Saturday, October 28, 2006

WELL, IT SPOOKED THE PARENTS: Just came from a kids' Halloween party. Most of the kids were between 3 and 8 years old. About an hour into the party, with probably three dozen kids -- and parents, and Spaceboy's nursery school teacher -- running around, in walks a woman with the sluttiest sexy cavewoman costume. Much sluttier than this. About as slutty as this. My question: If you walked into a party and noticed that the wake from the 3-foot tall Spider-man chasing a 3-foot tall Mr. Incredible kicked up a breeze that made the lower three-quarters of your buttocks chilly, wouldn't you walk back to your car, find the nearest linen store, buy a cheap sheet, poke a couple of holes in it, and call yourself a party-appropriate ghost? Of interest: the party was being thrown by slutty cavewoman's boss.
IS NIIIIICE? In case Hugh Laurie hosting SNL wasn't interesting enough for you (and Amy Poehler will play Dr. Cameron in the inevitable House sketch, with Kristin Wiig as Dr. Cuddy, and Kenan as Dr. Foreman, right?), rumor has it that Borat may be appearing (most likely, I'd guess in Update) to add some much needed laughs to the proceedings. Remember, you get an extra hour of sleepy time tonight, so you could watch live.
I THOUGHT THEY PLAYED IN ARIZONA NOW: They called the National League AAAA, and they said that a team couldn't win with hand-me-downs from the Angels (a digression: I mean, I know he didn't play much in the series, but Scott Spiezio got 276 ABs for the Cards! Last year Spiezio lost about 80 pounds, hit .064 and posted an OBP of .137 for the Mariners while leading the majors in giant PG-13-rated tattoos of his pneumatically-enhanced girlfriend. That's like a historic lap-the-field triple-crown of suspiciousness, badness, and cheesiness. Who in his right mind would have thought that a team that actually relied upon Spiezio in a league that let Spiezio post a .366 OBP could beat the AL champs?) But who mocks whom now? (Answer: St. Louis mocks me now.) Congratulations, Mound City of Arched Friendship.
BY YOUR COMMAND, IMPERIOUS LEADER: Is it just me, or were the "current events" political analogies last season a whole heck of a lot subtler, more penumbral and ambivalent?

(Hint: No. It is not just me.)

Nonetheless, unlike some out there who are not going to get a link for projecting their political agenda onto my favorite escapist drama, I am unconcerned about what the writers and producers of Battlestar Galactica "might be trying to say" about current events. These are interesting portraits of interesting personalities under extreme physical, social and psychological stresses; stresses that often involve sex and explosions. It does not matter whether they're "on your side" in real life. Just sit back and enjoy the hottness. If hottness makes you uncomfortable, then sublimate and enjoy the explosions. It is not that difficult. There is no need to import a contemporary political agenda to enjoy this show.

Of course art holds a mirror up to life and of course anything that resonates with a broad audience will reflect our times in one way or another, but for pete's sake do not waste another pixel trying to "figure out" if the Cylons are liberal or conservative. Is Baltar supposed to be Dennis Hastert? Or is it Gaeta? Is Colonel Tigh supposed to be Mullah Omar... or John McCain?


Attention dorks: Your political fantasies and your fantasy fantasies need not be congruent. They need not be compatible. They are separate things. It is not my fault that you suspend disbelief in order to subscribe to a congenial political agenda, or that you are insufficiently complicated to separate that suspension from the one which you employ to enjoy this show. Just suspend again. It is a different thing.


Yeah, so anyway, this week Tigh is getting his white whale on and Starbuck is getting her damaged goods on and The Chief is getting his everyman on. Baltar's being judged by the Cylons (jury of seven, not twelve -- interesting?) just as the humans judge each other. Rosalyn is the prexy again and stay tuned for truth and reconcilliation.

If we are lucky the Cylons will attack before the hearings start.

Friday, October 27, 2006

NOT READY TO MAKE NICE: The new film Shut Up And Sing has already spawned controversy due to its political content, an image which its promotional materials play up. The thing is, the political material in the film is the least interesting part of it. Either we've heard it all before (the story of what Natalie Maines said and the reaction of country radio has been more than amply told) or we resort to broad stereotypes (look at the hick protesting the "Dixie Sluts!") when the film focuses on the political.

