Can you handle Shaq's Big Challenge?

Since Kari doesn't have cable, sometimes I get sucked into her latest Network TV obsession. This past week, it was the debut of the new ABC show "Shaq's Big Challenge." The premise? Using skilled nutritionists and Shaq's, umm... Shaqness (I guess), six "morbidly obese" kids (all weighing somewhere between 180-220 lbs) aim to eat healthy, exercise, and as Shaq puts it, "save their own lives." I suppose it's the whole life-or-death thing that makes this a big challenge.

In the first ep, after Shaq personally visits each kid, he just sets up a gym and leaves to go do some press. The kids are left to their own devices. Obviously, as masters of their own training programs, they don't live up to Shaq's expectations. Shaq's personal trainer, whose biceps are bigger than his head, spies on the kids, then reports back to Shaq and basically tells him that the children are pathetic liars. Nice one, dude. Why don't you work on getting yourself back into proportion, OK?

Not so shockingly, this sets the scene for the next episode, where Shaq will likely start whipping the kids into shape using boot camp tactics. At the end, I felt a little sorry for these poor manipulated, overweight kids. I might even check in a few episodes later to see if they're making any progress...

Holy crap, all this new music...

After months of waiting and spending a lot of time in late 80s/early 90s (mostly West Coast) hip hop, I finally got a flood of music actually made this year. That's how it happens sometimes I guess. A few must-haves (White Stripes, Art Brut) a couple of great deals at my all-time favorite record store (Andrew Bird, Patrick Wolf, plus the "indie store only" DJ Shadow mix) and picked up the new Ted Leo after I sold back some old, unwanted CDs. I finally feel caught up with 2007 music. Well, almost.


Signs of life

Tuesday morning I woke up with a strange, minor sore throat feeling. Huh? In the middle of summer? Pfft. I shrugged it off and went to trivia night, drank a beer, relaxed. Felt a little worse coming home that night and by Wednesday morning felt like I'd been hit by a truck.

For the next two days I was bed-ridden, regaining consciousness long enough to watch several a few movies the critics loved but I wasn't crazy about. And the last couple of episodes of the Sopranos (just to see what the big deal was all about).

Now finally, at 10:45 on Thursday I've regained my motor skills enough to give you just a sampling of the cinema I was forced to watch from my sickbed:

Entrapment Terrible movie that sounded interesting at the time about a heist that takes place on December 31, 1999. The Catherine Zeta-Jones/Sean Connery pairing made about as much sense as the Catherine Zeta-Jones/Michael Douglas pairing. So many annoying plot twists, I was expecting Sean Connery to pull off a mask to reveal that he's actually Cathy Z-Jones.

The Deer Hunter Why did I watch this while I was sick? As someone in constant pain, I couldn't take this movie. It had two moods: totally depressing and hugely intense, and I couldn't take either. Plus the thing was 3 hours long. I understood what the film was doing, but I wasn't in any state to appreciate it. Especially for 3 hours.

Mystic River I really thought I'd like this movie, instead it just made me mad. Another depressing-as-hell flick that I really shouldn't have been watching while I was sick.

Fever Pitch Mostly harmless, mostly lame comedy with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Hey, after all that depressing crap, I had to find a light-hearted comedy, and it was this or Big Momma's House 2. This was a Farrelly Brothers comedy? I was strangely not grossed out. The choices for humor were a little puzzling however. Drew Barrymore gets a CAT Scan? Hilarious.

I'm pretty sure there were at least 3 more movies, but I'm still in a cold medicine-y haze, so I'm not sure. I don't think I've watched this many movies in such a short period in a long time. I think I need to get back to work...


Ronson Vs. The Sun

Once again I square off against a longtime enemy. This week it's Ronson vs. the Sun...

The background: I know that a lot of you might be rooting for the sun on this one. People are always talking about how the sun is so great and we need it to live and we could use it's energy to power cars or something, but let's get this straight: The sun is not that great. It's a giant fireball hanging in the sky ready to crush us at any second. One day, when we're not paying attention, the sun is just going to decide to collide into the earth really fast just for fun. Plus, those UV rays aren't doing us any favors. Totally overrated. Besides, I think it'd be kind of fun to live in perpetual darkness, ya know? Whatever. It's time to battle.

