Saturday, June 11, 2005

Big Head Barry and the Monsters Update

It's been a while since I've blasted my favorite oversized melon, but the latest Bonds story is a good one (or bad depending how you look at it). In Tales from the White Sox Dugout, former White Sox Ron Kittle tells how he approached the Giant's slugger with a couple of Bonds' game-worn road jerseys, asking him to autograph them for an auction for Kittle's charity for children with cancer:

I paid about $110 of my own money for them, so they could be auctioned off at the golf outing. I did that all the time for stars like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens. When I tell them how their autographs help the cause, every player gladly signs - with one exception. I walked up to Bonds at his locker in the Wrigley Field visitors' clubhouse, introduced myself and said, "Barry, if you sign these, they'll bring in a lot of money for kids who need help." Bonds stood up, looked me in the eye and said, "I don't sign for white people." If lightning hits me today, I will swear those were his exact words. Matt Williams and other Giants were in the room and they heard what Bonds said.

You can check out Bonds' response here - Bonds blasts Kittle for racist quote attributed to Bonds.

In related Big Head Barry news, his trainer is in the news again, check out what he's up to -
Anderson didn't receive a plea deal.

In more uplifting sports news, The Cleveland Browns recently donated $300,000 to nine local schools that were in danger of having to cut all extracurricular actives. It's nice to see they are putting the money they took back from Kellen "I'm a soldier" Winslow Jr. into a good cause. The NFL then added another $200,000. Apparently the Browns realize what our government doesn't that "
Kids are gonna act a fool, when you cut the programs for after school?" But I guess it doesn't matter to them as long as No Millionaire is Left Behind.

Friday, June 10, 2005

We on Award Tour - 2005 MTV Movie Awards

Typically the best award show, MTV Movie Awards was last night. But could it overcome the horribly unfunny Jimmy Fallon? First, let me judge the commercials that led up to the show. First there was the Chewbacca one, not so funny as I could care less about celebrity coupling. Then there was the Maria Full of Grace short. This was I actually did find funny but I have a feeling that 95% of the MTV demographic have never even heard of the movie. But when it comes down to it, neither were as funny as the one Fallon did a couple years back for the VMA’s when he said “You would make out with me in front of my doorman when I said ‘This is Natalie Portman from Star Wars, what to watch me make out with her?’”

Then we had to sit through the pre-show which was a half of hour of watching Nicole Richie and Fat Joe (and fat is being nice, he should be known as Morbidly Obese Joe) hit on the people they were supposed to be interviewing. I’m so glad to arrive early for that.

There were three shorts throughout the night. The show opened with one of the worst ones of all time with the unfunny Jimmy Fallon being picked up by Batman who turns out to be some one who is somehow not even funnier than Fallon, Napoleon Dynamite. The skit didn’t make sense because, like everyone else, I haven’t seen Batman Begins. Next we have the Star Wars parody. Again not funny, maybe because they were making light of the darkest scenes in Star Wars history. Last we have the Fallon-free Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson sketch. Not their best work bust still funnier than anything Fallon did all night.

As for the musically performances, we start of with Eminem doing what he does best, making fun of pop stars, then transitions into a medley of two of his worst songs ever. Is this guy seriously in his thirties? I have no comment of Mariah Carey’s performance as I switched over to watch Vanilla Ice’s performance on Hit Me Baby One More Time. Then we get a special performance by Yellowcard during The Breakfast Club tribute. Can we pass a law forbidding them from ever singing Don’t You (Forget About Me) ever again please? And while we're at it, can we please ban all "punk" bands that sound more like the Backstreet Boys than The Clash? The last performance is by the Foo Fighters who are basically a hit-or-miss band. I have to say that song was a miss.

One band we didn’t see was Nine Inch Nails who pulled out after MTV found a picture of George Bush to be too offensive. So let me get this straight, Jackass – Not offensive; Letting Jimmy Fallon fondle Sandra Bullock – not offensive; Having Eminem perform as song where he obsesses over an under aged girl’s butt – Not offensive; Picture of George Bush - Offensive. Um, OK, if you say so.

We also get two new special awards as it seems that the Lifetime Achievement Award and Best New Director Award are no longer as we now get the some sort of “Generation Award” for Tom Cruise. They really got rid of the Lifetime Achievement Award for this? Did MTV just create this award so they could have a reason to have Katie Holmes and Cruise on the stage at the same time? Then the cast of The Breakfast Club were apparently awarded the Stanly Cup. I’m sure the hockey fans were glad to finally se it again. Maybe I’m too young, but I never got the appeal of the movie or any John Hughes’ movie. I guess you had to be in high school in the eighties or a girl to appreciate them. And lets be honest, the only reason why this movie got the award was because they wouldn’t be able to get Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage, and Jennifer Jason Lee to get back together for a Fast Times reunion.

