Saturday, December 3, 2005

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR: For us listophiles, nothing beats December and the annual onslaught of "Best of" lists. I and my fellow bloghorts will do our best to alert you to ones we find that are intriguing, but for the many that will fall between the cracks, I encourage you to check out Rex's constantly updated compilation of year-end lists at Fimoculous.

Meanwhile, here's Q Magazine's Top 20 albums and singles, with Coldplay taking the top album spot and Oasis topping the singles list.
THANK GOODNESS, NO ONE ON THIS LIST IS JEWISH: Forbes Magazine ranks the fifteen richest fictional characters.

C. Montgomery Burns, Jed Clampett and Bruce Wayne are among those represented. Still, clearly, there are people missing from this list, and I figure you'd know who they are . . .
BFTJ FOR AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT REASON: Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, author of The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig, among other plays, is fighting leukemia in a New York hospital. Apparently she has some sort of infection that precludes the use of chemotherapy, which strikes me as a rather ominous sign.

On behalf of Dr. Gorgeous Teitelbaum, Scoop Rosenbaum, and the whole gang, our best wishes go out to Wasserstein and her six-year-old daughter, Lucy Jane.
NEXT CHRISTMAS, THE CLONE-IT-YOURSELF TURKEY. Tired of the sing-it-yourself Messiah? Worn out from the sing-along Sound of Music? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Dance-It-Yourself Nutcracker.

Friday, December 2, 2005

A LIST OF THINGS WHICH STARTED ABOUT NINE MONTHS AGO: Congratulations to Isaac Spaceman and his wife, Sadie Spacewoman, on the birth of Methuselah Spacebaby this morning.

He is seven pounds, twelve ounces, measuring twenty inches from tip to toenails, and is indeed presently sharing prime hospital real estate with Violet Garfleck down the hall. No comment yet from older brother Ike Jr.
ONE COULD BE THE NEXT FRED ARMISEN; ANOTHER, THE NEXT LAURA KIGHTLINGER? Meet the four new cast members on SNL, who are definitely making this season a slightly-more-watchable one, including Kristen Wiig, whom some of us got to know as "Dr. Pat" on the first season of Joe Schmo.
BFTJ WATCH: Do we really need a VH-1 special which asks "Are Jews crunk?"
I HOPE YOU ALL GET BITTEN BY A FREAKIN' CROCODILE, SCUMBAGS: So The Apprentice, Top Model and Survivor are all in their final stages, and we're not really talking about any of it. And I do miss ANTM's Kim a good deal.

But last night's Survivor was awesome, man. I love rewards that force teams to weigh between existing alliances and game strategy (i.e., don't leave all your enemies in one place, man), and that Gary Hogeboom's Hawkins' tribal council revelations about the Big Lie last week had such fun consequences. Man.
YOU WILL SURRENDER TO THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT: If you're interested in seeing the performance at which bombastic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Phantom of the Opera passes bombastic and boring Lloyd Webber musical Cats as the longest running show in Broadway history, just answer these trivia questions correctly, and you'll be entered into a drawing for 100 pairs of tickets to the record-breaking performance.
HERE'S A TOAST TO DEAR OLD PENN: They've changed their mind -- if you see people doing the hippity-dippity on the Superblock or along Butcher-Speakman-28, take as many pictures as you want and go ahead and post them online.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

TRIFECTA: Today, Woody Allen turns 70, Richard Pryor reaches 65, and Hawaii's Bette Midler reaches 60.

Five years from now, whose work are you most likely to be enjoying?
"OH, MAN. WE HAVE MORE THINGS TO HAVE AN UPROAR ABOUT THAN MORGAN FREEMAN: Spike Lee expounds on a number of topics for Slate, including the whole "do Holocaust movies always win Best Documentary?" question, African American directors doing genre films, and whether Barbershop is his fault.
"LIKE A STACK OF VIEW-MASTER SLIDES, MUSICALLY SET TO SAD-SACK ORCHESTRAL WEEPING": Having trouble choosing which made-for-TV Pope John Paul II biopic to watch? The Chicago Sun-Times new TV critic Doug Elfman (who took over for the Tribunized Phil Rosenthal) has a simple answer: neither.

