Saturday, July 29, 2006

Movie Club: From Yoda to Vigoda - An Offer You Can't Refuse

Hello Movie Club Peeps.. Its time once again for a movie club column as we kick off our Summer Movie Club Series of Godfather Movies.. For those of you new to this blog, we kicked it off last year when I watched the six Star Wars movies in chronological order, and this summer we continue with The Godfather anthology. So basically we go from Yoda to Vigoda.

It was cool to see a movie with Abe Vigoda where he still looked somewhat young. Keep in mind that the movie was made a mere 3 years before Barney Miller... A show where he looked very old… yet he has barely aged in the 30 years since that show premiered. Oddly enough, check out Max Gail who played Wojo.. He looked very young on that show, yet once its run ended.. he aged about 20 years almost overnight when he grew facial hair on his baby face and stopped wearing his toupee.

Vigoda came to mind recently when I saw a blind item in the Daily News about a "top secret love affair" involving 2 sitcom co stars who are now secretly dating now that one of the couple has reached the legal age of consent. A lot of bloggers think this refers to rumors that John Stamos is dating one of those Olsen twins... but I thought that the actress who played the baby adopted by Vigoda in the Fish spinoff had now grown up and was dating that stud Abe.... Or it could be Cloris Leachman started dating one of those kiddies on "Malcolm in the Middle". I wonder if Stamos and the Olsen Twin stay up watching Nick at Night to re-watch the scenes they did together on Full House…Hey remember when we got locked in the gas station and you missed your birthday party?

And why you may speculate did it take so long to get this column together?.... Good luck trying to find the Godfather as a Blockbuster Rental. I went to 3 pretty well stocked Blockbusters and nobody had it for rent.. they did have it for sale for about 20 bucks. I think video stores are about to undergo another major transformation. Years ago there used to be all those Mom and Pop video stores that rented out videotapes until they were swallowed up by the big franchise stores. Then tapes were phased out in favor of dvds.

Here comes the next trend: Blockbuster phased out late fees so now people who like the movie they rent just keep the dvd for the price of the movie plus a "restocking fee". That’s why i couldn’t find any copies of “The Godfather“.. Nobody returns ’em. However, dvds are so cheap to manufacture compared to videotapes, that you can buy dvd’s for about the same as the cost of renting them.. (except for those new grocery store kiosks which rent 'em for a buck and sell 'em for about 20). Take a look at the video store next time you go.. the rental space has decreased... and now the stores are increasing their sales. Maybe that started with TV shows on DVD that are hard to rent because they take hours to watch?. And if I’m not mistaken, I think it was Johnny Carson who started this trend when he made the bold decision to sell old tapes of “The Tonight Show”. This is the wave of the future. Forget about the "restocking" fee replacing unreturned movies.. ... That’s just a fee charged to people who keep their rental movies to offset the profit they will make when they resell them on Ebay.

I didn’t buy Godfather at Blockbuster. but found it for 10 bucks at Best Buy. I also bought four movies for 10 bucks at B-buster.. although getting a fourth good movie was a bit of a challenge. One movie that was inexplicably on the discount rack was last years Oscar Winner Crash.. a perfectly narrated thought provoking masterpeace of a movie that uses the word "blank" better than a Match Game Marathon! It was also quite unpredictable unlike “For Better or For Worse” where everybody knows that Elizabeth is going to hook up with her old boyfriend (now divorced) at her friend’s car dealership at about the same moment that her current boyfriend dumps her.

It’s kind of interesting that I bought Crash while looking for The Godfather. Both are excellent movies and show different stages of loyalty people feel to their family. But Crash dispels a lot of prejudicial presumptions while The Godfather plays into a lot of the stereotypes one would associate with an organized crime family. Crash does have a remarkable amount of coincidence in terms of how the storylines overlap that has not been pulled off as well since Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. (I’m sure Dangerspouse will be happy that I have a reference to PBS here!) Seinfeld also utilized that type of storytelling technique tying in unrelated storylines in a nice little bow, as they made the ride to the finish line a funny adventure.

The Godfather’s screenplay is with a few exceptions very true to the original book written by Mario Puzo. The movie opens up at a wedding as Al Pacino figuratively takes a bullhorn and announces to the world that he is ready to launch his incredible acting career. He tells his girlfriend Kay (played by an oh so young Diane Keaton,) the background of his family. It’s an interesting perspective since Al’s Michael Corleone is a Marine who looks at his family’s business from the perspective of the outside looking in. Michael is a military man.. a definite outsider whose dedication to not being part of “the life” is only overshadowed by his loyalty to his father.. The Godfather Don Vito Corleone. played by the legend Marlon Brando. (I still can’t figure out how he was able to concentrate during that bathtub scene in “Last Tango in Paris”.. what an actor!)

