Saturday, March 17, 2007

LORDS OF DIVISION THREE: Congratulations to Coach David Hixon '75 and the Amherst College Lord Jeffs men's basketball team, your 2007 NCAA Champions.
REGRETS, WE’VE HAD A FEW: We here at US Airways are aware that the measure of an organization is its ability to operate in trying circumstances. We also are aware that some of you are giving us unsatisfactory grades for our performance at Reagan National Airport during this week’s weather delays – grades as low as A-, perhaps even B+, though we choose to ignore the latter. Let us assure you that while we stand by the wonderful job done by the staff we had on hand to deal with the situation -- all six or so of them -- we do have a few regrets:

We regret that the weather caused us to delay, and then to cancel, several flights.

We regret that when an elderly lady asked "did you call my name," our customer service representative responded, "no, not unless your name is Stand Back," which customer Spaceman found so funny that he laughed out loud, which caused passenger Middle-Aged-Brush-Cut-Hill-Staffer-Type to ask aggressively if passenger Spaceman was laughing at his mother, which caused passenger Spaceman, feeling that MABCHST was laughably threatening him, to continue to laugh, which did not exactly smooth feelings. What we regret most about this was that we did not have it on video to post on YouTube.

We regret that many of you did not see the humor in our announcement that we were imminently boarding the Pittsburgh flight, followed a moment later by our announcement that no planes legally could leave from DCA. In comedy, timing is everything, and we regret that you lack receptive comedic timing.

We regret that we told you at approximately 5:00 that the FAA had grounded all flights out of DCA for the remainder of the day and night. We admit that we should have chosen a better story, since you could see flights leaving from other terminals and in fact we actually boarded and sent out a half-dozen flights throughout the afternoon and night. Believe us, if we could do it again, we would choose a better fiction, perhaps that most of the flights were being held because the terror threat level meter was on the fritz, or because the pilots were almost this close to passing the breathalyzer, or perhaps because their flight numbers were unlucky.

We regret that we told everybody booked on a cancelled flight to get in the customer service line and stay there for rebooking. That line got long, didn’t it? Actually, we don’t regret this, because we had never before seen a line that went from the end of the terminal all the way to the security barrier, and now we have something to tell our children.

We regret that we had only two customer service reps at the customer service desk to handle rebooking for all of the several hundred stranded passengers. That is why, after many hours of waiting, you were told that you should leave the customer service line in the terminal and go to the ticketing lines outside the security area, where there were more agents working.

We regret that we didn’t tell you that "more agents" really meant "only two more agents" (for a total of four) at the ticketing desks and that there were three times as many people waiting for rebooking there. You must admit, that was kind of funny.

Perhaps we should have called in more agents, but there were a lot of people in the terminal, and you kind of smelled bad. Admit it, you did not smell great. Or perhaps that was us. In any event, we regret the smells, and we regret that writing this letter has made us remember them.

We regret that we told you to leave your places in line, find somewhere to sit, and call our 1-800 number, where you would get faster and more effective service. We regret this because hundreds of people in line immediately and vocally disagreed, informing you that almost all calls to that line got busy signals, and that almost all of the ones that got through were put on hold until the cell batteries died. We worked hard to get you to trust us, and we wish we hadn't wasted that trust on such inconsequential lies. We would prefer to spend that trust on bigger, more spectacular lies.

We also think it’s funny that Cingular and T-Mobile couldn’t handle the calls from DCA and basically shut down the service there after 5:00. This isn't technically a regret, but we really wanted to mention it.

We regret that many of you think we should have triaged the few flights that were leaving, and identified people in line that were going to or near the destinations of those flights, and assigned seats on those flights according to people’s places in line instead of according to who was nearby when they called the flight. All of our lives we have lived by other people’s rules, and now that we are all grown up, we prefer not to have any rules. We want you to think of us as your cool aunt, or that guy who sometimes dances naked in his window. So don't give us your rules, Messrs. Efficiency and Courtesy.

We regret that when passenger Amber asked passenger Spaceman what college he attended, passenger Linnea laughed heartily and said “he’s SO OLD.” We think that was mean, just a little.

We regret that for several hours our representative’s responses to all questions, like “why aren’t there more agents working,” or “I can get a train, but can you help me get my bag to the subway station, because I am in a wheelchair and obviously can’t carry it” was a smirk and a shrug. Our representative is a big fan of Jim Halpert, but lacks both the hair and the charisma. We spoke with him about this, and thereafter he gave the proper response, which was “what do you think I can do about that?”