Some choice quotes from Elfman's acerbic review of the films:
"I'm giving both narcotically sleepy movies zero stars, although I'm granting ABC's "Have No Fear" a big hearty zero, a zero of absolute zero-ocity, a zero's zero. I think I could have written a better script during the two hours it took me to watch "Have No Fear." I think you could, too, and I don't even know you."
" "Fear" is called a "TV movie," but there's nothing "movie" about it, except the word "movie" came from "moving pictures," and "Fear" is a collection of moving pictures. So it's got me on a technicality."
"Both films deserve their zero ratings, but just to be clear, "Fear's" zero is bigger. It's like this analogy: If you tell two art students to draw a face, and one draws a butt and the other blows his nose on his canvas, each deserves an F. But one deserves it more than the other."
"HE WAS AN ALCOHOLIC WHEN HE WON THE PULITZER PRIZE IN 1975, BUT HE NEVER MISSED A DEADLINE AND WAS NEVER LATE FOR AN APPOINTMENT": Just an absolutely fascinating and extensive profile of Roger Ebert in the new Chicago Magazine. There is much about the man you didn't know, including an explanation of his work with Russ Meyer that I shan't repeat in mixed company.
PLEASE, DON'T LET HER MIDDLE NAME BE "BEAUREGARD:" I'm sure all of you join me in welcoming Violet Garner Affleck to the world. Now, we can start counting down to SpyBaby's birth on Alias.
YOU'RE FIRED: NBC's new spring schedule is out, and there are big moves afoot. No version of The Apprentice of any recipe remains on the schedule, with NBC returning to its comedy roots on Thursdays. Big shifts are:
  • Fear Factor takes over the Biggest Loser leadoff slot on Tuesdays, with Biggest Loser: Special Edition taking over Apprentice: Martha's slot on Wednesdays.
  • Scrubs returns to Tuesdays at 9, forcing a confrontation between Drs. House, Kelso, and Cox (now that would be a show I'd watch)!
  • Joey and The Apprentice disappear from Thursdays, which becomes a comedy block (Will & Grace, Four Kings, Earl, The Office) to lead in to ER.
  • The intriguing drama The Book of Daniel, about an Episcopal priest whose addiction to painkillers may be causing him to hallucinate visions of Jesus, comes to Friday nights.

I'll give Book of Daniel a shot, but the remaining new programming suffers from conflicts or "bleh" syndrome. You?

THE ORIGINAL FAT ACTRESS: The list of ABC sitcom stars from the late '70s and early '80s to be prematurely cancelled has grown by one with the news that Bosom Buddies actress Wendie Jo Sperber lost her battle with breast cancer yesterday.

Many will recall the gravely-voiced Sperber for her role as Marty McFly's sister in all three Back to the Future movies or her parts in USA Up All Night classics like Moving Violations and Stewardess School, but my favorite Sperber part was her turn as one of the three zaftig sisters from her Herman's Head-era Fox sitcom Babes
PLEASE, GOD, DON'T USE THIS AS AN EXCUSE TO DO BENSTABLER: I haven't been watching much L&O:SVU this season, but wanted to open up a question for discussion--Mariska Hargitay, who plays lead cop Olivia Benson, is pregnant. Benson's character doesn't seem to me to lend itself well to writing a pregnancy into the storyline, so the query is--what should Dick Wolf do with the character? Send her off into witness protection? Have her get shot and then bring in a substitute while she takes time off? Have her get fired and then ask if it's because she's a lesbian? Discuss.
HURRAH FOR THE RED AND THE BLUE? New decade? Time for a new free speech controversy at Penn. More here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

