Our Moment of Zen

Image via Comedy Central on Threads

Jon Stewart is returning to ‘The Daily Show’ on Mondays for the next year or more, and will also be Executive Producer of the show. This is wonderful news. From Oliver Darcy at CNN:

The comedian, who during his 16-year run as host of the Comedy Central program established it as an entertainment and cultural force, will return to host the show each week on Mondays starting February 12, Showtime and MTV Entertainment Studios announced Wednesday.

Stewart, who returns as the 2024 presidential election season heats up, will also executive produce the show and work with a rotating line-up of comedians who will helm the program the rest of the week, Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“Stewart is the voice of our generation, and we are honored to have him return to Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ to help us all make sense of the insanity and division roiling the country as we enter the election season,” Chris McCarthy, chief executive of Showtime and MTV Entertainment Studios, said in a statement.

Oliver Darcy

I was always so disappointed when he left the show ahead of the 2016 Presidential election. I hope he will make up for it this time around.

Comedy is the truth and few are better than Jon Stewart at exposing the hypocrisy that is rampant in our world today.

Establishing The Norm

The pilot/premiere (S1E1) of “All In The Family” – 1971

Norman Lear passed yesterday. He was one of the most important and influential television producers of all time, single handedly responsible for all time classic shows like”All In The Family“, “The Jeffersons“, “Maude“, “Good Times“, and “Sanford and Son“, to name a few. There have been numerous great stories and articles shared over the past day or so about Mr. Lear, who from all accounts, still had his fastball at the ripe old age of 100. For me, I’ll just leave you with the above pilot/premiere episode of “All In The Family”, which still crushes 52 years later. If you get the chance and can find the series on you local streaming service, take the time to watch it. It is still funny and tackles social and political issues that are – sadly – still relevant today.

Media Diet And Other Things

Sometimes, it becomes apparent to me that this part of the site is basically the equivalant of screaming into the void. I basically did not post anything here for almost three months and nothing seemed to change. As they say, if a tree falls in the forest and no one was there, did it make any noise? I think the issue for me that I need to develop more of a consistent voice that needs to be developed and evolved over time. There is also the time commitment: I’ve always done this as sort of a side hobby – I’ve never really dedicated myself to frequently posting here because of ‘real world’ commitments like a job, family and other responsiblities. In the past, I have highlighted items that have peaked my interest and were just worth sharing with the world. Yet part of the challenge in standing out in today’s landscape is figuring out an approach – do you go for volume or quality? – are you built for speed or comfort (as Vince Vaughn once said)? So as I think about how to refresh and re-think the ‘blog’ part of the site, I’m going to try to figure this out. As for now, I’m going to share a couple of updates and then share some media that I am consuming.

Wallpapers – English and European Soccer

Over the latter part of the summer, I cranked out updating approximately 900 Wallpapers across my posted collections on the site that represent all English Soccer League team kits – from the English Premier League through the National Leagues (National League, National League North and South), as well as leagues in Scotland, and Europe. There are still a few laggards however as of now, the stats reflect that I have updated all Home kit designs across all leagues, all except 3 Away kits across all leagues, and 65% of Third kits across all leagues (not all teams have third kits).

Wallpapers – Music

I’ve quietly added several to this collection – either on my own or via the occasional request. For this collection, I have been trying to track against the top 500 albums of all time, as ranked by Rolling Stone’s annual list. I’ve always been happy with the design of these wallpapers, in that you can prominantly see the name of the album and the artist, while at the same time you can see the song list and the album art on the two corners of the background while using your computer. Whatever you would be working on would be in the middle of your screen, yet you can see the songs and/or the album art in the right and left corners and immediately recognize what album it is.

My Media Diet

Building off of something that Jason Kottke does on a semi regular basis, I thought I’d share a few of the media items that I have been consuming recently.

Stop Making Sense (IMAX) – [Grade: A] David Byne dancing with a lamp and making it compelling. The classic concert movie was re-relased and remastered . It looked amazing on the IMAX screen.

Welcome To Wrexham – Season 2 (HULU, FX) – [Grade: A] – The well documented story of the ups and downs of how two Hollywood actors purchased a Wales soccer/football team is well into its second season. The show’s first season was excellent. The show’s second season is rivaling it, and the best is yet to come!

