Friday, March 26, 2004

YOUR TOTAL SHORT-FINGERED VULGARIAN NETWORK: Nothing exceeds like excess, or so NBC seems to figure.

"The plan may kindle a debate about whether television networks are using news programs less for news than for promotion."

NBC's evident whoring aside, this concerns me.

I mean, the formula was sound at lower power levels: Trump's appeal was only intensified by the awkward spectacle of a megalomaniac with megabucks taking his own PR too seriously. But there has to be a point of diminishing returns. Otherwise, the feedback loop may fuel his ego until it becomes so massive and so incredibly dense that ... well, let's not bandy doomsday scenarios about. Surely a just God wouldn't play such rough games with a fragile universe.
NOW THAT'S SOLVED: I read the headline: Christ Movie Moves Man to Confess Murder. My first thought: Did he kill Jesus?
YOU'VE HEARD OF THE SEVEN RINGS OF SATURN? THESE ARE THE TWO RINGS OF RIKER'S: I bring today the sad news that Jerry Orbach, Law & Order's longest-serving and most indispensable cast member, looks to be leaving at season's end.

Speaking of which, I'm not the only one who has worked out lyrics to the theme song, am I? [Da-DUM!] Welcome to the law! This is Law and Or-DER! . . .
TWISTED TRUTH AND HALF THE NEWS, CAN'T HIDE IT IN YOUR EYES: Today's Page Six has some followup on the case of the lyin'-ass Times bride.
WITH ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN ON MY SIDE, HOW CAN I GO WRONG? After last night's stunning 4-for-4 sweep in the predictions game, let's see if the MascotMatcher system can leave the round of sixteen wholly unscathed:

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers v. Kansas Jayhawks:
A high of 70 degrees is predicted for the Lou tonight, and if that's not the right time to break out the Hickey-Freeman blazer, I don't know what is. It's time for the Minnesota-based country rockers to stop and look at what's going down: two good teams, one bad end. This game's easy -- way back home there's a funeral for the Jayhawks.

Nevada Wolf Pack v. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Again with the fashion? Kyan objects to the wolves' poor shaving habits, with all the shaving up-and-against-the-grain, and Carson says go! be different and wear that maize outerwear. Ted lays out an overly-involved recipe for roasted wolf, Thom paints horizontal stripes around the room and Jai . . . well, Jai just sits around and looks cute. The wolves go hungry tonight, setting up the sartorial finale the world has been waiting for.


Xavier Musketeers v. Texas Longhorns:
Aramis, Athos, and Porthos are bringing their muskets, but all D'Artagnan has in his bag is a terrine of duck foie gras. The steers will feast on the foie gras and make lunch of the remaining Frenchmen. C'mon, dawg, never take the Frenchmen on a neutral site -- remember how they did in Belgium?

Illinois Fighting Illini v. Duke Blue Devils: The Illini may be powered by firewater and state-sponsored gaming revenue, but that won't be enough against a team that already killed Eddie Barzoon, got Coach acquitted on murder charges and took Charlize Theron's ovaries. Keh-vun! They took mah O-VAH-RIES! Let me give you a little inside information about Mike Krzyzewski. He likes to watch. He's a prankster. Think about it. He gives his teams instincts. He gives them this extraordinary gift, and then what do they do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It's the goof of all time. Look but don't touch. Touch, but don't taste. Taste, don't swallow. Shoot the three, but don't shoot the three. A-ha-ha. And while you're jumpin' from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He's laughin' His sick, fuckin' ass off. He's a tight-ass. He's a sadist. He's an absentee landlord. Worship that? Yes.

One more blessing of TiVo: you never have to hear the CBS da-da-da-da-da-DA! DA! DA! theme.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

HANSEL. HE'S SO HOT RIGHT NOW: Yeah, like you'd react any differently after taking one look at world figure skating champion Evgeni Plushenko.

Hey, they're breakdance fighting!
DOWN THE SHORE EVERYTHING'S ALL RIGHT: Could Kevin Smith have been right about the Times would review Jersey Girl?

