Wednesday, June 29, 2011

John Fogerty— Still Prolific

John Fogerty was the lead vocalist and lead guitarist for the extremely successful 1960's band, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Following a prolific run of hit albums and singles between 1968 and 1970, Fogerty's productivity slowed to a crawl; his solo career became dogged with legal troubles, and he practically disappeared from the radar for a brief period time. The public's expectations of Fogerty were stratospheric, based on the music he'd produced with Creedence, and this proved to be a hopeful look at possibility. "Don't You Wish It Was True" opens the album Revival, which was released in 2007 [but we HAD to mention it] with John Fogerty dreaming of looking into heaven and seeing light, beauty, and harmony.

The music shuffles and swings, evoking pictures of porch swings in front of grand, Southern houses and kids playing in parks. It's a bittersweet wish for freedom from earthbound tribulations that evokes the best of the CCR years. The lyrics infuse such a laid back Zen-like attitude that you'll find yourself thinking about the fact that maybe you should talk to your neighbors a bit more... "An angel took my hand, said you don’t have to hurry/ Got all the time in the world, don’t worry/ Don’t you wish it was true/ What if tomorrow everybody was your friend/ Anyone could take you in/ No matter what or where you been."

Fogerty's writing process hasn't changed much over the years but the artist admits that it's definitely evolved. "The thing is, when you're writing a song, let's say you've got a good verse going and your next move is the bridge or the second verse or whatever. That's when you have to want it to be a good song— not a throwaway song or in-a-hurry song. So that's when the labor begins. That's when you don’t settle for the first thing that occurred to you. You stick with it until it really fits. Sometimes that comes to you in an instant, and other times it doesn't occur to you. And then one day you’re riding along in the car and you step out into the parking lot in the mall, or maybe you're brushing your teeth... and suddenly that thing you've been thinking about for a long time just goes through your brain at a different angle, and you go— of course! And then it's clear as a bell."

Shia LaBeouf Transforms Into a Lothario

Apparently actor Shia LaBeouf kisses and tells. In the August issue of Details, the 25-year-old Transformers star talks about messing around with another man’s girlfriend. First up: Megan Fox. Asked if he hooked up with the attached bombshell (who was replaced by Rosie Huntington Whitely for the current installment, Dark of the Moon), Shia nodded yes. The co-stars, both 25, enjoyed a brief fling while filming the science fiction action movie in 2006, although Shia claims to have no knowledge of whether Megan was still with her then-fiance and now-husband Brian Austin Green at the time. “Look, you’re on the set for six months, with someone who’s rooting to be attracted to you, and you’re rooting to be attracted to them,” the bachelor says of Fox, who is now married to Brian Austin Green. “I never understood the separation of work and life in that situation.’’ Really Shia? It’s called ACTING and another term might be role playing but you, Shia actually have the choice to separate fantasy/fiction from REALITY! That’s your JOB! LaBeouf back peddles a bit more, “I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. It was what it was.” Now that comment might have been acting.

The L.A. native, who plays earth-saver Sam Witwicky in the hit franchise, also admitted to messing around with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen costar Isabel Lucas, who was then in a relationship with Adrien Grenier). “It was sort of disastrous,’’ LaBeouf told the magazine. You think Shia? Disastrous? What is even more disastrous is that your publicist obviously decided either NOT to accompany you to the press tour… but also not to explain in great detail how discussing your “on set conquests” is NEVER a good idea. This stuff blows our minds. It’s as if the actor is completely unaware that he’s not talking to his buddies in a bar over a cold one.

In his rise to fame, Shia has made love— and war. He told The Los Angeles Times about a run-in at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral with local director Michael Bay. It all went down while they were shooting an emotional sequence for Moon on a launch pad. To get in a sad mindset, Shia put Feist’s wistful Brandy Alexander on his iPod. Bay didn’t like it and unplugged the music, replacing it with the dramatic Dark Knight score.

“I take him aside, I’m like, ‘Mike, this is the most important moment in the movie for me. The crux of my whole character, my whole arc,’ ’’LaBeouf told the Times. “Now it’s two dudes ready to kill each other. Spit’s flying.” He then says Bay, whom he calls “his big brother,’’ left the set in the huff. (Bay refused an interview with the newspaper). Hmm. At least the director is self-aware enough to NOT discuss the on-set drama.

Perhaps Paramount Pictures “may” want to reel in their star a bit more. Shia LaBeouf, for the most part, has been rather “sheltered” in Hollywood. When he went on a drinking spree and wrecked his vehicle, he didn’t get the “royal actor screw-up treatment” we are all accustomed to seeing. He usually keeps his personal life personal and stays out of the spotlight 90% of the time, and we can understand why. That’s always a good thing. Whether or not LaBeouf’s comments were tossed in to detract from the film itself remains speculative. It is all rather odd as Michael Bay doesn’t appear to be 100% confident or enthusiastic about the end result.

And while the director insists he’s happy with the results, he did not mince words in talking about the challenges of working with 3-D cameras. “It’s hard with my style of shooting and taking [a camera] and strapping it to guys who are skydiving off buildings, and helmet cams,” he said. “It’s a technical nightmare. You don’t even want to tell your viewers how technically complicated this stuff is.”

To accommodate the limitations of a 3-D presentation, Bay ended up adjusting his often kinetic approach to film-making. “I’ve slowed down my style on this one,” he explained. “There are longer shots, there are evolving shots, some shots are 45 seconds long, where you’re going in and through things. Where people say, ‘Oh, I can’t watch action with 3-D,’ it’s where 3-D was done poorly and your eye goes in and out, and if it goes fast, it’s when you get bad 3-D, because it screws with your head. Shot by shot, we’re transitioning the viewer. You can really feel the action in this. It’s much more of an experiential process.”

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is set to be a blockbuster hit no matter what happens... on or off screen. The film is destined to walk into a legendary fame.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eddie Vedder Presents Ukulele Songs

Hey, we don't make this stuff up. We love the fact that truth is often a bit more "eccentric" than fiction. Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder has called his second solo album Ukulele Songs because that’s what it really is. It is a fantastic [it really is] album full of serious and sentimental songs Vedder has composed over the years, as well as a couple covers, for the small four-stringed Hawaiian instrument. In 2007, on his first go at recording independently of Pearl Jam, Vedder made the critically praised soundtrack Into the Wild. Still rooted in guitar-driven rock, Into the Wild had a sound that was somewhat folksy and far more airy and free than would ever be achieved on a Pearl Jam album. Here you will find songs that required nothing more than a guitar [or a mandolin] to accompany his dynamic voice. This may have been the first sign that an entire album like Ukulele Songs would be musically  possible.

If Into the Wild was musically sparse, then Ukulele Songs is entirely bare-bones. Vedder abandons all additional accompaniments beyond the ukulele, save for some strings in one track and a bit of vocal assistance. In Pearl Jam, the combination of Vedder’s powerful voice and the intensity of the talented rock group is simply overwhelming [in the good way]. So when the drums and electric guitars are all stripped away, we are left with a chance to focus in on the texture of Vedder’s unique vocal stylings. The simplicity of the ukulele allows Vedder to play with his voice in a way that only he can, flowing between a gentle, whispering croon to a shout that can shake you right down to the core of your soul.

What is so impressive is how Vedder takes an instrument that usually would equate itself with Lawrence Welk and/or an accordion and creates sincere, visionary music with it. However, there is still a tad bit of a whimsical element to it. You will not hear Vedder’s political viewpoints on this album at all. You will be treated to heartfelt love songs and covers of old popular songs like you might hear performed by Lena Horne or perhaps Etta James.

The album begins with Can’t Keep, a flawless first track that’s as hard rocking as you can possibly get with a ukulele. It keeps building to a scorching crescendo and Vedder’s voice keeps soaring until you think he might just start to take off and head into space. And with this album, he boldly dares to go where no post-grunge rocker has ever gone. Vedder himself explains, “There’s something that happens when you play very small instruments. It somehow creates the illusion that you’re much taller than you really are [Laughs].”

