February 28, 2011

Comedy Killers

He's got some Adrian Adonis DNA

No, this post isn't about the Oscars, painfully unfunny as much of the scripted schtick was... but rather it's about those people who should not be allowed to use Twitter or Facebook. I call these people the "Comedy Killers" and they need to be stopped.

Recently there was a funny Twitter hashtag producing much laughter: #threewordmovies. At first, most people got the joke and posted things like "Monarch has stutter" and "Iceberg sinks ship" and my personal favorite, "Bella can't act." (Just to make sure you get the joke and we're all on the same page here, those comments refer to, respectively, The King's Speech, Titanic and Twilight.)

Now, not every attempt to add to this list is going to be a winner, and I'm not suggesting that just because you try to be funny and fail that you should not be allowed to try. Heaven knows I've missed the mark from time to time... but people who completely fail to grasp that humor is going on at all? Why? Why do you do it?

I enjoyed reading these Tweets until people started submitting things like The Social Network  and Big Momma's House. In other words, they completely missed the point of the exercise and sucked all the humor out of it by simply listing movies with three word titles. (That sound you hear is me slapping my head.)

I'm sure you've experienced the same phenomenon on Facebook, as well. One of your friends will change their status to something like "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking." You type in a response, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking." 

Another friend types in "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue." And as you sit there, just waiting for the next person to respond with "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines" -- a Comedy Killer strikes by worriedly asking, "Why? What's wrong? Did something happen? Drinking isn't the answer. I hope everything is OK."

Please, if you're one of these people... CUT IT OUT!  Yours is not a victimless crime.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to accept your friend request...

February 23, 2011

In One Ear...

This week, I have an article up on ESPN.com about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their young outfielder, Andrew McCutchen. 

Some, shall we say, less-than-honest websites out there, starved for original content, will outright steal: cutting-and-pasting the text of my articles, and publishing them on their own sites. Actually, I noticed sites like these often will first run the article through a translator into some other language and then back into English, resulting in a phrase like "Ichiro is a strong bat" morphing to "Ichiro has the power of concussion."

So to save these nefarious evil-doers both time and effort, I ran my the first few paragraphs from my McCutchen piece through Google Translator, bouncing it around from English to Japanese to Spanish to Urdu and eventually, back to English... 

I'm sure my arguments need no further explanation:

The Pittsburgh population lost 105 attacks, it was a disaster. I blame the Netherlands. I go dismal fate successful pioneers include, finally, that the action plan from the next generation at all sites must be paid according to the last part. 

In all this darkness, there is one true sign of hope. He alone is of concern  among outfielders in total, because of his negotiations. We project a real danger of escape, a reason for concern, his course may have time to blow Hitoshi Hazime.

Samurai Pizza Cats, from Exec. Producer, Hitoshi Hazime Guri

Last year, look at crime statistics and the associated overall project, the number of players per team in accordance with the War. You must take into account the number looking for part-time work. Only one: McCutchen.

I use a bare chest.

Yoshi Yoshi, we need to win its first season. Oh, the pirates of the disastrous year of Miley Cyrus. "She's a star so far. We do not lose the bottom of the flower!"

February 17, 2011

Fear Not: Watson is NOT Skynet

Yes, Regis. That is my final answer...

After watching Watson, a computer, defeat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the amount of alarm that I've seen on the internet is mind-boggling. Some people see this as the first step down a path where robots will rule the world and humans will be turned into nothing more than "pets" to their new overlords.  

Certainly, you have to be impressed with the team that created Watson. As someone who got his first computer back when you had to program in BASIC and creating dot-matrix line-art was considered "advanced," it's stunning to see how far we've come... but if anyone is surprised that Watson won, I'm not sure why. 

When I want to perform large amounts of calculations on a table of data, I could do it by hand. I could use a calculator. More practically, I type the numbers into Excel and then create a function so my computer can do it for me. If I then want it to find certain entries that meet certain criteria, it can do that far faster than I could searching line-by-line. 

