Legal experts say there are risks to Scrabulous, however. Copyright laws allow someone to freely use an idea, "but not copy the expression of the idea," says Anthony Falzone, head of the Fair Use Project at Stanford University. He says the Scrabulous board looks strikingly similar to the Scrabble board, with light blue and pink squares in the same spots denoting double- and triple-word scores. The names might also be too much alike, says John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor.
Hasbro Inc., which owns the U.S. rights for Scrabble, says it doesn't comment on legal matters. Rajat Agarwalla says he emailed Hasbro several weeks ago to notify the company about Scrabulous. Hasbro has not responded, he says. The brothers say they consider Scrabulous to be essentially an online version of Scrabble. "It's not really different," Jayant says.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
- Prevents pregnancy;
- Won't cause your lady friend appearance-related mood-killing catastrophies, like unsightly acne or bloating;
- Won't induce moodiness or irritability that might get your lady friend "all up in your grill";
- According to the 92% of the ad devoted to disclaimers, only works if your lady friend keeps herself fit and disease-free, which is nice to know;
- Makes your lady friend entirely responsible for contraception, leaving you free to daydream about
being Jack Bauer kicking Jack Bauer's asskicking Jack Bauer's ass just so that you can teach him a valuable life lesson and then teaming up with him to foil the plots of the Irano-Franco-femino-terrorist cabal; and
- Named after a baseball player (although, frankly, you know how I feel both about left fielders and insufferable Red Sox fans, but I'll let it slide).
Friday, October 12, 2007
Filmmakers had experimented with animation off and on during the early 20th century, with Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo" (1911) and "Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914) attracting the most popular and critical attention. By the 1920s, animated shorts had become part of the typical line-up at most movie theaters, and the decade's favorite cartoon character was Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer's Felix the Cat. Felix was a familiar type, a comic troublemaker full of energy and desires, but thanks to animation, he could break the rules of physics and biology at will, as seen in "Felix Dopes It Out" (1924) or the hallucinogenic "Felix Woos Whoopee" (1930). Felix's celebrity was reinforced through licensed merchandising, a clever money-making and brand-building concept that would become standard practice in animation.
By the late 1920s, though, Felix's pre-eminence was being challenged by a new cartoon critter: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. At first, Mickey wasn't all that different from Felix; in his sound-film debut, "Steamboat Willie" (1928), he's a rather rascally rodent, spending most of his time abusing animals in order to make them squeal "Turkey in the Straw." But Disney smartly followed the popular mood, and as Depression-era Americans turned away from Jazz-Age enthusiasm toward what Steven Watts calls a sentimental populism, Disney modified Mickey accordingly, making him more domesticated, more human, more childlike. In "The Band Concert" (1935), he's trying to fend off the mischievous pranks of Donald Duck -- pranks that Felix and Mickey 1.0 would have gleefully participated in. Heck, by the late 1930s, Mickey even owns a dog.
Mickey's evolution into a respectable citizen (along with Disney's growing focus on feature-length animation) left the field open for a new boisterous cartoon personality: Warner Bros.' Bugs Bunny. Beginning with 1940's "A Wild Hare", Bugs revived the frenetic, anarchic style of Felix and early Mickey, combining sight gags, wild chases, violence, and of course, cross-dressing; in 1942's "Fresh Hare" (1942), we even get an early-model Elmer Fudd and a bizarre blackface-minstrels finale. By the end of World War II and the classic "Baseball Bugs" (1946), the rabbit and the mouse were arguably animated equals.
I could wrap this lesson up with some profound question about the subversive qualities of animation, the ways in which cartoons allow artists to say things they couldn't say through live performance. But since it's the last class before fall break, I'll end with a much simpler query:
Mickey or Bugs. Who ya got?
Next week (no class on Monday): the studio system, Hollywood's Golden Age, and the movies in wartime.
