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I love Inauguration Day

UPDATE: I’ve added two more reader photos to the post.

ORIGINAL POST: Like Kathy, I have a great affinity for Inauguration Day. I’ve loyally watched every one I could over the years, whether I voted for the president or not.  I swell with pride at seeing a peaceful transition between administrations, or the reaffirmation of a reelected president. My hope is that for at least one day every four years, we can suspend the partisanship and celebrate a country that figured out how to do it right more than 200 years ago — and still does today.

I loved the music this morning, from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s soaring “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to Kelly Clarkson’s impassioned “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco’s “One Today” was beautiful. And while I’ve never counted myself as a big Beyonce fan, I think she did a wonderful job with the National Anthem.

Meanwhile, my favorite pop-culture-meets-politics moment: the image on NBC of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, taking an iPhone pic of Beyonce and Jay-Z. 

I know of at least two Fresno State students who were at the inauguration: Jennifer Zenovich, a graduate student in the Communication Department, pictured above at right; and Jose Verduzco, an undergraduate business major, pictured below, second from left.

If you run across more pics of people from the Valley back in D.C. for today’s festivities, email them to me at dmunro@fresnobee.com and I’ll post.

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Spotted in Fresno: Early returns

Mitt Romney might get the Tea Party vote, but the coffee party vote is in danger, if the 7-Eleven at Palm and Bullard — and its 7-Election coffee cup promotion — is any indication. Anybody know how many Electoral College votes 7-Eleven has?

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Spotted by @Albert_Tello on Twitter. If you see something odd, funny, amusing, weird or just plain interesting in Fresno, snap a pic and send it to me for “Spotted in Fresno” consideration.

On TV tonight

OBAMA_1_ABA.JPG “State of the Union,” 6 p.m., (KSEE, 24.1; KMPH, 26.1; KFSN, 30.1; KGPE 47.1): President Barack Obama‘s address to the nation will include a jobs-heavy agenda designed to set up a plan to get the economy back on the right track.

Look for the President to touch on topics of education, health care and employment.

One date considered for the State of the Union speech to be given was Feb. 2. But, there was an outcry from “Lost” fans who were upset the start of the last season of the ABC series would not air as announced.

Because the speech airs so early on the West Coast, make sure to check the listings as prime-time programming will be jumbled tonight.

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Barack Obama is coming to Fresno on Wednesday … kinda

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At least his wax likeness is. Wax figures of Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Lucille Ball and Bruce Willis (as John McClane) will be on display Wednesday from 12:30-1:30 p.m in the Bankers Ballroom (aka the old Security Bank Building) .

All four (valued at $300K each) are from the Madame Tussauds collection. The famed wax collectors are taking their celebs on tour around California to promote their Hollywood location, which is scheduled to open Aug. 1.

The event is free. The public can come in, look at the figures and take pictures. It’s happening in conjunction with Market on the Mall, which happens Wednesday and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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Catting around

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It’s come to this: Fresno Bee readers have been reduced to dueling cat allegories on the Letters to the Editor page. On one side: a “totally clueless” and lazy black cat named Obama. On the other: a cat named Dubya that “disregards the expert advice on what’s happening in the next block” and listens to his friends the “neocats.” (I am not making this up.)

I often rely on local blog Gustav’s Groupie to point out some of the more inane letters published in the pages of The Bee, and the highly readable Adam alerted me to the weirdness of the first letter, which I’ll print in its entirety after the break. Was the writer going for a strained racial metaphor here? When he muses that the only way to stop a cat is to shoot it, which isn’t permissible within city limits, is he slyly lamenting that killing our political leaders is illegal? Or are we just reading too much into tortured prose?

Then, in Thursday’s paper, Rodney Austin responded with his “Dubya” set-up, which I’ll also reprint after the break. His literary feline creation, whose color is not specified, is stubborn, thick-headed, mean and likes to torture mice.

I guess politics really is a catfight.