We regret that many of you found this unsatisfactory. What did you think we could do about that?

We regret that passenger Spaceman was stranded in an airport with ample traveling money but no cell-phone service bars, and passenger Jordan was stranded in close proximity to passenger Spaceman with four bars but no money. What, we asked ourself, would Ronald Coase say?

Passenger Spaceman bought passenger Jordan a slice of pizza and a coke. Passenger Jordan loaned his cell phone to passenger Linnea. We regret that passenger Spaceman will have to repeat Professor Coase’s class.

We regret that, with no T-Mobile service in the airport, the following email from passenger Spaceman didn't get through: "My beloved Spcwmn: Never lving DCA. Rmembr me fondly, lv alwys, Spcman." We're suckers for a good weepy.

We regret that Ben, the dreadlocked UVM student we plucked from the line to assist us, was unable to translate satisfactorily common phrases like “ticketing counter,” “security checkpoint,” and “totally fucked” into pidgin Hebrew to the Russian couple that, contrary to their expectations, clearly was not traveling to Israel. We promise you that we had a positively ingenious punishment planned for Ben’s failure, but he escaped by circumventing our flight-prevention system and getting his mother to find him a flight to Hartford tomorrow.

We regret that so many of you were unable to stay your urge to defecate that you caused a plumbing mishap and a quite-unpleasant smell in the restrooms in the middle of the concourse, inescapable for the fifty or so of you stuck in an immobile line within smelling distance. Next time, remember: when stranded in an airport for potentially up to two days, do not defecate! So rude. Were you raised in an airport? (That’s a little airport humor.)

We regret that you maintained good humor, struck friendships with each other, and helped each other out when possible. Had you not been in such better moods than us, we would not have been forced to call in the airport police to maintain order.

We regret that you were upset when the airport police’s first action upon being called to maintain order was to tell you that, to maintain order, we should be shutting down the terminal early and sending you home after six or eight hours in line, but that you could come back and get in line again at 4:00 the following morning. Immediately, order began to dissolve, proving us right. We regret that you disappointed us in this way.

We regret that Rousseau and Lenny Bruce correctly predicted that in a state of pure anarchy, communities would form and, through consensus, create laws. In particular, we regret that you decided amongst yourselves that everybody in line would get a number, and that the line would re-form at 4:00 in the morning so that nobody would lose the place that he or she held for six or eight hours. We already told you that we do not like rules, and therefore we fully backed the police in crushing this plan.

We regret that passenger Spaceman almost had to get arrested, trying to explain in polite and calm tones that everybody would follow the police’s instructions to the letter, but that all you were trying to do was assign numbers so that the line could reform in the morning. The police were looking for an insurrection to quell, and passenger Spaceman was being extremely disrespectful in failing to adopt an appropriately confrontational tone. You can see where this would upset a police officer, so by failing to escalate the situation in an expected manner, passenger Spaceman forced the police to undertake that obligation.

We regret that the police spoke into their shoulders, presumably to the video camera man, about what to do about “the man in the white shirt” (passenger Spaceman), right in front of passenger Spaceman. This was, we admit, quite rude, and passenger Spaceman’s presence probably kept the policeman from saying what he really thought.

We regret that even after the police successfully fomented an insurrection to quell, you cooperatively agreed to be quelled, adopting once again an appalling good humor and enviable camaraderie. We are a bit jealous. At US Airways, we maintain a professional surliness and generally don't like each other.

We regret that one of our two working agents assisted a single passenger, known to those of you in the line as The Blonde, from 9:15 until at least 11:30. We don’t really know what was up there. Agree with us, though – there is something a little amazing about having a single agent to process hundreds of stranded passengers in a non-moving line. We believe that that qualifies as “zen,” though we’re not spiritual people.

We regret that at 11:00, we added a few agents. Frankly, it hadn’t occurred to us to do this until the police made us do it. As it turned out, it was really easy, and it made everything move a lot faster. Who knew? In any event, we regret that the police, having failed to be unsuccessful in brutally quelling your manufactured insurrection (which, we hasten to add, would have allowed us to go home to our families sooner), also failed to be unsuccessful in quelling our organic one.

Frankly, we regret this whole “customer service” misnomer. Not one customer served us! And there was $3 cappuccino all over the concourse, at least until the places closed at 9:00. English language, we shake our fist at you!

We regret the exclamation points in the preceding paragraph.