Michael nonchalantly tells her about how his dad muscled his way with a music agent by “making him an offer he couldn’t refuse” which basically meant do it my way or I’ll shoot you.. Or in this case a contract can contain his signature or his brains. When she is shocked he points out to her…”That’s my family… it’s not me”. Hmmmm, maybe not. Ironically this all takes place at his sister’s wedding.. Later in the movie he will be The Godfather to his sister’s baby… but right after the baby’s baptism… he has the Baby’s daddy killed. which he then denies to his wife with a twisted logic later seen by Bill Clinton when he said he did not have “sex” with Monica Lewinsky. I wonder if years later, Michael and that kid go through the family albums.. “Hey that was taken at your Baptism.. That was the day I killed your daddy!”

The plot gets moving at the wedding where a singer appeals to the Godfather for some help getting a part in a movie. A popular singer linked to Organized Crime crossing over to acting and then becoming a bigshot in Vegas? Who could that be based on? Anyway, after movie mogul Jack Woltz wakes up and screams his lungs out when he finds himself in bed with his horse's head... the very next scene is with Don Corleone and potential drug kingpin Sollozo.. Corleone’s decision to stay out of the narcotics business and Sollozo’s decision to cut out the big shots within the Corleone family lead to the showdown between Sollozo and Michael Corleone….. the turning point in the movie where Michael sheds his identity as a Marine outsider and places himself smack dab right in the middle of the family business.

It’s interesting how the military parallels the rules involving the “family lifestyle”. Military respects rank and answers to authority yet we see scenes where someone dares to question authority.. At one point Michael Corleone tells his brother never to take sides against the family business when an issue comes up regarding the purchase of a Vegas casino. In another scene, one of the family members questions Don Corleone about not getting involved in the narcotics industry after he says no thank you to Sollozo’s drug dealing offer. Meanwhile another major turning point involves a corrupt cop who is on Sollozo’s payroll being questioned about roughing up Michael outside his father‘s hospital where is recuperating from a hit ordered by Sollozo.. Sollozo is also the guy who utters the classic line.. “try the veal”…

Ultimately that is the turning point where Michael begins his ascension to the top of the Family hierarchy. After getting a can of whoop-ass from the cop who should have been making sure that the hospitalized Don Corleone is safe while recuperating from gunshot wounds, Michael spends a lot of time with a broken jaw sounding very much like Morey Amsterdam. You almost expect Rose Marie and Dick Van Dyke to come out and make Richard Deacon jokes. Nonetheless, Michael takes care of business and then scoots his way to Italy where he meets a hot babe. His non traditional courtship consists of his giving her dad an offer he can’t refuse.. “his daughter can gain a husband or lose a father”. Incidentally he meets her while she is out walking with some children.. The same scenario where he runs into Kay in an attempt to reconcile. Do these gangsters come out of the woodwork when kiddies are around because it’s safe? That’s a move right out of the Hezbollah playbook where the terrorists hide like cowards among innocent children.

Incidentally, you wonder what Michael Corleone's Marine career was like. The movie takes place right after World War II, and it seems like Mike has some pent up anger that he takes out on people who cross him up. Keep in mind that Brando's Vito would threaten people with "offers they can't refuse".. but when push came to shove he'd behead a horsey or two. He didn't take revenge when a son was murdered, but instead went to arrange a peace pact with the other gangster bigshots. On the other hand, Michael gets a little roughed up and the next thing you know restaurant patrons are requesting tables in the shooting or non-shooting section.

The pacing and sense of dread is skillfully presented thanks to some excellent direction. There’s also a sense of anticipation that you just know deep down inside that something really really bad is about to happen. When Jack Woltz, the horse owner woke up, I sat up in terror rushing to lower the volume on my dvd player knowing full well that the moment he would discover his horsey’s head, his reaction would be a bloodcurdling scream that I hope wouldn’t wake the neighbors. The soundtrack is excellent and it’s quite cool to see such young versions of Robert Duvall and James Caan who had just achieved teenybopper status with the tearjerker “Brian’s Song”. The only minor issue is the movie is a bit too long and its hard to follow the names of the characters.. I had to see it twice and check out IMDB to get my facts straight for this column. Nonetheless, on a scale of one to four bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom.. The Godfather I is a four bladder movie… And even though its not quite in The Godfather’s league… Crash is also a four bladder movie. Wow, 8 bladders in one place.. Its almost like the men’s room at sweltering Giants Stadium at Saturday Night’s Bon Jovi concert!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

DAS - He's a Liberal.. But Despite That He's Still a Good Guy - Podcast Part II

Today we present Part II of our chat with DAS from DAS blog… Despite his liberal beliefs, we like him anyway. Today in Part II he talks more about his politics and as an added treat, since he bears an uncanny resemblance to my former Rabbi, he also chats about the weekly Torah portion.

This brings back memories of the synagogue we attended when we lived in Central Jersey until my mom sold her house in Union County in ‘97. As I mentioned in the Feb. 14th column I also got married there in 2004. Over the years, I spent a lot of time there…. usually trying not to getting caught yapping...

