Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Nothing symbolizes the holiday more than this picture of Josh with his "cupid" hat.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Artistic Judgment

For the last few years my Dad and step-mom have given Lori and I a ticket to the Patrons' Show at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA as a Christmas gift. Those of you who are wondering what the Torpedo Factory is, it's an old renovated building in Old Towne Alexandria that was once actually used to (*shocker*) build torpedoes. It opened in 1918 and eventually served as a munitions storage area until World War II.  Each year the Art League (a local art organization in Northern Virginia) hold the Patrons Show which features nearly 600 original works of art donated by members of the league. One ticket (usually priced at about $150) will give you an entry into the drawing. The drawing is held on a Sunday in February every year (almost always coinciding with the Daytona 500 *NUTS!* and NBA All Star game). This year's drawing is on this upcoming Sunday at 5 PM.

The process of ranking and preparing for the drawing is part of the appeal of the overall event. The donated works are on display at the Torpedo Factory for about two weeks leading up to the drawing. People who have purchased a ticket come look at the available donated pieces of art and proceed to rank them based on their own personal taste. During the actual drawing process on Sunday, one of the emcees will take turns reading off random names of people who hold a ticket. When your name is called you have a few seconds to respond loudly with the number of the work of art you want to select. Once your name is called, you are done and can pickup your art choice at the next designated break and head on home.  If you shout back a number of a piece of art that is already taken, the normally docent mob of wine-drinking yuppies serenades a chorus of boos throughout the drawing hall.  Before the drawing, the scene at the Torpedo Factory is very much like one you would see at a stadium before a football game except everyone is sitting in chairs sipping on wine and eating cheese instead of brats and beer.  It truly is tailgating for the upper crust of society.

In years past, we have had two tickets (one for each of us), but recently due to the kids, Lori and I have shared a single ticket. This means we have to compromise on our varying personal artistic tastes (she likes flowers, I like photographs and landscapes). We haven't had a chance to get to the Torpedo Factory to rank the art this year, so as we did last February, we spent tonight ranking the pieces of art online. The Art League now posts all photos on Flickr for everyone to see. Combined with a macro-laced Excel spreadsheet, we have all we need to be ready for the big drawing. I'll be heading over for the drawing on Sunday while Lori takes the kids to a friend's 2nd birthday party.

The wait for hearing your name at the drawing can be short-lived or excruciatingly long. I remember when my brother was one of the last people picked a few years ago (I had already left and was at home watching the All-Star game when his name was called). My Dad and Lauren, my brother and his wife and some other friends will all be there with their own tickets, so hopefully even if I get my name called out late I won't be the last one standing. The very last person called gets a special prize for being the final ticket and gets a free entry into next year's drawing.

To show you what the range of art available at the show I have listed our favorite piece below.

Followed by our LEAST favorite piece (for obvious reasons).

The interesting aspect to the selection process is that someone will actually select this piece. I am sure this will not be the last painting taken as there are always some people with oddball taste in art that will actually WANT this painting. I will post a small recap after the event and a picture of the work of art we eventually end up with. Hopefully it won't involve naked men and/or cows.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Survivor: Siberia?

I remember when Survivor premeired way back in 2000 and I dismissed the show as a boring idea for a game show that would probably be canceled mid-season. I did keep watching though and eventually got hooked by the unique strategy aspects of the game. 17 seasons later I am still along for the ride having watched every SINGLE episode of Survivor. I'm pretty sure it's my taste for competition (and enjoyment of Jeff Probst's wry wit) that keeps me coming back each season.

Tonight, Season 18 begins with 16 new castaways in the same typical warm weather style location (South America).  While the producers of the show have tried to spice things up over the years with casting gimics (old vs young, asian vs black vs hispanic, etc...), hidden immunity idols, exile island and more, one constant remains.  Survivor is always contested in a warm climate location.  What I would love to see before the show finally ends it's run (producers have comitted to at least one more season) is a switch to an extremly COLD climate location.

It would be great to see Survivors deal with the opposite extremes of survival by being forced to build shelter to shield them from the cold.  Of course producers would have to give contestents some sort of comfort (warm clothing, fire, etc...) to keep them from dying, but a switch to cold weather would open up so many possibilities.  Imagine all the challenges that could be devised in a snowy climate (sleding, skating, snowball fights!).  I really think this would be a major change that could keep the show fresh going forward.  The ONE reason this won't happen though is pretty simple.  Producers would not want the contestents that are easy on the eyes to be dressed in multiple layers.  A Survivor set in Northern Alaska would not allow for outfits like this.  A workaround would be to have cabins or "igloos" set up that are warm inside so we could see less clothing at times (but still keep the winter challenges in play).  I also think that pretty-boy Probst would not sign on for a cold-weather season.

Unfortunately we're back in the sun and heat for Survivor Tocantins tonight.  At least Probst is claiming that the cast is really good this time around.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slingbox to the Rescue

Last night I was visiting my friends Kristin and Aaron and their beautiful, charming and hilarious 5-month-old twins during my work stay in the Boston area. K&A and I decided to watch us some Fringe on their DVR (another solid episode btw). About 16 minutes into the show we realized that for some reason, the DVR stopped recording and we had missed about 20 minutes of the show. We were considering just skipping that portion of the show and trying to figure out what we missed, but I immediately knew how to fix the situation. I had Aaron download the free Sling Player software on his laptop which was connected to their TV. While downloading, I used the Sling Player on my phone to control my DVR back in Springfield, VA and rewind back to the spot where the Massachusetts DVR stopped recording. Aaron installed the player, I logged into my account on the PC and up came my home DVR right at the spot we left off at. We watched the 20 minutes that weren't originally recorded and then switched back to the Massachusetts DVR for the final portion in high-def. Did I mention before that I love technology?