Another highlight of the album is Sleepless Nights. I have a deeply profound appreciation for vocal harmonies, and when that harmony happens to be Glen Hansard of The Swell Season and The Frames, to me, that's worthy of a kudos and some deep respect. Tonight You Belong to Me also includes additional vocals from Cat Power. After over twenty years of bringin' it with a generational edge [Pearl Jam’s Ten came out in 1991 when grunge was cutting edge anarchy. Feelin' old yet? Hey... we are].

Eddie Vedder has not only kept the spirit and passion in his music that we have come to expect, he has continued to push himself creatively and evolve as a brilliantly gifted artist. Eddie Vedder has been regarded as brooding, obtuse, intelligent, and intense. What he has probably never been thought of, until now, is positively charming. It is through his new solo efforts, the live Water on the Road Blu-ray and the sweet and aptly titled Ukulele Songs, that his levels of gracefulness have become apparent.

For all this allure and panache, Vedder never lacked for aggression. Starting with a long set of Ukulele Songs, his baritone vocals moved fluidly from low and impassioned to whispery and curious as his ukulele's strum went from ticklish to hard. This dynamic drew the listener closer to the hurt heart of the melodically perceptive leaving Vedder to joke, "If you don't relate to these songs, I'm happy for you." Vedder also talked about the lingering sorrow he felt visiting Manhattan's Strawberry Fields, and that anguish fueled his passion for Beatle John Lennon's You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. And when he mentioned the passing of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, we were moved. In Ukulele Songs, Vedder has reached well beyond grunge and alternative rock into a spectacular realm in which he can really engage his philosophical, musical and vocal talents with ease.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jeff Probst Headed for Daytime

Jeff Probst is headed to daytime television. That's right. Everyone with the obvious exception of new soap opera actors are headed to daytime. The longtime Survivor host and CBS Television Distribution are developing an hour-long talk show that will air in the fall of 2012. Which could inevitably spell out the "fall" of CBS' two remaining soap operas, The Young & The Restless and The Bold & The Beautiful, which will undoubtedly have to be moved somewhere... and as of late, as we've all learned, "somewhere" usually spells out "cancellation".

CBS refused to comment on the status of the two remaining soaps, except for the usual rhetoric of denial. The unnamed new talk show will reportedly cover news-makers and ordinary people facing challenges. Probst, a regular fill-in host on Live with Regis and Kelly, will also continue to host Survivor, as he has for the past 22 seasons. "Anyone who has seen Jeff on 'Survivor' knows how he connects with people and has an instinct that makes him a natural and compelling host for daytime," CBS president of programming and development Aaron Meyerson said. "Whether it's a news-maker-of-the-day, a celebrity or ordinary folks, Jeff will go further than typical discussion."

Probst is the latest in what is beginning to resemble a new talk show host factory lined up by the networks in the wake of Oprah Winfrey’s exit from daytime television. The New York Times reports the Emmy-winner will eventually be competing with Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric... and God only knows who else.

True Blood Season Opener Heats Up!

Based on author Charlaine Harris’ series of novels dubbed The Southern Vampire Mysteries, the most perverse, and, yes, sexiest, show on TV returned for the 4th season with a BANG, not whimper and fans’ expectations were sky-high. And the episode DID NOT disappoint. Let's put it this way: If you weren't watching HBO's Season 4 Premiere of True Blood... to say that you missed one of the most fast-paced, erotically-driven, stunning, surprised-filled shows of the year would be like saying that cliff diving is really boring. Last year, True Blood increased its grown-up appeal in ways that were unabashedly virile (sexy shirtless men, who turn into werewolves, for the ladies), shockingly gruesome (head-twisting sex), and thematically intelligent (a new political edge added to the bloodsucker mythology, via actor Denis O’Hare’s dynamic “King of Mississippi” character).

Late last month, True Blood: The Complete Third Season arrived on DVD and Blu-ray, affording viewers both faithful and new to familiarize themselves with all of the sordidness, which should come in handy, since creator Alan Ball promises that the rest of season four will take the sex, gore, and fascinating characters even further over the edge. And just when we thought it couldn't be done... trust us, it will ALL be jaw-dropping, arousing, stimulating and deliciously gruesome.

Ball, who previously won an Academy Award for writing American Beauty and created HBO’s beloved Six Feet Under (the show that brought us Dexter’s great Michael C. Hall), took some time out of his hectic schedule, leading up this weekend’s True Blood season debut, to chat up the show. Ball explains his adoration for the show and its fans, "For me, this show is really my first time working in something that’s so 'genre'. I’m learning all kinds of geeky genre terms, like 'the canon'.[Laughs.] And we’re always adding to the show’s canon. It’s very interesting, and it is daunting, but that’s just sort of the nature of what the show has evolved into. That’s what it comes with."

All of us here at UPBEAT cannot wait for Alcide to make his move for Sookie... Ball feels that the character is progressing rather well. "Alcide is a really beloved character in the books; that was a very difficult character to cast. And, again, the goal was to keep his own story alive, where it’s not just about being a possible love interest for Sookie. And we get more into that during this new season, making him a developed character in his own light. Sometimes, some of the characters in the books— especially due to the fact that they don’t really exist unless they’re in Sookie’s story— tend to come across as just a hot guy waiting in the wings, or something to that effect. But that’s not very interesting when you put that up on screen, so we try to find ways to give them all their own stuff and give the actors something to play.

Sookie can't forgive Bill. Now that Sookie knows the truth about Bill, she can't forgive him and we can't either. "The betrayal is so deep that I don't think she sees a way back from that," series creator Alan Ball says. Eric's a total disaster. He's a hot mess with a pile of issues. His memory now erased, "The powerful character he was is just gone. He's the polar opposite of who he used to be." says actor Alexander Skarsgard. "He's just completely lost... and very vulnerable." Sounds HOT. Bring it on Eric!  And of course... the werewolf is back. Alcide is set to return in Episode 3, but his reunion with Sookie won't be super special. "I don't think he's had a change of heart so much as he wished things could've been a little different," Joe Manganiello explains. Well, Alcide is smoldering and just seeing him flex those incredible abs will certainly enhance the view. Fairy abductions. So fairies can't be turned into vampires; however, Ball reveals that fairies can, "abduct humans and take them somewhere else that is not here. Just like aliens." Wow. What's Sookie gonna do with that?

Here come the witches [and we're not talking about Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Willow and Tara... except for maybe Evil Willow]. Anyway, Season 4 of True Blood will bring out the witches. Ball says they're introducing Hallow Stonebrook, the were-sorceress from the fourth Sookie novel. Ball refers to Stonebrook as a "necromancer," however, and says she's “actually a medium. She communicates with the dead, and she’s interested in developing further powers.” Necromancers can also communicate with or possibly even raise the dead. Yikes! Could we possibly see the old king of the vampires again? Perhaps "necromanced" out of the cement?

Then there are the vampire fights. Alan Ball also eludes to a vampire death at some point. "Somebody who thinks they are very, very powerful gets ambushed," says Ball. "There's a lot of stuff going on within the vampire community, which means there's a lot of people who will betray other people." Who do you think is going to be killed off... even though, technically... they're not really alive? Tara's a new woman. The strong, feisty Tara we loved and lost is back with some SERIOUS surprises of her own that will inevitably be revealed. She's leading a dual life and it is FAR from boring. Tara is tough as nails and knows how to pack a punch.

Actress Katherine Helmond, who played spunky red-headed grandmother Mona on Who’s The Boss? is slated to appear in two episodes. We're not sure how that will play out but the actress still has a lot of spark in her. Eric and Sookie do it. Well, maybe... Sookie and Eric have some hot shower sex in the fourth book, so are we going to see it in Season 4? Anna Paquin hints that it could happen, but Alexander Skarsgard says we shouldn't be too quick to assume anything. After all, if Eric doesn't remember, does it even count?