We regret that although we typically eschew rules, we are compelled to follow one rule: everybody whose flight is cancelled is given a 1-800 number to call and a blue ticket called an “inconvenience ticket.” That ticket proves your inconvenience. We don’t think it was quite right for so many of you to laugh at this.

We regret that we ran out of inconvenience tickets. Those of you who did not get them were not inconvenienced, and we regret the inconvenience of our being unable to inconvenience you.

We regret that when we were finally able to process you, after six and a half hours for passenger Spaceman and hours longer for many others, you still had a two-hour wait to pick up your checked luggage, unless you wanted us to send it to your house, in which case you would have a two-hour wait on the phone to tell us that, unless you didn't call, in which case we had no fucking idea what to do with your luggage.

We regret, finally, that we sent passenger Spaceman out into the freezing night with nothing but suit pants, a dress shirt, dress shoes, a briefcase (contents: book, iPod, two forgotten nine-hour-old Dunkin Donuts that were supposed to be a gift for Spacewoman, phone with dead battery), and the promise of a trip to Los Angeles in a few days. We just could not figure out how to get our hands on those pants.

US Airways.

Passenger Spaceman also regrets not saying “yes” when the giant man in a fur coat at the Crowne Plaza offered him a spot among the men in warm-up suits in either his Rolls Royce or his Bentley for a cross-country drive to “Hollywood.” Spaceman adopts, for future reference, the following rule: How bad can a guy be if he’s wearing a fur coat?

edited to add: The Adventures of Isaac Spaceman continue here.
I CAN'T HELP IT; IT'S IN MY NATURE: Surely, I can't be the first person to point out that in his upcoming Reign Over Me, Adam Sandler seems to look an awful lot like Stephen Rea in The Crying Game.

I hope co-star Don Cheadle is up to the acting challenge.

Friday, March 16, 2007


AS LONG AS WE CAN ALL AGREE ON 'UNBREAKABLE' AND 'SIGNS', AND JUST MOVE ONTO THE REST OF THE LIST: Jim Emerson is compiling a list of good movies undermined or ruined by bad endings. Heathers, suggested by one of the commenters there, is a great contribution -- it's completely out-of-whack with the tone of the rest of the movie.

Also, for reals? Pretty In Pink got it all wrong.
BUT WILL HE GO GAZEBO ON SOMEONE'S ASS? After the whole "Matthew Fox isn't good enough for us at Columbia" whining, how long before the folks at Princeton begin to whine about Bradley Whitford being selected as their speaker?
EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING: The Onion's AV Club inventories 14 cover versions that are better than the original including Stevie Wonder's cover of the Beatles "We Can Work It Out," Elvis Costello's cover of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding?" and Naked Eyes tackling the 60's pop hit "Always Something There To Remind Me." Of course there are hundreds of great ones they missed, both iconic (Aretha's "Respect" and Johnny Cash's "Hurt") and obscure (Aretha's "Let it Be" and Ted Hawkins' "Long As I Can See the Light"). Luckily, The Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro picks up the slack, with a list of great covers of his own and links to USA Today's Whitney Matheson's own list of 20 great covers and conversely Cracked's list of the 20 worst cover songs.
ONE RIB. I SURE AM HUNGRY: It's hard to believe -- but it's true -- that I've now been following Chris Rock's career for twenty years now, since his HBO debut on Uptown Comedy Express, a standup in 1987 with fellow standups Arsenio Hall, Barry Sobel, Marsha Warfield and Robert Townsend.

So it's about damn time that we finally may have a start-to-finish good movie with Chris Rock, and according to the WaPo and NYT, I Think I Love My Wife is that movie, though Carrie Rickey and others have doubts.

I don't know that a movie can ever capture Rock's talents, but unless HBO brings back his brilliant talk show, what's he supposed to do -- 200 standup dates in arenas every year? (Actually, since I'm in Las Vegas as I'm writing this, could he successfully set himself up as a permanent attraction at one of the hotels, as do artists as diverse as Celine Dion, Toni Braxton, Rita Rudner and Carrot Top? Also, and this is totally a side note, but the production of The Producers here features David Hasselhoff as Roger DeBris, which just fascinates me.)

