Saturday, August 20, 2005

WHO COMES HERE ON A SATURDAY? Let's take a look at popular Google searches bringing people here today:
LIVE THROUGH THIS? Quick weekend survey -- if you ever had to go into rehab, would you rather hang out with Eminem or Courtney Love, both of whom checked in yesterday?
THE YELLOW CLEARANCE SQUEEZEBOX BLUES: In case you were worried, the 15th Annual Cotati (CA) Accordion Festival is still a go!
I'VE GOT FRIENDS IN LOW PRICES: Following in the steps of Alanis Morrisette, who only did it over a short period with one album, fellow I-was-huge-in-the-1990s-but-then-vanished music star Garth Brooks has now signed a multiyear deal through which all his music will only be available at Wal-Mart.

I cannot imagine why this would make economic sense to Brooks. Can anyone help?
I CALL YOUR DRYWALL INJURY AND RAISE A DEAD GRANDMA: OK, I never saw the "Jonny Fairplay" season of Survivor, but am I correct, based solely on his appearance on Celebrity Poker Showdown that Mr. Fairplay is perhaps the most loathsome and annoying personality ever to appear on reality television? I mean, this guy made Omarosa seem like the calm, non-annoying one.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A BUMPY RIDE, BUT WORTH TAKING: Wes Craven's Red Eye is a pleasant surprise for the late summer. Sadly, it's one of those movies where the less you know, the better, which is a big part of why the original trailer was so effective--it just sets up the premise--what if the person next to you on an airplane wasn't the nice person he or she seemed, but instead had a devious agenda? I don't want to spoil the surprises, though I will say that they do get out of the airplane, and even out of the airport, eventually, and that's where the film kind of derails. It's also admirable for being a thriller where there's not a sequence in which the villain spouts his plan--the audience is trusted enough to figure it out for themselves (though a "secret" held by one character is telegraphed early on). The two leads are nice in their parts--Rachel McAdams is effectively plucky and likable, pretty much all that her part requires, and Cillian Murphy strikes just the right balance between plucky and menacing. Worth checking out if you enjoy that genre.
TA-DA! Three weeks after Spaceman saw it opening night in LA, I finally saw The Aristocrats.

Ironically (perhaps), it seems to enact what it describes -- the film is an increasingly obscene cascade of scatological humor covering a number of disgusting things I hadn't contemplated yet . . . but then after all that buildup, the climax is underwhelming.

I wish the filmmakers had let the material speak for itself more. Other than the South Park version, every other iteration of the joke is interrupted at various points by talking head musing. Even the sainted Gilbert Gottfried version from the Friar's Roast, where ever pause is filled by some other commentator telling us how funny it was. No! Let us see how funny it is ourselves. Have a little more faith in the material to succeed on its own merits, and show us more unedited versions of the joke.

Another thing: there should have been subtitles identifying each comedian on-screen the first time. I'm somewhat of a standup geek, so I can recognize people like Richard Jeni, Dom Irrera, Bobby Slayton and Todd Glass without a problem. But some of the older folks? Not until the credits when they finally named everyone. And this really ruined one of the best versions in the whole thing for many in the audience -- Carrie Fisher's -- because not everyone immediately recognized who it was and realized who "mom" and "dad" were that she was talking about.

Don't get me wrong: the movie is hysterical. I doubt I've laughed aloud at a movie that much since South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. But as filmmaking, it could have been more.

