Monday, December 31, 2012

Okay, Let’s Try This Again

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day. Once again, I’m not making any resolutions or promises. Just a few goals. Here is my short list:

1. Pray more. Self-explanatory.

2. Be a better person and help others as much as I can. We all need to be better toward one another.

3. Eat better and be more active.

4. Finish my next book, More Kenosha Softball. Hopefully by July.

5. Read more books. After I finish writing mine.

That’s it, I told you. Short and sweet. All I need to do is set up a routine and then stick to it.

Thanks for reading my blog in 2012. I hope you all have a wonderful and healthy 2013. May God bless you all.

Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Amazed Me In 2012…

This is the time for the end of the year ubiquitous lists. You know - top news stories, best movies, celebrity deaths, etc. Since everybody and their brother are doing that sort of thing, I have decided to do something a little different. I have come up with a hybrid list.

The “From The Booth” 2012 list will include aspects of the conventional lists. However, every item on the list will have a common feature – they all amazed me in some way. Some are tongue in cheek, while others are quite serious. I will leave it for you to decide which each is.

It amazed me that the World didn’t end and I am here to write this. I guess we all got the whole Mayan Calendar thing wrong. Thank God.

Speaking of God, it amazed me that so many people are now interpreting the Bible so literally. Well, only those parts that apply to their argument or cause. The parts that don’t are usually overlooked and ignored.

In 2012, it amazed me how passionate the people of Great Britain were about the Summer Olympics. Granted, they hosted the Games and I do have over 20 Facebook friends from England, but their pride was astounding. Way to go Team GB!

Since we are talking about sports, another thing that amazed me was that the old gunslinger, Brett Favre, was a non-issue. No crying, no comebacks, no sexting and no retirements in 2012 for number 4. Quite amazing.

Did I just mention guns? I was truly amazed how popular guns are in America. Even assault weapons and high capacity clips are gaining in popularity. Really? Man…

Something else that both amazed and sickened me was that weatherman Scott Steele is still doing that moronic, vaudevillian spin on TMJ4’s Daybreak News. If it wasn’t for Susan Kim and Vince Vitrano, I would be tuned into Fox6. At least I could have the sound on during the weather forecast.

Another irritating person that amazed me this past year was Donald Trump. Why is someone so ignorant, loathsome and repugnant so very wealthy? You can rest assure that I won’t be watching the new season of Celebrity Apprentice. Unless, of course, RC from Survivor is a contestant.

On the topic of Survivor, was I the only one that was amazed that the award-winning reality show completed seasons 24 and 25 in 2012? Wow, what a run. I am eagerly looking forward to season 26 kicking off in February.

Something else that amazed me was how god-awful the Seattle Seahawk uniforms are. Now that Nike is responsible for outfitting the NFL, I expected some putridity, but this is ridiculous. These garish costumes make my eyes hurt.

Sticking with the sports theme, I was amazed that the Chicago Cubs did not win the World Series. Or did not win the National League Central Division. Or did not qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard team. They did lose 101 games, so I guess I shouldn’t be so amazed.

Even though I’m not much of a political wonk, I was amazed at the number of elections in Wisconsin. With primaries, I’m pretty sure the final count was six. Yes, that’s right, six. I was pleased with the results of the April and November elections. The one in between, not so much.

Something that totally pleased AND amazed me was being able to enjoy all-time greats like The Who, Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Clapton, Waters and McCartney performing in a concert at Madison Garden. They were among those helping to raise money to benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund for those who were impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

And finally, in 2012 we lost many of our finest musicians. Among those passing on were such greats as Donald “Duck” Dunn, Robin Gibb, Levon Helm, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Davy Jones, Donna Summer, Adam “MCA” Yauch, Bob Welch, Dave Brubeck, Scott McKenzie, Jon Lord, Bob Bobbitt and Ronnie Montrose.

It wasn’t the passing of these musical stars that amazed me. Death is inevitable. It’s something we all have to deal with. What genuinely amazed me was that, while these talented people went on to meet their final reward, Keith Richards did not. Rock on, Keith!

What amazed you in 2012? Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve At Koos?

On Wednesday December 24, 1975, 6:00 AM came much too early. Besides being ungodly cold, it was Christmas Eve and I was sitting on a picnic table in the filthy Jap Shack at Koos Inc. Something was wrong with this picture. 

Let me recap for you. It was way too early. It was bitter cold and I was working in an old and decrepit building with no heat. And most importantly, it was Christmas Eve morning. Yikes, how was I supposed to handle spending Christmas Eve at Koos?

The solution was simple. Drink alcohol.

Before you get the impression that I was some sort of juvenile delinquent with a drinking problem, please keep two things in mind. First of all, In 1975 it was legal to consume alcohol at the age of 18 in the state of Wisconsin. Secondly, isn’t it traditional to celebrate Christmas Eve by having a party featuring adult beverages? See, it makes perfect sense.

There was only one small detail. I was at work.

Admittedly, drinking while at work isn’t the brightest thing to do. Okay, it’s a pretty idiotic thing to do, but I wasn’t alone in this stupidity. It was actually a plant wide event that was planned the night before at Slim’s Tap after a city league basketball game. Everyone was instructed to bring their favorite spirits.

Hey, I was young and impressionable and everyone was doing it. Honest. Well, almost everyone.

On that particular Christmas Eve, everyone in the plant at 4500 13th Court was consuming alcohol; even the supervisors. Everyone, that is, but the iconic Arno Schubert. It seems the crusty old Kraut had picked the holidays to go on the wagon. Who would have guessed?

After punching in, the group of us trudged across the ice-covered yard armed with brown paper bags that concealed every type of booze imaginable. Beer, wine, whiskey… You name it, we had it. My contribution to the party was my favorite flavor of beer – Pabst Blue Ribbon.

At first we tried to be discrete around the bosses, we weren’t quite sure how they would react to us drinking on the job. We were afraid of potential repercussions. Those fears quickly disappeared when bagging supervisor Russell Thompson offered us a hit off of the bottle of Wild Turkey he pulled out of his coveralls.

The party was on.

Eventually all of the liquor we smuggled into the plant was consumed. That however didn’t stop the crew at Koos. We simply passed the hat and sent Sven Sievert over the railroad tracks to the Beer Depot on Sheridan Road for pints of blackberry brandy. When those were polished off, the process was repeated. Sort of like shampooing your hair.

Over and over again…

Ultimately the intoxicating refreshment took its toll on the employees. Forklifts were traveling a little slower and production began to sputter. The only one who wanted to work was the tee-totaling Arno. But as drunk as we were, nobody really was paying any attention to the foul-mouthed German.

At one point, Harry Leipzig turned to me and announced that he was going to the Jap Shack to take a piss. He never returned. Later he was discovered passed out on a picnic table. Without Harry, Line 3 needed someone to seal bags. Munk Ekern graciously volunteered to help out to keep production going.

Regrettably, the result of the gallant gesture was less than spectacular because Munk never actually sealed any bags. You see, I was the bagger and looking back, the whole scene was somewhat comical. The conversation went something like this:

Drunk Puddles (me): “Okay Munk, here they come.”
Drunker Munk: “Wait Puddles, you seal.”
Drunk Puddles: “Okay, but who’s gonna run the bagger?”
Drunker Munk: “You are.”
Drunk Puddles: “Okay, then who’s gonna seal?”
Drunker Munk: “You are, Puddles.”

That nonsensical exchange went on for about five minutes. Eventually, Munk would stumble off to join Harry in the Jap Shack. Did Line 3 ever start up again on that drunken Christmas Eve at Koos? I honestly don’t remember. Things were kind of fuzzy at that point.

Before you knew it, it was almost noon and the second shift crew was arriving to a plant full of intoxicated first-shifters. There were guys spread out all over the plant, a small number were standing, others were sitting and a few were laying down. But nobody was working.

Not even Arno. By this time he had given up hope of getting anything accomplished. He was just standing against the wall fuming with his arms folded across his chest and a crooked frown on his face. He was so upset he wasn’t even cursing anymore.

When the clock finally hit noon, we wobbled out of the plant and went home, having spent Christmas Eve at Koos. Remarkably, the alcohol impaired six-hour shift ended without incident. Although not much work got done, no one got in trouble or was hurt. Everyone was fine.

Until the following Monday.

Despite the supervisors being cool with our impromptu Christmas Eve party, plant manager Frank Niebling was not. No one was quite sure how he found out, but he did. And he was furious.

