Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Great God Almighty, it's a TUESDAY TOP FIVE

See? See?! Told you I'd be back again, and with a Tuesday Top Five no less. As per usual, I'm going to try and keep this short, cut and dried, without the usual digressions and long descriptions. I'll try. I could screw up. Our Man in LA is only human after all.

So away we go . . .

5) My beloved Cincinnati Reds. I know I mentioned this yesterday, but I swear - I SWEAR - that this will be the day's only repeat. This is how it is, folks. Growing up in southern Ohio in the 80s, Cincinnati was a pretty cool sports town. You weren't embarrassed by it. The Reds didn't have the amazing decade they had in the 70s, but they usually found themselves in contention for the pennant. The Bengals played hard under Sam "Wicky-Wacky" Wyche, and they were often in the playoffs, occasionally losing a Super Bowl.

But since the last Reds' World Series victory (in '91), the Queen City has been a sporting no man's land, hampered by embarrassment upon embarrassment. Marge Schott, for God's sake? Dave Shula? Puh-lease!

Well, apparently no more. The Bengals were back to the post-season last year, and they have the look of a decent team in the year ahead (pending Carson Palmer's injury and whatnot). At least they're not a joke.

And neither are the Reds. Sure, they're playing over their heads. Sure, they don't have the talent of a Yankee, Red Sox, or White Sox organization. Hell, they probably don't have the talent of a Cub organization. But they're two games out of first, and the organization has new management that seems to be going in the right direction.

It's a step, and Our Man in LA is loving it. Go Big Red Machine!

4) WHAT IF? edited by Robert Cowley. Our Man in LA is a bit of a history buff, and this book unites that interest with the concept behind one of the two or three coolest comic books of all time. Remember Marvel's What If? back in the aforementioned 80s? Great book, full of one-shot stories. Things like "What if Phoenix hadn't died?" (she would have killed the X-Men); or "What if Spider-man had joined the Fantastic Four?" (the Invisible Girl would have left and married Prince Namor); or "What if the Avengers had been founded in the 1950s?" (uh, there would have been Avengers . . . in the 50s).

So Cowley and a bunch of noted historians and writers take this idea and apply it to world history. The result is a series of tremendously cool essays and definitely worth a look if you like history.

You learn about things like:

* What if Lincoln hadn't issued the Emancipation Proclamation and freed the slaves?

* What if Jesus hadn't been crucified?

* What if the Pope had stood up to Hitler regarding the Holocaust (he had two chances to do so)?

* What if Socrates had been killed as a middle-aged soldier in the Pelepponesian War?

* What if FDR hadn't replaced VP Henry Wallace with a little-known guy from Missouri named Harry Truman?

And so on. Each of the essays are short and fun. Totally worth the read.

3) FREAKS directed by Tod Browning. Our Man in LA's a sucker for classic film, and this one's definitely got a cult following. Check it out. Browning used real circus freaks in this semi-noir piece about a beautiful acrobat who schemes to marry a rich dwarf who travels with the circus, and then to kill him and run off with his money in the arms of her real love, the Strong Man.

So what happens when she launches her nefarious plan? Well, the other freaks band together to save their, ahem, freaky brother.

OK, so the story sort of falls apart in places, and it's pretty short. But the cinematography's amazing, and Browning wrenches interesting work from all of the so-called freaks, many of whom never appeared in another film.

I've been hearing about this movie for years, and I finally Netflixed it. Even if it's not your cup of tea, the Circus Freak wedding feast is worth the price of admission.

2) ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY? by David Sedaris. Now I know that I'm late to the party when it comes to reading Sedaris. The guy's been hitting comedic home runs both in print and on NPR for years now, but I finally picked up this tome at my local branch of the LA Public Library about a week ago. And I can't put it down.

Spanning the globe from Our Woman in LA's hometown of Raleigh, NC, to our former stomping grounds of Chicago to New York and Paris, Sedaris explores a series of annoying situations that cracked me up. I laughed out loud enough that frequently, my lovely bride would look over in my direction during some show on HGTV, shooting me a glance that only said, "My God, is he finally cracked?"

Sedaris' misadventures, from writing classes at the Art Institute of Chicago to clashes with American tourists on the Paris metro, to a long, hard-fought battle with an Elementary School speech therapist show us the kinds of events that have made Americans a miserable nation of neurotics. Which is just the way I like it.

1) The new, improved, and very strong anti-LOST plan. Since I haven't been posting very much, you haven't been reading my rants about the televised heroin addiction that is LOST very much. But if you've been reading my rants, er, posts in the past, you know about my long fight with this video Satan.

Television blue balls, I've raved! Nothing ever happens, I've complained! I can't believe I'm still watching, I've ranted! Please stop talking about it, my wife has said!

You get the picture.

Well, just as long as I've been aware that I was a junkie, I've been searching for television methadone. Something to get me clean, something to wean me from JJ Abrams' evil pushing. And I found my drug. It's HOUSE, the medical show featuring Hugh Laurie.

Almost perfect. Except that it doesn't come on the same night as LOST.

And see, methadone's great, but it doesn't help you if you can't use it at the same time you'd normally be shooting up.

So I was screwed. Double-using. Methadone HOUSE on Tuesdays, LOST heroin on Wednesdays. Problem. Heading for some sort of awful TV overdose.

Which is when I formulated a new plan. You see, Our Man in LA only allows himself a few hours a week to watch non-sports television. We're talking three or four maybe. That's about it. 24 takes up one of those hours when it's on. HOUSE now claims another. So the key is to fill the LOST hour (and believe me, folks, any hour watching LOST is an hour gone forever . . . you don't get it back AND nothing happens on that flipping, frickin', frackin' island).

But I've been hearing about all these other TV shows that are supposed to be great that I've never had a chance to watch. The new Battlestar Galactica. Veronica Mars. Rescue Me. Stuff like that.

And, heh, heh . . . they're all on DVD now.

So that's the plan now. The wife can sit down and watch her LOST all season long. Sure, she's still on the TV smack, but SHE has to choose to get off it. You can't force someone to be healthy. You can support and love the person, and hate the thing that she does . . . like watch Locke and Sayid talk about the metaphysical nature of the plane crash. Jesus.

While she does that, I'll be in the other room, watching a series of DVDs, catching up on those programs I've missed over the last couple of years.

Veronica Mars, Battlestar . . . be my methadone.

And that's the wrap, folks. Come back tomorrow for the return of the Wednesday Bottom One. You know you want to. You know it's more fun to talk about things you hate than things you like.

I'll even promise you this. This Bottom One has nothing to do with LOST . . . oooh . . . teaser!

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