Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute to American Culture

In observance of Memorial Day I decided to take a whole week off. Why limit my BBQing, flag waving, and lawn sprucing to a single weekend?

We Americans sometimes assume everyone is working on our wavelength. Yesterday, one of our relatives living abroad called the house and was surprised when not one, but three people answered the phone. "Well it is a holiday weekend, Memorial Day," I reminded. Truly, he had forgotten. Living abroad can do that to a person. After a while, it's only natural to adopt the rhythms of a foreign country.

I've had the good fortune to travel abroad and sample other cultures. Love the change of pace, can't tolerate the adjustment. As a tourist, I can't wait to explore, experience, and sample. As a prospective immigrant, I doubt I could ever assimilate. I'm just too American.

"What does that mean?" I was once asked. "What culture is there in America? America is nothing more than shopping malls, McDonalds, and Hollywood." Boy did that person ever get it wrong.

Sure. There's all the regular cliches. Purple mountains majesty, Mom, and apple pie. Baseball, football, professional golf, bowling, and poker. Girls and boys next door, first proms, homecoming, and drive-in movies. But then there's the pulse of America, the little nuances I hold dear. It's wide open spaces, neighbors helping neighbors, charitable outreach, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, the Tournament of Roses and Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades, patriotic soldiers who fought and died for our right to be free, and so much more.

Today we honor those brave men and women, people who made the ultimate sacrifice so that their fellow Americans could continue this experiment in democracy. We may be slogging through tough economic times, but Americans are resilient. We bounce back. We always have.

My personal tribute to Memorial Day is a short list of cultural identifiers that make America great:

The Constitution

The Bill of Rights

Abraham Lincoln

Film, Music, and Ethnic Festivals

The Great White Way

National Parks

Well-Paved Interstates

Grassroots Activism

George Washington

Martin Luther King



Majestic Monuments

Neighborhood Block Parties

Fully Stocked Supermarkets

Overnight Delivery

Uncle Sam

Brown v. Board of Education

Checks and Balances

Bald Eagles and Buffalo

Animal Shelters and Refuges

Natural Wonders

503(c) Corporations

Stars and Stripes

The Star Spangled Banner

Olympic Super Heroes

Land from Sea to Shining Sea

Arlington National Cemetery

Happy Memorial Day, to everyone, everywhere.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Live Blogging Celebrity Apprentice Finale: Marlee v. J.R.

Season 4 of "The Celebrity Apprentice" has been described as "Best. Season. Of. Celebrity. Apprentice. Ever ..." by at least one person who left their feedback footprint. Check back here (and bookmark if necessary) on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 9 p.m. EST for my live blog of the finale. Marlee Matlin is pitted against John Rich and I've predicted John Rich as the winner.

'Course I also predicted The Donald would run for president, so don't go betting the farm.

8:05 EST - Less than an hour to go. I'm kind of excited. This has been a really great season. Promos have been showing a dearth of Dep Leppard. Do they really not show? Or is it all in the editing? Also, can't wait to see if there is a face-off between Nene and Star. It's a live finale and anything can happen.

9:00 Here it is. Finally!

9:02: Where did The Donald find the two slaves to roll out the red carpet? As he takes his seat at the head of the table, the audience applause is deafening, no pun on Marlee.

9:05 And now a retrospective of some of the best catfight moments. "Casper the Ghost," "I'm deaf, I can't hear you," "Don't turn away from me, young lady," "Don't you EVER F--- with me, I'm the last person you want to f--- with" and so on. What a season!

9:07 Last I heard, Richard Hatch was in jail. He was working with Team Marlee on the final task. Wonder if they were able to spring him for the finale.

9:10 Marlee's blue bell-bottom outfit for the task looks like something out of the 60s, not the 70s. Who was their costume designer, LaToya? Oh. No wonder. Both teams have glitches going into the finale. Marlee has the problem with Geoffrey Holder's lawyer and John has the problem with Def Leppard. Suddenly, Holder shows up in his natty white hat, white suit, red tie and cane and the audience claps its appreciation. Marlee is out of the woods. Holder still has that great deep voice and laugh. "You look mah-ve-lous!"

9:16 Ivanka sits at the table radiant. Both Don, Jr. and Ivanka are expecting children. The Donald is already a grandfather, but he's obviously excited over Ivanka's pregnancy. He congratulates both of his children and the audience laps it up.

9:18 Def Leppard shows up and takes a meeting with J.R. He tries to tell them how to open the act and all of them have blank stares on their faces. Malvin, their manager, works it out with J.R. It looks like the performance is going to work out after all.