Back to Rock: David Mills interviewed him back in 1989 and 1990, when his credits solely consisted of some HBO work and the scene in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka linked above. Part 1 and Part 2 are both fascinating early looks at Rock, pre-SNL.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

WHAT IS FED EX? So, what can happen tomorrow on Jeopardy! that's never happened before in the Trebek era? I TiVo the show with a "keep most recent only," but this piques my interest--the "three way tie" theory is interesting, but how about "all players in negative after Double Jeopardy?"
RED BEANS AND RICE DIDN'T MISS HER: About a year ago, we all enjoyed Jonathan Coulton's inspired cover version of "Baby Got Back" (look for "Maybe . . . If She's 5'3"). Coulton will be performing in Ardmore, PA next Friday the 23rd. I am going to try to go.

Do give another listen to his witty and wonderful song. You can listen for free here (go to "Thing a Week I").
YET ANOTHER THING FOR LARRY LESSIG TO GET UPSET ABOUT: There are folks who would accuse the government of lacking a sense of humor. However, this question from the Copyright Office's FAQ would suggest the contrary. At least I hope it's a joke, because if that question is actually "frequently asked," I'm a bit scared.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ALL WE KNOW IS YOU HAVEN'T FOUND US: While the flashback didn't tell us much (though did we need yet another Lostie with daddy issues?), tonight's Lost struck me as a return to Season 1 form, with a reasonably interesting Beach plot juxtaposed with and reinforcing the adventure plot. Hell, even though the episode was largely Charlie-centric, Hobbit-boy was largely non-annoying. My one complaint? Not nearly enough Sawyer grappling with his inability to use nicknames. And next week's Ben/Locke faceoff looks promising.
BAD NEWS COMES DON'T YOU WORRY EVEN WHEN IT LANDS: All I really learned on the Idol results show was that the KidzBop version of Modest Mouse's "Float On" is better than what the show's final twelve can do, that even at Diana Ross' age, wardrobes can malfunction, and that, as usual, America tends at this stage to vote out the people who aren't going to win the competition, albeit not necessarily in the order you'd like.

The Real Charlie: MacotMatcher(TM) 2007

STILL TO COME -- LORD JEFFS V. SCOTS: We have been honored over the years to host Charlie Glassenberg's annual MascotMatcher analysis of the NCAA tournament. But after going 28-4 in last year's first round, there was almost no room left for Charlie to go up . . . so he's gone over this year, hosting MascotMatcher(TM) 2007 on his own blog, The Real Charlie.

We, however, retain first serial rights, and note a few highlights for round one:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Winthrop Eagles: Based a bar confrontation a few St. Patrick's Days ago, I know how the Fighting Irish do against the Slightly Buzzed Jew (the Jew runs like hell). They do similarly against these raptors. Birds of prey? Think birds of pray. Fighting Irish.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders: Once they face these fearsome rodents, these Aggies of the Sea will surely be wishing for the resurrection. Forget the laurels, they'll be lucky for a crown of thorns. I could go on, but I've blasphemed enough for this round. Badgers.

Southern Illinois Salukis vs. Holy Cross Crusaders: Holy Cross will ravage the Salukis like a band of armed and feverish Rhineland peasants passing through the Mainz ghetto on their way to Jerusalem. Crusaders.

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Pennsylvania Quakers: Pacifism has no place on the basketball court. Good meeting, brothers. Now go home. Aggies.
The rest is here, and it's a good year for #16 seeds. Our free ESPN group (ALOTT5MA) remains open for your entry.
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I HID THIS UNCOMFORTABLE PIECE OF METAL UP MY ASS FOR TWO YEARS: Over at Matt Zoller Seitz's The House Next Door, Jeremiah Kipp lists his five favorite Christopher Walken performances. Then he kind of cheats and gives us eight more. It's a nice reminder of how great Walken can be in highbrow (The Deer Hunter), middlebrow (Pulp Fiction; Catch Me If You Can; that Fatboy Slim video), and lowbrow (SNL) fare. One performance that I'd mention but that Kipp didn't (and this is definitely in the latter category) is Walken's Secretary Cleary in Wedding Crashers, where Walken economically gives Cleary gravity, sympathy, and humor without ever slipping into the kind of self-parody that his contemporary DeNiro did in late-career ATM withdrawals like Meet the Parents.

I can't think of another actor who I think does so well across the movie-quality spectrum. Baldwin is a little light in the highbrow department, and while at some point I may have conceded Gary Oldman, he kind of lost his mind a little about 10 years ago. Thoughts?
LET'S PRETEND WE DID THIS YESTERDAY: Much like the rarity of seeing three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Final Four, it arguably has been since season two of American Idol that the two pre-finals favorites (Ruben and Clay) both made it to the last stage (literally) of the competition. For all the talk of this just being a prelude for Melinda v. LaKisha, odds, history and presumptions of cultural bias among the voting public tell us that's probably not going to be the final pairing.