Still, two thumbs up . . . up your [deleted], that is.
CUE "TWILIGHT ZONE" THEME: In the category of "really, really, weird coincidences," we present this story from the Wichita Eagle. Apparently, the interview with now-convicted and sentenced BTK killer Dennis Rader was recorded by a production company owned by none other than Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.
YES, BUT WILL THERE BE BREAK DANCE FIGHTING: ABC has announced an "electrifying showdown" for the night of September 20--yes, the long-awaited Kelly Monaco v. John O'Hurley dance-off will take place that night. The couples will take a shot at several different styles, assuredly somehow designed to permit Ms. Monaco to wear skimpy clothing, and viewers will vote. Their votes that night will be announced on LIVE! NATIONAL! TELEVISION! two nights later to determine the winner--judges will comment, but not score.
525,600 DOWNLOADS: In music news, it's worth a trip to iTunes this week (all links require iTunes), as there are several things worth your 99 cents. Start off with "Everything to Me," the new Liz Phair single, which seems to be a step back towards the good old days. And check out Fiona Apple's EP, previewing new tracks from her forthcoming "reworked" version of "Extraordinary Machine." Top it off by picking up the exclusive "Seasons of Love" from the forthcoming movie version of Rent, which is apparently getting radio play in some area. Then again, if you're crazy, you can pick up "Most Wanted," the wholly unnecessary greatest hits collection from tween poplet Hilary Duff.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

DO NOT INTRUDE ON MY ASTROTURF: Listen, people, hating on the Phanatic is my job, and I will defend him to the death when "blogger" Tommy Lasorda posts crap like this:
One of the worst incidents was perpetrated by the Phillie Phanatic. The Dodgers were in town to play the Phillies and somehow, it got ahold of one of my jerseys. It took the jersey, put it on a dummy and ran over the dummy again and again.

That type of a display should not be shown in ballparks, especially in front of children. It exhibits violence and disrespect.

I pulled the Phanatic aside and said, “Why don’t you run over a dummy with a Phillies jersey?”

I called the front office of the Phillies and told them how I felt. They can play with kids in the stands, but running over the dummy was simply wrong, and that kids would get the wrong impression. Apparently, they didn’t care.

Waaa! Waaa! I'm being made fun of by a furry green thing!

My favorite Lasorda memory? Ass over teakettle at the 2001 All Star Game.
AT LEAST, THAT IS HOW NORMAL PEOPLE BEHAVE: I'm a fan of Mike Ward's sense of humor. Today, he does it again, with The Weekly Column of a Local-Newspaper Ombudsman Attempting to Communicate His Marital Frustrations Through His Work:
One reader angrily wondered how our coverage of monthly city-council meetings always seems to wind up on page A8, while other stories she considered less important, including one about a family's puppy nearly drowning in a pool and one about a local resident's ambitious flower garden, made the front page. Newspapers commonly receive complaints like this, but the fact is that putting together a paper comes down to priorities. We all have priorities. For example, some of us like to save our money to go on a decent vacation, while others seem to care only about buying more old furniture that nobody is allowed to sit on anyway. The fact is that the editor has chosen to prioritize human-interest stories over local politics, and this probably isn't going to change anytime soon, no matter how foolish and wasteful it is.

Keep reading.
THEY WILL RUE THE DAY THEY FIRED JANICE DICKINSON: If you're okay with having the September 21 selection show spoiled, you can meet the competitors in America's Next5 Top Model here.

Notes: The shortest model is 5'7" (same height as beloved-but-always-deemed-too-short Jenascia); 5'8" is the mode. While Vogue and Cosmopolitan dominated the Favorite Magazine list, two models did list Popular Science and The Economist.

And with Twiggy as a judge, it's back to No Plus Sizes Need Apply. Damn. I miss Toccara.
TiVO BLEG: With the new job -- and my moving out of the interesting, but impoverished world of public interest law -- Mrs. Earthling and I are going to get ourselves a TiVO. (How the hell can you not have TiVo?). Here are a few data points: we're not going to by a fancy flatscreen anytime soon (we've a 27" Sony Vega, aged 5 years), we're already DirecTV subscribers, and we'd rather pay a one time fee than be saddled with monthly payments.

Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL IF IT'LL BE A "GOOD THING:" The cast for Apprentice: Martha Stewart has been unveiled along with a few tidbits--rather than a "boardroom," there'll be a "conference room" and rather than a "suite," there'll be a "loft." Interestingly, Stewart's contestants seem to skew a little older than most reality show competitors (11 of the 16 are in their thirities, and 1 in his forties, with only 4 being 20-somethings), and based on the contestant photos, it seems we're relatively light on "girls who use their cleavage as a primary business skills."

Let's hope the spin-off recaptures the fun of the first Apprentice, since the Donald version has suffered from two lackluster (at best) seasons, and has a lot of nasty new competition this year (the moving Everwood and Fox's intriguing Reunion) in addition to the old reliable (CSI).
LAND OF THE LOST: The summertime buzz on Lost has generally been pretty quiet until recently. The DVDs of the first season are being released on September 6 (get that Netflix queue locked and loaded!), and so various members of the TV press flew out to Oahu for the DVD release party, complete with re-creation of the Oceanic Flight 815 wreckage and lots of clanking from the monster. (I think I need a new job.)

From the looks of it, a few interesting tidbits were disclosed. Daniel Dae Kim is taking lessons in how to speak English with a Korean accent -- apparently Jin's gonna learn some English this season. Josh Holloway made it to the party after shooting his scenes for the second episode, thus proving the relatively obvious point that Sawyer ain't dead (yet). And co-creator Damon Lindelof has confirmed that Episode 3 of the new season will provide the definitive explanation (or at least "definitive" as that term is used in JJ-land, which often means asking more questions than are being answered) of what's down the hatch.

Mark your calendar: the season premiere is September 21.
PRETENTIOUS LAWYERS ON LUNCH BREAK SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS: Overheard at the food court of the Mall of the Vacuous, Los Angeles California, in a discussion between doltish young professionals about the Wesley Snipes oevre, and yes, it was said earnestly:
"Sun-Tzu is one of my favorite Chinese military leaders."
I just wish the other guy had said he was a Chiang Kai-Shek man himself.
HOPE IT FEATURES "MY PAL FOOT-FOOT:" Susan Orlean's essay about "band" (and I use that term incredibly loosely here) The Shaggs is a classic. Their music--well, not so much--take a look and listen to their first (and only) album, "Philosophy of the World." And now, they're going to be the subject of their very own musical.
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND . . . : Oh no! French fries cause breast cancer!

It's been a long time since I took Stats 100 in college, but even I am rolling my eyes at the logical flaws here.
THE COURT HELD, "BA-DOOP, BEE-BOOP, BOOP:" The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has held that PVR manufacturer TiVo was properly granted summary judgment of noninfringement of two patents. Apparently, the extent of protection for a "circular storage buffer" and a "time interval of predeterminated duration" was the critical issue. Needless to say, it's not exactly scintillating reading.
DANCING WITH MYSELF? The main event of So You Think You Can Dance has arrived, and it is good.

Here's how it's working: the guys and the girls are randomly partnered up and a genre of dancing (last night's were hip hop, mambo, jive, and lyrical) is randomly assigned to each pair. Each pair works with a choreographer and then performs their routine. The judges offer comments. After all of the pairs have performed, the judges select the bottom three pairs. Each of those six dancers then gets 45 seconds to dance solo, to music of their choosing (which seems to come from a selection of about 10 pre-approved, relatively uninteresting songs). No comments from the judges on the solo bit -- we get the phone numbers right away, and the teenyboppers start dialing. The lowest-vote-garnering girl and the lowest vote-garnering guy will be eliminated at the beginning of next week's show.

I was pleased with the judges: Nigel and three of the choreographers from the Hollywood round. (Mia, Brian, and Dan -- a/k/a Lyrical, Hip Hop, and More Hip Hop, This Time with Extra Snark.) As for the dancing, the bottom three pairs were fairly obvious. Snow the Siberian Writher and Allan/Big Poppa's hip hop routine lacked both the hip and the hop. Michelle the Oddly Nondescript and Jonnis the wiggly noodly dancer with wiggly noodly hair got a bit tangled up in their mambo and then insisted that the judges were wrong for criticizing them. And the combination of Sandra the wackjob go-go/tap dancer and Artem the Russian ballroom dancer (I would be woefully remiss if I didn't mention here that Artem is an extremely handsome man) just didn't work. When it came time for each of the six to do their freestyle bits, it seemed pretty clear that some of these dancers are outclassed by the competition. Snow and Artem and perhaps Sandra probably deserve another shot, but the other three are out of their league.