I don't think they liked it a lot:
[S]adly, Mr. Smith has made a movie so false and blatantly icky that it's the film equivalent of making goo-goo noises and chucking a baby under the chin for 103 minutes. At the end, all you're left with is drool and a mountain of baby powder.

The cautionary lesson of "Jersey Girl," which opens today nationwide, might be that when it comes to screenwriting, facetiousness is a lot easier to convey than deep personal feeling. The movie, crammed with wince-inducing contrivances, false notes and fizzled jokes, all leading to a tired race-against-time ending, is so bad that it could stand as a textbook example of what not to do if you're an independent filmmaker flirting with the Hollywood mainstream.

The review is titled "How To End A Career", incidentally. It describes a plot point in the movie, but I'd say both Smith and Affleck need to start making better decisions.
I JUST DON'T WANT TO BE KNOWN AS THE UP-THE-BUTT WEATHERMAN: Coming soon to NBC's Today Show: Inside Al Roker's Ass.

In the unlikely event that you're having trouble coming up with a punchline, the WaPo's Lisa de Moraes goes medieval on Katie Couric's . . . yeah:
Having already made a TV star out of Katie Couric's colon in 2000, NBC News has rounded up the colon of jolly weatherman Al Roker for this year's experiment in uncomfortable-making television.

But because it's all about Katie, Couric will be with him every step of the way, NBC News assured us in its announcement.

Yes, Roker is the one having his colon probed on national television. But the camera will be firmly affixed on Couric, who "will be with him as he prepares the night before and then with him for the exam," the news division said in its news release.

Keep reading.
WHAT'S WORSE, HE CAST HIS WIFE IN THIS ONE TOO: Via Gawker, we learn today that Kevin Smith is afraid of Jersey Girl's critical reception tomorrow:
The film's not gonna be a critical hit. It's an extremely sentimental film, and most critics don't like sentiment. Don't expect big, critical kudos this time around (in fact, we may be less well-reviewed than we were on "Strike Back"). The NY Times is gonna shred the flick. LA Times too, I'll bet. EW probably ain't gonna be onboard.

Does the Times hate sentiment? Let's take a look:
50 First Dates: "[T]he unlikely sweetness of the story carries the day. What is most astonishing is the confidence with which the filmmakers push their premise to its logical conclusion, turning an ending that could have been either laughable or appalling into something so effortlessly heartfelt as to be nearly sublime."

Elf: "Elf' is a charming, silly family Christmas movie more likely to spread real joy than migraine, indigestion and sugar shock. The movie succeeds because it at once restrains its sticky, gooey good cheer and wildly overdoes it."

Monsieur Ibrahim: "This modest, sentimental film looks nostalgically back on Paris in the mid-1960's and casts a loving, oblique glance at the French movies of that era. . . . The two central performances help the lesson go down easily, and Mr. Duperyon's unassuming, slightly ragged realism gives the movie a sweet, lived-in charm."

The Cider House Rules: "The Cider House Rules is an unabashedly sentimental movie that wants to pluck our heart strings, and now and then its tone (and its quiet but incessant soundtrack by Rachel Portman) turns cloyingly sweet. But the performances have an understated gravity and the screenplay a thematic consistency that largely avoid tawdry manipulation."

About A Boy: "The Weitz brothers . . . handle the sentimentality of the story with a light, sweet touch. You succumb to the movie's warmth and bonhomie because the alternative is to remain in the isolating, self-protective cynicism from which Will has been lucky to escape."

Maybe, just maybe, Kevin, what the Times is really biased against is when you make a shitty movie.

(Then again, they've liked all five of his movies so far, even at his most self-indulgent. Go figure.)
ONCE MORE, INTO THE BREACH: Predictions for tonight's Sweet 16 matchups, via the exclusive MascotMatcher protocol:

Pittsburgh Panthers v. Oklahoma State Cowboys:
Wild cats can't outrun men on horses with lassoes. Tie 'em up and brand 'em.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons v. St. Joseph's Hawks: It may be the devil, it may be the lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody, and the double-D's from the woods are waffling like Arlen Specter on a pro-labor regulation. The Hawks won't die tonight.


