Saturday, April 19, 2008

STAR TREKKIN' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: In the vein of the David Caruso one-liners video, someone has taken the time to edit every time Dr. McCoy proclaimed "he's dead" to Captain Kirk into a video. I'm waiting for the video that's simply a collection of Jim Halpert's horrified glances into the camera--ideally set to Yakety Sax, because Yakety Sax makes anything funny.
THAT IRREVERENCE, THAT WIT, I'D RECOGNIZE IT ANYWHERE: Yes, it's seven minutes of people explaining their vision for a Ziggy movie. (Trust me, it's funny, and intentionally so.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

WHAT DID YOU EXPECT, WE'VE SEEN HIS GIANT HANDS: We probably need a thread for spoiler discussion of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I highly recommend. In a lot of ways, it's more human than Knocked Up and Superbad, particularly on the female side. Sarah Marshall is a fully formed character rather than just being either an unattainable beauty (Superbad), or a shrill nagging harpy (Knocked Up). Lots of very funny people doing very funny bit moments (Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jack McBrayer, whose story doesn't really connect into the rest of the film, and an ALOTT5MA fave who shows up during the credits in a preview for Sarah Marshall's next project), and Billy Baldwin doing a priceless goof on David Caruso as the lead of Crime Scene: Scene Of The Crime. Jason Segel also proves that yes, he can carry a movie on his broad shoulders and you don't think of him as Marshall even once (and yes, as is obligatory to mention in all writing about the film, we do see all of him--no reciprocation from the female characters, though).

One thing that does bug--Mila Kunis doesn't really work. She looks kind of like a plastic anime doll, and has a weird inflection in her voice that bugs. More significantly, while she's pretty, she doesn't bring any spark or interest to the character, who just winds up flat and not really a match for Bell's smart-ass attitude. I wonder what a sharper actress could have done with the part who could have brought some snark to it--say Amber Tamblyn, Rachel Bilson, or Emily Blunt--could have elevated what's already a very good movie to a great one.
CRASH AND BURN/PATIENCE IS THE HALLMARK OF THE OLD AND THE INFIRM: I can't remember the last time we took the betting off the board this early for the Least Surprising News of the Year (though I think it was probably the Brit-K-Fed divorce), but we almost had to do it today, because the Knickerbockers fired Isiah Thomas as their coach. I say "almost had to do it," because there actually is a surprise in there -- they are retaining Thomas in some capacity to report to GM Donnie Walsh. Apparently crippling a team for years to come with extravagant and painfully obvious salary-cap mismanagement, constructing a terrible team, coaching that team into indifferent underachievement, expensively embroiling the franchise in a sexual harassment scandal, making racist comments, misspelling "Isaiah," and turning a once-proud franchise into a complete laughingstock on and off the court won't get you fired-fired. It's not clear to me why James Dolan is keeping him around in any capacity -- wouldn't he want him free to seek employment with other teams (cough Clay Bennett cough)?
I LOVE WINGO! Those of you for whom two weeks of the Beatles on AI was insufficient, pay heed: the Beatles are back! Or at least the Beetles: Jack, Pete, George, and Wingo. Their yellow submarine has gotten stuck underwater, and thus the Wonder Pets are on their way to help the beetles and save the day.

Set your Tivos, all you Ming Ming fans -- Monday night at 7 pm.
LET'S PLAY TWO! POINT FOUR! Nice 22-inning, 6 1/4-hour game in San Diego last night (and this morning), with no scoring until the 14th (when both teams put one up) and then no more scoring until the 22nd, when Willy Tavares came home unearned on an error, steal, error, and double. Both teams played everybody on the active roster who wasn't a starting pitcher. How bad was the offense in this game? Colorado had 27 plate appearances -- an entire perfect game's worth -- by players batting below the Mendoza line. And they won.

ETA: SPECIAL BONUS ALOTT5MA GIVEAWAY! ALOTT5MA Hyde Park Bureau Chief Marsha has one extra ticket for the Cubs-Mets games in Chicago on Monday night (7:05 start time) and Tuesday afternoon (1:20 start time). "Each ticket is free to any Thingthrower willing to join [Marsha] and not make fun of [her] for rooting for the Mets." You are, however, free to make fun of her husband or children for rooting for the Mets. Marsha cannot guarantee your security in the event of an assault by marauding Ligues. If interested, or, in the case of the Tuesday game, if interested and unemployed, contact Marsha at the email address listed in the comments.
DARKNESS: Danny Federici -- organist, accordion player and longest-serving member of the E Street Band -- has died at the age of 58 from skin cancer. In his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, Springteen described Federici as "the most instinctive and natural musician I ever met," adding, "Your organ and accordion playing brought the boardwalks of Central and South Jersey alive in my music."