My brother got me a Slingbox Pro for my birthday a few years ago. It's the rare gift that seems to become more and more useful to me as the years go by. As I tend to travel from time to time at work I am able to keep up with my shows. During the NFC Championship game a few weeks ago I took Josh to his basketball class. I was able to have the game on via the Sling Player on my phone and keep track of the score during the class. Last weekend, Syracuse was playing (terribly) in a Noon game on Saturday and I was out and about at the gym and the grocery store. I wasn't able to watch the game but I turned on Sling Player on the phone with audio only and was able to listen to the ESPN broadcast while I shopped in Giant.

Bottom line, if you like TV as much as I do (especially if you are a sports fan and need to follow your teams away from home), Slingbox is totally the answer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pepsi Fat

I like what this artist did above with the new Pepsi logo. I know I'll never look at the new logo the same way again. I don't really think the logo switch is much of a change at all. If you're going to remake your brand, don't just skew your original logo. More proof as to why Coke is the superior cola drink.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I could have gone with several catchy headlines for this article. A-Fraud, Gay-Rod, etc... It looks as if nearly everyone in the steroid era was juicing as Alex Rodriguez was outed in a Sports Illustrated report over the weekend. All of those who thought Jose Canseco was blowing smoke with his 2005 book Juiced owes him an apology. The only thing that can surprise me now would be if reports surface naming my childhood hero Cal Ripken Jr in connection with steroids.

Rodriguez came clean today in this interview with ESPN as he claims he was "young" and "naive" when he took performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003. I sort of buy this admittance, but really if he was so sincere and regretful, why did it take a Sports Illustrated report for him to admit his faults? Why not come out on his own when people like Clemens, McGwire and Palmeiro were lying before congress? Another example of a crooked Yankeee, proving my lifelong statement that the "Yankees Suck!"

Now does all of this diminish the game for me? Somewhat, but I still think the game itself overrides all of the rampant cheating over the past few decades. I still enjoy going to a ballgame (especially at excellent stadiums like Camden Yards and Nationals Park) and look forward to taking my kids to many games over the upcoming years. There's nothing like going to a park and experiencing the sights and sounds that are so unique to the game. Hopefully the recent increases in testing can once and for all put an end to the steroid era, but unfortunately any way you look at it, the history of Major League Baseball is forever tarnished.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This is Winter?

Despite a strong chilly wind, it totally felt like Spring outside today. Josh and Alex (who turned 2!!! two days ago) definitely enjoyed a break from the cold and made the most of it on the playground.

Best Actors Without an Oscar

The Academy Awards are only two weeks away and as we lead up to the Oscars I thought I'd start posting some Oscar-related articles.  When you really sit down and look at it, there is an impressive list of actors that have not received a golden statue. Most of these actors have been nominated multiple times. The record for most nominations without a win is held by Peter O'Toole who was nominated an astonishing eight times (he's 77 years old and was nominated last in 2006). Perhaps O'Toole should call Clint Eastwood for some tips on how to act in your late 70's.

The list below is subjective of course and I'm sure some of you will think of deserving actors that I overlooked.

#10 - Ian Mckellen - 2 Nominations - Deserved some recognition for his role as Gandalf.  With The Hobbit in pre-production, perhaps he still has a chance.

#9 - Will Smith - 2 Nominations - Ali was his most recognized role, but I Am Legend was his best performance.  He's solid in most other films as well (even Bad Boys 2).  We'll forgive him for dressing like this earlier in his career.

#8 - Ed Harris - 4 Nominations - He plays the average everyman in most of his roles and sometimes his acting talent gets overlooked.  Was excellent as the 
creative director of The Truman Show.

#7 - Brad Pitt - 2 Nominations - 12 Monkeys provided his best work to-date.  May have actually been better this past year in Burn After Reading than Benjamin Button.

#6 - Don Cheadle - 1 Nomination - This guy never gives a bad performance.  He started out his career as an ensemble player but his become a strong lead actor and can carry a movie on his own (Hotel Rwanda, Traitor).

#5 - Tom Cruise - 3 Nominations - Despite the tabloid and media backlash, Cruise is really a damn good actor and seems to give his all in every performance.  Magnolia was his most creative and edgy role and Tropic Thunder proved his versatility.

#4 - Edward Norton - 2 Nominations - If I made this list about 7 years
 ago, Norton may have been #1.  He hasn't done much since 2002 with 25th Hour and Red Dragon.  His amazing turns in Primal Fear and American History X cement his spot on this list (for now).

#3 - Matt Damon - 1 Nomination A cast mate of Norton's in Rounders, Damon gets better with each film.  Good Will Hunting's screenplay Oscar win doesn't count.  

#2 - Leonardo DiCaprio - 3 Nominations Deserved serious consideration along with Damon for The Departed.  DiCaprio pretty much hits every role he plays out of the park.  It seems like ages ago when he was in the spotlight for Titanic and he has a real chance to be the greatest actor of his generation.

#1 - Johnny Depp - 3 Nominations Sweeney Todd was his best role in a series of great performances over the last decade.  While some criticized his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be a little effeminate and over-the-top, I found it to be hilarious and creatively quirky.  His excellent work in the 90's (Edward Scissorhands, Gilbert Grape, Sleepy Hollow) puts him barely ahead of Leo at the top of the list.

What say you?  How would you rank your own list?  Stay tuned for the Oscar-less actresses list in a future post.