The Gold (Paramount+) – [Grade: A] You had me at British spy series based on the real Brinks-Mat robbery.

Star Wars: Rebels (Disney+) – [Grade: C-] I’ve been trying extremely hard to watch the full Star Wars saga in the proper order. After plowing through the Star Wars: Clone Wars series, I am struggling with Rebels. I’ve heard the last season makes it worth it but I’m skeptical. The only thing keeping me motivated is that Andor is next.

Slow Horses: Real Tigers (Book) – [Grade: B] After watching the first two seasons of the series on Apple TV+, I decided to read the books from author Mick Herron which correspond to the series (Slow Horses, Dead Lions) and then read the third book – Real Tigers – ahead of the 3rd season. Solid read yet the real revelation is that Gary Oldman’s depiction of Jackson Lamb is spot on.

Foundation (Apple TV+) – [Grade: C] I’ve been told the 2nd season is better and easier to follow but I have been struggling with the first season of this series.

Sex Education – Season 4 (Netflix) – [Grade: B] Really enjoyed the first two seasons of this series. The fourth season was solid however it started to get cluttered with so many storylines. Otis, Maeve and Ruby steal the season.

Beckham (Netflix) – [Grade: B+] I learned a few things about “Becks” and grew to appreciate him after watching this. He is surprisingly humble and grounded even though he was, and is, one of the iconic figures in soccer and style over the past 25 years. If you are in the middle of the Pop Culture – English Premier League fan venn diagram, this is for you.

Seinfeld (Netflix) – [Grade: B+] I rewatched all 9 seasons over the past several months – each episode is only 23-25 minutes. The jokes still hit. Some of the tropes felt a little dated. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The Americans (Hulu) – [Grade: A] Rewatching this as well. I loved this show when it was on TV and that point of view has not changed.

How Tom Cruise Prepared for his Stunts

The amount of preparation and practice that Cruise and the film team did ahead of the final shots of some of his most iconic stunt scenes is pretty insane. For the big motorcycle jump scene in the most recent movie “Dead Reckoning”, they created a replica ramp in England where Cruise practiced repeatedly. In the “Fallout” movie, Cruise prepped by practicing 16 hours a day on how to fly a helicopter to nail the key scenes in the movies.

Dune: Part 2 – The First Trailer

Dune: Part 2

The movie drops in November. I am sure there will be a few other trailers that will drop between now and then. I really enjoyed the first movie – I honestly think that as time continues to hurtle forward, it will be looked back on in the same light as the original Star Wars. Villeneuve did an amazing job of creating a world in the first movies and clearly defining the key players. I am confident that Part 2 will continue the build on the strength of the first movie.

Updated Ted Lasso Wallpapers For Season 3

Couldn’t help but notice that a new season of Ted Lasso is right around the corner, premiering next Wednesday March 15. While I am looking forward to the new season, my ‘jump the shark‘ spidey senses are tingling ever so slightly. Hoping I’m wrong and it sustains the ‘believe’ vibe of the first two seasons.

One of the main reasons for concern is that now Nike is manufacturer of the AFC Richmond kits/uniforms (vs. the previously fictional company Verani Sports). And with this change also comes new home and away kit designs for AFC Richmond, which I have in turn created as desktop wallpapers. You can find them below and in the Random > TV Tab gallery here on my site. Believe!!

Ted Lasso - AFC Richmond [Season 3]
Ted Lasso – AFC Richmond [Season 3]
Ted Lasso - AFC Richmond (Away) [Season 3]
Ted Lasso – AFC Richmond (Away) [Season 3]
Ted Lasso – AFC Richmond (Third) [Season 3]
Ted Lasso – AFC Richmond (Third) [Season 3]

Update: You can see previous Ted Lasso wallpapers here or in the TV tab on the Miscellaneous page.

John Waters Tours ‘Dreamland Studios’

This is – ‘chef’s kiss’ – perfect. John Waters touring his apartment back in 1986.

“I collect paintings of murderesses. This is one of the Manson Girls – Susan Atkins – who is a Jesus freak now”

“I collect fake meat. I have fake meat all over the house. It makes people very nervous when they are walking around. Also candy. Everything is fake in the house. I like the idea of fake food everywhere.”