9:19 On the morning of the task, Meat and Richard have a difficult time getting set up. LaToya complained that Marlee didn't delegate jobs. "If we don't get it done, John Rich is going to win without a doubt," says LaToya.

9:21 Everyone who was fired comes filing back in. Nene looks elegant in a strapless blue cocktail dress. Star is wearing some purple number that makes her look fat. The Donald asks David Cassidy how he feels about Richard being in jail. Looks like he wasn't sprung after all. David calls Richard's incarceration "just and vindication." David was the first celebrity fired, mostly at Richard's urging.

9:23 With some reluctance and prodding from the audience, Lisa blames Star for her firing. Star responds, "It was a game, Mr. Trump. Bring your A game." Not very satisfying. Lisa says she would rather not respond. Too bad. I'd like to see the first person Star threw under the bus hand her a little payback.

9:30 It's the Gary Busey retrospective. "It's fun to be a dog when you're human." "Circles never die." Gary makes a pyramid motion with his hand and says, "Successful." There's more, but you get the drift. "Are you crazy or crazy like a fox?" asks The Donald. "I can watch people's eyes when they're talking to me and know whether they're lying, telling the truth, or making something up that has nothing to do with what's going on," says Gary. Asked about his fight with Meat, Gary says he didn't fight with him and says he likes him well. "I was in focus and stood there like a mediator, giving him his space and his emotional level to ride with." The Donald asks Meat how he feels about Gary and Meat gives Gary a hug. Awwwwwwww. Gary insists on talking about his stint as the PM for Omaha Steaks. The Donald cuts him off. Gary doesn't shut up easily.

9:34 Lil Jon says he won't come on the show again "because it's hard." But prodded again, he said he would. Gary will not shut up about the Omaha Steaks, even though Meat tries to walk him off the stage. Now we find out why. Omaha Steaks co-opted his idea about the Dad, son, and kite. They are now using a kite to promote their product. Gary unfurls the kite and uses it as proof that his idea was good and he should have won that task as PM. Gary is vindicated! Maybe he's not as crazy as everyone thinks.

9:39 The Melting Pot Restaurant shows up with with $25K donation for Team J.R. All the money will go to St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital. On Team Marlee, LaToya and Richard still don't know what they need to do to set up. Marlee shows up and helps set up the locker room. Meat shows up and helps unload the props. In the end, Marlee does a spectacular job on the set-up and calls the task "an emotional roller coaster." Basically the way she got it done was by keeping her eye on the prize for her charity. Good thing these celebrities aren't playing for their own bank accounts.

9:45 At the event, Meat greets the arrivals in a leather jacket and white shirt. Marlee is wearing a very tasteful green chiffon number. She looks amazing. Richard praises Marlee's presentation and the audience claps their approval. Marlee's commercial is slightly lackluster, but when Geoffrey Holder shows up at the end, everyone smiles and nods knowingly. Holder makes the commercial. Then, the Harlem Globe Trotters take the stage for a demonstration game. The audience loves them! Who are those children sitting next to The Donald? Looks like his youngest, Baron, and Don Jr.'s child. Yep. There's Melania on the other side. The Donald looks a little Presidential, don't you think? Like a wise and welcoming uncle. A very warm family scene.

9:51 Someone else shows up with $250K for J.R.'s charity. He's officially over the $1 million mark. Lil Jon greets the audience as they arrive and disappears to be with his team members. The 7Up officials are not happy. Unlike Marlee's team, there is no one to greet them. However, J.R.'s commercial goes over like gangbusters. The audience is blown away! Now it's time for the Def Leppard performance. Ooops. Where are they? J.R. screams their name and no one shows. Their roadie says J.R. was too early. It's only 6:45 and they're not due to perform until 7:00. "Unbelievable," says The Donald in disgust. I feel badly for J.R. If not for that one screw-up, his presentation would have definitely walked away with the prize. Now it's anybody's game.

9:58 J.R. beats himself up over the Def Leppard mistake. He decides to make lemons out of lemonade by stepping up to the mike with his own guitar and a special song for The Donald. "Don't fire me, don't fire me, Mr. Trump" is the little ditty. Mighty catchy! Then he does an acoustic warm-up for 7UP retro. The crowd is rocking and clapping. I think Star nearly wet her pants talking about her admiration for J.R.'s hail mary. "For real" Jon is proud of him too. He shakes J.R.'s hand so hard and so long you think there might be something special going on between them. At last, Def Leppard takes the stage and plays all their fan favorites. The crowd is on fire!

10:00 7UP officials are blown away by both teams. One says he would hire both J.R. and Marlee. They liked both cans and both commercials Marlee's only weakness was the level of signage as compared to J.R.'s SNAFU with Def Leppard and not greeting officials at the door. Hmmmm. Looking good for Team Marlee.

