Saturday, October 16, 2004

HERE TO PREVENT CONFUSION: As a public service, we provide this simple guide to the differences between Huckapoo and "I Heart Huckabees," which can cause all sorts of problems.

Huckapoo: Reminiscent of a more inane version of the Spice Girls.
Huckabees: Reminiscent of a more inane version of a Wes Anderson movie.

Huckapoo: Filled with teenage girls giggling.
Huckabees: Filled with adults laughing at people being hit in the face with a red rubber ball.

Huckapoo: Features "Groovy Tuesday" and "Twiggy Stardom."
Huckabees: Features Isabelle Hupert and Naomi Watts.

Huckapoo: Suitable for families, at least based on their appearance on Disney Channel soundtracks.
Huckabees: Rated R for "language and a sex scene."

Huckapoo: Features teenage girls dressed in scanty clothing.
Huckabees: Features Naomi Watts dressed in scanty clothing.

Huckapoo: Inexplicably beloved by Radosh.
Huckabees: Contains inexplicable cameo from Shania Twain.

Huckapoo: Want "me to be me, and you to be you."
Huckabees: Want all to understand that we're just part of one big blanket.

Huckapoo: Proclaim that "you have conquered all my thoughts"
Huckabees: Suggests that clearing head of thoughts is healthy and can be done by repeatedly hitting yourself in the face with a red rubber ball.

Huckapoo: Not actually all that good, but nonetheless highly entertaining.
Huckabees: Not actually all that good, but nonetheless highly entertaining.

Hopefully, this clarifies.

Friday, October 15, 2004

"I'M NOT GOING TO BE YOUR MONKEY": If you read no other link from this blog today -- and that'd mean you're not wasting enough time -- but, seriously, Jon Stewart on Crossfire today with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson? Wow:
STEWART: I would love to see a debate show.

BEGALA: We're 30 minutes in a 24-hour day where we have each side on, as best we can get them, and have them fight it out.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.


CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?


CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.

. . . .

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.


STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

Stewart tries to have a serious discussion about the responsibility of news organizations and the difference between true debate and "theater", and Tucker Carlson is utterly, totally flummoxed. It's beautiful.
A DARK DAY FOR DRAFTNIKS: ESPN is not renewing the contract of ol' Helmet Hair, Mel Kiper, Jr.
BIG PURPLE DINOSAUR BUSTED A CAP IN YA: Like Alanis, Justin, and Britney, our little Barney grew up. And dude is bad. You need sound; if you're in the office keep it low.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

TSATHOGGUA IS PLEASED: While Kelly Clarkson's off selling millions of records and Clay Aiken continues his question to become Liberace for a new era, Broadway has become the home to "American Idol" rejects. First-season loser Tamyra Gray will join the (allegedly jaw-droppingly awful) "Bombay Dreams", which includes the ever-popular song "Shakalaka Baby." Curly-haired moppet and brief possessor of the Eeeeeee! Justin Guarini starred in the most recent workshop of Broadway-bound "Good Vibrations," and while his casting is not confirmed, he may well be making his way to the Great White Way soon in this "musical featuring the songs of the Beach Boys." Rejects Frenchie Davis and Vanessa Olivarez have made their way into "Rent" and the Toronto production of "Hairspray," respectively.

In good news for Guarini, who'll be Tony eligible if he makes it into the show, Anika Noni Rose managed to overcome her appearance in "From Justin To Kelly" and score a Tony win for Best Featured Actress in a musical earlier this year. Maybe Justin will perform similarly. Somehow I doubt it.
WE MIGHT JUST WANT TO HOLD OFF ON THAT TWAIN AWARD: Co-written by William H. Cosby Jr. Ed.D., and starring absolutely no one of lasting importance, the trailer for the movie FAT ALBERT is now online.

(In a nutshell: remember that Brady Bunch movie, when it was funny to take tv characters from the 1970s and plant them in the present day? Now, just try it with no-longer-animated black people!)

It will only be redeemable if the Brown Hornet makes an appearance.
WHY I LOVE THE NO-FUN LEAGUE: It's little nuggets like this:
Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson shipped bottles of Pepto-Bismol to Cleveland's starting defensive backs with hand-written notes saying they could use the gifts to settle their queasy stomachs before facing Johnson on Sunday.

Y'see, I am a fan of taunting, preening, excessive celebration and all sorts of exuberant behavior on the gridiron, and not just because its foremost practicioner currently suits up for the Iggles.