So, while we forgot to ask this yesterday, we still can today: who do you predict will be the final two on Idol this season, and who's winning?
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? Contrary to what Edwin Starr would have you believe, war is good for at least one thing--movie making. AOL/Moviephone lists the Top 25 War Movies of All Time. Apocalypse Now tops their list and Vietnam scores well overall taking three of the top five with Platoon and Full Metal Jacket also placing. It's World War II, however, that proves to be the most fertile conflict, with 12 of the 25 coming from WW2: Teutonic Boogaloo, followed by five World War I films, four Vietnam films, and one each from the Gulf War, Korean War, Civil War, and Scottish War of Independence. Curiously both Gone With the Wind and Casablanca are missing, and though they are not "combat" films per se, neither is The African Queen, which made the list. Other notable omissions include Black Hawk Down, Dr. Strangelove, The Manchurian Candidate, Fog of War (I assume because it is a documentary), Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion, Reds, Master and Commander, Hotel Rwanda, Love and Death and I am sure many others.

Link via Pop Candy.
PERFECT FOR FOURTH GRADE SCIENCE FAIR: Judging from earlier comments, people love Marshmallow Peeps around here, but don't forget that in addition to being delicious, they can also be used as the basis for valuable scientific research.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BECAUSE I JUST CAN'T THINK ABOUT AI FOR ANOTHER MINUTE: The women of ALOTT5MA seem to have fairly consistent taste in TV husbands. Thus far we've got a truckload of Mrs. Vaughns, with a few Mrs. Goodwins and perhaps a Mrs. M. Scofield or two thrown in for good measure. Are we missing anyone? Ladies, identify yourselves.


Mrs. Dr. Doug Ross, M.D.
MARK MCGRATH, YOU'RE NO RYAN SEACREST: Because if you're not watching Idol, TV tonight is less-than-pleasant, I, rather inexplicably, tuned in to The Search For The Next Doll. Among the things I learned tonight:
  • There is apparently such a place as "Pussycat Doll Bootcamp."
  • The Pussycat Dolls are "sexy and classy," which means that "dancing like Striperella" is apparently not acceptable.
  • The Pussycat Dolls were created by a "visionary."
  • Dancing in your underpants in front of an audience is not slutty, but a way to demonstrate one's confidence.
  • Wow. These girls can. not. sing. I think "Pon De Replay" was particularly painful.
  • I'm not sure which "inspirational" story is more artificial-feeling: "I used to be so heavy!" or "I have a little girl!"
  • People can have the "lifelong dream" of joining a girl group founded within the past few years.
  • "Will you please hang up your boa?" Could be lamest reality TV catch phrase ever.

This got better ratings than Veronica Mars?

COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE: Let's not spend too much time on the Ryan-Simon interplay tonight; it was what it was, and it's about time for the participants to either drop it or stop playing around and be a bit more mature.

As to the Idol singers, well, LaKisha and Melinda owned the night, as you'd expect. Especially LaKisha on a restrained "God Bless The Child", and that may be because Melinda's overwhelming oh my, are you clapping for me? humility is on the verge of getting tiresome. Jordin isn't quite on that level, but she just might win this. She can sing, though she needs to work on the performing. And Haley finally demonstrated that she belongs in the competition -- though not to, like, win it or anything.

I thought Phil Stacey did a rather nice job on "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", and whether Chris Sligh or Beatbox Blake did better depends on whether you prefer your Supremes as remixed by Coldplay or the Pet Shop Boys. Unlike the judges, I preferred the former, who sang "Endless Love" really well; Blake is a latter-day Guarini, and his performing skills don't overcome lesser vocal ability. And Chris Richardson, well, he became the first performer to work the full room, but was meh.