“Here is an electric chair. It is not real, but it is an exact replica of one that was used in “Female Trouble”. It makes the telephone repairman very nervous when the come in the house and all workmen do their job very well because I just spy it out of the corner of my eye when explaining what needs to be done.”

John Waters

Wizard of Oz Scarecrow and Tinman Scenes in 4K

Oriel Malik remastered a few scenes from the Wizard of Oz in 4K quality video and it is like watching the movie for the first time. The detail that you can see on the Scarecrow’s face is something I never noticed. And the artwork on the backdrops of the scene is also so vivid. Below is the scene of them meeting the Tin Man and the quality and detail is just as impressive – the scenery pops and it is transformative. There has long been a rumor that you can see one of the Munchkin actors hanging from a tree in the “Tinman” scene, however that rumor has long been debunked as instead being a bird from the LA Zoo being used as a prop.

The Gaps in The “Yellowjackets” Storyline

Over the course of the past two years, as we have all been home because of the pandemic, I’ve been consuming a lot of movies and TV. I have been diligent about checking out reviews and listening to critics before diving into new TV shows because I already am ‘in deep’ on too many TV shows. Whenever I engaged in any of the many ‘prestige’ television shows that are out there, a key criteria is the legitimacy and believability of the storyline relative to the premise of the show. And what I mean by this is the following: if, for example, a show is based on a fantasy premise, then it needs to effectively create the world-view that you are entering and set the proper context and boundaries in which the fantasy can operate within before it becomes truly unbelievable to the viewer. Similarly with ‘real world’ stories, the same thing applies. The story needs to be rooted in reality and clearly be cognizant of the timeframe and context in which it is set.

One show I have recently been watching is “Yellowjackets” on Showtime. The show’s storyline centers on what happens in the 25 years since a plane crash stranded a fictitious 1996 NJ high school girls soccer team in the wilderness after they won the state championship and were heading to Seattle to participate in a national high school soccer tournament (i.e. a tournament that presumably includes each state’s high school champion). The show is really good and does a great job of balancing the storylines of what has become of the survivors in present day 2021 and the closely held secrets of what really happened to the survivors in the wilderness back in 1996.

As good as the show and the acting is, there are a few glaring gaps with the 1996 portion of the storyline that I just can not get past. I’m going to do my best not to spoil anything about the show.

  • The show says that the survivors of the crash are stranded in the wilderness for 19 months. There is no part of me that would believe that a plane full of upper-middle class (mostly) white girls from a seemingly well-off suburban NJ town would be left out in the wilderness for almost two years. I went to a soccer crazy high school in a town very similar to the one portrayed in the 1996 storyline of “Yellowjackets” and there is no way on earth that parents in the town would have let this go without a full-on 24/7 search and rescue effort until the crash site was discovered.
  • Also depicted in the 1996 storyline are several pretty severe injuries from those that survived the crash – both as a direct result of the crash and from attacks from wildlife in the area where they were stranded. I honestly don’t buy that those that suffered these injuries would have recovered the way they did in the show. The injuries were just too bad, and it would have been too easy for things to go sideways.
  • As is well documented, the show says that the plane crashed ‘in the wilderness of Ontario’ as a result of the pilots having to fly further north than the normal route to Seattle in order to avoid a severe storm. The storm that they were avoiding must have been some sort of super storm because after looking at typical flight paths from Newark to Seattle, they would have really had to go far out of their way to be routed over that area of Canada. Further, the wilderness depicted in the show at the crash site seemed much more in keeping with the terrain of the Canadian Rockies compared to Ontario.
  • I really wish the show did more to bring in the storyline of what was happening in NJ in the weeks or months after the accident. It would have been much more realistic to engage with the families back in NJ and to understand what they were doing to try to determine what happened to the team and their plane. It is such a major gap in the show. Maybe the show-runners did not feel that they could effectively juggle three major story arch’s (1996 crash site, the 1996 families trying to find their kids, and the survivors living ‘today’ in 2021) and while I can appreciate that, you don’t need to look too much further than ‘Game of Thrones’ to see how a show has deftly threaded a similar needle. They could have, for example, dedicated one ‘stand alone’ episode within the season to the families at home in NJ and how they were coping and trying to solve finding the plane. They could have extended the season from 10 to 12 episodes to accommodate the same. There were several options available it would seem to me.