However, that's not the whole film (or even most of it)--there's also a focus on the personal and the musical. How does the best-selling band in the world (which the Dixie Chicks were from 1998-2002, selling 28 million copies of their first three albums) manage to reinvent itself from a band that sings other people's songs to a band that writes all their own music? From a twangy country bluegrass group to a country rock group? Those are the interesting questions (be they about the Dixie Chicks, about the Beatles circa Let It Be, or about R.E.M. circa Up), and the documentary doesn't answer them (or try to)--instead, it takes you inside the creative process that led to the creation of Taking The Long Way, and lets you try and figure it out for yourself, and that's far more interesting than preaching to the choir and hectoring those with whom you disagree.
MAKE IT WART, PEOPLE: If you are short of ideas for a Halloween costumes, take some advice from the folks at Project Runway. Not unreasonably, Season 1's Wendy Pepper offers advice on being a decent witch.
RULE OF THREE: Following Wednesday's oblique mention of the artist, and yesterday's link to the wikipedia project page for the almost-upon-us Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose, we would be remiss if we did not flog the stream of Mr. Loaf's performance this morning on the Today Show. That's not new material, but Paradise by the Dashboard Light -- expurgated, I believe, and performed with one Aspen Miller. (IMDB says she did voices for EverQuest II...)
I'M DRUNK RIGHT NOW BABY, BUT I HAVE TO BE/OR I NEVER COULD TELL YOU WHAT YOU MEAN TO ME: A question that was bugging me in the car this morning: Why doesn't Randy Newman's Good Old Boys ever get mentioned in the Greatest Albums Debate? Here's a collection of heartbreaking or moving short-story pop songs filled with Welty-esque misfits ("her papa was a midget/her mama was a whore/her grandad was a newsboy 'til he was 84"), resigned traditionalists (the character who says of Lester Maddox, "he may be a fool but he's our fool"), and up-by-the-bootstraps everymen, packed tight with sad, funny, improbable love stories and bitingly sarcastic commentary on racial, social, and geographic politics, oganized around two genuine goose-pimple moments -- the refrain from "Rednecks" (which I won't recount here for language reasons but which efficiently skewers Northern racial hypocrisy); and the recently-too-on-the-nose chorus from "Louisiana 1927" ("six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline/Louisiana, Louisiana/they're trying to wash us away"). Maybe Newman can't get any respect because his popular reputation is so tied to novelty songs ("Short People"; "I Love LA") and deliberately-commercial Pixar movie themes, and because it takes a little time to appreciate his brand of ambiguity and ambivalence. Nonetheless, Good Old Boys is a brilliant piece of Americana, deserving of a spot in the canon.
TANGLED UP IN RED INK: Yeah, sure, Bob Dylan's going to get nominated for (and probably win) a bunch of Grammys, but it seems like a safe bet that The Times They Are A-Changin', his jukebox musical, won't be winning any Tonys, at least if Ben Brantley has anything to say about it. Hell, if Adam Sandler couldn't find an audience on Broadway, why did they think Dylan could. (And that leaves a mere two open theatres for the piles of shows trying to find space on Broadway.)
HUSH HUSH NOW, VOICES CARRY: Since I had sort of missed the fact that Dilbert creator Scott Adams had not been able to speak for 18 months, I certainly hadn't heard that he'd regained his voice. But that's a hell of story of recovery.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