10:08 Most famous line form Nene to Star: "Shut the f--- up, park a-- b----. Game on!" It's time for the Nene retrospective. Believe me, there were some real doozies. Back to the live presentation, Nene affirms to The Donald that Star got under her skin. "She got to me a lot," says Nene. Star looks over at Nene with daggers in her eyes. "I was a little disheartened as I watched the episodes unfold," says Star. Then she accuses Nene of using the show to attack black women. That sets Nene off. Star keeps trying to talk while Nene talks right over her. There is no way to know what either one is saying. "As a professional woman, I was embarrassed," said Star, "as were millions of women around the country." LaToya laughs "Tee-hee" at the whole confrontation, and vouches for Nene's good heart. The Donald thinks that some day Star and Nene will be good friends again and go out to lunch. Nene and Star disagree vehemently as the audience chuckles. Is he joking? After all the venom that's come out in the news, I doubt those two will ever stand in the same room again, let alone go out to lunch.

10:14 The Donald tells Jack, the interpreter for Marlee, that he is now a breakout star and that The Donald wants 25% of everything he earns. Jack agrees. Ever the businessman, I doubt that agreement will hold water. Both teams are given opportunities to say why they should win. They each get to see the packaging and the cans of the other team. Meat likes the stuff from J.R.'s team and Star likes the stuff from Team Marlee. LaToya says J.R.'s can "pops." But the can is only part of it, The Donald reminds J.R. Ivanka goes out of her way to praise Marlee's presentation. It's looking better and better for Marlee all the time.

10:18 The Donald wants to know why Def Leppard did not come out on time. Who was responsible? J.R. answers by telling The Donald his team raised $275K in donations and that some of the money came in unexpectedly right before his show. "It threw me off," J.R. explains. This guy is one cool cucumber. He doesn't want to blame Def Leppard for showing up late, he says, but then plants the seed in The Donald's mind that they are actually to blame. I personally think Star was at fault, but it wouldn't look good for J.R. to blame a team member. Excellent strategic move on J.R.'s part to talk about the money. Rightfully so, Marlee points out that it was not a fundraising task. True. But The Donald is impressed by the numbers. Maybe J.R. is still in this.

10:21 Marlee again points out that she absolutely would have raised funds if fundraising were part of the task. Sappy music plays in the background as J.R. explains how he went above and beyond the call of duty for the task. "Largely due to your efforts, Celebrity Apprentice has raised almost $3 million this season, which is a record," fawns The Donald to all of the contestants. He sends the six helpers out of the boardroom and keeps J.R. and Marlee.

10:26 "This is painful. This is not easy. But it's got to be done," says The Donald right before he brings out both finalists live. Marlee hugs everyone in the front row, gives Lil Jon five, and reaches her hand out to those in the back. She is really working that room! J.R. comes out, tips his cowboy hat, and throws a cowboy hat on the table for The Donald. Lo and behold, The Donald wears the hat, quickly takes it off, and his hair barely budges. Who knows what that man has on the top of his head, but whatever it is, it's tougher than the a-ve-rage hair.

10:31 Asking each contestant who they would hire, Meat tries to plug his own projects and won't say who he supports. The Donald cuts him off. Nene and Gary say they like them both. Star finally says that both equal out on empirical evidence, but she likes J.R. better. Duh. Who couldn't have predicted that. Star has a mad crush on J.R. "He takes it over the top," says Star. Jon also votes for J.R. Meat tries to speak up again, and The Donald squelches him. "You had your turn, Meat Loaf," says The Donald. LaToya, Lisa and Mark also cast their vote for J.R. Only David says that Marlee should win. I wonder who Richard would pick if he had a get out of jail free card. They should have had cameras set up in his jail cell just for the chance of a second potential vote for Marlee.

10:35 They play a tape of children benefiting from Marlee's charity, The Starkey Hearing Foundation, and my heart melts. Marlee says she deserves to win so that she can help these kids. But then again, J.R.'s charity is the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. What could be more heart-melting than sick children in a hospital? Sorry, but if that's the only reason Marlee has to win this season, I say J.R. has the win in his back pocket.

10:42 Another tape rolls showing behind the scenes at St. Jude Hospital. Again, you can't help feeling for these kids. Many of them are fighting cancer. As J.R. says, they're incredibly inspiring. J.R. gives a small concert for the kids and their parents. The children's eyes are so wide and pitiful, they beat the "Shrek" Puss 'n Boots cat by a mile.