Vanderbilt Commodores v. Connecticut Huskies:
My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20, and it, too, couldn't handle color. Cornelius's offspring will not find an amiga in this matchup, and the Commodores' 64 hopes will end against the beefy nutmeggers. Game over.

Alabama Crimson Tide v. Syracuse Orangemen: In this colorful matchup, the missing tint is Melo's Yelo. We got it wrong last year but we're sure this time: like their Dutch namesakes, the Orangemen will stumble about helplessly against the furious red wave, and collapse like a bunch of stoned Eurotrash in wooden shoes. Sweet home Alabama, play that dead team's song.

Will our remarkable prediction streak continue? Wait and see.
WE WILL WADE IN THE TIDES OF THE SUMMER: This summer, in fact. I'm psyched. Others are psyched. (Like Wil, who gets a cheap link for using a lyric as the title of every post for three days.) And here are a few opportunities to get psyched yourself:

"In April, The Pixies will kick-off an 11-city 'warm up' tour of North America"
- Official Site

"They wrote the book on alternative."
- Pitchforkmedia

"major stars for those who no longer believe in R.E.M"
- TrouserPress

"If all goes as planned, the triumphant return of one of the most influential rock bands of the late '80s might also be followed by a new studio album"
- MTV / VH1 / Viacom (Gil Kaufman)

"expanded their reunion to include an expansive 35 dates, up from their originally scheduled 11-date itinerary"
- Pitchforkmediagain

"It only took 3 minutes for an accidentally leaked 'secret' Pixies show to be sold out."
- Dave, on Frank's Site (dates there too)

"Great googly moogly am I ever psyched! . . .is that hyphenated? The google/moogle thing, I mean. . . .yeah? Crap. Hey, what's the html for indentation? You know, like for block quotes? . . . What? . . . Who're you callin' lazy?"
- Phil Throckmorton, on Adam's Site

"'Death To The Pixies' is already available from all good record stores, but the label are keen to cash in on the band's reunion tour this year."
- Some dude on the new upcoming best of and DVD. (Actually, 'Death To The Pixies' is now conveniently out of print, out of stock, and selling used on Amazon for $70. Pretty sneaky, Sis.)

But here's a site that will console you with some great links to interviews and guitar tabs. And why not some snaps, too?

Speaking of snaps -- but, you know, the art-type instead of vacation-type -- here's the guy who did a lot of their cover art, Simon Larbalestier. He seems a good fellow and will even sell you prints of the 4AD stuff if you go to Sales from the main page of his site.

Okay. That's it. I've got nothing. Still psyched though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

EVERYONE'S A CRITIC. Or at least they are once they've been trapped on an overseas flight with Direct TV.

"On Virgin Atlantic, none of the passengers would notice the hijacking. We'd all be sitting there paralyzed and transfixed by the screen. There's something very Brave New World about walking back to the bathroom and looking out over a copse of people sitting bolt upright in their little stations, dull-eyed, slack-jawed, and bathed in a blue glow."

Five quickie movie reviews follow, including

"Gothika: I've been to a woman's prison. And I guarantee there's no prison shrink that looks like Halle Berry, and no inmates that look like Penelope Cruz. File these casting choices with Denise Richards as "Christmas Jones," nuclear physicist."

So peep Cousin Gene, before he gets back to talking about proletarian revolution and the doctrinally correct trajectory of Telemachus' sneeze and all that.
PUBLIC RADIO FIXES THING THAT IS NOT BROKEN; SUSAN STAMBERG REPORTS: NPR, for no apparent reason other than that it feels like it's time, is firing -- er, reassigning -- longtime Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. Edwards has been hosting Morning Edition -- NPR's ratings leader for years -- since its inception a quarter-century ago. His deep voice is incomparable and his good nature always in danger of bubbling to the surface. If one were inclined to accuse NPR of bias, I imagine that Edwards would at least not be anywhere near the top of the list of NPR offenders (though as a future commentator, instead of a news host, he may be ready to climb). This is one of those baffling decisions that makes one wonder how NPR would be run if it were a profit-generating enterprise.
"HERE, STAY. HERE, STAY." I may not need to recap American Idol 3, or even watch it, if Daniel Fienberg's recaps remain as good as last night's.

