Saturday, September 3, 2005

THE STRIPES HAVE BEEN HUNG UP: William Rehnquist, sixteenth Chief Justice of the United States as well as a veteran of World War II in North Africa, has passed away at the age of eighty.

I don't know that there's any pop culture angle or anything else to say here. It just would feel weird not to acknowledge his passing here, and to hope that he and his family are at peace.

May God save this honorable Court.

Pure logic. Love it.
LET THE MOMILY PENALTY DEBATES RESUME: In case you don't get enough of Esquire, Danza, Guido, and the Frats during tomorrow and Monday's marathon you can pre-order the Season 1 TAR DVD's from Amazon (out September 27). Confirmed special features include 90 minutes of deleted/additional scenes, 4 audio commentaries, and interviews with Phil Keoghan and Bertram Van Munster. Hey, Team Guido gives it 5 stars. If you're looking for something to tide you over, I suggest the DVD's of original recipe (pre-Ahmad Rashad and celebrities) The Mole featuring Anderson Cooper as a great host, brilliant challenges (the "three rooms" in the penultimate episode is great, and a sheep counting challenge winds up having an immensely clever twist to it).
UNIFIED BLOG THEORY: Kanye West + Hurricane + Live TV equals a pretty good chance he won't be performing at the next Kennedy Center Honors.

Video here, if you scroll down. If nothing else, watch it for the Mike Myers reaction at the end.

Friday, September 2, 2005

THERE ARE EIGHT MILLION STORIES IN THE NAKED CITY, AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM: I was watching MSNBC last night, and caught a rather fawning interview with a "Philadelphia philanthropist" named Joe Mammana. He had something of a Joe-Pesci-in-Goodfellas vibe about him, and explained that because the president, the mayor of New Orleans, and the governor of Louisiana weren't getting the job done, it was time for Mammana to step in. He's organizing a caravan of trucks carrying relief workers and supplies to travel from Philadelphia to his "staging area," Montgomery, Alabama, as soon as Mammana can ensure the safety of his truckers. (To me, this means that the Mammanites may never leave Philadelphia, but that's neither here nor there.)

During the interview, Mammana spent a lot of time talking about how he'd gotten this city councilman to donate X, and that city official to donate Y -- it had a very inside Philadelphia baseball feel to it. So I googled the guy. He's a self-made millionaire whose entrepreneurial endeavors include real estate and boxing promotion (warning, warning, warning!) , among other things -- his philanthropy seems to be focused on offering significant sums of cash to incentivize people who may have information about unsolved crimes to step forward and cough up what they know.

Question for the current Philadelphians out there -- who is this guy, anyway?
A LIST OF DONATIONS MADE FIVE MINUTES AGO: If a little blog competition can get some cash moving toward the appropriate charities, we ought to encourage it. So if you are a regular Throwing Things reader (or contributor) -- and you've made a donation -- go log it over at The Truth Laid Bear.

UPDATE: Given our traffic, we're at a very respectable 27th place -- 10 donations for a total of $1,650. Stout numbers, guys.
CRANK UP THE GOD MACHINE? Hmmm, what do you think Jon Stewart's going to talk about when he returns from vacation?

Thursday, September 1, 2005

19, 19, 1985: TiVo decided to grab the first episode of the 1985-86 SNL season today. It's amazing to think that Dennis Miller, Damon Wayans, Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack have now been around us for twenty-plus years. Penn & Teller too, who did a stunt on the show involving Teller's underwater breath-holding abilities. (Later this season, if I remember right, they do an entire segment upside down, with the camera upside-down as well, and it's really cool.)

But some of the references, wow -- Libya as our main enemy, with the PLO deemed a terrorist organization based in Baghdad; Dennis Miller noting that the Supreme Court had just agreed to hear a case dealing with Georgia's sodomy laws; an airline called "TWA"; and host Madonna, still in her Material Girl phase, talking about her recent marriage to Sean Penn.