Since I came from a German family, the time that I arrived at services was always a topic of discussion… But when my mom would ask what time I got there… I had to clarify if it was the time I entered the building.. or the time I got to my seat… Y’see, I'm a social butterfly plus we also had a little group there called “The Nate Club”,… a little group of us whose membership consisted of being named Nate. One of those Nates who was fondly referred to as “Uncle Nate” passed away recently. He used to sit at the first seat after you entered the sanctuary, and it would be totally unheard of if I strolled to my seat without first visiting Uncle Nate, and it was always nice to catch up with what was going on with him. Therefore synagogue arrival time and seat arrival time were two very different times.

Uncle Nate was a big shot with the local public school system and in the early 80s when I was struggling with high school science he very kindly loaned me this new science text book that he had obtained…. He told me it was very valuable and not to lose it… which I promptly did.. Although it might have been stolen from me. Nonetheless.. Nate… science book… not together! I of course had to break the news to him.. And his reaction was why he was always a role model to me. He didn’t rant and rave and yell or scream but he very calmly made it very clear to me how disappointed he was in me which made me feel incredibly guilty. Over the years he would bring it up to me every once in awhile with a little twinkle in his eye that I knew I would never live it down.

After we moved out of Union County in ‘97, I saw Uncle Nate several times over the years. (Actually I lived in Woodbridge about a block away from the Union County line, so technically I was barely in Middlesex. The Union County Middlesex County line runs down the middle of the Pathmark so technically you could have a sandwich where the bread was bought in Union County and the tuna was bought in Middlesex County.) Uncle Nate was still looking pretty good into his mid 80s. About a year ago we got a call that he was not doing so well so we ventured off to pay him a visit. You could tell right away he wasn’t his old self. He was looking at the Sunday Paper and it took him awhile to remember who I was… He had been friends with my parents so it took some time to jog his memory, and even though he hadn’t seen me in about 3 years he eventually remembered who I was.. Even though he looked a lot younger than 87, it was obvious that he was having trouble with his memory... because a few minutes later he was having trouble remembering me.

I looked at Trophy Wife and told her… “Did you know Uncle Nate used to be a big shot in the local public school system?”… And without missing a beat, Uncle Nate looked at her and casually remarked.. “I sure was…… And your husband lost my science book!”. Then he looked at me and with a hint of that little gleam reminded me… “It was a physics book too!”

The floor there was very clean. I know that because I picked my jaw up from it!

Now here is Part II with DAS…. Click play or hit the icon at the title to play it in your Windows Media Player.

Next week: We go from the Nate Club to the Movie Club with Godfather I.

Monday, July 17, 2006

DAS Goes Liberal... What Went Wrong? Part 1 of our Podcast Chat

On today’s podcast we chat with DAS from DAS Blog.. A nice guy who for some misguided reason has decided to go liberal. He used to live nearby in Edison and I met him when he belonged to the same organization as Trophy Wife. He was mentioned in Nate‘s World of Words (see the March 9th column in the archives) as my nominee to replace Ron Kuby as Curtis Sliwa’s liberal morning co-host on WABC. I think Kuby should have been fired when he was a defense witness when John Gotti Jr was on trial for trying to have Sliwa killed. The case ended in a hung jury and will be retried later this year.. but it was a big stab in the back by Kuby who would be a big nobody if it wasn't for Sliwa. Despite DAS’s liberal beliefs I like him anyway, so maybe this podcast might give the WABC powers that be another option for that morning slot.

You will hear in Part II that I asked him about his lack of commentary about Israel. Since we recorded this chat last week he did post a column and now I wonder why I opened my big mouth.

I am definitely far from liberal when it comes to Israel. But, in his Israel column.. I just can’t agree when DAS mentions the concept of the punishment fitting the crime and maybe bombing the hell out of the terrorists is a bit much and Israel should just abduct 2 of their soldiers instead.

Imagine a bunch of sex offenders get together and decide that they are going to kidnap and imprison a few of the Special Victims Unit cops. They announce the cops will be freed when more sex offenders are freed. You couldn’t sell enough tickets to watch the SWAT team storm that hostage house and kill those molesters. .

Legally speaking TREASON is a worse crime than child molesting.. And these terrorists who plot against the gov’t of Israel are treasonists. So when they kidnap soldiers and want other treasonist prisoners released… that is not a fair trade. These criminals are behind bars for a reason and do not deserve to be freed.. And if they were caught molesting young girls no bleeding hearts would be pleading for their release.. (except the ACLU.. They’ll take on any wacko cause)

And how do you punish a criminal? Well using the molester analogy, do you molest the molester… or do you imprison them for life? Likewise with the terrorist.. Do we just kidnap a couple of their men and ask for a trade like they are baseball players. Is a little slap on the wrist going to deter these terrorists from attacking again? Or doesn’t it make sense that a thorough destruction of the heart of the terrorist base is the only solution?. And since it looks like those Jew marked missiles that are landing in Haifa are coming from Iran.. it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let out a can of whoop-ass there too. Remember in the early 80s how Israel was so harshly criticized by many of these very same liberals for bombing out the Iraqi nuclear reactor?

