Saturday, August 28, 2010

Steve at the Emmys

I'm reporting to you LIVE! from Hollywood ... Florida.

Actually, I'm 20 minutes north of Hollywood ... Florida, but I should be in Hollywood, California. We all know I am Mr. TV. I am more qualified to vote on the Emmys than most of the real voters are. Emmy voters decide on submitted episodes, not an entire season, which is dumb. Imagine Oscar voters deciding on Best Picture based on a ten-minute clip.


So with the annual television awards set for tomorrow, it's time to for me to make the final word on who will win and who should win.

Best Actor in a Comedy Series

Who Will Win: Jim Parsons, Big Bang Theory. As a CBS employee I am contractually obligated to choose this hilarious actor.

Who Should Win: Larry David. C'mon. Just give him this one. He's willing to milk his real-life divorce for comedy. People like Parson's snobby nerd character, and he provides some new blood, so I think he takes it. Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell didn't have very memorable seasons.

Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Who will win: Tina Fey, 30 Rock. Once the Emmy voters take a liking to someone, they never stop. Kinda like stalkers that way.

Who should win: Tina Fey, 30 Rock. I must admit, I really don't have a vested interest in this one. Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie? Never seen it, don't want to. Glee? Yeah right. Maybe Amy Poehler can pull this one out, but who watches Parks and Recreation?

Best Comedy Series

What will win: Glee. The buzz around this show is enormous. They sing! They dance! There's a love square! The Emmy voters won't be able to resist, not when 30 Rock had a bit of a down year.

What should win: Curb Your Enthusiasm. 30 Rock was good, not great. The Office was mediocre at best. And I don't care about the other shows, so this one is easy. Curb gave us a Seinfeld reunion we've all been waiting for as well as an alternative ending to the series. It worked brilliantly.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Who will win: Michael C. Hall, Dexter. He's won all the other awards and I think he continues to do so here in what is an absolutely stacked category. Dexter had a phenomenal season and to honor Hall for the classic character he's created would not be a crime.

Who should win: Jon Hamm, Mad Men. This was a tough, tough one to pick. Matthew Fox turned Jack Shepherd into a lovable martyr. Bryan Cranston took Walter White on his final steps into full Heisenberg mode and continues to amaze the hell out of me. He also has a great last name and has won the past two awards in this category. Kyle Chandler makes me wish I played football for Coach Taylor. Hall fools you into liking a serial killer. But Jon Hamm gets the all-important Sears nod for finally bringing the iconic shadow that is Don Draper into the sunlight last season. His work in The Gypsy and the Hobo cinches the trophy for me.

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Who will win: Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife. Have never seen a second of this show. Just going with the conventional wisdom here. January Jones gets undue flack for her acting. She does a good job with a character,but that good job is with a character who Mad Men could do without, so I don't see her winning. Glenn Close has a chance because she's an Emmy favorite, but Damages is on the back-burner for most people, unfortunately.

Who should win: Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights. It's about time she gets recognition for what is the most realistic depiction of a married woman, mother and teacher you'll ever find on TV. She doesn't need to chew scenery. She's just unflinchingly authentic in every scene. She has almost zero chance of winning, but I would love to hear her name called Sunday night. I'm rooting for her.

Best Drama Series

What will win: Mad Men. Like with the West Wing and James Spader, once the Emmy voters give you one award, it's like they feel obligated to keep it going. Mad Men is tough to resist. Impeccably acted and amazingly evocative of an America on the precipice of colossal societal change, it couldn't be more award-attracting if it were a old British actress at the Oscars.

What should win: Breaking Bad. While I like Mad Men plenty, season three had a lot of episodes where nothing happened at all. It hit several home runs towards the end, but that can't cover up for some clunkers that came before. Meanwhile, Breaking Bad offered one of the greatest seasons of episodic television in history. One Minute, Half Measures and Full Measure should have plaques in the TV Hall of Fame. Walter White's final descent into the criminal underworld, and the resulting corruption of Jesse Pinkman that can never be taken back, resulted in the best season the show has had and the best season of any show I've watched this year. Frankly, this is not even close. Mad Men will win, but Breaking Bad is much more deserving.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How the other half lives

I am on the 80-year-old man schedule.

