Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Living in Connecticut

It’s been a year since we moved to Connecticut from Illinois.
My impressions so far are pretty favorable. For starters, Connecticut is a beautiful state, with lots of forests, rivers, rock formations and nice beaches. The Constitution State also is steeped in history.
We’re living in the southwest corner of the state in Fairfield County, which is part of the Tri-State Region of New York City. New Canaan, Conn., is about an hour train ride to Grand Central Station when you catch an express.
We’re close enough to New York to experience a lot of interesting accents (Brooklyn, Long Island, etc.) On an outing to the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Conn., one stereotypical working-class New York City guy exclaimed to his family, “Hey, they got woofs over here. Look at the woofs.” He was referring to the wolves. My kids still get a kick out of that one.
We also have to put up with a lot of die-hard fans of the New York Yankees – the best team money can buy.
We went to a couple of games at the new Yankees Stadium this summer. We even saw Alex Rodriguez belt out his 598th home run on July 18. A-Rod hit his 600th home run on Wed. Aug. 4.
We also went to see Bridgeport Bluefish baseball game. The Connecticut team plays in an independent league.
For family outings, we enjoy the New Canaan Nature Center, the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk and the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.
We like to take visitors to Stew Leonard’s grocery story in Norwalk. It’s a bit like a theme park with animatronic farm animals and dancing dairy products and fruits. Plus, it has lots of fresh-made bakery items and other goodies.
I still haven’t been to New Canaan’s famed Glass House yet. (See photo below.) I’m saving that for some out-of-town guests.
We enjoy going to the beaches along the Long Island Sound, hiking at Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston, and going for walks at Mead and Waveny parks in New Canaan and the Dolce center in Norwalk. We’re looking forward to apple-picking season again soon, too.
New Canaan and surrounding towns like Darien, Greenwich and Westport are pretty tony. This is the Connecticut that outsiders think of – rich, snooty and lily white. (See Holy Taco’s parody state flag for Connecticut above.) But having been to other regions of the state like Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, Mystic, New Haven and Waterbury, I can tell you the people and characteristics of the state are pretty diverse.
But all is not perfect in Connecticut.
The cost of living here is high. Plus, it seems to rain a lot. And wind storms twice have knocked down trees, causing prolonged power outages.
Then there’s the annoying can and bottle deposits and no alcohol sales on Sunday (how retro). And don’t get me started about the ticks.
Worse yet, we haven’t found great local pizza or Chinese food.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Critic’s comment on ‘Inception’?

Was a movie theater employee trying to make a statement about director Christopher Nolan’s hit thriller “Inception” by leaving off the “c” from its title on the marquee? Or maybe it just fell off.
I snapped this photo last week of the marquee outside the Wellfleet Cinemas in Wellfleet, Mass. I assumed some wag was referring to the movie as “Ineption” to comment on the skills of the filmmaker.
Far from being “inept,” I thought “Inception” was brilliant. In the fine tradition of Spy magazine’s Blurb-o-mat, I’d say Inception is Christopher Nolan’s “Citizen Kane” and that star Leonardo DiCaprio is a lock for best actor at next year’s Academy Awards.
“Inception” got 87% positive reviews, according to movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Shedd responds to Fantasea show concerns

Recently I criticized the new Fantasea show at Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium as a tacky spectacle that put the esteemed Shedd in an unflattering light.
I called Fantasea an embarrassing mix of Cirque du Soleil and Sea World. Known for its animal care and preservation efforts, Shedd has gone completely commercial with the show, combining Vegas-style entertainment with performances by Pacific white-sided dolphins, Beluga whales, penguins, a sea lion and a red-tailed hawk.
I e-mailed my concerns to the folks at Shedd and Bill Tortorici, assistant director of membership at the Shedd, politely responded.
He said the Fantasea show was created in response to years of guest feedback.
“We’ve heard over and over again from an overwhelming majority of guests and supporters, that while we must continue to remain true to our mission and commitment to education and conservation, they would also like to see Shedd’s marine mammal presentation become a bit more entertaining,” he wrote Aug. 20.
Entertainment in education is fine, but not when it means turning such animal demonstrations into a three-ring circus. My point was that the Shedd could have those animals do the same things for the audience without the light and sound show and silly costumes and sets.
I got the feeling that Tortorici had answered concerns like mine before. Hopefully he is getting lots of complaints about the show.
“We will continue to evaluate the show to ensure it is meeting the needs and desires of our more than 2 million guests and 45,000 member households,” he wrote. “I guarantee you the show will continue to evolve over time, and new shows are planned for the future as well.”
I can only hope that the Shedd makes the show and future ones more about education and less about Broadway theatrics.

