Archive for March, 2011

Bracket of Brothers

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Every March, I open up my wallet and willingly throw money at my friends and family and whoever else invites me to fill out a “bracket” and participate in March Madness.  This year, I’ve got $20 in an office pool we called the Bracket of Brothers and $10 against my friend who refused to play until I sent him my bracket and his reply was, “I’m taking all the favorites.  Duke vs. Kansas, Kansas winner.”  The way I fill out a bracket is part superstition, partly distorted memory (Gonzaga comes to mind) and a huge part heart, I was a milisecond away from having my Illini take down Bill Self and Kansas to move to the sweet sixteen.

I’ll be in Hawaii for some of the games, so if my team’s alive, I’ll be screaming ILL-INI in a bar and if they’re out, I’ll be laying in the saltwater waves drinking away my sorrow.

Good luck and enjoy the Dance.

The Nanny Movie – Why?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

There seems to be an unwritten rule in Hollywood that wrestlers and martial artists and tough guys have to do a babysitting movie.  But why?

Almost without exception, these nanny movies are terrible.  The stars are playing against type, but that doesn’t make it funny.  They’re also surrounded by horrible, annoying, third-rate kid actors who don’t help the movie at all.  Here’s a list of these movies off the top of my head, starting with the one that inspired this post.  I saw the movie poster for this first one as I was leaving Wal-Mart a few minutes ago: The Chaperone with Triple H, then Mr. Nanny with Hulk Hogan, The Tooth Fairy and Game Plan with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kindergarten Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Pacifier with Vin Diesel, Cop and a Half with Burt Reynolds (if you need an old school tough guy), and The Spy Next Door and Robin-B-Hood with Jackie Chan.

The picture below should say it all.  Why guys?  Why?

David Gray in Detroit – A Prelude to the Oscars

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

When I got an e-mail from announcing the dates for David Gray’s Lost and Found Tour, I was upset. David Gray was coming to Chicago, but he was coming on Sunday February 27th, the night of the Academy Awards, a night I can’t miss, even for my favorite musician. So the choice was clear, I was going to drive up to Detroit to see David Gray the night before and rush back to get my house ready for the biggest turnout yet for my annual Oscar party.

It was surprisingly easy to find a driving partner and partner in crime for my one day mission to Detroit. My friend and ex-roommate Kevin is a huge D Gray fan, so the desire was there.  As far as the logistics, it helped that Kevin is a professional poker player on a crazy-late sleep schedule so the idea of making the five hour drive back to Chicago at 11 o’clock at night was nothing for him.  The drive to the event is always easy because of the anticipation and we made it even easier by listening to a bunch of David Gray and then finishing off the drive with two hours of The Ricky Gervais Podcast with me chiming in with a bunch of Karl Pilkington stories from his show An Idiot Abroad.

I keep hearing that Detroit doesn’t have a real downtown area, but whoever said that is dead wrong.  We parked our car next to Comerica Park where the Tigers play and near the Fox Theatre where Ke$ha was performing that night, too.  That must have been a real Sophie’s Choice moment for Detroit…David Gray or Ke$ha…hm.  Our show was at the Detroit Opera House which was a beautiful venue, much smaller than the Chicago Theatre (where I’ve seen David Gray before), but with a similar ornate-movie-theater decor.  I got screwed out of the pre-sale so Kevin and I bought 4th row broker tickets for well over face value, but they were definitely worth it.  This was the closest I’d ever been to David Gray and it made for a really great show because in Detroit, he was especially expressive and interacted with the audience throughout the whole performance.

This was one of the best shows I’ve seen Gray put on and after we clapped our hands off and the lights went up in the Opera House, I told Kevin, “Let’s follow his bus to Chicago.”

He looked at me like I was nuts, “No way, he’s going to stay the night here and drive to Chicago tomorrow.”

“He can sleep on the bus.  Let’s go.”  I worked him and worked him and eventually Kevin broke down and we parked the car about thirty yards from the tour bus and waited and waited for them to leave.  As we watched out the windows we saw a small group of teenage girls and middle aged men and women pool around outside the gates of the tourbuses and I started to realize that even better than following the bus, we might actually be able to get his autograph.

“Let’s go,” Kevin said, after another twenty minutes of waiting.

“No, wait, five more minutes.”

“Fine,” he said.

“Seven?” I asked.