Determined to show us that this type of behavior was not acceptable, he called our union steward, Danny Fliess into his office. He immediately told Danny that he was going to make an example of him and proceeded to suspend him for a week with no pay.

When Danny objected and tried to plead his case, Frank exploded. Pointing a finger in the startled union steward’s face, he blurted out, “Don’t think for a minute that you guys can get away with this shit just because I wasn’t here!” Unwisely, Danny explained that nobody know he wasn’t there on Christmas Eve.

Just like that his suspension became 2 weeks without play.

I hope you enjoyed this Koos Inc. masterpiece. Each time I read one of these classics, memories are sparked. Ugly, horrible, twisted memories. Working at Koos Inc. with people like Arno Schubert will do that to you.

Please have fun at your Christmas Eve parties and be thankful that you’re not at Koos working. Merry Christmas to all. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Koos Christmas Story

On a bitter cold Saturday night, late December in 1976, the men of Koos Inc. gathered in the backroom of Mario’s Red Arrow Club on Sheridan Road in Kenosha. The reason for this get-together was a Union Christmas party. UFCW Local 73A was good enough to sponsor the much-appreciated gathering for the workforce from Koos. This night was going to be an event to be remembered. This celebration would be a first. Never before had the Union workers at Koos Inc. had an official Christmas function. Tonight that would all change.

The year before, not only was there no party, the employees had to work until 11:00 o’clock on Christmas Eve morning. Of course the beer that was smuggled into the plant created a somewhat cheerful atmosphere, but it still wasn’t a party. Not even the numerous pints of blackberry brandy purchased from the nearby Beer Depot could do the trick. It just wasn’t a party.

The people in management always had a nice little soiree each year, but nothing for the guys in the Union. This year was going to be different. The guys in the plant were finally going to have a bash of their own.

And what a bash it was!

The backroom at Mario’s Red Arrow Club was dimly lit, long and narrow, with a chest-high wall at one end that separated a small kitchen from the rest of the hall. This might have been the back of a smoke filled neighborhood bar, but it was perfect for this inaugural event.

The good people from UFCW had provided the guys from Koos with enough money for the hall, food, a keg of beer and a couple of bottles of hard liquor. Several of us had even brought festive holiday deserts. What more was needed? Let the party begin!

Because we were new to this Christmas party thing, most of us had neglected to bring a date. The only females present for the event were Ziggy Gutowski’s wife and the aunt of Danny Fliess who brought her two daughters. Other than that the guest list was strictly male.

It was still going to be quite a shindig, trust me.

While the sloppy joes warmed in the crock-pot and the hot dogs simmered in a large pot of oiling water, we decided to start playing cards. While Ted Nugent blared through the speakers hung on the walls, the collection of partygoers broke into two separate games of cards, one at each end of the room.

Located at the east end was a boisterous group of Koos veterans, consisting of Danny Fliess, the legendary Arno Schubert, Jim Weber, Munk Ekern, Harry Leipzig, along with several others. They were playing poker for cash and the shots of Wild Turkey were flying.

Joining me at the other end of the hall, near the kitchen area, were Chuckie Haubrich, Chuck Huck and some of the newer employees. Rather than gamble, we had opted to play drinking games where the loser had to guzzle a beer. The card playing was sloppy, but the suds were cold.

The party was in full swing and everyone was having a high-spirited time. That is until our group spotted a humongous can of black olives.

As we were attempting to get the can of olives open, the group from the east end informed us that they wanted some of the olives. The diminutive Chuck Huck put a handful on a paper plate and brought it over to them.

Evidently this was not good enough for them.

Several members of their contingent made their way over to our table and demanded the whole can of olives. We would have no part of that and we all grabbed a big handful and told them that they were all ours!

Seeing that we were not giving up the olives peacefully, the “east-enders” grabbed the can and made off with it and the remaining olives. We were outraged and shouted, “You want all the olives?” With that the war was on. Olives were flying from one end of the hall to the other.

Unfortunately, the olives were only the beginning. Soon cups of beer were being flung across the room. Being near the kitchen area, our group decided to “escalate” the battle. Using cooking tongs, we began plucking hot dogs from the boiling water and used them as projectiles in our efforts during this now epic battle. The frankfurters were flying!

This melee resembled a scene from any Three Stooges film. At this point it was pure chaos.

Then something happened that momentarily brought the frantic food fight to an abrupt stop. For some unknown reason, Chuckie Haubrich grabbed a big handful of raw ground beef, wadded into a lump the size of a baseball and hurled it across the hall at Arno Schubert’s oddly shaped head.

Before I go on, for those of you who don’t know Chuckie Haubrich, he possessed an extremely strong throwing arm. The man could throw a ping-pong ball through a brick wall.

Now back to the story.

Splat!!!! The sphere of uncooked ground beef had found its’ target – the right side of Arno’s scarred face. Chuckie Haubrich would have made Nolan Ryan proud with that toss.

Seeing what happened, we started chuckling as Arno staggered while trying to regain his bearings. It didn’t take long before everyone in the room was roaring with laughter. Well, everyone except for Arno.

With the glob of raw meat still stuck on his face, he picked up a pan up of orange Jell-O topped with whipped cream. Fuming, with the desert held at shoulder height, he unsteadily made his way over to our end of the room.

As he got closer, he spat out, “You think it’s funny?” Everyone continued to snicker, wondering if he would actually retaliate against Chuckie Haubrich. After all, he was the one who had tattooed him with the beefy missile. When he finally reached our cluster, Arno walked right by the 6’4” 250 pound Haubrich.

Instead, he turned to the 5’7” 150 pound Chuck Huck and hissed yet again, “You think it’s funny?” At that point you could have heard a pin drop.

Huck stared the irate German right in the eye and blurted out, “Hell ya it’s funny!”

You guessed it. Chuck Huck was now wearing the pan of orange Jell-O and whipped cream all over his head. Needless to say, the war was on again. Only, now cakes and various other creamy delights had been added to the arsenal.

When all was said and done, the backroom of Mario’s Red Arrow Club was declared a disaster area. Food was not only on the walls and floor, but on the ceiling as well. As we scraped our holiday meal off of our clothes, the manager of Mario’s kindly asked us to leave. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so kindly. He told us to get out and never come back.

It should be noted that the Union didn’t get the deposit back for the hall. And there was never another UFCW sponsored Christmas party. That Christmas party was the first and last for the Union guys at Koos. It was the only Christmas Party. Ever.

But what a bash it was!

May you all have a Happy Holiday season and a very Merry and Blessed Christmas. Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Top 10 Lists

Last Friday I was going to write a quick and frivolous blog with some top 10 lists. Nothing earth shattering. Then the atrocity in Newtown, Connecticut took place. Suddenly I didn’t feel like writing something frivolous. Fortunately, my spirits were lifted on Sunday when the Packers knocked off the Bears and clinched the NFL North. My mood leveled off a bit when I watched President Obama speak after he met with the families of the victims of the Newton massacre.

Sunday ended with the Survivor Finale and Reunion Show for Season 25. The last episode of any season is always must-see TV, but the last three have been extra special because I got to write the Recap Trilogy with Fellow Survivor Geeks, Mary Beth and Jamie. I thank them both for making it so much fun.

Now for those frivolous top 10 lists.

Because tonight is the first Wednesday night without Survivor since September 12th, I thought it would be appropriate for the first list to Survivor related. These are, in order, my top 10 list of Survivor contestants…

Survivor Contestants
1. Russell Hantz
2. Roberta “RC” Saint-Amour
3. Rupert Boneham
4. Richard Hatch
5. “Big” Tom Buchanan
6. Rudy Boesch
7. Elisabeth Filarski
8. Ethan Zohn
9. Tom Westerman
10. Danni Boatwright

It should be noted that there are only three females that made my top 10. Mary Beth and Jamie would have you think that the ladies are the only reason I watch Survivor. This list proves that I am a hardcore Survivor Geek.

My next list is of my top 10 Match Game panelists. As faithful readers of From The Booth probably know, Match Game is by far my favorite game show. Although I am a big fan of TV game shows, no other show even comes close. It was tough to narrow it down, but here it is…

Match Game Panelists
1. Charles Nelson Reilly
2. Elaine Joyce
3. Richard Dawson
4. Fannie Flagg
5. Patti Deutsch
6. Joyce Bulifant
7. Scoey Mitchell
8. Dick Martin
9. Betty White
10. McLean Stevenson

Full disclosure, I struggled between Elaine and Charles for the number one spot. It was not easy. I really am quite fond of Elaine, just ask my friend Patty 4-Names. But in the end, I had to go with Charles.

