True, spelling is a gateway to understanding language, but what possible value is there to knowing how to spell "appoggiatura" (a musical embellishment) and "pococurante" (an indifferent person), to name two of the more recent winning words? By contrast, knowing about Cuba or Russia means knowing about Communism, the political ideology that has informed much of America's foreign policy in the past half-century.Regardless of the merits of the above, this is Spelling Bee Week, and, yes, Shonda's coming back for another year of our live coverage.
And yet the spelling bee continues to receive all the attention. Perhaps that's because spelling is a tantalizingly easy concept to grasp. You either spell a word right or you don't. The answers are all in the dictionary.
Geography, on the other hand, asks more. But it offers more in return: to know the world is to know how to make it a better place, from a path to peace in war-torn regions to a promise to conserve our planet's natural resources.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
- The show is a bit too long. running about 2:45. The show could easily have been brought down to 2:15-2:20 simply by cutting a lengthy and spurious subplot between a wealthy widow and a sidekick character. Maybe I would have felt diferently if Joanna Gleason, whom I love, had still been in the female part, but this subplot felt like a distraction from the narrative thrust of the show. There's also a small early subplot involving an oil heiress from Oklahoma that's a bit tacked on, but it does move the main plot forward.
- Structurally, the show suffers from the problem that its best and biggest number comes early in Act I ("Great Big Stuff"), and while there are decent production numbers thereafter ("Here I Am," "Love Is My Legs"), and some solid songs ("Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True," "Dirty Rotten Number"), it never reaches that height again, rendering the show a tad anti-climactic.
Still, if you want to laugh a lot, have your toes tap a lot, and maybe even learn a lesson along the way, it's one of the best readily available options in NYC.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
In short, unless I come up with something new to talk about this summer, my repertoire is likely to consist of So You Think You Can Dance, cultural analysis of the 17 different Starbucks (is the plural of Starbucks "Starbucks" or "Starbuckses"?) within walking distance of my apartment, whatever weird grammatical and spelling nuances capture my attention (see prior note re Starbucks), and my thoughts on the Firefly and Veronica Mars DVDs I've been saving for this summer. Anything else anyone would like to suggest, be my guest.
- Studio 60 to Mondays at 10 from Thursdays at 9. (And many breathe a sigh of relief, as giving up What About Brian? is a lot easier than giving up Grey's.)
- Law and Order: CI to Tuesdays at 9 from from Fridays at 10.
- 20 Good Years and 30 Rock swap timeslots with The Biggest Loser on Wednesdays, so the sitcoms will lead off the night, Kidnapped now on Wednesdays at 10.
- Deal or No Deal goes into the Thursday night 9 PM death slot.
- Crossing Jordan returns in the fall on Fridays at 8, with Law and Order surprisingly banished to Fridays at 10.
- Scrubs still being held for midseason, with Medium joining it on the bench.
The most interesting thing is that NBC (wisely, in my view) is going with disposable programming in the 9 PM Wednesday and Thursday slot rather than trying to compete on a prestige level in those nasty timeslots, and seems to be giving L&O a none-too-dignified trip toward the grave.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
If anyone has anything enlightening to share about tonight's Lost -- or, you know, rampant speculation about what any of it might mean -- feel free to share it in the comments.
(I don't mean to sound critical -- I thought it was a stupendous episode. I just don't understand a single thing that happened in the last fifteen minutes.)
Funniest thing said tonight? When Dionne Warwick came out during the Bacharach medley, Jen said, "I think she already knows who won."
We all did. Yawn.
...actually Abewatch doesn't appear to have been updated since 2003, but if you're worried about Abe, abevigoda.com has the at least a superficial promise of reassuring up-to-the-minute information.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Still, in an era in which media consolidation is the rule, there's something exciting about returning both papers to local control. There is exceptional talent at both ends of 400 N. Broad Street, and let's hope the new owners give our journalists the resources they need to do their jobs, a platform from which more can appreciate it . . . and then stay out of their way.
That being said, it still wasn't remotely close.
There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers — nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require. . . . .
