Monday, March 30, 2009

A Good Kind of Sadness

Yesterday I finally did something that I had been meaning to do for well over a month. Almost two months ago my Auntie Janet brought over a photo album titled, “La Casa Da Lago”. This wonderful album was full of special memories that dated back over forty years and at long last I got around to scan some of those historic photographs for an album on facebook.

I guess I should explain what “La Casa Da Lago” means. Roughly translated it means “The Lake House”. It actually was an old beat up house built into the side of a hill located on Camp Lake, Wisconsin.

However, to the Vagnoni family it was “The Cottage”, a glorious vacation, get-away place that my Dad, along with his brothers and sister, purchased back in 1967. Even the thirty-minute trip to “The Cottage” was great, especially if you got to ride with Uncle Dave in his AMC Marlin. Then the trip was only 20 minutes!

As I went through this album, choosing pictures for facebook, I was reminded of how blessed I was to be part of the Vagnoni family. The Vagnoni cousins are closer than most brothers and sisters are. I am not exaggerating. When we were bad, we not only worried about what Mom or Dad would do to us, but what our Aunts and Uncles would do as well.

Our family togetherness at “The Cottage” was never more evident than during the swimming trips to Sandy’s Resort. Sandy’s was located on the other side of Camp Lake and required several vehicles to get there, or sometimes only one vehicle. This picture should illustrate this.

There were eleven of us in that station wagon with Mom and Auntie Janet keeping us in check. What a mob. At that time it consisted of my brothers Mike and Joey, sister Teri, cousins John Dean, Susie, Mark, Danny, Annie and myself. Uncle Dave and Aunt Bonnie later increased the group, adding Missy, Mindy, Shelley and Mallory.

This incredible picture is of Henry Vagnoni, Grandpa “Noni. He started it all, marrying Ermalinda, otherwise known as Grandma ‘Noni. Then came their offspring – my Dad Emil, Uncle John (my Godfather), Auntie Bay, Uncle Joe and, the original “Vag”, Uncle Dave.

The four brothers married Milly (my Mom), Auntie Janet, Auntie Joanne and Aunt Bonnie, respectively. Together they produced thirteen children, the Vagnoni cousins. Grandpa and Grandma ‘Noni, Auntie Bay and cousin John Dean, while still part of this remarkable clan, now look on us from heaven.

There are over eighty-five images in this memory evoking collection. Each one is special in it’s own magical way. Although I ultimately came up with sixteen pictures for my facebook album, they all make me smile and certain ones make me sad. But it is a good kind of sadness. Thanks for the album and the memories Auntie Janet. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recap - Another Word For Rerun

With no disrespect to the late great Fred “Rerun” Berry, reruns on reality shows suck! That’s what last nights episode of Survivor was – a rerun and I was very disappointed. Because Fellow Survivor Geek Karen (FSGK) had petitioned for one of my infamous reviews, I felt obligated to watch the show immediately after my fantasy baseball draft.

My fantasy draft went swimmingly, as I procured Prince Fielder and it ended in a record breaking 38 minutes. So I started to view the latest episode of Survivor so I could review it in the morning. Much to my chagrin I discovered it was the dreaded recap show!

Desperate, I quickly shot off the following email to Fellow Survivor Geek Jamie (FSGJ) -


I just started watching Survivor. Is it a friggin' recap show?


Almost immediately I received this email in response –





Needing a reason to waste my time watching this rehashed drivel, I waited until after 8:00 pm and called Fellow Survivor Geek Aunt Janet (FSGA) to get her take on the show before viewing it.

She answered the phone and uttered those loathsome words, “It’s a rerun, a recap show!” My stomach sank. Then it turned over when she told me to watch it anyways because one part will make you vomit. This piqued my interest.

Well, since I had recorded it, I might as well give it a look. I reluctantly clicked the remote and started the episode.

Emmy award winning host Jeff Probst promptly notified the viewers that you would be seeing previously unaired footage. Hmm, I have heard that before. It would be the typical blurred boob and crotch shots with a few behind the scene comments made by the competitors.

