26 February 2009

Borders to close its huge Chicago store on the Mag. Mile

Borders announced today its closing its huge store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The closing, schedule for January 2010, is happening due to performance issues at the location, which opened in 1995. While part of the downturn is evident because of the economy, its obvious that Borders financial issues plays in here as well.

Still, one also has to realize that leasing on the Magnificent Mile is expensive. And since Borders cannot arbitrarily raise prices like many of the clothing stores and what not on the retail street, it can no longer afford the rent.

Borders, however, still has 19 other stores in the Chicagoland market, with three smaller sized Superstores and a Borders Express within 5 miles of the Michigan Ave. store.

Never worked there, but I did like the store. It's huge, like 4 floors. Nice to visit, busy as hell all the time, but I guess just way too expensive to run.

British actress Wendy Richard -Miss Brahms dies

As the resident sexpot Miss Brahms on the classic British TV series Are You Being Served?, Wendy Richard was the comic foil to the indomitable Mrs Slocombe and the rest of the crazy employee's of Grace Bros. Wendy Richard, who played her from 1973 to 1985, passed away at the age of 65 after a long battle with breast cancer.

Like the death of John Inman nearly two years ago, her passing fills me with terrible sadness. I adore that show, and watch it every time its on. The cast was brilliant, the scripts witty and the characters, you felt, were people you knew.

And while American fans will always remember her for that role, for most British citizen's it was her role on the classic soap EastEnder's that cemented her career. Her role as the damaged but undefeated Pauline Fowler made her a houshold name.

She'll live on in reruns, but the world is a bit sadder today.

24 February 2009

What's with music at the Oscars?

When we were watching the Oscars the other night, my house mates friend brought up the oddness of so few Best Original Score and Original Song nominations. Usually -in most of the major categories - there are five choices. Each had only three nominees. Why?

According to NPR, the reason The Dark Knight was not nominated for its score was that both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard -and, it seems, a few others - worked on the film, and apparently the holders at the Academy thought there was too many cooks. However, they apparently changed their minds after another listen, and said that both Zimmer and Howard wrote enough to make the score eligible. As it seems, the honor was not given.

I’m unsure of the Academy rules when it comes to scores, but every movie released in 2008 had a score, why was films such as Milk, WALL-E and even Twilight not nominated? Were they not submitted, or what? Or, was there just not enough good scores?

And what of the Original Song? Only three and two from Slumdog Millionaires. Now, of course, I think this is more simpler answer; there are no good songs. Not since Titanic has there really been a huge hit song from a movie, and love it or hate it, My Heart Will Go On will endure.

Songs created for movies are no longer designed to live beyond the DVD release and even though Bob Dylan won an Oscar for his song in Wonder Boys, did anyone ever hear on the radio (though, I guess the same can be said for this years winner) or seen the video? Look at the song for Quantum of Solace, the last James Bond film. Much like the last batch of title songs from the film series, Another Way To Die from Jack White and Alicia Keyes is dull and pointless. It makes the Duran Duran cement mixer song for A View To A Kill almost on par with Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me.

Still, is the Academy not nominating songs because of some nebulas rules, or are they pointing out that the songs being written for movies (which are many) are formulaic, forgetful and badly written?

The CW picks-up 75% of its shows -Smallville back for season 9; Reaper to be cast off?

The CW announced that they’ve picked up Smallville and Supernatural for a the 2009-10 TV season -along with most of their current programming that includes 90210, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and America’s Next Top Model.

Shows on the “bubble” include Privileged, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris. Also on that list is Reaper, which does not premier its second season until March 3. It’s possible the CW will wait until a few episodes are out before making its decision on its fate. But with the mini-network working on a spin-off of Gossip Girl and remake of Melrose Place among other shows in development the odds are the CW will just let the show go.