Now back on January 29th (see the archives) we commented on an article in the much missed now defunct Jewish State newspaper where some goofball from Edison criticized a Rabbi there for asking the assembled crowd to pray for the death of the Iranian President during a Hannukah candle lighting ceremony. The letter writer ripped into the Rabbi….and instead put out this lovely nugget,…. “We should pray for the President of Iran to receive the knowledge and understanding that the Holocaust was an absolute tragic event in Jewish History”…OK.. How about we get all these Haifa residents to pray while these Iranian produced missiles continue to attack their homes! Can you imagine if the Jewish State had been publishing during the early days of World War II? “Oh don’t wish bad things on Hitler.. Lets pray for him”.

In light of those Iranian created missiles, I would like to invite that letter writer to have lunch with me so we can pose for a picture while I am wearing my “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt.

Here is a pic of DAS with some loonie kazoonie with a mullet acting like a cheerleader! (DAS is the one without the pompoms)

And now Ladies and Gentlemen… Part I of my buddy DAS…. Part II will be up later this week..

Monday, July 10, 2006

Baseball '06 at the Half: Kenny vs. Penny

Well folks.. For the first time since the end of May... with the exception of Game Show Marathon, I will be firmly planted on my couch on Tuesday to watch one of my ol’ faves…. as Kenny Rogers and Brad Penny take to the mound for The All Star Game.. an event that unlike the present, used to be an annual festival of National League domination. Today we will look back at the ‘06 season’s first half plus we will dust off the pre season predictions from April, and revise them to see who indeed will be participating in the fall classic.

But first speaking of Game Show Marathon, we already had a column addressing the first four episodes. I didn’t catch Card Sharks, but I did see Match Game and Family Feud.. and I must admit it was pretty neat to see these old shows with their old sets and old theme songs. The Feud board didn’t swing around as it did in the 70s, but instead on GSM was swinging using the magic of computer animation. Also, it was interesting to note that no mention was made of Ray Combs who hosted the CBS version.

As for Match Game.. it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the original.. But nobody expected that. The open was fantastic and it was cool to see the orange flippy thing that opened the thousands of episodes I watched as a kid. I actually started to like Rikki Lake.. She is actually kind of cute (compared to her Hairspray days) and it was amusing to hear her comments that the thinking music reminds her of porno movie music. She even mentioned Ron Jeremy! And it was great to see Betty White but it was obvious that they shouldn’t use modern cross references with a woman in her mid-80’s! Her total unawareness of the MTV show Pimp My Ride actually hurt one of the contestants chances of winning the game.

Overall I liked the whole concept.. I loved Match Game and Press Your Luck and actually think Rikki did a nice job. If they decide to do it again,… they should not have her host the Price Is Right since it is disrespectful to Bob Barker to have another host, and they should also use celebrity contestants who actually like the game shows since contestant enthusiasm is a key factor that makes game shows so enjoyable.

A couple of baseball things I would like to address that grind my gears:

Here’s the term that I don’t like… Walk off home run.. Or walk off hit… Uh.. it’s a game ending hit.. Or game ending home run! They don’t walk off the field… they jump up and down and celebrate and then run into the locker room… But.. Each of those hits ends the call it game ending!

One other thing... I love the All Star Game.. Why do those Fox buffoons feel compelled to make the game “count” by having the All Star game league winner earn home field advantage for the World Series? As Warner Wolf would say… “change the rule”… here is my proposal: After the game, each league has one player crowned as MVP… and if that player’s team makes it to the World Series.. his team gets home field advantage. And if neither mvp’s team makes it that far... (or both mvps make it).. then home field would go to the team with the best record.

In reality, the 162 games are about the teams,… but the All Star Game is about the players. Strategically, if Davids Wright and Ortiz are having a good game.. keep ‘em in a little longer than usual… That way if one of those players (or maybe a pitcher who squeezes out an extra inning) does get the MVP award.. his team will get the home field in the World Series, as opposed to the current dopey rule. What happens if the game is in the 14th inning and Royals Pitcher Mark Redman is on the mound and World Series home field rides on a Royal arm? Don't you think he will serve up a nice juicy game ending home run pitch so he can get out of the stadium, stop for some Mineo's pizza en route to the airport and then get home?

When I was a kid I wouldn’t miss the All Star Game for anything and that continues to adulthood. The NL used to win it every year and it was a rare chance to see the out of town All Stars who I would only see when their teams played the Mets or Yankees. Now with ESPN and fantasy baseball and the ability to closely follow every game, a lot of that magic is gone.. Plus apparently the sport is not as popular among the little pishers like it used to be. Once in the pre VCR early college years, I was invited to a party the night of the game… and I skipped the party. A couple of classmates needed a ride home, so after the game I went to the party and then took them home. One of the people lived across the street from The Scooter Phil Rizutto. It was after midnight, and when I dropped her off, I rolled down my window and bellowed “Holy Cow You Huckleberry”… A light went on in the house, and I quickly jumped in the car and sped out of Hillside as quickly as my Gold Duster would take me! Another year I taped the game to go to some hideous movie premiere for a movie with Hugh Grant and Tom Arnold that should have gone straight to video. But I did watch the game when I got home and avoided finding anything out about the results!

