Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daytime Dispatches - 2011

8:00 a.m. (KSBW) Where to start this holiday of pop culture excess? Normally I launch into Daytime Dispatches with an infomercial. Today, though, I'm in a Today mood. So we start with a rain-soaked crowd of folks waiting to see some guy named Bruno Mars.

8:01 a.m. Creepily thin weathercaster Al Roker sets up a story about arguing couples by saying "fornacation" when he actually means "on occasion." Matt Lauer announces the theme for today: "Things are going downhill..." Truer words never said, dude.

8:06 a.m. "I'm Phil Mickelson, pro golfer. If you have painful, swollen joints, I've been in your shoes." Well, get the hell out of my shoes then! Stop swelling my joints!

8:09 a.m. NBC Today Show News Alert: "Relationships can be difficult." The story starts with wedding march music, which is then interrupted by a screeching record needle. Why not a broken telegraph machine?

8:12 a.m. Good news - there's a solution to marriage conflicts: "Communication is key!" Who knew?

8:16 a.m. Time for Bruno Mars trivia: "Which tattoo does Bruno NOT have?" Oh, God! I have to wait until after the commercial?

8:17 a.m. Time for the first anti-depressant commercial. It's gonna be a long day, folks.

8:18 a.m. Revlon offers its own anti-depressant: plumping mascara. You know, my lashes could be plumper. I never notice how thin they are? Why hasn't anyone told me?

8:20 a.m. Geez! These so-called "fans" can't tell what tattoo Bruno Mars lacks (gypsy woman, headphones, the name "Bernadette," anchor, or the name "Pete"). Why are they standing outside in the rain, then?

8:22 a.m. Ann Curry, wearing a green popsicle tent dress, is interviewing a dude selling Michael Jackson memorabilia. "It's amazing how small he was," she opines. With zenlike reflection, she adds, "It's easy to forget how good an artist he was."

8:28 a.m. Local news break with Monterey news-analities. Their sleepy, dreamy calm suggests that they don't know about Bruno Mars either.

8:32 a.m. Al Roker: "Let's head down to D.C. and say hello to Uncle Willy!" Wow, Willard Scott is still, well, alive! Isn't that nice? And Avice Clarke, 111 years old, likes to eat Smucker's on her toast. Isn't that nice?

8:35 a.m. One of the posters being waved by the Bruno Mars (semi-)fans waiting for the Rockerfeller Plaza concert: "I don't feel like doing anything!" I don't think I've ever felt more inspired than I do now.

8:37 a.m. Jenna Bush Hager - yep, that Jenna Bush - is introducing a "Today's Good News" segment - a story about a group called KaBOOM that's dedicated to building safe kids' playgrounds. Isn't that nice? "KaBOOM is about an explosion of hope and opportunity and possibility." Really, why do they even bother selling antidepressants?

8:41 a.m. The first NBC-tease. Bruno Mars is coming... At last! I've been waiting so long, and so have those rain-drenched tweens! But first, this is Today on NBC." Thanks for clarifying that, Matt.

8:44 a.m. How would you start a commercial about spas? How about "Spa! Spa! Spa!"?

8:45 a.m. At last! At last! It's... a bouncing young man with Chiclet teeth.. He's singing, "Today I don't want to do anything..." Ah, the rain-soaked poster now makes sense. Maybe one of those antidepressants might be a good idea. "And Bruno Mars is just getting started. This is Today on NBC." Yep, definitely. How bad can those side effects be?

8:50 a.m. Matt asks Bruno, "Are you going to write any more songs for other people?" "Absolutely not, I'm done!" Then Bruno returns to bouncing for hundreds of young girls who stare at him through their cellphones and camera viewfinders.

8:54 a.m. Bruno asks his audience, "Can I get my James Brown? Can I get my James Brown? Can I get my James Brown?" And a thousand drenched teens stare in silence.