LET THE WHOLE WORLD KNOW THAT TODAY IS THE DAY OF A RECKONING: Due to bizarre scheduling on the part of the WB, and my TiVo season pass manager having Gilmore Girls above Lost, I've missed tonight's episode of Lost, since I was at the office learning all about Singapore law, but judging from the thread at TWOP, there is much to be discussed, and I'm sure folks will have interesting views.
OR ARE THEY LIFE SAVERS? The official bagels of the 2006 Winter Olympics have been revealed.
JOHN WOO IS CLAIRVOYANT: French doctors perform world's first Face/On surgery.
SO WILL DR. HIZZY BE THE GUEST JUDGE FOR BRITPOP WEEK? For those of you who might care, Fox's spring schedule is out. Of note:
  • House stays put on Tuesday nights after Idol, rather than moving to Mondays at 8. Sadly, this means it's likely staying against TAR.
  • Bones gets set to pasture against Lost, where it's likely to be cancelled.
  • Skating With Celebrities debuts on January 18, then moving to Mondays at 8 on January 23.
  • 24, Season 5, begins with 4 hours over two nights on January 15 and 16.
  • Prison Break returns March 20, taking over the Skating With Celebrities slot.
  • Stacked and That 70s Show are sent to their doom on Thursdays at 9. Maybe Marissa Jaret Winokur can now get a gig that's worthy of her talents.
IS SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL PART OF THE GREAT OUTDOORS GAMES? Any avid viewer could probably come up with 100 more just involving Chris Berman, but for now here are 52 Reasons Why ESPN Sucks.

Via the wickedly funny Deadspin.

Via Gawker.
SOY UN PERDIDOR: Through the joys of our Site Meter, I note that this blog has been (rather inexplicably) listed on some guy's list of "liberal loser websites." Considering that I know of several prominent conservative blogs that have linked here (in a positive/approving sense) before, I am somewhat perplexed, yet also honored to be listed beside such prominent blogs as Atrios' and Daily Kos.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

YOUR FIRST TASK -- HOLD A MOONBEAM IN YOUR HAND: Your next reality tv concept? Who wants to be the next Maria von Trapp?
THAT STUFF'S SUPPOSED TO BE, LIKE, FREE, MAN: The Grateful Dead has moved to protect its intellectual property online by cracking down on sites distributing live recordings for free.
EVERY NINETY-TWO MINUTES: I just have one question regarding this leg of The Amazing Family Travelogue Across America -- why can't the cameramen figure out how to not kill so many trailer batteries?

Otherwise? Meh. Not a whole lot of outcome-shifting things the teams could do, and a 400-mile drive that happened in a blink.
FROM NAZIS TO NEWHART: It seems like it has been ages since we had a good old five-night, an-hour-a-night, top-100 countdown show, so I, for one, am looking forward to TV Land and TV Guide's 100 Most Unexpected TV Moments next week.
IT'S YOOGE: Having learned in last week's clip show episode of The Apprentice that the Donald apparently sends his aspiring moguls to Outback Steakhouse for dinner and about the need for people to "step up" when selling perfume for Shania Twain, we learn that you will soon be able to order Trump Vodka. Let me assure you that it will be the classiest vodka in alla the world.
NUMBERS TOO BIG TO IGNORE: Picking up on something being talked about in the comments of my earlier post about the new class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which there is some debate over Blondie's merits for induction, what women artists who will be eligible in the next decade or so (candidates are eligible 25 years after the release of their first recording, so 1980-1990 debuts) deserve to make it.

Madonna obviously, but who else? The Eurythmics/Annie Lennox seem a good pick. Bjork will probably make it when her time comes. But what about Pat Benatar? Joan Jett? Cyndi Lauper? The Go-Go's? Indigo Girls? Melissa Etheridge?

To help jog your memory, here's VH1's 1999 list of the top 100 women rockers.
"WHAT DID JOE SIMPSON KNOW, AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?" The New York Times has this brilliant gossip/humor piece today, putting Nick and Jessica's marriage in parallel to the Iraq War.
BUT WILL THERE BE A SEQUENCE FEATURING A SADISTIC ASIAN DENTIST? Broadway's next hot ticket now has a cast--Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd will join Julia Roberts in this spring's production of Three Days of Rain. My guess is that it's about people who are really, really, really good looking.