At risk: Sanjaya, Brandon, Stephanie.
PRONOUNCIATE? I don't mean to hijack the AI thread because many of you are way more knowledgeable about this show than I am, but did Diana Ross just say "pronounciate" twice?
STILL NO PITY, BUT THEY'VE GOT MONEY: It's worth noting that corporate lawyers in our end of the world have been busy of late, as Bravo/NBC/Universal has announced that it's acquiring both TWOP and Fametracker, and our good friend Alan Sepinwall has a few more tidbits. We here at ALOTT5MA are happy to entertain generous offers from major media conglomerates who wish to acquire us.
I BET ROSE ROYCE WOULD KNOW: Is it customary to tip when having a car detailed and, if so, what amount is standard? I always tip the guys at the car wash, but never tip at a body shop. The job in this case involves removing some scratches, which seems more or less halfway in between a wash and the kind of thing a body shop does.
TRUTH TAKES TIME: And so it's nearly springtime -- the season when a TV obsessor's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of pilot casting. Remember last year, when we were all a-quiver over the casting of Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford in a new Aaron Sorkin drama? Ah, springtime.

Thus far the list of actors cast in new shows includes Josh Malina, Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Autumn Reeser, Eliza Dushku, Marissa Jaret Winokur, and others. As for the presumptive Addison-Montgomery-née-Addison-Montgomery-Shepherd spinoff, the latest tidbit is that Merrin Dungey is joining the all-star cast. As always, I'm glad to see Alias alumni in the spotlight. I wonder whether Dungey will be playing one character or two? And will Vartan have the opportunity to murmur sweet nothings to Mrs. Spaceman à français?
IT TAKES A KNIFE-WIELDING MANIAC TO SHOW US THE WAY: David Mills, the Undercover Black Man and television writer/producer of much repute himself, interviews ALOTT5MA fave, former NYT film critic Elvis Mitchell, in which he discusses Pauline Kael, why he didn't write for SNL, and when he knew that writing for the New York Times gave him a real opportunity to shape the culture:
You know how I became aware of that? I was working on a CNN show, “Entertainment Weekly,” and there were things I wanted to try to do. Like I wanted to do a piece on how there were no black dramatic hour-long shows. And I remember getting into an argument with the producer of the show. “What about ‘Homicide’?” “[That’s] a couple of guys amongst a mostly white cast.” “What about ‘NYPD Blue’? What about ‘ER’?” “It’s the same thing.”

But when you say something like that in the New York Times, the entire journalistic world pays attention to it. Nothing ever goes away once you write it. It becomes sort of a constant part of that cultural conversation. So I was aware of that as an African American at the New York Times – there’s an impact that I could have.

That “Amores Perros” review – One of the things I’ve always wanted to do in any review I write is try to convey my feelings, especially when there’s a real excitement about a new talent.** That was a great year, 2000. That was the year of “Amores Perros,” that was the year of “In the Mood for Love,” that was the year of “George Washington.” That was a great year to have as my first year as a film critic at the Times. I just happened to be there when the wheel went ’round, really. I was so thrilled to get to write about that movie.
Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.

** "'Amores' feels like the first classic of the new decade, with sequences that will probably make their way into history . . . In his very first film Mr. Gonzalez Inarritu makes the kind of journey some directors don't, or can't, travel in an entire career."
JELLYBEAN BENITEZ WOULD APPROVE: In what I believe is an unprecedented step, this week NBC will air two repeat episodes of “The Office” ("Travelling Salesmen" and "The Return") that have been re-mixed into a new hour-long show. The producers will remove parts of the original episodes so they can mix in new scenes. The new segments introduce a new storyline.
COUPLING OR THE OFFICE?: The Thick of It is a British television show about the inner workings of a fictitional UK government office called the Department of Social Affairs. The show has won some awards.

It was recently announced that The Thick of It will be developed for American television, with Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz as executive producer. Arrested writer Richard Day will be the writer of the new show. Christopher Guest will direct the pilot. The American version will focus upon a low-powered member of Congress.

IMDB is vague about when to expect the new series, but a recent WSJ article gave me the distinct impression that it is coming soon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I BEEN DOWNHEARTED, BABY: What do you get when you mix a nonsensical title, a hip-hop backbeat, a long-haired white guy quasi-rapping, samples of B.B. King and airplane engines, and a lengthy piano solo? A top 40 hit, it seems.

The Supremes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

AN OLD, COLD, RUN-DOWN TENEMENT SLUM: Tomorrow night on Idol, your final twelve will be singing the songs of The Supremes and Miss Ross' solo career. Who's singing "I'm Coming Out"? "Reflections"? And to what song will Blake Lewis be beatboxing?