My final top 10 list deals with my favorite sitcom of all time - Leave it to Beaver. I love this show! You can still catch episodes on Antenna TV and MeTV. Here are my favorite characters…

Leave it to Beaver Characters
1. Larry Mondello
2. Eddie Haskell
3. Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver
4. Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford
5. Ward Cleaver
6. Wally Cleaver
7. Fred Rutherford
8. Miss Landers
9. Whitey Whitney
10. June Cleaver

My friend Jenny is probably slightly disappointed that the lovely Miss Landers finished in eighth place. What can I say? I do love her, especially the episode where Beaver sees her in her tennis outfit, but there are so many exceptional personalities on the show. Sorry.

Okay, I will spare you any more lists. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year. Stop back on Friday when I break out a classic from the vault – “A Koos Christmas Story”.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Survivor Finale and Reunion

 Mary Beth’s 2Cents on the Finale: So, at last, with the demise of the evil Abi, we find ourselves with our Final Four: Malcolm, Denise, Lisa and Skupin. It should be noted that each of these “couples” has been aligned right from the start – Malcolm with Denise and Lisa with Skupin – so it's interesting they are the ones still left standing.

Coming back to camp, they all felt the relief of having time without Abi. Skupin said it best when he equated it to “having a tumor removed”. Ha ha ha! Malcolm was lamenting the damage Abi did at Tribal Council when she pointed out that the others should start seeing him as a bigger threat. He spent some time looking cute and pouting about all the “damage control” he was now going to do. Then his eyes twinkled… Sigh…  Skupin, however, didn't seem worried because he said he had a better story than Malcolm and could probably win against him. Ah, sweet delusional Skupin!

At Reward Challenge, there was series of obstacles to be maneuvered and bags of puzzle pieces to untie with a final dragon puzzle to be done at the end. The reward was big! It was some kind of advantage in the final Immunity Challenge.

Everyone wanted this so they all got off to a fast and furious start. There wasn't a clear front-runner throughout the entire race until they got to the puzzle. Skupin, who had a slim lead in the foot race portion, completely lost his ability to think again and was sitting surrounded by his puzzle pieces with a sort of blank, brainless look. Lisa and Denise were doing great but Malcolm was faster and ultimately won! SIGH!! Could this be a premonition of things to come? I hope, I hope, I hope… 

After the challenge though, things changed. Malcolm winning was seen as a huge threat and it really didn't help that he sort of blew off Denise when she wanted reassurance that it would be the two of them at the end. I have no idea what he was thinking but he pulled a Penner and made some vague noncommittal agreement that sent Denise right into overdrive.

She started campaigning HARD to get Lisa and Skupin to vote against Malcolm. I almost hated her right then but what the heck was Malcolm thinking?? I mean, he's adorable but just wasn't using that noggin when he did that! But wait… Skupin still thought there might be some honor in taking Malcolm to the Final Three. He really believed he could beat him and that other people would see that too. Maybe this is Malcolm's lucky day? I hope, I hope, I hope…

Then comes the part of each Survivor season that I detest – the mandatory walk through the Torches of Fallen Comrades. So here's what they had to say about each one of the “comrades”:

Zane - “he gained 30 lbs. before coming here and he was insane”
Roxy – “strongest convictions”
Angie - “she was my sleeping buddy”
Russell - “he couldn't stop himself from being the leader”
Dana - “could have been competition”
Dawson - “a very lively addition to Survivor”
Katie - “potty mouth”
RC - “30 seconds into the game and she was all over it”
Jeff - “a great athlete”
Artis - “very, very loyal”
Pete - “Abi bit him in the butt in the end”
Penner - “entertainment on steroids”
Carter - “became a man out here”
Abi - “little Brazilian firecracker”

This was followed by the ceremonial, overdramatic, completely melodramatic burning of the torches as the music swelled and the cameras panned over the mountains. Sheesh! I hate that part.

Finally they were off the final Immunity Challenge. This time it was a ball balancing skill test where they had to balance a ball on the piece of wood and keep adding more length at times intervals.

Malcolm won an advantage earlier that was if he dropped his ball he got a second chance. Well, by the way his hands were shaking there were not enough chances in the world and he was the first person out – even after using his second chance.

Denise soon followed. Lisa and Skupin hung there for a long time but Lisa eventually caved and Skupin won immunity. Skupin was very proud to have beaten Malcolm.

Apparently, there is some honor to beating Malcolm, at least in Skupinland. I have to admit it was kind of nice that ol' Skupey was going to the Final Tribal Council. He last played 12 years ago and didn't make it very far because of his accident so seeing his joy at getting this far was somewhat special. Or maybe I'm just a soft touch.

Going into this last tribal before the final tribal, I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. I knew Skupin was immune. I knew Denise was scrambling and I knew Lisa was ready to take Malcolm out. Skupin spent the majority of the episode talking about winning with honor and made me feel reasonably assured that he, Lisa and Skupin would in the Final Three. So, I ask you…


I am inconsolable. I haven't been this miffed since Russell Hantz was voted out! How dare they take out my dear sweet Malcolm! I mean, sure he was a good player and made a lot of things happen and won a lot of challenges and is incredibly good looking with all that hair (perhaps Skupin is jealous?) and those twinkly eyes, but those are all the reasons he SHOULD win! Idiots, I tell ya!! I'm going to hold onto this pissoffedness until next season. This just isn't right. WRONG! Sheesh! I'm going to go lie down… Sigh…

The Booth’s Bits on the Final Tribal Council: I think I had better take over now. Mary Beth needs a to lie down and relax. With a drink. A nice, stiff drink. Besides, ever since Susan Hawk eviscerated Kelly Wiglesworth and Richard Hatch back in Season 1 on August 23, 2000, the Final Tribal Council has been one my favorite parts of Survivor.

The Final Tribal Council for season 25 started out slow and gained momentum. The opening statements were fairly mundane. Denise told everyone how wonderful she had played the game. Lisa took credit for eliminating Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm. And Skupin did not hurt himself or bleed.

The first juror to speak was Artis. He was bitter, saying the three finalists had a “holier than though” attitude and that they were hypocrites. He closed by saying “karma is a bitch”.

Carter was next and complimented Lisa and Skupin for the way they played the game. He really liked Skupin. He had nothing for Denise.

Pete didn’t really have anything for Skupin, but he did bring up Judas when going after Lisa. He asked Denise why she deserves the million dollars and she replied it was how wonderful she had played the game. Hmm, seems I had heard that before.

The next juror was the lovely RC. It was a tremendous and emotional moment. Oh, her questions were run-of-the-mill and quite forgettable, but it was a tremendous and emotional moment. For me…

Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm was obviously still pissed about being voted off. He immediately told Denise to quit nodding her head and trying to appease everyone. He was angry. She attempted to diffuse the situation by mentioning how wonderful she had played the game. Again.

Next up was Jeff. The former major league baseball player asked Skupin if he made things happen, watched things happen or wondered what just happened. He seemed satisfied that Skupin felt he made things happen. He then told Lisa she was useless and had nothing for Denise.

Maybe he didn’t want to hear how wonderful she had played the game.

Abi, the Brazilian spitfire, began her questioning by talking about herself. When she finally asked the finalists a question, it was the time-tested classic, “Tell me why you deserve the million dollars?” When Abi went after her, Denise told her she was sorry if she hurt her feelings by how wonderful she had played the game. Hmm…

The final juror stole the show. Penner rocked! His acting background was very evident. He put on quite the show. The rest of the jury broke into laughter several times during his interrogation of the finalists.

He told the story about when Denise confided in him that the one thing she never wanted to be thought of being a bitch. He paused and said that’s no longer possible, we got to see that part of you tonight!

Next he called out Skupin for saying that he was constantly “in the crosshairs” and that his “head was always on the chopping block”. He told said Skupin never received one vote to be voted off and didn’t think he would receive a vote to win the money. Skupin looked dumbfounded.

Finally, he revealed that Lisa was a teenage TV star. He thought that everyone should know. I have to report there were quizzical looks on the faces of several members of the jury. It was like, “The Facts of Life? What the hell is The Facts of Life?”

That was it for the Final Tribal Council. All that was left was for the jury to cast their vote for the Sole Survivor and winner of $1,000,000. I better let Jamie take over, Penner has me in tears. Plus, seeing RC again…

Jamie’s Prognosis on the Reunion Show: Probst walks past the sweaty, skinny survivors into the jungle… Probst walks down some stairs past clean, well-dressed survivors. You know the drill. Sitting at the fire are our three finalists: Former “Facts of Life” star Lisa Whelchel, Sex Therapist Denise Stapley and injury prone season two repeat player Michael Skupin.