Photo credit: Piccat.com

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Playing a little Fresno catch-up …

Greetings! I’m back in Fresno and back at The Beehive after a week-long jaunt to Boston. As I’ve been catching up with what I missed here in The ‘No, I thought I’d share a few things I found interesting:

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  • “Hockey returns to Fresno” is the headline I’ve seen in a few places, talking about the announcement of a new Fresno hockey team — The Fresno Monsters. That name sure is more intimidating than Falcons. And the logo makes me think of energy drinks. Here’s hoping Modesto starts a team called The Aliens and the two play each other.
  • We haven’t talked about Cabo Wabo in a while — but here’s an update: The lawsuit between Fresno developer Milt Barbis and rocker Sammy Hagar has been settled. Unfortch for us, it’s “confidential,” so no new sordid details to laugh at.
  • You probably know this by now, but Fresno made it onto the front of the New York Times again. (People were talking about this even all the way out in Boston). It wasn’t exactly the best news — a look at Fresno homeless camps. FYI, today’s issue of The Bee has some more Fresno homelessness reading too.

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Playing for the president

Pianist Gabriela Montero performs Friday night at Fresno State’s Concert Hall as part of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concert series. A little over a month ago, she was playing at Barack Obama’s Inauguration as one of four acclaimed musicans performing a new John Williams arrangement of “Simple Gifts.” I write about Montero’s Fresno appearance in the latest issue of 7. Here’s a clip from the Inauguration:

Broadway marks the end of an era

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For five long years, Broadway’s “Avenue Q” — a take-off on “Sesame Street,” except with extremely randy and profane puppets — has closed the show with a song titled “For Now.” Nothing lasts forever, the characters sing. Sex: It’s only for now. Your hair? Only for now. George Bush? “Only for now!”

I have often idly wondered while listening to the cast album, in that state of mind that only an aficionado of Broadway lyrics can really appreciate, what would happen when George Bush wasn’t in office anymore. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

Well, I have my answer. According to Playbill.com, the producers of “Avenue Q” are testing four possible replacement lyrics for the song:

The first of the contest lyrics — “Recession is only for now” — will be performed in the Tony-winning show Jan. 20 at 8 PM after President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. The other contenders are: “Prop 8,” “This show” and “Your mother-in-law.”

All I know is that a whole ton of people on Broadway are probably surprised that “Avenue Q” lasted LONGER than President George Bush. Speaking of Bush and Broadway, have you heard about Will Ferrell’s limited-run one-man show? It’s titled “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush.” According to the New York Times:

It features Ferrell-as-Bush reminiscing about the last eight years and mounting an impassioned defense of his administration.The evening begins with Mr. Bush dropping onto the stage, apparently from the Marine One helicopter after it carries him away from the lawn of the new Obama White House.

The first preview performance is — you guessed it — tonight.

How are you celebrating Inauguration Day?

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Sure, there’s lots of talk today about what people were thinking and feeling when Barack Obama was sworn in as president. But let’s cut to the chase, here — how will you be celebrating?

There are a few cool parties planned tonight, starting with a collaborative celebration between the Fresno Met, the African American Historical and Cultural Museum, Arte Americas and the Downtown Community Arts Collective. They’ll all be open 5-8 p.m. with free admission.

From there, it looks like the Tower District is the place to be:

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Tweedle-dum

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Don’t believe everything that tweets your way. The Huffington Post is reporting that a number of prominent high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked today, most prominently the Fox News account, which declared on Monday morning that Bill O’Reilly is gay.

The post has since been removed.

Among the other victims:

  • CNN’s Rick Sanchez, a prominent Twitter user, was also hacked. His malicious tweet read, “i am high on crack right now might not be coming to work today.”
  • Britney Spears’s Twitter also fell victim, with hackers announcing that her vagina is “4 feet wide with razor sharp teeth.”

And the Washington Times reports that Barack Obama’s Twitter account got hacked, too.