Via Sawyer's World.
FROM THE HOME OFFICE: Unmade sequels to Tom Hanks movies:
You've Got More Mail
The Man With Another Red Shoe
Forrest Gump 2: Even Gumpier
The Road Back From Perdition
Apollo 14
Cast Further Away
Catch Me Again If You Still Can
That Thing You Already Did!
Joe Versus The Volcano 2: Second Eruption
Still Less In Common
King of Prussia
The Money Pit 2: Electric Boogaloo

YO, BABY: So Cosmo got it wrong, and I got it wrong, but Dabney got it right: Yoanna House is America's Next Next Top Model.

Shandi may have had a better character arc, and Mercedes was our sassy fave, but, hey, you can't argue against how Yoanna comes off in photographs. Just look at this shot from the final episode. Wow.

As big as Shandi's transformation was this season, it wasn't the biggest. No, that would belong to judge Janice Dickinson, who started where she left off last season, as America's favorite she's-a-man-baby-uberbitch, and ended up displaying a heart of gold as Mercedes' biggest champion.

My only suggestion for America's Top Model After The First Two? Pad it a little: let's have a few episodes showing how the final twelve were selected. But beyond that, change nothing: don't let viewers vote, don't change the structure of the thing. The show just works.

Thank you, Miss Tyra.
MEN'S HEALTH UPDATE: The post immediately below reminded me of this post here, which included a link to the Google search results page for "Viagra". At the time, the page returned "results 1-10 of about 5,060,000". Today, the same search returns "results 1-10 of about 19,200,000". That's on pace to quadruple over six months.

At this rate, everything on the net will eventually be a about erectile dysfunction before Medicare goes bankrupt.
"ZOMBASTIC!" That's what I was thinking watching John Stevens sing "King Of The Road". And really, I was just thinking it because I took myself out to see Dawn Of The Dead last night. That was zombastic. Idol was less compelling, so I was flashing back. Um, and typing.

I was typing and Idol was droning on behind me, and I have to say that at least The Zombie King Of The Road pulled his load without the harmonically muddying background vocals that so many other contestants were hiding behind. Or in front of ... vocally, I mean. Whatever. John's not bad.

Actually though, I was going to write about the movie.

*Ahem* Dawn Of The Dead is a pro forma cannibal corpse movie from Hollywood's damn-I-guess-that-genre-is-still-lucrative school of dry-humping the cash cow. It's a reasonably creative but altogether as-expected stream of splatter, screams and gunfire with a few fun moments and nothing special to recommend it unless you particularly enjoy seeing people (zombies, whatever -- they're a projection of your repressed antagonism to your fellow man, so really they're people) shot in the face.

Gods. Apparently it's Country & Western night. Urf.

That fits though, since I've always kind of associated line-dancing with hordes of flesh-hungry undead ... ever since the Thriller video, anyway. Something about a room full of people who crave nothing more than the spontaneous fun and excitement of doing the same thing at the same time.

Yeah, so they shoot a lot of extras in the head and face in the new Day Of The Dead, apparently because it was as effective as Viagra with 3-out-of-5 focus-group subjects in key zombie-watching demographics. (You know who you are.) Side effects -- including desensitization, loss of self-esteem, headache, hyperactivity and nausea -- were generally mild and similar to sugar pill. (If, by "sugar pill", you mean "consuming an entire jamboree-size bag of Reese's Pieces and a gallon of Jolt Cola by yourself".) Overall I think it might actually have been a tougher, funnier movie that got "straightened up" in a good vs. evil, don't-get-too-dark sort of way during post-production. Just speculation.

Randy would make a wicked freakin' zombie, btw. "Brains, dawg! Yeah! You know ... how your brains doing, man?" Heh. Hoo. Sorry.

Honestly, there's no reason to see Dawn Of The Dead unless this sort of thing is your bag, baby. For better or worse, it's mine. Sure, it's an uplifting vote of confidence in humanity, a veritable love note to compassion and dignity compared to The Swan, but it's obviously not for everyone.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

ROMENESQUE: It's amazing, looking at the stats, how many people are comng to the website for How Dare You Lie To The Times In Your Wedding Announcement story. People want to know more.