After the first episode kicked us all in the gut and sent us on a ride filled with suspense and more sexual heat than we expected... we are 900% sure that True Blood will keep right on shocking and thrilling us throughout season four as we just can't look away. Keep it coming guys! The Fangbangers and True-bies are ready for whatever is in store for the folks in Bon Temps!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 2

If you’re a big fan of Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1, it’s time to get excited! Little, Brown has announced that Yen Press (the manga and graphic novel imprint of Hachette Book Group) will be releasing Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 on October 11th, 2011. The new volume is again illustrated by the very talented Young Kim and had Stephenie Meyer’s input through every panel. This time we have Edward on the cover, although if you notice, the two covers really belong together. Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 will be released as an e-book and in hardcover for $19.99 US ($22.99 CAN) with a first printing of 350,000 copies.

A visually arresting retelling of the story that has captured the hearts and minds of countless fans, Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 contains selected text from Meyer’s original novel with illustrations by the talented Korean artist Young Kim. Kim’s unique artistic style which combines Asian and Western comic techniques are showcased in this black-and-white graphic novel with color interspersed throughout. Meyer consulted Kim throughout the artistic process and had input on every single panel that the artist created.

“Knowing how beautifully Young Kim rendered the Twilight universe in the first volume, I couldn’t wait for this next one,” remarked Meyer. “Her illustrations of characters and settings gorgeously capture the world and are very close to what I saw in my mind’s eye while writing Twilight.” Kurt Hassler, Yen Press Publishing Director, commented, “The first volume of the Twilight graphic novel was an utter phenomenon in the category, and the reception by Stephenie’s fans was absolutely overwhelming. It’s an incredible testament to the collaboration between Stephenie and Young Kim, and we cannot wait to be able to put the second volume into the readers’ hands!”

Stephenie Meyer has become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. The Twilight Saga’s translation rights have been sold in nearly 50 countries and 116 million copies have been sold worldwide.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

True Blood Viewing Parties Can Get Juicy

An HBO True Blood addiction is not a laughing matter. Several people have it, and trust us... it can can get pretty bad. As the theme song suggests, it can make anyone "wanna do bad things with you"... Hard-core fans (or Truebies as they call themselves) are craving the hit HBO series about the coexistence of vampires, werewolves and humans in a small Louisiana town called Bon Tempes. Waiting for your fix? Don't worry. Season four begins at 9:00 p.m. EST on Sunday. And it will have lots of gory blood, steamy sex and salivating fangs. We can't tell you where Sookie disappeared to or if Jason will be tied to another bed... or what's up with all of the witches. But we can give you some suggestions as to how to host your very own True Blood Season 4 Opening Party.

Dim all of the lights. Vampires don't appreciate light. Use candles in place of lamps at your party. Place clear glass bowls with red-dyed water and floating candles on tables throughout the house. A quick way to dim a room is to change all the light bulbs in your house to lower wattage, or to darker colors such as purples and reds. You also could use black lights, or string low-wattage red lights around a room so party-goers feel like they're at Fangtasia, the vampire-friendly bar and nightclub in the TV series.

Keep in mind— it's the Bayou, baby! True Blood is set in a small, fake Louisiana town. So play into that. Place fake moss and driftwood around lamps or tabletops. Add a few fake snakes, spiders, alligators or bones for effect. Cook up some tasty Cajun foods.

This web site will give you a nice selection of Louisiana meal temptations:

Dress the part. Ask friends to dress like their favorite character, say, a blond wig, T-shirt and cutoff jeans for Sookie. Stock up on fake fangs, fake blood and white powder make-up. Other great characters to choose from include the flamboyant Lafayette, the fiery red-headed Jessica or the rugged Alcide. You could make a Merlotte's Bar and Grill T-shirt, wear a dark silky robe or waitress apron or buy them online: We know you can't order them from the website and get them or other online products in time for the premiere, but a whole new season stretches before us. Plenty of time for other viewing parties!

Set the mood. Download the True Blood soundtrack songs from iTunes and create a party mix to play before the new episode. Throw in some songs from KDED, the all-vampire radio station based in Baton Rouge, mentioned in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Once Season four starts... hang on to your seats, your significant others and enjoy the wild ride as we can promise you one thing... you won't want to look away and you'll be completely enthralled from the moment the first scene begins.

Be sure to visit for previews of episode two!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clarence Clemons, The Final Bow

"In the mental calmness of a spiritual life, I have found that the answers to the whys in our lives are able to come to you. In my music I find the same thing." —Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons— Bruce Springsteen's "Big Man" on the sax— has taken his final bow. Clemons, who died Saturday at age 69 in Florida after suffering a stroke on June 12th played and toured with The Boss for four decades. To say he was a remarkable talent wouldn't be enough to capture his magic. I remember being 3 rows back at the Born in The USA Tour. There was an enthusiasm that washed over the audience with a thunderous presence. And Clarence Clemons was larger than life, belting out his finest. Some say Clarence was at his best in the 1980s during the  Born in the U.S.A. tour. None of us would ever forget the great introduction Bruce gave Clarence. "A man I have run out of words to describe. He’s the king of the world, the emperor (or master) of the universe."

Hulking well over six feet tall, Mr. Clemons fully justified his moniker, especially in comparison to the much shorter Mr. Springsteen, and his looping tenor sax sound was a distinctive feature of nearly all the E Street Band's songs. Standards like "Born To Run," Jungleland," and "Badlands" featured him prominently. Mr. Clemons was the oldest original E Streeter, and Mr. Springsteen would introduce him last, usually by saying, "The biggest man you ever seen…"

The son of a Norwalk, Va., fish seller and grandson of a Baptist preacher, Mr. Clemons grew up helping his dad deliver fish while practicing his saxophone in the back room of the store. He played in the high school jazz band and attended Maryland State College on a football scholarship. A potential career with the Cleveland Browns ended due to injuries in a car crash. In the 1960s, Mr. Clemons worked as a counselor in a group home for emotionally disturbed children in Newark, N.J., and spent his free time playing with rock bands on the Jersey shore.

The story of how Mr. Clemons came to join the E Street Band was part of the group's mythology, told over and again. In 1971, Mr. Clemons was playing with a cover band in Asbury Park. After the show, he walked through a storm to a nearby club where Mr. Springsteen was playing. "When I opened the door it blew off the hinges and flew down the street," Mr. Clemons wrote in a 2009 memoir, "Big Man." He proceeded to sit in with Mr. Springsteen's band, starting with the song "Spirit in the Night." The story took on a different tinge in the song "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out," where Mr. Clemon's arrival heralds the start of the band's success: "When the change was made uptown/And the Big Man joined the band/From the coastline to the city/All the little pretties raise their hands."

The song appeared on Mr. Springsteen's break-out "Born to Run" album in 1975. On the cover the singer playfully leans on Mr. Clemons's ample shoulder. "Sometimes you can't tell where Clarence ends and his sax begins," Mr. Springsteen said in Peter Gambaccini's 1985 Springsteen biography. Between tours with Mr. Springsteen, Mr. Clemons organized his own band, the Red Bank Rockers. He toured with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, and the Jerry Garcia Band. He was in demand as a sideman for talents as diverse as Aretha Franklin and Janis Ian. Most recently, he appeared on Lady Gaga's latest album including a solo on the hit "Edge of Glory." The album prompted some critics to speculate that a rock music saxophone revival lay around the corner... but it wasn't meant to be.

