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This blog,, is getting a new home.  Most of the existing content has already been transferred to the new spot – called Beginning this week, new posts will appear there.  In case you can’t tell from the typeface, the “o’s” are actually zeros in the new blog’s title. 

If you haven’t already, come on over and take a look around the new digs!

By the way, the folks at WordPress have made this move about as easy as I could have hoped for.  Many thanks to the WordPress staff for their support, responsiveness and the amazing tools they provide their bloggers.

I have to admit that I watch Science Fiction shows.  After all, I grew up on Lost In Space and Star Trek.  How could I not enjoy the genre?

Thus, I’ve been sampling the Sci Fi Channel’s latest offering titled Defiance (which also has a game tie-in).  The story synopsis from the series’ own website is below.  I won’t spend time here on that.  Instead, I want to talk about something I heard/saw in a recent episode that prompted this post.

I love clever writers.  Folks who can pull from many areas of knowledge and influence to bring to their stories more than just the superficial.  And that is precisely what the people working on Defiance have done/are doing.  In one of the scenes from a recent episode, a bus is pulling into Defiance.  This is a bus that doubles as a supply truck as well as transportation between settlements.  As the bus is pulling in, there is a radio/broadcast jockey announcing it’s arrival (reminding me of Radar in MASH).  Just before he leaves his mic to greet the bus in person, he says “I hope I get my raisins from Fresno.”  I heard that line and started LMAO.

See, I was in a production of The Music Man at Arena Stage in DC last year.  (It was a great show, a great cast, an awesome director, and a super place to work.)  But here’s the dealeo.  In the play, there is a big musical number that precedes the arrival of “The Wells Fargo Wagon” on which the new musical instruments for all the kids are due to arrive.  But as the townspeople sing about their excitement over the wagon’s arrival, they mention lots of other things they have gotten and hope to get via the Wells Fargo Wagon.  And, yes, one of the lines sung is “I hope I get my raisins from Fresno.”  LOL

How awesome is that!  Thank you, Sci Fi Channel, for melding together two facets of my own life seamlessly.

Defiance: A Synopsis

In the year 2046, it’s a new Earth – with new rules. Over thirty years after various alien races arrived on Earth, the landscape is completely altered, terraformed nearly beyond recognition. To the town of Defiance, on what used to be St. Louis, comes the mysterious Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his charge, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). As they settle into town – overseen by the mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) and filled with residents like the powerful Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene), enterprising lounge owner Kenya (Mia Kirshner) and the ambitious, alien Tarrs (Tony Curran and Jaime Murray) – events begin to unfold that threaten the fragile peace this border town has fought for.


As the events of Defiance unfold weekly on your TV screen, you can see how the residents’ struggles impact the game of Defiance, a high-octane, multi-platform experience from Trion Worlds! For the first time in history, a TV show and a game will exist concurrently in a shared universe, influencing and impacting the other!

I have so many things I want to post, but I’ll start with this because it’s fairly quick.

Has anybody seen the commercial from eDiets that’s been running recently?  There may be more than one, of course.  This one is running on Comcast cable.  I couldn’t find it on YouTube or I would have embedded it to clarify.  Anyway, I think that it’s largely a decent commercial as these testimonial ads go.  It is upbeat and positive in tone, and the people come across as regular folks even if they’re actors.  Don’t know if they’re actors, but actors ARE real people and have weight struggles, too.

Like I said, it really is pretty OK as a commercial.  But – you knew there was one of those coming, right?  One of the women who has slimmed down and is excited about her svelter self  identifies herself as being “from the South.”   So far, so good.  Then she confesses that as a Southerner she “loves her comfort food.”  Yep, I understand that.   My family is from the South.  Later in the ad, however, as the people testifying list their big temptations, Ms. Southerner says “lasagne” is her downfall.

Say what?!?  I grew up eating Southern comfort food, and lasagne was not in the mix.  My family considered  lasagne to be Italian food.  We had it sometimes, sure.  But, again, we considered it Italian, and I’m pretty sure it is still considered an Italian dish by most people around the world!   So how did it become Southern comfort food?

My opinion?  The editor or director or whoever should have caught that and made a change.  Am I being overly critical?  I don’t think so.  My point is that the messages within the ad should be consistent.  I know this isn’t high art, but it is a professional piece of advertisement.  There were people paid good money to create the commercial.  Thus, I think it should be internally consistent.

Ripper Street, BBC’s winter 8-episode series is a surprisingly good show.  Even so, I think the title is awful.

I saw the title pop up on my on-screen cable guide back in January when the show first aired in the U.S. on BBC America.  I passed it by very quickly.  “How many times can they trot out that old horse about Jack the Ripper – seriously!! ” That was my gut reaction to the show’s title.  It didn’t make me want to see or hear anything else about it.

But then I had a couple of days off work and some time to kill.  Of course, when I went to spend some of that time chilling in front of the TV, I found there was very little I was truly interested in seeing.  So I started surfing the on-demand listings and ran across Ripper Street once again.  Since the on-demand episodes were included (i.e. free) in my cable package, I decided to give one a try.  After all, I could very easily stop it and choose something else.  No skin off my nose.  And I’m glad I did give it a try!