After taking a leave of absence from the band for treatment in November, Federici rejoined them one last time in Indianapolis last month. From that show, here's "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)".
I NEVER MEANT TO BE SO BAD TO YOU: Today, the Captivate Network alerted me to the release of a new Asia album. Sure, I loved the first album. I was, after all, twelve.

Is there a need for a new Asia album? Is there room for supergroups in this increasingly atomized music industry? And if so, offer up your suggested supergroup.
ON NOTICE: Tonight's Colbert Report ... um, just wow. How that edited that into thirty minutes is astounding. With Hillary Clinton already announced for a cameo, Rep. Patrick Murphy as the interview guest,* and a pair of additional surprise guests of interest to fans of Democratic presidential politics ... just hop on your jet ski and set your Tivo to grab it when you can, though it's going to be all over YouTube soon enough. And that's the W0RD.

* As some of you know, I am totally biased when it comes to Patrick, but I thought he handled himself great in what can be a very difficult interview context for politicians.

e.t.a. As I was saying -- YouTubes of Hilllary Clinton, Surprise Guest #1 and Surprise Guest #2.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

HOT AND JUICY: An Office to remember tonight, truly. Between Pam & Jim and that great Kevin moment, plus some vintage Michael Scott singlemindedness ... Sepinwall agrees. This is the one we've been waiting for.

[We can also talk about 30 Rock. I say "Tim Conway", you say "hero"?]
BECAUSE WITH THE WAR AND THE ECONOMY AND THE ENVIRONMENT THERE REALLY ISN'T ENOUGH ACTUAL REAL WORLD STUFF OUT THERE TO BUM YOU OUT: Robert Bell of Movies Online counts down his 20 "favorite" feel-bad movies of the last two decades, including such uplifting fare as children perishing in bus accidents, working at the glove counter in a department store (I'd say more dull than feel-bad), and the conformity of suburbia. Somehow Schindler's List, 21 Grams, and the Star Wars prequels missed the cut.
ME WANT FOOD! In the continuing effort to demonstrate that no topic is too narrowcast to have a blog devoted to it, I've found myself increasingly entranced by Midtown Lunch, the blog devoted to places where one can have a relatively high-quality lunch in Midtown Manhattan for no more than $10 (though there is an ongoing debate as to whether the cap needs to be raised in light of recent inflation, under which steak burrito + small drink at Chipotle has now hit the $10 mark in Manhattan). I believe we've hit this topic before, at least peripherally, but what are your preferred lunch locations, at least when you're not putting it on an expense report?
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD NOT SMELL AS SWEET: The finest of a great many fine moments in the hilarious Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Gauntlet III Reunion a month or so back came after Katie, for the umpteenth time, physically swallowed the foul language about to spew out of her mouth, explaining that she promised her mother that she would act like a lady. Coral leaned over, put her hand on Katie's knee, and said "sometimes what you need's a good 'fuck you.'" Like a balloon whose knot had just been untied, Katie immediately said 'yeah!' and bounced a series of smiling 'fucks' and 'cocksuckers' off of every nearby surface.

I mention this because I need to object to the euphemism in the Patti Smith/Natalie Merchant post below. Ignore that SS arguably (though not inarguably) misapplied the aphorism to LL -- in this context, he actually meant the euphemism, instead of the word for which Bob substituted the euphemism. My complaint is that "they dance the way they fuck" is not synonymous with "they dance the way they engage in intimate relations," because "fucking" and "engaging in intimate relations" are not synonymous. I understand that there are certain contexts in which one should not or cannot employ certain words or phrases. I like to think, though, that 51 weeks out of the year (the exception being Bee Week), this is a place where people can handle the use of the odd 'fuck' when, as in this case, there is no adequate substitute.
DESIRE IS THE HUNGER IS THE FIRE I BREATHE: "They dance the way they [engage in intimate relations]" said a voice from behind me. I was a college freshman at a party. I turned to see who was talking to me. A suave senior smiled knowingly. He nodded in the direction of an uncommonly beautiful woman dancing in a fairly chaste manner near us.

