Saturday, December 24, 2005

I'LL BE PWND FOR CHRISTMAS: The horizons of Christian Gaming continued to expand during 2005 with a pair of FPS (first-person smiter) releases from N'Lightning Games. If the screenshots and blurbage are any indication, they're running Doom or Morrowind-like engines sans gore and with religious narrative driving the action.

While the promotional material is good for a giggle, they won't be pulling me out of Azeroth to investigate any time soon. I'll have to hold out for the next generation, or maybe for titles produced by "an applied religious philosophy" with a little more to offer in the carnage and mayhem department.

On a more serious and optimistic note, is anyone else excited about DarkFall?

Friday, December 23, 2005

SANTA'S BRINGING YOU A SET OF STEAK KNIVES: McSweeney's gives us a nice complement to Glengarry Glen Claus with a little piece called "A Christmas Message From Alec Baldwin's Character in Glengarry Glen Ross."
BUT NOW I'M FOUND: Making me feel like an even bigger loser since I Tivo'd the first few episodes last year and then deleted them for space, the cast of Lost has been named the "Entertainer of the Year" by EW. Following the Lostians on the list were Steve Carell, Naomi Watts, Kanye West, Felicity Huffman, George Clooney, Vince Vaughn, Gwen Stefani,Harry Potter, and Terrence Howard.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

SOME LISTS, JUST BECAUSE I CARE: Yeah, people are still making lists. Here are some for your edification.
  • Toronto film critics liked A History of Violence best in 2005, while those wacky critics down in the town whose name is German for "Giant Whale Vagina" picked King Kong as the best film of 2005. Meanwhile, Phoenix film critics, proving a punch drunk lot, picked Ron Howard's subtle Cinderella Man as their top film.
  • The omnipresence of bacon in every restaurant dish made both Epicurious' best and worst food trends lists for 2005. The omnipresence of Rachel Ray, though, only made the worst list.
  •'s Bill Syken assembles his top 10 NBAlumni teams, with the trio of Vince Carter, Antwan Jamison and Rasheed Wallace being enough to put UNC in the top spot, followed by Arizona, UConn, and Duke.
  • ET is the greatest family film of all time according to a new poll done by Britain's Channel 4. Shrek came in second, followed by Mary Poppins, Pirates of the Caribbean (?) and Toy Story.
  • Bono has some more hardware to put next to his Time Magazine Person of the Year honor. Adam Clayton's bandmate tops Pop Candy's Whitney Matheson's annual list of the top 100 people of the year. No. 19 on her list is Surfjan Stevens, whose 2005 release Come on the Feel the Illinoise may be the best CD of the 2000s. The folks over at Pitchfork may not be willing to go that far, but it is No. 1 on their list of the best CDs of 2005. All of Pitchfork's Best of 2005 lists can be found here.
  • Meanwhile, I pointed to them before, but for more Best of 2005 lists, be sure to check out both Fimoculous and Metacritic.
GREETINGS FROM VACATIONVILLE: A few notes on the culture, from which I'm currently (largely) disconnected:
  • Project Runway was another A-level episode this week. I don't quite get what was so good about Daniel V's collection, but I couldn't stop humming "Springtime for Hitler" while watching Santino's team work. Still, between Santino and Daniel Franco, the latter's narrative arc already had closure, while Santino's quest for world domination needs a few more episodes to fully flesh out the drama. Also, big ups for my girl Magneto, who rocked again with another focused collection.
  • The Family Stone is a manipulative piece of dreck. Worse, it rarely rings emotionally true -- brothers, sisters and fiancees-to-be just don't behave the way these characters do. And worst of all -- even worse than the pseudo-Amherst geography of the thing (the writer-director is son of Prof. Robert Bezucha), is the way in which the film seems to share in the characters' masochistic beat-down of the Sarah Jessica Parker character, whose sole sin seems to be that she's a career-driven professional. Bad movie!
  • Johnny Damon going to the Bronx is just wrong.
  • The 2005 ALOTT5MA Award for Most Disappeared Star of the Year (2004 winner: Winona Ryder) goes to Mena Suvari. Any explanation needed?
  • Your next reality job-search show? Who Wants To Write Think-Pieces About Midlevel Bands Struggling With Their Limitations In The Face Of Stardom?
FROM THE HOUSTON SATELLITE OFFICE: While I (along with much of the rest of the ALOTT5MA staff) is on vacation, a couple of links from our comrades at TV Tattle worth your reading and discussion:

A very merry Chrismukkah to all!

YOUR MOTHER'S MISS AMERICA? Of all the updates I've posted on the status of the homeless orphan that was the Miss America pageant until Country Music Television offered it a new home, this one doesn't give me the oogies. According to the NYT (something of a graceful old lady herself), CMT has elected to ditch the various ridiculous embellishments that have been haphazardly pinned to Miss America's bosom over the years, electing instead to return to the pageant's roots.

