Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's not slime ... it's mucus!

So I sat down the other night to watch Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" for the sixth or seventh time.

Having already seen the flick three times in the movie theater, I had to buy it when it came out on DVD a few weeks ago, as you can see here. In short, this is the best animated feature that Disney has put out (not including Pixar collaborations, of course) in more than a decade, since 1994's "The Lion King." The best part of this new classic: There are jokes and gags for kids and grown-ups, and both can enjoy the film on different (or the same) level. Like, when I saw it in the theater, each time I saw kids laughing at parts, and then their parents laughing at other parts, with their kids looking at them like, WTF?

In short, though, it's a movie for everyone — young and old, boy or girl. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Really in a league of their own

Having made numerous trips to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, I encountered a first there this weekend.
That's because my GF and I actually met real-life baseball players there when we visited the Cooperstown landmark. We got to meet (in no particular order) Gloria Elliott, Sarah Jane Ferguson, Joanne McComb and Dolly Brumfield, all of whom played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

You might remember the AAGPBL from the 1992 film, "A League of Their Own," which chronicled the way the league kept baseball alive in American during World War II.

Before the foursome gave a lecture about the league at the Hall of Fame on Saturday — that was a ticketed event — they were on hand to share their stories about playing back then. This Kalamazoo Lassies uniform belonged to pitcher Gloria Elliott (seen above directly to the right of the uniform), who played in the league from 1950-54. A Staten Island native, Gloria learned to pitch from her older brothers and even developed a knuckleball, a pitch that most men find hard to throw to this day!

Just the brief chat was both informative and entertaining, making us both remember the movie, which focused on the Rockford Peaches.

As depicted in "A League of Their Own," the women talked about how each team had chaperones which had to approve the players' social commitments, including dates. As one of the former players told us, by the time the team's chaperone and manager were done interrogating a player's prospective date, it was too late as the team had already moved on to the next town for another series of games. Not to mention the fact that the league's by-laws said the players must act like ladies at all times, on and off the field, among other antiquated regulations.

The Hall of Fame has an entire exhibit dedicated to women in the game, including those from the AAGPBL.

This, for example, is an actual uniform worn by a Rockford Peach when the league was in existence, from 1943-54. Actresses like Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Rosie O'Donnell portrayed the Peaches and showed what it was like to try to compete for fans' attention in a time in which many of the top major-leaguers were sent off to fight the war. It's a great movie — one I own on DVD — and one that's definitely worth another viewing, particular since the Major League Baseball season starts on Sunday night.

As if fighting to draw a crowd to the stadiums wasn't enough, the AAGPBL's players had other obstacles to deal with.

Even the costumes from the film (seen here from another section of the Hall of Fame that focuses on baseball movies) showed how many players altered their uniforms so as to make playing easier. As Gloria explained, she had to take in the skirt on her uniform to make pitching easier. She said before she had to do it because she'd often drop the ball during her wind-up, as it would get caught in her skirt. Similarly, sliding in a skirt wasn't easy or comfortable, they said, thus making similar alterations necessary.

Again, particularly after meeting the women who actually lived it, "A League of Their Own" is must-see movie watching.

And if you do watch the flick, look out for this: In the same section of the Hall of Fame dedicated to baseball films, they have this baseball card on display which depicts actor Tom Hanks portraying Jimmy Dugan, the washed-up big-league who ends up managing the Rockford Peaches in "A League of Their Own." For a collector like me, it's one of the coolest baseball cards in the place, one of the few I can't buy on eBay.

Can't get enough about baseball movies? Check out this book by my fav professor of all-time!

Monday, March 22, 2010

This "House" used to be "Full"

Admittedly not a huge "Full House" fan, I still couldn't pass up a chance to seek out a lil' piece of TV history.

Yes, that is the house in San Francisco that the whole Tanner family — Stephanie, DJ, Danny, Michelle, Uncle Jesse, Rebecca, their twins and, of course, Joey Gladstone — lived in during the run of the show! (Note the cable car cables overhead.) During some down time in the Bay Area following a work assignment, I made it a point to find the Tanners' abode, the same one that was seen on many of the exterior shots, often transitioning between one shot to the next. (Longtime readers of the "Space" here will remember I've also been to such iconic homes as that of the "Friends" gang and the Huxtables of "Cosby Show" fame, as well as Carrie Bradshaw's stoop from "Sex and the City.")

Always one to make the most of free time in a new city, I made sure my the Tanner-ific trek didn't end at the family home.
No, I even managed to find the row of houses seen in the opening credits, a neighborhood known to locals as "The Painted Ladies," for obvious reasons. To boot, I snapped this pic from the park that the Tanners picnic in during the credits ... though I hope they watched where they stepped, 'cause half of it is a dog park with lil' puppies frolicking all over the place.

Again, I wasn't a die-hard "Full House" enthusiast, but how could I not like any show whose theme talks about newspapers not being delivered?!

