Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last Man on Earth WAS promising

FOX comedy “The Last Man on Earth” started out with an explosion of greatness. A stunning and almost dangerous concept starring but one actor, the under appreciated Will Forte who was the bumbling MacGruber in numerous SNL sketches. The concept was risky but played out wonderfully — one solitary man leaving a bleak if not interesting existence after a virus wiped out 99.99999999% of humanity. It was a wonderful one-man show. Forte’s Phil Miller traveling the country in search of any glimmer of humanity.

I even liked the second episode where the moderately grating Kristen Schall was introduced. She is wonderful as the voice of Louise Belcher on another FOX comedy, the animated and overlooked “Bob’s Burgers” but just like  her role as Hazel Wassername on NBC’s “30 Rock” a few years ago, her acting simply rubs me the wrong way. Her characters are grating and borderline annoying but I suppose that’s why she is playing the characters she is playing.

But a comedy starring even two characters was too good to be true and too good to last for long. Future episodes saw the addition of two more characters. Hopefully that’s where the character additions stop because what quickly became a multi-faceted show focusing more on Phil Miller’s desire to be with the more attractive of the last two apparently living females in America showed just how much of a dickhead he is — even to the only other apparently living guy in America. Everyone needs friends, no matter how much they deny having such a need, and pushing them aside in an effort to have the more desirable of two women possibly shows why Phil Miller survived. He was left behind to suffer through a miserable and incomplete life.

He could choose to be a better friend and a better husband but instead he continually finds ways to alienate those around him. That is, until the most recent episode. Forte’s character chose to change his life to make a better life for those around him. He decided to clean up his poop pool, he reluctantly allowed his wife to move into his house and is beginning to realize that, for better or worse, this weird existence is his new life and that he needs to make the best of it or continue to be a self-loathing and shallow dickhead.

I know that even after a short while that television shows change and evolve but I hope to see more of the weirdness that comes with what is now a small group of  survivors left as the last people in America — possibly Earth — and less of the relationship drama. Check out “The Last Man on Earth” Sundays at 8 PM and/or 8:30 PM (C/T) on FOX.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The string of family deaths has begun

It happened last Wednesday. My mom called in the middle of the day to inform me that her sister’s health was worse than previously expected. Her sister, the youngest of three siblings from my mom’s family, had never married and lived alone in the same apartment for over thirty years. Her health, though, had gone downhill rapidly over the previous six weeks.

I offered to come after work and visit them as they waited for news at the hospital. With her brother from out of state on his way, though, my mom opted to wait for him. She is both an open and closed-off person — at least emotionally speaking. I have rarely seen my mom show her emotions. It’s the way she was raised, I suppose. They grew up with little, thrived on hard work and long hours and survived on little. It’s a generational thing.

I knew, though, that when my mom declined my offer to visit her, her brother and my dad (as well as my aunt) that things were not good. Nobody want to be seen when they are in rapidly declining health by members of even the extended family. As it stands, I am the only nephew my aunt and uncle have. My uncle, married twice, never had children and my parents have only me. Small families are typically close-knit and I suppose ours is no different. I arrived home form work that evening and further discussed with my wife what was going on. I flatly explained that this is just how my mom is. My wife knows it and has seen it. A hug is a rarity but the love, often unspoken, is still there.

When my phone rang on my way to work the following morning I already knew what it was about. My aunt, at the age of 63 years old, had passed away at 2:23 AM at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. After only one day in the hospital in Mankato, she was airlifted when bad became worse. They contemplated surgery but with the medication my aunt was on she would have likely bled to death. If medical attention, and a consensus between doctors at the clinic and the hospital in Mankato, would have been sought out earlier, the trio of conditions could have likely been treated. Instead my aunt passed away due to complications from a kidney disease, a possibly ruptured colon and a nerve disorder. All of which stemmed from a poor diet and a lack of medical attention.

When this happened, I wondered how my mom would deal with it. Separated by about 100 miles, the two spoke weekly via phone. My mom is the oldest in the family and she is the glue that holds not only her family but my dad’s family together, too. They visited in person regularly and my mom looked out for her as plenty of older siblings do for their younger siblings.