This may sound odd from an organization that has moved Miss America from Atlantic City to Vegas and from September to January. But as the article points out, CMT viewers are something of a traditional crowd. And traditional crowds will welcome the return to tradition. No more casual-wear competition. No more O-Town (farewell, my Ashley Angel!) and Clay Aiken. No more multiple-choice civics quiz, the results of which always served to indicate that no matter how much scholarship money you throw at Miss America, she still doesn't know a darned thing about how many U.S. senators we have.

What are we getting back? Actual full-length talent performances, in all their cringeworthy glory. Evening wear with sashes displaying the name of the contestant's state. A swimsuit competition without real-time voting as to whether there should be a swimsuit competition. And, in a truly fabulous development, the return of the Miss Congeniality title, absent since 1974.

For the first time in many a year, I'm feeling a little optimistic about Miss America's prospects. The dream of a million more-than-pretty girls may still come true.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NO KEVIN BACON INVOLVED: Here's a fascinating series of Hollywood connections. Jenna Fischer, best known as Pam on the U.S. version of The Office, is married to screenwriter/director James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead, Slither), whose brother is Sean Gunn (Kirk on Gilmore Girls), who, according to IMDB, was formerly a roommate of Judy Greer. Now that would be a fun family holiday gathering.
DOES ANYBODY CARE? DOES ANYBODY SEE WHAT I SEE? So with all the press hubbub about Michael Vartan's appearance on Alias last week, the powers-that-be managed to squeak an honest-to-God surprise under the radar! And quite a doozy, too. It felt like the Alias of Yore, did it not? I'll save my rhapsodizing for the comments.

I have to confess that I'm a little concerned about the fact that no one emailed me to ask me why I hadn't mentioned this fairly major plot twist. Given that the show is getting a real sendoff instead of a sudden cancellation or a summer-cliffhanger-that-never-gets-resolved, I have faith in the Disciples of JJ that they'll make these last episodes count. Sark's back, I feel pretty confident that we haven't seen the last of Vaughn, and then there's that little matter of last week's development -- hang in there!
YOU'LL NEVER MAKE A MONKEY OUT OF ME: Joseph Stalin once wanted to make a race of half-man, half-ape superwarriors.
I'M WAITING WITH BATED BREATH FOR LAGUNA BEACH, SEASON 2: In our continuing quest to find the most pointless DVD ever produced, we have a new contender. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Gastineau Girls on DVD, available in better electronics stores everywhere on January 31, 2006. Fortunately, there are better things arriving on DVD that day as well.

(Unrelated grammatical point--as pointed out to me by a faithful reader, "bated breath" is the technically correct usage, but "baited breath" is now common parlance. I have repaired to be technically correct.)
MYSTIC CRYSTAL REVELATION AND THE MIND'S TRUE LIBERATION: Nielsen has entered the Age of TiVo. Starting Monday, DVR data will be included in the Nielsen ratings. Their representation will be small at first -- only 100 out of 9000 homes -- but by the fall, Nielsen expects 800 DVR homes to be included. (About 8% of US homes currently have DVRs, as compared to 93.7% of ALOTT5MA homes.)

As part and parcel of this transition, Nielsen will offer three sets of ratings for each program: (1) live, real-time viewing (the current ratings system), (2) live viewing plus same-day playback, and (3) live viewing plus playback within seven days of initial airing. It'll be interesting to see how these three data sets stack up against one another once all 800 DVR households are included.

I'm thinking that advertisers are going to be kind of pissed when they see just how many of us start watching Lost (remember Lost? that show that's on hiatus for six weeks?) at 9:30 pm.

Monday, December 19, 2005

FOOTNOTE OF THE DAY: From Pump, Inc. v. Collins Mgmt. Inc., 746 F.Supp. 1159 (D. Mass. 1990) a case relating to a dispute about the use of "Pump" as a title for an Aerosmith album, comes the following assessment:
As most persons interested in rock music are aware, Aerosmith has developed a well-earned reputation as one of America's louder rock bands and has cultivated a devoted adolescent following since the early 1970s. Its hit songs include such classics as "Walk This Way," "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion,""My Big Ten Inch," and the poignant "Dude Look Like A Lady." The Court expresses no opinion as to the socially redeeming aspects of Aerosmith's work.
BRING BACK CAROL MERRILL: NBC, desperate for something, anything, that works after a generally disastrous fall launch, begins a 5 night television event tonight--"Deal, Or No Deal?" Gameplay is ludicrously simple:
  • A contestant is presented with 26 briefcases. Those briefcases have some amount of money in them, ranging from a penny to one million dollars. They choose one, which remains closed.
  • The player then eliminates 6 briefcases from contention, which are opened, revealing how much money was in them.
  • Based on which briefcases have been eliminated, "the bank" makes an offer--keep playing, or take an offer calculated to be (roughly) the mathematical expected value of the remaining briefcases, including the "chosen one."
  • Repeat (with the number of briefcases to be eliminated prior to an offer being made reduced each round) until the player either takes the deal or there are only two suitcases remaining.