Friday, March 19, 2010

They came up with "Up" here

I love Disney movies. (Maybe you've heard?) And Disney/Pixar movies rank right up there toward the top.
So I can't even tell you how amazing it was to drive past the Pixar Animation Studios here in the Bay Area this afternoon, while driving back to my hotel from a work assignment. Dude, this is where awesome flicks like "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles" and "Cars," among others, were born.

Of course, 1995's classic "Toy Story" started it all for John Lasseter and the gang, as that was the company's first feature-length, 3-D CGI masterpiece. (Can't wait for "Toy Story 3" to open this summer, btw.) Think of this as the house Woody and Buzz built.
As cool as seeing the Pixar gate in Calif. was, I felt like I'd been there before. That's because at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, they've created Pixar Place, where "The World's" latest greatest ride resides: "Toy Story" Mania. (Seriously, ride it just once and tell me I'm wrong!)

Still, finding Nemo's birthplace has been the early highlight of my trip west so far.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two peas in a podcast

As the biggest Walt Disney World enthusiast I know, I've recently come across the best way to re-live the magic of The Mouse all year-round.

For the past few months, I've spent countless hours listening to "WDW Radio," a free weekly podcast put out by Lou Mongello, one of the biggest Disney World fans I know of. His weekly podcast, available on both iTunes and his own WDW Radio Web site, brings listeners insight on The World, interviews with Disney execs and tips for guests — Disney World always calls their visitors "guests" — from other WDW experts. From top-10 lists and chats with Disney Imagineers, to trivia conests and even an interview with "Mary Poppins" herself, Julie Andrews (a personal fav of mine, you might remember), Lou brings WDW fans like me a weekly dose of The Mouse's magic!

Here's the best part: Listening to "WDW Radio" is a snap! I often burn it to a CD, pop it in the car and head out on the open road. You'd be amazed how much time we all spend waiting at red lights or in traffic, because I can listen to each of Lou's podcasts — usually around an hour each, if not longer — within a day or so as I drive around town.

If you're a Disney World fanatic like me, but you can't always make it down to Orlando, Lou's podcast is the next-best thing. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ever eaten a Wookiee Cookie?

Perhaps wash it down with a little Yoda Soda?

The ultimate "Star Wars" geek fan, now I can do both as I can refer to the amazing "Star Wars Cookbook," that a certain special someone got me recently. Unfamiliar with a Wookiee Cookie, for example? Well, they were first introduced in the horrible "Star Wars Holiday Special" back in 1978. (In fact, having eaten a bunch of Wookiee Cookies, I can attest that they were the very best part of that terrible, once-aired, made-for-TV special.) They're like a combination of a chocolate-chip cookie and a snickerdoodle, and it was twice as tasty! So far, the Wookiee Cookie is the only delicacy from the cookbook I've tasted, but if they're any indication of what the rest of the cookbook has in store, I can't wait to try to the other concoctions!

In fact, I've got a bunch of recipes to sample...

...that's because not only did I receive the original "Star Wars Cookbook," I was also given the "sequel" to the original, the "Star Wars Cookbook II: Darth Malt and More Galactic Recipes." (Think of it as the "Empire Strikes Back" of Coruscant cuisine.) As if the recipes and their names (things like "Protocol Droid Pasta" and "Pickle Jar Jar") weren't enough, each of the dishes is displayed with a full-color photo, each adorned with old-school "Star Wars" action figures. If you're a fan of The Force like me, you've gotta take the phone off the hook, makes some "Star Wars"-inspired grub from the cookbooks, and watch the trilogy on DVD.

But as far as that "Star Wars Holiday Special" ... stay away!!! Stay far away!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"American Idol" hopeful has Marist ties

As I've mentioned before, I don't watch "American Idol" until they narrow the field to the final 12, but I may have to tune in this week.

That's because Katie Stevens, seen here in an "Idol" publicity shot handed out by Fox, is the daughter of a Marist College alum (Clara, Class of 1985) and the younger sister of a current Marist sophomore (Ryan, Class of 2012). A senior in high school back in Connecticut, Katie can already list singing at Carnegie Hall among the credits on her résumé. Ryan has set up a Facebook page where fans of his sister can follow her progress — you can access that page by clicking here — and the 17-year-old has already got 5,390 Facebook fans. Katie has sung hits like Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" and "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone on "Idol" so far. Check out the show this week to see if Katie is voted in as one of the top 12 finalists.

For more on Katie and her Marist connection, click here for the school's official news release.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A "Tonight Show" from years ago

With tonight's of Jay Leno to the "Tonight Show," I'm reminiscing about my appearance on "Tonight" years ago.

No, seriously: I was on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno! Well, actually ... someone sent in one of my stories for Jay's "Headlines" segment and lo and behold, it made it to air. The story was actually about a softball player from John Jay High School ("Jay" for short) who was going to attend Yale University, and her last name is pronounced "co-LONE." But, when a former Journal copy editor tried for a snappy headline, this is what Leno's national audience on NBC saw. If I remember correctly, Jay made a quick joke to band leader Kevin Eubanks about his colon (as in, large intestine) traveling to Connecticut.

For a better glimpse of me (and my GF) on NBC's late-night airwaves, check us out on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," which celebrates its first anniversary tonight.