"That's what I mean. Beauty, but no passion." His voice trailed away, his meaning clear.

He motioned toward a lissome lass, dancing with a sinewy sensuality. "She, on the other hand, has everything a man could possibly desire."

Which brings me at long last to Patti Smith and 10,000 Maniacs and their versions of "Because the Night." I happened to hear both of them yesterday. Let's just say that I have a marked preference for Smith's version.

Smith's song has a bold power that seems to make manifest the fervor of lust. I love the way that she explodes at the bridge. Her version hit #13 on the pop charts in 1978.

Somewhat inexplicably, 10,000 Maniacs decided to cover the song 15 years later. Their performance is virtually note for note identical to the original with a few minor changes to the lyrics. But the fire is gone. Had Natalie Merchant performed that song on American Idol, I suspect that the judges would have had harsh words for her utter misreading of the central theme of the song. Even more inexplicably, the 10,000 Maniacs cover was a slightly bigger hit, reaching #11 on the pop charts.

Decide for yourself: here is Smith's version; here is Merchant's tepid reading.

And, well, because the night belongs to Springsteen fans, here is his version (he co-wrote the song with Smith).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CELEBRATE! ME HOME: None of the Idols were wearing American flag pins tonight, and none would distance themselves from Mariah Carey, who after all worked with notorious convicted felon Rick James on the Glitter soundtrack. So they all deserved to go, but you didn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing tonight ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS? Am I the only one who's frequently more than a little creeped out by the "friend suggestions" on Facebook and the extended network on LinkedIn? Sure, finding out that I'm two degrees away from both Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani on LinkedIn via different people is kind of cool, and the "friend suggestion" tool can be useful on Facebook in letting me realize that folks I know are on it but I haven't connected with them yet. That said, it can be a little creepy to get suggested that you be Facebook friends with half of the Gawker Media staff and Arianna Huffington, which I get from time to time.
MY BONG REACHES ACROOOOOOOOSSSS THE ROOM: A few months late, but you'll still enjoy the trailer for There Will Be Bud. Via The House Next Door.
A BIT LIKE ORDERING A HAMBURGER, AND ONLY GETTING THE BUN: Did the Idols make it happen? Were you feeling emotions deeper than you've ever dreamed of?

Okay, if I try I can let go of this conceit to talk about the show. Jen properly notes that Carly done got swallowed alive by the whale of the song called "Without You," and while she'll be in bottom three I think it's Kristy Lee who's going home with a boring, unmemorable rendition of a Mariah song no one remembers hearing before.

But I really want to talk about Carly, because "Without You" is a song that basically exists as a long setup for some of the biggest glory notes in the pop universe. Kelly Clarkson could hit them, and it felt like Carly instead rearranged the song to avoid them altogether. Oh, and while she was at it, she also completely avoided selling the emotions of the song. (Hint: you're supposed to look like you don't want to live without him.)

Carly failed where all the others more or less succeeded -- you can't hit a Mariah Carey hit straight up; you have to, have to find some other way to approach it. Half the competitors had the advantage of being male, with David Cook and Clifford the Crunchy Muppet having the added plus of having distinct personal styles to swing their songs into. (I liked the Cook more in concept than execution, but still, 'twas fine.) Same with America's Nanny, who I believe is the first performer this season to eschew all band accompaniment altogether, and Syesha who just went to the obscure nether regions of the Carey catalog.

Which means that individually, most of them made good decisions for staying in the competition. But collectively, all that obscuring and rearrangement made for a generally lousy hour of television. In answer to Kim's question below, then, the answer is "you didn't hear the good part of Mariah's oeuvre tonight, done the way she sings it" -- none of these singers can approach her range, and none were going to bring in the hip-hop the way she's done so well. So enjoy Mariah with the O.D.B., because you didn't get anything close to this on Idol tonight.