OK before I go any further I am contractually obligated to state that ousted player and new BFF of Paul Vagnoni, Miss RC Saint-Amour looked stunningly beautiful. Yes PV, she truly is spectacular. And Mary Beth your boyfr… I mean Malcolm looked… kind of the same as he did in the Philippines. He’s super cute. And if I may say, Penner cleans up quite nicely. I will miss his Alan Alda voice. I liked Penner…

OK, back to the big moment. Probst quickly got down to business and I am THRILLED to report that my favorite player of this season Denise won!!!!! Yeah!!!!!!

Let’s reflect for a moment or two on her accomplishments. She started the game on a losing team whose players were picked off one by one. In spite of this, she survived.

She was very loyal to her alliances, specifically Malcolm. Well, except at the end. And she was a fierce competitor in challenges. She does make really weird faces, but this 41-year-old woman made the chicks half her age look just plain silly in challenges. She definitely deserved to win and I, for one, applaud her.

After announcing the winner, the Reunion show turned into the Lisa Whelchel show. Don’t get me wrong. I like Lisa. She seems to be genuinely sweet and good natured and well meaning and all but she does go on and on sometimes.

With only a limited amount of time for the other Survivors to get their last few moments on TV, I’m sure they did not appreciate her discussion of why God does not care about who wins Survivor. Not that I didn’t agree with her assessment, but Lisa does know how to work the camera to her advantage.

And then there was the recap of her emotional reunion with her brother. I’m sorry, but that was weird the first time and even more strange the second time. If I latched on to my brother like that on TV he would have pinched me and told me to get a grip!! Lisa was voted the fan favorite, and in spite of all her schmaltz, I do think she deserved the honor.

I think we were all waiting for a little more fireworks from the detestable Crabi… I mean Abi. Big let down. She acted almost human and claimed that she was sorry for being a big jerk on the show. This was followed by RC and Pete having a little 20-second tiff about Abi and that was about it.

I really think that Probst could do more to stir up some trouble on these reunion shows. I mean there has to be bad feelings aplenty and what better time to let that fly? That would make things a little more interesting. All of the loser survivors booted off early were able to get in their one line, but really they were long forgotten. I couldn’t even remember who Dana was, to be honest.

The one Survivor who made sure she got her moment was Dawson, who ran out onto the stage and literally threw herself at Jeff Probst, locking him in an uncomfortable kiss. Awkward, especially when he then said that she wasn’t half as good of a kisser as his wife. Ouch!!

I thought it was very nice that Probst held a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Connecticut this weekend.

And now looking forward to the next season. It will be a fans versus favorites show, which is always fun. Who knows?  Maybe Paul’s girlfr… I mean friend RC or Mary Beth’s boyfr… oh; I mean Malcolm will be surprise players!! Maybe RC will wear the Santa hat that Paul gave her. Maybe instead of buffs the teams will all start to wear Santa hats with their bikini’s and underwear. Maybe they could do a season in the North Pole and that brings me to a question that has been bothering me of late. If this is truly “Survivor”, why don’t they try to survive in other climates?  Survivor Iceland perhaps? I’m sending it in as a suggestion!

Until next season… from the booth.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If Not Now, When?

I was going to write about something fun and whimsical today – personal top 10 lists or my addiction to talk radio. But then Adam Lanza changed my plans. Around 9:40 a.m., the 20-year-old went on a shooting rampage at a Newtown, Connecticut school, slaying twenty kindergarten aged children and six adults before taking his own life. Reportedly, two of the adults were Lanza’s parents. This comes on the heels of the mall shooting in Oregon on Tuesday where a 22-year-old man used a semi-automatic weapon to murder two people before killing himself.

This morning when I first heard about the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I turned on the TV and went on Facebook and Twitter to see how people were reacting to this horrific incident.

With the national coverage on in the background, I read many comments about people being shocked, horrified and deeply saddened. Several mentioned that they were crying and were concerned about the safety of their own children.

Then the inevitable “gun talk” started. Some people were saying that this wasn’t the time to talk about stricter gun laws. Then 2nd amendment rights were brought up. All the things you hear when a mass shooting occurs.

Then I read something written by a Facebook friend that really caught my attention. Herb posted the following:

“You tell me it’s not about guns but about the mental illness of the person, but then you don’t want healthcare for all. Ok, maybe it’s the education system… wait you don’t want teachers to have even the basic tools to teach the kids in the inner city. Oh maybe it’s the parents, but you don’t want abortions even for those who shouldn’t be parents.”

Then Herb made a challenge that I have been thinking about all day – “If this isn’t the right time to talk about this, then tell me when is the right time and I’ll erase this status and talk about it on that day.”

I’m with Herb. If not now, when?

Evidently it wasn’t the right time when 12 people were slaughtered in Columbine, Colorado in April 1999.

It was obviously not the right time 32 more were massacred at Virginia Tech in April 2007.

It wasn’t even the right time in November 2009 when 13 innocents were exterminated in Fort Hood Texas.

Nope, none of those were the right time.

Maybe it was the right time this past July when that lunatic shot 12 people dead in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Hmm, now that I think about it, there was no talking about it then either.

I know, it must have been the right time when 6 peaceful people were executed in August of this year as they were attending Sunday services at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Oops, wrong again. It wasn’t the right time.

It wasn’t even the right time to talk about it when 3 more were senselessly killed at the Azana Day Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin less than two months ago.

If it wasn’t the right time after any of those hideous mass murders, just when the hell is the right time?

Something has to be done, people. This can’t go on. There has to be a change!

I have no use for guns, personally. I don’t like them. At all. But I can understand owning guns for sport and protecting your family. I get that. What I don’t get is semi-automatics, high-capacity clips and assault weapons. That shit had to go.

I did a little reading about the topic of mass murders. There was research done on 61 mass murders committed in America since 1982. In 48 of those cases, the killer obtained the weapon legally. 11 were obtained illegally and the other 2 were unknown.

Hmm… How about making it harder for these deranged killers to get their weapons.

It has been effective in other countries. Between 1981 and 1996, Australia had 13 mass murders. At that point they decided to institute gun law reform. In the 16 years since, they have had ZERO mass murders. That bit of information was courtesy of George Megalogenis, author of The Australian Moment. Megalogenis is considered one of our most respected political and economic writers.

The debate needs to start. There has to be stronger background checks. Felons and the mentally ill cannot be allowed to obtain guns. Semi-automatics, assault weapons and high capacity clips have to be banned.

President Obama, in a statement he made today, said:

“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics.”

You may not agree with everything I have said, but a discussion needs to begin. Something has to be done before more children are denied their next Christmas. There has to be change before more families are torn apart by pointless violence.

If not now, when?

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Survivor 25.13

The Official Survivor: Philippines Recap Trilogy for week thirteen:

Mary Beth’s 2Cents: Allow me, if you will, to use this second to the last 2Cents portion of the Survivor recap blog to talk about my favorite subject – Malcolm. In Survivor terms, it would be difficult to find a more capable and deserving guy to win than my Malcolm. He has had what it takes right from the start. He's good looking. That goes without saying but I'll say it again… he's good looking. He has a carefree Orlando Bloom quality about him. He's just shaggy enough so you know he's been on Survivor for 30-some days but not so shaggy that you can smell him from the screen, if you know what I mean.

He's athletic. He handily wins both reward and Immunity challenges regularly. He's nice. There's really no one in the game who hates him. Some might be miffed because he orchestrated their departure but hate him? Nah. Most importantly, he's smart and understands this game. Case in point – at the last Tribal Council, Lisa said she would take someone she knew she could beat to the end. This was not lost on Malcolm and he's keeping a close eye on Ms. Whelchel. He listens with his cute little ears and sees with his baby blue… oh sorry.

At Reward Challenge, after running up and over a ladder thing and out into the ocean to untie knots to release some rings and then running back to toss them onto some pegs, Skupin won and got to choose two others to go whale watching with him. Who was the first person he chose? Why, it was Malcolm, naturally! I mean, who wouldn't want to spend the day on the ocean with Malcolm? He also chose Lisa, which gave Abi a chance to have a little hissy fit about being left out again.

On the boat, Malcolm takes the opportunity to express how much he loves Skupin and Lisa and wants them to agree to be the final three. They do. For the time being. The best part of the whale watching was the shear awe with which Malcolm described the whole event and the fun giggle he had when Skupin, being a klutz, swam head first into the whale! But Malcolm was in his element – on a boat, sun glistening off his chiseled chest, wind blowing through his long silky… oh… sorry.