8:55 a.m. A 40ish dude in a scraggly beard pumps his fist amid all those cute tweens. I can hear Chris Hanson now: "Why don't you sit down? Just sit down right over here."

8:57 a.m. I hope I got enough positive energy stored up. I'll need every one of Bruno's bounces to keep me aloft for the next hour. It's time for Regis and Kelly.

9:00 a.m. (KION) Yay! Kelly is absolutely thrilled that Regis is performing in Biloxi this weekend. "Wow," she enthuses through droopy-lidded eyes. "Are you doing your nightclub act?"

9:02 a.m. Now Kelly is talking about being flat-chested. ("Somebody's got to represent the A-cup. Holla!") Gosh, Biloxi is looking pretty good right now.

9:06 a.m. Kelly is announcing that a lucky audience member will win some Omaha Steaks, and she's thinking to herself, "Oh, God. Did that old creepy man just fart again!?!"

9:11 a.m. Alec Baldwin oozes onto the stage. He had to walk slowly because he's lost weight. "Alec and I have been talking spin classes together," Kelly explains.

9:15 a.m. Poor Regis. For a while he had Alec talking about old movies like Gunga Din. Then that A-cupped harpy swoops in and gets Alec to start doing impressions. Regis is quiet, watching, sad. He's thinking about better days, so long ago - before her. So. Very. Tired.

9:19 a.m. Alec-the-pitchman: He mentions Capital One no less than five times in 30 seconds. Coherently! That's gotta be some sort of record, don't you think?

9:23 a.m. It's time for Chris Hemsworth, Hollywood's Newest Heartthrob. And Star of Thor!... Great timing, Regis and Kelly. Is Thor even playing anymore?

9:26 a.m. Regis drops an Omaha Steaks humor-deuce. "I've gotta a pain here. Hey Thor, I'm sore." Kelly doesn't even flinch. ("Soon, old man. Soon...")

9:29 a.m. Commercial time! "Have you ever been injured through no fault of your own? Don't be a kitten against a tiger!"

9:30 a.m. Oh, God. Different channel but same commercial: "Spa! Spa! Spa!"

9:40 a.m. For the last few minutes, the Regis and Kelly show has told the story of a lovely couple who married after 67 years apart. I can't imagine snarking about these folks, but I dread their live encounter, coming up. It begins with hugs...

9:41 a.m. ... and sex jokes. Regis notes how affectionate Charles and Rosella are with each other. "Kissing and hugging! Please!... And how's the love life?" A moment later: "How'd you feel when you saw the big guy again?" Yuck.

9:44 a.m. Regis and Kelly announce the culmination of 67 years. Almost seven decades in which Charles and Rosella were married to others, living their lives, waiting for their True Love: "We're sending you... to Hawaii!" Yay! Charles and Rosella won the Game Show of Life.

9:47 a.m. And now for no particular reason, here's Melissa McCarthy!

9:52 a.m. Then she's gone. Just like Charles and Rosella. They've sold their products and served their purpose. Like gas, they pass and disappear. But always, always, there are Regis and Kelly...

9:53 a.m. ... and commercials for a "Spa! Spa! Spa!"

9:59 a.m. Regis and Kelly are reading viewer comments, but I'm not listening. No. I'm preparing myself for what must follow. Yes, it's time for The View. I turn to the ABC channel a moment early and, damn it! "Spa! Spa! Spa!"

10:00 a.m. (KSBW) A special edition of The View. It's World Fertility Awareness Month! Which means, naturally, that "Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, is sharing her years of struggle, heartbreak, and failed fertility treatments." Why is the audience cheering? Why?

10:06 a.m. Sherri Shepherd has been trying to interject herself into a fairly complex conversation about the legalities of surrogacy. At one point she tries to edge in on Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi waves her off with Jedi-reflexes. She's gone up against Barbara Walters (who is wisely talking a vacation). Sherri backs down, only to catch a break a moment later: "I went to my cousin Shereda, and I told her that I'd buy her a Hyundai if she'd carry my baby." Totally worth the wait.