Photo of Fantasea from a gallery by the Chicago Tribune.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Web surfers are lazy and stupid

Judging from the July search data from Experian Hitwise, web surfers are a lazy bunch. And stupid too.
The top 10 search terms for the month of July are all frequently visited websites that Internet users could easily bookmark on their browsers.
Facebook accounts for four of the top 10 search terms – Facebook, Facebook login, Facebook.com and www.facebook.com, according to Hitwise.
That last one floors me. Why search for www.facebook.com, when the search result is going to be www.facebook.com?
Most likely people are mistakenly typing that into a search query box on their browser instead of the address bar.
But still, it’s the No. 9 most-searched-for phrase. So a lot of people are making the same mistake. That’s sad.
As for the other search terms, in most cases, all people have to do to get to those websites would be to type .com after the name in the URL address bar. How hard is that to do?
Other top search terms include YouTube, Craigslist, MySpace, eBay, Yahoo and Mapquest.
Searches for Facebook accounted for at least 3.7% of all Internet searches in the last four weeks, Hitwise reports.

Most popular porn performer names: Nikki and Tony

The folks at Internet Adult Film Database recently sorted their database for me to come up with the most common stage names of porn performers.
The most popular female performer first name is Nikki, while Tony is tops with male performers. Nearly 200 porn actresses (195) have taken the name Nikki, while 549 porn actors have used the name Tony.
The most popular last name for porn actresses and actors is Lee. It’s used by 293 actresses and 174 actors in adult films.

Top 20 most popular porn performer names

(Number of performers who’ve used the name in parens)

First name, female:

Nikki (195)
Lisa (185)
Jessica (179)
Angel (168)
Kelly (164)
Michelle (160)
Victoria (152)
Nicole (150)
Vanessa (146)
Cindy (139)
Jennifer (136)
Anna (135)
Samantha (134)
Tina (130)
Laura (128)
Sabrina (128)
Linda (127)
Monica (124)
Gina (123)
Tiffany (122)

First name, male:

Tony (549)
John (535)
David (531)
Mike (496)
Steve (461)
Michael (459)
Mark (438)
Chris (405)
Peter (391)
Alex (377)
Rick (351)
Jason (344)
Jack (324)
Tom (311)
Paul (303)
Johnny (301)
Joe (300)
Eric (295)
Scott (293)
Nick (281)

Last name, female

Lee (293)
Love (191)
Rose (140)
Lynn (135)
Moore (128)
Taylor (123)
Lane (108)
Star (100)
James (98)
Black (98)
Sweet (98)
Blue (97)
Starr (94)
Fox (90)
Marie (87)
Jones (81)
Stone (79)
White (69)
Smith (67)
West (65)

Last name, male

Lee (174)
Taylor (170)
James (169)
Johnson (160)
Scott (159)
Michaels (157)
Stone (153)
Jones (143)
Black (140)
Thomas (133)
Hunter (125)
Williams (124)
Stevens (118)
Adams (117)
Long (115)
West (114)
Boy (112)
Davis (109)
Steele (105)
Knight (102)

Photo: Adult film actress Nikki Benz

Funniest porn performer names: George Costanza’s ‘Buck Naked’

On the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” (1989-98), George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, revealed that if he were a porn star, his name would be “Buck Naked.”
But George would be disappointed to learn that someone beat him to it. A search of the Internet Adult Film Database shows that a male porn actor used the name between 1997 and 2001.
Male adult film performers tend to choose names that connote strength and rigidity. Common last names include Steel (or Steele), Powers, Spears and Wood, according to the IAFD.
Female adult film performers often choose names that attempt to convey class and wealth. Some pick stage names with luxury brands like Armani, Porsche, Lexus, Mercedes, Dior, Chanel and Versace. Others rip off celebrity names like Jolie, Pitt, Spears, Monroe and Bardot.
But other women in porn choose names that sound like stripper or white trash names. They include Angel, Brandy, Candy, Honey, Jade, Roxy and Tiffany.