Goodbye Clarence, your music will live within each of us forever.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Horrible Bosses— An Insane Romp

"Almost everyone has had a horrible boss at some point in their lives, someone who made life miserable," says director Seth Gordon. "We all know how tempting it is to fantasize about how much better things would be if they were out of the way. This is a story about three guys who decide to do something about it. "But," he adds, "it doesn't turn out exactly the way they expect." If bumping off their tormentors seems a little extreme at first, it soon becomes clear that, for one reason or another, these three browbeaten and manipulated workers are out of reasonable options. And it's not as if they started out as homicidal malcontents— actually, quite the opposite. Gordon sees the story's heroes, played by Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, as "just average suburban working Joes. They're not bad guys, really; they're doing their best, but they're trapped and victimized by the people they work for in ways that are truly heinous and profound until they just can't take it anymore."

Week after week, longtime buddies Nick, Dale and Kurt meet for a few rounds to commiserate over their distinctly different yet equally desperate predicaments and the individuals responsible: Harken, Nick's control-freak boss, played by Kevin Spacey; Pellit, the unconscionable heir to his father's company and the bane of Kurt's existence, played by Colin Farrell; and Julia Harris, the predatory dentist, played by Jennifer Aniston as audiences have never seen her before. As the conversation (and the beer) takes its natural course, the guys end up reflecting on how much brighter their lives and careers would be if only their despicable bosses were out of the picture. How nice it would be if they turned up dead one day. How much they deserve to turn up dead...

From there, it's not that great a leap. Or so they think. The problem is, apart from their outrage, their furtive fantasies and the knowledge gleaned from umpteen seasons of "Law & Order," they have no qualifications, no experience and certainly no aptitude for the assassination business. "They're completely incompetent," states Gordon, a fact that is brought home to them immediately, and pretty much every hour thereafter, and which prompts them to enlist the bargain-priced assistance of a self-promoting parolee named Motherf****r Jones, played by Jamie Foxx.

From that springboard, "It becomes a linear story where one thing sets off another, and it just keeps getting faster and crazier as the guys quickly reach the point where there's no turning back," explains the director, who cites "Horrible Bosses" as one of those rare scripts that made him laugh till he cried. If the average moviegoer can't relate to a murder plot, however ill-conceived, the filmmakers feel it's a safe bet they can at least relate to the escalating frustration that finally pushes these three working stiffs over the edge. Producer Brett Ratner, who developed "Horrible Bosses" with producing partner Jay Stern, notes, "The title alone says it all. It got an immediate reaction from everyone who heard it. People don't want to admit that the person they work for now is a horrible boss, but they'll refer to former bosses, or tell us about their 'friend' who has one. Everyone has bad experiences to draw on, and that's why this is so much fun."

"Actually, in discussing the movie, I discovered that a lot more people have wanted to kill their bosses than I would have guessed," offers Jason Sudeikis, who stars as the normally easygoing Kurt. In that respect, "Horrible Bosses" is a tale of wish-fulfillment on a grand scale for anyone who has ever imagined, say, heaving his or her immediate supervisor off the roof, but with Nick, Dale and Kurt taking all the risks and making all the stupid mistakes.

"They carry the water for us," says producer Jay Stern. "These are tough times for a lot of people, and many of us feel thankful to even have a job. At the same time, if someone is oppressing or abusing you, you think, 'Do I really have to take this? Do I really have to deal with this maniac?' I think there are plenty of people who don't necessarily want to kill their bosses but wouldn't mind seeing them hang off an overpass for awhile during rush hour.

"When these guys decide to take revenge in the most extreme way, it might seem a little dark at first," Stern continues, "but they screw it up so badly that it's not really a movie about three workers who get off on killing their bosses; it's more about the outrageous and hilarious adventure they take together after they decide to empower themselves and end up getting involved in something way over their heads."

Starring as the beleaguered Nick, Jason Bateman concurs: "This is not exactly rational behavior and I hope there's no one like these guys out there. We're just trying to make people laugh. If they find a correlation between the story and their own lives, great. But I wouldn't advise trying any of this at home."

The Cult of Pure Celebrity

One of my favorite movies is “The American President,” (1995) starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. It is the story of a widowed president who falls in love with a liberal lobbyist. He struggles to navigate his relationship with her while also doing his job as the President. It’s a good movie, you should see it if you haven’t already. In the final speech of the movie, President Shepherd (Douglas), who has been maligned politically because of his budding relationship with the lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening), finally stands up for himself and his personal life at an impromptu press conference. In the middle of his speech he says, "Everybody knows America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, 'You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating, at the top of his lungs, that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."

It was a powerful moment. What we do and say matters. Our actions and our words define us. That is a truth from which we cannot escape, no matter how much we try. Celebrity worship reflects a primal need that’s been present since the Babylonians: to elevate people to the status of mythic heroes, only to destroy them. “It suits us when… fame comes at a price. Or as the Greeks put it, the only place to go from the top of Fortune’s Wheel is down. Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, had to choose between a long, anonymous life or a short, glorious one. There’s no middle ground: a hero must either “go out in a blaze of glory or else disappoint us.”

Seventeen years ago (1994), then-NBA standout Charles Barkley (The Chicago Bulls) wrote the text for his own Nike commercial, a black-and-white ad that lasted 27 seconds and provided water cooler talk for people who watched it air back then and remains a conversation starter for anyone exposed to it since. Barkley, famed for his ferocious play, as well as his opinions, looked directly into the camera when he spoke just 42 words. But they weren't just words, they were the truth. When Barkley stated, "I am not a role model. I'm not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." Many parents and psychologists or family and youth sports researchers agreed with Barkley's premise.

Throughout his career, Barkley had been arguing that athletes should not be considered role models. He stated, "A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail; should they be role models?" In 1994, his argument prompted national news when he wrote the text for his "I am not a role model" Nike commercial. Dan Quayle, the former Vice President of the United States, called it a "family-values message" for Barkley's oft-ignored call for parents and teachers to quit looking to him to "raise your kids" and instead be role models themselves.

Barkley's message sparked a great public debate about the nature of role models. He argued, "I think the media demands that athletes be role models because there's some jealousy involved. It's as if they say, this is a young black kid playing a game for a living and making all this money, so we're going to make it tough on him. And what they're really doing is telling kids to look up to someone they can't become, because not many people can be like we are. Not all kids can be like Michael Jordan.

It was brutal, perhaps harsh... but again, it was the truth. We have become a society which elevates our expectations to levels which far exceed anyone's ability to meet them. We worship "celebrity" and we place these people under microscopes, place them on lofty perches and then joyfully watch as they fall from grace and come inevitably crashing to the ground.

So what is the allure of fame? The lifestyle, for one thing. In the Faust legend, the doctor agrees to sell his soul to the Devil, but in return gets all his wishes granted for 24 years. In both ancient Albania and Mesoamerica, slaves and youth selected as human sacrifices were often first entertained in massive splendor. Nowadays, MTV allows the Jersey Shore kids to party themselves sick— with the explicit understanding that they’ll pay back the network by self-destructing for the cameras. Of course, in The Odyssey, Achilles’ ghost reappears and says he made the wrong choice— he should have gone for long-lived anonymity. But once fame is granted, there’s no going back. It perpetuates itself and never returns to the escape of anonymity.

Neil Young Reunites With Harvesters

In the mid-1980s, Neil Young and a band filled with Nashville music greats toured with The Judds, appeared on Ralph Emery's Nashville Now television show and tried briefly, mightily and unsuccessfully to break into the country mainstream. Looking back on that time, Young couldn’t be prouder. "This is a part of my life that is unmistakably the most satisfying from a musician's standpoint," Young said, standing in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater and reflecting on all of the live recordings from 1984 and 1985 that have just been released as A Treasure.

That statement might confuse longtime fans, most of whom prefer classic Young albums Harvest and Tonight’s the Night to his one album from this period, the oft-panned Old Ways. But A Treasure reveals Young and International Harvesters band members Ben Keith, Anthony Crawford, Rufus Thibodeaux, Spooner Oldham, Tim Drummond, Karl Himmel, Pig Robbins and Joe Allen delivering country music both adventurous and well-rooted, with tremendous instrumental flights and palpable joy. When co-producer Keith heard the quarter-century-old recordings (culled from 85 shows: The Harvesters never made a studio album), he pronounced them "a treasure," and Young had his title.