As for the others, a few highlights. The two breakdancers left in the competition, Ryan and Jamile, wowed the crowd with their mambo and jive routines, respectively, proving that the amateurs may have a shot against some of the pros. And the reviled Blake, for all of his posturing and "there can be only one -- ME" self-promotion, can dance his ass off. He lucked out by drawing his specialty, lyrical dance, but he was breathtaking to watch.

And lastly, my customary call to action. If you're an AI fan (and I know you are), you really should be watching this show.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

APB ISSUED FOR AMY JO JOHNSON: CNN reports that Skylar Deleon has been arrested for murder. The interesting tidbit is that (even though "Skylar Deleon" is not listed in IMDB) the suspect was apparently formerly well-known as one of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
ANSWER -- 'IT WASN'T': And the question is, "How accurate was my item about the wedding on the Jeopardy! set where I quipped 'Thank goodness Trebek had the good sense to stay out of this one'?" given that the bride herself has posted here to note that Alex Trebek was, in fact, in attendance for their happy day.

As penance, I have made a contribution to their wedding registry on behalf of myself and the ALOTT5MA staff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I DO TAKE THE PHUN OUT OF EVERYTHING: I suppose I should be happy that the Phillie Phanatic was inducted in the inaugural class of the Mascot Hall of Fame today along with The Famous Chicken and the Phoenix Gorilla, but, well, this isn't that blog:

  1. Just what is the "Mascot Hall of Fame"? It's a creation of the Raymond Entertainment Group, which is owned by David Raymond, the originator of the Phillie Phanatic. It's a level of self-dealing so egregious that Pete Rose would slam it as unethical. And then bet on next year's results.
  2. Granted, the Gorilla is, as Kornheiser noted today, the greatest athlete ever to wear a mascot uniform. But how does he get in before the Stanford Tree, Otto the Orange or the highly underrated Wally the Green Monster?
  3. That article about the ceremonies, on the Phillies' official site, notes that the ceremonies took place in downtown Philadelphia at "14th and JFK Boulevard". Um, come again? There is no 14th Street in Philadelphia -- it's Broad Street. Argh!
  4. The Chicago School point: shouldn't a mascot have to retire before being considered for induction? Don't we want to incentivize mascot growth and development, and hold out a carrot to older mascots to move on and make way for the next generation?
  5. Speaking of which: it's not that the Phanatic hasn't developed new shtick in decades that annoys me. He's there for new generations of kids, not for me. But why does he have to do this limp-wristed, gay-bashing thing all the time to mock opposing players for allegedly being effeminate? Suppose one in every twenty boys at each game will, at some point in his life, believe that he is gay. Wouldn't it be nice for that kid not to grow up thinking that he won't be made fun of for it? Why does the Phanatic have to play the same role as the homophobic schoolyard bully?

One last question, while I'm griping: is there a single NFL mascot worth keeping? Were it up to me, I'd axe them all. Except for Ragnar.

THE WORLD IS WAITING: The ten teams for The Amazing Family Race have been announced.