Also, this passage struck me as odd:
"There are two types of wine counterfeiters: those who do not tamper with what is inside the bottle and those who do. Because the price of a great vintage of fine wine often dwarfs the price of an indifferent one, many forgers will start with a genuine bottle of, say, 1980 Pétrus and simply replace the label with one from 1982. (The ’82 vintage is especially coveted and expensive.) With a good scanner and a color printer, labels are easy to replicate—one former auctioneer I spoke with called it “desktop publishing.” "
Note that the quotes there are in the original. "Desktop Publishing." WTF? It's as if desktop publishing is some secret thing here, previously unknown to the New Yorker audience. Or, perhaps, this is an editing tick at the New Yorker, like their consistent use of the diaresis? "I toured the pits of the Kane County Motor Speedway and found Jack Oliver fine tuning a machine that uses the exaust gases of the engine to help power the engine -- the fellow at the Kettle Corn booth called it a "turbocharger." "
The United Nations was also awarded the same award this year. The only pop culture related observation I can make is that I enjoyed The Interpreter.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Also--related prediction--the big box office hits of the Thanksgiving/Christmas season will be American Gangster, National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, I Am Legend, and Enchanted.
RACHAEL Ray is getting a royal dunkin' from Anthony Bourdain for her big-bucks endorsement deal with Dunkin' Donuts. The prickly chef and "Kitchen Confidential" author says of the Food Network cutie in next month's Outside magazine: "She's got a magazine, a TV empire, all these best-selling books - I'm guessing she's not hurting for money. She's hugely influential, particularly with children. And she's endorsing Dunkin' Donuts. It's like endorsing crack for kids." Bourdain adds: "I'm not a very ethical guy. I don't have a lot of principles. But somehow that seems to me over the line. Juvenile diabetes has exploded. Half of Americans don't have necks. And she's up there saying, 'Eat some [bleeping] Dunkin' Donuts. You look great in that swimsuit - eat another doughnut!' That's evil."For what it's worth, as of Monday, all Dunkin' Donuts baking will be virtually trans-fat free.
Harold Bloom is not a fan of the Academy's decision, noting that "her work for the past 15 years [has been] quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction."
Still, I recognize he has a lot of fans here, and you'll enjoy the piece.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
America's most awesomest airline just got better.
When jazz first emerged in the early 1900s, it certainly wasn't "popular" in the sense of being widely disseminated. It began in black New Orleans, drawing on African American musical forms like ragtime, blues, and spirituals while also incorporating European influences in composition and instrumentation, and always spotlighting the interplay of individual performance and group collaboration. By the 1910s and 1920s, jazz musicians had migrated to Northern cities like Chicago and New York, bringing the new sound with them. Pioneers like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington attracted growing audiences, both white and black, through live performances, recordings, even movies.
Yet critics found jazz distasteful, vulgar, and dangerous. Racial stereotypes lay behind many of these attacks; in 1924, for instance, the New York Times declared that "jazz is merely a return to the humming, hand-clapping, or tomtom beating of savages." Still, white middle-class audiences found the new music vital and exciting, so savvy marketing minds once again took a popular black cultural form and domesticated it for general consumption. Bandleader Paul Whiteman proclaimed himself the "King of Jazz" while offering "sweet," refined dance music that was more Tin Pan Alley than Tipitina's. (Whiteman also commissioned George Gershwin's 1924 classical-jazz hybrid, Rhapsody in Blue.) By the mid-1930s, the most successful performers played "swing," a variant of jazz emphasizing bigger bands, tighter arrangements, and more tuneful melodies (often sung by vocalists). As David Stowe notes in his book, Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America, swing did encourage some more progressive possibilities in American life, especially as several prominent bands began integrating their ranks. At the same time, though, swing bandleaders like Glenn Miller made their mark less as musicians and more as businessmen, using corporate sponsorship, saturation radio broadcasting, and the new promotional opportunites of the jukebox to turn themselves into pop-culture celebrities.
Obviously, after World War II, jazz lost its place atop the pop-music heap to rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, and their descendants. But this doesn't fully explain why, over the past few decades, jazz has become almost "highbrow." Today, jazz seems to live on primarily through public radio, elite cultural organizations, and yes, PBS and Ken Burns. So, is jazz still "pop culture"? Why or why not?
So that's your question for this morning: name something for which the smell causes you to have a disproportionately bad reaction. (And then rewrite this question to have it retain its grammatical validity while not sounding as awkward.)
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Today's post points out (in a little bit of results-oriented analysis, but we'll excuse that) that one of the four GMs left is a Moneyball profilee and the other three are disciples of John Hart in Cleveland -- four GMs who evaluate all available information (whether statistical or scout-based) and use process-oriented analysis (and, though the post doesn't say it, value talent and defense more than leadership and experience). It's not looking good for the Phillies or the Mariners for the next few years, that much I'll say.