My hunch was correct. We got some “censored” shots of Debra, Sierra and the flaky Tyson. There was also Coach Svengali and Taj offering some less than insightful opinions on the direction of the game. Yes, just as I suspected.

But there was still the moment that FSGA spoke of in her phone call. What was going to be shown that would cause me to hurl? Sure there was some insect and minnow ingestion, but every die-hard Survivor Geek was immune to that. There had to be something else.

Then it happened!

We are shown some footage of Exile Island featuring Brendan and Stephen. They both started out by talking about “that special bond” that two people can only have on Exile Island.

Then Stephen went on and on about the amount of spooning that went on during their stay on Exile Island. Then we were treated to some of that previously unseen footage. This footage, coupled with Stephen’s graphic description of how wonderful the spooning was, provided us with more full blown (no pun intended) “bromance”.

Bromance has been a reoccurring theme this season on Survivor. Fortunately, being a veteran of much of Bravo’s programming, I wasn’t forced to retch. Unfortunately, it was the only memorable part of this recap/rerun show.

Next week I will, hopefully, be able to provide FSGK with a review of an original episode of Survivor Tocntins. The next time I see a “Rerun”, I want it to have Dwayne, Raj and Dee with it. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Longer Out Of “Wack”

Have you ever had a song in your head that you just couldn’t remember the exact title or what album it was on? But you desperately wanted to hear it again! Well, I had that very dilemma recently. It was a song by a Canadian group from the ‘70s. All I had to go by was what I thought was the name of the band – Chilliwack.

After pulling my head out of my considerable derriere, I remembered I had a thing called the Worldwide Web available to me at my fingertips. Bright boy, aren’t I?

Googling “Chilliwack” confirmed my suspicions – such a band did indeed exist. Wikipedia provided me with valuable information, with the following paragraph being the most beneficial.

Chilliwack effectively began with the departure of vocalist Howie Vickers from the Collectors in 1969; however, the band didn't change its name until 1970, to Chilliwack, a Salish term meaning "going back up" and the name of a city east of Vancouver in the Fraser River valley. With lead guitarist Bill Henderson now providing most of the vocals and doing most of the composing, the band released several records that were moderately successful in Canada. Hit singles in Canada included "Lonesome Mary", "Crazy Talk" and "Fly at Night".

Eureka! That was it! Those last three words were literally music to my ears. “Fly at Night” had to be the song that I was thinking of. Now all I had to do was find a recording of it. Somewhere, some how.

This would verify that it was definitely the tune that I longed to hear again. Scrolling down the Wikipedia page I found a discography along with a list of Chilliwack’s top singles.

I was a bit astonished to find that this group from British Columbia had more than a dozen albums to their credit. In the list of singles I found "Fly at Night". It was released in 1977 and rose to #7 in Canada and #75 in the U.S.

Having put my previously mentioned brain cramp behind me I quickly went to my local iTunes store and found not one, but three versions of my elusive ditty. I quickly plunked down 99 cents and it was mine and I was no longer out of “wack’.

Now as I write this blog, I am enjoying "Fly at Night" by Chilliwack. If you would like to take a quick listen, click here for a clip from YouTube. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Dream Radio Station

Those of you that know me are probably aware of how much talk radio I listen to. In fact, as I write this, I am listening to 540 ESPN. Talk radio has been something that I have always enjoyed. The older I get, the more I listen. Inevitably, I develop listening patterns and loyalties to certain personalities and shows.

Unfortunately, radio is an extremely mercurial business and things are always changing. Just when you start becoming fond of a show and it’s time slot, it either moves or the host is sent packing. Or both.

Being a relatively anal-retentive individual, I hate these changes! Change is not good! No, I greatly prefer reliability and stability. I want to know what I am going to hear when I point the remote at my Bose music system. Alas, this does not always happen.

So what am I to do? How can I hear whom I want to hear - when I want to hear them? How do I solve this perplexing conundrum?

During a restless moment last night I came up with the remedy to my dilemma. Eureka! It was simple, acquire and program my own radio station.

Okay, obviously I am not going to obtain a radio station anytime soon. But that being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t set a lineup for my dream radio station. So, that’s exactly what I did last night before finally falling asleep.