Then there is the infamous tie all star game of 2002 that led to this silliness of making the game “count”. It was also the turning point in how I hooked up with Trophy Wife. Back then I was friendly with her, but due to my sheer stupidity was not too interested in going out with her. A mutual friend had been trying to set us up, and on that very night Mutual Friend was meeting up with a friend who was coming in from out of town. The friend's car broke down a few miles from Mutual Friend's house so Mutual Friend went to pick him up and they went on their merry way. During their lovely evening, she called Trophy Wife who then called me to ask if I had jumper cables or Triple A. I told her I did and to call me at the last possible moment since I was deeply engrossed with the All Star Game.

Trophy Wife called a little while later and invited me over to hang out at her house till Mutual Friend got there.. and I could even watch the game. She only lived 5 minutes away so I hopped in the car… didn’t disturb Phil Rizzuto and headed over there and didn’t miss more than a batter or two. Well as it turned out the guy and his car were truly stuck and he had no way of getting home. So, I ended up driving this fellow all the way home to South Jersey and I didn’t get home till 4:30 the next morning. The next day Mutual Friend was so appreciative that as a gift she gave me movie passes and a certificate to a local restaurant on the condition… that I take Trophy Wife. I took her out the following Sunday, and finally came to my senses that she is a wonderful girl, and right after that we started dating.

So at least one person was happy with that All Star Game!

As for the season itself.. there have been a few interesting trends.. In the National League the Mets have run away with it,.. but all 4 other teams are still in contention for the Wild Card which just goes to show how mediocre the rest of the league is. Tom Glavine has a shot at the Cy Young Award. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and St. Louis super-stud Albert Pujols have a nice battle going for the MVP Race. His St. Louis Cardinals can’t seem to run away with the NL Central just yet.. but the Reds who had been off to a great start are starting to tail off as their top 2 pitchers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are starting to come back to earth. Over in the West, the Padres have moved into the lead thanks to Mike Piazza starting to rediscover his bat swinging skills that so eluded him the last few years of his career with the Mets.

So lets make some mid season predictions… The Mets and Cardinals look like locks to win the East and Central Divisions since none of the other lame-o teams seem capable of knocking them off their perch. The West and Wild Card are interesting… I’m gonna take the Braves for the Wild Card since Bobby Cox has a way of coaxing the most out of his limited roster so I am going to say right here that the playoff streak will continue.. especially with John Smoltz and Tim Hudson anchoring the pitching staff. Keep in mind they are only 6 games out of the wild card lead. As for the West, my heart says the Rockies because they have some good young players and some uncharacteristically high quality pitching.. But, as I said in the pre season, the Giants have Barry Bonds.. and if he can put together one more half season of Barry Bonds baseball, that would be enough to catapult the Giants to the top of a very weak division. A lot of people like the Dodgers but despite their superb pitching, they will only get so far with Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent anchoring the offense.

As for the American League, The Red Sox still have a 3 game lead over the Yankees.. Reliever Jonathan Papelbon has been incredible and is my choice for MVP.. Where would they be without him? Probably behind the injury plagued pitching starved Yankees and the upstart Blue Jays. Over in the Central, the Tigers and White Sox lead arguably the best division in baseball. The Twins have been playing very well lately with catcher Joe Mauer making a run at .400 but they just cant seem to make up any ground. The Indians who I thought had a great team this season are dead in the water after too many late inning bullpen meltdowns. Over in the West, the A’s have emerged to take a slight lead over the rest of the pack.

As for predictions… I think the Wild Card is coming out of the Central. I would like to be gutsy and pick the Twins who with Johan Santana and Fransisco Liriano have the best top 2 we have seen since the D’backs won the ’01 World Series with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. But, the Tigers also have some great players and they have 2 young rookie stud pitchers Justin Verlander and Zach Miner along with the ageless Kenny Rogers. So I’m picking the White Sox to move into first, paced by Cy Young contender Jose Contreras. Im sure the Yankees wish they had him now since they will finish THIRD to the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. What? The Yankees are just as far from the Wild Card as the Braves! Why the Braves and not the Yankees?? That’s because the teams in the AL are much better than the NL wild card wannabes. And the Yankees really need to address the loss of Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. It also amazes me that the wacky Yankee fans boo Alex Rodriguez. ARod is one Albert Pujols Sr. condom away from being the best player in the game!