Back at camp, the topic at hand was… you guessed it! Malcolm! Abi tried her evil best to remind Denise how unimportant she really was to the other three. I'm not sure how that was supposed to make Denise side with Abi but Abi did say that no one is going to be able to beat Malcolm. I kind of think she's right.

Denise has a bad case of Malcolm-love too, so she just rolled her eyes and wouldn't listen to the nonsense Abi was selling. That's because Malcolm is worthy. He's someone you can trust. He has those broad shoulders for leaning on when you're… oh… never mind… sorry.

The next morning, Denise woke up with some kind of nasty bite on her neck. I think it was from Abi. She was getting Denise back for not listening to her. If they had checked the fang marks I'm sure they would have had a match!

At Immunity Challenge, they had to cross a rope using planks and picking up maze pieces along the way. Malcolm was way ahead when, horror of horrors, he fell! Poor thing had to go all the way to the beginning and start over. But Malcolm is one of those superhuman kind of beings and he whizzed back and quickly took the lead again. Of course, he won!

Now, as he said, he was doubly protected because not only did he win Immunity, he already had the Hidden Immunity Idol. That's my Malcolm! He's strong and energetic. He's focused and doesn't let things like falling get to him. He's sturdy and kind and honest and stalwart and… yipes… there I go again… sorry.

Afterwards, they all sat around the fire while Abi tried to sway Lisa and Skupin to keep her around. Skupin, without even doing anything, almost gets taken out by something that explodes in the fire. The man is a walking accident, I swear!

Malcolm is a hot topic for everyone but Denise. She's devoted to Malcolm and there is no question she will vote with him till the end. Lisa and Skupin, however, waffle back and forth about getting rid of Malcolm. Survivor is the only game where someone can actually argue their “worth” by admitting they're a terrible person whom no one likes and who will never get a single jury vote!

At Tribal, Malcolm listens closely as Abi tried to throw Denise under the bus. Lisa belched out some words of “strategy” that, I could tell, made Malcolm think too. It almost seemed as if Abi might have made her point, but then she turned around and started calling Skupin an “idiot” and a “moron”.

She was never more unlikeable than at that moment and those words sealed her fate. Adios, muchacha! Don't let the door hit you in your big Brazilian butt (as she called it) on the way out! It was at this point that I got up and danced around my living room. Abi is gone. Good guys go to the end. And Malcolm is still there, smiling through all that tanned skin, with those blue twinkly eyes and Hollywood good looks and… oh… geez… sorry! See you next time!

Jamie’s Prognosis: In the world of a narcissist, there is a general lack of empathy for others. A narcissist is arrogant, cocky, self centered, manipulative and demanding. It’s all about me, me, me… and on Survivor tonight it was alllll about Abi But let’s talk about more important things first. 

This week Paul Vagnoni became personally acquainted with his season favorite, former Survivor contestant and current jury member RC St. Amour. He did so by adorning her cheetah print bikini clad body with a Santa hat and placing it on her facebook page, to which she replied, “Hahaha-LOVE IT!!!! Can I use it?”  To which he replied “Of course. I would be honored.” And thus their relationship was born.

Would he have put a Santa hat on “Scabby” given the opportunity? I think not! Once again this week Abi was being an abihole. She continued to push her fabtasy immunity idol story, which no one was buying. She decided it was time to up her strabigizing by playing Lisa against Denise.  It is often hard to pinpoint which wind Lisa is blowing in on, but tonight she was keeping her enemies close and her Abi’s closer, which is not easy to do with someone who is so abnoxious.

The reward for tonight’s first challenge was pizza and whale shark watching. I had never even heard of a whale shark before, and I was OK with that. As if a whale alone and a shark alone are not good enough, there is a combination?? Sorry people, but you wouldn’t find me swimming around with one of those. 

I hope Mary Beth or Paul describes the actual challenge because I wandered into the kitchen to get a drink. I know it involved a ring toss. And I know that Skupin won. He got to choose two people to come with him and he selected Malcolm and Lisa. Abi, who was majorly abnoyed, rolled her eyes and said, “I guess my vote doesn’t mean anything”.

The three rewardees looked like they were having a wonderful day at sea, eating pizza and cookies. Skupin had sugar for the first time in 30 years and had a crackhead-like reaction to it that was quite amusing. I wish I had sugar highs like that, it looked like fun, but the thought of giving up all sugar for 30 years makes me shudder. How does one not go postal?

The fancy editing made it look like Malcolm might turn on my girl Denise and I was not happy. Traitor!!!! Back at Camp Dangrayne, Denise was in Abi hell, also known as the abibyss, and had to pretend that she enjoyed this horrible persons company. She paid the price for being nice. 

The next morning Denise woke up with severe pain in her neck and fang marks from some mean spirited sharp-toothed animal that clearly wants her gone. The others quickly laid their somewhat sincere healing hands on her in prayer, but Godless Abi just pretended to pray while REALLY expressing her true feelings to the camera that if tragedy were to befall Denise it could work to her benefit. Abihorrant!! She will grab at any abitunity to win.

The immunity challenge required survivors to climb across unsteady rope ladders and put together a puzzle.  In an AMAZING comeback, Malcolm fell off the ladder early but STILL came from behind to narrowly beat Denise for the win.

It looked like maybe Denise was in trouble, but my fears were for naught. Our little Latina put her abittating personality into high gear at tribal council and shot any chance she had of staying in the game to hell by calling Skupin an idiot once and a moron twice. He was Skupified, and everyone else had just had enough of her. Penner subtly (not) flipped her the bird. Even if it might have been better game play to take her to the end, Abi was abjected from the game. She will NOT be missed and I especially loved the gleeful skipping and celebrating of the others as they headed back to camp without her.

Abdieu… Abdios… sorry you had to “abdicate” your precarious position.

Unfortunately the Abster will be on the jury, so we haven’t heard the last from her yet. 

The Booth’s Bits: I can’t believe that was the final Wednesday episode for the Silver Anniversary episode of Survivor! 25 seasons is mind blowing. Wow! And I have watched all 355 episodes. Not only have I not missed a show, this marks the ninth season that I have written a recap blog. I know… get a life, Vagnoni. But I’m not the only one! Fellow Survivor Geeks, Jamie and Mary Beth have joined me for the last three. So there.

Speaking of Jamie and Mary Beth… By now I know them well enough that I am pretty sure that they have already described what happened on this evenings show. I am positive it was hilarious. It always is.

So rather than rehash what went on tonight, I have decided to look ahead to the Finale on Sunday night. However, in order to look ahead, I had to take a look back. On October 31, devastated by the untimely ousting of my dear RC, I wrote the following:

“Okay, that’s better. Rather than discuss the heartbreaking trivialities that occurred during this evening’s tear-jerking program, I shall rank the ten remaining scoundrels. Please keep in mind that this is how I want them to finish, not how I think it will end up. Not that it really matters, they are all jerks…”

Of those ten scoundrels, four made the final four, Lisa, Skupin, Malcolm and Denise. Here, with a smarmy comment for each, is where I ranked them seven episodes ago:

8. Lisa - I’ve had just about enough of Blair. I just wish that they had HD television during her Facts of Life days rather than now. The woman looks like she is perpetually crying.

5. Skupin - should just get out of there before he hurts himself. He’s living on borrowed time. It’s blowing my mind that he has gone two consecutive episodes without opening a gash on his body.

4. Denise – I could almost root for her. She is smart, extremely athletic and understands the social aspect of the game. Her only drawback is the way she contorts her face while she nods knowingly at Tribal Council.

2. Malcolm – this hunky oaf is a super-sized version of Ozzy. Sure he’s probably the best competitor on the island, I get that. But come on, Lisa “got any Visine?” Whelchel found his Hidden Immunity Idol while rummaging through his drawers.

Since then, some things have changed, but for the most part, they have not. Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm remains hunky and is the best competitor left. Denise is still a dynamo that makes weird faces at every Tribal Council. Skupin briefly stopped getting hurt, but got backed into the swing of things tonight when he got head-butted by a whale shark. Lisa continues to nauseate.

I guess some things never change.

With that in mind, here are my final “How I Want Them To Finish” rankings:

1. Malcolm (Mary Beth’s boyfr…)
2. Denise (Dwarf sex therapist that makes a lot of faces)
3. Skupin (Finally! He’s getting hurt again!)
4. Lisa (How did she get this far???)