SO IT'S THE SERENITY THAT'S BEEN DROPPING OFF ALL THOSE DHARMA SUPPLIES: Here's a fun one: Nathan Fillion is guest-starring on Lost's fall finale on November 8. (The link doesn't provide spoilers as to who he's playing and what his connection is to anyone else on the show, although there are spoilers to be found elsewhere if you're inclined to seek them out.) Here's hoping that Lost does a better job using Mal than Studio 60 did with Lorelai.
A RAIN DELAY BRAIN-TEASER: I was all wet, pun intended, in my prediction that Detroit would sweep the Series. Apologies to Mr. Cosmo. In my defense, though, I didn't predict that Leyland would think himself out of pitching his ace more than once in the series. Your assignment: read this and then justify the Tigers' rotation.
SEEMS LIKE QUITE A WASTE OF HOLY WATER: Michael Bay has directed more than his share of bad movies, with some rising to the level of awesomely bad and cheesy (Armageddon leading the way there), but nothing will ever top his work on this. The new album arrives on Halloween, and the very concept of a grand guignol version of "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" might get me to download the single.
AS MS. FOSTER BREATHES A SIGH OF RELIEF, MR. ABRAMS GROWS CONCERNED: Britney Spears apparently has not named her second child Sutton Pierce -- or if she did, she subsequently thought better of it. BabyFed2 has officially been named Jayden James Federline, thereby establishing once and for all that the Jayden-Jaden-Jaiden-Kayden-Caden-Brayden school of names is just not okay, y'all.
CAN YOU HEAR THE SOUND OF HYSTERIA? Green Day's American Idiot has been hailed for its topical lyrics and timely political messages, which is just one of the reasons why this lawsuit, in which a grocery store clerk claims he wrote all the music and lyrics in 1992, but never performed them publicly, yet somehow, Green Day got them and copied them, doesn't hold water. (Personally, I find the album more than a bit over-rated, though Wake Me Up When September Ends is certainly a high point.)
A MYSTICAL ISLAND ON ABC WHERE EX-HOOKERS FROM HBO'S OLD WEST GO TO RETIRE: Kind of an episode where everybody does exactly what he or he is supposed to do: Sawyer grifts; Jack performs surgery; Benry gets beat up a little; Kate is imperiled and attempts to go on the lam; Hume conducts an experiment; Charlie snits and looks on without comprehension; Claire snits protectively; Claire's baby cries; Juliette delivers food; Plotty D'Advancement sits in a big comfy chair and sleeps through the whole thing. And Marsha's glorious theory of imaginary Desmond? Shot down, to my deep disappointment, in the opening scene.

Did Benry say at the beginning of this episode that the sub had returned? I didn't exactly hear.
NO ONE TOLD HIM WHEN TO RUN: Today I interviewed a guy who wrote a master's thesis entitled "Popular Music and Notions of Englishness, 1963-1978." Need I even mention that our interview ran long? Here's the problem, though: He made a good run at the Emerson Lake & Palmer/Sex Pistols dichotomy and scored (barely) passing marks on the Clash section of our interview. He failed utterly and completely, however, when I asked the question, "what is the English way?" He started to say something about "pastoralism," and then I think he realized that I was shocked. It is just incomprehensible to me that a person could claim Englishness in popular music from 1963 through 1978 as his specialty and not know that the only correct answer was "hanging on in quiet desperation." I choked on my outrage.

By the way, yes, I know the quote is an allusion to an American author.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

RENOWNED INTERPLANETARY FRUIT THIEF, THE BLUEBERRY PIRATE: It wasn't Lawrence Blueberry, but Otto Borish who copped to lychee piracy on tonight's Top Chef.

It was a sad way to come to an elimination, and I loved the Meatloaf-Looking-Guy's (no really, check it out) lecture about the basic #&%!! principles of %*&#@!! teamwork after the Korean squad learned they were the losers and turned on each other like... like losers. And, for what it's worth, he was right. About what? About everything!

It's not about the moral failings of the only guy on your hung-over team to notice that you inadvertently shoplifted a crate of lychee fruit. He brought it up. Did he have to drag you back into the store by your hair to return it? He didn't, and yet you dragooned him into a false feeling of responsibility that resulted in his leaving the show. Congratulations. He was consistently coming off as a sad sack and we didn't really want to watch him anyway. You, however, (and I do mean you, you and you) will provide at least another month of entertainment by self-destructing like whiny, recriminatory fireworks on a weekly basis until such time as the knife winds up in your own backs. Super!

Marisa and Teen Wolf were made for each other, by the way. Elia was at least sensitive enough to the shame of it all to (repeatedly) hide her face while the others tore at Otto's exposed throat like a pack of cannibal reality television zombies. By contrast, points for shiving your teammates with style goes to Cliff Crooks, who appeared to be a major instigator of the pitchers upon pitchers of sangria that his team consumed after he won immunity in this week's quick-fire challenge.