The acting in this show is really good, and there has been a lot of speculation as to where the story will go in its second season. There are some serious “Lost” vibes being bantered about in online forums – mainly due to several ‘cult’ like and super-natural themes that are presented early on and via one key character. Definitely check the show out! Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I am and you can get past the concerns I have noted!

Ted Lasso – Season 2

Less than a month away. It is a nice bridge between the EPL seasons, even if AFC Richmond does not even exist. It would be great if somehow a real AFC Richmond could be established and find its way up to the EPL. Since that likely won’t happen any time soon, you can always download the Ted Lasso AFC Richmond desktop wallpapers I created last year after season 1 dropped.

Alright alright alright

A ‘supercut’ of all the iconic scenes that Matthew McConaughey was in from the movie “Dazed & Confused”. I re-watched this movie a few months ago and just loved every scene that Wooderson was in. I wanted to be there. I wanted to hang out with him. He jumped off the screen.

The backstory of how he got the role is pretty awesome, as detailed in this excerpt from his recently released book Greenlights. To his credit, it wasn’t the ageless ‘Alright, alright, alright’ scene that he keyed on when reading the script – since it was essentially improvised and didn’t exist in the script. He focused in on, in my mind, the even more iconic line:

That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

The whole scene when he is hanging out at the drive in with the guys, hanging on the wall, just dripping ‘cool’ is fantastic. He owned every piece of that scene, culminating in him delivering that line. The back story on how he thought through how he was going to present Wooderson for that scene is great:

Wooderson was 22 years old but still hanging out around the high school. That line opened up an entire world into who he was, an encyclopedia into his psyche and spirit. I thought about my brother Pat when he was a senior, and I was 11. He was my big brother, my hero. One day, Pat’s Z28 was in the shop so Mom and I were picking him up from high school.

We were slowly pulling through campus in our ’77 wood-paneled station wagon, Mom driving, me peering out the window in the back seat. Pat was not where we had planned to meet him.

“Where is he?” asked Mom.

Turning my head to look left and right and then out the back window, I saw him about a hundred yards behind us, leaning against the brick wall in the shade of the school’s smoking section, one knee bent, boot sole against the side of the building, pulling on a Marlboro, cooler than James Dean and two feet taller.

“Ther — !!” I started to shriek, then caught my tongue because I realized he’d get in trouble for smoking.

“What’s that?” Mom asked.

“Nothin, Mom, nothin.”

That image of my big brother, leaning against that wall, casually smoking that cigarette in his low-elbow, loose-wristed, lazy-fingered way, through my romantic 11-year-old little brother eyes, was the epitome of cool. He was literally 10 feet tall. It left an engraved impression in my heart and mind.

And 11 years later, Wooderson was born from that impression.

Matthew McConaughey

Twenty eight years later, Mr. McConaughey is still super cool and still riding the wave of that iconic performance.

Ted Lasso AFC Richmond Wallpapers

As with many folks out there binging anything worthwhile on TV and streaming services, I finally got around to watching Ted Lasso on Apple TV+. When I first saw the promos and trailers for the series, I was as skeptical as many other folks out there. The history of television shows that have mutated from advertising campaigns (NBC originally used the Ted Lasso character to promote their coverage of the English Premier League football) is not a pleasant story – see: ABC’s Cavemen via Geico. Yet somehow, Apple TV+ and the show runners have figured out something that works – what a fun, enjoyable, and entertaining series.

So, in honor of the show and its fictitious EPL club AFC Richmond, and the fact that I have a disturbing habit/hobby of making desktop wallpapers of actual EPL clubs, I share with you AFC Richmond Home and Away desktop wallpapers to be downloaded and used to your heart’s content. Like all the others I create, the wallpaper dimensions are 2560 x 1440 pixels and you can drag/drop or download them right to your desktop. You will also be able to find these in the “Television” tab of the Movies, TV & Misc. collection of Wallpapers on my site.