20 funny names used by porn actors

Antonio Benderass
Seymore Butts
Justin Case
Julius Ceazher
Erik Everhard
Buster Good
Jack Hammer
Sledge Hammer
Miles Long
Rod Majors
Biff Malibu
Michael Meatman
Buck Naked
William H. Nutsack
Wesley Pipes
Dick Rambone
Rod Rockhard
Arnold Schwartzenpecker
Jake Steed
Colt Steel

30 funny names used by porn actresses

Jayla Bate
Deja Blew
Sasha Brabuster
Candy Cantaloupes
Naughtia Childs
Loretta Clitora
Destiny DeMoore
Jewel De'Nyle
Justa Dream
Ericka Everest
Sana Fey
Heather Hooters
Debi Jointed
Jessica Juggs
Kayla Kleevage
Star E. Knight
Nikki Knockers
Peaches LaRue
Heaven Leigh
Boo D. Licious
Honey Mellons
Naudia Nyce
Cherry Poppens
Penelope Pumpkins
Felicity Shagswell
Frenchie Sinclair
Natasha Skinski
Strokahontas
Lotta Topp
Veronica Velour

Photo: “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander as George Costanza and adult film actor Buck Naked

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shedd Aquarium’s Fantasea show is an embarrassment

On a recent trip back to Chicago, I took my family to the Shedd Aquarium. We’ve been members of the Shedd for years and have always enjoyed exhibits such as the Wild Reef and Caribbean Reef.
We also liked to see the dolphin show at the Oceanarium. But in the year since we moved away from the Windy City, the Shedd has opened a new show at the Oceanarium called Fantasea.
Gone are the demonstrations of dolphin care, feeding and training. In their place is an embarrassing mixture of Cirque du Soleil and Sea World.
The Oceanarium used to show off the aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins without exploiting them. Now the dolphins, Beluga whales, a sea lion, some penguins and a red-tailed hawk are paraded out to do tricks amid loud music and costumed performers. It’s a sad spectacle.
A review in Time Out Chicago does a great job summing up my concerns with the show, which the Chicago Tribune says cost $14 million to produce. What a waste. That money should have gone to new exhibits or for fish food.
I’m especially sensitive to how the Shedd’s animals have been turned into entertainers after watching the excellent documentary “The Cove.”
Even putting aside my concerns about the treatment of these animals, Fantasea is a lame show. It left me shaking my head in disbelief several times.
Shedd should do the right thing and end this production. I’m ashamed to be a member now.
At the very least, it should strip away all the theatrical elements of the show. Just show the animals in as natural a setting as possible.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Forgotten TV shows I’d like to see available on DVD or Internet streaming

Here’s my top 10 list of good TV shows not available on DVD:

1. Harry O (1974-76)
2. Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)
3. The Word (1978)
4. Brimstone (1998-99)
5. Cupid (1998-99)
6. Robbery Homicide Division (2002-03)
7. Karen Sisco (2003)
8. Miss Match (2003)
9. Ashes to Ashes (2008-10)
10. Cupid (2009)

Harry O

“Harry O” was a private detective show starring David Janssen (“The Fugitive”). Janssen played Harry Orwell, a San Diego cop forced into early retirement after taking a bullet to the back. To support himself, he works as a private investigator.
The critically acclaimed show ran for two seasons on ABC, with two pilot movies and 44 hour-long episodes. (The movies were “Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On” and “Smile, Jenny, You’re Dead.”)
Guest stars included Farrah Fawcett, Jodie Foster, Cab Calloway, Sal Mineo, Anne Archer, Robert Loggia, Roddy McDowall, Kurt Russell and Martin Sheen.

Rich Man, Poor Man

“Rich Man, Poor Man” was a mini-series that aired on ABC in 12 one-hour episodes. It was the first event program of its type and the forerunner for similar literary adaptations such as “Roots.”
It was based on the best-selling 1970 novel by Irwin Shaw and starred Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte and Susan Blakely.
The U.S. DVD release is scheduled for Sept. 28.

The Word

“The Word” was a CBS mini-series based on the novel by Irving Wallace and starring David Janssen. The plot revolves around the discovery of a new gospel purportedly written by Jesus’ younger brother James. Janssen played a public relations executive hired to find out if the document is authentic or a hoax.

Brimstone

“Brimstone” starred Peter Horton as a dead police detective on a mission from the Devil (John Glover) to return 113 spirits who have escaped from Hell to Earth.
Only 13 episodes of the Fox show were aired.

Cupid

“Cupid” (1998-99) was a comedy-drama series created by Rob Thomas (“Veronica Mars”). It starred Paula Marshall as Dr. Claire Allen, a Chicago psychologist who is given charge of a man named Trevor Hale, played by Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”). Hale believes he is Cupid, sent down from Mt. Olympus by Zeus to connect 100 couples without his powers, as a punishment for his arrogance.
Fifteen episodes of the ABC series were filmed and one was unaired, according to Wikipedia.