"(In the Harvesters) it was a natural interplay, all the time," Young said. "Great musicians, communicating on their own level, all the time. I'm so proud of it. It's already a huge success as far as I'm concerned." Young reunited with most of the living Harvesters (steel guitar legend Keith died last year, and Cajun fiddle master Thibodeaux died in 2005) at a private gathering Sunday night at the Hall to hear the album and catch up. In the mid-'80s, Young’s life and career were in some turmoil. He was sued by Geffen Records for making experimental rock records that were a harder sell (the label described that music as "willfully uncharacteristic"), and he was dogged by the IRS. Yet the negatives of the time now fall away in favor of Young’s nearly giddy recollection of the music that was made.

"There were some bittersweet moments, but the music is so good and so happy, and it felt good to bring everybody together and celebrate," he said.

Young grew up listening to country music in Canada, and he had long been fascinated by Music City. He came here to appear on Johnny Cash's television show in the early 1970s, and he recorded his biggest radio hit, "Heart of Gold," at Quad Studios along Music Row. He came back in 1978 to record the album Comes a Time, which featured several players who would eventually join the International Harvesters. But he’d never ventured so deeply into country until 1984, when he signed with Nashville booking agency Buddy Lee attractions, appeared on Emery’s program to sing and to engage in some good-natured verbal jousting with Faron Young, and set about proving that his record label chief was wrong when he told Young that he'd never be accepted on country radio.

Turns out the label guy was right but that Young found a musical kinship with the Harvesters that was as satisfying as any radio hit. Monday at the Hall, he spoke about each band member, praising Keith’s steel tone as "pure silk and gold" and calling Thibodeaux "probably the greatest Cajun fiddler that ever lived." Crawford was the eager youngster in a band of well-seasoned pros.

"I don't really understand how it happened," Crawford said. "I think I sang on a Tanya Tucker record and (Young’s producer) Elliot Mazer heard my voice and asked me to come down to (Music Row studio) the House of David. Within five minutes, I was singing in a vocal booth with Neil Young, one of my favorite people of all time. And we had a really good sound. Our vocals were like peas and carrots."

There were two versions of the International Harvesters, as midway through the group’s run Robbins replaced Oldham on piano and Allen replaced Tim Drummond on bass. Both ensembles are included on A Treasure, with Keith and Thibodeaux's mind-bending interplay on "Southern Pacific" and Oldham’s relaxed and soulful piano on the album-opening "Amber Jean" standing as two highlights. Famously averse to staying in any one musical place, Young disbanded the International Harvesters in late 1985, and with 1986's Life he was back residing in rock terrain. But he frequently collaborated with several Harvesters (working nearly constantly with Keith, whom he calls "my brother"), and he returned to Nashville to eventually record 2005's Prairie Wind album.

He mentioned Nashville and referenced Thibodeaux as "that old country fiddle" in 1992’s "One of These Days," a song from the album Harvest Moon that found Young reminiscing on his own musical journey. That song opened with the line, "One of these days, I'm gonna sit down and write a long letter to all the good friends I've known." A Treasure feels a lot like that letter. "A friend of mine said that last night," Young said. "He said, 'My favorite song of yours is 'One of These Days,' and it feels like tonight is one of these days.' I gave him a big hug, 'cause that made me feel real good."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Social Network Free Speech? Really?

Why won't Twitter and Facebook sign on for free speech on the Internet? According to a recent article in The New York Times, these social media stalwarts are notably absent from the Global Network Initiative, a code of conduct that is dedicated to protecting free speech around the world. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are the three tech giants already enlisted by the GNI, though their involvement dates back to 2008, when each encountered public criticism for their acquiescence to China's restrictive policies regarding the web. Advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology are also members.

But, despite intense attention afforded the roles of both Twitter and Facebook during recent uprisings in the Middle East, neither company has seen fit to join GNI. Many have hailed these social media sites as being instrumental in helping people to organize protests, and otherwise get their voices heard in highly repressive situations— one Egyptian man went so far as to actually name his child Facebook out of sheer gratitude.

While Twitter declined to comment on the story, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes simply told them, "As Facebook grows, we'll continue to expand our outreach and participation, but it's important to remember that our global operations are still small, with offices in only a handful of countries." Still, even without having officially signed its name to any pact, Twitter has shown that they are willing to protect the rights of their users. When the government subpoenaed the site to turn over user information in a Wikileaks-related case, Twitter challenged the order, and informed the users who had been singled out, so that they might individually fight the order themselves.

GNI's guidelines say that participants, when asked to remove content, or restrict communication, should do the following: Require that governments follow established domestic legal processes when they are seeking to restrict freedom of expression. Interpret government restrictions and demands so as to minimize the overall negative effect on freedom of expression itself. Interpret the governmental authority's jurisdiction so as to minimize the negative effect on to freedom of expression. It works well in "theory", but does it hold up in process?

My question is how does one define "Freedom of Speech" in a global network where each and every country has its own set of laws? In a rather classic case of "Twitter Controversy"... Amanda Bonnen didn’t mean to tweet her way into anything. In fact, she wasn’t even really much of a Twitter user at all, compared to many of us who tweet daily and RT hourly. When she sent the tweet that landed her in a cesspool of litigation, in fact, she had only 20 followers, was following 29 herself, and barely tweeted even once a day. That didn’t matter to Horizon Realty, however. When Bonnen sent along her ill-fated tweet to her 20 followers on May 12th, 2009, she had no idea that each of those people was worth $2,500 in damages to Horizon Realty. Not long after she’d sent that tweet, she was hit with a $50,000 lawsuit for it.

Given those numbers, I’m potentially worth billions… and I've looked at all sides of the arguments.

Amanda’s tweet in question? To a friend: “You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.” According to the news item in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Horizon Realty company filed the $50,000 lawsuit for libel and damages at the Cook County Circuit Court. The now-defunct @abonnen user name was listed as an “alias” for Amanda Bonnen in the suit.

The apartment in question, in case you want to avoid it, is somewhere in Chicago. I suspect that by now, it’s the focus of a shrine to Bonnen’s potential losses. Perhaps it should also be a shrine to the new loss of freedom on Twitter that this could mean. Personally if I didn’t want people to know about the alleged issues in the apartment, I would have avoided a public lawsuit that disclosed the exact location of the apartment in question.

All they did was enable millions around the world to become aware of issues with their properties instead of the few people this tenant told. They should sue themselves for the billions it probably relates to, in regards to the amount of eyes that have now come to see the address. Sometimes I really wonder if the people in those high-priced designer suits ever really think things through. Not only will people avoid the building now, but they will inevitably avoid this real estate company, based upon their counteractions.

Horizon Realty eventually responded to widespread backlash facing the apartment company after the story about its lawsuit against a tweeting tenant put it in the international limelight. The press release stated: "The response to our libel lawsuit has been tremendous, We would like to take this opportunity to clarify some confusion concerning the circumstances surrounding our lawsuit against Amanda Bonnen. I would first like to take this opportunity to apologize for tongue in cheek comments that were made previously regarding our approach to litigation. This statement is not in line with our philosophy towards property management and was taken out of context. No mold was ever found but her unit was one of several that had experienced an overnight leak, the tenant moved out on June 30th, and then, on June 24th, much to our surprise given her previous silence, Bonnen sued Horizon Realty Group."

In response, "conducting our due diligence," Jeff Michael of Horizon Realty Group says her tweet was identified and the company "acted to protect our reputation just as we would for any other related comment made in a public forum."

How will the possibility of a lawsuit affect how you or I tweet? Will we be as likely to say things openly? Could this destroy Twitter as we know it? I personally believe that the REAL issue lies in defining which laws, if any, apply to the Internet or Twitter or Facebook or any one of thousands of social networks given the fact that we are dealing with a GLOBAL NETWORK. What if Amanda made those exact same comments while living in Ireland? What would happen then? The fact of the matter is that social networking, much like so many other areas of the Internet is not a simple black and white issue.