Watson, come here... I want you.

In essence, that's all Watson is. A vast amount of information has been entered into the machine, and it answers questions about that information -- and given the fact that Ken and Brad were able to buzz in faster than Watson on several occasions, it's clear that Watson isn't all that more efficient than humans at doing this incredibly specific task. 

Certainly, I'm not trying to downplay the marvelous advances in programming that Team Watson have accomplished here, but I'm also not losing any sleep that we're suddenly going to be obsolete. Eventually, the internet -- with access to enough data to make Solomon blush -- may well become self-aware. (Robert J. Sawyer has written a terrific series of novels based on that very premise.) 

I'm not so sure that would mean the end of the world, but hey, if it does -- we've got nobody to blame but ourselves and how we react to that development. After all, there's "no fate but what we make." That doesn't mean controlling our machines, but rather controlling ourselves. 

February 15, 2011

Improv for the Non-Improv Set

This is my dear friend Kat Koppett, with whom I've had the great pleasure of performing and teaching with over the years. Here, she gives an all-too-brief motivational speech about the power of improv in everyday life.  

If you want to check out Kat and her improv company (MopCo) and you happen to live in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady district of New York, please don't miss out. 

February 11, 2011


As I write this, James Randi is very much alive. He shouldn't be, of course, since he has been taking fatal doses of sleeping pills on a regular basis. Of course, these aren't any ordinary old sleeping pills -- they are homeopathic sleeping pills, and hence, worthless. Yet that hasn't stopped pharmacies around the United States from actually selling these fraudulent products right alongside real medicine.

What do you mean you're not getting sleepy?

It may sound "quaint" to try taking a homeopathic remedy, calling back the nostalgia of "Grandma's chicken soup," but these so-called medicines are dangerous -- not because they can hurt you, but because they don't do anything at all. They are created by diluting any active ingredients to the point where they no longer exist in the mixture, for all intents and purposes. 

Imagine you put a tiny speck of aspirin into a glass of water and stirred it up, then poured that glass into a pitcher of water, then poured that pitcher into your swimming pool and took a sip... according to the proponents of homeopathy, that sip will cure your headache better than actually ingesting an entire pill of aspirin. 

And if you have a serious illness that does need to be treated with drugs, wasting your time with these nonsensical homeopathic "cures" might delay you from getting needed medical attention. As the video below says better than I ever could, homeopathy (as well as other psychic nonsense) is truly a very dangerous thing:

(Feel free to skip ahead after the introductory remarks to 11:44 or so for the Homeopathy rant.)

February 9, 2011

Out There On Their OWN

None of these things is not like the others...

I have a degree in broadcast journalism, so I was drawn to the new reality show, cleverly titled Your OWN Show on Oprah's new television network, OWN, much in the same way I imagine people who can cook tune in to watch Top Chef, or interior designers -- my wife included -- can't wait to sit and watch Design Star

Let's face it: when a reality competition show touches on an area in which you have an expertise, it is like a moth to a flame. 

After several weeks, it's very clear that I remain ambivalent about this program. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that these contestants are having such a difficult time putting together segments each week. I mean it would suck if I spent four years learning how to properly create content for television and these neophytes could jump right in and do Emmy-award winning work. 

Yet at the same time, are these really the best ten contestants they could come up with? Take Dr. Tony Roach, pictured below (left)

The winner of this competition gets a full-time job as a host of his/her own show and Dr. Roach actively avoided any on-camera role until his teammates darn near broke his arm with all the twisting they were doing. Then, once he finally did get assigned to be in front of the cameras during a cooking segment, he suggested that the most entertaining course of action would be to spend the first 90 seconds of said three minute segment arguing with his co-host over which one would do the segment. Then he added, we can just let the cook (Curtis Stone) do the rest by himself since he knows what he's doing. Forget about hosting... has this guy ever watched TV?

After his horrific performance, Dr. Roach would have been eliminated, but instead interrupted the judges before they could render a verdict and "chose to leave" -- making sure they understood he was not quitting. Whatever, Dr. Quitter. 