Robbery Homicide Division

“Robbery Homicide Division” was a police drama executive produced by Michael Mann (“Miami Vice”). It starred Tom Sizemore as Lt. Sam Cole leading a detective squad dedicated to solving the L.A.’s worst crimes.
Thematically, the CBS show is reminiscent of Mann’s film “Heat.” Stylistically, Mann used “RHD” as an opportunity to test out the high-definition digital cameras he would later employ to great effect when shooting “Collateral,” according to Wikipedia.
The show lasted 13 episodes.

Karen Sisco

“Karen Sisco” was an ABC series about a fictional U.S. marshal created by novelist Elmore Leonard. Carla Gugino played Sisco, a role first played by Jennifer Lopez in the movie “Out of Sight.”
Ten episodes were filmed.

Miss Match

“Miss Match” starred Alicia Silverstone as an attorney who doubles as a matchmaker. The comedy-drama was co-created by Darren Star, who also did “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Sex and the City.”
The NBC series filmed 18 episodes but only eight aired in the U.S., Wikipedia says.

Ashes to Ashes

“Ashes to Ashes” is a time travel and period police show created by the BBC. It tells the story of Alex Drake, a female police officer in London who is shot in 2008 and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981. It serves as the sequel to the BBC’s “Life on Mars.”
It ran for three seasons, spanning 24 episodes.

Cupid

“Cupid” (2009) was a reboot of the 1998-99 series by creator Rob Thomas for ABC. The revival starred Bobby Cannavale as Trevor Pierce, who may or may not be Cupid the god of love, and Sarah Paulson as his psychiatrist.
It did even worse than the original, lasting just seven episodes.

These are all noteworthy shows deserving of a release on DVD or, at least, made available for online streaming.

Update: Please check out my Nov. 19, 2014, article on 14 notable TV shows not available on DVD.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Many good TV shows locked in studios’ vaults

While thousands of movies and TV shows have been released on DVD or made available for streaming, a great many more are locked away in studio vaults.
The most popular Hollywood movies and television shows have been digitized and preserved on DVD and Blu-ray Discs. For those videos, producers can be assured of a return on their investment.
But older films and TV shows with, at best, a cult following have a less clear future.
The digital utopia of every movie ever made available over the Internet whenever and wherever you want seems more like a fantasy now.
The truth is that it can be expensive to clean up and digitize old movies and TV shows and prepare them for online streaming. And finding copies of some content can be difficult. Then there are issues associated with securing the proper rights to stream them. It’s a lot of work, as Netflix executive Ted Sarandos told me recently.
The website TVShowsOnDVD.com has a running list of the most popular TV shows not yet available on DVD. These shows aren’t available online either, as far as I know.
Here is the list of the most sought-after unreleased TV shows, based on user votes at TVShowsOnDVD.com:

The 10 most requested shows not yet on DVD

1. The Wonder Years (1988-93)
2. Batman (1966-69)
3. Salute Your Shorts (1991-92)
4. The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78)
5. Ed (2000-04)
6. Hey Dude (1989-91)
7. Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place (1998-2001)
8. China Beach (1988-91)
9. Homefront (1991-93)
10. You Can’t Do That on Television (1979-90)

The release of “The Wonder Years” on DVD is being held up by the high cost of securing the music licensing rights. The show, set in 1968-73, featured a lot of popular period music. For instance, its theme song is Joe Cocker’s cover of the Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
The campy Adam West “Batman” series is caught in various rights disputes. Fox owns the TV footage, but Warner Bros owns the characters and trademarks, via its ownership of DC Comics. To release the show on DVD, Fox also needs to get the permission of on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent. Home video wasn’t a consideration when the contracts were written for the original TV series.
“The Six Million Dollar Man” is available internationally on DVD, but not in the U.S. Those foreign editions won't work on U.S.-coded DVD players. But Time Life expects to release the entire series in the U.S. in November.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

‘Broken’ TV series offer big opportunities and challenges for Netflix

Online movie rental service Netflix scored a lot of headlines this week with its deal to stream movies from Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM.
But Netflix is pursuing more than just recent Hollywood movies for its streaming video service. It’s also going after older content, including TV shows and movies. After all, 70% of the movies that Netflix rents today are older content, not new releases, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix.
In a recent interview for a story on over-the-top TV, I asked Sarandos whether Netflix was pursuing TV shows that maybe lasted a season or two and aren’t available on DVD or anywhere else for that matter.
“We love those,” Sarandos said. “We’ve got a ton of energy going after those broken series that only lasted a season or two. And there’s literally no business model for those. They can’t syndicate them. Sometimes they come out on DVD. That’s it. ‘Arrested Development’ is a great example of that. Three seasons and out. And it’s one of the most watched shows on Netflix.”
I’ve written previously about shows that I’d like to see available for streaming, including “Harry O” (1974-76), “Brimstone” (1998-99) and “Robbery Homicide Division” (2002-03).
If those shows are just sitting in vaults gathering dust, what’s the holdup in acquiring them for streaming?
“We have to figure out what we want. And nobody is actively selling them either. So we have to find out who owns the rights and try to work out a deal,” Sarandos said.
Sometimes it’s hard to find tapes of the shows in question, he said. Some studios are sophisticated about managing their libraries and some are not, especially on the TV side, he said.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Media reports wrong about first 3-D porn movie