Here is the weekday schedule for my fantasy radio station:

6:00 am to 10:00 am - Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. It would be wonderful to be able to listen to these guys in the morning again. I followed this duo from their 1979 debut at WLUP until their 1993 split-up when they returned to WLUP.

10:00 am to 2:00 pm – The D-List from 540 ESPN, featuring Drew Olson, Dan Needles and Bill Johnson. It’s time for sports and these are the guys that I want to hear it from. Currently my favorite sports talk show.

2:00 pm to 6:00 pm – The Heavy Fuel Crew with Dan McNeil and Terry Boers. These guys were so entertaining when they teamed up on WSCR. Did not care for either of them when they went with new partners.

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm – Instant Replay with Pat Hegewald and Tom Roders. A local show that WLIP pulled the plug on way too soon. To add insult to injury they replaced it with an inferior product. Instant Replay was more than a sports talk show; it was almost a variety show.

10:00 pm to 2:00 am – Nick Digilio. This is easily the most interesting show on WGN. Even when Nick talks about mundane, everyday events, it cracks me up every time. It is nice to fall asleep chuckling.

2:00 am to 6:00 am – Tommy Williams. On those nights when you can’t sleep, it’s always good to be able to listen to someone like Tommy. I can still hear him saying, “What’s up partner?” when he was doing overnights on WSCR back in the day.

The weekend schedule for my mythical station would look like this:

6:00 am to 10:00 pm – Matt Spiegel will kick the weekends off on my make-believe station. Matt has loads of experience from his time with Sporting News Radio. He will resurrect his popular “Call Me Skip” segment during the baseball season.

10:00 am to 2:00 pm – Scott Wisniewski, Frank Cossentino and Matt Salmon would anchor my weekend fantasy show. This talented duo from 540 ESPN will cover all sports with a heavy emphasis on fantasy sports.

2:00 pm to 6:00 pm – Jonathan Hood and Jason Goff will team up on Saturdays and Sundays. The personality and sports acumen of this pair will definitely keep people tuned in on a regular basis.

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm – Cliff Saunders is versatile enough to wrap up all of the weekend action. His strong opinions will make for an interesting weekend show.

10:00 pm to 2:00 am – Brian Noonan. This funny man currently handles overnights at WGN. His strong comedy background makes him ideal for this spot. Maybe because he has appeared on numerous game shows, he always conducts interesting contests.

2:00 am to 6:00 am – Les Grobstein will wrap up the weekends. What better way to segue into a new day?!? This veteran sports talk personality will either keep you up late or get you up early.

There you have it, my own personal radio station lineup. It might not be everyone’s idea of perfect programming, but for me it would be ideal. This way whenever I hit the remote on my Bose music system I would know for sure who was on! Until next time…from the booth.

Note to those of you expecting my Survivor review usually found in this spot. It will return…WHEN THE SHOW STOPS SUCKING!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Exploding Face…Yet!

Last week I promised that I wouldn’t be watching the Celebrity Apprentice this week. But, if you remember, I did say I would DVR it just in case Joan Rivers’ face exploded. Well, I watched it and I couldn’t turn it off. In fact, I was inspired to write this evaluation of this season’s cast.

Andrew "Dice" Clay – It is a good thing that “Dice” is gone. He had absolutely nothing to offer. I wonder why he even agreed to do the show.

Clint Black – After only 2 episodes I have developed a dislike for Clint. Not sure why. He seems like the type who wants his way, no matter what. No questions asked.

Annie Duke – I like Annie because she irritates the hell out of the Rivers ladies. She has a strong personality, is very smart and could go far in the competition.

Tom Green – Very quirky and unusual. Can rub people the wrong way but is also very bright. I am glad Tom will be around to rub more people the wrong way for another week.

Natalie Gulbis – Natalie is on the show for her looks alone. Not that there is anything wrong with that. She will be around until she has to make a business decision.

Scott Hamilton – Scott is a nice guy but not a leader by any stretch of the imagination, especially with this group! Too bad he was chosen Project Manager so early in the season.