Also, Paula Abdul wants you to know "I've never been drunk in my whole life. I don't do recreational drugs."
A NEW GENERATION OF ELECTRIC, WHITE-BOY BLUES: Probably about fifteen percent of this blog's readership will care, but Sebadoh is back touring. Follow what you feel; you alone decide what's real. (But will they play "Natural One"?)
INDUCTION JUNCTION, ROCK HALL EDITION: With tonight being the induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a lot is being written about tonight's inductees. Here's a last roundup of the some of the commentary and news about the honorees:
  • R.E.M.: Few would argue the Athens, Ga., quartet don't deserve a spot in the rock pantheon, but Steve Hyden at the Onion AV Club wrote an intriguing commentary about the band's shrinking legacy. While I haven't relegated REM to the Pearl Jam and Oasis scrap heap, its true I don't listen to them nearly as much as I once did and his description about not buying an REM album upon its release is spot on. Meanwhile Michael Stipe spoke to the USA Today about the honor, The Gainesville Times gets a local perspective on the band's success, and the band has hired a new producer for its next album and will have its first new recording with all four original members since 1996 available for download tomorrow.
  • Patti Smith: Some are arguing the Smith's election smacks of "New York myopia," but it's hard to deny her influence. Smith confesses in an op-ed in today's New York Times that even she has doubts about her worthiness--or for that matter the institution as a whole--but ultimately she is proud to accept the honor not only for herself but other pioneers (including her late husband).
  • Van Halen: The soap opera continues, with the LA Times reporting that Hall officials were more than open to having David Lee Roth perform at tonight's ceremony.
  • The Ronettes: Despite having to wait 19 years to be inducted, Ronnie Spector is excited about finally making it. Don't look for her ex-husband to be amongst the well-wishers tonight.
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: In honor of the pioneering rappers making the Hall, listen to these Fresh Air interviews from 2002 with Grandmaster Flash and from 1992 with Melle Mel. I wonder how much this induction has to do with the Hall avoiding the embarrassment of potentially having the Beastie Boys, who come up for voting next year and should be a shoo-in, be the first hip-hop artists in the Hall. Also on NPR (your source for all things hip-hop related), All Things Considered has an appreciation of Grandmaster Flash's innovative career.
And lastly in general Hall news, Robert Hilburn makes the case in the LA Times for deducting some Rock Hall members--including Billy Joel and two of tonight's nominees, Ann Powers (also at the Times) argues that with the Hall now welcoming a broader range of musicians it might be time to drop "Rock n Roll" from its title, and USA Today looks at the next five potential classes--next year is a monster with Madonna, Metallica, and as previously noted the Beastie Boys all eligible for the first time.

If you are watching the induction ceremony live (or more wisely Tivoing it), feel free to use the comments below to comment on anything noteworthy.
YOU CAN'T HEAR IT ON THE RADIO/YOU CAN'T HEAR IT ANYWHERE YOU GO: The new Wilco album doesn't drop until May 15, but you can preview the Dylan-inflected "What Light" here.

Is there a more prolific musician than Jeff Tweedy? I think he releases an hour-long album every 55 minutes.
SAVE THE CHEERLEADER, SAVE THE WORLD: With Heroes in repeats, HIMYM pulled for a two-episode block of Old Christine, and CSI: Miami dominating at 10, tonight is a vast television wasteland, but whet your palate with this detailed recap of the Heroes panel at the Museum of TV and Radio in L.A., which makes Greg Grunberg look far better and funnier than the show itself does, reveals an interesting tidbit about who the last person cast was, and confirms that they've been willing to make story changes (Mohinder's character was originally going to be Papa Mohinder, HRG was not originally a regular).
EPISODE #37 - VALERY?: The new Sopranos trailer, scored to Nick Cave's "Lay Me Low", is a worthy two-minute history of some of the more significant characters who are no longer with us.

April 8, 2007. Nine more episodes.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

LET'S LEAVE ASIDE PIA ZADORA: People have strong feeling about the Oscars, but can we take a moment to discuss some of the more bizarre moments in the Golden Globe "Best Comedy/Musical" Category?
  • 1984--Yentl wins over The Big Chill and Trading Places.
  • 1986--Prizzi's Honor wins over Back To The Future.
  • 1988--British flick Hope and Glory wins over Baby Boom, Broadcast News, Dirty Dancing, and Moonstruck.
  • 1990--Driving Miss Daisy (a "comedy?") wins over Little Mermaid and When Harry Met Sally. (It goes on to win the Oscar for best picture as well.)
  • 1991--Green Card wins over Pretty Woman, Home Alone, and Ghost.
  • 1994--Mrs. Doubtfire over Dave.