10:44 Well, here's a first. J.R. performs his St. Jude Hospital song live while Marlee and a choir of adolescents in blue shirts and red ties sign the words. They match J.R.'s outfit. Can't remember if The Donald is also wearing a blue shirt and red tie, but wouldn't that be matchy-matchy? No clapping when the number is done. Just jazz hands. The atmosphere is slightly surreal. Nicely done!

10:52 Turns out The Donald is wearing a white shirt and red tie. What is it with red ties tonight? Seven celebrities raise their hands for J.R. Only three raise their hands for Marlee. Now Marlee makes her case. She should win because she never takes no for an answer. "I refuse to back down. The whole time, I worked my butt off. I did whatever it took. I did it for Star. I did it for Hope. I raised more money in one day than any other contestant," says Marlee. J.R. says he should be the winner because St Jude saves kid's lives. "I also raised more than a million dollars. I brought Nikki Taylor back. I gave everything I had to give every time. My body of work compares with Marlee's body of work," says J.R. "I was also the PM more than anybody this season."

10:54 Copping out, Don, Jr. says The Donald can't go wrong picking either contestant. Ivanka also refuses to pick a winner. "I do need one celebrity apprentice," counters The Donald. "And we're going to be doing it in just a few minutes." Drat! He couldn't tell us the winner before going to commercial? How much money does this show have to milk?

10:58 Who will it be? Everyone is on the edge of their seats. The Donald will wait until the last possible second to announce the winner rather than just pick the winner and end the show with everyone milling about live.

"Marlee, do you have anything else to say?" The Donald asks. Of course she does. Do you really have to ask? J.R. does too. "I did not come here to hit a home run, I came back here to hit a grand slam." Well said! The Donald calls both contestants "so so so outstanding." He goes on praising Marlee for an amazing job, but you know whoever he starts praising first is the one who lost. He then praises J.R. for his leadership and for being so smart. "I'm going to do something a little different tonight," says The Donald, taunting, as if he might pick both contestants as double winners. But no such luck. I think in the end, he realized he would have to come up with the money himself for the other charity if he picked two winners. No accounting for sponsorships so late in the game.

"The winner of The Celebrity Apprentice 2011 is ......." wait for it ... "John Rich!"

Everyone behind the boardroom table claps for the winner, except Jack the interpreter. I suppose he was upset that Marlee didn't win. J.R. stands up trepidatiously, unsure what to do next. But then it comes naturally, and he hugs Marlee who is still sitting at the table, presumably stunned.

Confetti falls as I pat myself on the back. For a change, I was right. John Rich is the winner, as predicted. "Good night everyone," says The Donald. Whew! How very anti-climatic.


Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World 2011 Misses Mark on Entertainment

Has Time magazine lost its mind? I recently had the misfortune to peruse its "100 Most Influential People in the World" issue and am saddened and dismayed to behold the rag which this one great news weekly has become. Who are they kidding?

For one thing, there's a huge picture of Chris Colfer of "Glee" smack dab on the cover. After winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a TV series, this kid is everywhere -- the late night talk show circuit, day time talk shows, magazine spreads, a plum spot on a Saturday Night Live sketch, and now the cover of Time. Colfer pretty much admitted he didn't deserve the honor, saying in reference to a gathering for the honorees, "I still don't know what I was doing there."

Neither do I.

Okay, I realize the list honors Time's opinion of the most influential people in entertainment, as well as those in communications and politics. But that's precisely the problem. These people are supposed to be the most influential in their field. Certainly there must be more influentual people in the field of entertainment than a 21-year old actor on a hit TV show who just happened to give a stirring acceptance speech at a Hollywood award show.

Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of "Glee," think Colfer has a lovely singing voice, and highly respect his effort to raise awareness of the "gay predicament." But seriously, if Time wanted to honor an actor for promoting gay tolerance, what about openly gay entertainer and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres? DeGeneres, who wields more influence in her little finger than Colfer has in his whole body, shapes the national dialogue on her popular talk show each and every weekday by choosing her own guests and topics. To my knowledge, Colfer isn't even out of the closet. At least DeGeneres is out there walking the walking and taking a serious stance in matters of concern to the gay community.

What was Time thinking?

Colfer isn't even the worst of the bunch. When it comes to naming lackluster entertainers, some who may spend more time shaping their eyebrows than public opinion, Time really hit the motherload. For goodness sakes, what on earth has Mia Wasikowska done to land on such a supposedly prestigious list? Look waif-like and attractive in a Tim Burton movie? Her write-up by Glenn Close mentions her "signature outfit" -- a combination of wool, black and brogues -- and energetic seductiveness, but not much more. Is Time telling sane people to believe such trifles actually influence world opinion?