It isn't about US laws, it's about every single country that doles out laws and rules. But then, there are also additional factors to consider. Think you just have 20 followers? Think again. Your tweets are are able to be located on just about any search engine that exists anywhere. And it’s a routine practice for any smart company to look for its name regularly using those search engines. Also, what you tweet or put up on the Internet NEVER EVER goes away. There are millions of Internet archiving sites which take "snapshots" of all of the social networking as well as web sites and servers 24-7.

Face it. We are no longer alone, nor are we anonymous. It doesn't matter who you are or what your significance is. You can be a celebrity, a politician or just someone who decided to purchase an iPad. If you've convinced yourself that your personal information will never be discovered, you've deluded yourself. Privacy is a thing of the past. Google maps out streets and houses and businesses in such a way that the whole world is watching. The cameras are rolling and no one is able to avoid them. You don’t get to play by the old rules any more, and it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. You don’t get the old privilege of anonymity. You don’t get to bury your story on page 47. There is no more page 47. Every story is somebody’s page 1.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t your story any more. It belongs to everyone, and they’ll do what they please with it. If you want to influence the conversation, you’ve actually got to get into the conversation. Respectfully. Meaningfully. Just because that’s a social media cliché doesn’t mean you get to ignore it and hope it goes away. The one-to-a-jillion aspect of social media means that any of us can hit the equivalent of the front page of the New York Times at any time. All that has to happen is that we find ourselves in the middle of a really interesting story.    

Horizon Realty might just be the most loveable, fair, decent and true company in the world. Right now, their name recognition has about as much appeal as those Orkin pests. With mold. Whether fair or not, Horizon has made a worldwide name for itself virtually instantly, connecting its brand with callous disregard for its tenants, or worse. Yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity. This is what it looks like.

Do social media users read all the facts carefully before flaming? Of course they don’t. Are there dozens of inaccurate accusations about Horizon flying around Twitter and everywhere else? Absolutely. Is that fair? No. Then again, filing a $50,000 lawsuit against a customer for a snarky remark made to a friend isn’t going to strike many as entirely reasonable either. The good news is that the next controversy is right around the corner... causing the old one to fade into oblivion as fast as Charlie Sheen and his declaration of, "Winning!"

So where do we go with all of this? What do we learn? Who knows? Because when push comes to shove, be it Twitter or your neighbor's annoying bright red fence... it's always going to be something.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Michael Jackson • AEG Lawsuit

The insurers of Michael Jackson's ill-fated "This Is It" London comeback concerts have asked a judge to nullify a $17.5 million dollar policy taken out by promoters, saying they were never told that the singer was taking powerful drugs. Underwriters at Lloyds of London filed a lawsuit against AEG Live and Jackson's company in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, asking a judge to solve the insurance dispute almost two years after the "Thriller" singer's death. Jackson, 50, died in Los Angeles on June 25th, 2009 after rehearsing for the upcoming series of 50 concerts in London. Authorities said he died of a massive dose of the anesthetic propofol and a cocktail of other sedatives and painkillers. Jackson's personal doctor is scheduled to stand trial in September on charges of giving the singer a fatal dose of propofol as a sleep aid. The insurance policy was taken out to cover the cancellation or postponement of the London concerts in the case of the death, accident or illness of Jackson.

The lawsuit claimed that AEG, who hired Jackson's physician Dr. Conrad Murray, failed to disclose the singer's medical history to the insurers "including, but not limited to, his apparent prescription drug use and/or drug addiction." The lawsuit further states that AEG or Jackson or his company knew but did not disclose that Jackson was taking propofol— an anesthetic that is usually restricted to hospital use ahead of surgery. It adds that attempts to resolve the dispute with AEG Live outside the courts have failed. "Underwriters therefore request that the policy be declared null and void." All of which is interesting because, when the media speculated in early 2009 as to whether Jackson was fit enough to deliver a fifty night residency, many noting that the singer had shunned a London court appearance in relation to his dispute with Sheikh Abdulla the previous year supposedly because of ill health, AEG insisted doctors and insurers had given the singer the all clear health wise.

AEG made a claim on its insurance policy with Lloyd’s shortly after Jackson’s death. But, Lloyd’s says it has been requesting more information about the late singer’s health, and his personal medic Conrad Murray, since late 2009, to no avail. AEG is yet to respond to the lawsuit, though a spokesman for the Jackson estate was dismissive of the insurer’s claims. The estate’s legal rep Howard Weitzman told The Wrap that the Lloyd’s lawsuit was “nothing more than an insurance company trying to avoid paying a legitimate claim by the insured”. Whatever happens with lawsuit, it seems certain Lloyd’s will resist paying up until after the Conrad Murray trial, due to take place in September, especially as Murray’s legal reps have indicated they might claim Jackson administered the lethal shot of propofol himself, maybe in a bid to commit suicide, a fact which would presumably also have the potential to void any insurance policy.

AEG, of course, recovered a sizable part of the money it had invested in "This Is It" at the time of Jackson’s death— the majority of which wasn’t insured at all— by turning backstage footage of rehearsals for the show into the "This Is It" movie. The insurer says that the insurance policy relating to "This Is It" is void because AEG Live misrepresented Jackson’s health at the outset. The live music giant, Lloyd’s alleges, claimed that Jackson had not received any medical treatment, other than cosmetic surgery, since 2005. AEG Live, which is privately held, did not return calls for comment.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones!

After watching the Bones Season 6 finale (over and over and over again), we think you all know why we’re excited for Season 7: Brennan is pregnant! With Booth’s child! But it’s so much more than just that. (Really, it is.) Read on for our top five reasons why we’re wishing the summer would be over and Bones would be back in our lives already. Number 5: The return of the belt buckle. Call us silly, but we miss that “Cocky” belt buckle, and not just because it involved focusing in on Booth’s (David Boreanaz) midsection. Though that doesn’t hurt! We used to think Seeley stopped wearing his gift from Brennan (Emily Deschanel) because he was in a relationship with Hannah, but even though she’s long gone, there’s still no sign of the red accessory. Maybe his official coupledom with Brennan means it’s only a matter of time before the buckle makes its return.

Number 4: The look on their faces... Even though we’re pretty confident Angela (Michaela Conlin) knows what happened behind Booth’s bedroom door the night of one special squintern’s passing, we’re pretty sure the baby news will still come as a complete shock to her— and the whole Jeffersonian team. Imagining the many incredulous looks Sweets (John Francis Daley)— a card-carrying member of Team B&B— will make when he finds out is one way we’re keeping ourselves busy during this long summer with no new Bones.

Number 3: More guts, more glory. We know we have a tendency to act grossed out by the weekly display of disgusting Bones bodies, but the truth is deep down we love it. Watching the writer’s top themselves in the gore department week after week is one of the reasons we tune in. But even though the body in the season finale’s bowling episode was named one of NY Mag’s Grossest Bodies on TV this season, we think the best/worst is yet to come. Even executive producer Stephen Nathan can’t contain his excitement. Last week he tweeted, “Working on the first six Bones stories for season 7. Seems to be no end to the murdering. And that brain... how the hell did that happen?!” Number 2. Baby Bones No. 2— Creator Hart Hanson will no doubt have something up his sleeve when it comes to the storyline for Booth and Brennan’s baby, but as long as it results in a healthy baby, we think we can handle just about anything. Sure it was heartbreaking to watch Angela and Hodgins (TJ Thyne) come to grips with the fact that their baby might be born blind, but seeing him come into the world healthy— and not to mention named after dearly departed Vincent—  was totally worth the anxiety and tears (ours and theirs). And now that it’s B&B’s turn to go through the process, we’re looking forward to the baby bumps (real and fake) and the cutesy moments of reassuring each other that everything’s going to be okay. It will be okay, right, Hart?! It better be!!!