Sports are supposed to be fun. They connect us to our childhood. So let athletes show their joy -- whether via strutting, Sharpies or group celebration -- and if the other team gets pissed off, great: they've just got to do better on the field next time.
MORE BASEBALL: Perhaps like generations of young men I am blogging about baseball to keep a writing deadline from coming too soon, but I have good news for all you Yankee-hatas out there. Even thought the Evil Empire looks as if it will defeat Affleck Nation in the ALCS, the Yanks are screwed when it comes to the World Series due to the dreaded Ex-Cub Factor.

The Yankees have six(!) former Cubbies (Miguel Cairo, Tom Gordon, Felix Heredia, Jon Lieber, Kenny Lofton, and Tanyon Sturtze) on their postseason roster, while St. Louis only has three and Houston two. (Boston, incidentally has two.) For those in the dark about the Factor, since the Cubs last appeared in the World Series in 1945, only two teams with three or more Ex-Cubs has won the Series. A further nail in the Yanks coffin is the fact that the only two times the Factor was defeated it was an NL team winning the Series in the ninth inning of Game 7 vs. the Yankees.
AND BEST PICTURE GOES TO "POOTIE TANG:" Chris Rock to host Oscarcast 2005. A surprisingly bold choice for an institution that's not exactly known for making bold choices, and probably the best choice they could have made.
TALKING BASEBALL: It's time to get over my disappointment of another Cubs season ending in misery and despair (at least they're cleaning house) and bring you an assortment of diamond lists to get your mind off of Bill O'Reilly's Middle Eastern food fetishes.

Let's lead off with SI's list of baseball's worst defensive outfielders, where, no surprise to Game 1 ALCS viewers, Manny Ramirez is the anti-Kelly Leak. In the 35 years of LCS action there's been lots of weird and wacky stuff and ESPN Page 2's Jeff Merron has the 10 Strangest Moments. Also, check out Merron's list of the 10 Greatest Pitching Performances in LCS history. And finally, since the Yanks appear to indeed be the BoSox's daddies, Fox Sports has the Top 10 Who's Your Daddy Moments.
SHOULDN'T HE BE GETTING THE BOB AND DOUG MCKENZIE PRIZE INSTEAD? Not quite sure how we missed this, but Lorne Michaels is getting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Monday night, with a suitably bizarre list of presenters, including David Spade, Sen. John McCain, Candice Bergen, Chevy Chase (who's apparently back on good terms with his "SNL" peers), and Tracy "What Happened To My Career?" Morgan. This also explains why no new "SNL" this week, so we have to instead endure "The Best of Jimmy Fallon."

Michaels is the seventh winner, after Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, and Lily Tomlin. Honestly, I might not have given it to Michaels as an individual, but to "SNL" as an institution, as Michaels' non-SNL achievements don't really warrant much, aside from the discovery and promotion of Conan.

So who deserves to win next? The fact that Whoopi Goldberg has one while Mel Brooks and Woody Allen don't is simply absurd. For all the bad things you can say about late-career Robin Williams, he should probably be a contender for the early years. I suspect the only reason Johnny Carson doesn't have one is because he's unwilling to accept one in the gala format, but he deserves one without question. If the award didn't bar posthumous grants, Steve Allen should also have one. My bet on next year is probably Mel's year--what with two movies coming soon ("Spaceballs 2" and "The Producers: The Musical"), he'll be back in the spotlight and have recovered from some things--let us not speak of "Robin Hood: Men In Tights." Other suggestions are invited.
PIMP-DADDY KENJEN: We haven't been paying too much attention to the extension of Ken Jennings' Jeopardy! streak, because it's just not as much fun when you know around when he's going to lose, but maybe we should.

Radosh points us to some recent hilarity from our favorite Mormon question-giver, and it's worth a moment of your time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

IT'S THE END OF THEIR COMMERCIAL VIABILITY AS THEY KNOW IT: R.E.M.'s latest, Around the Sun, debuts this week on the Billboard charts at No. 13, selling only 61,000 copies or 36,000 less than Hillary Duff's CD. At least the news was better for Tom Waits, whose new CD (I always want to say "album") debuts at No. 28, selling 34,000 copies, which for Waits is a new peak.
TALK ABOUT YOUR CHICK LIT: While most stories about today's announcement of the list of National Book Award finalists will lead with the somewhat stunning news that The 9/11 Commission Report is among the non-fiction nominees (I'm halfway through it, so please no spoilers in the comments; I'm dying to see if this Saddam fellow has any link to the attacks), but I think even more interesting is the fact that all five fiction nominees are women. I could not find a list of past finalists anywhere, so I'm not sure how unique this is, but a look at the past fiction winners over the last 10-15 years seems relatively evenly split between the sexes.

CHA CHA CHA VS. TEAM ASSHAT: Ooh -- an all-star Amazing Race?