That’s it! All that remains is the Sunday Night Finale and the Reunion Show. I can’t wait to see RC all dolled up. I’m willing to bet she is wearing something that has leopard skin on it. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Christmas Lists

Ho, ho, ho! Only fifteen shopping days until Christmas! Are you done doing yours? I am happy to say that I am. Every one of my cards and packages has been sent. All that is left is to wrap a few small gifts. Now, about my lists… No, I’m not posting a list of things I want for Christmas. Don’t worry. Instead, what I am listing are my favorite songs, movies and TV shows. Each list includes my top five along with some honorable mentions in no particular order.

1. O Holy Night – Manheim Steamroller
2.Christmas Canon Rock – Tran Siberian Orchestra
3. Boots – The Killers
4. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie and Bing Cosby
5.Christmas Lights – Coldplay

Honorable Mention: O Holy Night, Silent Night and Joy to the World by anyone, Happy Xmas (War is Over) – John Lennon, Christmas – The Who, Christmas Canon – Tran Siberian Orchestra, Stille Nacht – Manheim Steamroller, Greensleeves - Manheim Steamroller, The Holly and the Ivy – Manheim Steamroller, I Believe in Father Christmas – Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Merry Christmas Baby - Bruce Springsteen.

Manheim Steamroller
Chip Davis and Jackson Berkley founded Manheim Steamroller in 1974. The eclectic group has been recording classic Christmas music with their unique twist since 1984. They have put out a total of twelve albums featuring contemporary interpretations of Yuletide favorites.

I have seen Manheim Steamroller twice, first in Milwaukee and later in Chicago. Both times were enjoyable and memorable.

1. We’re No Angels
2. A Christmas Story
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
4. Miracle on 34th Street
5. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Honorable Mention: White Christmas, Bishop’s Wife, A Christmas Carol (most versions), Scrooge, and Christmas in Connecticut.

We're No Angels
We’re No Angels is a heartwarming movie. It is in my DVD player as I write this column. Here is a quick synopsis: Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov play three escaped inmates who hatch a plan to steal from a shopkeeper on Christmas.

But their plans change when they find themselves actually growing to like their target and his family. Besides, the luckless merchant is apparently about to lose his shirt, as his business is unraveling. So, instead of robbing him, the convicts decide to help him, a mission that proves wildly complicated.

Please do yourself a favor and make an effort to see this movie. You will not be disappointed. I plan on watching it next Saturday evening.

TV Shows
1. Andy Griffith Show
2. Dick Van Dyke Show
3. Charlie Brown Christmas
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
5. That ‘70s Show

Honorable Mention: Mary Tyler Show, Cheers, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Wonder Years, Seinfeld and Hardrock, Coco and Joe.

Andy Griffith Show Christmas Episode
The Andy Griffith Christmas episode is a classic. On Christmas Eve, department store owner Ben Weaver insists Andy jail moonshiner Jim Muggins. Weaver has brought along a jug of moonshine as evidence of Jim's wrongdoing.

Andy complies with Weaver's request but feels it's only fair that Jim's wife Bess and his two young children be incarcerated as well, since they all had knowledge of Jim's moonshining. With the Muggins family in jail, Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee, Ellie, and Opie prepare a feast with all the trimmings for the family and decorate a Christmas tree.

Peeping at the window, Ben Weaver is touched with the Christmas spirit and tries to get himself arrested in order to join the fun. Andy only arrests Weaver, however, after he dumps a garbage can in the alley. Together, the men appear at the door of the jail with a suitcase full of gaily-wrapped gifts from Ben's store. Ben is welcomed and regaled with food and drink. Weaver falls asleep in one of the jail cells after finishing the jug of Jim's moonshine.

Those are my Christmas lists for 2012. What are your favorite songs, movies and TV shows during this most wonderful time of the year? I would be interested to hear. Leave your lists in the comment section of the blog or on Facebook. Merry Christmas!

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Survivor 25.12

The Official Survivor: Philippines Recap Trilogy for week twelve:

Mary Beth’s 2Cents: Tonight was Family Night on Survivor. It was the annual show where the contestant's loved ones come to the island. Denise's hubby showed up. So did Skupin's son – little Skupin. Lisa had her baby brother along for the ride. Carter's mom, who looked like Carter in drag was there. Abi's very confused non-English speaking mom was there too. And Malcolm's brother Miles showed up as well. Oh the hair! Two more wavy headed types I have never seen! All that thick beautiful long hair. Sigh… 

All of the Survivors showed the appropriate amount of emotion except for Lisa and Abi. Lisa almost had a nervous breakdown when she saw her brother. I haven't heard sobbing like that since my dog ate the head off of my Malibu Barbie when I was little. Abi, on the other hand, seemed almost annoyed that her mother showed up. Sheesh!

Right away the loved ones were thrown into the Reward Challenge – the reward being the winner gets to spend the night at camp with their loved one. This challenge was something else. The Survivor was throwing something… What? Cow pies? They honestly looked like cow pies! Their loved ones had to catch them and throw them to knock these little posts down.

I almost felt sorry for Abi's mom. First of all, she was a good 20 years older than anyone else there. Second, she arrived in her best little sundress. Third, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there getting pelted with cow pies! I think she actually ducked a couple of times.

Malcolm and his brother won. Probst let Malcolm choose one more Survivor to have their loved one at camp and he chose Lisa. Then Probst gave him one more and he chose Skupin. So they all went back to camp.

I was really touched by Lisa's reaction to seeing her brother. I was “feeling” it, if you know what I mean. But then her little brother did something that instantly put him on my Short List. He reminded Lisa that this was a game of deception and wondered aloud why she wasn't working harder to get rid of Malcolm! How'd you like them apples? Malcolm is the reason she got to spend time with her bratty brother and now he was plotting against my boyfri… Malcolm! GRRRRRRR!!!

At some point in the evening, Malcolm observes Skupin and little Skupin and Lisa and Brat Boy all yukking it up and realizes that maybe he made a mistake by letting them stay. See, Peever? Under all that hair, beneath those twinkly eyes… he does have deep thoughts! So there! Lisa leads the Skupins and Brat  Boy in a prayer that goes something like this:

“Dear Lord, bless Malcolm for choosing us to be together again and please Lord help us get his brawny self voted out. But if that's not what you want, Lord, we're okay with it. But we hope it's what you want. Because it would be really cool if he was gone. Amen.”

Or words to that effect.

I was going to recap the Immunity Challenge but I was having technical difficulties. Technical meaning my cat decided the notebook and pen I was using was extremely interesting so he would not allow me to even attempt to write anything. Anyway, after I wrestled the pen out of his teeth this is pretty much what the challenge was – walk a balance beam in water, retrieve three bags of sticks, swim back to show, make a long pole, and poke a target with it.

Everyone was playing full out with even Lisa making a great effort. Then, suddenly, Abi had some kind of brain fart and just slowed way down. Probst was aghast, I tell ya! Anyway, it didn't matter because – TADAH! - Malcolm won Immunity! Take that Lisa Whelchel you big doo-doo head! YAY Malcolm!!

Before Tribal Council, Abi, who was one of two people who needed to worry about getting voted out, had another brain fart and decided to irritate the crap outta everyone once again. But it was all for naught because, true to Survivor fashion, they never vote out the evil whiners. No, they voted out Carter because he was actually more of a threat.

Carter seemed suitably upset at having been ousted. I could tell this because when he gets upset or tense his mouth gets really, really tiny and by the end of the episode it was about the size of a pea! Abi still thinks she's fooling everyone with her “I have the fourth idol!” ruse but none of the others are buying it. The good news? Malcolm, who DOES have an idol, is guaranteed to be around for the Final Four!! YAY Malcolm!!

Jamie’s Prognosis: Well my friends I did survive my Island Survivor adventure. I am sorry to report that I did not win a million dollars, but I did return home with a nice tan, some seashells and a tee shirt. And I learned a few things. People… people… this is a SOCIAL game!! And there is one Survivor Philippines contestant who just does not get this point. And that is Abi or, as Paul likes to call her; rat girl. With good reason. She really does look like a rat on night cam. Freaky.

So this week was the family reunion show and I felt totally mislead. Last week’s “preview” indicated that Malcolm’s brother was going to be some sort of a dickhead and quite honestly, aside from the obnoxious hairdo, he was just a regular… guy. That was needless false advertising.

SO there was senior Skupin and junior Skupin. Their tender reunion caused heartless Abi to almost feel something. Carter was reunited with his mom who is clearly younger than me which made me feel… old. Denise was reunited with her man and quickly wrapped herself around him pretzel style in a way that I could never do which made me feel… old and unlimber.