The pickup of Smallville comes as a somewhat of a surprise. It had been more or less confirmed before the start of this current season, the show would close out eight years. But while ratings (along with Supernatural) have dipped, the creative new direction the shows taken (with a new team behind the magic curtains) has given the CW enough confidence to pick up the show for a ninth season. Plus, Supernatural has kept most of its lead-in audience, so its renewal comes more or less because Smallville got picked up.

22 February 2009

Sean Penn and Lance Black take home Oscars for Milk

Perhaps, it was the because Prop 8 passed that led both Lance Black and Sean Penn to win Oscars for their work on Milk. Penn's win as Best Actor was the only real surprise upset at the 81st Annual Academy Awards, as Mickey Rourke (who's role in The Wrestler as a man seeking redemption that mirrored his real life) seemed almost destined to win.

But after Prop 8 passed, after the voters here in California said it was legally alright to violate the civil rights of a group of people, the fate of Milk and actor Sean Penn was sealed.

Still, when Penn started his speech with "You commie homo-loving sons of guns" you got to realize this what every conservative asshat out there will be saying tomorrow. He added: "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."

But first we've got to convince these folks that this has nothing to do with morality.

But maybe its Dustin Lance Black who put it best when accepting his Oscar for Best Original Screenplay:

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by the churches, by the government, by their families,that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours."

Perhaps. Just perhaps, this is the beginning of the end for hate in California and America.

Books: Captain Freedom by G. Xavier Robillard


So, this is my third book I’ve read over the last year about superheroes and their problems fitting into modern day society. Soon I Will Be Invincible was a glorious poke at comic books and their fans, while Hero was about a gay teen trying to fit in with the rest of the good guys. In Captain Freedom, which seems to owe a lot towards Cartoon Networks Johnny Quest parody, The Venture Brothers, and in particular, the Monarch, we get a neurotic superhero who is also a media whore.

So fame, as it always, is fleeting and comes crashing down on Freedom after a dinner date that goes wrong. Soon, he finds he’s been fired from Gotham Comixs -who’s middle managers say the his comic can no longer compete “with the indecipherable but adorable manga” - and forced into retirement. What's he supposed to do now? Being a superhero is all he’s ever known. So, like anyone with too much time and money on their hands, he enters politics and writes a childrens book.

But as his life coach points out, all he really needs is to commit to a single long-term archenemy.

Captain Freedom is hysterical, very wicked satire of being a celebrity, about office life, about politics and being, of course, a Superhero. In the meantime, he takes on NPR, Hollywood, and the fashion world.

The novel is wonderful in many ways, with a Superhero who both dumb and smart, kinda clueless and sort of adorable. A quick read and one you won't be disappointed in.

19 February 2009

Borders Group Cuts 136 Jobs, Or 12% Of Corporate Work Force


Borders Group Inc. (BGP) cut another 136 corporate jobs, or about 12% of its corporate work force, as the struggling books and music retailer looks to cut costs amid its turnaround.

Earlier this month, the company eliminated several high-level corporate positions to reduce management layers. The latest job cuts amount to 1% of the work force.

Shares were recently up 3.9% to 53 cents. Although the stock is up 33% so far this year, it has still lost 95% of its value in the last 12 months.

New Chief Executive Ron Marshall on Thursday called the layoffs a necessary step as the company tries to get back on track financially.

Borders and its largest shareholder, Pershing Square Capital Management LP, earlier this month again extended the expiration date of their agreement for Pershing Square to buy Borders' U.K.-based Paperchase gifts and stationery business. The deadline for Borders to repay a $42.5 million loan from Pershing Square made earlier this year was also extended to April 15.

Last month, Borders ousted its chief executive and his management team, installing Marshall, who has a strong financial background.

The book chain, like almost all retailers, had a disappointing holiday season. But its problems stretch back considerably further. Last March, the company disclosed it faced a potential liquidity crunch and put itself up for sale. Despite its weak stock price, Borders couldn't find a buyer.