Coincidentally, the only television for which I had time last night involved our favorite big-box tech support guru, Chuck. I'll confess that I liked this episode less than the first two. The actors seemed to be phoning it in, the novelty of Sarah in her Wienerlicious uniform is wearing off, and Yvonne Strzechowski is distractingly unable to fight (worse than Season 1 Sarah Michelle Gellar), but the worst thing is this spy-of-the-week rhythm that we're already in. I lived in LA for almost 9 years, and as far as I could tell, other than Ahmad Ressam getting stopped 1600 miles away on his way to LAX, the type of political intrigue particular to LA involves whispered allegations of neck-wrinkles; the incendiary devices of choice are venti drips and cell phones. The odds of an assassination plot, government-security data theft, and arms deal all being planned for a three-week period during pilot season are slim and none, and slim just got pulled for retooling during sweeps. I've always been partial to the X-Files model, which tries to balance both long-term plot ("mythology") episodes with single-episode ("monsters-of-the-week") plots ( a model used well in Buffy and Alias, among others). I suspect Chuck will get there soon -- clearly, the mysteries about Bryce, Sarah, the NSA goons, and Stanford are being prepped for mining, so I'll try not to complain too much, but I fear that waiting too long will start to try the audience's (my) patience.
On the credit side of the ledger, though: Casey is increasingly creepy, with his abruptness and his "spy humor," and Schwartz keeps doling out the pop-culture throwaways (last week: the "state secret" that "Oceanic Flight 815 was shot down by ..."; this week: Bob Ross, potshots at Monet, the "Canzonetta sull'Aria" allusion to Shawshank Redemption).
Oh, and by the way, I haven't seen last night's Prison Break, but I am aware that a certain act about which I am very squeamish was performed on a certain character about whom I am fond. I understand why it was done, but nonetheless I am forced to say: Boo.
Today comes news that based on poetry like "Ebony and ivory/ Live together in perfect harmony/Side by side on my piano, keyboard/Oh lord, why don't we?" Paul McCartney, the person largely responsible for "Eleanor Rigby," "Blackbird," and "Penny Lane" has been named one of the 40 worst lyricists of all-time by Blender Magazine. While Paul is way down the list at No. 38, the top spot is reserved for the Nabokov name-dropped Sting. The Police frontman is followed by Rush's Neal Peart, Creed's Scott Stapp, Oasis' Noel Gallagher, and Dan Fogelberg (ooo, that should be a controversial pick).
Missing from the list? The man who wrote: "Rock and roller cola wars/I can't take it any more."
Monday, October 8, 2007
It's interesting to note that besides landing at No. 3 on the best list with "Pressure," Bowie lands on the worst list twice ("Dancing in the Streets" and "Little Drummer Boy"). If this Bowie-Arcade Fire collaboration ever makes it to record, I think Bowie would have to grad another spot high on the best list.
I couldn't find the larger list on the Google, but feel free to leave your faves and leasts in the comments.
By the 1920s and 1930s, however, the popular mood had shifted. In an era of political corruption, economic chaos, celebrity criminals, and widespread lawbreaking by ordinary Americans, the Victorian ideal of the gentleman detective bringing order out of confusion became unsustainable. Instead, American audiences embraced two new pop-culture heroes -- the gangster and the hard-boiled detective -- each of whom reflected society's more cynical view of crime and punishment. As Robert Warshow explains in his landmark essay, "The Gangster as Tragic Hero," moviegoers often identified with gangsters, seeing them as classic American Dreamers who had simply transplanted their dreams to the world of crime -- seemingly the only avenue open to upwardly mobile strivers in the Depression. The early 'thirties saw dozens of gangster films, the most prominent being Edward G. Robinson's Little Caesar (1930), James Cagney's The Public Enemy (1931), and the original Scarface (1932), starring Paul Muni. Although these films purported to present gangsters as a "problem," they invariably made their heroes the most attractive figures on screen, and the main character's inevitable demise only slightly undermined the broader celebration of criminal achievement.
A few law-enforcement heroes did fight back against the pop-culture crime wave, most notably the dashing detectives Nick and Nora Charles, of the Thin Man books and movies. But fittingly for the times, the most popular detectives of the 'twenties and 'thirties were not drawing-room wits like Nick and Nora but hard-boiled private eyes like Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. These were no armchair sleuths working out curious puzzles between sips of brandy. Spade and Marlowe found themselves immersed in a violent world of corruption and double-crosses, where partners or lovers could become victims or criminals, and a smart detective trusted no one but himself. On screen, the image of the hard-boiled detective was exemplified by Humphrey Bogart, who starred as both Spade and Marlowe in the film versions of The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Big Sleep (1946).