One nice wrinkle mentioned in this USA Today article that hadn't occurred to me before: Yields may be boring generally, but when you've got a whining teenager waiting with parents at the hourglass, that's comedy.
SO THAT'S WHERE "THAT IS THE UGLIEST EFFING SKIRT I'VE EVER SEEN" CAME FROM: Today's Philly Inquirer profile of current "next big thing" Rachel McAdams discusses her preparation for her breakout role as lead Mean Girl Regina George--she listened to a lot of Hole and studied Alec Baldwin's performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. Yes, Regina George is partially based on what may well be the most profane movie character of all time.
NO, BORAT IS NOT THE MANAGING PARTNER: Big law firms are apparently running out of places to expand to. So where does Chadbourne and Parke expand to now? Almaty, Kazakhstan. Somehow, I expect recruiting in the US may be a little difficult.
ACTUALLY, IT'S THE "DIDDY" THAT'S THE PROBLEM: Gawker provides us with full coverage of today's 23rd most important news story (just behind Phil Mickelson's victory at the PGA championship, and just ahead of tonight's premiere of "Tommy Lee Goes to College")--Sean Combs' announcement that henceforth, he shall be known simply as "Diddy." Among Comb's remarks? He plans to "go more rock 'n' roll," he "needed to simplify things," and he "felt that the 'p' was coming between me and my fans." No word on his plans to change his name to an androgyneous symbol and begin scrawling "SLAVE" on his face yet.
`CAUSE A BE-BOP STORK WAS ABOUT TO ARRIVE, MAMA GAVE BIRTH TO THE HAND JIVE: Tomorrow night, So You Think You Can Dance will begin lopping off dancers two by two from the final 16. Something I'm curious about: looking over the dancers' bios, there's a real divide between Those Who Have Been Trained in the Art of the Dance and Those Who Haven't. Example: Melody Lacayanga, when asked if she had any formal dance training, replied "10 years of ballet, 10 years of jazz, 12 years of tap, 6 years of modern, 11 years of lyrical." (She's 22 years old.) Nick Lazzarini's been at it even longer: at the ripe old age of 20, he's got 16 years of jazz, 16 years of ballet, 10 years of tap, 5 years of tumbling, 9 years of lyrical/modern, and 10 years of hip hop. Then you've got Ryan Conferido, the spiky-haired breakdancing wunderkind, who's never had any formal dance training. He says that he began dancing about three years earlier, when "I realized my breakdancing had such a high lack of actual dance. So I started to teach myself to groove better to music, by practicing in the mirror and and getting rid of ugly body movement habits." Most of the finalists seem to have a fair amount of training -- I'm wondering if the ones who haven't been schlepped off to jazz classes since they were three can hold their own.

I'm also wondering (1) whether the five choreographers from the Hollywood round will continue to play an active role throughout the finals or whether we'll be relegated to nothing more than Nigel and the Nigelettes, (2) whether insipid-thus-far host Lauren Sanchez will come up with a better variation on the overly precious "Seacrest out" than last week's " . . . see ya," and (3) whether I will continue to find this show as addictive as I have to date now that we're past the always-interesting Hollywood phase.
THOU SHALT HAVE NO GAMES BEFORE ME: Christian video games are coming to a console near you, according to MSNBC.

Righteous! Do I get to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers?

“I play a lot of Christian video games,” Tolin said. “They don’t have fights. You just have to follow Jesus and pick up little crosses for points."

So, uh... not so much, huh? Maybe next year they'll put out something with, like, lions? I dunno. Maybe a MMORPG called "Heretic!" where you vie for doctrinal control within your sect while striving politically to establish the global communion? I'd play that if there was an Inquisitor class with decent buffs or AOEs, but I suppose a Veggie-Tales branded variation on The Sims is more likely.
“TETSUO, PHIL? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TAKASHI MIIKE?” Yeah, so I went right to Google on that one, then IMDB and then NetFlix. Months later, I humbly offer the following summary reviews:

Full Metal Yakuza (1997): Robocop goes manga-maniacal.

A revenge fantasy for the hapless adolescent Yakuzawanabe. There’s some psycho-sado-misogyno-necro nastiness that I can’t defend except to say it might leave one wanting the cyborg protagonist to mutilate the bad guys even more brutally than he does. More likely it’s just intended as a cheap thrill for folks with a particular (or who are particularly) bent. Hard-boiled pulpy sword fight action, well and extravagantly and campily done, with an ending – as well as a bunch of other parts (parts!) throughout – that’ll make you go “whaaah…??” If that’s your kettle, then probably it ain’t bad fish.