Over in the West, the Angels who now have a healthy Bartolo Colon and young rookie stud Jered Weaver along with John Lackey have enough to get them into the playoffs as the AL West Winners. I like how Weaver cracked the rotation… his excellent pitching led to the teams decision to cut his older brother Jeff!! Can you imagine the phone calls to Mom and Dad? First Jered calls.. “Hey Im in the big leagues..”.. then Jeff calls.. “I got cut by the Angels for some rookie putz”….

World Series prediction: How about a rematch of the ‘86 Mets-Red Sox series? Can they get Vin Scully to announce it? “Gets by Buckner… here comes Knight.. And the Mets win it!!”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Technology Schmecknology 2: Plug and Play vs. Pay to Plug

If you look back at the archives you will recall that last November 30 we had a Technology Schmecknology column about my misadventures involving the purchase of a new digital camera. I think I missed my calling to be a consumer electronics reviewer... but the thing about these electronics reviews is.. the reviewers really aren't that passionate about the product unless they spend their own money to purchase the reviewed item. Therefore I can’t do these columns too frequently, since I’m not exactly Mr. Rich Man.. although I am working on my 2nd million... I gave up on the 1st!

Last weekend I bought Trophy Wife a GPS system and I got myself a snazzy new Samsung SGH-d807 cell phone at the Cingular store. (And we welcome those frustrated SGH-d807 owners who can't figure out the mp3 player who googled their way over here today!) Trophy Wife bought the Tom Tom..(but calls the traffic service the Tom Note which is the name of the WOR Radio traffic reporter)... it was a good deal... she opened the box.... turned on the power button and she was good to go!

Then there is the adventures of my cell phone!

I was a late bloomer to the cell phone craze... holding out till the night in late 1999 when I was driving on a one way street in Edison and saw a motorcycle zipping up the wrong way.... Moments later it flipped over and tossed the rider several yards into the road.. Of course I had no cell phone... so I drove to the next intersection and sat in the middle of the road blocking traffic (maybe not the smartest idea) until a car came by with a cell phone. We called 911 and the police came. As far as I know the driver was not seriously injured.. but in an interesting twist they pulled the helmet off to show that it was a woman with long blonde hair!! Va Va voom.. I was gonna go to her and sing "I can be your hero baby" by Enrique Iglesias.. but the song had not been written yet!! I called the hospital later that night and they said the woman was ok.. but that was all the info they were allowed to give out.

That night I decided it was time to buy a cell phone. There was a cell phone store nearby in Rahway that was always advertising free phones so off I went to buy a free motorola flip phone with a one year OmniPoint (which became VoiceStream and then T-Mobile) contract. Every year I waited till the anniversary date and proceeded to the store and bought a new free phone. That cell phone store expanded considerably from '99 until a few years ago. The last time I saw an ad they were down to 2 stores, but I haven’t seen one of their ads in quite some time, so I don’t know if they got swallowed up by the big cell phone company stores in the malls.

I never did care about the fancy shmancy phones and some of the ultra ultra orthodox rabbis have told their peeps to use only the "kosher" phones.. phones that are just phones and have no extras like texting and internet which might corrupt the young minds if they go online and see boobies or tushies. They might be right though.. I saw a cell phone that had a video of midget porn… Now I know what the mp stands for in mp3... Midget porn!

Then in 2004... I got this newfangled phone from AT and T Wireless (now Cingular)... It was the coolest phone I ever saw! It had a slider that opened up to a QWERTY keyboard.. and it even had an FM Radio.. how cool! But…it only worked for one day! I went back to the broker’s store but he couldn’t help me.. it was an ATT Wireless problem!! ATT Wireless had amazingly already discontinued the sale of my defective phone… but they had those popular nokia phones with bowling.. but they were out of 'em so they offered me a different one. They sent that phone.. it was that phone with the teeny buttons that was being used in the promotions for American Idol to get the little pishers to call in to vote.. but it was unusable and was a piece of crap! I called ATT Wireless again.. raised some hell.. and amazingly the Nokia phone was no longer out of stock.

I used that phone till Super Bowl Sunday 2005.. when Trophy Wife (who always had a cingular phone) went with me to the Cingular Store and we purchased his and hers Sony Erricson phones. It was the first time I ever paid for a phone!! I used the phone until last weekend and it was ok except the sony erricsons have problems with the batteries not staying firmly in place which causes the phone to shut off.

So I decided to spring for a phone with an mp3 player. I bought a PNY mp3 player from Tiger Direct recently with 256 mb for 36 bucks to use as my summer mp3 at the pool and the beach. It works fine.. but it goes through a triple a battery quite quickly. I decided the phone would be the post summer mp3 player. I was all set to buy a Motorola Sliver.. I had done all the research but I think the salesmen are paid to plug the new Samsung … because he convinced me to buy that because it costs less money plus it has more mp3 memory space! Of course I had to buy a memory card/chip too to store aforementioned music and podcasts.