List your dream teams. Now.
IT GOES LIKE THIS, THE FOURTH PAYCHECK, THE FIFTH PAYCHECK: Our good friend T. Muffle has come out of the closet to see the light of day, emerging as Alex Balk, newest NYT Arts & Leisure contributor.

To which we say, wh-hoo!, and also do some sleuthing, of course. Because it turns out that Alex, like others around these parts, was a frequent Slate NewsQuiz contributor, Randy Cohen's now-sadly-defunct home of daily mirth and mischief.

Plus which, had we been wise, we might have discovered other writings that would have revealed his identity sooner. . . .
RIFF RAFF: Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille's nine-minute noodling on Swallow This ... Live garbs the top spot on Guitar World's list of "The 100 Worst Riffs, Licks & Solos of All Time." Others in the top 10 include The Beatles ("All You Need Is Love"), the Nuge ("Wango Tango") and Lenny Krazitz ("American Woman," which is the only song ever to prompt me to call a radio station to complain).

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

KATHIE LEE USED TO SNEAK MY RAMEN, LEAVE HER DIRTY LAUNDRY STREWN ABOUT, AND LET'S NOT EVEN TALK ABOUT THAT F---IN' "HANG IN THERE" KITTY POSTER SHE PUT ON THE DOOR: In a survey of New York college students, 32 percent responded that they would like Kelly Ripa to be their roommate. Ripa was followed on the list by Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, David Letterman and Tony Danza in the survey. Yes, some college students actually repsonded that they would like to share a room with Danza, probably on the off chance that Alyssa Milano, or at the very least Judd Hirsch, would come by to visit.
BILLY RAY VALENTINE AND LOUIS WINTHORPE III ARE THRILLED: The hurricanes hitting Florida have resulted in the highest orange prices in a decade. Among the things they note is that "the cost of futures contracts for frozen orange juice concentrate is also expected to rise." This sound familiar to anyone else? Buy those FCOJ futures now!
PLEASE, PLEASE, LET "7TH HEAVEN" BE NEXT: Fox is about to be fined $1 million for indecency violations. Would it be for the "slurp, slurp" captioning or miming of sexual acts on "Joe Millionaire?" Or maybe for that show involving a porn magnate and a DA? No, no, it's for "Married By America." TWOP's recap is here, and the indecent content consists of "lascivious banter among 'Married' contestants and a segment that involved contestants licking whipped cream off each other's bodies," according to the news article.

No word yet on whether the fine was raised because of the absurd degree of suckage "Married By America" presented, but we can certainly hope so.
A DIME-STORE MIMBO: Only two years after the rest of us, The New Republic finally realizes that Jimmy Fallon sucks.

Monday, October 11, 2004

NEW FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE DUKES OF HAZZARD: THE UNOFFICIAL COMPANION: While at first I was curious to track down What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, a look at other books in author David Hofstede's oeuvre somewhat dampened my enthusiasm. (Although admittedly some of that might be professional jealousy that the guy has managed to publish 12 books on high-minded subjects as diverse as Charlie's Angels, pro wrestling, and The Planet of the Apes). The title of the book itself doesn't exactly scream originality, either.
SO IS MARY BETH CAHILL ACTUALLY C.J. CREGG? The National Review (sort of) agrees with me that John Kerry is somehow trying to channel "The West Wing"s Jed Bartlett, a thought I had over the weekend. I think he's a lot more successful than National Review does, but it's interesting reading. Now all we need are for Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler to start writing the speeches, and things'll really kick into high gear.
BECAUSE THEY COME IN THREES: I realize that Derrida was in a high-risk group (old). So were Christopher Reeve (paralyzed) and Ken Caminiti (steroid alum, cokehead). Still, all three made me go, "huh? really?" (Derrida more because I assumed he died before I knew who he was). Imagine the Afterlife Orientation Session for the three -- inscrutable father of deconstruction, Superman-turned-research-advocate, jock-frat pariah. Now that's a dinner party.
DEAD WHITE MALE: Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher and critic widely credited with (or variously accused of) being the father of deconstruction and the textual method of literary analysis had his own subjective context permanently obliterated last week by pancreatic cancer. He was 74. The Times, of course, carried a tasteful and literate obituary that eschewed hyperbole and other forms of playful excess.


After his rise to prominence with American intellectuals in the late 1970s, tenured liberal ideologues employed Derrida’s considerable and immensely challenging body of work to devastating critical effect throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s -- primarily as a tool for driving would-be graduate students out of the academy and into marketing or other useful professions. More traditionally oriented academics, social conservatives and other witting and unwitting tools of the phallocentric Christian/capitalist patriarchy frequently adopted reactionary, hostile approaches to Derrida’s scholarship and to deconstruction generally. Such detractors offered objections in the name of intellectual principle, moral certainty and/or individual mental and general social health, but were -- from the perspective of transcendence -- merely uttering wails of childish confusion or (ironically) hysterical patriarchal indignation at the discovery that the unspoken premises of their formerly presumed privilege or hegemony had been put effectively into discursive play.