Anyway, I promise that as soon as I can find my copy of Midnight's Children ("Padma wants..."), you'll have some more literary post titles for the weekly Top Chef redux.

...and did I mention that it's all about the food?
GUESS THIS MEANS DRS. GREY AND DORIAN WON'T BE HOOKING UP: NBC's doing some schedule moves. The good news? Scrubs is back at the end of November, and Studio 60 isn't cancelled yet (though it looks like 20 Good Years is). Scrubs also is getting a decent companion piece, with 30 Rock. The bad news? Scrubs and 30 Rock will go against Grey's Anatomy and CSI on Thursdays at 9, with NBC airing "various specials" on Wednesdays at 8, leaving Wednesday at 8 a gaping hole on the TV slot for me (Jericho is Lost without nearly as strong a cast, I've never gotten into Miss Tyra's Modelling Academy, and neither Dancing With The Stars nor the planned sitcoms going into the slot have any interest).
YOU KNOW, ALL THE TANG YOU CAN DRINK. Pillsbury's Space Food Stick is back.
WHY YOU'RE WORTH MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE: Or so it would seem for the 13 icons on this year's Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list from Forbes. Kurt Cobain, with a cool $50 million in the last year, tops the list, followed by Elvis, Charles Schultz, and John Lennon. Check out the whole package of stories here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

JOHN TYLER AND A MUSKRAT, ON THE OTHER HAND... Let me be absolutely clear on this point -- I do not miss Abraham Lincoln or groundhogs, and the first bunch of times I saw the bizarre outdoor advertising for with Forlorn Abe I assumed it had something to do with his depression and some new medication, except I had no idea why his estate would allow his image to be used for such purposes. And then I found it that it was for some new sleep medication, and I'm back with my original conclusion -- this is bizarre, bad advertising.
ONCE YOU'VE DONE ONE FOR CHRIS KATTAN, THE WORDS HAVE NO MEANING: Now in his record 12th season, Darrell Hammond gets the SNL "Best Of" treatment on November 4.

Go ahead and nominate your favorite skit sketch of his, because I'm not remembering anything other than Connery v. Trebek, and Richard Dreyfuss in the Star Wars auditions.

[Also, that I don't like his Jesse Jackson impression -- I'm always uncomfortable with the makeup.]
YES, BUT WILL THEY APPEAR WITH ESTEBAN COLBERTO? Because incumbents (especially Republicans) no longer believe you Better Know Their Districts with Stephen Colbert.
SECOND PRIZE IS A 300" FLATSCREEN FOR YOUR BEDROOM: I'm quite confident someone around here will be able to win this contest, which promises the winner the chance to get their Barneyism onto HIMYM.
CUE "JAWS" THEME: At least that was my first thought when I read this confirmation of a Gilmore Girls spoiler from TV Guide. And I thought that even though I can understand where the controversial decision might come from for the characters involved. Out of respect for those who wish to remain spoiler free (and this one is on the "Marissa Dies!" or "Gil and Sara Are An Item!" level), we'll keep the discussion in the comments.
NO, I HAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOU: In this episode of Heroes, we learned a lot -- New York politicians have no qualms about accepting free hotel rooms from fake casinos (and truckloads of cash, too); trekking half a world to enter your internet stripper's house unannounced will not, contrary to my own experience, get you arrested or even yelled at; and Hiro can speak a little English, even if he can't read the pictures in the rental car manual. That's okay, I'm not sure I wanted him driving.