Lisa’s SO was her brother Justice, who called her “Sister” and had an overly dramatic bro-sis reunion with her. Lisa is just so over the top for me!! I want to root for her but then she says something silly like “God is bigger than a football team” and I lose the connection.

Abi’s mom showed up on the beach and she was confused because she doesn’t speak English and if you don’t speak zee English everything is just super confusing. And then there was Malcolm and his brother Miles, who aside from his crazy island pattern shorts seemed fairly normal to me. 

The Malcolm brothers won the reward challenge that involved knocking wooden pegs off of round platforms with mud balls. The reward? They got to spend the night with their smelly family members at camp. Some reward. There wasn’t even any basket of food to make their stay welcome.

The Skupins and Whelchels quickly bonded in prayer. Lisa’s brother brought confused, befuddled and foggy Lisa back to reality as in LISA THIS IS REALITY TV QUIT ACTING LIKE A NUN AND PLAY THE FREAKING GAME! She suddenly realized that Mary Beth’s boy toy… I mean Malcolm, should go next.

On to the Immunity Challenge. I will spare you the details except to say it involved water, sunken pieces of wood and the need to build a giant pole to knock a target blah blah blah… Abi just sucked at this challenge. She is a terrible person AND a terrible player.

Malcolm won Immunity. So it looked like it would be between awful Abi and the noble Carter, whom everyone likes. And for a few minutes it looked like nobility would win out over beeotchiness. But this is REALITY TV and so, at Tribal Council, even though Abi continued to be the yucky person that she really is, poor Carter was eliminated. Who knows?  Maybe this icky woman will win the whole thing?

On a positive note, RC was wearing what looked to be a negligee for tonight’s jury appearance, making me think that up on the northside there was one happy man watchin’ TV!

The Booth’s Bits: Tonight’s episode started out with the time-tested favorite, the Loved Ones Reward Challenge. I always find it interesting to see who the castaways’ loved ones are. Here’s what we had for season 25:

Skupin – his oldest son, who turned out to be a bleeder just like dear old dad.
Carter – his mom, who was kind of hot. Hey, I’m 55, okay!?!
Lisa – her younger brother. Yet another reason for her to sob uncontrollably. Like she really needed one.
Denise – “her man”, who appears to have been away from the sun longer than away from his wife.
Scabby – her mom, who couldn’t speak English, making her nicer than her daughter.
Malcolm – his brother, who was, as Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm called him, a knucklehead.

As is the tradition, the winner got to take his loved one back to camp for an over-nighter. Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm and his knuckleheaded brother won the challenge. Probst allowed him to pick another castaway and he chose Lisa and her kid brother.

Out of the blue, Skupin shouted out, “Ask for one more!” So Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm did. And Probst said okay and of course Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm chose Skupin and Skupin Jr.

Upon returning to camp, to show Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm how much they appreciated his kindness, Lisa and Skupin immediately plotted to blindside their benefactor. Okay, maybe it wasn’t immediately. First Lisa cried for a while and the elder Skupin got his son to bleed. Then they schemed.

To their credit, Lisa, Skupin and their loved ones had a prayer session before deciding to go all Judas Iscariot on Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm. Here I thought that WWJD stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” not “What Would Judas Do?” See what you can learn watching Survivor?

Before breaking up their Blindside/Hallelujah meeting, the God Squad did come up with an amusing observation. Skupin said, “If Jesus Christ played Survivor he would look like Malcolm.” Lisa quickly added, “And play like Carter.” Those God Squadders can be kooks!

Unfortunately, Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm had other plans and won the Immunity Challenge. This prompted Lisa to look toward the heavens, shake her fist and cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Well, not really. But she was pissed in a very righteous way.

Back at camp the God Squad had to decide whether to vote out. I think Lisa referred to it as “God’s Plan”. Would it be Scabby, whom everybody has loathed since day one or would it be Carter, who is good-natured, works hard and is quite loveable? What Would Judas Do?

You guessed it, they sent Carter packing. I just wish he would have said dude or gnarly at least once…

I must be brutally honest with you. I was not at all disappointed when the Moral Majority ousted Carter rather than Scabby. While she is despicable, reprehensible, odious and vile, Scabby does look very nice walking down the beach away from the camera. Not as outstanding as RC mind you, but pretty darn good.

Scabby (Abi) Showing Her Maturity
Here are my latest “How I Want Them To Finish” rankings:

1. Malcolm (Mary Beth’s boyfr…)
2. Skupin (Trained his oldest son to be a bleeder)
3. Denise (Dwarf sex therapist with albino husband)
4. Scabby (That derrière is moving her up in the rankings)
5. Lisa (Is she still around just to annoy us?)

Only one Wednesday left. Then it’s time for the big Sunday night finale and the big Reunion Show. I can’t wait for that. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Ain’t Gonna Cry Anymore

Regular readers of this blog know that I enjoy sports, television and music. What you might not know is that I cry easily. I cry about happy things, as well as sad things. I’m not really sure why, but it’s always been that way. It is not only things that happen in “real” life either. There are many other ways to get me bawling. Such as…

Movies. There are so many. The best example is “Bang The Drum Slowly”. The first time I saw that film was in 1982. I was 25 years old and watching it with a bunch of male friends and relatives. It didn’t matter. After Bruce Pearson’s funeral, when Henry Wiggen says, “From here on in, I rag nobody”, I lost it. Since then I have seen that movie at least a dozen times and I have cried each time.

Songs. Where do I start? Last Christmas when I heard the song “Boots” by the Killers for the first time, I was blubbering so hard I could barely see. I believe it was, “I can see my mother in the kitchen, my father on the floor watching television, It’s A Wonderful Life” that got the floodgates going.

TV shows. Silly as it might seem, I have even cried watching That ‘70s Show. Usually it is something involving Donna and Eric; however, the most poignant moment was between Eric and Red. As Eric was preparing to leave for Africa to teach, Red handed him his pocketknife from the Korean War and told his son that he loved him. Then they hugged. Then I boo-hooed. I know. I’m a sap.

But not anymore.

Well, at least not when it comes to one TV show.

Undercover Boss is a reality series based on a British series of the same name. The first episode premiered on February 7, 2010 after Super Bowl XLIV. On March 9, CBS announced it had renewed Undercover Boss for a second season. The third season premiered on January 15, 2012. The fourth season kicked off on November 2, 2012.

I have seen a majority of the episodes and yes, I have gotten misty during most of them. I mean come on, look at the premise – the owner or CEO of a huge company goes undercover to check out their business, to look for ways to improve it. Then at the end of the show they give 3 or 4 of the down-on-their-luck employees some cash or a family vacation. That’s heart-tugging stuff!

At least it was in the beginning. When I began doing a little research, I found that some of these charitable companies were worth billions and billions of dollars. With that it mind, it began to take some of the shine off of their generosity.

While $15,000 is quite significant to someone poor schlub working paycheck to paycheck, its pocket change to a company worth $15 million.

A fine example of this occurred in season 2 when Todd Ricketts went undercover representing the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs. Being the youngest sibling, they thought he would be the least recognizable. I thought this would be interesting.

What a joke! The Ricketts family is worth in excess of $1 billion. You figure the “rewards” they handed out to their hardest working employees would be noteworthy, right? Guess again.

The biggest “prize” went to a guy who had worked for the Cubs for 28 years. For his long, loyal servitude, he was made recipient of the first annual Wrigley Field Award, which included $1,000, some box seat tickets and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the last game of the season.


Yet, I kept watching. And getting bleary eyed.

That was until this season. After the season premier I had a conversation with my cousin Susie and mentioned how emotional the episode was. She promptly poo-pooed my sentimentality and proceeded to tell me why. Her theory was that this show was nothing more than a publicity stunt and, perhaps more importantly, a semi-scripted ego boost for some rich fat cat.

After a little bit of contemplating, I came to the conclusion that she was spot on.

Looking back, most of the owner/CEOs were wealthy and very white. Most were religious and physical well-being was almost always brought up. they were living life the “right way”.

On the flip side, the beneficiaries of their largess are usually black or Hispanic. I do remember one white lady, a single mother working at Checkers. Oh ya, she was a lesbian. Another common ploy is to have the disadvantaged benefactor have a troubled past or have some sort of physical ailment come into play.

The physical ailment ruse was used last night. A poor, Hispanic salon worker had a baby daughter who needed an expensive surgical procedure. The rich guy ponied up for the operation and threw in a $100,000 home for good measure. She cried. I didn’t.