For the AFC Richmond Home kit, I created two versions – one with the red/yellow stripe offset right to mimic the actual kit layout in the show, while the logo is in the center of the wallpaper. The other version has the red/yellow stripe centered with the logo, to mimic how the logo overlays the stripe on the show’s kit. Different folks will have different preferences, so I thought I’d just do it both ways.

AFC Richmond – Home (Offset Vertical Stripe)
AFC Richmond – Home (Centered Vertical Stripe)
AFC Richmond – Away
AFC Richmond – Training (Practice)

Update: You can see other Ted Lasso wallpapers here or in the TV tab on the Miscellaneous page.

Quit A Dream Job To Pursue A Film Career…

Said no reasonable parent. Ever.

I am sure that there are all sorts of stories out there about people leaving a plum job to pursue some insane pipe dream, only to actually crush it in that ‘pipe dream’.

Here is a case in point. Colin Levy worked at Pixar. He worked on films like Finding Dory, In and Out, Monsters University and several others. Not a bad place to be as, speaking from personal experience, I was lucky enough to take a tour of the Pixar campus last year as the son of a family friend currently works there and he was gracious enough to give me and my family a tour when we were out in San Francisco. Working at Pixar has to be absolutely awesome. Colin pretty much had the world at his fingertips. So what did he do? He quit to pursue becoming a filmmaker.

And wow, his first crack at it is pretty impressive. It is called Skywatch. It is only 10 minutes long, but wow, it is an impressive effort. Really interesting nugget of an idea – a sci-fi thriller that includes drones in a futuristic world where things can be delivered to your living room through a wall unit. What could go wrong? Great execution. Very well produced and directed. Within the first minute, you get the idea of what is going on.

I’m already looking forward to the full length feature!

UPDATE: Here is a short on how he got an Oscar nominated actor (Jude Law) to be in his short film.

Wonder Woman 1984

I think I’m all in.

Gal Gadot. Big fan.

New Order theme music. Check.

Making me remember the network version of Wonder Woman from the 1980s starring Lynda Carter. Check.

DC Comics has a looooong way to go to catch up to the juggernaut that Marvel has created. And it is likely they never will actually catch up unless they get someone as good as Chris Nolan to work on Batman and other characters. But, they have a franchise player here in Wonder Woman.

The Real Starcourt Mall

Starcourt Mall – Stranger Things – via The Verge

The first three season of Netflix’s Stranger Things has been nothing short of a cultural revelation. Yes, the 2nd season was a little weak but the most recent 3rd season that was released over the July 4th weekend has received rave reviews and is considered on par with the series’ breakthrough first season.

A key ‘character’ in the 3rd season was the Starcourt Mall, an astoundingly accurate depiction of 1980s mall culture. While many thought that the mall that was used in the show was built on a soundstage, the reality is that the production crew at Netflix were able to find an actual, ‘stuck in the 1980s’ mall in Gwinnett, Georgia (Stranger Things is shot in and around Georgia).

There’s a reason why the Starcourt Mall, the principal location for the third season of Stranger Things looks so real: it’s built inside of a real shopping mall. Specifically, it was built inside of Georgia’s Gwinnett Place Mall, which was built just a year before the latest season of Netflix’s show is set.

Along with other historically believable shops that the show’s characters visit throughout the course of the show, there are almost a half-dozen extra stores that were built and filled with period-appropriate signage and products, but they never appeared on camera. Typically, film sets aren’t a full structure or room; it’s cheaper to build the bare minimum needed for a shot. That Netflix opted to build out entire stores suggests that the filmmakers wanted a bit of flexibility with how they shot the show, allowing them to shoot from any angle without worrying about an unfinished background.

Jon Porter – The Verge

As a teen of the 1980s, I have been so impressed with the accuracy and attention to detail that Netflix has shown with the production of this show. They have absolutely *nailed* what it was like to be a teen in the 1980s – from the pop culture references to the way they constructed the Starcourt Mall.

Sadly, Netflix is in the process of dismantling the mall in Gwinnett. There were some rumblings that they were going to leave the Stranger Things version of the mall intact for a while so it could be used as a promotional destination but that ended up not happening. I definitely would have wanted to try a cone from Scoops Ahoy.