Monthly Archives: September 2011

TV Show: Arrested Development

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“Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.  It’s Arrested Development.”

So began each episode of one of the funniest, smartest, and most unfairly treated shows in the history of television. That intro, spoken by executive producer and narrator Ron Howard, fairly sums up the premise of the show. With his father in prison for “light treason,” Michael Bluth (played by professional straight man Jason Bateman) must run the family company while trying to keep his spoiled family in line. It’s a premise ripe for comedy, and one that creator Mitch Hurwitz exploited to great effect. He was aided by one of the best comedic ensemble casts since Seinfeld, including star-making turns from Michael Cera and Will Arnett (whose character GOB remains one of the funniest sitcom characters of all time).

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However, despite Hurwitz’s best efforts and almost universal critical acclaim, Arrested Development never gained much of an audience during its original run. The show certainly wasn’t helped by its network, Fox, which regularly changed the night it aired, put it up against Monday Night Football, and even aired episodes of the mostly serialized comedy out of their proper order. During its third season the show saw its episode order cut from 22 to 13, and Fox unceremoniously dumped the final four episodes opposite the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

While rumors that the show would be picked up by another network never came to pass, the series has gained a second life on DVD and via Netflix instant streaming, and now has a massive cult following. A movie script is in the works, with all of the main cast said to be interested in returning.

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Travel: The Waldorf=Astoria Hotel

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You’ve stayed in those hotels where if you’ve seen one room, you’ve seen them all? That’s not how they do it at the Waldorf=Astoria. (And yes, that’s how it spells its name.) On Park Avenue in Manhattan you’ll find 1,413 spacious guest rooms and suites all individually designed and decorated. So if you don’t like the room you’re assigned, don’t despair. Chances are you’ll find the right one if you persevere.

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A little history is in order. (Don’t fall asleep, this is interesting.) Originally these were two hotels, the Waldorf (1893) and the Astoria (1897). Both were built by members of the Astor family. The original Waldorf stood on the site now occupied by the Empire State Building. (Interesting, right?) But when the action of the city moved north, so did the Waldorf=Astoria, and the new hotel – the world’s largest and tallest at the time – opened in 1931.

The hotel has not only entertained the world’s rich and famous, it’s also been home for some of them. Among the famous folks who’ve called the W=A home are former president Herbert Hoover, retired general Douglas MacArthur, inventor Nicolas Tesla, gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano, and composer Cole Porter (Great American Things, June 22, 2009).

Sports: Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Anxiety hasn't been classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. But the evidence is mounting. Uploaded by funcomputerbackgrounds.webs.com.

True confession to start: I’ve never won a fantasy football league. And the most embarrassing part is that I’ve really tried. I’ve studied before the season, bought several preseason magazines, subscribed to an online advice service, and paid attention to injuries and matchups throughout the season. And some guy who doesn’t know how Tom Brady does in Sunday night games vs. divisional opponents wins the league. It’s only a matter of time until I have an ulcer.

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In case you’re a fantasy football denier, the principles are easy. Ten to fourteen people form a league, and choose offensive players (well, they’re more offensive if they don’t score), a kicker, and a defense. Then a stat service provided by such organizations as ESPN or Yahoo! tracks how your players perform each week, and you win or lose depending on how your team does compared to that week’s opponent.

Some people can’t handle the stress. They have to get their stats in real time in order to gloat or fret. The worst is when your best fantasy player is up against your favorite pro team, and you find yourself hoping your pro team wins, but the score is 50-49, and your fantasy quarterback throws for 500 yards and seven touchdowns in the losing effort. Has the American Psychiatric Association classified Fantasy Football Anxiety as a legitimate disorder? I don’t think so.

But the evidence is mounting.

Music: Wolfman Jack

His voice was known throughout America due to his work at a Mexican border station that broadcast in 250,000 watts. Uploaded by blog.hummingburger.com.

Robert Smith. Let’s face it, if you’re Robert Smith and you want a career in radio, you’re going to change your name. You’re going to try “Daddy Jules,” in Newport News. You’ll see how “Big Smith” sounds in Shreveport. But you hear the legendary Alan Freed calling himself “Moon Dog,” and you like the singer Howlin’ Wolf, and one day it comes to you – “Wolfman Jack.”

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The Wolfman became a cult figure as a DJ on border stations in Mexico that broadcast in 250,000 watts – five times the legal limit in the U.S. The Wolfman’s trademark gravelly voice and howls could be heard all across the country. And because he wasn’t doing Saturday appearances at the local car dealership, his very absence helped create a shadowy presence – a disembodied voice of a man whom everyone knew, but seldom saw.

As his fame grew, Wolfman Jack became the voice (and sometime host) of the long-running Midnight Special music show. While his radio show was syndicated nationwide, he had his biggest moment playing himself in George Lucas’s wonderful American Graffiti. And appropriately, he’s in the National Radio and Broadcasting Halls of Fame. Here’s a great memory – the song “Clap for the Wolfman” as recorded by the Guess Who:

 

The Arts: New York City Ballet

The New York City Ballet is one of the featured organizations in America's pantheon of dance. Photo by Paul Kolnik, uploaded by nytimes.com.

If you want to establish the credibility of your dance organization, one method is to point to the company’s founders. In the case of New York City Ballet, that would be a couple of pretty decent choreographers – George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty darn impressed.

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I’m the first to admit that while I know (and care) next to nothing about ballet, I do admire any endeavor that rises to the top of its genre. New York City Ballet has certainly done that. Playwright John Guare said, “I think that every year that the New York City Ballet is alive is worthy of celebration. Because otherwise the terrible thing is just that we take it for granted. ”

This exceptional company doesn’t perform every month, so you’ll want to check their website (nybc.com) for its performance schedule. Or head to Lincoln Center in December (get your tickets early) for the company’s annual performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Can I give you one more great quote from John Guare? “I think of the New York City Ballet,” he said, “as the Yankees without George Steinbrenner.”