I went home and while Trophy Wife fiddled with her Tom Tom to get directions to any possible place to drive to... I opened my cell phone box and realized... there were no headphones! How was I gonna listen to my mp3 player without headphones?? That’s like selling a toilet without a flusher!! I went on ebay late that night and found a guy selling a bunch of tcochkes really cheap so I bid and won. I was happy till the next morning when I went online and realized why you shouldn’t ebay late at night... I bought the wrong headphones.. But I got the right car charger!!!

I called Samsung and they said the headphones should have been included... but as it turns out Cingular removes them from the package so they can sell 'em separately. Much to my chagrin, Samsung didn’t have any for sale.. and the Cingular stores didn’t have them since they are so new. Well along came T Mobile to the rescue.. they had the headphones from the prior generation Samsung phone which actually fit this one.. so now I could listen to my tunes and podcasts!

However.. I had my chip but how do you get the chip in the computer?? Hmmm... Back I went to the store. this time to Office Max to buy the usb converter.. Thankfully that only cost me a measly 10 bucks. It also took time to familiarize myself with the chip and how it snaps into the phone and into the sleeve for the usb converter. If you buy the phone, plan to dedicate an hour to figuring out how to make this work.

I then took my PNY mp3 and copied all of the music into my computer and then copied them back into the new cellphone. Woo hoo.. I was so excited.. I could now play my music.. I went to the mp3 player but it was telling me that there were no files stored! And every time I tried to play the music.. nothing!

I went back to the Cingular store on Monday (and by the way I just learned never to write a blog column as an email from my laptop because I just inadvertently deleted everything from the ATT Wireless 2004 defective phone up to this paragraph!) and the salesman pointed out the music wasn’t playing because it was in wma format and it had to be converted to mp3 format! Luckily I went online and found a website called switch which allowed me to download a program that converted all my music from wma to mp3. I again loaded it into the phone.. and now I could play the song if I highlighted it in the memory card.. but not through the mp3.. Also any file with a title with more than 16 or 18 characters wouldn‘t play.. So... back to the drawing board... I shortened the offending titles.. but it still didn’t work. It turns out it will only work if the music is in a file called "music"... Then and only then... the mp3 will allow you to transfer the file from memory to mp3!

Well it took 4 days but I finally have it working.. I haven’t tried the camera or video storage yet.. but one thing at a time. Here is a brief recap of what you need to do if you buy this phone!

1. Don’t expect all the stuff you need to be in the box.
2. Buy the memory chip, the usb converter and the headphones... they wont be in the box...
3. Convert all of your files from wma into mp3 format. Check out the switch website to get the program for this.
4. Put all of the music in.. but shorten the long titles.. No Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band!
5. Transfer it into the file called "Music"
6. Go to the mp3 player and follow the prompts to import the music from the file into the mp3 player.
7. Thank me for saving you 4 days of aggravation!

In retrospect, the purchase of the tom tom and this phone remind me of those Apple commercials where they have a cool young hipster playing a Mac and a square geeky guy as the PC. They have a spot where the 2 guys are about to come out of the box and the Apple jumps right out and gets cooking while the pc sits there and sadly remarks all the steps that need to be done before he is ready to function. It might be a tongue in cheek ad for Apple.. But in reality I hear that the sliver with its built in I-pod… works instantly!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thoughts for Independence Day 2006

Happy Independence Day Everybody… I hope everybody is enjoying the long weekend!

For some reason MTV has been running marathons of its dating show “Next”… a program that I consider a train wreck.. You don’t want to watch it.. But you just can't keep your eyes off it. I think they actually stole the concept from me.. For years I have told "stressed out with relationship problems" single friends to adopt my famous mantra… “As the slumlord would say.. Time to move on to the next project” I think MTV stole the concept and just shortened the name.. Nonetheless… it makes for some fascinating background noise while writing this blog, following out of town baseball games online, and getting acquainted with my new cell phone which will be addressed later this week in Technology Shmecknology Part II.

The show has one person going on dates with 5 different people who sit in a trailer and have the most bizarre small talk conversations while the fifth person is on the date. They win a buck for every minute they survive, but if the person doesn’t like them,… they bellow out “NEXT” and the next person comes out for a date.. If the person likes one of these poor suckers they have a choice for a 2nd date or a dollar for every minute the date lasted. I’m sure many people wouldn’t mind a dollar for every minute they endured on a “date from hell”.

A few things stood out about the weekend marathon…. Aside from the incredible shallowness of the show’s participants. One woman who was white did NOT want a white guy… Guy #1 emerges from the trailer with flowers which she calls sappy and immediately hollered ‘NEXT”… Out came Guy #2 who was white, and when this woman saw him… not only did she NEXT him the second she saw him….. but she threw the flowers at the poor guy too!! There was also a girl who said she had lost 100 pounds and was on her first date ever, and you just prayed that she wouldn’t take the rejection too personally and start chowing down again.. But luckily the guy who NEXTed her was a mensch about it and she took it quite well. Finally, one guy was being teased for having man-boobs.. So at the end, the 4 rejected bimbettes chanted out… “Good luck with your man-boobs….” and one remarked off the cuff… “And your man-gina too” I never heard the word man-gina.. But I find it very amusing.. And somewhat fun to say!