10:13 a.m. Blessed commercial break. In Hidden Valley, we're told, the kids snack on veggies. On purpose. And they don't worry about Fertility Awareness. Utopia!

10:14 a.m. The View is back with Martha Stewart's daughter. Seriously, how many shows - aside from the Super Bowl - inspire you to wish that the commercial breaks are longer?

10:15 a.m. Alexis is talking about strategies to make embryos more "sticky." Sherri tries to interrupt, but Alexis rolls over her without pity. ("Look, my mother is Martha Stewart. You think I can't handle you?") Back to her story, Alexis explains, "I do have embryos on ice." Joy Behar pounces: "Sounds like a show on Madison Square Garden." OK, really, that was pretty funny.

10:19 a.m. Discussing the legal and ethical "stickiness" that arises when dealing with would-be surrogate mothers, Alexis sounds like she's read her Machiavelli. "I know they're doing something special and wonderful, but it's also a job. They are not the important person... I don't care if she's angry with me for not being truthful."

10:22 a.m. Sorry, Artemis, my beloved lap cat. I need a couple moments away from the TV. I'll be back soon...

10:27 a.m. I'm back, just in time to meet a woman who gave birth to her own grandchildren. "I had the best doctor in the world," she explains. "He told me he was pulling my uterus out of retirement." No, I'm not watching Springer.

10:30 a.m. Time to see the children, three lovely kids. The audience applauds, of course. How could they not? ("Congratulations! You exist! Look at you, with the existence and everything!")

10:32 a.m. Sherri asks Mother/Grandmother the most obvious question: "You wanna have my baby?"

10:33 a.m. Yay! A commercial for Cottonelle Fresh Wipes! ("You know how you sometimes use our tissues to wipe your baby's butt? Fun, huh? Well, we've got a product for you!") Then, there's a Crest toothpaste commercial that reminds women, "Life opens up when you do." Ewww...

10:40 a.m. Let's meet Melanie and Michael who had "Twiblings" with two separate surrogates. Mom is talking about high risk pregnancies and Whoopi decides to sit on the floor and play with the kids. They're not interested; they can see themselves on TV. So there's Whoopi, alone, sitting on the floor and wishing she were anywhere else but here. Welcome to my world, lady.

10:42 a.m. At last she gets the kids' attention. Thank goodness. I was feeling so sad for Whoopi (which isn't a phrase I use on a regular basis).

10:44 a.m. Clare Danes is pitching "the first and only FDA approved prescription treatment for inadequate or not enough lashes." Think about that a moment. Just think. And then look at the mirror. Are your eyelashes long enough? If not, why not? What's your problem?

10:50 a.m Sorry, I was staring at the mirror. My lashes are long, I guess. But they could be longer. Oh, and The View folks are still talking about Twiblings.

10:52 a.m. I just noticed that Sherri and Whoopi have been replaced by surrogates. Literally. My head hurts. Commercial please...

10:54 a.m. Pup-Peroni now includes more "real beef"! Much less sawdust. Yay!

11:00 a.m. (KCBA) Time for Swift Justice with Nancy Grace: Investigator. Prosecutor. Judge ("I don't care who says what, I'm going to find the truth.").

11:01 a.m. Nancy's first words: "Spending way too much time in the bathroom."

11:02 a.m. Henry starts telling his story about why he took so long fixing up a bathroom for the Fernandez family (a sin on a show called Swift Justice). He gets a couple words out before Nancy leaps on a critical item of contention: "Wait a minute. One... two... three earrings, except one is in your lip. Do you have one in your tongue too? I'm afraid to ask, but do you have any other piercings?"

11:09 a.m. Ah, the first Heald commercial. "Heald adapts to you." That's the secret to a meaningful college education, isn't it? "Get in. Get out. Get ahead."

11:11 a.m. Back to Nancy Grace, with driving, action-oriented music that makes this case over $630 for poorly laid bathroom tile sound like a sequel to The Bourne Identity.