The Catholic Church has nothing to fear from this film. It is not just tripe. It is self-evident, spirit-lowering tripe that could not conceivably cause a single member of the flock to turn aside from the faith. Meanwhile, art historians can sleep easy once more, while fans of the book, which has finally been exposed for the pompous fraud that it is, will be shaken from their trance. In fact, the sole beneficiaries of the entire fiasco will be members of Opus Dei, some of whom practice mortification of the flesh. From now on, such penance will be simple -- no lashings, no spiked cuff around the thigh. Just the price of a movie ticket, and two and a half hours of pain.
Thank you for five wonderful years.
Monday, May 22, 2006
And the bar ranked number one in America is just minutes from my alma mater, but I've never heard of the place.
Besides the book (which is a bestseller already in Cohen's home and native land), there's a new documentary being released this summer about Cohen, plus he's got a new CD (sort of) coming out, and Prince Charles just revealed this weekend that he is a big Cohen fan.
Why all the activity from Cohen? To paraphrase Andrew Dice Clay speaking about Little Boy Blue (prize to the first person who stumbles upon this entry by googling "Leonard Cohen and Andrew Dice Clay): he needs the money.
If you haven't heard about it, check the official site for a funny promo cartoon and other tantalizing news. I can hardly wait.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
edited to add Sepinwall's take: "As Tony drove away from Satriale's, you could see him figuring out exactly how much trouble he's in. And after he finished that mental calculus, what's the first thing he did? He called his construction buddy to get AJ a job, because he knows he may not have much time left to straighten the kid out. . . . And while Tony was realizing how small and vulnerable he is compared to New York, half a world away, Carmela was having her own sense of self smashed to bits. In Caldwell, she may be hot stuff, but when she sees France with all its treasures and history, she realizes she's just another insignificant speck, and that 'it all gets washed away.'"
And Tim Goodman, who locates the Lou Costello Memorial in Paterson, NJ: "'Cold Stones' managed to play off Carm and Ro in Paris as both comical and enlightening. A great series can juggle conflicting emotions that way, and it's a sure sign of confident writers (and directors). Where Ro couldn't speak the language and was mostly interested in the shopping and the young Parisian on his motorcycle - there's got to be a classic film reference in there, I just can't think of it - Carmela was struggling to appreciate the depth of history that a European city provides in contrast to the United States, and also to awaken her senses to the natural beauty at hand. 'Who could have built this?,' she says at one point. There was more nuance in that one line (joined with the cinematography) than most dramas strive for in a full season."
- Christopher Eccleston, Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama, Doctor Who. Eccleston brings both humor and pathos to the Doctor and just flies with it. Regardless of how ridiculous or bizarre the situation is, the Doctor has, if not a solution, at least an explanation. Particularly nice work in Dalek, where the Doctor is confronted with the question of when it's right to take a life in vengeance
- Donald Faison, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy, Scrubs. Despite the fall of comedy over the past few years, this is an extraordinarily nasty category, with John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, John C. McGinley, and Neil Patrick Harris all in it, but Faison is one of Scrubs' secret weapons. Whether the script calls upon him to play Dr. Blacula or asks him to be the straight man, he's there, and he's always, always, excellent.
- Emily Van Camp, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, Everwood. Van Camp's character has done some mighty unlikable things this year, but it's to her credit that she always makes it believable and plausible what her character is doing.
- Eric Close, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama, Without A Trace. It's hard to get glory for your work in a police procedural, but Close had a character arc this year which is part of what made Trace so effective--the weaving of the personal and the procedural.
Toughest category to fill this year again, assuming the Housewives and the Gilmore Girls go comedy? Leading actress in a drama. Sure, Edie Falco's getting a nomination, and I assume so are Mariska Hargitay and Ellen Pompeo, with Jennifer Garner likely beyond that. But beyond that, you quickly reach bottom, with other network options being Sarah Lancaster, Patricia Arquette, the ladies from the three CSI variants, Emily Deschannel, Maura Tierney, Kristen Bell, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Finnigan, and Kathryn Morris.