· FAVORITE TV SHOW: All you "Kill Your Television" people, with your braided leg hair and your broccoli breath: Boy, are you missing out. I really like 24, the edge-of-your-seat, hour-by-hour serial which will never win the awards it deserves, because Emmy judges are allowed to view and consider only one episode. I also love House, about an acerbic, pill-popping doctor who hates his patients, but loves solving their mystery maladies.
New this year is Prison Break, about a genius who "breaks" into prison to help his wrongly convicted brother break out. It's preposterous, over-the-top and absolutely addictive.
Add to those cable knockouts The Shield, Rescue Me and The Closer, and you've got enough great TV shows to keep you from ever having to eat broccoli again. Plus, they have razor commercials. Hint, hint.
· FAVORITE SONG: "Good Hearted Man" by Tift Merritt. From the opening horn line through the dragged-out, raspy-voiced final note, this song sounds like a lost track from Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis, which just happens to be the greatest white soul album of all time. Not pop enough for contemporary radio and not ... well, pop enough for what passes for country these days, Merritt's album, Tambourine, slipped through the cracks and failed to find an audience. This song is an absolute classic, even if I am the only one who has ever heard it.
· FAVORITE CONCERT: B. B. King at the AVA. He wasn't quite as spellbinding as when I saw him 30 years ago, but then, he was only 50 at that time.
· FAVORITE BOOK: The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel (Houghton Mifflin). For a long time, I've wondered why I wasn't admitted to Princeton. Now, after reading this book, I still don't know, but I damn sure know how George W. Bush, with his SAT math score in the low 500s, got into Yale. Sometimes I just hate rich white people.
· FAVORITE MEAL: On Father's Day, I had Popeye's Chicken (wings, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a biscuit). Haven't had fried chicken since. Life is a little less fun.
· FAVORITE MOVIE: Of the seven movies I saw at a theater this year, I liked Cinderella Man the most. It should definitely be nominated for Best Picture, but I get the feeling that the Oscar snobs might snub it because it didn't do $100 million at the box office. Yes, a snob snub. In retrospect, the decision to release a slow-paced, somber, adult-oriented drama in the middle of the summer junk-movie season probably wasn't the best idea. Still, it was an excellent movie, one in which Russell Crowe solidified his hold on the Best Living Actor title.
I also liked the mega-creepy A History of Violence and the scandalous Crash. And, in case anybody really cares, the other four movies I saw at the theater this year, for one reason or another, were Sahara (very so-so), Fantastic 4 (very bad), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (very, very bad) and Coach Carter, which is the greatest movie of all time in which the title, the title character and the director (Thomas Carter) all have the same last name.
· FAVORITE ALBUM: Chavez Ravine by Ry Cooder and friends. An absolute lock to win the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, this tells the true story of how powerful politicos eminent domain-ed an entire L.A. barrio and handed the land over to the newly arrived Los Angeles Dodgers for a baseball stadium. Childhood memories of a time and place brutally rubbed out are summed up in the likes like, "If you want to know where a local boy like me is coming from ... third base, Dodger Stadium." Adding to the album's brilliance is the late Lalo Guerrero's paean to his Tucson home, "Barrio Viejo."
OK, I have to tell you this story. So I'm standing in a Starbucks, which is embarrassing all by itself, since I've never tasted coffee, and if I had, I damn sure wouldn't spend five bucks on it. My daughter and I are in Kittery, Maine, trying to help her win a contest with a volleyball teammate of hers to see who can buy Starbucks in the greatest number of states. I'm standing there, hoping nobody recognizes me.
Off to one side, there's a display rack with CDs on it. This sends an involuntary shudder through me. Starbucks music. Whoa! Then, I see that it's a tribute album to Sly and the Family Stone, one of my all-time favorites. Usually, tribute albums run the gamut from horrible to dreadful. I picked it up, anyway, thinking that I could use it to shield my face.
Anyway, God help me, I bought it. I gave money--American money!--to Starbucks. And it was good. Different Strokes by Different Folks has The Roots, John Legend, Chuck D, Isaac Hayes, Joss Stone, Steven Tyler and lots and lots of other people. It might have spent more time in my CD player than any other disc over the past couple months. I'm so ashamed.