Monday, November 28, 2005

AT LEAST THAT MEANS PAUL MCCARTNEY CAN'T PERFORM THAT "FREEDOM" SONG AGAIN: The Rolling Stones will be your Super Bowl XL halftime show. Odds of nipple slippage: 2%. Odds of exciting entertainment: even lower.
IS THIS GARY DISARCINA'S YEAR? The erstwhile Anaheim Angels shortstop, who's memorable All-Star season in 1995 in which he finished sixth in the A.L. in triples and third in sacrafice hits, helped heel a nation scarred by the 1994 strike, leads off a robust class of first-timers on this year's Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

Some of the others who have a chance to join the sport's immortals in Cooperstown include Rick Aguilera (Cubs fans will never forget those eight saves in 1999), the ever-expanding Alex Fernandez, Doug Jones (another Cubs bullpen great) and John Wetteland, he of the sweaty cap and clubhouse preaching. And let's not forget a third Cubs great, Gary Gaetti, Gregg Jefferies (the man who could never fill Wally Backman's cleats), the third best former University of Michigan infielder for a time on the Reds Hal Morris and Walt Weiss, whose career measures up favorbaly to Ivan Dejesus.

Among those who won't be laughed off the ballot, but don't deserve entry either are: Doc Gooden, Ozzie Guillen, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle and Will Clark.

What this all means is that this is the best chance for some of the overlooked stars still looming on the ballot to gain entry. Maybe with people taking a fresh look at the numbers put up in the last decade, two deserving sluggers, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, will get it, alongside Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Jack Morris (those would be my picks, had I a ballot).
THIS IDEA HAS STRONG SCIENTIFIC VALUE: As for it's impact on area property values... well, maybe Iowans would consider it as a karmic counterbalance to the Field of Dreams. Whatever the case, CNN is reporting on biological anthropologist Tyler O'Brien's diligent efforts to lay the foundation for decades and decades of extremely creepy CSI spin-offs.
CALL ME, A HALL-OF-FAMER: Blondie, which my wife correctly identified as a group and not an individual at the $1,000 level of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire back in March 2000, is among the newest members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Joining Debbie Harry and those other guys are a long-overlooked trio of S's: Sabbath, Skynyrd and the Sex Pistols. Also in this year are Miles Davis and A&M co-founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.
NOW EMERGING FROM MY TRYPTOPHAN COMA FOR A TV ROUNDUP: So how many people didn't realize that a new Lost was slated for the night before Thanksgiving? Count me among the clueless -- I was pleasantly surprised on Friday when I turned on the TV and the TiVo announced that the saga of Ana Lucia awaited me. As flashback reveals go, this one rated a "meh." And shouldn't someone have directed Michael to look perhaps a little surprised upon seeing the hatch? The Sayid-Ana Lucia standoff was well done, though, as were the assorted marital reunions. I'm excited for the eventual Rose / Bernard flashback episode, whenever it shall transpire.

I'm also happy to announce that I finally sat down and watched five or six episodes of Grey's Anatomy this weekend. I'm less happy to announce that Amazon tells me that I can't get the Season 1 DVDs until Valentine's Day. Hmph. I'm not sure why it didn't take the first couple times I tried to watch, but I was quite engrossed on this most recent attempt, even watching last night's episode in real time. (I watch nothing in real time.) I know I'm late to the watercooler on this one, so won't spend a lot of time looking backward. One question for the faithful: I seem to recall people referring in the comments to not one but two Dr. McDreamys. To my knowledge, there is but one. Can someone clarify?