11:18 a.m. A commercial helpfully explains how anti-fibromyalgia drug Lyrica means less pain, as long as you don't mind suicidal thoughts. OK, but do I have to watch Nancy Grace?

11:21 a.m. A Nancy Grace lesson in courtesy: "I don't know how they raise you in Orange County or Cuba, but on Swift Justice we don't interrupt each other."

11:22 a.m. Nancy: "Did you try to go back and finish the job?" Henry: "Yeah, he pretty much cussed me out on the phone-" Nancy: "Stop. I get it." Thus endeth the lesson.

11:26 a.m. Nancy's not buying what the Fernandez family is selling: "Don't breathe at me. Don't roll your eyes at me."

11:28 a.m. OK, enough Nancy. How about an infomercial? It's like spinning the Wheel of Misery. What problem can be fixed with three easy payments of $29.99?

11:30 a.m. (ION - "The Best Kept Secret in Television. Where Positive Meets Entertainment") Yes! Hair Club for Men (and Women)!

11:32 a.m. There they are: those happy, well adjusted people taking off their caps, riding motorcycles, and slowly lifting their heads to reveal - hair! Glorious hair!

11:34 a.m. Joe (Life Coach) decided that he needed his hair back. Randal (Public Relations) needs his hair back too. And Kelly (Student) - OH, GOD! Her before-pic looks like she stepped too close to a stove. Can the World-Renowned Hair-Loss Expert help her and the others? I hope so. Thank goodness he's wearing a white coat. That's a good sign.

11:37 a.m. Pat (Financial Advisor): speaks for all of us - and somehow channels Samuel L. Jackson from Snakes on a Plane: "There Has Got to Be Something Better!"

11:40 a.m. It's official. I'm sure I saw this exact same infomercial back in '08. I don't know if I can do this again.

11:46 a.m. Artemis, my trusty Daytime Dispatches Lap Cat, is lounging languidly. She sheds like a Wookie, and I'm watching a Hair Club informercial. That's just not right.

11:50 a.m. I wonder if the Hair Club has a Clubhouse. Do you have to get voted in? Are there officers? Is there a secret handshake?

11:51 a.m. Chase (Business Owner): "I'm an old guy with a young wife and young kids." And wish I'd never met Chase (Business Owner).

11:52 a.m. Un-named Hair Club member is a young man marrying a beautiful woman. "There is no way, before Hair Club, I could have walked up to Mina and asked her to go out with me." That's right, she nods. ("And you'd better keep that hair, Bucko…").

11:57 a.m. I admit it: I can't wait to see the next infomercial. I've already scanned ahead and found the perfect follow-up. Really, this is proof that Daytime Dispatches is divinely inspired. Think about it. What would you watch after 30 minutes of Hair Club for Men (and Women)?

12:00 p.m. (CSNBA) "The Following is a Paid Presentation for No! No! The Hair Removal Breakthrough!" With Thermicon (TM) technology!

12:02 p.m. No! No! is "perfect for your bikini line!" Yes! Yes! That didn't take long!

12:05 p.m. Kassie DePaiva - famed country singer and soap opera star (actually known for appearing in Evil Dead II) - is now meeting with ladies for whom No! No! has proven to be a life-changer. Waiting... waiting...

12:06 p.m. Yep, another reference to the "bikini line."

12:08 p.m. Kassie has clearly saved up all her "acting" over the past few years. Each wide smile, each burst of enthusiasm, each moment of genuine honesty about "places we don't want hair to be." For this infomercial. And she's delivering. No pain! No embarrassment! And remember: you're removing hair from above and below the skin!

12:15 p.m. Lucky Kassie-husband. After shaving part of his arm - painlessly! - he observes, "It's idiot proof." Kassie is quick to clarify: "You're not an idiot, honey. You married me!" Yeah. You're an idiot.