A few weeks after this show aired, I celebrated my bar mitzvah. Man, I feel old.
"AND, NO, IT DON'T FEEL GOOD": The New York Times gets Katrina and the Waves lead singer Katrina Leskanich's reaction to sharing her name with a devastating hurricane. Says Leskanich of the aftermath of her namesake storm: "I hope that the true spirit of 'Walking on Sunshine' will prevail. I would hate for the title to be tinged with sadness, and I will have to do my own part to help turn that around."
YES, THAT'S A SHAME: Among the missing in New Orleans is R&B legend Fats Domino.

Update: Fats has been found!
MORE THURSDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING: From a Sept. 20, 2002, report on the PBS news magazine NOW with Bill Moyers entitled "The City in a Bowl":
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Do you think that the President of the United States and Congress understand that people like you and the scientists studying this think the city of New Orleans could very possibly disappear?
I think they know that, I think that they've been told that. I don't know that anybody, though, psychologically, you know has come to grips with that as-- as a-- a potential real situation. Just like none of us could possibly come to grips with the loss of the World Trade Center. And it's still hard for me to envision that it's gone. You know and it's impossible for someone like me to think that the French Quarter of New Orleans could be gone.
WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE. I'LL TELL YOU HOW I KNOW: I read it in the paper, fifteen years ago. ...okay, only five years old, but the article is shockingly accurate.

Scientists say that a hurricane of category 4 or higher would devastate the city, and the current levees and drainage measures would be rendered useless. "The biggest fear is a hurricane coming through Lake Ponchartrain with New Orleans being on the northeast quadrant of the storm's center," says Demas.

"When we get the big hurricane and there are 10,000 people dead, the city government's been relocated to the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, refugee camps have been set up and there $10 billion plus in losses, what then?" he asks.

That's December, 2000. It begs the question of what could have been done. Perhaps nothing.

Edited to provide CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE -- my email source for the above link found it reported first by the inimitable .
I DON'T KNOW, BUT I BEEN TOLD: While I'm shocked TV Guide's columnist claims not to have heard of him, R. Lee Ermey, best known as the profane drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, will play Dr. Gregory House's father in a recurring role on House next season. (Also, last night's repeat of Three Stories was just great stuff, reminicent of Lost at its best in mixing together flashback and present story, and giving Hugh Laurie a great acting showcase.)
HILARY'S A PUNK: Today's Times devotes nearly 1,000 words to what might best be described as an attempt to justify Hilary Duff's place in the contemporary pop music scene. While the article contains certain Times-appropriate snark (a reference to Duff and her boyfriend, Joel Madden, sharing mascara and the wonderful understatement of "[A]lthough this may come as a shock, their joint appearance may have something to do with a publicity campaign."), it's frighteningly earnest, referring to Duff's new songs as "really good" and "great." The mind boggles.
"VAMANOS, AMIGOS," SUSAN ORLEAN WHISPERED, AS THEY CONTINUED TO BAT IN THE FRISCULATING DUSKLIGHT: The New Yorker covers the softball team of The New Yorker in New Yorker style. Much more self-serious than the report from their competitors. Oddly, the two reports are not merely different in style, but report dramatically different outcomes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WHEN YOU GIVE TO A WORTHY CAUSE, YOU'LL FEEL AS JOLLY AS SANTA CLAUS: OK, we're about 5 hours early to join the official effort, but don't let that stop you from giving us some money, as Rod and Nicky are asking. Glenn's post (the first link) suggests a lot of great charities, to which I'd add Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which allows you to direct stuff to specifically Katrina relief at the link provided, including. And who's with me on joining the Volokh Conspiracy's challenge? I rather suspect we can join together as a group to give.
I AM SO PUNK ROCK: I may be the only person in the entire world to think so, but there are three things about this picture that I find funny. First, the President clearly had country singer Mark Wills teach him how to play a G chord because he thought he would come across as a man of the people if he could strum the guitar on stage. Second, that G chord sounded awful when Bush played it with his entire hand moved up a fret. Third, Wills is springing into action because he knows that if he doesn't fix the problem right now Branson's going to lose its Homeland Security allowance. Sometimes a picture does tell a whole story.
HEY, HO, NOT SO STEADY AS SHE GOES: In appropriate "show must go on!" tradition, last night, the cast of Broadway's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang performed various songs, comedy, and other unplanned entertainment for the captive audience for nearly an hour when Chitty herself, the star of the show, was unable to take to the sky. Given that the show (at least the London version) is more than a bit turgid and overlong, I can't help but wonder if the imprompty performances were more entertaining than the show itself.
PUMPED A LOT OF 'TANE DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS: I am not sure whether it's appropriate to keep blogging our normal blog as the epic dimensions of the catastrophe become more apparent.