This incident raises a broader question: how much fact-checking should be done on wedding announcements? I mean, it's stuff that's being printed in a newspaper, but it's more fact-esque than the matters discussed rest of the paper. But, still, if a reputable newspaper is going to print something, isn't there an obligation to determine whether it's true?

It's not hard to have an intern call around each week to verify academic degrees and present employment. But beyond that, does the Times need to verify whether a couple really did fall in love with first sight, or whether Christopher Simon really was "shocked and delighted" by the offer of a shared cab ride with his wife-to-be, or even if such an incident actually happened? Can they just rely on lovebirds' recollections, or is there an obligation to dig further?

Thoughts? Comments?

(My previous fishing expedition with the NYT Styles page started here and ended here.)

Monday, March 22, 2004

OTHERWISE, THEY WERE GOING TO WILMINGTON: Stop the presses: The Real World's staying in Philly after all.
LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT: Time for a roundup of recent television thoughts that aren't quite developed enough for full posts, submitted for your approval, disapproval, elaboration or mock:
1. Saddest part of The Sopranos last night? Not the "Don't you love me?" from Tony to Uncle June at the end; it was the scene before that when Uncle June willingly went into a police car without complaint. Now, that's sad.

Also, I'm really glad this morning that our home has no lawn.

2. I think I've figured out what's wrong with Survivor All Stars this season, and it's not all the voluntary departures. It goes back to what I said after the first episode, that what makes the show great is having great narrators, people who can step outside of the action and describe all the strategery and game-playing that's going on.

But who have they eliminated so far? All the great narrators: Hatch, Rob C., Rudy, Sue and Colby. Now, the only people left who are (a) in some semblance of leadership and (b) know how to talk about it are Lex and Rob M, who's leading Tribe Happy in an incredibly effective way. So to the extent that anything's going on strategically, it's not being described to us in a compelling way.

3. I might know what's wrong with Nashville Star: I'm just kinda bored right now, and not wowed by anyone.

4. Idol is unwatchable without TiVo, and words cannot express how unctuous Matt Rogers is.

5. Tomorrow night, it's all up to Shandi, The Whore of Milan. She's got the narrative arc and the high-fashion look, although I'd be happier if Mercedes won. She's a sweetie.

The great thing about Top Model this season is that any one of the final six could have won this thing -- Sara, April and Camille would have been an equally plausible final three to Shantrax, Merecedes and Yoanna (with YoBackFat).

6. With the Belated Comeback Of The Month, check out this brand-new user comment on a fourteen months' old critique of Jimmy Fallon.

Has any cast member ever mugged more shamelessly than Fallon? Had less discipline in not breaking character and giggling during a skit? It's time to clean house at 30 Rock. Kill the pretty boy first.

7. Either Zachariah Selwyn or Maggie Haskins would be fresh, exciting Dream Job winners. Aaron and Mike are too been there, done that.

Whew. Now that that's off my chest . . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2004

AND YOU LOOK LIKE A BUCKET OF SHIT: A tale of two NYT Styles Sections.

The good Styles section runs a fawning profile of P. Diddy's manservant without mentioning his one-time role as Official Pissboy to the Star.

The bad Styles section, full of great vengeance and furious anger, runs this Editor's Note on the weddings page today:
A report on Feb. 15 about the wedding of Riva Golan Ritvo and Alan Bruce Slifka included an erroneous account of the bride's education, which she supplied.

Ms. Ritvo, a child therapist, did not graduate from the University of Pennsylvania or receive a master's degree in occupational therapy or a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Southern California. Though she attended Penn for a time, her bachelor's degree, in occupational therapy, is from U.S.C.

The Times should have corroborated the credentials before publishing the report.

Say it with me, gang: D'oh!

And you thought the Jayson Blair thing wouldn't change the Times.
BLOW'D UP: I stepped out the door this morning at 8am and breathed in the South Philadelphia air, and in those first gulps I inhaled the final particles flowing north from Veterans Stadium, the dust of 33 years of losing (and one title). Enjoy the demolition video..