At 4 a.m., with the sun yet to rise, I awake to prepare for the hustle and bustle of another day in the rat fast-walk. With the help of some Red Bull and intestinal fortitude (for which I am famous) I manage to keep my eyes open long enough to last until 2 p.m.

Then I get home and feel like napping the rest of the day. Perhaps, if the will arises, I will watch the beginnings of a sporting event on TV until I decide to call it a night anywhere between 9:30 and 11 p.m.

I have the same routine as my dad. He's 78.

This new life - the life of a regular, sunlight-enjoying worker bee - has been eye opening. I'm like Ryan Atwood staying in the guest house of the well-to-do Cohens. I have no idea how I got here, but I'm thankful for the opportunity. And I'm brooding about my inner-pain.

Look at all the things my release from the night prison has allowed me to do.

First, I was able to attend a Goo Goo Dolls concert. Yes, the Goo Goo Dolls are still rocking the adult alternative charts. Switchfoot even opened for them. There was a guy with a t-shirt that said, "Boobies make me smile." The crowd groaned audibly whenever one of the Goos said the following words: "Here's a new song ..." All those people enjoying themselves on a sweltering Miami evening ... and little ol' me accompanied them. On a Saturday no less!

Then on Sunday, I saw a matinee showing of Inception. I enjoyed all the thought that must have went into that film. And I saw where the ending was going to go in general terms. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was not buried in an avalanche of baseball recaps. Instead, I sat next to a large man with a keg of popcorn. The real life.

I wake up on the weekends and feel the mid-morning sun and realize I have a whole day to waste, instead of just half of one.

And then I relaxed in the sauna that is the 6 p.m. Florida heat and finished the Lisbeth Salander trilogy. I admit I was sad to say goodbye to those quirky, kinky, coffee-swilling Swedes. I felt like they were true friends and when I read the last words I teared up a little, as if I were giving a goodbye hug at an airport.

So there you have it. A honest weekend in South Florida, my first since November of 2006, before Barack Obama ruined the earth with his Islamic socialism and Asante Samuel ruined my dreams with his dropped interception. A full week of semi-normalcy.

Granted, as a result of my early early EARLY bird hours, I am currently drooling all over my Toshiba and my eyelids weigh more than Albert Haynesworth (hey-o!), but it's a price I'm willing to pay.

As long as I have my Red Bull.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The surrender

I'm a Twitter-er. Sigh.

My overlords at CBS strongly suggested we all join Twitter. It's the future, you know? I need to know the latest BS rumors about baseball trades and I need to see athletes murder the English language day after day, minute after minute. So I gave in after years of Twitter-phobia and joined.

You can find me at Evenflow226.

I've only been on for a few hours and already Twitter is annoying me. Every time I click on something, I get the "Secure Connection" warning, on both my home and work computers. And I'm following MLB so does that mean I have to see every single person's re-tweet or whatever it's called?

Ah, whatever. It's late. I'll look into it more tomorrow after I fall asleep drenched in my tears of shame.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Soundgarden is back. It must be 1994

I would have paid a lot of money to see Soundgarden at Lollapalooza. Lots of money. Superunknown is firmly ensconced in my top five albums of all-time list. Chris Cornell, in this WBRU-weaned music critic's opinion, had the best voice of any rock singer I've ever heard.

So it was with great interest that I read reports from the band's reunion show at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Of course I was too lazy and cheap to even consider flying out there to see them and when they were still together and touring, I was but a lost little kid who kinda liked classical music and had no interest in "grunge."

The next best thing? Watch clips on YouTube. Like Bill Belichick I've been secretly eying videotape the past few nights to construct a scouting report on one of the best bands of the 1990s. I'll probably never see them live, so this would be the next best thing.

And it's tough to say this ... the guys disappointed me. I understand I can't put too much stock in crappy YouTube clips of a rock concert, but Chris Cornell looked to be going through the motions. Check out this clip of Black Hole Sun. Surely he's not going to prance around stage like Lady Gaga or even Billy Joe Armstrong. That's not his style. And of course most of Soundgarden's songs are about sunny topics like drug abuse, depression, mania and suicide, so he won't be waving his hands in the air like there aren't any repercussions.