17 February 2009

Let those doggies roam

For the few people who come here, I've been pretty loose about updating the blog. I spend most of the time on Facebook (which, BTW, I love reading about this uproar over their new terms of use. The reality about your content on Facebook is that its been there since the day you signed up - it's just something users don't think about until something like this happened. In reality, we're giving Facebook rights to look for advertising revenue, and I think that the change in the terms of service apparently surprised people).

One idea, I guess when I started this back in early 2005, was to write. I like to write, and thought (as most narcists do) that my life would prove interesting, all while honing my skills. It strikes me now that I have no skills when it comes to writing and my life was duller than week old dish water.

And who wants to hear me whine about being sick?

Even though I went to Las Vegas this past weekend, does anyone really care?

Screw you, then.

I like Vegas, but if you don't have any money, it kind gets old very quick. Gambling and shopping are what the city is built on, but would it kill them to put an Outlet Center on the strip? Of course, they would never do that. Like a Wal Mart, who wants that class of clientele that a center would bring in?

Anyways, you need money to buy anything there, along with money to gamble. I have none, so after a few hours, Vegas becomes, well, boring. The city is beautiful at night, I'll give it that. I could spend hours just wandering around looking at it all lite up like some twisted Christmas Tree.

And the people watching is extraordinary, such a huge cross section of humanity. Plenty of cute boys mixed in, so plenty of eye candy for me. But the people I find interesting.

I mean, what goes through the minds of people as they play games that are highly set against them? I'm sure they know they're losing more than they're gaining, but to sit there for hours on end, smoking one cigarette after another, it baffles and amuses the mind.

And the smoking. My God, now I know where all the smokers went. There was a smoker at every table I saw, every one-armed bandit and electronic poker. And despite the venting system designed to keep the place clear of smoke, the smell is everywhere.

But the place is a smoker haven. And that, my friends, is a strike against it.

I have such high morals. Eh?

Anyways, getting back to the start, I'll try to find something interesting to write about, but the odds are slim things are going to change.

There is Borders I could talk about, but that seems senseless now. The company spins, and here locally, our DM continues to let good people go because of his style of management. Lyly, my favorite GM and who has been an important influence on me, is leaving the company after a million years, literally because of him. It's become a trend since he took over, almost forcing the best GMs to leave with his "unique" style of management. Of course, HR is well aware of his antics, but he's done nothing wrong. He's smart, and probably good at what he does, so you know he'll never slip up. It's sad, that's all. Good people, good GM's are gone because of him.

10 February 2009

Disney to make Tower of Terror movie?

While the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies did very well for Disney, there is the craptacular "Haunted Mansion."

Now word comes that the Walt Disney Company is considering a movie version of their California Adventure ride "Tower of Terror."

Still, rights issues need to be ironed out before a film can be made. The ride, which is set in a old-Hollywood hotel where tragedy struck decades ago, is themed towards the classic TV series "The Twilight Zone," which Warner Brothers owns the rights.

The ride, though, seems geared towards an good old Hollywood ghost story, and its been a while since anyone has touched upon that golden era.


08 February 2009

Candy Everybody Wants

My Oscar choices

To me, the 81st Academy Awards is a battle between The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire -the studio backed blockbuster and the scrappy Independent that got word of mouth across the world. Both carry a gene of Forrest Gump with them, but ultimately it will be interesting to see if Hollywood (always a champion of underdogs) will choose Slumdog (to me, a better film) or the more "safer" Benjamin Button. We'll see on February 22nd.


Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Personal note: While I would like top see Penn win for many reasons, my gut feeling is the Oscar will go to Mickey Rourke. Frank Langella is the darkhorse here while Pitt remains (in my opinion) a slim chance, despite his popularity. But one never knows here. A win for Rourke is not a shoe-in, if only because some Hollywood insiders have long memories. But like Heath Ledger, he's got history on his side.


Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Personal Note: I adore Anne Hathaway, even though I don't find her strong actress. She's good, however, in Rachel Getting Married. As always with the Best Actress category, this is hard choice. But with this years list, I see it a contest between Melissa Leo and Kate Winslet, with Hathaway as the darkhorse. Winslet will probably walk away with it.


Josh Brolin, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Personal Note: History is on Ledger's side here, and despite a great performance from Brolin in Milk -his only real competition, I might add - Ledger's win is almost a given.


Amy Adams, Doubt
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Personal Note: Another category that's hard to choose from, but its a good chance Taraji P. Henson will walk away with the Oscar, though don't count out Viola Davis.


Frozen River, Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Martin McDonagh
Milk, Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter

Personal Note: Dustin Lance Black - a recent winner from the WGA - should win this award. Beyond WALL-E, no has heard of the rest.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

Personal Note: Easily, Slumdog Millionaire should win this category. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has a chance, but since it will probably win Best Picture, Slumdog should capture this award.


Kung Fu Panda

Personal Note: I see WALL-E winning, however there has been some backlash on the Pixar film in the sense that it does not portray the future of humans as smart. Plus, as someone put it, R2D2 finally got his own film! And the conservatives attacked the film for is environmental message. Good chance Kung Fu Panda will win.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Personal Note: The only real contest here is between Benjamin Button and Slumdog, even though both are both just trumped up versions of Forrest Gump. I like to see Slumdog win, if only because it relied on the performances of its actors instead of the visual effects.


Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Personal Note: Again, a two-way race between Slumdog's Danny Boyle and Button's David Fincher. The only darkhorse -if you can it that - is Ron Howard or Gus Van Sant. In the end, I think it'll go this way: Boyle wins best director, Button wins Best Picture and vis versa. Again, personal choice is Van Sant.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Personal Note: Everyone in Hollywood like period pieces, and out of the five films, four are set in the past. Revolutionary Road should win this.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Personal Note: Slumdog Millionaire should take this award, though Benjamin Button remains a close second.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Personal Note: Like the Art Direction category, a expect Revolutionary Road to score the win, though (once again) Benjamin Button could win here.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Personal Note: To me, Milk should score this, but as this years Oscars is a race between Slumdog and Benjamin Button either one of them could get it.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Personal Note: Easy one: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman

Personal Note: I loved the score to Slumdog Millionaire, and it should also win.


''Down to Earth,'' WALL-E
''Jai Ho,'' Slumdog Millionaire
''O Saya,'' Slumdog Millionaire

Personal Note: In keeping with Slumdog Millionaire's win for original score, it will take home this category as well, probably for O Saya.


The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E, Thomas Newman

Personal Note: Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing usually go together. Expect Dark Knight to win here in both.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Personal Note: Another, fairly easy category: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Books: The Appeal by John Grisham

In the hyper-reality world that John Grisham usually portrays in his legal thrillers, most (if not all) lawyers are crooked, evil and only care about money. Even in his Author’s Note in The Appeal, Grisham defends his home state of Mississippi, but does say there is a “lot of truth” in his story about how to rig an election. The blow-by-blow account sounds sadly way to real, and could make someone like me further question politics on both sides of coin.

And while, in typical Grisham fashion, his characters are all stick figures, his talents lay in creating a plausible story of corruption at the heart of the American judicial system. He lays out how easily, it seems, Americans can be duped into supporting candidates without really understanding -or even caring - what they truly stand for. All it takes, it seems is just throw out a few fear inducing ideology Easter eggs like gay marriage, gun control and the death penalty (which Grisham writes is ironic that the ones on the Right, who fight abortion, will also be the first to support the death penalty) and people ignore that maybe, just maybe, their candidates rise to power has nothing to do with up holding the Constitution, but to be in the pockets of people who have way too much money and time on their hands.

The Appeal is Grishman’s best book in years and gets the sour taste left out of my ,mouth by the atrocious Playing for Pizza.