So if crime-as-entertainment adapts to fit its time, what can we surmise about contemporary American society from today's pop-culture roster of detectives and criminals? Do audiences in 2007 favor the forces of law and order, or do they side instead with the American gangster?
In terms of recurring characters to get plugged in around 12:50am, I'm going to place this one as better than the Sans/Fallon/Kattan/Morgan Christmas singers, but still not as good as Tonto, Tarzan and Frankenstein.
- Dirty Sexy Money. Thus far love it, and not just because of the resemblance between my husband and Peter Krause. (Although anyone looking to further the resemblance by paying my husband $10 million per annum to serve as lawyer-slash-nursemaid to his or her family should speak up.) The only character that really clanks for me -- and that's saying a lot, given the characters comprising the Darling family -- is the Reverend Brian Darling, whose whingey lack of anything vaguely resembling godliness is just a little beyond the believable. Even Tranny Hooker No. 1 of 2 on network TV this fall works for me so far. Sutherland the Elder reminds me just how unsubtle the Younger's work on 24 is, Samaire Armstrong is so wildly different from her role on The O.C. that I didn't even realize it was her until 15 minutes into the pilot, and then there's Krause, who is just pitch-perfect.
- Pushing Daisies. Everyone who wanted a moratorium on the word "seriously" last year should be summarily executed if they utter the word "twee" ever again. I'm sick of twee already -- apologies to our friends Alan Sepinwall and Matt Marcotte, among many many others -- but there are just so many other ways to describe this show. Like violently stylized. Or acutely precious. Or screamingly Sonnenfeld. (Like Alan, I am very curious to see what the show looks like once the budget-slashed episodes hit the screen.) I agree with everyone around here who loved it and thought it was gorgeous, but I do wonder whether the refusal to touch the audience (along with everyone else) personally will eventually annoy me. Put differently, I just don't see this as the kind of show that does 22 episodes per year for 5 years.
And as long as I'm here, I have a question. It's unrelated to television, but closely tied to the concept of phrasings that I both hate and fail to understand: can someone explain to me the origin of "dropping" as the technical term of art for the release of a new album? As in: "Better hurry up with those bendy straws, Justin, because Shakira's new album drops on October 21." I always thought it was just some sort of painfully trendy hipster-in-the-knowism, but I see it everywhere and just don't understand how this happened. Thanks.Oh, and one other thing: this coming Tuesday night, Mr. Cosmopolitan and I are taking the heretofore unprecedented step of driving to the Nassau Coliseum to attend the So You Think You Can Dance tour. Hok better be getting his inner hummingbird on.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Flip ahead to 4:15 or so on this clip for the description of the immunity challenge (or 5:15 or so for its start), and then just watch Courtney go to "work". (Kudos to the editors for the freeze-frame on the moments of triumph). It's basically the opposite of watching Colby Donaldson or Fireman Tom Westman, and I'm stuck trying to think of other examples of particularly bad challenge performances. Help?
The most significant thing about this season is unquestionably that Steven Moffat has solidified his claim as being a member of the pantheon of TV Gods alongside Bochco, Sorkin, Kelley, Whedon, and the like. Coupling made a pretty good case for his greatness (and HIMYM owes more than a little to Coupling--Barney is something of a Patrick/Jeff hybrid, Robin has a lot of Susan's characteristics, the Marshall/Lily relationship is reminiscent of Susan/Steve, and the shows share a similar predeliction to playing with time, but "Blink" is just an excellent hour of television (and one which you don't need any background on the Doctor to understand). Most of the episode appears to be on YouTube (at least for the moment), and is well worth checking out, full of "timey-wimey stuff" as it is, and with evil that's genuinely frightening, even if it never moves. This is far more Buffy than the old school Who, which often looked like the budget for an average episode was around 40 quid.
I was pressed for space (Strangers on a Train and Harry Potter got cut), so I had to limit my choices and I tried to have some diversity, but feel free to leave a plug for your plug for your favorite train film in the comments.
They let us down this week, but they did not let us down this season. So while tonight's a likely farewell to seeing Aaron Rowand in the red-and-white, this team was not a one-shot fluke. With Rollins, Howard (pay the man!), Utley and Hamels at the core, we'll be back in 2008.
As for the Cubs faithful among us, you have my sympathy.