It's the way he sung it, like he was racing through the lyrics. Cornell is in his mid-40s. It's going to be tough to bring the same passion to his songs, the same passion I heard in those albums. And just like an quarterback's arm or a sprinter's legs, talents fade over time, like a singer's voice. I heard Cornell live when I saw Audioslave and his voice was scratchy. I've seen Eddie Vedder four times live and he's not anywhere near his Ten or Vs. level.
Good ol' Eddie was never bored, though.
All that KISS BS with fireworks and facepaint is just a cover for bad music. Great bands don't need that fluff and I don't expect it from Soundgarden. Just play the songs hard and with passion. Perhaps I'm just being ornery today. Perhaps work has finally turned me into the bitter old man I'm destined to become. They just didn't sound great.

All this being said, I would have lost my mind when the first chords to Black Hole Sun undulated through Grant Park. And I would have loved the show, just because I actually saw Soundgarden perform live. YouTube just can't do it justice. Even Chris Cornell at 50 percent is better than most.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kinda like 1984, but different.

I've hesitated about doing this for a long time, but I figured "Why not?"

While some people like to smoke pot or go to Disneyland for fun, I like to write. Yeah, I find it enjoyable. Sometimes, anyway. In the summer after my senior year of high school I started writing a story that was inspired by my reading of 1984. I basically wanted to do a dystopia-type novel on a draconian future American school. I named it Pennyroyal Tea because the Nirvana song seemed very apporpriate for what I wanted to convey.

Ever since that summer, I've been working on it off and on. I've finished it several times, but then I always go back and change a bunch of things. It's about as finished as it will ever be.

Since it'll probably never see the light of day anyway, I supposed posting some parts of it here can't hurt. Here's the beginning few pages. Enjoy it or if you're Zach, fall asleep to it.

Chapter 1

Just follow 1593.

She lined up behind a short, frumpish girl with braided black hair that stopped short at the shoulders. Now all 1594 had to do was stand behind this girl, mimic 1593’s movements, keep her own head straight up, her shoulders back and her mouth closed.

Half-an-hour earlier during the school orientation, Erica Windon dozed off while a never-ending cadre of school officials approached the central podium and preached whatever it was that they preached. She did not know or care about what they said because a slideshow of her favorite band, Morality, reeled through her mind instead. A pop band comprised of five wholesome, young men, the group sang righteous, melodic tunes about teenage romance, familial bonds and charity towards others. Most of all, they were hot. She fancied Shane in particular - the black-haired, pointy-jawed rebel with a heart of gold - and she paid all her attention to his visage that morning, that body of stone bursting through a skin-tight, black leather jacket, that stubble of facial hair peeking out from his strong chin. All for her and her alone. He looked straight at her – right through her – and he ignored everyone else. She tried to hide her proud smile.

Once the presentations finished, all the freshmen of High School stood up and marched with militaristic precision out of the Gopher Industries Memorial Auditorium (GIMA). Erica had no idea where to go so, as she had done all morning, she tailed 1593. Her shepherd, dressed in white dress pants and a white suit jacket like every other freshman, guided Erica to her current location in a lifeless room nestled in the southwest corner of the first floor.

1592, a pale little red-headed boy with a nervous twitch in his left arm, conversed with a man at a rectangular table set up in front of the room, but Erica paid them short shrift. She surveyed her surroundings instead, swashed in a whirlpool of white. To her left sat 50 students dressed exactly alike except with different faces. Even then, the distinctions seemed immaterial. Most sported white skin, white outfits and they sat on bright white chairs which rested on a cloudy white-tiled floor. The table for which she waited dutifully in line was topped with pearl-white plastic and contrasting black computer screens.

1592 finished and walked to his left to another white table where a group of three elderly ladies administered to him. Erica hung her head and stared at the floor, blocking out the booming, masculine voice that shot a shiver through the entire room. She did not have many talents, but she could tune out the outside world almost at a moment’s notice.

A minute passed before 1593 followed in the path of 1592. Her turn had finally come.