By the way, the most jarring moment of last night's show was when I realized that Lenderman's dragon lady (unpack the racial stereotypes in that description) was Bring It On's Whitney, who puts the "itch" in "bitch" and doesn't believe in osmosis.
I HUNG OUT WITH A DIFFERENT SET OF ROWDY FRIENDS: Since no post is up, I figure we probably need an omnibus post about Monday TV. My thoughts?
  • How I Met Your Mother--Rather than being a highly funny or a structually clever episode, this week was all about plot--Lily figuring out what she wants to do with her life and Ted being assertive at work and having a breakthrough (in an exceedingly unrealistic matter). The stuff with Jane Seymour as a "Cougar" was funny, but less so because it seemed to be ripped from Wedding Crashers, without any of the raunch, and the "building looks like a penis!" joke got tired a while back--though credit to the folks in charge for not showing us the building and leaving it to our imagination.
  • The Class--While Holly and her notgay husband remain pointless and meandering, the rest of the show continues to be decent, with nice efforts at mixing the characters up a little bit rather than keeping them in their subgroups--Jesse Tyler Ferguson's lessons on sarcasm were particularly nice, and it's nice to see his morose character find joy. Also, credit must be given for having a show that's set somewhere other than New York or L.A. that's not generic or unnamed--but use Philly as a basis for plotlines--I'm sure we have some folks around here with suggestions.
  • Heroes--I haven't watched yet, but I'm sure folks want to talk.
  • Studio 60--This week reminded me of some of the best stuff from Sorkin's prior work--for the most part, the storylines didn't depend on the fact that the characters work together in sketch comedy (or for a sports show, or in the White House), but simply on letting the characters interact. Sure, each and every plotline was cut from prior Sorkin work (Eli Wallach was a slightly rejiggered version of In Excelsis Deo, Tom's tour of the studio was reminiscent of Donna giving her parents a tour of the White House, Jordan's drunken quest for friends was reminiscent of Abby Bartlett, and Simon's "save them from South Central" bit was reminiscent of the "Charlie is a Big Brother" plot from Season 4 of West Wing), and there were anvils (did we really need to cut to Harriet in the background during Wallach's "I was writing for her!" speech?), but I thought this was pretty good.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE (INTERSTELLAR) DUST: Queen guitarist Brian May is heading back to his roots -- as an astrophysicist -- with a new book on the history of the universe, aptly titled Bang!

Monday, October 23, 2006

WELL, NOW THEY'RE READY FOR PRIME TIME: Many of this website's readers (including myself) are far too young to have seen the first season of SNL. Until now, materials from that season have been available in scattershot format--individual sketches available for download from iTunes, sketches making their way onto various compilation DVD/VHS tapes offered by NBC, and the like. On December 5, though, the complete first season makes its way on to DVD. Now, the musical guests (the reason for much of the delay, as rights issues had to be resolved) are less than stellar--Al Jarreau? Anne Murray? Gordon Lightfoot?--but is it worth the cash for the sketches (and the one announced bonus feature--the original screen tests).
"AND IN THE END...": At long last, the WXPN countdown of the 885 greatest artists of all time is nearing the end. A band we have discussed a fair amount came in at #5 -- U2. I am rather fond of the artist who ranked 10th.
HAVING A SUCCESSFUL DAILY COMIC STRIP IS THE CLOSEST THING TO TENURE THAT POPULAR CULTURE OFFERS: Remember Gene Weingarten's great WaPo profile of children's entertainer The Great Zucchini? Yesterday, he trained his skills on Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, who has never sat down for a lengthy profile like this before, to discuss the impact of the War in Iraq and his wife's mental illness on his work.

Weingarten will be doing a live chat at noon today to discuss.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU, TOO, PREDICTED SOMEONE WOULD SAY "IT'S WEIRD TO BE HERE, SINCE SOMEONE I KNOW FOUGHT HERE IN 1991": Welcome to Kuwait City week on the Race, where most of the teams arrived via Mumbai (am really surprised it wasn't Dubai), but one team seemed to arrive via Oceanic Flight 815, so blessedly lost did they become.

[Quick World Series insert: holy crap, when did Josh Gracin grow out his hair? But don't worry -- he still stinks as a singer.]

I have one mild race construction quibble about this leg -- given what happened last time out, wasn't a certain element a bit convenient? Still, it did provide the right amount of drama and decisionmaking, so I won't complain.

I tend to prefer urban legs, because they're the ones in which I imagine I'd do the best -- be nice to the locals, learn to navigate, pay attention. That said, despite my repeated claims to the contrary, I also happen to be a big fan of legs in which virtue is rewarded and the wicked are punished, and if you're into the whole morality thing as well, this was your leg. So saddle up your camel, fill your bags all the way to the top and load up on cheap gasoline -- it's comment time.