I could go on, but you get my drift. There are definitely others who don't belong. Hopefully, you'll take a look at the list yourself to form your own conclusions.

When it comes to the field of entertainment, I can think of half a dozen people off the top of my head who did more than some of the people on this list to influence world opinion in the past year. Roman Polanski, who was arrested by the Swiss government, held for extradition and then freed, continues to make controversial and provocative cinema. Sandra Bullock showed the world how to leave a bad marriage and cheating spouse with grace and dignity. Conan O'Brien also showed tremendous grace under pressure by walking away from his dream job as host of "The Tonight Show" to preserve the legacy of the show. Tom Hanks continues to produce award-winning television. Donald Trump. Steven Spielberg. James Cameron. George Clooney. Lady Gaga. Take your pick. These are just a handful of entertainers who influence the world stage.

Oops, I accidentally named more than a half dozen. Given time and a little effort, I bet you could too.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Marlee Matlin and John Rich Head for Finale

After weeks of battle, it’s thankfully down to the final two. Shame this second-to-last episode coincided with the Survivor live finale. In switching back and forth during commercials, I almost didn’t switch back. The highlights of last night’s show are barely worth recapping. In other words, a real dud. Feel free to stop reading at any time.

Let’s see…

"The Jonz" were amazed and delighted to greet Meat Loaf after his face-off with Star in the boardroom. Meat proudly patted himself on the back for out-arguing a lawyer. The waiting room celebration ended abruptly as The Donald made a surprise appearance to announce immediate commencement of interviews with previous Celebrity Apprentice winners Piers Morgan, Joan Rivers, and Bret Michaels.

Piers dominated the selection process with Bret and Joan barely getting words in edgewise. The contestants weathered the selection process by donning fighting gloves.

John Rich: "They will experience John Rich in a way they haven’t experienced John Rich yet. I’m going after that quarter of a million dollars for St. Jude."

Lil Jon: "I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a great guy under pressure. I want to win, but this is the real world. My persona is one thing and my mind is another."

Meat Loaf: "I come locked, loaded, and ready to go. I have more energy than any of those other players."

Marlee: "People who know me know that I can do anything. People who don’t know me are amazed."

Marlee also said that people label her as "that deaf actress." Piers said her deafness was an advantage in the game. "If I couldn’t have heard Omarosa speak, it would have been one of life’s great blessings," he quipped.

Lil Jon made a tactical error in his interview, saying he believed John and Marlee should be the final two. Bingo – you’re fired. Everyone thought Meat was too emotional to compete successfully in the finale. Bah-de-boom – you’re fired. That left John, aka J.R., and Marlee as the final two.

I was sad to see Lil Jon go. He was smart, creative, cool under pressure, and would have made a formidable competitor. I don’t think he should have been fired for one bad answer. Meat blubbered one more time, not for being fired, but to thank The Donald for a moving experience. He went out in a very classy way, shaking The Donald’s hand and telling John and Marlee to go out there and "rock ‘em."

For their final task, Marlee and J.R., had to prepare a 3-point launch strategy for 7UP Retro. Basically, this is the same old un-cola trotted out for new marketing. The task included designing a new package, creating and shooting a commercial, and throwing a launch party, one with a 1970s theme using The Harlem Globe Trotters, the other with a 1980s theme using Def Leppard. 7UP gave both finalists $50,000 for incidentals. Marlee chose to host the 1970s Harlem Globe Trotters party, leaving J.R. with 1980s Def Leppard.

For support, The Donald brought back Star, Lil Jon, Meat, Mark, Richard, and LaToya. These former contestants came back under the auspices of support, but I say they are there to keep the finale lively. J.R. chose Jon, Mark, and Star for his team. Marlee chose Meat, Richard, and LaToya. Marlee may have shed tears over Star’s departure, but when push came to shove, she didn’t want the woman responsible for a branding SNAFU to work with her again.

J.R. penned his own campaign slogan: 7UP - Keeping it real. He’s positive the slogan is a winner, but I’m telling you now, it’s his biggest liability going into the final. Loved the wild zebra stripe print for the can. Loved the 80s icons audition idea for the commercial. Hated the slogan. Best part of their commercial: talking Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister into shaving off his fu manchu mustache to star in it.