I’ll admit, the show’s premise does put it in the same basic time period as the Ripper murders in London’s Whitechapel area (but a few months after).  So the title serves to give you an immediate sense of time and place.  And the plot does pull in references to Jack the Ripper as various murders occur on the streets of London.  [Good grief, I’m making their case for them!]  But, in my opinion, what is best about the show is the REST of the story.  There are other crimes occurring – like abductions and human trafficking, for instance.  And the characters – police detectives, an American medical examiner, a brothel madame and the mistress of an orphanage, etc. – have a real sense of humanity to them.  They are gritty but not so horribly mired in the muck of debauchery and vice and dark side of the human soul that one can’t feel empathy for them.  Of course, that is partly a result of good acting, but I have to compliment the writers, too.

According to the available material, the series stars Matthew Macfadyen as Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, Jerome Flynn as Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake and Adam Rothenberg as American Captain Homer Jackson.  You have probably seen Matthew Macfayden in one of his many accomplished appearances – on MI5, in Pride & Prejudice, in Little Dorritt, etc.  I like him in this series, too.  Adam Rothenberg – whose character is a former Pinkerton agent and erstwhile U.S. Army surgeon who serves as the medical examiner for DI Reid – does a fine job as well.  But I am very impressed with Jerome Flynn’s work here.  I mentioned that the characters are gritty.  I think Flynn’s look, his physicality and his character choices make Drake the most interesting piece on the chess board.  I enjoy Drake even when his job is just to react to what the rest of the characters are doing.

And let’s not forget the supporting cast – in particular the ladies.  There is MyAnna Buring who is good as Long Susan, the madame of the local brothel and love interest for Adam Rothenberg’s character.  And there is Lucy Cohu who turns in a very compelling performance as Deborah Goren, mistress of the local orphanage.  Goren is a strong, admirable woman ready to take in new charges even when it creates difficulties for her.  Yet she is not just some long-suffering martyr.  She is a real person with an active set of personal needs and desires.  For example, we are made privy to some of Goren’s inner life when she heartily kisses Reid (a married  man) back in one episode.  While I’m in no way, shape or form endorsing adultery, I appreciate a) Lucy Cohu’s ability to beautifully portray a character that is at times selfless yet has needs and desires of her own and b) the writers’ abilities to put together stories that allow us to learn about their characters beyond the superficial – beyond just their functional role in the machine.

Lucy Cohu as Deborah Goren

Of course, at it’s heart this is a crime drama, so each episode presents the team with a new one to solve.  Some pull us back to the Ripper theme and others are completely separate mysteries that the H Division (homicide) must get to the bottom of.

I’m happy to say that I understand the show has been renewed for a second season of 8 episodes set to begin filming this year and airing in 2014.  I feel like the whole cast, crew and creative team have come together in a great way here.  I look forward to seeing what more they have in store for us from the streets of London (Whitechapel) in the late 1800’s.  I suppose they were Ripper streets, but I STILL don’t like the name!

Well, it’s all over now!!  The excitement and anticipation amongst all the movie stars, celebrities and the entire movie-making industry has turned into today’s happy halo or the morning after from hell.

I have to admit that it was an interesting bunch of results – starting from the top.  Here we have a Best Picture winner, Argo, that – except for Alan Arkin’s Best Supporting Actor nomination – was up for Oscars in mainly technical categories.  None of the lead actors received nominations nor did Ben Affleck receive a directorial nod.  What an unusual thing!  Of course, Argo did also pick up awards for Film Editing and Adapted Screenplay while being nominated in the additional categories of Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Song, and Original Score.

So that begs the question: what makes a great movie?  What is it that makes a movie Best Picture material?  I’m not going to argue the award.  I think it’s clear that Argo is a very good movie.  Just look at the list of award nominations and wins it has garnered throughout this year’s awards season.  [List @ MSN]  Still, I have to wonder in this age of ever-improving CGI special effects and Dolby Digital sound effects.  Are the technical aspects now the critical facets of a movie?  Are they more important than performances by the actors and directorial acumen?

Life of PiSpeaking of technical awards, I was not surprised to see Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects go to Life Of Pi.  It was a stunningly beautiful film to watch.  Such gorgeously vibrant photography!  And I thought the effects were an integral part of the story and extremely well done.  I won’t lie: I did find the film a little languorous at times.   But, admittedly, I am a member of the TV generation (programmed for quick segues and frequent commercial breaks).

On the subject of performances by actors, I was glad to see Daniel Day-Lewis receive the Best Actor Oscar.  As you know from my recent post, I think he did an amazing, amazing job.  That’s not to take anything away from Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Phoenix, Bradley Cooper or Denzel Washington.  They’re all great performers or they wouldn’t have gotten their nominations.  But when you play a character like Lincoln in a movie about the very life of that character, it takes a broad set of shoulders and a heck of a lot of hard work.

As I’ve said before, I’m a performer not a critic.  Thus, I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow of all the awards here.  You can find a full list of the 2013 Academy Awards nominees and winners HERE.