Ichi The Killer (2001): Sakirashi the Gangster. (singing) They kill, and kill! They kill and kill and kill! Kill kill kill! Kill kill kill! The Ichi and Sakirashi Show!!

Ichi, a young psychotic, manipulated by implanted memories and equipped with a rubber supersuit full of spring-loaded blades, is killing pimps and rapists and gangsters in Shinjuku. A bit confused, he is also killing their victims about as often as not. He is pursued by a sado-masochistic gangster who does with cold premeditation and for purposes of light amusement the sorts of things that Ichi does reflexively in spasms (yes, those spasms) of moral agony. You get to watch. Sound fun? Oh, and did I mention that the gangster needs Ichi to (uh…) scratch him, because he prefers not just to give but to receive? If you thought Kill Bill was pulling punches and wasting time with arty hommage, and watched the credits after Sin City with Mr. Bluebird singing zip-ah-dee-do-dah upon your shoulder, then Ichi might be for you. Rated HFSYGTBKM for splatter, torture, sex, torture, sadism, torture, mutilation, torture, masochism, torture, dismemberment, torture, violence, torture, a punch in the mouth you will never ever forget and oh yeah more torture.

Gozu (2003): “It’s a Yakuza Movie, redesigned to confuse and then terrify unreflective testosterone junkies who are way into Yakuza Movies.”

An overcompensating young Yakuza cracks under the pressure of having to act macho all the time, becomes a whack-job and is ordered whacked. The guy who gets ordered to do the whacking is his best buddy, whom he has recently gifted with a set of crotchless panties. To make a long (D. Lynchian / S. Freudian, slow-developin’, viscerally disturbin’, dwarf-with-a-cow-head-droolin’-condensed-milkin’) story short: post-whackin’, the Whackee returns to the Whacker in the body of an incredibly Comely Young Woman. She proceeds to seduce the Yakuza boss who ordered the hit, and who can only perform the copulatory act with a soup ladle stuck up his arse. (I am not making this up.) Whacker then saves Comely Young Woman from despoilment by the Yakuza boss, re-presents her with the aforementioned crotchless panties and the two proceed with their own copulatory act (sans ladle) which is itself interrupted in a Most Dramatic Fashion. Whacker, Whackee and the Comely Young Woman all live happily ever after. Joke’s over kids. All this hard-boiled Yakuza movie stuff is just homoeroticism being furiously redirected into violence.

So, what do I think of Takashi Miike? Impressive. Difficult. Also disturbing. Not exactly "date" material.

Monday, August 15, 2005

ACT AS IF? Academy Award winner Ben Affleck turned 33 today. Suggest the best way for him to resurrect his acting career, and what niche he's ultimately destined to fill.
IT'S KINDA LIKE DEATH WISH VI, EXCEPT GOOD: While it seems like Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (unsurprisngly) stank, another release from this past weekend is actually a late summer treat--Four Brothers. It's a well-made, well-directed, decently acted throwback to the kind of schlocky "revenge" movie popular in the late 70s. The premise is simple--beloved "community mother" is killed in Detroit--what she was known for is placing foster children with others. However, there were four kids so messed up she took them in herself--the "Four Brothers" of the title. They come back for her funeral and to put the hurt on the bad guys. Of course there's corruption involved, including a bought-off councilman, a dirty cop (hint to casting--while I love the actor who plays the dirty cop, casting him as "dirty cop" multiple times, as has been done, kinda ruins the surprise factor), and a brutal drug lord played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (aka, "that black guy who was in a Woody Allen movie.") It's not great or meaningful filmmaking, but it's solid entertainment for anyone who wants to watch a few bones get crushed and a most-excellent home-invasion shootout sequence.