Marlee’s campaign slogan was more collaborative: 7UP Retro – Feel the love. Very 70s, but exceedingly cheesy. In fact, Marlee’s campaign is cheese on steroids. Cheese-laden Richard modeled the soda can and had to be graphically thinned. Meat’s dialogue for the commercial practically oozed cheese. And Meat had two cheesy hissy fits; the first over a change in packaging. Marlee changed his boom box graphic into silhouettes dancing against a backdrop of crystal balls and you'd think she had fired him again. Meat was so bothered by the dumping of his idea he said Marlee could lose the game on that alone. Get real. His second hissy fit focused on Geoffrey Holder, a former 7UP spokesman, who was hired for their commercial. After Geoffrey agreed to the shoot, his lawyer wouldn't let him sign the release. This left Marlee scrambling for a possible substitute and Meat having a mental breakdown. He cussed and flung his cell phone in disgust while everyone smirked in acknowledgement.

On the other side, J.R. was overly concerned with time and argued with the tour manager for Def Leppard, but that’s about it. I hope the finale is more interesting than this episode. No wonder The Donald is using it as a backdrop to announce his White House intentions.

I’ll be live blogging the finale, so look for a new article next week. My prediction: Team J.R. for the win and The Donald runs for the presidency. Which means this could be the last Celebrity Apprentice ever. For that reason alone, I’m all ears.

Read My Other Season 4 Reviews

Nene Quits, LaToya Splits, and Star Loses Meat Loaf Showdown

President Obama Interrupts Ending With Osama bin Laden Announcement

Meat Loaf Meltdown Targets Gary Busey


Monday, May 9, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Nene Quits, LaToya Splits, and Star Loses Meat Loaf Showdown

I love this show, but at three hours, I feel like my cup runneth over. What? NBC couldn’t find a suitable substitute for "America’s Next Great Restaurant?" Only the finale should be allotted such time. NBC is milking this cash cow for everything it’s got.

Did anyone expect Star and Nene to kiss and make up? "Come on back and play with the big girls, honey. Uhm-hmm," Nene taunted after Star stalked away from the boardroom. Ms. Nene sure can talk a good game but when push came to shove, guess who shoved off? As in disappeared from the show?

Nene, the outspoken, in your face, don’t do me like that, I will take you down real housewife, up and quit without so much as a goodbye to her teammates. Not even The Donald, who never tracked down any contestant but specifically called Nene by phone, could change her fool mind. I loved the shot of the missing Nene poster plastered on a telephone pole. Or maybe it was a tree. Someone should print up a batch and sell them online.

In the boardroom, The Donald made sure to stick it to Nene. "She quit. She gave up," Trump informed the other team. "To you, Nene, I say, you’re fired, and you’re a quitter, and Star Jones kicked your a—whether you like it or not." No mincing any words there.

So what happened? After last week’s catfight, Star ignored Nene’s attempts to bury the hatchet. "I did not want to place myself within physical proximity of someone who had behaved in such a deplorable manner," explained Star. "I was not afraid that I would ever sink to Nene’s level. What I was afraid of was that Nene would seek to bring me there."

Star also may have publicly embarrassed Nene by telling The Donald she did not want to reconcile. Adding fuel to the fire, he switched Nene with Meat. Nene saw the move as an accommodation for Star and wanted none of it. She didn’t want to work on a show where there was so much bad blood between her and another contestant. The way I see it, The Donald was trying to avoid a knock down drag out fight when he switched up the teams. Nene showed an absolute lack of class with her rude departure, don’t you think?

Getting back to the competition, the teams were tasked with staging and promoting a comedy show. They would each get three comedians and fifty tickets to sell. LaToya, working with the men, and Meat, working with the women, took the PM slots. LaToya felt she had to prove herself after The Donald gave her a second chance.

In an impressive coup, John convinced Jimmy Fallon to perform live for their show. Jimmy surprised the team by contributing $10,000. He also penned a Celebrity Apprentice song that is funny enough to be the theme song. "Yer fired. Yer fired. Yer fired. Yer fired. Take that rolling suitcase out the door" it began. The "Jonz," as the two Johns later dubbed themselves, did a great job on background vocals. They also brought in the bulk of the money. LaToya could barely scrounge up $20,000. Her friend Kathy Hilton offered only $1,000. Pathetic!

Meat relied heavily on contributions from supporters of his charity, The Painted Turtle. He quickly became inconsolable thinking he might lose the task and the money otherwise designated for his charity. Basically, the big lug had a nervous breakdown, crying and wringing his face in his hands and whimpering to Star and Marlee. My jaw dropped watching this big hulk of a rock and roller bawl like a little baby. A big, overly sensitive heart or crocodile tears to secure the money?

Can I just add that Star’s dog is adorable? At one point, the cute little fluffy pooch looked up at Meat and I thought my heart might melt. As Meat turned on the water works, the dog glanced over with such empathy I could barely contain myself. Awwwwwww.