My mom, though, described what she was experiencing only as “a bit tough”. That’s who my mom is. She can talk for hours but when it comes to anything remotely personal, the conversation is quickly steered away from that topic.

The troubling part for me is that this was the first death of a close family member. The first aunt to pass away. Sadly, it marks what will likely be a regular occurrence for years to come. My dad is one of seven siblings and he also has two step-siblings. That leaves around a dozen family members when you factor in spouses. The next twenty-five years will be full of losses for my extended family.

But instead of thinking about the losses, I like to focus on the positives. My daughter will have her first of probably many boyfriends. My son will start school and slay plenty of ladies with his good looks. Things will continue to change and evolve for my wife and me. Our friends and family will continue to grow. We’ll have far more good times than bad.

The inevitable changes will happen but the memories will last forever.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The best Mai Tai on Kauai

I recently returned from a trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Populated with far more chickens that humans, this is definitely the most authentic look at Hawaii I have seen and truly the most laid back of the islands I have visited. In our time on the island of Kauai, we managed to sample a wide variety of Mai Tai cocktails and throughout our travels on the island came up with the list below chronicling the tastiness, price and location of some of the Mai Tais we threw down our drink holes. Use this guide as you plan for your vacation to Kauai as this is the definitive guide to the best Mai Tain on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

9th Island
Fruity but definitely not watered down. Two of these will sneak up on you and remind you that you are, in fact, drinking a tropical cocktail that is laden with alcohol. The 9th Island Bar and Grill is located in a strip mall adjacent to the Safeway grocery store in Kapa’a. If you ever get a hankering for a slice of the mainland while on the island of Kauai, this is the bar and grill for you. It doesn’t hurt that it’s owned by a guy with Minnesota roots who is originally from White Bear Lake, MN.

Smith's Family Luau
Free with admission
The food was the best of the three luaus I have attended in Hawaii and the Mai Tais were the second best of my entire trip to Kauai. You can grab two at a time from the open bar during dinner and it’s entirely possible to drink a dozen cocktails while you eat. While they may be a bit weaker than those which you pay for out of your own pocket at other bars and restaurants, the sheer quantity you can consume in a short amount of time will make up for the somewhat weak mix. They definitely do not lack in the flavor department, though. The show at the Smith Family Luau isn’t bad but not stellar either. I got a hearty laugh out of one of the cultures portrayed whose supposed claim to fame was being able to stroke a chicken to sleep.

Outrigger restaurant/bar - Oasis on the Beach
Tall and tasty. Mixed with a different blend of tropical juices than I had come to expect, possibly a bit heavy on pineapple. The setting is nice as the Outrigger Waipouli in Kapa’a sits just feet from the beach on the Pacific Ocean. This just so happens to be the very hotel/condo which we stayed at and I would definitely go back again as the Outrigger properties are definitely top notch (we honeymooned at Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki).

Rob’s Good Times Grill
Definitely tops as far as Mai Tai drinking is concerned on Kauai. A little sports bar tucked away next to a bowling alley in Lihue, an ad for Rob’s Good Times Grill ironically played on the radio as we pulled into the parking lot. A buddy of mine boasted about how these were the best Mai Tais he had had during his vacation and he should know as he was rarely seen without a Mai Tai in his hand.

Tiki Iniki
Strong Mai Tais. Little if any juice. Good if you want to get rip-roaring drunk in paradise but not flavorful at all. A bit lacking in atmosphere as well as this bar, owned by Todd Rundgren, is located towards the back of a cute little shopping center in the north shore enclave of Princeville. The service was a bit slow at Tiki Iniki and a friend of mine discovered a little paper umbrella smashed in the bottom of one of his green ceramic Mai Tai glasses. That leads even the slowest person to believe that the glass had not been washed. A bit of a disgusting vision to be sure but, like I said, the Mai Tai from Tiki Iniki in Princeville on the island of Kauai was strong and full of alcohol. One short swig and I knew that this outing would be interesting.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Current fires Barb Abney

Broadcast media is a fickle animal — particularly radio. On-air DJ firings and format flips happen regularly. It’s practically expected because it’s just another business chasing a larger profit. When an on-air DJ is fired from a public radio station, though, that’s shocking. When Barb Abney, now-former mid-day on-air host at 89.3 The Current tweeted last night that “I Loved My Job” it was immediately apparent what that meant. It’s a rarity when a public radio DJ is fired. I believe that it has only happened once before at 89.3 The Current in its ten year run and that happened to be Thorn whom Abney replaced.