The long-term public health risks, for instance, are enormous, but we can't even get to those issues while there are still thousands in need of evacuation -- though that hasn't stopped some partisans on my side from some shameful Monday morning quarterbacking.

Yesterday indicated that you wanted us to keep the community going amid all this, and this thread will remain open for all New Orleans and Mississippi-related discussion. But if it's a little quiet on other fronts, I think that's okay.

In the meantime, help the Red Cross. Now.
KICKIN' DOWN THE COBBLESTONES, LOOKIN' FOR FUN AND SMOKIN' DOOBIE: Art Garfunkel was arrested again this weekend on marijuana charges.

Artie's chronic was spotted in his car during a traffic stop; shouldn't he have learned from Paul that you step outside to smoke yourself a J?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KATRINA AND THE WAVES, TAKE TWO: Yesterday's pronouncement of N'awlins residents being able to "walk on sunshine" as Katrina spared the Crescent City her full wrath was a tad premature. As the soundtrack for the storm shifts from '80s pop diddies to '70s classic rock, it looks the Big Easy will never be the same.
I ONLY THPEAK THE TWUTH: John Leguiziamo is newest ER doc.
GOT MEMORIES MIX-A-LOT LEFT IN LIMBO. FIRST STOP, SACRAMENTO. The Sacramento Bee blends a bit of concert information with an update on Sir Mix-a-Lot. Turns out Mix more than approved that new Target commercial, turns out he wrote the rap himself:
"If you get into this (music) business, and you fall in love with this business, you'll go broke," Mix-A-Lot said via telephone en route to a show in Minneapolis. "You have to hate it to survive in it, because the business doesn't love you."

So Mix-A-Lot, whose real name is Anthony Ray, uses the business as best he can. He's a do-it-yourself success story who does what it takes to be able to afford his freedom. The Target commercial rap, which he wrote, is a prime example.

"I told them initially I didn't want to do it," he said of the "I Like Backpacks" spot. "They wrote this rap and brought it to me, and I'm like, 'What the (expletive) is this?' "

He asked the company what they wanted in the commercial and wrote the rap himself instead. Why?

"When a guy starts offering you getting up into six figures for something that takes you two days to do …"

IT SLICES, IT DICES: Ron Popeil, whose Ronco products have been a staple of late night infomercials and the basis for a memorable SNL parody has sold his business to a holding company which is apparently going to take it public.
DENTAL DANCERS IN DANGER: I watched So You Think You Can Dance last week in the last minutes before skipping town for vacation, so had no time to post. This week will be similar.

I did want to note a few things: (1) So long, Jonnis and Sandra. Jonnis was outclassed from the first, but Sandra had some talent. I think she freaked viewers out with her stalkerlike intensity. Unsurprisingly, the heavily pimped and deeply lovable but thus far not so much with the good dancing Allan was the top vote getter among the bottom six dancers. (2) As I'd hoped, the judges are rotating on a weekly basis, so the panel is always comprised of Nigel plus three of the five Hollywood choreographers. Those who don't judge in a given week are on deck for choreography. (3) Dude. The quickstep is hard, yo. It's decidedly unfair that Blake and Destini get partnered for the second week in a row and receive lyrical (their respective specialty) for the second week in a row while poor Jamile, Nick, and Michelle have five days to learn from scratch the dance that everyone agrees is the most difficult in all of ballroom dancing.

This week's bottom six:
  • Snow and Jamile -- Snow danced beautifully, ballroom being her thing and all, but the bottom six are chosen based on partnership, and Snow's just couldn't hack the quickstep.
  • Nick and Michelle -- Their quickstep was an improvement on Snow and Jamile's, but again, the quickstep just ain't something you pick up in a week.
  • Craig and Melody -- They were partnered two weeks in a row and should have been okay, but their hip hop was apparently insufficiently street for the judges.