Jesse James – I totally underestimated this guy. Jesse might not be as polished as some of the others, but he has as much savvy as any of them. He is my dark horse.

Claudia Jordan – I am not sure about Claudia yet. I think her opinion of herself might get in the way of what she actually has to offer. Some of the stronger ladies might prove to be her undoing.

Khloe Kardashian – I am not impressed at all. Another reality star that thinks she is in the same league as some of the others. She is not. Khloe won this week because of the talent and strengths of others.

Brian McKnight – I haven’t seen enough of Brian to make up my mind yet. He was a little bit more involved this week. I did notice that he knows when to keep his mouth shut. He chooses his words very carefully.

Joan Rivers – Well, her face didn’t explode yet, so we have something to look forward to next week. If you watch carefully you will notice that Joan thinks that she is above all of this. She would much rather be sitting next to the Donald in the boardroom.

Melissa Rivers – She is a younger version of her mother and just as annoying. If you are able to watch the show on a HD television set you will notice that Joan employs the same sculptor as her mother. Very scary.

Brande Roderick – Another case of eye candy, although she has a little more to offer than Natalie. I must admit that I vomited in my mouth a little bit when the Donald told everyone that he tried to pick Brande up at one time.

Dennis Rodman – Just as the Donald loves to surround himself with lovely ladies (Natalie, Claudia and Brande), he does the same with star athletes. That’s why he has Scott, Herschel and Rodman on the show. Unfortunately all Rodman can do is mumble parts of words that make no sense.

Herschel Walker – At least this former gridiron great has a better command of the English language than Rodman. However, Herschel’s answer to someone disagreeing with him is to tell that person to shut up.

Tionne Watkins – Okay, I will admit it, I still don’t who Tionne Watkins is. I don’t think it will matter, because her time on the Celebrity Apprentice will be over as soon as she is named Project Manager.

I have now decided that the Celebrity Apprentice is definitely “Must-DVR TV”. Damn it, I said it wouldn’t happen and it did. I have to admit that I am hooked. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Beauty and The Beast

Tonight’s episode of Survivor Tocantins was your standard Survivor fare. There was nothing really outstanding or spectacular. But there were just enough of the necessary elements to keep your interest piqued. Plus another theme developed that was settled at Tribal Council.

There were several components present tonight that qualified tonight’s program as a quality Survivor show.

The first ingredient was the Reward Challenge. Producer Mark Burnett went retro on us! He brought a Survivor classic. It was the renowned “How much weight can you hold on a stick across your shoulders” challenge! Always a memorable event.

As Timbira’s Brendan and Jalapao’s J.T. both approached the 200-pound mark, Survivor Geeks everywhere scrambled for their official Survivor Record books. Sure enough, after a little digging, there it was. One of the most hallowed name’s in Survivor history – Rupert Boneham!

The gentle giant from Indiana held the record, an impressive 220 pounds. But could Brendan or J.T. possibly shatter this unbelievable mark?

No. But J.T., the rawboned 24-year-old cattle farmer was able to equal the stunning achievement. Shortly afterwards he dropped his weight, leaving only the 5’2” Debbie and Taj, the 5’9”, 190 pound tomboy. When the weight hit 100 pounds the diminutive Debbie couldn’t handle it and Taj and team Jalapao were victorious.

The second event that took place was Tyson donning a loincloth. You heard me right. I don’t know if it was to flame his “bromance” with Coach Svengali or just to get a nice tan on his athletic buns, but he was prancing around in the skimpiest of loincloths.

To top it off, once he had had everyone’s attention, Tyson proceeded to do a monkey dance. This is the same guy who last week said, “I love seeing people cry when you crush their dreams!” Besides Coach Svengali, I wonder what he dreams about!

The third and maybe most interesting element in tonight’s episode was a theme that developed shortly after the crusty curmudgeon Sandy made the brilliant observation, “Those are fartin’ beans!”

This caused the lovely model Sydney to toss her luscious blond tresses in disdain and mutter, “I am getting tired of Sandy.” There it was! The claws were out and it was “go time.” The classic catfight – The Beauty and the Beast.