You think the Beehive’s Twitter account is safe? All I know is that you should be extremely wary if you get a tweet proclaiming that Heather hates “Mad Men” and Jon Hamm.

The Beehive Rewind: The best of television 2008

The Beehive’s look back at 2008 continues with the one thing that touches all of our lives: television. Bee TV reporter and blogger Rick Bentley says you might grit your teeth when a new reality show starts or when your favorite show gets canceled, but no matter how bad TV treats us, we all keep going back.

Here are the TV shows in 2008 that captivated Bee bloggers (we encourage you to weigh in with your own picks or even make fun of ours):

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Rick Bentley: My pick is bittersweet. “The Shield” came to an end with one of the best finales in television history. Through its run, the series combined smart writing with gritty action. Remarkable performances by a talented cast each week, particularly Michael Chiklis, made this appointment television.

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Festival of laughs

For our Jewish friends celebrating Hanukkah, a few laughs from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert:

The Beehive Rewind: Most exciting moment of ’08

The Beehive continues its look back at the events, people and things — locally and nationally — that made 2008 special. Heather started us off with Bee bloggers weighing in on their “Favorite Fresno Event.” Now, I’ve asked everyone to chime in on what excited them in 2008:

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Craig Kohlruss, Bee There: Since I already mentioned the Fresno State baseball’s College World Series win as my favorite Fresno event, I’m going to have to go with Sammy Hagar’s arrival in Fresno for his highly anticipated free concert at Cabo Wabo. Although I went to the restaurant early to get photos of all the hard-core fans lining up for tickets, I did not attend the show. I did, however, hear that people had a pretty good time. Too bad all the Sammy mania was so short-lived. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss: Sammy Hagar fan and look-alike Dennis Allen waits for free Sammy Hagar concert tickets with fans outside Cabo Wabo in Fresno)

Mike Oz: iPhone madness. True, the first iPhone dropped in ’07, but the iPhone 3G attracted a lot of attention when it was released in July. I took the day off work trying to get one — but failed. I got my iPhone a month later and my world is forever connected. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

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Heather McLane: Of course, the most exciting moment was watching Barack Obama get elected president. Closer to home, however, the thing I found the most thrilling was watching (from a great distance, alas) filming for “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.” It was so exciting to see Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford doing work on one of my favorite movie franchises here in my own backyard. Ultimately, I didn’t care so much for the film, but that day still holds up in my memory as genuinely exciting.

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ABBA-licious

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I’m sure there are many momentous things happening today: international intrigue, the birthdays of famous people, new folks appointed to Barack Obama’s cabinet, etc. But nothing can top today’s most important event:

“Mamma Mia! The Movie” comes out on DVD.

Now I can play the “Dancing Queen” scene 15 times in a row. I love the part where all the ladies in the film wind up on a pier shaking their booties in a display of wild abandon that can come only from being on a Greek island AND having ABBA pumped through your veins.

Yes, I know my fellow ‘Hivers might mock me because I really have no idea who Ice Cube is (and, what’s more, will in just a few minutes be giving away tickets to “The Nutcracker” and not to his show), but I cheerfully admit to “Mamma Mia” fever.

Sure, the movie itself had its flaws. (When I watched it again last night on DVD, I experienced the intense pleasure of fast-forwarding through Pierce Brosnan’s howlingly bad “SOS.”) But I don’t care. All I know is that watching “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper” puts a big, stupid grin on my face every time.

Any other “Mamma Mia” fans out there rejoicing with me in the new DVD?

A challenge to Bob Specht, Letter to the Editor writer …

Congratulations to Bob Specht of Fresno. On Nov. 21, you took a giant step toward going into the Bad Letters to the Editor Hall of Fame* with these confusing and downright ignorant 181 words:

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All challenge to gamers

Congratulations to the computer video gamers of the United States of America. On Nov. 4, you took a giant step toward leading the country, for the first time, by electing Barack Obama president of our country.

You are now responsible for the job that our forefathers, patriots and soldiers of this nation’s past so diligently handled, to prevent the United States from moving toward a socialist republic.