12:18 p.m. Just don't forget to buff afterward (and avoid spraying sanded hair-bits all over the couch).

12:19 p.m. Cupping her mouth to share a secret, another soap opera star recalls the power of No! No! over the bikini line: "My husband loves it!"

12:25 p.m. Kassie reminds us that No! No! allows you to wear that "special piece of lingerie" or that "sexy swim suit." You'll feel more confident, she says, at the gym, at the pool, at business meetings! I knew it: I'm always going to the wrong meetings.

12:30 p.m. (ION) It's time to Look Sexy Now! But how?

12:31 p.m. Oh, God. A Lifestyle Lift commercial. Sorry. I can't. I just... can't.

12:31 p.m. (KTVU) Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

12:34 p.m. OK, Robert (Computer Specialist) is struggling to answer 101 minus 98 minus 2. And I'm struggling to imagine why this show is still on.

12:36 p.m. Commercial office-drone opens up a Mounds candy bar, which looks suspiciously like a dookie, and palm trees explode from his cubical. The announcer intones, "Unwrap Paradise." He's happy now. Happy! ... Now.

12:39 p.m. Robert is thrilled to discover that he knows the meaning of "bicameral." I could go for a Mounds bar.

12:46 p.m. I've gotta admit: There aren't that many game shows that invite the host to pronounce, "The correct answer is Hideki Tojo."... "No clue!" Robert smiles.

12:54 p.m. It's so sweet watching Computer Specialist Robert try to count the number of consonants in the word "repel" ("R is a consonant," he hopes).

12:59 p.m. It's time for...

1:00 p.m. (KTVU) Maury!

1:02 p.m. Jade realizes that she shouldn't have slept with J-Love. At least he's not the Baby Daddy. He couldn't be! But wait... What if he is?

1:04 p.m. J-Love now has two women leaping and screeching at him. No love for J-Love.

1:06 p.m. Jade is now yelling with a voice that could shatter glass. Fortunately J-Love adds some essential context to this complex situation: "I didn't know the ho, I just ho'd the ho." That should settle things easily enough.

1:10 p.m. "J-Love, you ARE the father." That poor kid.

1:14 p.m. It's time to meet Kaila. She was set to be a psychologist, but she hooked up with Chris - videogamer and skateboard aficionado - who wouldn't participate in three paternity tests. Still, Chris didn't mind dropping by the Maury show. What could go wrong?

1:17 p.m. Chris finally shows up, fist-bumping his chest and offering a Maury a bro-hug. And, dude, you're rockin' that bro-hawk.

1:19 p.m. "Chris, you are NOT the father." And many bro-hugs follow. Kaila slinks down the Long Hallway of Shame, crumpling to the floor. A cameraman kneels with her, keeping her weeping eyes in the shot. A spiritual moment.

1:23 p.m. "Be part of the legal system with Heald!" Yep, students are looking at books and everything.

1:28 p.m. The Scooter Store promises a free mobility consultation - and a deck of large-print playing cards! Nice! I wonder if I could be more mobile. I sure could use those cards! They're large print, right? Really large? How large?

1:30 p.m. It's time to meet Brittanika. No doubt she has an encyclopedic knowledge about Baby Daddy Scotty's skanky sins.

1:33 p.m. Scotty's explanation: "I knew the girl for 15 minutes!" This guy needs to write a how-to guide on dating. Good news, though. Scotty promises to take the kid straight to McDonalds if he turns out to be the father.

1:35 p.m. No McDonalds for baby!

1:44 p.m. Nice couple-time. Would-be Dad promises to stay with Wayward Mom even if Mystery Baby is not his son. And... uh oh. "You are NOT the father."

1:47 p.m. "When you need $2,600 in under 26 minutes, we can help." Good to know. Depressing too.