Kevin shook his head and I knew I could only hold him for five more minutes.  We nearly spent these five minutes when I saw the group of teenagers jump up and down and scream and I knew he was there.  I grabbed a McDonald’s napkin and flew out the door.  A few seconds later I was standing in front of David Gray when I had a total Ralphie-in-front-of-Santa-Claus moment from A Christmas Story.  I totally froze.

“Who’s it to?” David asked me in his raspy voice.  Um.  Um.  All I could hear was Kevin shouting the name of one of my favorite songs in my ear, ‘The LightThe Light!’  He repeated himself, “Who’s it to?”

I finally got it out, “Jordan,” I told him.  Then I asked him about the song Kevin was yelling about (‘Football?  Football?  What’s a football?’ – Ralphie) “Do you ever play The Light in concert?”

He kept his head down writing and said, “Sometimes…sometimes.  Occassionally.”

“I’ll just have to keep seeing you then,” I said.  And then, “Not that I wasn’t happy with what you played tonight.  Great set.”  He just nodded and went on to sign the next autograph and the next and he stayed outside until everybody had a picture or signature.  As he finished up he grabbed his bottle of Heinekin back from his manager and turned back to his bus.  Right before he disappeared behind the gate I shouted out, “Thanks, David!  Great show.  Just great.  Thanks!”  He turned back and met my eye, and nodded with a small smile on his face.

Kevin and I got back in the car and we flew through Detroit to the outskirts, riding high on meeting our favorite musician, trying to find the safest place for our autographs in the road-trip-trashed front seats of his Corolla.  As good as I knew David Gray would be in concert, I never expected to meet my absolute favorite musician of all time that night.  My awesome girlfriend already framed the autograph (there’s nothing more dangerous than an autograph on a McDonald’s napkin, especially with my spring allergies on the way) and I just need to find the perfect spot for it in my house.  It’s definitely not going up until after my Oscar party Sunday, I’m not taking any chances with this one.  And here’s some advice if you ever meet your hero: Don’t pull a Ralphie.  Have something ready to say, just in case.  And check out The Light, it’s a great song.  Here is a link for a David Gray concert review I wrote for back in 2005:

Karl Pilkington – An Idiot Abroad

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Karl Pilkington is a man who can’t appreciate a meal until after he’s eaten it, for years he’s been keeping an eye on his pinkie fingers because he doesn’t think they do enough, and his idea of art is a mirror because the picture is always changing. Now, Karl Pilkington is lending his unique perspetive to world travel and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World on his show An Idiot Abroad.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of The Office and Extras, are calling An Idiot Abroad the most extravagent practical joke they could ever play on their friend Karl. It is worth every penny they spent. Initially, Karl was told the show would be called Karl Pilkington’s Seven Wonders and it wasn’t until he was already on the road and well until filming that Ricky Gervais sprung the new title on him. And the title is just the beginning of the joke. Karl is the most uncomfortable traveler you will ever see on TV as he struggles with his accomodations, the local customs and definitely the food. He spent a minute gagging on the worm at the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal in Mexico and trying to keep down cooked toad and vegetables in China. On top of that, he is completely underwhelmed by the Seven Wonders themselves. While in the stone-carved ancient city of Petra in Jordan, Karl said he wouldn’t like to live in the “Wonder” because he would have a terrible view. He would rather live in the cave across from the “Wonder” so he would always have a better view. That is the kind of unique thought that puts Karl somewhere between an idiot and a genius and what makes this show so successful.

Any other travel program tries to give the impression of a well-organized and smooth vacation. There are fixers on location to help the travel host navigate the new city comfortably and to make an informative program. In this respect, An Idiot Abroad, holds absolutely true to its mission statement. The point of the show is to make Karl uncomfortable and that is what you get so much of the time. To write any more would be to give away some of the best comedy on TV, but it would also take away from one of the better and more realistic travel shows on TV today. There is still the high budget and a ton of pre-planned adventures for Karl to experience, but simply becuase he gives an unpolished, unfiltered opinion on his trips, you get closer to the idea of what foreign travel can really be. It can be exhausting and overwhelming and broadening and enlightening all the same time and that’s the real wonder of travel. And watching Karl struggle through all of this every day of his trips is absolutely hilarious and completely endearing. He is a fascination and so is An Idiot Abroad.