Number 1: Less talk, more action. Don’t get us wrong, we love, love, love that Booth and Brennan finally hooked up, but our one complaint is that we didn’t get to see nary a smooch. B&B should understand this more than anyone: We want proof! Thankfully the show has all next season to make it up to us. Hand-holding, face-caressing, cuddling— pick your PDA poison, writers. It’s okay, we’ll wait. Now you tell us! What are YOU guys most looking forward to when Bones returns in the fall?

The Vampire Diaries: Season 3

Returning for its third season, The Vampire Diaries is the story of two vampire brothers obsessed with the same beautiful girl, and battling to control the fate of an entire town. During season one, Stefan (Paul Wesley, "Fallen") and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder, "Lost"), returned to their hometown of Mystic Falls, Virginia, for very different reasons— Stefan was determined to get to know Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev, the upcoming film, "The Killing Game"), who bears a striking resemblance to Katherine Pierce, the beautiful but ruthless vampire the brothers knew and loved in 1864, while Damon was intent on releasing Katherine from the tomb where he believed she was trapped by a witch's spell all those years ago.

In the season one finale, Elena's uncle Johnathan (guest star David Anders) set a plan in motion that brought the Founder's Day celebration to an end amid chaos, destruction and death, and saw the return of the vengeful Katherine Pierce. Elena's troubled younger brother, Jeremy Gilbert (Steven R. McQueen, "Everwood"), was so devastated by the death of Anna (Malese Jow, "Hannah Montana"), the vampire who befriended him, that he lost all hope and took an overdose of pills. That same night, Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino, "Cane"), Matt Donovan (Zach Roerig, "Friday Night Light") and Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola, "Juno") were in a serious car accident while trying to escape the chaos in the town square, and Caroline was rushed to the hospital, her life hanging in the balance. The events of that terrible night will also have long-range effects on Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham, the upcoming "Honey 2"), the powerful witch who was Elena's best friend until the vampire brothers came between them; Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis, "Legally Blonde") the vampire-hunter who has become an unlikely ally for Stefan and Damon; and Jenna (Sara Canning, "Smallville"), who has yet to discover the violence that occurred in her own home.

In season two, the appearance of the villainous Katherine in Mystic Falls will throw a wrench into the love triangle between Stefan, Elena and Damon, and the other residents of Mystic Falls must choose sides as they fall victim to a new breed of danger. New and unexpected friendships will be forged, allies will become enemies, and hearts will be broken. Stefan and Damon will be forced to face a villain more evil and diabolical than they ever believed possible.

Season three opens the door to learn more about Klaus and The Original Family as his motives for wanting Stefan on his side are finally revealed. As Stefan sinks deeper into the dark side, Damon and Elena struggle with the guilt of their growing bond even as they work together to bring Stefan back from the edge. The ghosts from Jeremy's past have a powerful message they're trying to deliver to him, not to mention the impact they're having on his relationship with Bonnie. And as Caroline and Tyler grow closer, a war erupts between their families.

The Vampire Diaries writers are back at it! Producers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson are already biting into Season 3, tweeting about their return to The Vampire Diaries writing room earlier this week. That wasn’t much of a vacation for our fave creative team, but with a show as action packed as this one, we’re hardly surprised they’re diligently back at work.    

@JuliePlec: "Going to bed early. Tomorrow's the first day of school. And by school, I mean TVD Season 3 writers' room.#norestforthewicked"

@KevWilliamson: "First day of Season 3. The writer's room was alive and hoppin'. Freaky."

As for the actors who make it all happen, some of them are spending part of their summer gallivanting around England, posing pretty at photo shoots, and filming big screen flicks. Working hard or hardly working? With jobs as fun as these, it’s tough to say!

The Zen Answer to Drama

It creeps up on you. First it is subtle and then it is obvious. It can be shocking and all consuming. Having too many choices complicates things and before you know it, instead of being led by the child within you, the adult takes over and unintentionally life becomes a constant struggle. We all need to be reminded that being a kid at heart is living fearlessly, free of agendas and self-perpetuated dramas. Have you ever noticed how some people just seem to have so much drama in their lives? Whereas some people breeze through life, others seem to live from one crisis to another. Some people just seem to crave drama, create drama and look for drama. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I watch people carrying a load of life's unnecessary baggage around with them in search of the next drama. Let go. It's no that difficult. Zen philosophy emerged from Buddhism. This philosophy supports mindfulness and dharma practice. Dharma refers to understanding "self" and the way things are.

Zen followers find happiness in themselves rather than seeking it elsewhere. This personality will seek self knowledge in order to understand what makes them happy. They also realize that happiness is a state of mind. So they must cultivate the feeling by living in the moment, staying in the moment. They are peaceful and mindful of the ego's tendency to attract conflict which often evolves into a fight.

Think about why everything evolved into a fight, jockeying for position, status, wealth and power. Power isn't about how many people you are able to thwart should they step into your path. It isn't about participation in the battles others choose for us. It's about refusing to allow anyone to delegate the "rules" which attract even more conflict. There are no rules that say you must partake in... if you think about it. Who says that you have to retaliate against the people who stand there, arms folded, waiting for you to engage in a never-ending game of absurd one-upsmanship? Simply choose to walk around that person and go forward with a smile, with laughter. Seek the truth by listening to your inner self and your natural inclination to stay present, thus avoiding manipulation.

Manipulation and taking advantage of others goes hand in hand with the ego's quest for sympathy. The storyline goes like this— now that I have got you feeling sorry for me, of course you must rescue me! And I am in so much trouble and pain, you just have to take care of me! Not true. The sad part is, these people usually have low self-esteem and believe that they will not be noticed, complaining about their lot is their best perceived way of getting attention. Sadly it actually works the other way around— they end up creating a negative impression which often becomes a cycle, pulling everything into the abyss of negativity. If you are at peace within, these games will never find a home with you.

People will respect you more if they know that they can trust you to tell the truth. Do not try to cover up your mistakes, admit to them, apologize and move on. Gossip is yet another a relationship killer. Avoid saying things about people that you have not told the offending person directly. Be real. You will be easily found out if you are being fake. And besides, it is annoying to see two people embrace and be giddy in seeing each other only to walk away saying, “I can’t stand her.” What is that about? Who are these people trying to fool? It's absurd and petty and it should never find its way into your life. Do not be easily offended… Do your best to look past small inconsequential aspects of life. It isn't worth the effort. Keep in mind that nothing is a contest unless you are willing to make it into one.

Know who you can trust… If someone has broken your trust a few times, maybe this is a pattern for them. Maybe you need to use wisdom and discretion in deciding what you tell them the next time you talk. This is not an end all to avoiding all drama, but putting these actions into practice will help you start the drama removal process in your life. It takes practice and discipline. It is important to be able to admit your shortcomings to friends. If you happen to make a mistake or inadvertently hurt someone, be truthful about it all and ask them to forgive you.

And lastly, keep these simple truths in mind... impermanence, transition, detachment from the outcome. Everything is practice. Be the observer.

Joss Whedon • Avengers Update

Joss Whedon's Avengers may have their hands full in the writer/director's upcoming movie if a new rumor rings true. Anonymous sources claim that Thanos the Mad Titan will show up in the film to rain death and destruction down on the universe. The rumor is courtesy of our infamous/anonymous Mr. X who writes: "According to various, very trusted and always on point sources, I have exclusively learned that the other villain in The Avengers film is none other than... Thanos!" Corroborating this rumor is the unexplained placement of the Infinity Gauntlet shown off at San Diego Comic Con 2010, in addition to a cameo by the Gauntlet in Odin's Vault in the Thor movie.