1:50 p.m. Dominique is back. Apparently she was on the show two weeks ago, bringing two potential Baby Daddies to Maury. Neither passed the test. Today it's Jermaine's turn on deck. And what if he's the dad? "Well, we gotta make some arrangements," he says thoughtfully." I'm gonna be responsible, but I'm not gonna stop doing what I'm doing." Yeah, I wondered about that.

1:53 p.m. "You ARE the father!" Lucky kid.

2:00 p.m. (KSBW) What's going on at General Hospital?

2:04 p.m. Does any of this show take place in a hospital?

2:07 p.m. Somewhere there are people watching this show, understanding what the hell is going on. I wonder what their lives are like.

2:09 p.m. Let's give this a shot. Michael may enter the mob. Anthony is a wildcard. Sonny is waving a red flag. And... not one hospital scene yet.

2:11 p.m. Maybe General Hospital is a philosophical title. Like, the "hospital" is the world, and we're all sick, generally, but we're all capable of caring for each other. Like doctors. Sure! Who needs an actual hospital?

2:20 p.m. Still, what happens if Michael gets whacked? It could happen if he joins the mob. So, would they go to a hospital in town? Or would they rely on some sort of helicopter lifeflight deal? I mean, you can't stop the bleeding with a metaphor, folks.

2:22 p.m. "My diaper is full. Full of fashion." Jeans-diapers. That about covers it.

2:25 p.m. They've got some hardcore talented actors on this show. Two people meet and hug. She answers, "Good" - a half-second before he asks, "How's Alec?"

2:34 p.m. OK, Lulu's looking for her father. She's trying to fix things for Lucky. To save Luke. Got that?

2:42 p.m. Lulu's been a mess since the intervention. So there's a clue. Now she's hunting for Luke in a cathouse. Makes sense. But, wouldn't it be smarter for him to hide in a hospital? No one would ever think to look there!

2:45 p.m. Cymbalta can cure depression. Which is good. The commercial adds that it can also inspire thoughts of suicide. Which is bad. This commercial's list of side effects is actually kind of depressing. Fortunately, there's Cymbalta. Which is... No, wait...

2:52 p.m. "You're telling me that Lulu's gone to a whorehouse in Florida that Luke grew up in..." The mystery deepens, especially for the actors who seem to be making up the lines as they go along.

2:55 p.m. Time to start thinking about the next show. So many choices. How about...

3:00 p.m. (KSBW) Dr. Phil!

3:01 p.m. Lessee. This show features the real bickering of reality television stars, starting with Davy Jones and his granddaughter - no, his wife - Jessica.

3:08 p.m. "I don't want to change anything about him. I love him, and I fell in love with him the way he is. But... " Ooops...

3:12 p.m. I'm only now noticing that Jessica's dress makes her look something like a Cylon. An 80s-era Cylon.

3:14 p.m. Dr. Phil informs Davy Jones that he scored a 3 on a test for conscientiousness. "I'm never been very good at tests," Davy replies.

3:21 p.m. You know? It's been a long time since - "Spa! Spa! Spa!" Oh crap.

3:23 p.m. Now some guy named Jonny Fairplay is fighting some babe named Michelle Deighton. Apparently these folks are reality television stars, and they're fighting about vacuuming. And I'm watching them.

3:28 p.m. And I'm thinking about watching something else. Something like...

3:30 p.m. (KION) Judge Joe Brown!

3:35 p.m. The case: landlords claims that the renter trashed their apartment. Wakeshia lay out her case - minute after minute after minute. The defendant's primary response is composed mostly of shaking his head in disbelief.

3:36 p.m. "Not to mention that my couches smell like urine." And then there's the flavored condoms.

3:39 p.m. A talking dog is advertising the values of a lawyer. No, I'm not hallucinating. Yes, the lawyer secures Puppy Support; the dog was quite explicit on that matter.

3:44 p.m. Another case: Albert was rear-ended in Bakersfield. "A second later, he rams me." I'm pretty sure it was on the road. Now Albert's dragged the culprit to court.