Ever since James Cameron’s 3-D science-fiction epic “Avatar” broke box-office records, media outlets have been writing stories about the first 3-D porn movies to be produced in its wake.
Unfortunately they keep making the same mistake: calling those films the first 3-D porn movies ever. They’re not.
By my count, there have been at least 17 hard-core porn movies filmed in 3-D. I got that number from searching the Internet Adult Film Database and Adult DVD Empire.
IAFD lists the first 3-D porn movie as “Sexcaliber” (1982). There also were some soft-core nudie flicks in 3-D released earlier, including “The Stewardesses” (1969).
This week, Agence France-Presse and TG Daily reported that the world’s first 3-D porn movie was in production in Hong Kong. It’s called “3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy.” But as I just pointed out, it’s hardly the first 3-D porn movie.

Here's a list of 3-D porn movies released 2001-2010:

Erotek Dimensions 3D (2001)
Teen Beauties in Heat (2003)
The Naked Truth (2003)
Dark Dimension (2003)
FantaDream 3D (2005)
Reach Out and Touch Me (2005)
Screw My Wife Please in 3-D (2007)
I Cream for Teens (2007)
Pinks (2007)
Cummin' At You (2008)
Rack-O-Rama (2008)
MILF Memoirs 3D (2010)
Octopussy 3-D, a XXX parody (2010)
The Virtual Reality Stimulator in 3D (2010)
Pornstar Fantasies 3-D (2010)
Killer Kurves 3-D (2010)
Porno 3D Movies (2010)
This Ain't Avatar XXX (2010)

Monday, August 9, 2010

My smoking hot Twitter followers

Occasionally I like to give a shout-out to my beautiful lady followers on Twitter.
More than just smoking hot women, they are all readers with impeccable taste. Why else would they be following my infrequent Twitter posts?
Could it be that they're marketing something or trying to get me to follow them in return? I doubt that. I choose to believe that they love my ramblings on pop culture and overall juvenile outlook on life.
And denial is a river in Egypt.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Barack Obama Looking At Awesome Things: A treat from Bearsharktopus-Man

The series of photos “Barack Obama Looking At Awesome Things” always gives me a chuckle.
The set of Photoshopped images has the president inspecting such geeky items as Master Chief’s helmet from the “Halo” video games and Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. The fictional items are presented as if they were real (and likely top secret) and Obama is now getting to see them because he’s president of the United States.
Funny stuff.
They’re the work of comics artist Dean Trippe and can be found on his website Bearsharktopus-Man and his Flickr page. Trippe is a terrific artist, specializing in superheroes, and has a great sense of humor. Check out his work on his blog.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Business executives, politicians, journalists go ‘all in’ on new cliché


The poker term “going all in” is sweeping the worlds of business and politics.
Corporate and government leaders have adopted the phrase as a folksy way to express how totally committed they are to a project or strategy. In poker, when players go “all in” they are betting all the chips they have left on the table.
Microsoft executives used to say they were “betting the company” on a new initiatives like Windows, the Web or Internet services. But now they’re saying they’re “all in” on cloud computing. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first used the “all in” phrase for the company’s cloud computing efforts in March and has repeated it since, including at an event last week.
“We’re all in,” Ballmer said March 4 in a speech about Microsoft’s commitment to cloud computing.
A search on Google shows that the expression “all in” has really caught on in the last year or so. (See above chart. Click on it for larger view.) You see the phrase online as “going all in,” “gone all in” and “goes all in.”
It seems to have started with business leaders and then caught on with the media and politicians.
Media reports have had EMC going all in with cloud computing, HP going all in with Palm’s WebOS for tablet computers, Motorola going all in with Google’s Android mobile operating system, and DreamWorks Animation going all in on 3-D movies.
Also, President Barrack Obama has gone all in with his budget, comic Seth Meyers went all in as host of the Espy Awards, Warren Buffett has gone all in on railroads, and various sports teams going all in with certain player trades.
In poker, going all in is a risky strategy. If business executives and others keep saying “all in,” they run the risk of sounding clichéd.


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