More odds than ends

August 31, 2012 — Yesterday just happened to be one of those days.

I know that statement isn’t unique. We all have days like that.

Still, the events stole precious time away from me – time that made me forego things on my “to do” list, such as writing a fantastic blog post for this morning.

And I blame it all on the Clydesdales.

Yes, that’s right. Those pesky Budweiser Clydesdales, the very ones used to promote the all-American beer provided an odd ending to my already hectic day.

While driving home after cell phone shopping with my son – a unique experience on its own – I had to take a detour because the Clydesdales were parading down Fairmount Avenue, right smack in the middle of Philadelphia. I have to admit it was a pretty interesting sight, but one that I wasn’t prepared for.

I did my best to circle back to Fairmount Avenue from the detour, since it was the only route I knew home, but ended up so lost that plan didn’t work. I finally made it back to an area that looked sort of familiar, but a typical 25 minute drive took nearly an hour to complete.

Exhausted and frustrated upon arrival home, I went to bed, forgetting about the blog, and a bit annoyed that I had missed Clint Eastwood’s speech at the RNC.

So, it’s 8 a.m. EST on Friday morning and I’m writing this post because my routine is to post on Fridays, and I don’t want to skip the last day of August. Next, I’ll find a video of Eastwood’s speech on the Internet, and feel appreciative that we live in an age where that is possible so quickly.

I’m happy that today began much better than yesterday.

Summer sounds of the 1970s

August 31, 2012 – It’s hard to believe that this weekend, we will celebrate Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer.

For me, it means that Autumn, my favorite of the seasons, is almost here. The end of summer doesn’t make me feel melancholy as it may for many others.

Still, there are things I will miss once the warmest season is gone; less traffic in the morning for one, as the streets become crowded again now that vacations are over and the school year is in session.

Most of all, I miss the sounds of summer that bring back my fondest childhood memories.

From the echoes of the seagulls at the Jersey shore, to the ice cream vendor and newspaper man who walked the beach with their cries of “Fudgie Wudgies,” and “Philadelphia Daily News, Daily News here”, these sounds are ingrained in my memory, just like the scent of Coppertone.

On the boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J., I also became accustomed to the recorded, nondescript voice that warned me to, “Watch the tram-car please.” That was always followed by a little embarrassment since I rarely watched where I was going.

Even at home, the clatter of summer played a significant role in my life. I recall Jersey farmers and their trucks driving slowly down our street, while the hucksters cried, “Jersey Tomatoes for sale”. Nothing compares to a freshly grown Jersey tomato.

Likewise, the Mister Softee or Good Humor jingle sent many kids in my neighborhood into a frenzied delight. And hearing the roar of lawn mowers in the background meant the smell of freshly cut grass would soon bring another racket to light – plenty of sneezing!

An orchestra of crickets on a summer night takes me back to sitting on the front porch listening to baseball on the radio, the crack of the bat ringing in my ears, and also to catching fire flies (which is undoubtedly a poetic way of saying lightning bugs, as we called them in the city).

I miss those summer sounds of childhood.

Thankfully, fallen leaves crunching under my feet, the crackle of a fireplace and football game cheers were always close behind.

Finally, a political ad I can support

August 28, 2012 – I saw this clever ad in the Philadelphia Metro yesterday.

The Romney/Ryan ticket probably won’t get the presidential votes it needs to win the election in Philadelphia — Pennsylvania historically swings democrat, and a poll by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday showed Obama currently has a nine-point lead over Romney — but the folks at the Philadelphia Sports Clubs know a winning ad campaign when they see it.

Let the games begin

August 27, 2012 – On the eve of the Republication National Convention in Tampa this week, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. next week, here’s a look at the “most widely believed conspiracy theories in U.S. History” courtesy of Ranker.com.

Why the correlation? The people who believe these theories, and probably started them in the first place are likely fixtures at both conventions, whether they are cheering loudly on the convention floor, or picketing for their cause outside of the convention doors.

Am I alone in wishing this election was history?

Should the man who shot John Lennon go free?

August 24, 2012 – Yesterday, the man who gunned down John Lennon in New York City on December 8, 1980, was denied parole for the seventh time.

Mark David Chapman, originally sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, served 31 years so far and is eligible for parole again in 2014.

At his last parole hearing two years ago, Chapman said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer.”

Here part of the transcript handed down by the three-panel parole board that denied him once again:

“Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime,” board member Sally Thompson wrote. Board members Joseph Crangle and Marc Coppola agreed.

“The panel notes your good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation, remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered,” Thompson wrote. “However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone.”

I’m not advocating softer crime penalties or defending Chapman’s actions, but maybe, just maybe it is time to grant him parole.

The average sentence for second-degree murder in New York is 15 to 25 years, while a life sentence is typically thought to represent 25 years. For violent crimes, most states require criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentenced time. Additionally, in the United States, on average, a person convicted of second-degree murder serves 21.6 years in prison.