As for my predictions (
If You Can Dodge a Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball) I voted for a measly four of the fourteen awards. I didn’t do much well predicating as I only got six correct. Looking at the winner’s list, it looks like I severely overestimated the nerd population. I thought they would come out and have Spiderman 2 sweep the awards they were up for. Instead the D&D crowd instead voted for their own personal bio-flick Napoleon Dynamite. I already stated my conspiracy theory about Napoleon being produced by MTV studios, so I won’t go into that again.

Funniest acceptation surprisingly goes to the biggest surprise winner, Dustin Hoffman (seriously, does anyone who watches MTV see Meet the Fockers?), who rightfully put Eminem in his place. As for the most boring speech, that goes to Lindsay Lohan who warns us to watch out for the paparazzi. Um, OK, thanks for the tip. Granted the only reason she won was because most of the votes were taken before her magical disappearing breast trick, otherwise Rachel McAdams, who is pretty hot for a Canadian, would have made it a clean sweep for the night. While I’m talking about The Notebook I finally got a look at the dude from The Notebook, the dude everyone was comparing me to this winter, for the first time, and I see no resemblance. Not to mention, sadly no one who looks like Rachel McAdams had jumped on me during that time. Oh well.

For those keeping track, that would be three bland MTV Awards shows in a row. Here’s a suggestion to MTV, through tons of money at Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle for this year’s VMA’s.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I See You've Painted Your Soul

The Sound of White - Missy Higgins

There has been a plethora of young singer-songwriter of the fairer sex to come along lately that almost makes you wish the return of the Lilith Fair. There was the eclectic pop of the group Eisley, the introspective pop of Anna Nalick and the quirky country-pop of Kathleen Edwards. You can now add Missy Higgins to this group. Higgins is already a star in her native Australia who is now trying to join the like of INXS and Midnight Oil with some American success.

The Sound of White is a polished album with soothing melodies and lush arrangements that will bring up comparisons to Sarah McLachlan. Higgins has a signature sound here on the album, but the song are diverse that that the album is worth repeat listenings. Higgins strong point is her songwriting. From deep (I see you've painted your soul into your guard) to longing for romance (I’ve tried cutting the rose, letting you go, but you’re still the only one that feels like home).

Song to Download –
Ten Days

The Sound of White gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my
Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

All that Noise, All that Sound

X&Y - Coldplay

One of the best bands of the new millennium is Coldplay. With their first two albums, they were posed to battle U2 for the “Greatest Band in the World” title, a title that U2 has held for most of the last 25 years. Parachutes was a good introduction with mellow grooves, just something to sit back and relax too. It also set up what has become the signature Coldplay sound. Then with A Rush of Blood to the Head, they perfected there sound of crushing guitars and piano strings. X&Y could be the make or break album.

We got a taste of what the new album will sound like with Speed of Sound, the first single that has been out for a while (one critic said it sounds like Clocks but without the passion). Sadly, that is about the best we will get to hear on the album. X&Y is, in essence, a step backwards from A Rush of Blood to the Head almost as it was the missing link between Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head.

It is pretty simple what is to blame in Coldplay’s slide, the recent marriage of lead singer, Chris Martin to Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s been clinically proven that one’s skills get deteriorated by dating or marrying stars. Case in point, Andre Agassi, he was ranked number one in the world, then marries Brooke Shields and starts losing in the first round. And how many rock star careers has Winona Rider destroyed?

So what we get on X&Y are songs about new love. One song sappier that the first. The best of these songs is Fix You. A song about trying to fix any problem your girlfriend has no matter how hard the problem is. Had they stopped there, it would have been good for the album but then we have to sit through others relationship issues like What If?, Talk, A Message, The Hardest Part, and Swallowed in the Sea.

The standout track is the hidden closer, Til Kingdom Comes. A song the band originally wrote for Johnny Cash’s American Recordings V, but unfortunately Cash died before recording it. On a side note, I cannot recommend American Recordings I-IV enough. Coldplay ended up recording it for themselves, so what you get is an old-school county song with Martin bringing out a rare baritone voice.

In the end, if you liked their first two albums, most likely you will like this. Hopefully on the next album, they experiment a little more maybe even try a couple more songs like Til Kingdom Comes.

As an after word to this review, I caught a MTV special with Coldplay performing the songs off the album. I caught it about halfway through, but what I heard was more passionate than what was on the album. Maybe instead of comparing them to U2, Dave Matthews Band might be a better comparison as their studio albums never sound as good as their live shows.