3:48 p.m. It's the second time I've seen this commercial. Some outfit named Diamond Certified helps people find dentists. Cool. Even better, "They helped Louie get his smile back." That's nice. Only problem, Louis doesn't smile once in this commercial. Not once. Did anyone notice that on the set?

3:50 p.m. Estanislao is ambling through his Bakersfield car accident excuse. His wife Cynthia interjects, offering plenty of evidence. Except that she wasn't involved with the accident. So, back to Estanislao, who gets panic attacks. Apparently that explains why he left the scene. Oh, and he doesn't have a driver's license.

3:54 p.m. Joe didn't have a meal today, so he's eating Estanislao and Cynthia for lunch. Albert is keeping his mouth shut. Smart guy.

3:58 p.m. Time for the final show of the day. Really, there's no choice...

4:00 p.m. (KSBW) Oprah!

4:01 p.m. Maybe. It's a whole episode with Chris Rock - all part of Oprah's "Farewell Season." So let's see how much of this is about Chris and how much is about Oprah. I couldn't sit through a whole episode last year. Hmmm... What's worse, this is a repeat. Yeah, I may bow out at 4:30.

4:02 p.m. Chris knows the score. He immediately turns the show over to "Where are you going?" Oprah explains that she's starting a network. Really? I hadn't heard.

4:08 p.m. Classic Drains & Plumbing's back with the saddest commercial jingle ever: "Three Generations, Raising Sons and Daughters to Make Sure Your Plumbing is in Good Working Order." I'm now wondering whether there will be a 2012 Daytime Dispatches.

4:13 p.m. Oprah asks Chris to offer his opinion on the Tea Party, and he winds up his explanation by comparing them to children. Reasonable enough. Then he takes a dangerous term, reminding Oprah, "You don't have any kids." It's just a micromoment, but her eyes contain an eternity of "What the hell did you just say?"

4:20 p.m. Yeah, I'm gonna duck out at the half hour. So what should I watch at 4:30?

4:23 p.m. Chris Rock that he's the Number 2 guest on Oprah. Who's been on more than Chris? Celine Dion. What does that even mean? When will it be 4:30?

4:25 p.m. Seriously, I'm gonna bail in five minutes. But before I go, I've gotta ask: Why does Oprah feel like she's got to roar? All. The. Time?

4:30 p.m. (KION) Let's wrap the day up with Judge Judy!

4:31 p.m. Dwight Worrell II supposedly used the Lynn's credit card when he shouldn't have. Now Judy's marching him through each stop of his European travel adventure. "We all overslept because we walked for 12 hours the previous day," he says." I don't care," Judge Judy replies.

4:36 p.m. Judge Judy shoots a surprise question at the defendant's wife: "What's your problem?" "I, uh -" "Good!"

4:40 p.m. Now we've got competing credit card statements. Who really paid for the hotel?

4:41 p.m. The defendant's wife asks, "You're honor, may I speak?" "No," Judge Judy explains.

4:43 p.m. Wife interrupts Judge Judy one time too many. "Put her out," Judge Judy coos. Judgement for plaintiff.

4:48 p.m. Final case: Guion ("Andrew") is suing a dog-sitter for letting the dogs out. Guion ("Andrew") tries to interrupt Judge Judy, who shushes him for a good five seconds before wagging a finger. By the way, why can't this guy decide? Is it Guion? Is it Andrew? My vote: Go with Guion. Please.

4:55 p.m. College grad is grateful for the professionalism she gained from Heald. She giggles like a schoolgirl. I'm convinced!

4:57 p.m. Guion (not "Andrew") gets his butt handed to him (them). Oh, and they got the dogs back in two days. So why did he sue?

4:58 p.m. Marc and Jas launch KION Central Coast News, and...

5:00 p.m. I conclude the fourth annual Daytime Dispatches! Lap Cat Artemis is purring and purring: "Where do you think you're going, Bub?"