Erica nodded. The man’s appearance almost knocked the wind out of her chest. Adorned in black blazer and a yellow dress shirt stretched to its limits by a sizeable gut, he could not have differentiated himself more from the whiteness of the room had he appeared naked or painted his skin red. His gaunt face and balding brown hair were not remarkable, but a mist of hostility seemed to hover about him, like the haze from a bonfire. His creamy brown eyes popped out from his wrinkled skin like a periscope just inching its way past the surface of an ocean. His wavy forehead extended up to the middle of his scalp while thin, smooth bristles of brown hair formed a semicircle around his skull. His lips pursed, he reviewed the screen before him as he scratched his scaly skin, which dangled off his neck like the gullet of a turkey. His face looked like that of a starving man or a lung cancer patient, but his protruding stomach betrayed his eating habits.

“Nice to have you here at High School. We don’t hope for your best because we already know we will get it,” he said with a wispy air of satisfaction. His monotone voice unnerved her.

“I…yeah,” was all she could muster.

“Here are your assignments,” the man said, handing her a silver data card no bigger than his thumb while turning his computer screen around so she could read the bold green letters.


She crunched her nose as she read them.

“Excuse me,” she said.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Excuse me. I-”

“Sir,” he said.

“I’m sorry?”

“You will address me as ‘Sir.’ Understand?”

She glanced nervously behind her to all the faces and then back at the man in black and yellow.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Erica said. “I have a question. It says here that I’m in the Hispanic Student Association.” She extended her hand to point to the screen, but he turned it back to his direction and sneered

“I know what it says, 1594. I’m the one in charge of the assignments. Some may prefer the term ‘Latino,’ but we value our traditions.”

“Yes, of course, sir. It’s just that I’m not Hispanic. My great grandmother on my mother’s side was from Portugal, but that’s it.” Holding out her arms, she proclaimed, “As you can see, I’m as white as you can get.” He did not say a word, which jogged her memory. “Sir.”

“You’re Hispanic,” he said.

“I am?”


“Most of my ancestors are British-”

“Hey, Janine!” he called out. One of the elderly ladies, the one in the middle with an inviting round face and plush cheeks, raised her head to acknowledge him.

“Yes, Mr. Lamond.”

“Do you hear someone talking?”

“Why, no I don’t, sir.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

He looked up at her and raised his eyebrows. Gulping, she dropped the subject and waited for new directions.

“Glad to hear you don’t have any other comments. Now head on over to that desk over there and Janine will make sure to set you up very nicely.”

Jaw shivering, she strolled to the desk. Janine did not even bother to look up, instead motioning to the attendant to her right. That elderly woman actually made eye contact and ordered Erica to hand over the data card and look straight ahead. Hiding in the middle of the wall was a glistening camera lens the size of a coaster. She stared straight at it. The woman pushed a button and Erica heard a click and then the humming of a small printer on an adjacent table. It popped out a laminated card, which Janine picked up and handed over along with the data card.

“Here you go, young lady.”

Erica dropped the data card in her pocket, grabbed her High School identification card and studied it as she headed back to her seat. The school’s name and insignia, a muscular hand with all five fingers stretched to their capacity, filled up the top of the card. To the right was a small square that stored her face. Her black hair, which she had tied up in a tight bun earlier that morning on her mother’s orders, was barely visible in the box. She saw her blue eyes, high cheekbones, button-like nose and thin lips that appeared to her in the mirror every morning. She saw those features but, they all seemed separated from each other, a hodgepodge of random items with no common purpose.

It was her picture, just a different face.


The classroom she needed to find was in Section F. If the giant F’s all over the walls were any indication, she had found the right section. While trekking to her class, she kept replaying her confrontation with the man in black, the Mr. Lamond.

What the hell was that guy’s problem? You’d think, on the first day, they would at least try to be nice.

Students packed the sterile hallways, clapping their new shoes on the green tiles and admiring the advertisements on the walls as they walked to class. They did not talk or joke with each other. The ads did the speaking for them. The ads were the entertainment. Most of them hocked new snacks or fad clothing or teenager movies. Nothing spectacular, except for one ad for Morality’s upcoming record. All five band members mucked for the cameras, for her eyes only. Their new album, titled “Completely For You,” would be coming out in three days and this fact alone almost erased from her mind the humbling experience with Mr. Lamond.