The battle: As a very pale person, I tend to be at extra risk if I'm out in the sun for any period of time, so I need to watch out. At the Red's game on Thursday I was lucky enough to have sunscreen (SPF 50 no less) provided to me by my good pals at the Diamond Club. I loaded up. Over the course of the game I covered my face, arms and neck twice to protect myself. That nasty, giant, ball of mostly hydrogen had other plans. I didn't have a mirror, so I was basically just slathering sunscreen wherever. I missed a spot, and that's when the sun took advantage.

The next day, I had an extra red spot just above my forehead. Very attractive. During a discussion about the incident it was agreed (and best put by Julie) that it looked like I'd been "punched in the face by the sun."

Winner: A draw. It could've been a lot worse. Also, the spot lasted about a day, before it basically disappeared. So, nice try, Sun! The winner of this match-up will no doubt be settled in a grudge match later this summer...


Big day at the Diamond Club

At the very last minute (about 2 hours before the game) our sales manager Jamie asked me if I wanted to join he and some customers (with an ad I designed) at the Reds game. The kicker was that the seats were for the "Diamond Club" and I just couldn't say no to that.

It was a lot of fun (even though the Reds blew a 2-run lead) and I even ended up on some of the highlight reels that night (though during the big moments, you don't really see me. During Griffey's home run, I'm letting Jamie back into his seat, and during the go-ahead run carnage, I was inside the club, cooling off.

Again, because of the short notice, I was armed only with my camera phone, so I tried to take what photos I could, but most of them turned out scary lookin'. Here they are anyway:

A view of my dessert while eating at the Diamond Club buffet. It appears to have one of those '80s video filters on it.
The view from my seat. Easily the best seat I'll have at a Major League Baseball game ever...
Me posing like a doofus before the game. My head looks like a smudge.

If you could see this at all, you'd understand very clearly that it's Griffey at bat. Note to self: don't use the zoom function on your camera phone.

By the 7th inning, I finally had gotten the hang of taking photos with the phone. Unfortunately the damage had already been done (the Angels had a 5-run 6th)...

So there you go! Experimenting with mobile blogging, so maybe all of this might be easier in the future...


Movies TV Books Music

A little update on the important things in life: The ways I entertain myself.

I had all the bases covered this week, so really quickly, here's the scoop:

Knocked Up

Like a good chunk of America, I went to see Judd Apatow's film about an accidental pregnancy and the zaniness that follows. I was actually surprised at how much I liked this movie given the relatively unknown (to me) cast and the subject matter. Some of the lamest movies in the world have been about having a baby. But I had faith in the writer/director of 40-Year Old Virgin and creator of a bunch of TV that critics loved but nobody saw and went anyway. I've got nothing else to say about it, but you should see it too.

I also recently rented Volver (excellent) and Tron. I've never seen Tron and I gotta say, I was hoping for a cheesefest. Unfortunately, the filmmakers knew enough of what they were doing, so instead of being corny, it was just boring. Don't get me wrong -- visually, the film is fascinating, but the story and characters are pretty weak. No offense to all those Tron fans out there...

Six Feet Under
With TV on summer hiatus, I finally got a chance to restart my obsession with Six Feet Under. I just finished up Season 3 (which means I still have two seasons to go) and was starting to get irritated with the turns the show was taking. A little too soap opera-ish some places (i.e., no one's relationship can be healthy or even just "good") to over-the-top others (Nate's storyline over the last few episodes). I'm hoping things will pick up in the 4th (I'm told they will) and that season 5 will be as good as I hear...

Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
After taking a break from reading about music (last year I read three music-related books in a row), I decided to take on the mother of all band books, Rip It Up And Start Again. It earns that title for writing about roughly 7 billion different bands over the course of 6 years and the span of 400 pages. 7 billion is an estimate. It's the freakin' Ulysses of band books.

While I'm aware of several of the bands covered here, its the scope that's daunting. One chapter will cover the post-hippie, pre-punk rock of San Francisco, another chapter will cover 2 Tone bands like Madness, The Specials, The Beat and even Dexy's Midnight Runners. I've read about everyone from Throbbing Gristle to Devo. Interesting stuff to a guy like me (sometimes), but I'm definitely going to take another break from music reading after glazing over this opus...

Eh, I talk about music here enough already. I am eager to check out new CDs from the White Stripes and Art Brut, both available June 19.

All for now...