The Donald had a much kinder assessment of Meat though he refused to assure money for his charity win or lose. Ms. Star personally telephoned The Donald to gain such assurances on Meat’s behalf, but no dice. John felt so sorry for Meat he offered to donate an equivalent amount of money to The Painted Turtle if Meat’s team lost. Thankfully, all the bravado was unnecessary as Meat’s team raised over $102,000. LaToya’s team raised only $82,000. I don’t know how Meat would have reacted if he had lost, but I’m glad we didn’t have to go there.

"This show has made me want to be a better person and has taught me things that I didn’t know I knew," Meat gushed after John’s generous offer. "Thank you very, very much, Mr. Trump. I mean that more than you can imagine." Meat should have been thanking John.

Of course, Meat’s win meant LaToya had to go. As PM and the one who brought in the least amount of money, it only made sense. So now she will go down in history as the only person to be fired twice from Celebrity Apprentice. Little consolation for someone with the nerve to ask for a second chance.

Then it was on to the second task. The teams had to produce a promotional video introducing On-Star, a car safety system, to the general public. In a rematch of PMs, Marlee and John took the helms of their respective teams. Both winged the video. Meat tried to direct Star in an improv, but she kept messing up lines, and her attention to minutiae slowed down production. Meat also hurt their chances because it was his idea to depict a policeman as a donut-hound, not a safety enforcer. John’s team missed the mark by filming a woman in the driver’s seat without a seatbelt. Still, On-Star executives preferred Team Backbone’s video. John won another $40,000 for his charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

In the boardroom, Star tried to blame the loss on Meat. Marlee also said Meat should be fired. Placed outside to wait for The Donald, Star and Meat began fighting like cats and dogs. Meat began by calling her "sweetie" and Star reacted like he had called her a whore. Rightfully so, Meat accused Star of dropping a close-up shot of the On-Star box at the end of the video, evidence that she messed up on branding.

"You were sitting in the editing room with the rest of us, and you were making comments about the editing," said Meat. "You said, verbatim, 'We don’t need that shot, we’ve got it on the disk.'"

Trying desperately to deflect blame, Star said she wouldn’t debate the issue because Meat was yelling at her – he was not – then said she wouldn’t debate with him because he didn’t come with lawyer credentials. Closing her open fingers into a fist, she warned, "You have to come with my credentials to get me to debate with you. Enough! Enough!"

"Don’t you cut me off," Meat countered, getting into Star’s face. "How dare you cut me off, young woman." Meat was too kind. I would have called Star a lot worse.

"I don’t owe you an argument and I decline to give you one," Star said flatly.

"Who the hell do you think you are to say that to me," Meat demanded? "Face me when you’re talking to me!" At that point, Star looked like she might burst into tears.

Back in the boardroom, George, The Donald’s eyes and ears, said he would fire Star. Don, Jr. said he would fire Star or Meat.

The Donald called them back in and almost immediately lit into Star. He thought it overly sensitive to take offense at the name "sweetie." Star thought it was patronizing and inappropriate.

"I’ve been called a lot worse," The Donald said to the laughing acknowledgements of George and Don.

Ultimately, Star had nowhere to hide. The loss came down to branding. Try as she might to talk her way out of it, this time she went down for the count. "I fully understand what you’re saying," said The Donald, "but the On-Star people thought the branding missed the mark. You were in charge of branding. Star, you’re fired."

With that, Star graciously hugged Marlee and Meat goodbye. At least she left with her dignity intact, which is more than I can say for talks-the-talk-but-doesn’t-walk-the-walk Nene.

Read My Other Season 4 Reviews:

President Obama Interrupts Ending With Osama bin Laden Announcement

Meat Loaf Meltdown Targets Gary Busey

Lisa Rinna Thrown Under Bus


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Native Americans Fume Over Geronimo Connection with Osama Bin Laden

They could have given it any one of a number of befitting code names. "Rattlesnake Ransome," "Jailhouse Rock," "Monster Mash," or "Montezuma's Revenge" would have perfectly described the commando mission that ended the life of the most hated man in America. Heck, they could have called it "Mission Beelzebub" and no one would have batted an eyelash.

But use code name "Geronimo to reference anything associated with Osama bin Laden and all hell breaks loose.

It wasn't immediately clear if U.S. commandos used "Geronimo" as a reference to the universally reviled bin Laden or as confirmation of the death mission that blew his brains out. Several national news organizations reported accounts from the Situation Room identifying bin Laden as Geronimo. The White House disputed the account. Either way, Native Americans are royally ticked off.

A statement issued by Jefferson Keel, president of The National Congress of American Indians skewers the Obama administration for associating the legendary Apache chief's name with a scumbag terrorist, saying in part,

"Our understanding is that bin Laden's actual code name was 'Jackpot' and the operation name was 'Geronimo,'[But] "to associate a Native warrior with bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history and it undermines the military service of Native people. It's critical that military leaders and operational standards honor the service of those who protect our freedom."