I am very proud to be an American.. And July 4th is a very special day for me! It's also a wake up call that its been more than a month since Memorial Day, and there is only 2 months left till Labor Day, so there is still time to live it up! It's also meaningful since I am the son of an immmigrant who learned English and assimilated into American culture as soon as he was off the boat. This might be an odd concept since there are too many immigrants who don't care to learn English, and the illegal ones are now making a big deal that they deserve immunity!

Usually July 4th is a relatively quiet day news-wise except for the Bicentennial in 1976 which was also the same day as the Rescue from Entebbe. Tim McCarver also hit a grand slam on Bicentennial Day but passed a teammate on the bases and was stuck with a a single. The Mets also once played a game in Atlanta that had rain delays and went 19 innings and ended at 4 AM at which point they launched the annual fireworks show and scared the living daylights out of the local residents who thought the city was getting bombed. However it was a big day in 1826....

I wonder what it would have been like if CNN had been on the air back in 1826. July 4th was a huge news day!! Our 2nd President John Adams and 3rd President Thomas Jefferson both died on the very same day! I can only imagine the mid day coverage on CNN…. Lets say one of the back ups was anchoring… say Rick Sanchez.. Who knows… maybe Daryn Kagan has to take a day off because boyfriend Rush Limbaugh is in the news again. Good thing hes not NBA player Eddie Griffin who crashed his car last week for DWM.. Driving While Masturbating.

Here is a possible transcript from July 4th 1826.…180 years ago!!

RICK SANCHEZ; Welcome to CNN… Daryn Kagan is out today… In the news, much is being bandied about Rush Limbaughs horse and buggy being detained because he had some illegal medication geared towards his inability to get his shmeckle to perform. Lack of performance by the shmeckle is a growing problem.. Its apparently rampant in the frontier states.. And here to talk about why shmeckles can’t get the job done is CNN Health Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta…

GUPTA: Thank you Rick.. Shmeckles come in all shapes and sizes, whether excited or not excited. Unfortunately the Rush Shmeckle is like a deer frozen when confronted by a lantern of a frontiersman's horse. This is odd since he is dating my hottest co-worker although some could argue that Suzanne Malveaux is better looking. But what causes the shmeckle to fail as miserably as Rush Limbaugh’s and what can be done about it?

SANCHEZ; Sorry, Dr. Gupta, we have to interrupt for some breaking news.. Wolf Blitzer is standing by…

BLITZER: Yes, Rick, we here in the Situation Room are just getting word in right now that Former President John Adams… is dead! He died just a little while ago and we are expected to get an update soon from the Adams Family concerning the tragic death of our former President. I will be speaking with family spokesman Lurch later.. Apparently his last words were (and this is really true) “Jefferson still lives”…. a reference to his feud with fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Back to you Rick.

SANCHEZ; How sad.. To have a president die on the 4th of July… Its absolutely tragic… and a programming note… Tonight on Larry King Live.. a special looking back at the life and times of Former President John Adams… Larry will have a round table panel with the survivors who signed The Declaration of Independence 50 years ago today, and they will be discussing the former President and his life and times.. Again.. Former President Adams.. Has died. We will go to the weather in a moment but as we break for commercial and show you our new graphic and sad musical bed about the death of President Adams.. Wait a second.. Im just hearing we will be going back again to Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes Rick,… I am just getting word in my ear piece that former President Thomas Jefferson …. Is dead! The announcement has been confirmed at his estate by family spokeswoman and slave Weezie Jefferson.

SANCHEZ; Oh this is so tragic.. Both Jefferson and Adams are now.. Gone!! A programming note on this the 50th anniversary of the The Declaration of Independence, Larry King will host a 2 hour round table discussion about the deaths of these 2 founding fathers, and later tonight on Anderson Cooper 360, he will scold the surviving signers for lauding themselves, instead of getting medical attention for Adams and Jefferson!

Meanwhile MSNBC would be rerunning a taped Matt Lauer piece about the history of The View while the website would have some ass kicking coverage of the tragic events of July 4th 1826.

I also liked Benjamin Franklin… he was quite the genius… and thanks to a recent Star Ledger column for this nugget… apparently a reference to the multitudes of beans he ingested during the 1st 50 July 4th Barbecues! Besides discovering electricity with his discovery of the lightning rod.. He also created bifocal glasses.. The Franklin Stove and the odometer. I wish I knew this next bit of info when I was a kid when I had to write a paper about him… he also wrote an essay called…”Fart Proudly”… and this is a quote… “(I want) to discover some drug wholesome and not disagreeable to be mixed with our common food or sauces that shall render the natural discharges of wind from our bodies not only inoffensive but agreeable as perfumes.”

Way to go Benajmin Franklin! And... that might explain while some of the other signers looked kind of queasy when they posed for that infamous pic!

Happy 4th of July everybody!!