03 February 2009

Sci Fi News

ABC has given a pilot order for a re-do of the classic late 80's NBC miniseries "V". Written by Scott Peters, the new "V" will center on a female Homeland Security agent. Kenneth Johnson, who wrote and directed the original "V" movie -but had nothing to do with the sequel movie or subsequent TV series - is aware of the project, and has given the thumbs up on it. Johnson is still at work trying to relaunch "V" as a movie series, starting with "V -The Second Coming", which would be set some 20 years after the first invasion.

Also being reimaged is "The Witches of Eastwick". The new ABC series is based on the 1987 movie and will simply be called "Eastwick". This is the second time a pilot based on that movie and the late John Updike novel will be made; one done in 1992 was never picked up.

Fox has greenlighted "Masterwork," a drama from "Prison Break" creator Paul Scheuring and 20th TV. The ambitious project is described as a globe-trotting adventure in the vein of "National Treasure" and "The Da Vinci Code," a race against time to recover the world's most sought-after artifacts.

Jesse Alexander, one the scribes fired off of "Heroes" last November, has got NBC to greenlight his pilot called "Day One", a sort-of post Apocalypse drama about the recovery of world after a global catastrophe.

After two less than successful films from Paramount, 20th Century Fox appears to want to fork over the money for a reimaging of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider". Word is Angelina Jolie will be replaced by "Transformer" mannequin - I mean actress - Megan Fox.

Filming begins in mid March in Greenland on M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender." In the live-action film based on the Nickelodeon cartoon TV series, 12-year-old Texan newcomer Noah Ringer plays Aang, the film's lead, who is the last of a race of people who can manipulate the elements of air. "Slumdog Millionaire" and former "Skins" star Dev Patel has joined the cast. Patel steps into a role that singer Jesse McCartney was pretty much set for until his music commitments got in the way.

"Reaper" will be returning two weeks early. The CW announced that it will premiere the second season of its supernatural drama "Reaper" on March 3, two weeks sooner than was originally announced. All 13 original episodes will air consecutively through the season finale on May 26. "Reaper" will also be placed in the 8 p.m. ET/PT slot, which means that it won't get the lead-in from "90210" as previously planned. Instead, the teen soap will follow at 9 p.m., which will keep it clear from FOX's "American Idol" juggernaut.

02 February 2009

25 Things about...Me

From my Facebook:

1. When I was a 6 or 7, I was put in a “special school” due to having difficulties dealing with my fathers death. I was one year behind in school for the rest my schooling.
2. That one thing, that feeling of always being behind, has been with me all my life.
3. I did not start reading books until I was a freshman in High School.
4. I read almost every Agatha Christie book during that first year.
5. I fell in love with my best friend, and it ruined our friendship.
6. I’m a fairly blunt person. But its usually because I’m right when I am.
7. I can’t sing, but that does not stop me from turning up the tunes and singing along.
8. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But I can’t seem to put what I have swimming in my head down onto paper.
9. I went to England in 1987 -it remains the best vacation I ever took.
10. I bring a book with me everywhere I go.
11. I like playing Sudoku, but find even the moderate ones hard to do.
12. I was born with Pectus Excavatum -look it up, folks, and go to Youtube -you can see others with this.
13. I want to live by the ocean
14. I never want to leave California, but I fear I will have to because of the expense.
15. Like singing, I can’t really act. But that I wish I could.
16. I sometimes wish my mother and I could be better friends.
17. While my brother and two sisters got my fathers good cheekbones, I was stuck with my mothers side of the family; sagging face and no chin line.
18. I started to go grey when I was 30.
19. I fear hospitals and doctors.
20. I believe in God, but not have no faith in organized religion.
21. As matter of fact, I find organized religion to be the danger to ones mental health.
22. And I fear death.
23. I miss my friends in Chicago, and wish they were closer -in both distance and heart.
24. I did not see Star Wars (Episode IV) until the summer of 1979 -the year I fell in love with sci fi.
25. I’m afraid of success.