This could be interesting with the right host. However, color me unconvinced that Howie Mandel is that "right host." Also, it seems to me that there is an ideal way to play the game assuming the goal is to maximize winnings. Any of our more mathematically inclined readers care to explain?

MORE PULIZER PRIZE-Y THAN ALOTT5MA AWARD-WORTHY: The New York Times has had a hard year this year, what with JudithMillerpalooza, that scathing New Yorker piece last week, and the increasing insanity of Maureen Dowd. However, that doesn't mean that the Times, when it sets its mind to it, can't still do exemplary journalism, as today's extraordinarily lengthy front page article about webcams, child pornography, and one boy's spiraling descent into addiction proves. The accompanying essay by lead reporter Kurt Eichenwald about how the story was developed is also worthy.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

AS HOSTED BY PAST WINNERS TRAMPOLINE BEAR AND SIDD FINCH: The following 2005 ALOTT5MA Awards were handed out in ceremonies prior to broadcast:

Saddest Celebrity Deaths: Luther Vandross and John Spencer

Best-Orchestrated Celebrity Comeback: Woody Allen (not that I've seen the movie yet, but he's doing the publicity well, at least.)

Favorite Recurring Joke On 'Pardon The Interruption': Tony doesn't stay up late enough to watch anything after 8:30pm.

Least Favorite Recurring Joke On 'Pardon The Interruption': Still joking about their obsession with The Yanks and the Sawks. We get it, guys.

That Couldn't Have Been Scripted WTF!?! Reality TV Moment of the Year: TAR7's Kelly and Ron talk about commitment.

Least Talented Reality TV Competitor of the Year Who Nevertheless Advanced Way Too Far In His Competition: Scott Savol, American Idol 4. Go ahead, you can blot him out of your memory again.

Sign That I'm Getting Old: I'm getting honestly offended by some of the lyrics I'm hearing on the radio these days. We heard a song called "Laffy Taffy" on the radio on Thanksgiving evening that included the line "Girls call me Jolly Rancher/Cause I stay so hard/You can suck me for a long time/Oh my lord!" Now, really. Call me a prude, if you must, but does this belong on over-the-air radio?

Favorite Pop Culture Court Decision: American Movie Classics cable channel successfully sued for no longer showing "movie classics".

More to come. Still trying to figure out how to walk back the cat from Kingsley's claim in April that "no matter what happens for the rest of the season, Survivor's Stephenie LaGrossa will not only win the 2005 ALOTT5MA Award for Reality TV Competitor of the Year (2004: Rob Mariano), but will enter the Pantheon of favorite reality tv people ever with Ruthie and Teck, Team Guido, Jeff Balis and Chris Moore, Miss J. Alexander and the rest."

I guess that "for the rest of the season" does not exclude consideration of what she did in the following season, if Tom Westman and Austin Scarlett have anything to say about it . . .
PREVIOUS WINNERS INCLUDE GEORGE AND TALK: The winner of this year's ALOTT5MA Award ("Fivesies?") for Most Premature Death (Non-Human) was an easy call. Though you wouldn't know it from the magazine's website, Radar magazine has (again) died. Radar was the closest thing we're likely to see to a magazine version of this blog, with a smart and funny take on pop culture, and semi-scholarly articles on subjects like Tom Cruise's martyr complex/insanity and the mysterious allure of Angelina Jolie. A child of the late, lamented Spy (in the best way), unfortunately, it seems it has followed Spy to a premature grave. (Runner-up? Gawker Media's fairly short-lived gambling blog Oddjack, which somehow apparently managed to be the only part of the poker craze that didn't work out.)

Last year, Toni Bentley won the category for Most Overexposed Female "Celebrity." This year, that honor again goes to a writer, though not for a book. The award goes to author (and wife of Michael Chabon) Ayelet Waldman as a result of this piece. Our good friend Alex Balk explains why better than I ever could.
DOES THIS MEAN THEY'LL BE LICENSING "I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR" TO MICROSOFT? Who woulda thought that the creator of Microsoft Bob and a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would wind up sharing Time's Person of the Year for 2005?
YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. YOU HAVE NO IDEA: I haven't most of the movies on Roger Ebert's year-end top ten list, but I have seen its #1 and #10 (which Matt also liked), and am glad to see both recognized.

Ebert's traditional bias in favor of Liberal Message Movies (and slightly against comedy) is in full effect, but, hey, the man's also giving you every top ten list of his from 1967-present today. So enjoy.