Song to Download - Til Kingdom Comes (Hidden Track)

X&Y gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my
Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Welcome to the Jungle

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

To commemorate the release of the XBOX version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, I thought I would whip out a review albeit for the Playstation 2. (As I type this out on Microsoft Word, I find it very interesting that XBOX makes it through spell check yet Playstation doesn’t. Isn’t that taking it too far Bill?) Keep in mind I currently hovering around 70% after playing since January so I do not have a full review as the finish can sometimes make or break a game. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time on a decent to good game only to have a lackluster ending (*cough Star Wars: Bounty Hunter cough*). But I do have a good feel to the game as I have been playing it for almost half a year.

Just like the recently reviewed Desperate Housewives (scroll down one entry), I avoided the Grand Theft Auto series as all the review for GTA3 all revolved around the ability to have your way with a hooker only to kill her and get your money back. Not necessarily my idea of fun, but anyways. Then the ads for GTA: Vice City came out. I’m sure we all remember the Miami Vice look-a-likes strolling around with explosions going of in the background and slick cars flying through the air to the sounds of A Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran. I have to admit I was excited as a child of the 80’s and a lover of anything from the decade. But then I remembered the whole hooker thing. Then I came across the soundtrack to GTA:VC featuring such great 80’s artist as Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, Laura Branigan, Twisted Sister, Night Ranger, and my personal favorite, Lionel Ritchie. And that just a tip of the iceberg as they about fifty songs that you were able to listen to while driving around Vice City. I even found myself at my destination and I wouldn’t get out of the car because a certain song was on the radio. As for the gameplay, there were many entertaining missions that you go on all different from each other. Although I could have done without the RC missions.

So when I was offered a free copy of GTA: SA (thank you Promosquad, check to your left for a link), I jumped at it. The game this time is set in the early 90’s in a state that resembles California. Yes, there is a state to roam around, not just one city. In fact, the three major cities in the state all seem as big if not bigger than Vice City. In San Andreas, you start out in Los Santos, a Los Angeles type city and Grove Street is your own personal Compton. Next own your journey is San Fierro is a take on San Francisco equipped with hills, a winding street, and a lot of alternative lifestyle hangouts. The last place you will travel is Las Venturas which is the alternative universe version of Las Vegas which basically in California anyways. And that not it, there is an extensive rural element to San Andreas too that is about three times the size of the three major cities combined including a desert, a dam, a mountain, a secret military base, and a couple small towns and farm areas.

The music was the big part of GTA:VC, so it’s only right to start there. Since we are set in the early 90’s LA off-shoot, gangsta rap takes center stage on the radio station Radio Los Santos with eight songs by N.W.A. or N.W.A. alumni. The other major music of the time was grunge and that is put on Radio X with songs by Helmet, Rage Against the Machine, and Alice in Chains. For soul, turn to CSR and you will get contemporary music from En Vogue, Boyz II Men, and Bell Biv DeVoe, with you DJ as voiced by Michael Bivins of BBD and New Edition.

Unlike GTA:VC, SA has a few classic stations too. Playback, with your DJ voiced by Chuck D, features old school rap from Chuck’s Public Enemy, Gang Starr, and Biz Markie. Bounce FM plays classic funk tracks with your DJ, The Funktipus as voiced by George Clinton where you will hear the sounds of Rick James, Ohio Players, and The Gap Band. K-Rose is the country station for when you are traveling around the boondocks. K-DST brings you some classic rock from the likes of Tom Petty, Billy Idol and what classic rock station wouldn't be complete without some Free Bird? And the music is brought to you by none other than W Axl Rose. And quite frankly, he shouldn’t quit his day job of being a recluse. Rounding out the dial is a dance station, a Reggie station, and some talk radio. So the music is not as good as Vice City, but it will keep you entertained, even six months in.

The guest DJ’s are not the only known personalities in the game. First and foremost is Coach Carter himself, Samuel L. Jackson as Officer Tenpenny, a cop so mean that he makes Officer Krupke look like a dancing sissy. His sidekick, Officer Pulaski, is voiced by Chris Penn. I’m sure you all remember him as the hick Kevin Bacon taught to dance in Footloose. The face of the counter-culture, Peter Fonda, plays, of course a hippie who has a distrust of the government (granted my generation best knows him as Bridget's dad). James Woods plays a government agent. Fresh from his True Hollywood Stories, Charlie Murphy makes a funny, albeit short cameo. David Cross from Arrested Development is telecasted as an uber-nerd. Ice-T, The Game, MC Eiht and members of the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. not surprisingly are cast as ganstas. For the females, they brought in the C-list with Debi Mazar and Bijou Phillips who makes a rare appearance without taking her cloths off.