Elizabeth Espinosa (above, right) is supposedly already on television, as her bio says she is a reporter for KTLA. (East coast bias here -- I wouldn't know.) Presumably, though, we can see all of her assets in that photo, because when it came to professionalism, she came up empty every time. Mercifully, she finally got the boot when, in her last chance to save herself, she resorted to plagiarism, asking the same exact questions that had earned the winning team praise for their originality. (Never heard of James Frey, my dear?)

In the end, I guess it doesn't matter, since I'm not Oprah's target audience and regardless of who wins among the remaining candidates, I won't be tuning in to see their show... but I guess I'm just a little bit bitter that $100,000 goes to the winner of this contest, when my college classmates and I did better work on a routine basis while paying that much for the privilege.

Come on, Oprah! Hook me up!

February 3, 2011

New Moon, Same Crap

The Saga Continues... much to my chagrin

So, when we last left the gang of Twilight after the first movie, poor depressed Bella had nearly died at the hands of the Black-Eyed Peas, who had interrupted her baseball game with her vampire boyfriend and his family. 

In New Moon, the second movie of this planned five-part franchise, Bella turns 18 and goes back to Casa Cullen to celebrate. Unfortunately, she gets a paper cut while opening a present and young (admittedly, a relative term in vampire films) Jasper can't control his hunger -- and lunges after her, ruining the party. Of course, this is all fairly dumb, since all Bella wants for her birthday is to have Edward turn her into a vampire...  but Edward stubbornly refuses that request, and instead decides it's "too dangerous" for the Cullens to remain around. He breaks up with Bella and the family disappears.

Miserable, Bella sits in her room for months on end, in a montage sequence which served no purpose other than to waste several minutes of running time. Eventually, Bella snaps out of her funk long enough to spend some time with Jacob, who *shocker* reveals himself to be a werewolf in order to save Bella when will.i.am comes back for a midday snack.

There's some other stuff involving Bella seeing visions of Edward whenever she does something dangerous, like riding a motorcycle without a helmet, cliff diving, or running with scissors. Somewhere in all of this mess, Bella goes to the movies on a date with Jacob and a non-supernatural suitor, Mike -- who ends up getting sick and wants to simply go home (perhaps to his Mummy?)  

The plot sickens..

Evil Fergie returns to try and kill Bella, but the werewolf gang holds her at bay. But, wacky hijinks ensue when Jacob tells Edward over the phone that Bella's father is "arranging a funeral" and Edward somehow takes that to mean Bella is dead, rather than you know, ask "Whose funeral?"

Anyway, that's when Edward travels to Italy to visit the "oh so fancy" Volturi (pictured above). The Volturi are basically the vampire police and they all have mysterious powers and since Edward is now sad, he wants them to kill him, which they will only do if he reveals his true nature to humans. 

Bella arrives at the last minute -- despite the fact that Edward is hours ahead of her, and we actually watch several scenes of her driving around the Italian countryside -- to keep this from happening, but then the Volturi decide that either Edward must turn her into a vampire or they will kill her. Need I point out again -- this  is what she wants -- yet he again refuses.

But eventually it all works out when the "read your mind" vampire sees that the "see the future" vampire is telling the truth when she says that Bella will become a vampire before too long, so why don't the Volturi just let the Cullens go back home and instead eat those human tourists in the next room. Seriously, so cliche. I mean how many times have we seen that lame plot device used? 

Austin Scarlett, Volturi fashion designer

So how does New Moon end? Edward at long last agrees he'll turn Bella into a vampire -- um, soon. He'll do this even though if he bites her, the werewolves will end their truce with the vampires for biting a human, for the last time, EVEN THOUGH IT IS WHAT SHE WANTS!!! The only thing Bella has to do first? Marry Edward. 

Fade to black.

Roll credits.

Boom boom pow! 

Hey, gang... brace yourselves. I gotta feeling Eclipse is even worse...