Men's Tournament Challenge: Frontpage

NO FEAR OF CAVALIERS; THE RENEGADES HAVE STEERED CLEAR: Reminder that we do have a free ESPN tournament pool for your pleasure -- group name is ALOTT5MA.

In addition, if ESPN's going to do free fantasy baseball this year, I'd like to get up a league. Let's agree on no more than twelve teams, ML universe (I think NL-only made it too hard for teams to improve last year), roto-not-h2h, and we can decide on 4x4 vs 5x5 once we've got a group together. If you're interested, please indicate as such in the Comments, and let's hope to agree on a live draft date.
I'M WAITING FOR WINNIE COOPER COGNAC: While at Astor Wines yesterday (and I'm hard pressed to think of a better wine shop in NYC), I noticed, but did not pick up, a bottle of Kevin Arnold Shiraz. It's the perfect wine if you're going to have Paul Pfeffer (or at least the guy who played him) over for dinner.
AS AN ATTORNEY, I CAN TELL WHEN SOMEBODY'S LYING: We're at the End of the World on TARstars, and whether or not you feel fine about it depends on your tolerance for needle-in-a-haystack-determined finishes ala Kristy & Lena in season 6. It was a thrilling, heart-pounding, well-constructed leg that did an very good job of forcing significant separations between the teams based on small mistakes, and the teams that didn't deal with the stresses of the leg properly didn't have much room to gain otherwise.

An unsatisfying outcome, but a totally deserved one based on leg performance. Also, Mirna came perilously close to Jonathan's Most Heinous Racer Ever award. YMMV.
I CAN'T EXPLAIN, RYDELL, THIS PAIN, RYDELL: I'm just settling in for the Grease half of my weekly double feature of Project Broadway and TARStars, and was all set to be wowed once again by the opening number. Then I remembered one of the reasons why the stage show is (normally) superior to the movie version of Grease -- man, did that suck. Can someone explain to me why the dueling alma mater approach can't be used as the opening number anymore? Barry Gibb, you're no Jim Jacobs. Oh, and one other thing: Allie is violently outclassed by everyone else on the stage. Here's hoping that America gets it right next week, since the judges seem to be blinded by . . . something.

Edited to add: Ok, so "All That Jazz" did a lot to make up for the opening number, although whoever edited it to exclude the "I love my life" line -- one of my favorite moments in any Broadway show, period -- should be roundly scolded. I'll save my spoilers for the comments, but will just note here that for my money, the second pairing tonight was leaps ahead of the rest.
IT WAS LIKE THE LONGEST EPISODE OF SVU EVER: Back in December 2005, we all admired Kurt Eichenwald's exemplary reporting in the online child pornography underworld, staying just within the line (perhaps) between journalist and activist, leading to increased Congressional interest in the issue and at least one criminal conviction.

Now, fifteen months later, it's looking a lot ickier. Eichenwald's argument that he was "acting as a private citizen" when he sent his subject a previously undisclosed $2000 check before meeting him, and only later decided to treat him as fodder for future journalism, seems exceedingly thin as an ethical defense. It seems clear that even if there's a defense for Eichenwald's making the payment -- that there is a legitimate space for a reporter to act as a private citizen with regards to matters of potential public interest -- he had to recuse himself from reporting the subsequent story. Thoughts?

A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

THE MERMAIDS ARE, INDEED, MURMURING: So I took Lucy to see Ralph's World today (our second time seeing him), and while it wasn't quite as cool as that TMBG show, it was still pretty darn cool and fun. Why are we marching? We are ants!

But then. But then the official sponsor for the concert, a cereal you'd recognize, had its three onomatopoetically-named mascot elves invited onto the stage by Ralph Covert, to dance with him during a song he had written in their honor. And then they stayed on stage to dance with all the kids who wanted to come up for the concert's finale. It was all, just, icky.

I understand the tension -- he's not one of the Noggin!-favored artists, and so he needs to pursue the promotional avenues which are out there. And, hey, it's nice to get paid -- and no one really knows what the lifespan of these kids-rock artists is going to be. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

The good news is that the three onomatopoetically-named mascot elves were wandering around the crowd before the show, and they really freaked Lucy out. So there's hope.

No Justice In These Pay Scales -

DON DRYSDALE SAID I COULD BE A BONUS BABY: Dahlia Lithwick wants to know whether it makes sense to pay Supreme Court law clerks $200,000 signing bonuses (on top of ~$150K starting salaries) to choose BigLaw over legal academia.