Barb Abney was definitely an outsider when she came to Minnesota after her former on-air home 97X WOXY in Oxford, Ohio was sold and flipped to a cookie-cutter ass-rock format. She has always had the chops for modern rock and alternative radio. I used to listen to the 97X WOXY stream and remember Abney and instantly recognized the name when she landed in the Twin Cities. I emailed her a short pronunciation guide for some of our hard-to-pronounce-for-outsiders sit names on what must have been her first day on the air at The Current. A few days later she emailed me back and thanked me for listening to her show.

I routinely listened to at least half of her show on The Current and her cover to cover segment was a breath of fresh air and tonal real was like stepping back in time to simpler days. She knows how to connect to the community and even if her style wasn’t for everyone you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesota music fan who hadn’t seen Abney at a local show at least once. She is passionate about what she does and it has always showed in the way she is the biggest fan of the music she has played. The fact that Barb Abney said that “I Loved My Job” was the best statement she could have ever made. It was obvious, given her passion, that the biggest fan of The Current very well may have been Barb Abney.

Her mid-day on-air replacement, Jade Tittle, will need a lot of patience from MPR management because while she has been on the air doing overnights and fill-ins, her style seems custom-tailored for late nights and overnights. Her mellow tone, to me anyway, seems to be the complete opposite of what is needed for the heart of the 9-5 workday. Her age, too, is exactly what The Current is after as far as listener and member demographics. MPR wants and needs younger listeners as The Current is a feeder for their classical music and news services as those Current listeners age.

I’m not saying that Abney was fired due to her age and a perceived disconnect with the younger listeners the station wants as members but it sure seems possible.

But Barb Abney will survive. The great DJs always do. Maybe the Pohlad family hasn’t completely finalized their on-air line-up for Go96.3. It sure would be a welcome treat to hear a knowledgeable female voice who has shown that she can connect with the Minnesota music scene show up on a locally-owned station which seems to cater to the exact same audience as The Current.

Good luck Babney.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Craig Ferguson will be missed

I will admit that when Craig Ferguson first took the reins of ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS, I missed
Craig Kilborn. That feeling, though, would be short lived. Craig Ferguson had a bit of a bumpy start as a talk show host but soon found his footing and developed a quirky, off-beat sense of comedic art that will not be replicated any time soon.

The low budget of the show paired with the fact that it was owned by David Letterman’s production company — Worldwide Pants — meant that the show wasn’t going anywhere even if ratings fell to ‘Mulaney’-like levels. Low expectations often mean creative freedom and that is exactly what the quirky Scottish-born Ferguson took advantage of.

With a cast of oddball characters including a foul-mouthed assortment of puppets, the horse Secretariat, Geoff the skeleton robot, lip-synced songs and plenty of random dancing in what he referred to as a “dimly lit studio” gave the show the flavor it needed to be a success at 11:30 PM (CT).

Craig Ferguson could have easily been another talk show host with a band, a mildly edgy joke-filled monologue followed by two showbiz guests and a band to round out the hour but he took things a step further. Sometimes he had only one guest. There weren’t always bands on the show. And his interview style was one where it was conversational and he held nothing back. He made guests feel comfortable and made his producer feel uncomfortable by often times swearing which made Ferguson come across as more genuine than any late night talk show host before him.

Ferguson got the job because he had stand-up comedy chops and had already proven himself during his tenure on ‘The Drew Carey Show’. He was a dark horse and that made him even more likable and real.

It will be quite some time before another show is as uniquely different and genuine as ‘The Late Late Show’ with Craig Ferguson was. His ten year run, which ended Friday, will stand out as the pinnacle of 11:30 CT late night talk shows for quite some time as others strive to be lesser-known carbon copies of their 10:30 PM CT siblings.