Sandy began to notice that all the young bucks in camp were attracted to the voluptuous Sydney. She noticed that Sydney went so far as to remove her brassiere at night! The brazen hussy! Sandy wondered just how low young Sydney would stoop.

At Tribal Council the astute Jeff Probst quickly picked up on the friction between the two. It was brought up that Sydney periodically wore the hunky J.T.’s boxers around camp.

Holding back tears, Sydney defended herself, saying it was awfully hot during the day and she only has jeans to wear. She then added being the pretty blond girl has been a terrible problem all her life. It was a very special Tribal Council moment!

But Sandy, being the mean old battle-ax that she is, promptly brought up the fact that Sydney flirts with Joe even more than she does with J.T. What’s wrong with Sandy? Does this woman have no compassion?

Fortunately the Jalapao tribe did and voted off the 53-year-old bus driver from Kentucky. Beauty had won over the mean-heartedness of the Beast. Sandy’s dismissal evens the tribes at six a side.

There you have it. A classic retro challenge where a longtime record is tied. Tyson does a weird monkey dance in his teeny loincloth to impress Coach Svengali. And finally, a catfight, which Sydney survived to flirt another day. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until next week…from Tocantins.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Donald Trump – You’re Fired!

After the first season of the pitiful Celebrity Apprentice mercifully concluded last year, I promised myself that was it. No more of this pathetic excuse of a reality show. Celebrity Apprentice’s sole purpose is to provide a venue for Donald Trump to stroke his massive ego in front of a collection of various washed-up stars, ex-athletes, has-beens from other reality shows and a smattering of sex kittens. But alas, I broke my vow.

It’s possible that this eclectic line-up that Trump had assembled somehow piqued my interest:

Andrew "Dice" Clay (comedian)
Clint Black (Country singer)
Annie Duke (poker champ)
Tom Green (comedian)
Natalie Gulbis (golf pro)
Scott Hamilton (skater)
Jesse James ("Monster Garage" host)
Claudia Jordan (“Deal or No Deal" model)
Khloe Kardashian (reality show star)
Brian McKnight (R&B singer)
Joan Rivers (you know who she is)
Melissa Rivers (Joan's daughter)
Brande Roderick (Playboy Playmate)
Dennis Rodman (former basketball player)
Herschel Walker (former football player)
Tionne Watkins (aka T-Boz of TLC)

Look at that roster of talent! This troop of personalities has all the makings of must-see reality TV. Doesn’t it? I had to give the Donald one more chance, right?

Consider the possibilities. “Dice” will constantly be spewing off color jokes, Green will be acting strange and Rodman will remind us what a bizarre freak he truly is. Then you toss in the lovely trio of Gulbis, Jordan and Roderick for eye candy. Not bad, eh?

James and Kardashian can provide the trailer-court trashiness necessary in all reality shows. For legitimacy we have Hamilton, Black, McKnight and Walker. And the icing on the cake is the potential of Joan River’s face exploding right before your very eyes. This has can’t miss written all over it!

Boy was I duped! I watched this train wreck for two hours last night. 120 minutes of my life that I will never get back. Why oh why hadn’t I kept my promise to myself?

“Dice” was obnoxious and dimwitted. Rodman just mumbled a lot. At one point I thought I had accidentally switched to VH1 and was watching Surreal Life. But I quickly realized that Surreal Life was much more entertaining.

No, the second season of Celebrity Apprentice was anything but entertaining. The Rivers girls were just shrill and annoying. The other ladies were bickering over how to frost a cupcake while the men were baking cupcakes that, by their own admission, tasted like “ass”.

The Donald jogged my memory of what an arrogant, pompous egomaniac he is when he announced in the boardroom that HE was the biggest star, not Dennis Rodman.

I should have known better when I read a couple weeks ago that on 17 February 2009 Trump Entertainment Resorts filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Perhaps Mr. Trump’s rose has finally begun to lose its bloom. The first episode of Celebrity Apprentice gave every indication that this is a definite likelihood.

Next week I promise that I will not be watching Celebrity Apprentice. Okay, I might DVR it just in case Joan River’s face finally explodes. You know it’s eventually going to happen. Until next time…from the booth.