Or so I was told at the time.

Given what is often at stake, it is hard to blame serious people for responding to deconstructive critique as if it were contradiction or condemnation, and it is certainly not hard to see why those who refuse to engage Derrida on his preferred level of abstraction find him aggravating.

But what is deconstruction? Derrida didn't like to say, probably because he thought tight scholastic definitions generally over/under-determined intellectual practices (indeed, all phenomena) and thereby encouraged tendentious or sophomorically over-earnest fracturing of potentially resonant logospheres. Putting such objections firmly to one side, a useful but (necessarily) limited practical instruction in -- or indoctrination into -- the practice/trap of deconstructive criticism can be found here, at the website of Southern Oregon University. You will find that the technique they have outlined is very useful for frustrating interlocutors and isolating yourself at cocktail parties.

Some might find even the SOU materials a bit too dense for their discursive presets. They might consider renting the recent Derrida biopic instead. By some lights it was quite good. Others might insist that the SOU instructions (and this entire post) offend their intellectual honesty and are altogether too rough and compromised to pass as even impoverished representations of Derrida or the deconstructionist method. Scholars of such discipline and maturity will find a more satisfying discussion behind this link. The essay there is an emphatic but nuanced discourse with an arcane but penetrating relation to Derrida scholarship. It rewards repeated reading.

But maybe we should not measure Derrida by the tone or character of the derivative phenomena discussed briefly and inadequately as text in the text and hypertext above, but by the impact of his subjectivity on those who have been directly or derivatively subjected to him. How many parents have bitterly complained that their children earned B.A.s in Political Science without learning a thing about politics, only to find their personhood vitiated with respect to debate of Derrida-as-dyad by the fact that they did not themselves have tenure, owe any further tuition to their kids’ colleges or otherwise “count” in the calculus of higher education? How many liberal arts graduates have found themselves reflecting on the hermeneutic, metaphysical and ontological implications of whether their customers want fries with that as text, only to conclude that Derrida -- in subjective context -- is a ruefully unsatisfying phenomenon? Where would these, or indeed, all other victims of context and un-transcended subjectivity be without Derrida?

Leaving that question to your subjective determination, I’ll close with a quote from Derrida’s Archeology Of The Frivolous: Reading Condillac:

“[S]ince ‘good’ metaphysics is the science of origins and true beginnings, we might feel that ‘good’ metaphysics should also be presented as first philosophy. But that is not at all the case! The science of beginnings -- the metaphysics of the simple, of combination and generation -- the new philosophy, will be irreducibly second. Such is its condition.”

I’ve always liked that one, even if -- in context -- he is arguably speaking for Condillac rather than for himself.

Rest in peace, Professor.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

IT'S LIKE "K STREET," EXCEPT WITHOUT ALL THE SUCKING: I spent the last few weeks following "Tanner '88" on Sundance. And you know what? It's really really good. The series follows (fictional) 1988 Presidential candidate Jack Tanner in his run for the White House, but weaves the fiction into reality--Tanner will run into Jesse Jackson or Al Gore, and they'll play along with the joke. (Notably absent is eventual nominee Michael Dukakis.) The series, 4 years before "The War Room," and 11 years before "The West Wing" was one of the first to give the viewers an "inside baseball" look at presidential politics. And, oh yeah, it's funny and inspiring to boot, as you might expect from director Robert Altman and writer Garry Trudeau.

But don't just take my word for it. As best I can tell, it's the first TV series to get the Criterion Collection treatment. Criterion knows how to do DVDs. For instance, while there's a readily available Disney DVD of "Rushmore," that DVD has a trailer and the movie. That it's. The Criterion Edition includes the movie, a commentary track, screen test footage for both Jason Schwartzman and Sara Tanaka, and, best of all, the MTV "Max Fischer Players" present shorts, used to promote the 1999 MTV Movie awards, in which the "Max Fischer Players" reenact key scenes from "Armageddon," "The Truman Show," and "Out of Sight."

I'm perhaps a little young to fully appreciate "Tanner '88," as I don't have tons of memories of that campaign, but sure as heck can appreciate the current sequel, "Tanner on Tanner." In the sequel, Tanner's daughter (Cynthia Nixon) has become a famous documentarian, and goes on a quest to understand why her father lost. Of course, all hell breaks loose when the rough cut of her film is panned. Worth checking out on Sundance.