Among the girls, it's an easy call: Michelle should go. For the guys, however, it's a tougher call, as all three of them are quite talented. Nick has a shot at winning the competition, but I doubt the other two do. My guess is that Craig and his beautifully white shiny teeth will be packing their toothbrush and heading home.

JUST LIKE HENRY WINKLER, BEN STILLER, LIZA MINELLI, JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, CARL WEATHERS, AND MARTIN SHORT, ONLY PRETTIER: Charlize Theron will apparently appear in four episodes of Arrested Development this season as yet another love interest for Michael Bluth.

Gee, do you think it will turn out well for Michael?
GRATIST TECHNOLOGY EVIR? iPod cellphone? iPod cellphone!
IF IT'S NOT SCOTTISH...: Chances are you won't find it on this list of the 10 Greatest Scottish Books ever written (as opposed to books, I suppose, that are produced in other ways?). Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon's 1932 book that I'm guessing you've never heard of either, beat out Trainspotting (No. 3), 1984 (No. 6), and some kids' book about a wizard or something who goes to school and has all sorts of adventures that I seem to think they made a movie out of with that bad guy from the first Die Hard in it (No. 5).
KATRINA AND THE WAVES: It's hard to say that Gulf-area residents should be walking on sunshine, but the storm that blew through today looks like it could have been a lot worse. With less than 80 lives claimed so far, it appears Katrina will not join the list of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes. The initial damage estimates of between $10 and $25 billion, would put Katrina on the list of costliest U.S. hurricanes.
I'LL GET YOU YET, MY PRETTY: Not that this blog has any particular focus on movies in which footwear is prominent, but someone has stolen Judy Garland's ruby slippers.

Monday, August 29, 2005

REICHAIKEN? CLEHMKUHL? I've not yet watched any of Kill Reality, but the rumored coupling of TAR star Reichen Lehmkuhl and AI runner-up Clay "no, no, I'm not gay" Aiken seems to me to be a bit creepy.
HEY YOU GUYS! February 7 will be a red-letter day indeed. That's the day on which Sesame Workshop (nee Children's Television Workshop) will release 24 episodes of The Electric Company on DVD. It's about time.

I will confess that although I watched Electric Company religiously throughout my childhood, I don't remember a lot of specifics. The skit that has always stuck in my head was Letterman: "Faster than a rolling O -- more powerful than silent E -- able to leap a capital T in a single bound!"

Now all I need is a boxed set for Land of the Lost, and I'll be all set. (Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition . . . )
AND I'M TELLING YOU THAT I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN: In today's Frenchie Davis news, Miss Davis will play Betty Currie, Clinton's personal secretary, in Monica! The Musical, which demonstrates, yet again, my theory that we are running out of things to musicalize.
RIDERS ON THE STORM: For those of you looking for solid first-person Katrina coverage, miraculously, a group of reporters and family members from the Times-Picayune (and seriously, is there a better local newspaper name in the U.S. than that?) are holed up on the third floor of the T-P building, and are liveblogging what's going on in there, what they're hearing on the police scanner, and what they're seeing outside the few unboarded/unshuttered windows. Seems like they're weathering it OK, which is reassuring.
IT'S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL: The WaPo's David Segal has penned a fun essay about the quest for the great Live Concert Moment, "total-body bliss, a rush so strong it turns brain cells into Jell-O and, for a moment or two, you sort of leave your skin":
The great Live Concert Moment is born of something heartfelt and in some important way spontaneous. Not necessarily made up on the spot -- although that's never a bad idea -- but improvised to some degree. You might catch something similar in Boston next week, but it won't be exactly what happened in D.C. This is what sets a great concert apart from a great album. It's about music, but it's also about an experience that's ephemeral and communal, that you share for a couple hours with a bunch of strangers who, at some level, you feel like you know because they have the same idiotic glint in their eye when the lights come up. It's the sense that this whole evening means as much to the band as it does to you. It's great songs multiplied by killer performance multiplied by giddy fan reaction.

I've been chasing these Moments since I was 12 years old, and, during my four years as rock critic at The Post, I hunted them the way Ahab chased the white whale. I looked everywhere -- in stadiums, arenas, clubs, basements, studios, garages, even parking lots. It didn't happen often, but on a few unforgettable occasions, I stumbled into a Moment. Finding one just made me crave another.