“Welcome to High School, class of 2086,” a voice said from above. She looked up to see a speaker hanging indiscreetly from the ceiling. “I’m 711, the host of the award-winning RBS. Before class starts today, everyone should know that Xstacy Soda will be hosting a company orientation after school in the Cafeteria. You can win free Xstacy products while tasting their great new drink, Orange Watermelon!”

Erica passed an escalator that ascended four stories and gazed at it in wonderment. A sturdy male student dressed in a green suit cut in front of her and took the moving stairs. He must be a senior, she thought. She noticed a multitude of merit badges from various sponsors stitched on the lapel of his suit jacket. That kid meant business.

“This announcement was brought to you by the kind folks of Cranston Information Network, tomorrow’s leader in the safety information business-”

She continued on until finally coming upon her room after passing hundreds of doors and even more advertisements. With the same square footage of a mall and just as aggressive on the senses, even the simple task of finding a classroom in the High School building required diligence, a trait Erica did not want to exact on her first day of school. Her only goal: survive the day.

The classroom looked exactly as she had imagined. The students sat in ten rows of stadium seating with each personal desk accompanied by a Neo5000 personal laptop. The teacher’s desk, devoid of any personal artifacts, stood squarely in the middle, flanked from behind by a giant projection screen. A soft green carpet and dim lights ushered in a welcoming feeling to any newcomers and made it easier to read the high-definition screens.

After everyone became situated, a slender woman with veins the size of a garden hose snaking their way on her hands appeared from nondescript door at the far end of the room. Dressed in a pinstriped business suit, she stood behind her desk and surveyed the new crop of future CEO’s, future heart surgeons, future data entry specialists. The lights dimmed immediately and the word “Engram” ballooned up on the projection screen.

“Engram…the lifeblood of the American educational system,” said a brisk feminine voice. “In the dark ages of our school system, grammatical mistakes, literary ignorance and the mutilation of the official language of our country were common practice among wayward youth. Today, 95 percent of all students know their language as well as they know their own family.”

Erica surveyed the students around her, who all diligently watched the presentation. Their eyes did not blink as much as hers. Their cheeks were not as red nor eyes quite as furtive.

The feminine voice went on and on about the requirements for the course and the essential importance Engram held in American life. Vital to success. American values. Enrich the mind to enrich yourself. All the keywords the school system had weaned Erica on since her formative years. The same words, the same phrases every year, all presented in a slightly different manner. After the presentation ended, the lights remained dim and a new phrase appeared on the screen.


“If you learn only one term this class, it must be this one,” the teacher said into a slender cordless microphone. “What we teach you is all you need to know. The rest is just clutter.” Like a theatrical production, the room brightened up, the laptops turned themselves on and the teacher pointed in Erica’s general vicinity.

“What’s your name,” the teacher asked. “The pretty little girl with black hair in the back row. What’s your name?”

Pointing to herself, Erica asked, “Me?”



“No, what’s your name?” the teacher asked more forcefully.


“Good. What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities?’ ”

“Um….I have no idea, sir.” Her heart stalled until she corrected herself. “M’am.”

“You have never heard of it?”

“Should I have?”

“No, because it does not matter. It’s useless knowledge.”

“How come it’s useless?” Erica asked.

The teacher glared at her. “You’re asking me a question?” Erica’s mouth opened to respond, but she could not utter a word. A strangling silence infested the room and a burning sensation fulminated underneath her sternum. “Sit down.” Erica plopped down into her seat and bowed her head in shame. From the corner of her eye, a fellow female student with braces sneered at her for a second. Every step she took and every word from her mouth seemed to bring on derision from somebody. Her first day at school was supposed to be some exotic journey of enlightenment and discovery. Right then, it felt more like being burned at the stake. So much for surviving ...

“When the first state-wide tests are administered in four weeks, you will now the ins and outs of every possible question and every imaginable topic,” the teacher continued. “Anything - and I mean anything - that does not pertain to said test does not exist and it doesn’t exist because it doesn’t matter.”

The teacher looked around to make sure her point went through to the blossoming minds before her. Satisfied, she began the lesson.