What  I’d really like to know, though, is — What do you think makes a film worthy of the Academy Award for Best Picture?  Please share your comments.

It isn’t often that I sing the praises of a commercial.  But I have to admit that the first time I saw this ad, I was impressed.

For me it isn’t about the commercial’s theme – the indirect selling of an automobile – but the beautiful way the underlying story of a dad and his young daughter who is going off for the first day of school is told.  From top to bottom it is a quality piece of work.  The actors – the father and the young girl – provide outstandingly honest and subtle performances.  The director did a marvelous job with the actors as well as finding a way to tell the story overall.  And the photography is very pleasing to the eye – kudos to the DP and his or her crew!

I tried to find credits for the commercial online, but I wasn’t savvy enough to find them.  If you know any of their names, please leave a comment and let me know.  They deserve to be called out for a job well done.

Update:  Check out the comments!  mojo shared that the song featured on the ad – “Keep Me In Mind” –  is by Tashaki Miyaki.  Tom W knows the actor playing the dad – Marcus Nelson.  Trudi tells us that the ad agency responsible for the ad is Carmichael Lynch and that the young actress’s name is Daisy.

It can really be beneficial to shop at/patronize local businesses!

I’m a singer-performer in my local area.  That means that there are long periods during which I don’t need dress clothes – a suit, dress shirt & tie.  Maybe if I were in NYC or LA, but not here.  I can go months – especially when I’m working in a stage production – when I don’t need anything other than my Converse, jeans, and a T-shirt.

So what happened?  Well, I put a suit  in at the cleaners just before I started rehearsals for a show.  Then … I left it there for almost four months.  Four months!!  When I suddenly needed a suit for a function coming up and checked my closet, there was a suit missing.  Hmmm, I thought.  Where could it be?  And that’s when I found the receipt tucked away waiting for me.

OMG!  I know all cleaners have that sign that says they’re not responsible for items left over 30 days.  It was my own fault for being such a boneheaded idiot.  I need a better tickler system to remind me of things like this.  That’s what I kept telling myself as I was trying hard to be adult about it all – knowing the suit was gone, gone, gone.

But I went to the cleaners anyway with receipt in hand.  When I opened the door, the woman recognized me immediately.  She greeted me, remembering my name.  She said it’d been a LONG time since I’d been there last.    [She asked me how long it had been, in fact.  I admitted it had been 4 months.  And she replied, “I know.”]  Then she turned around, activated that moving closet/conveyor belt, and pulled out my suit.  She had kept it there for me!!

How great is that?  This cleaner is only a couple of blocks from where I live.  I’ve been going there for several years now.  And when I made a stupid mistake for which they were neither responsible nor liable, they protected me (and my suit) anyway.   All I can say is, “Thank you,” as I continue gladly giving them my business.

I remember reading all the J.R.R. Tolkien books when I was 10 and 11.  I found them entirely captivating because they created such a vivid world and had such a great cast of characters.  So, naturally, I have been interested in seeing the movies that Peter Jackson has been bringing to the screen which are inspired by Mr. Tolkien’s works.

I know I’m late to the theater on this one, but I just recently got to see the first in The Hobbit series.  I’m thrilled.  I really liked it.  Not surprisingly, it has gorgeous visuals, and the CGI is quite good once again.  In fact, the character of Gollum (played so well by Andy Serkis) is treated with such care and expertise that he almost steals the movie at moments.  Not the first time that’s happened in these films. Then there is the nasty white Orc soldier – Azog – whose beady pale blue eyes along with his menacing voicing by Manu Bennett make him a villainous star as well.

Of course, I enjoyed the human actors (not that voice actors and/or CGI movement actors aren’t human, too – lol).  The whole cast does a great job.  All those dwarves on the screen – each one an interesting character! Good acting; very entertaining.  AND there is nuance in this movie.  It isn’t just about action, beautiful pictures, and great CGI.

Clearly, the movie wouldn’t succeed without super performances from Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as Gandalf. And, indeed, they DO deliver.  But my breakout favorite in this installment was Richard Armitage as Thorin.  Film acting – especially when dealing with closeup shots – requires such a deft hand at times.  And I think Richard handles this role beautifully and skillfully. 

Hats off to everyone involved in making this movie so much fun to see!


This post has moved to my new blog focused on my own wine experiences and other wine-related info –
Oenophilogical – and can be found by clicking HERE.

We seriously had a wonderful time this past Saturday night at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Delray/Alexandria, VA.

The folks who gathered to listen to me, Jim Gormley and Matthew Leonard — Joe Peck & friends — were the best!  We had Delray regulars, good friends, and even a blast from the past or two!! 

The venue is relaxed and comfortable.  The staff are helpful.  The neighborhood is fun and trendy.  And the food and beverages available aren’t bad, either.  On top of it all, we just had a super time sharing our music – a mix of current pop tunes; classic and contemporary country, blues, r&b; and some cool original songs as well. 

Couldn’t have asked for a better evening.  Thanks to everyone involved!!