I'll explain if you're not up on your comic book history. Thanos is a member of the Eternal race, a more powerful offshoot of humanity created by the cosmic Celestials that also lives much longer. Thanos is obsessed with the female embodiment of Death, whom he's met, at one point in time hoping to wipe out every living thing in the universe in tribute. In this effort, he assembled the Infinity Gems onto the Infinity Gauntlet, each gem giving complete power over time, space, reality, mind, power, and soul respectively. Even with this great power, Thanos was defeated and the Infinity Gems were split up so they could easily be guarded.

The Infinity Gauntlet's double appearances hint that the rumor could be true, though it doesn't necessarily mean that Thanos will wield it. Previous rumors said that Loki and the shape-shifting Skrulls would take roles as antagonists in Whedon's film. Thanos would be an amazing villain, especially if he's collecting the Infinity Gems, though it would seem to change the scope of the movie from a superhero film to a cosmic space fantasy of sorts, something that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently mentioned upcoming films would cover. The Avengers will be [barring any drastic changes] released on May 4th, 2012.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

General Hospital— Code Red!

ABC is placing a big bet on Katie Couric to fill Oprah Winfrey's shoes. The Walt Disney Co. network is putting the finishing touches on a deal with the former "Today" co-anchor for a syndicated talk show that draws on the template popularized by Ms. Winfrey, and is likely to announce the new program as early as Monday, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Ms. Couric's new job would bring one of TV's most recognized faces to daytime-TV as big turnover— notably Ms. Winfrey's exit— is throwing audience loyalties up for grabs. It caps months of talks with multiple media companies, and follows the end last month of her five-year anchor stint on CBS Corporation's "CBS Evening News."

Katie Couric is finalizing a deal with ABC to create her own syndicated talk show, and is likely to announce the program as early as Monday. Sam Schechner has details. As part of the new deal, ABC will distribute Ms. Couric's talk show to local TV stations, with an intended premiere in the fall of 2012, the people said. Ms. Couric would in the meantime have an on-air role at ABC News, they added.

The format for Ms. Couric's show is still under discussion, but it is likely to aim at least in part for the gap that has been left behind after Ms. Winfrey ended her two-and-a-half decade daytime run last month, some of the people familiar with the discussions said. The show could also incorporate elements of Ms. Couric's stint on "Today," where she was a co-anchor for 15 years, one of those people added. 

She began her broadcast journalism career at ABC News in 1979. "She'll be doing the big interviews. She'll be doing the heartfelt stories," another of those people said, calling the show "Oprah-esque." What does that mean? Oprah is a major brand!

Bringing aboard Ms. Couric, 54, represents a risk for ABC. The network is betting on a big— and expensive— name in an increasingly fragmented and competitive daytime TV landscape. Audiences for individual shows have been slowly shrinking for decades, as viewers flip to a growing number of entertainment options on cable and the Internet. Meanwhile multiple companies are angling to pick up the roughly 6.5 million viewers who watched Ms. Winfrey's show, on average, according to Nielsen Company "Judge Judy," distributed by CBS Corporation, has seen her ratings rise in recent months.

Time Warner Inc.'s syndication arm is distributing a new daytime show from CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. It also remains to be seen if Ms. Couric can bring with her the big audiences she had at "Today." At "CBS Evening News," she won some accolades for her coverage, but was unable to dig the show out of its perennial third-place finish among evening newscasts.

ABC, meanwhile, is replacing two ailing soap operas with less-expensive shows about food and weight loss in coming months. Its syndication arm must contend with the impending retirement of Regis Philbin, who has been a daytime fixture for decades. Already, the eight local ABC television stations that Disney owns have scrambled to fill the hole left by Ms. Winfrey, whose show they aired. Some have launched new local newscasts, with others to follow. Disney's syndication arm is making a big commitment to Ms. Couric. As part of the deal, Ms. Couric would own her show, allowing her to reap profits more directly, according to the people familiar with the negotiations. ABC will get a cut of distribution revenue, as well as production fees, one of those people said.

Disney would also guarantee $20 million in revenue for Ms. Couric from the program, although her overall earnings could exceed that based on the show's performance, some of the people familiar with the matter said. To make room for Ms. Couric, ABC is considering clearing an hour of time on stations it owns in the window between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., according to people [like us] familiar with the discussions. But it remains unclear what shows it might scrap to make room for Ms. Couric, in part because her debut is more than a year away. Currently, ABC's 3:00 p.m. slot is generally occupied by its last remaining soap opera, "General Hospital," depending on the time zone. At 4:00 p.m., a slot often occupied by Ms. Winfrey, ABC's eight stations and other affiliates have been moving in some cases toward local news.

People familiar with deliberations at ABC said the network remains committed to "General Hospital," but could move its time slot, potentially replacing one of the new shows it has ordered to replace the other soaps. It is also possible local stations could replace their new newscasts with Ms. Couric, one of the people familiar with the negotiations [like UPBEAT Entertainment News] said.

By deciding to air Ms. Couric's show without deciding precisely what it will replace, ABC is shifting its daytime scheduling strategy to more closely mirror that in the evening hours, one of the people familiar with ABC's thinking said. TV networks routinely order more programs than they have time to air in primetime, tacitly acknowledging that each program will have to fight for its place on the schedule. The new program represents a homecoming of sorts for Ms Couric. People familiar with the matter say she is working on the program with Jeff Zucker, the former NBC Universal chief executive who was producer of "Today" in the era where Ms. Couric became known as "America's Sweetheart." But that was another era... not this era.

"General Hospital" fans, this is a "Code Red", you need to get out there and act now. Brian Frons is moving his "agenda" forward. But as we stated for the record weeks ago, he is risking a devoted audience for the "possibility" of a new audience. This is not the most "sound" thinking... in fact, it's a much bigger gamble than Frons himself can handle. He's rolling the dice expecting to be "on target" with his antiquated focus groups and reality television background. We're predicting a mess that Brian Frons can't possibly clean up on a good day... he is clueless and his ego is taking him to a place where money is scarce and unemployment lines are merciless. Chelsea Handler was "tweeting" like crazy about Katie Couric's deal less than a day ago... so... stay tuned folks!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Sarah Michelle Gellar is Back!

She’ll probably always be known as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but Sarah Michelle Gellar has been pursued by the broadcast networks since the show ended in 2003... and they finally caught up to her. We knew that it would only be a matter of time before the actress pulled together a deal too sweet to pass. Gellar most recently appeared in the 2009 HBO TV pilot ‘The Wonderful Maladys’. In Ringer, Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as a woman who, after witnessing a murder, goes on the run, hiding out by assuming the life of her wealthy identical twin sister— only to learn that her sister's seemingly idyllic life is just as complicated and dangerous as the one she's trying to leave behind. Bridget is six months sober and starting to turn her life around when she is the sole witness to a professional hit.

Despite the assurances of her FBI protector, Agent Victor Machado, Bridget knows her life is on the line. She flees to New York, telling no one, not even her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Malcolm. In New York, Bridget reunites with her estranged twin, Siobhan. Wealthy, pampered and married to the strikingly handsome Andrew Martin, Siobhan lives what appears to be a fairy tale life— a life where no one knows that Bridget exists. The sisters seem to be mending their frayed relationship, until Siobhan disappears overboard during a boat trip, and Bridget makes the split decision to take on her sister's identity.

She discovers shocking secrets, not only about her sister and her marriage, but also about Siobhan's best friend, Gemma, and Gemma's husband, Henry. And when someone tries to kill Bridget in her sister's penthouse, she realizes she is no safer as Siobhan than she is as herself. The series stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Bridget and Siobhan, Kristoffer Polaha as Henry, Ioan Gruffudd as Andrew Martin, Nestor Carbonell as Agent Victor Machado and Tara Summers as Gemma.

Ringer is produced by CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television in association with ABC Television Studios and Brillstein Entertainment with executive producers Pam Veasey (CSI, NY, The District), Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?) and Emmy Award-winner Richard Shepard (Ugly Betty). The pilot was directed by Richard Shepard. Gellar is also co-executive producing with the writers Charmelo and Snyder.