Chapman served ten years longer than the average already and six years longer than what is considered a life sentence.

Perhaps one could argue that Chapman did plan the murder, and therefore, could have been convicted of first-degree murder, which does not typically allow for parole. That is not the case, however; he was convicted of second-degree murder, which carries lighter penalties.

If Chapman isn’t ready for release, or is considered a threat to society, I would be the first to demand that he remain behind bars. But his record in prison and the fact that he did not have a history of crime prior to the shooting should be taken into consideration. And if he’s not ready now, will he ever be?

I remember reading an article right after George Harrison died, that reported he visited the attacker who stabbed and almost killed him several years before. Harrison wanted to meet with him and tell him he was forgiven.

Somehow, I think Lennon would feel the same. Perhaps he’d want to give peace a chance by letting this man live on the outside again.

Closing “The Office” for good

August 23, 2012 – Is it a sign of a tough economy, or simply the natural order of things?

Yesterday, NBC officially announced that the upcoming season of “The Office” will be its last, and our favorite paper company will be closing its doors forever.

It’s time to say goodbye to Jim, Pam, Dwight, Andy and the rest of the gang, and the news is bittersweet. Over the years, the show provided groundbreaking comedy that every office worker related to, even in the extremes. It gave us such gems as faxes from the future, office supplies in vending machines and in Jell-O, and my favorite line of all time from the hilarious Andy Bernard, “Michael, am I gay?”

The show was once NBC’s highest rated comedy, and it fell to all-time low ratings last year following the exit of the bumbling Michael Scott (Steve Carell). Although he wasn’t my favorite character, and he began to annoy me in the last few seasons, the show wasn’t the same without him.

So what can we expect from season nine’s swan song?

Writer, producer and director Greg Daniels, who helped create the show and controlled most of the production in seasons one through five is retaking control for its last hurrah.

‘We’re planning a very big exciting last season,” he announced to reporters on Tuesday. “We’re going to have a lot of faces coming back … There are a lot of things that I’ve personally been wanting to do since season two … All questions will be answered this year. We’re going to see who’s behind the documentary … Now that we know we have an end date we can blow things up and take some chances and it will be very freeing, creatively.”

As for old faces, surely Daniels is referring to some of the old Dunder Miflin gang; season eight ended with Andy, who is now running the office, talking previous CFO David Wallace into buying back the company from Sabre. Here’s to hoping there are also appearances from Michael and Holly, along with a youngster, since that’s what he always wanted.

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

Sparkle celebrates the legend and exploits her too

August 21, 2012 – The untimely death of Whitney Houston may be the best thing that happened to the movie “Sparkle”, which hit theaters in wide release last Friday.

I’m not trying to be cruel; Houston was obviously talented and left this world too soon. Whether or not fans cite that Houston’s death is one of the reasons they want to see “Sparkle” is not clear, but I have to believe it will play a role. At the very least, the studio marketing team is quick to remind the general public the role was her last. Ads are plastered in newspapers across the country inviting us to “celebrate the legend”. She may not be the star, but all of the ads feature Houston’s image prominently.

Even in the image above, Houston’s face is the one that stands out most. Poor Jordan Sparks is cut off at the torso.

Of course, Hollywood is no stranger to stars passing before a big release. They have learned to make the best of it because it can add up to big bucks. Heath Ledger died before “The Dark Knight” hit theaters, and that certainly added to the curiosity of movie goers, especially since his role was dark, and it was reported that he had difficulty removing himself from the character after filming was complete. Stars like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Tupac Shakur, Brandon Lee and many more, have also suffered the same fate.

Despite the film’s reviews – the major critics seemed indifferent, neither loving it or hating it, and the weekend box office earnings totaled a modest $12M – the film is already considered a financial success since it only cost $14M to make.

“Sparkle” is a remake from a 1970’s film of the same name, which starred “Fame’s” Irene Cara in the lead role. While it naturally will be compared to the popular movie “Dreamgirls” – they both focus on Motown’s early days and girl groups – “Dreamgirls” had a more interesting cast, and seems like a better movie because it earned Jennifer Hudson an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, which kick started her acting career. Only time will tell if the same holds true for Jordan Sparks, or if this is her one and only.

The movie tells the story of three sisters trying to make it in the music business during the early days of Motown. The role was an interesting choice for Houston, especially since she plays the mother, the deadliest role for the aging woman in Hollywood. Of course, we all age and there’s nothing wrong with that, or with taking on a role as a mother. Many of us are mothers in real life and are proud of it, including Houston. I didn’t see the movie, so I can’t say whether the role was a juicy one, but there is buzz circulating that it could earn Houston an Oscar nom. If that happens, and I’ll be surprised if it does, I may get the desire to see it.

Here’s the major reason “Sparkle” doesn’t appeal to me. It may not be fair, but every time I think of “Sparkle”, I also think of the Mariah Carey bomb “Glitter”. And that image makes me want to avoid it completely.