Last up: Threshold has apparently been cancelled. I will confess that I haven't watched it in a while -- mainly because I found it too scary to watch by myself, so was constrained by Mr. Cosmopolitan's much-more-limited television-viewing schedule. I'm bummed nonetheless, particularly because the even-more-gorgeous-than-Carla-Gugino Catherine Bell (of JAG fame) had recently been signed to join the cast. I strongly suspect that her presence would have dramatically increased Mr. Cosmopolitan's willingness to sit and watch.
ADVENTURES IN STUNT CASTING? Cherry Hill East (NJ) High School is about to put on an all-female version of the play One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

I could be wrong on this one, but doesn't the play derive a great deal of its impact from Nurse Ratched's being a woman demonstrating all this power over the male patients?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

YOUR CALL WILL BE ANSWERED, THE MOMENT YOU FOLLOW THIS LINK: Okay, this isn't remotely pop-cultural, but here's a cheat-sheet on how to speak to an honest-to-God human being at any of dozens of major companies. It strikes me as too useful not to share.

(Via A. E. Brain)
NO WORD ON IF IT GLIDED SOFTLY AS A CLOUD: In an obsession almost as timeless as our love for muktuk and all things Monegasque, it's my sad duty to report that the Seattle Monorail has suffered yet another accident.
THE KOURNIKOVA GAMBIT: Though Adam found the "Vows" portion of this week's Sunday Styles fascinating, my attention was drawn to this piece about "chess babes." This raises two interesting questions. First, will this be successful? Is what chess has been missing is a lack of hot chicks? Second, what other academic (or athletic) competitions could benefit from "sexing it up?" How long before Pamela Anderson professes her undying love for women's lacrosse?
THE CAL RIPKEN JR. OF THE GRIDIRON: Congratulations to former Eagle punter Jeff Feagles, who today will break the NFL record today of most consecutive games played with 283.

He has not missed a game in eighteen years, despite broken arms and concussions. His 1410 career punts (so far) have travelled a combined 58,750 yards, or 33+ miles worth of punting. Take that, Brett Favre!
THE POWER OF LOVE IS A CURIOUS THING: Today's featured NYT Vows column has prompted me to revisit one of my gnawing questions about the Times' Sunday Styles section: how much fact-checking is appropriate for a wedding announcement?

Because the narrative today is interesting: Girl dates Boy-LA for two years. Girl goes to NYC on business, where Boy-LA suggests she call Boy-NYC if she needs companionship. They have a "nice" time one night, but nothing happens.

Still, Girl decides to break up with Boy-LA and moves to NYC, where not until later on does she start dating Boy-NYC, who's simultaneously busy consoling Boy-LA as to the demise of his romance. They get engaged, and married on November 11 in NYC.

Now here's the thing: a number of their friends disapproved of the initial union, sensing a betrayal of Boy-LA, and did so to the extent that they refused to even attend the wedding, causing the bride to issue a "plea for understanding" after the ceremony.

Maybe it's just me, but I think most people get over that sort of thing by the time of the wedding if their friends really seem happy and in love . . . unless, that is, Girl's relationship with Boy-NYC started much earlier than what they're telling the Times, and it wasn't the cleaner Relationship-Meaningful Pause-New Relationship scenario they're painting.

None of which is meant to cast aspersions on the bride and groom -- I have no idea what the truth is here, and I'm leaving their names out of this post because I'm only interested in the broader issue: we don't know what kind of fact-checking and journalism went into publishing this article in the New York Times. Did the reporter attempt to interview Boy-LA? any of their friends? Or did she just rely upon the accounts provided by the bride and groom, who so clearly have an interest in painting their courtship as innocently as possible?

I don't want the Times to be pissing on anyone's wedding day, but at the same time, their obligation is to Truth and not hagiography, no? How truth-y do the Wedding pages need to be?
THAT'S WHY THE LADY IS A TRAMP: I saw the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's latest, Lady In The Water, a few night ago, and am decidedly not impressed. The brand may be slipping . . .
THE HARDEST WORKING WOMAN IN SHOW BUSINESS: Who knew that Emma Thompson, who had already won an Oscar for penning the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (in which she co-starred), had also done an uncredited full rewrite of the well-regarded Pride and Prejudice adaptation now in theaters?