In a letter to President Obama, Fort Sill Apache Tribe Chairman Jeff Houser demanded an apology, saying "to equate Geronimo or any other Native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our Tribe and to all Native Americans."

The debate over insensitive use of Native American references reverberates throughout the halls of Washington. Congress intends to explore the matter today in an oversight hearing: "Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People" Committee member Loretta Tuell said inappropriate use of Native American references is prevalent throughout America and negatively affects children.

At least one blogger's recollection of personal discrimination illustrates the negative impact on the Native American psyche. What connection her experience has to use of Native American references, I'm not sure. Remove all such references from the picture and the discrimination could very well remain the same. On the other hand, putting the shoe on the other foot, I can see how linking bin Laden to the code name "Moshe Dyan" might raise the hackles of the ADL.

In that regard, Native American outrage over the bin Laden connection isn't hyper sensitivity run amuck. More like a cry for common decency, at least when it comes to associations with the loathesome and repugnant.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beyonce Shakes Booty in 'Let's Move Flash Workout' Campaign

A trim-looking Beyonce helped ignite the First Lady's "Let's Move Flash Workout" campaign by taking the fight against childhood obesity on the road. While Michelle Obama danced along students at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C., Beyonce busted a move from her "Move Your Body" dance video at P.S. 161 Middle School in Harlem, NY.

Judging from their squeals of delight, the children weren't expecting a visit from the Grammy Award winning R & B singer. And look at how well they're choreographed. Those kids must have been practicing their routine for days.

Hardly a flash mob. More like a well-oiled machine.

Dance steps from the official video -- dropped about a week ago -- were somewhat modified for the campaign. How Beyonce shakes her booty in those six-inch spiked heels is beyond me. You have to have real ballerina balance to pull off a stunt like that.

Busting those moves without breaking her pretty little neck, and on a shiny cafeteria floor no less, well, that's a true inspiration. In fact, I'm so inspired, I may bop up and down a few times myself.

Lord knows, sitting on my big fat lardy behind writing this article, I could sure use the exercise.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kid Rock Accepts NAACP Award Amid Protest Over Use of Confederate Flag

As the majority of the country spontaneously cheered news of Osama Bin Laden's death, musician/rapper Kid Rock enthusiastically accepted the Great Expectations Award at the NAACP's 56th annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner. According to an official statement, the Detroit branch of the African-American civil rights organization decided to honor Rock for "lift[ing] up the great expectations of many around our nation concerning the future of the City of Detroit." The event attracted over 10,000 guests and raised more than $1 million.

Some criticized the choice of honoree, citing Rock's prominent display of the Confederate flag in stage shows and videos. Earlier in the afternoon, about 50 protestors marched outside Cobo Hall where the dinner was held with signs reading "Say No To Kid Rock" and "Audit NAACP." Adolph Mongo, a political consultant and head of Detroiters for Progress, burned a Confederate flag over a garbage can to emphasize his opposition to Rock.

That flag "stands for hatred, bigotry, racism, murder. Every bigot and racist in this country loves that flag," complained Mongo. "If Kid Rock was alive in the 50s in Selma (Ala.) he would have beaten up John Lewis and waving the Confederate flag."

In an interview with Fox 2 before the dinner, Mongo elucidated his position on use of the Confederate flag. "That has become a symbol of hate, bigotry and racism in this country," he said. "That's the battle cry of the Confederacy, who fought to preserve slavery. So, it's unacceptable. Would any Jewish organizations honor any entertainer that flew a Nazi flag at their concerts? No."

Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, called the controversy "a fiasco," and added, "I've never flown that flag with hate in my heart, not one ounce." He also defended his use of the flag as an homage to Southern rock, saying "it simply looks cool." Perhaps to divert attention to the positive, Rock pledged $50,000 to Detroit charities and another $50,000 for storm relief in Southern states ravaged by tornadoes. He ended his speech by saying, "I love America. I love Detroit and I love black people."

Stopping short of calling him a racist, some believe Rock is on the wrong side of proper behavior. In this day and age, public display of the Confederate flag shows a lack of sensitivity to those with a long history of suffering under Confederate authority. Symbols can mean different things to different people, but in this case, there is no mistaking the original message of the Confederate flag. Perhaps it has morphed over time, but then again, perhaps not. I know Jewish people who still refuse to buy German products or tour Germany.

Rock probably isn't a racist, but he could certainly use a heaping helping of some good old fashioned common sense.