If you have not learned, paid attention or possibly never been taught this nation’s true history lessons in school, it is now up to you to find these truths, by becoming political watchdogs. The “I’d rather be playing video games” attitude will be the ruination of the country, if you don’t pay close attention to the real national and world politics.

Just knowing how to turn on a computer and playing electronic games is not educational literacy within itself. You must now use and apply your brains for far greater things. God help us if you don’t figure it out before it is too late for all of us.

Bob Specht
Fresno

Wow, Bob. So are you saying that everybody who voted for Obama plays video games? Or are you saying there are now two parties — the computer gamers and the bridge players? Or are you just one of the those out-of-touch dudes who thinks any electronic device that’s not a TV and a VCR is a “computer video game.” Do you say things like “You dang kids, with your dang MTV and your dang video games! Get off my lawn!”? I’m thinking you do.

*Shout out to Beehive reader Adam whose blog is the Bad Letter to the Editor hall of fame. He already let Bob have it too.

A few final thoughts on election coverage

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Here are just a few final thoughts about the recent television election coverage before turning attention back to important television programs like ‘Prison Break,” “Lost” and “24.”

The news crew from KFSN, Channel 30 was banned from entering the Tower District restaurant where Henry T. Perea was holding his election night event. The reason for the ban, as explained by KFSN anchor Warren Armstrong, was that the candidate for mayor was not happy with the way the ABC station treated him during the campaign.

Talk about your missed opportunities. The coverage was live. It would have been the right time for Perea to get in front of the cameras and vent his issues. It is always amazing when someone suggests the media is not telling the full story and then elects not to talk to the media.

The ban earned Perea nothing. KFSN still reported on the election. They just had to do the reporting from outside the restaurant.

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Welcome, President Obama

I came across these awesome pictures yesterday taken by Time Magazine photographer Callie Shell, who had been following Barack Obama on the campaign trail. Today, they seem that much better.

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Obama rides a freight elevator up to his victory rally the night of the last primary. He had just secured enough votes and delegates to win the nomination. St. Paul, Minn., 8/7/2008.

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Meet the Candidates: Cabbage Patch Kids edition

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One-of-a-kind Cabbage Patch Kids of John McCain, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and Joe Biden are being auctioned off on eBay, with all the money going to Toys for Tots.

After a day’s worth of bidding, here’s the current prices:
Sarah Palin – $2,425.00
John McCain – $1,025.00
Barack Obama – $801.00
Joe Biden – $600.00

What’s really important, though, is what these things look like. Right? Pics, arranged from most horrible to most awesome, are after the break …

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Live from New York, it’s Sarah Palin

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Saturday’s skit on “Saturday Night Live,” that featured an appearance by Vice Presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, lured a record number of viewers to the NBC comedy/variety show. It was the highest rated show since March 12, 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan was the host. And Palin didn’t have to get her knee whacked to get all of the attention.

In the opening comedy bit, Tina Fey, who was born to play Palin, portrayed the candidate at a press conference. It was the usual lampooning of Palin. At one point, when asked how she thought John McCain did in the recent Presidential debate, Palin ended up complementing Barack Obama.

The scene cut backstage. The real Palin was watching the skit with “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels. They traded jokes, including a wicked attack of Fey’s “30 Rock.” Then they were joined by Alec Baldwin who confused Palin for Fey.

Palin got the best line when she told Baldwin that his brother Stephen is her favorite Baldwin.

What was as remarkable as the ratings was the ease of Palin at handling comedy. Of course it just might have been Baldwin and Michaels who made her look so good.