As for the missions, there are many that closely resemble those that are found in Vice City. Luckily they are only two RC missions here (at least as far as I gone), but the bad new that one of them is the hardest mission ever. Ever. EVER. It took me about a week to finally complete it. It was so excruciatingly painful, I skip watching Arrested Development for a couple weeks because the sound of David Cross’ voice, who is featured in the mission, sent me in to a crazed frenzy. You cannot fully comprehend how horrible this mission is until you play it.

There were some improvements in the game over Vice City as I mention earlier, the massive scale of the state. The biggest change though is that CJ can swim. I could never understand how some one on an island was unable to swim. Also CJ has the ability to climb over walls and such, this comes in handy throughout the game. CJ also has the ability of stealth, stealing a page out of Sam Fisher’s playbook. And since we are roaming around a state, you have the ability to steal airplanes and fly them. And in case you want to bail out of you plane mid-flight, you can strap on a parachute and glide down without becoming a pancake on the sidewalk. Bicycles also make their appearance as a mode of transportation as well as a special “vehicle” that you will steal from the government that I won’t spoil for you.

There is addition that I'm not fond as GTA moves to The Sims territory. I have never understood why anyone would want to play a life simulator why they have there own like to control. In GTA:SA, you must make sure CJ eat or you will eventually lose some health. Also, there gyms you can go to add some muscle mass or just lose some pounds because if you eat too much, CJ slows down and you can't jump as high. There is also a way to increase your sex appeal by getting tattoos, new cloths and new hairstyle of which includes every hair cut a black man has ever worn, I'm partial to the Bobby Brown-Gumby look, and even some they don't use like the Elvis pompadour.

Looking forward to a possible 7th GTA, may I suggest a late 70’s New York type city. At your disposal are music that range between punk and disco. You can also implement a Studio 54 type club, a Son of Sam type character, a blackout, and can fill the game with the type of people who were regulars at Studio 54 (Warhol et. al.). Leave your suggestion for a new GTA in the comments section.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gets a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Desperately Wanting

Desperate Housewives 1.x

I tried to avoid Desperate Housewives for a long time. The more the Oprah crowd talked about it around the water cooler, the more I wanted to avoid it. Then I heard one of my heroes was going to be on the show. Yes Shaft himself was going to show up on Wisteria Lane, and since Shaft is one bad... (maybe I should shut my mouth), I had to check it out. What I found was a disturbingly entertaining show. First you have Lois Lane turned single bubbling single mom. The producer of Sports Night turned overwhelmed mom. The creepy chick who used to live at Melrose Place is now a Stepford wife. And of course, what show today isn’t complete without a token hot chick. I wonder if the executives at ABC during pilot season go, “yeah that a interesting show, but do you think you can add a token hot chick?” Now if the other channels would only do this.

So it turns out that dead chick’s husband has hired Shaft to find out who was blackmailing his wife. (Ironically the last lime I saw the dead wife was on Everwood where she played… the dead wife. Typecasting anyone?) This got me a little interested, not quite as interesting as the token hot chick, but anyways. But that is just one of many mysteries on Wisteria Lane. Unlike Lost, some of the mysteries were solved by the finally. Some with better results than others. It was interesting how they intertwined the two biggest questions together with why did the one chick commit suicide and who exactly is the plumber dude.

Then there were the mysteries that went unanswered, first and for most, what was the gay homosexual, also imported from Melrose Place, big secret that he talked about with his dad. The easiest answer of that he had another family was shot as he quit his job where he does a lot of traveling. My only other guess is that he swings both ways or they will drop that plot line all together. My other big problem was the introduction of the black family. Why did they show up only to accomplish nothing to the storyline? Either hold them off until next year or tease us with something that will have us guessing all summer. Watching them just move in was boring.

The biggest glaring problem I had with the show was with Paul Young. At first he concocts a great plan to hide the dead chick that his wife killed under the pool. But once his wife kills herself, he decides to move the body from a place where no one will find her and instead throws the bode and the and the wood box that it is in into a lake. Has he never seen “Will it Float?” on Letterman? Both wood and bodies float.

Looking forward to next season, I think it’s pretty safe to say it will turn out that Dana is the plumber’s kid (or at least the plumber will think so). The black family will have some deep dark secret. Susan will fumble around a lot. The Melrose Place dude will have the same problem his wife did as Mr. Mom. Edie will hit on the black dude. And hopefully if the token hot chick starts showing her pregnancy, they bring in another token hot chick to replace her.

Desperate Housewives 1x gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my
Terror Alert Scale. It also won a STA.