air pockets, air bubbles, creases and dirt. Oddly enough, I find the shows about the simpler things more interesting. Creating tubes of aluminum foil is more interesting than how john deere tractors are made.

And don't forget the soundtrack.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Sometimes certain things cross your path and you just say, "Really?" A lot of times, it is followed immediately by, "Why?"

I understand that reunion tours are in vogue these days. Especially for groups you never thought you'd see together again. I mean I ponied up a hundred plus to see the Police. I thought about doing it for Van Halen. And in a "I'll always be a teenage girl at heart" kind of way, I even understand the Spice Girls. But even that part of me looks at the New Kids on the Block new album and tour and says, "Really? Why?" All the aforementioned groups can do pretty much the same thing that made them popular. The Police and VH rock out and the Spice Girls still look good (sort of). I'm not quite sure what made the New Kids so popular but I'm pretty sure it had to do with them being kids. Five thirty-something dudes is suits "Hangin' Tough" might not catch on like it did back then. However, anyone booking these concerts should have plenty of first aid available to deal with all the drunk 40 year old women who haven't partied like this in 15 years.

As I'm writing this I have seen the most annoying commercial for Taco Bell twice. Annoyance aside, you have to consider its purpose or rather the lack thereof. Two (white) guys pull up to a drive thru and start rapping (horribly) about a 89 cent burrito. "Really? Why?" Now maybe its on every half hour because I live in a college town and we like the cheap eats, but I'm pretty sure I live nowhere near Poserville. Its the type of commercial that makes me want to boycott the item and anything associated with it. And for those of you wondering, I've still never had a Mentos.

I think reality television is here to stay. Who could have predicted Survivor could sustain its popularity for this long? And even though the Osborne's flamed out after a few additional seasons, they were pioneers in the industry. But now we have the Osborne effect. Every B-list (or C-list) celebrity thinks they can put camera crews in their house or join a game show and gain notoriety. And the worst part is we give it to them. Gene Simmons, Hulk Hogan, Danny Bonaducci. "Really? Why?" Someone please, please tell me why Flava Flav is still on my TV set. And why women are competing to go out with him. Flav, go find Chuck D and rap. If you need money sell your clocks.

I could go on. Really Maury? Why? Who are the people who go to court on TV and get yelled at by those lady judges? Why? Girls wearing sunglasses that cover their whole face. Really? Why? Are they prescription? Did you singe your eyebrows? Are they 3-D?

Now that I have had my say, what makes you sit back and say, "Really? Why?"

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I sorta like it when you call me Big Papi

Hi. My name is Ryan. As far as you're concerned.

If you know me, then that's cool. The stuff I type will make a lot more (or a lot less) sense. If you don't know me, then you probably don't know Coovo or Roller either, since we never go anywhere without each other. That's right, we put the "man" back in mani-pedi.

So, Coovo and Roller have gotten a great blog up and running for some time now. The load of writing is oddly heavy over time, and they've branched out to me to see if I couldn't lend a hand. Happy to do so. You know, the Chinese say, "Even a piece of paper is lighter when lifted by two people." Or I guess in this case, three people.

And, to be clear without being totally transparent, I live in Minneapolis now, but I grew up in St. Louis. Me and Nelly. Richmond Heights to be exact. I suppose I can lend a little bit of a neutral hand here, since Coovo is still mostly anchored in the Windy City and Roller has most of Chesterfield locked down. But I fully admit, I favor the Cardinals, thin crust pizza, excruciatingly hot summers, frozen custard, ravioli (toasted) and giant muddy rivers.

Please forgive me as I go, because I also like pictures but don't know how to make them show up here.

Here are some general areas and guidelines I will try to stick to while adding to the content on this blog. I add commentary like on computer stuff, political stuff, odd randomness, the origins of sayings, sports stuff, totally hypothetical stuff, music, web stuff, and anything to give our readers the old "worth the price of admission" feeling. I may not be G-rated, but I'll be network rated. I won't be politically correct either. So if you get offended, please leave a comment. I'll be sure to take it into consideration.

Now on to specifics. The only thing I value more than fantasy baseball is real baseball. I think Tom Hanks is the most over-rated actor of our time. I can cook rice really well, every single time in any quantity. I've criss-crossed the country by car in under 2 weeks, seeing both oceans. I never lie but almost always slightly exaggerate. I tend to ramble when I like what's going on. I once held the "most jalapenos eaten on a single nacho chip" record for Busch stadium for at least a full inning. I think live music is the best, but the scene is stale. I think story-telling, joke-telling and really good comic strips are lost arts. I think progress rocks, and I constantly misquote the Chinese. And I think blogs are worth the effort.

Thanks to Coovo and Roller for inviting me along for the ride. I hope to hear your comments and endear you to your mothers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Moment of Truth in Iraq

I have a quick book recommendation - "Moment of Truth in Iraq" by Michael Yon.

Michael Yon is a former Green Beret who became a journalist some 10 years ago. Frustrated with what they believed to be inaccurate depictions of the progress the military was making, Yon's friends in the military hounded him to come embed with the troops and tell "their side".

As a journalist, Yon has never been affiliated with any news agency, political party or military organization, so the reader need not worry about a reporter there on an angle, or with an agenda. He obviously has a bond with the military, but he does not hesitate from pointing out its failures.

And by "embed with the troops", it literally means accompany them on numerous missions. He's in the middle of several battles, meets with various sheiks and members of the Iraqi Army and Police.

The sum of the book is that in the first two years of the war, the Coalition (U.S.) made numerous mistakes. And not just executive mistakes (Rumsfeld), but the approach they took with cities and towns. And they paid for it. If al Qaeda had been smart enough to capitalize on this, they would have won the war, Yon posits. But al Qaeda's own blunders have given the U.S. a second chance, and they're making the most of it by working very closely with the Iraqi Army, Police and citizens. This isn't to suggest that we're on the goal-line; Yon is keen to the obstacles that have yet to be overcome. But momentum has turned, and can be built upon.

Yon has embedded with the Army, the Marines as well as the British Army from cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, Baqubah and Basra. His trips into the battlefield are gripping, and his accounts of Iraqi life are equally eye-opening. You can read Yon's dispatches and see his camera-work from his online journal here, and you can subscribe to his RSS feed here.

I'm still skeptical of the prospect for the long-term success of a democratic government in Iraq, but "Moment of Truth in Iraq" provides fresh, credible reasons for why success shouldn't be ruled out. It is also yet another testament to the bravery and heroism of the American soldier. I give it a very strong recommendation!