The icing on the cake was when he gathered all of his employees and told them that he was setting up an emergency fund with $1 million of his own money and another $1 million of the companies money. He then held up two fingers and proclaimed, “that’s 2 million dollars!” I guess he figured poor people aren’t good in math.

Too bad this poor guy is.

The bighearted company representative was none other than Stephen J. Cloobeck. He owns Diamond Resorts International and his net worth is somewhere around $100 million. That means his lavish gift represented 1% of his total worth.

Big deal.

To put his gift into proper perspective, it would be like me giving a charity or needy person a couple hundred bucks. It’s like the story in Luke’s gospel where the poor widow put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. I think the moral of the story was that she contributed more than all the others because they gave gifts out of their wealth; but she out of poverty and put in all she had to live on.

Now that could bring me to tears. But not Undercover Boss. Nope. I’m not gonna cry anymore.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Survivor 25.11

 The Official Survivor: Philippines Recap Trilogy for week eleven:

Mary Beth’s 2Cents: I'm sort of sitting here in a stunned silence after tonight's episode. The only thing going through my mind right now, and it has been going through my mind all night, is - “ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?” Let me start at the beginning…

So, after last week's Tribal Council ol' Abi-boo-boo is sulking and feels that “they” all ganged up on her. Can she really be so self-unaware that she has absolutely no idea how she appears to other people? ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?

At the Food Auction, a staple feature of any Survivor season, people are bidding willy-nilly on whatever delectable treat Probst happens to present to them. Pancakes and bacon? $500 from Denise. Fried chicken? $100 from Penner. (He took one bite and gave Probst a very uncomfortable lurid look. I think it made Probst shudder a little.) Carter traded a baked potato for rice and beans for the entire tribe and later bought some veal shanks to share with them too.

Skupin? Oh he laid out his entire $500 on some cheese and wine. And he doesn't drink. ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME? There are two veteran players sitting there with cheese and chicken on their chins! Surely they must have known there is ALWAYS some kind of clue or advantage on the auction block every single time.

No, they sit there looking goofy when the dreaded Abi-monster bids her $500 and gets the advantage. Well played you complete dunderheads! (Sarcasm intended.) Abi's advantage? Oh she gets to skip the first two parts of the Immunity Challenge and goes right to the final round. A huge advantage to have and those other guys should have known better.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Abi-the whiner wants Penner to apologize for being a big meanie to her. ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME? Penner tries to point out, in his best Alan Alda impersonation, that this is the nature of the game.

Abi pouts some more so Penner gives her a half-hearted apology. When he asks for the same she stays true to her usual nasty self and doesn't give him one. They do hug though which makes Abi think that now everyone wants some kind of communication with you. Clearly, from all of the eye rolling from the others, this was not the case.

The next morning, Abi-babby-ding-dong, decides she will pretend the advantage she got was a 4th idol. She attempts to tell Malcolm this. Malcolm, by the way, was showing Abi a wee bit too much sympathy for my taste. I shall have to rethink our relationship if that continues. He does save it by referring to her as “a girlfriend who won't go away after you break up with her”. Abi-the lionhearted refers to herself as “a warrior”. Then they are all off to Immunity Challenge.

The challenge is a rope/obstacle course in three parts. First, Probst asks a question. If they get it wrong they have to carry 5% of their body weight. This immediately puts Denise and Lisa at a disadvantage when they miss the question. Denise is fierce though. I do love her!

The Challenge goes on whittling them down to the final three – Penner, Carter and Abi-warrior whiner. Of course, the absolute unthinkable happens. Abi wins! ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?

Everyone starts scrambling at camp. Malcolm (sigh… he's still a hottie) wisely realizes that since no one can vote out Abi, he can now make a play to get rid of Penner. Denise, Skupin, and Lisa are on board except Lisa loves her some Penner and feels really, really bad for what she is about to do so she just has to tell him about it.

Penner gets all pissy and tries to get some votes to sway either Denise or Malcolm off the island but, alas, Penner pranced his way, whistling, down the walk of shame. Then he came back. Then he left again. Then he popped back again. The look on Probst's face said, “ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME?”

Jamie’s Prognosis: Field Research

This week I decided to do something never done before on this blog. I decided to go and do actual research on what it is like to be a Survivor. Since the show was taped months ago I was not able to join our current band of survivors in the Philippines, so I chose a small island in the West Indies. I chose a tribe and we flew to the island, disembarking to an almost uncomfortable 85° with a light breeze. I expected a refreshing rum drink to be waiting for me.

There was none. I knew this was going to be brutal.

For our first reward challenge, the tribe had to board a boat headed for the island of Prickly Pear. Upon arriving in the bay we were to don fins and mask and search for tropical fish in the sea. That seemed easy enough.

I spotted many fish, swam to shore and raced to spell out "piña colada" in shells on the beach. Although I was given odd looks, I am happy to report that I was rewarded with one. Yeah me!!!!

Back at camp there was a lot of drama and arguing about where we would go to eat, who would pick up the tab on the next round, blah blah blah… drama queens. I stayed out of it and did shots with the bartender.

Jeff Probst did not show up, but a concierge named Franco did. He was no Probst. It was time for the Immunity Challenge. Two drinks were placed at opposite ends of the pool. Tribe mates had to swim from end to end taking sips out of each margarita and the first to finish both drinks won.

Being the lazy lot they are, the rest of my tribe all chose to sit the challenge out and watch me struggle with it whilst lounging in hammocks. Fortunately for me I am a good swimmer and drinker. I easily finished the challenge with no problem. Franco looked bored by it all.

Things are looking good for me to win this entire thing, but folks the conditions are very rough out here. I have sand in my bathing suit, mild sunburn and I have not seen a cabana boy for at least an hour. I'm getting parched and weak. What will happen to me? We have another Tribal Council tonight with the disinterested Franco, who mumbled something about crazy Americans last time I wandered past him. I hope to survive… stay tuned next week to see if I did.

The Booth’s Bits: I’m not really sure where to start. The episode started with Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm consoling Scabby, the castaway from hell. I am beginning to wonder about Malcolm. Not just because he was listening to Scabby whine and cry, but lately he has been trying to be all intellectual and act like he’s a real deep thinker.

Quite frankly, it’s just not working for me. Nope. Not when he’s saying stuff like, “I feel bad for Abi. She is very un-self-aware.”  Huh? I’m pretty sure that un-self-aware isn’t even a word. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking Mary Beth’s… oops, Malcolm might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

The ubiquitous Survivor Auction took the place of the Reward Challenge. Each castaway had $500. Here’s what everyone won:

Denise - $500 for a Pancakes and Bacon Breakfast
Skupin - $500 for Wine and Cheese
Malcolm - $200 for Iced Coffee and Donuts
Penner - $100 a for Fried Chicken Dinner
Carter - $200 for a Baked Potato, which he promptly traded in for Rice and Beans for the Tribe.
Lisa - $320 for a Humongous Sub Sandwich
Scabby - $500 for a Secret Advantage in the Immunity Challenge
Carter - $200 for some Veal Shanks that he had to share with the Tribe. The twist was that they had only 60 seconds to eat it and had no utensils.

Prior to the Immunity Challenge it was business as usual. Scabby acted like a loathsome little brat. Penner sounded more and more like Alan Alda. Lisa alternately cried and smiled. Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm tried to be concerned and hunky at the same time. Denise continued to make very peculiar faces for no apparent reason. Skupin and Carter were just there not really contributing any entertainment value.

The Immunity Challenge was another rope/maze thingy that  I found rather nondescript. The only drama was that Scabby had the advantage of skipping the first two rounds and advancing directly to the finals. And of course she won. Oh ya, she lied about having another Hidden Immunity Idol. But I think that Mary Beth’s boyfr… oops, Malcolm was the only one listening.

Before Tribal Council it was pretty clear that Penner/Alda/Hawkeye was going to be the one going home. Oh, they tried to make it look as if it  might be facial contortionist Denise, but it was Penner who was sent packing. One other thing, kudos to Jeff Probst for keeping his streak alive for making someone cry. This week it was Lisa. Like that was hard.

Here are my updated “How I Want Them To Finish” rankings:

1. Carter (Spicoli)
2. Malcolm (Mary Beth’s boyfr…)
3. Skupin (Needs to start bleeding again)
4. Denise (Sex Therapist to the Corn)
5. Lisa (Drama Mama)
6. Scabby (Castaway from Hell)

Only one or two Wednesdays left. Then it’s time for the big Sunday night finale and the big Reunion Show. I can’t wait for that. RC cleans up real nice. Until next time…from the booth.