Want More? Check out Year One, Year Two, and Year Three!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back to Busch Gardens

Jenny and I enjoyed a brief trip to Florida this past weekend, attending to family business and spending time with good friends. Among the highlights of this adventure was a day spent at Busch Gardens. This was my first visit to the park in over 20 years, and I was amazed by how much the place has changed.

Expanding from its humble beginnings as a garden and zoo tacked onto a brewery, Busch Gardens has struggled to compete with nearby Disneyworld. The fact that the park charges Disney-like prices probably doesn't help matters. Still, Jenny and I hold fond memories - and even a few photos - of this local landmark.

Back then, Busch Gardens borrowed liberally from colonial-era "Dark Continent" language and imagery. I especially remember wandering through an Arab "bazaar" where piles of tourist trinkets were strewn along narrow streets. Unlike the fantasylands of Disney, this place attempted to produce a sense of reality whose fakery, undoubtedly tacky and maybe even offensive, was nonetheless alluring.

Busch Gardens has changed a great deal over the past couple decades, now attracting guests with increasingly spine-bending rides, ritzy performances, holiday themes, and pop culture tie-ins. Sesame Street characters remind visitors that, "A is for Africa," and signs advertise a Vegas-like "cirque" show that plays every couple hours. Whatever. Jenny and I went primarily to see the animals.

No matter how much the park has changed, Busch Gardens delivers plenty of jaw-dropping encounters with the natural world. We enjoyed the skyride and train trip through an ersatz Serengeti Plain, gazing upon giraffes and antelope, we ambled along a verdant walkway to peer into the lives of orangutans and apes, and we stared awestruck at the sight of tigers and cheetahs who seemed to size us up as potential snacks.

In one viewing area, we saw a kid peering at a lion through the glass, and I just had to snap a pic. The scene was just so cute. Only later did Jenny and I regret not arranging to share the photo with the kid's parents. Oh, and one little detail: a few minutes after I took the cute kid pic, that very lion leapt and clawed at the partition after spotting a dude who wore a bright yellow shirt.

Nearby, a community of meerkats stared at a man's blue t-shirt, following him as he played peekaboo with them for about 15 minutes. Yeah, I always feel guilty about the concept of zoos, but I shamelessly snapped photos at almost every stop. Busch Gardens is in this business to make money, sure. Yet there's no doubt that generations of future biologists, veterinarians, and conservationists have found their inspiration at places like this.

As the sun began to set, we spotted the kid whom I had photographed earlier in the day. His parents were wary at first but soon understood that we just wanted to share a nice pic, so they offered their email address and I sent the image along soon thereafter.

We wrapped up our visit with returns to our favorite exhibits and some nighttime encounters with rides that impressed us the most (SheiKra's 200-foot 90-degree plunge was an especially heart-wrenching thrill that we had to try twice). Then at last we headed for the gate, exhausted but satisfied.

Want to see more photos? Check out my Busch Gardens Facebook album!

(Photographs by Andrew and Jenny Wood)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

China Tilt-Shift

Just for fun I thought I'd share some of my experiments in tilt-shift photography, using images shot during my recent visits to China and Taiwan.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Back from China

I can't recall a time when I've been more jetlagged (and that includes the previous times I visited the PRC), but I'm certainly happy to be back home after two extraordinarily busy weeks in China and Taiwan.

My goal for this trip was to collect footage and interviews for a forthcoming video project on the SJSU College of Engineering's Global Technology Initiative. Along the way I worked with Richard Chung to manage internal logistics for 23 students - many of whom had never before traveled outside the country.

On average I snagged five hours of sleep a night as we visited Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Taipei, and Hsinchu. We hiked the Great Wall, sailed West Lake, toured companies and universities, and even visited a nuclear power plant.

Along the way I snapped plenty of pix and shot hours of video. Sometime later this summer I hope to upload my notes in blog-form. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few images from an exhilarating (and exhausting) trip.

(Great Wall photograph by Jonatan Lopez; other photos by Andrew F. Wood)