For me, the pop critic job was a cheap way to feed an old habit. I'd been buying records and "wooooo"-ing at concerts ever since I laid eyes on Elvis Costello in 1977, when he sang on "Saturday Night Live." Pigeon-toed and decked out in a cheap suit and twerpy glasses, he started a song called "Less Than Zero," then, after a moment or two, very dramatically halted the band, shouted some weird apology to the crowd and then launched into "Radio, Radio."

I was a goner. I loved the sound, the song, the drama, the sense that this excitable nerd had taken control of the show and seemed ready to run it into a ditch. He looked like the future of music, a guy who could crash a very dull party and turn it into something that would scare your parents. I wanted to meet him, even though I had the sense that he wouldn't like me, that he wouldn't like anyone, himself included. When I bought his debut album, "My Aim Is True," it wouldn't leave me alone. For a while, my friend J.P. and I were so reverently attached to Costello that we instituted a rule: No leaving the room when Elvis Costello is playing. That would be disrespectful.

One random one from my memories: Guns n'Roses, Use Your Illusion pre-tour during the summer of 1991. Tickets had gone on sale just days before the event itself. Epic set filled with songs we'd heard of but never heard (does anyone else remember the hype "November Rain" received before the release?), and I just remember late in the show Slash taking the solo he was doing into a five minute rendition of the Godfather theme. I'm sure he had done it before and since, but it was awesome.

Also, Lollapalooza 1994, Philadelphia. Just before the Pumpkins came on to close the show, out strolls Courtney Love in her first musical appearance since Kurt's death. Solo guitar, "Doll Parts" and "Miss World", then leaves by saying "Thanks, now Billy's gonna come out here and not suck." V. emotional. Pure Courtney.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

PRAY FOR NEW ORLEANS: And give to the Red Cross now.
AND CAN YOU HEAR THE SOUND OF HYSTERIA? I was in transit for most of tonight's MTV Video Music Awards, so all I really saw was Kelly Clarkson screaming her way through "Since U Been Gone" and Green Day winning everything from Video of the Year to, apparently, Best Female Rap Video.

So, what did I miss? What'll be worth watching on the replay, and what can I safely FF past?
YES, I KNOW IT KINDA LOOKS LIKE A TRAILER: Yet another semi-random question--I'm going to Memphis in October and am wondering if it's worth tacking on an extra day, a tank of gas, and 4-5 hours in the car to visit the Clinton Library in Little Rock. Anyone been?
TAKE OUT HIS FUNNY BONE FOR 300 DOMARS: If you, like me, enjoy a good board game now and again but have worn out on Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, Pictionary, and the like, may I commend to you the terrific line of games from Cheapass Games?

We here at Cheapass Games are aware of two basic facts about games: they cost too much, and they are at some level all the same.

If you ignore the clever shapes they come in, the cheap little plastic pawns are an interchangeable part of most of the board games in your house. So are the dice, the money, the counters, the pencils, and just about every other random spare part. These generic bits and pieces can account for as much as 75% of a game's production cost, and that cost gets handed to you. . . .

Cheapass Games come with the bare essentials: boards, cards, and rulebooks. If you need anything else, we'll tell you. And it's probably something you can scrounge from a game you already own, or buy at a hobby store for less than "they" are charging you for it. Heck, if you need to, you can even buy the parts from us.

And the games are both cheap and clever. U.S. Patent No. 1, a game where you try to be first to patent your time machine in the face of any number of competitors, Kill Doctor Lucky, which asks the important question: "why do mystery games all start after the fun is over?" And One False Step for Mankind:

California: 1849. Where the mayors of stupidly rich Gold Rush towns can squander the resources of their citizens on pretty much whatever they want.

This month, it's a race to the Moon. Will it work? Probably not. The real goal is to earn enough votes to become governor. But it seems the best way to impress your constituents is by doing something grotesquely stupid and dangerous, like blasting them into space. It's one false step for Mankind, one giant leap for you.
And there's hardly a game more than $8, most considerably less. So if you are looking a novel way to blow an evening at home, give these guys a whirl.