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Spending Labor Day weekend online

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What a weird Labor Day weekend. I’d like to say that I spent the entire three-day holiday splashing in the sun, or communing with nature, or drinking myself to oblivion. (From the aftermath of the afternoon scene at Starline Grill, where I ate dinner Monday night, it seemed as if a fair number of folks took the drinking route.) But I actually frittered a lot of the long weekend away glued to my computer screen following national news developments: the aftermath of the Dems convention, the McCain VP pick, the path of Hurricane Gustav, the bizarre Sarah Palin fake-pregnancy rumors and the announcement that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

Such issues have been thoroughly covered elsewhere online, of course, and it isn’t my intention to get into a partisan back-and-forth about Palin, for example, here on this thread. (You have plenty of opportunities elsewhere: for the conservative side, try Redstate.com and nationalreview.com; for the liberal side, some of the big players have been Dailykos.com and andrewsullivan.com. And there’s always the Bee’s Opinion Blog.) However, there are several bigger-picture things that struck me about the whole scenario:

1) We are in a different age in terms of how quickly rumors/news/developments travel. I’ve realized that for a while, but it really hit home this weekend. I didn’t even turn on the TV to track Hurricane Gustav. Updates were much faster online. As far as the Palin story goes, the major developments actually seemed to move of their own accord online. One site would pick up a rumor, then another, and all the while hundreds of commenters issued forth a steady stream of opinions, conspiracy theories, personal memories and outright vitriol. Occasionally someone would contribute an actual tidbit of news. The bloggers themselves just fought to keep up. And the more mainstream outlets were playing continual chase-up, with even the august New York Times relying more on its Caucus blog comment string to advance the story than anything its reporters could provide.

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I Wanna Be a Producer: The Blog (part 1)

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Thursday, Aug. 14
Good Company Players rehearsal hall

You could walk right past this storefront studio and never realize what’s inside. The space is tucked in the corner of an innocuous strip mall that sits on the curvy part of Wishon Avenue, just south of Olive in the Tower District. (Babylon is at the other end of the building.) The unmarked rehearsal hall is almost invisible from the street. A screen blocks the view from the door. To a shopper walking by on the way to the thrift store a few storefronts down, it’s impossible to tell that on the other side of the screen, 25 people are singing and dancing like mad.

Well, that shopper might hear something out of the ordinary.The walls are thin. Next door to the rehearsal hall is a church. At 7 p.m. on Thursdays, the worship service lumbers into gear. On one side of the wall there’s the rumble of an organ and the bark of the minister. On the other, a line of actors hunched over like little old ladies singing a song from “The Producers.” It’s quite a combination.

I’ve been in this rehearsal space before conducting interviews for advance stories on GCP productions, but on this night, it’s in a slightly different capacity. I am in a number from “The Producers” — at least through the final dress rehearsal.

I AM one of those little old ladies.

As I write in my Sunday Spotlight column introducing this blog series, all those Fresno theater fans out there who are used to me as the dignified critic slouching in the dark may now pop their eyeballs back into their heads.

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This will lead to last candidate standing

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It seems Presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain will appear in humorous campaign advertisements during Thursday night’s series finale of the NBC summer flop “Last Comic Standing.”

Neither Obama nor McCain jump to mind when I think of great comedians. They provide a lot of fodder for real comedians. That’s not the same as trying to be funny. Of course they do have experience. Both appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” Maybe that will get them through the commercials.

The good news is if they are bad, no one will see the commercials. A fist fight in the parking lot gets more viewers that the NBC competition.

If the advertisements are funny, it could open up a whole new campaign strategy.

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I wish politics would keep their opinions out of celebrities.

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The good folks at the Opinion Talk blog pointed out a new John McCain commercial that’s bashing Barack Obama for being famous and equating his jet-setting celebrity to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who I’m pretty sure don’t know the difference between McCain and CoCain, except that they’re both white.

The ad’s argument seems to go like this: Barack Obama is famous. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are also famous. You wouldn’t want Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to be president. So you don’t want Barack Obama to be president.

Dunno about you, but that’s the kind of logic I want from a president. I was ready to sign up for my McCain/Dole ’08 combination bumper sticker and Perko’s early-bird discount card, when I remembered something I read recently that was troubling about the McCains.

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