e.t.a. Fienberg can handle YDA: "I guess this wasn't the week for David to break out of his power balladeering mode, was it? Anybody remember the last time he looked like he was having fun? I only remember his eyes half-closed and his hand raised up urging viewers to follow him on his Children's March. Whether you're viewing David as remarkably consistent or remarkably monotonous is completely subjective at this point. I think he's aware that the only way he can lose is to make a horrible mistake and he has no interest in swaying new fans."
IT'S IN THE BAG: I am in the market for a laptop case of some variety that's both suitably business-like that I can take it with me on business trips and to business events and not ridiculously dorky--it should also have space for airplane carry-on essentials (e.g., a book, a DVD or two). I was thinking about the Jack Spade messenger-type bag or going with one of the Timbuk2 bags (which I believe come pre-approved as "cool" by Isaac), but I'd prefer not to spend $150+ on such a bag. Any brilliant thoughts?
ONLY MARGINALLY AN AMERICAN IDOL POST: Mariah Carey has more #1 singles than Elvis Presley? Really? I like cheesy music as much as, if not more than, just about anyone else. But this stuff is painful. So who, exactly, are all these people who have been buying this treacle for the last eighteen years?

That's all. I'll save my actual AI comments for Adam's post.
I CAN SEE CLEARLY THAT THIS AD MAKES NO SENSE: While I'm busting on ads, I want to mention the Claritin one from which I can't seem to escape. It reads:
I get the basic point -- Claritin just won't stop working -- so I guess that in that sense the ad is effective. What I spend most of my time thinking about, though, is the thorough oddity of this ad. First, let's accept for the sake of argument the dubious premise that most people don't like workaholics. Do those same people -- presumably, people who are themselves allergic to work -- like working for workaholics? Isn't a workaholic more likely to demand hard work from the people reporting to him or her? I would imagine that the more logical corollary would be "but they like working for people who are incapable of delegating responsibility," but I guess "Claritin: Can't Delegate Responsibility" doesn't roll off the tongue. Second, isn't the point to say that Claritin will work for us? Then why suggest that, should we buy the workaholic product, we will be working for it? I don't really know what that would entail, anyway. Third, the subtext of this ad is, confusingly: "You are lazy, but you need our product." I guess I'm unaccustomed to gratuitous insults in my ad copy. ETA: Oh, yeah -- Fourth, grammar.

On a totally unrelated note, while standing in line at the deli thinking about all of this stuff, the smoove-jazz station played an uptempo 4:4 version of "Take Five." Unnecessary!

ETA: In a remarkable convergence of my last two posts, check out this non-nonsensical (sensical?) low-fi guerilla ad for a Claritin competitor.
THE GOOD; THE BAD AND THE UGLY: Yesterday I read a short "A Review of a Movie I Haven't Seen" over at TwoP. I won't link it because it would be a waste of your time -- whether you loved or hated the old days, the blurb was definitive evidence that the sun has set on the Wing Chun blog empire. I didn't always agree with the old AROAMIHSes when they were posted (on Hissyfit, I think -- which suggests that the Bravo IP acquisition was broader than just TwoP and Fametracker), but at least they staked out a position, made cogent points, and were worth reading. This review, by a contributor whose name I didn't recognize but who nonetheless received featured status on the entry page, basically said "you guys I know the ad campaign and previews suck but give it a chance because it might be funny!!!!LOL!"

Anyway, the review got me thinking about how bad the saturation-marketing for Forgetting Sarah Marshall has been. I understand and accept the premise of the marketing -- the ads are themselves artifacts from the plot that subtly break the fourth wall and engage the audience in the movie. A deliberately amateurish ad campaign is difficult to do well, though. My problem with the Sarah Marshall ads is not the concept, but the execution. If they were to succeed, those plain black words on a white background had to do a lot of work. They had to seem angry and impulsive, and they had to look like they might be the handwriting of an anguished, end-of-his-rope Jason Segel. At the same time, they had to be easily legible and soft enough that they didn't seem like the work of an unlikeable person. I think the ads passed the second test but failed the first -- the copy is too sanitized, the letters too clean and rehearsed. Frankly, the words look stilted, like the work of a graphic designer with very nice Frank Ching handwriting trying diligently, but failing, to deprofessionalize it -- the lettering equivalent of trained actors unconvincingly reducing autistic people to cartoonish soups of tics and catch-phrases (Hoffman, Penn).

It's a particularly bad time for Sarah Marshall's low-fi campaign because it comes on the heels of what I think is an extremely successful faux-guerilla campaign. The Rambo teaser marketing was exceptional. The first of these that I saw were missing all of the text, leaving only the image, which meant that they wormed their way into my brain as I tried to figure out what the point was. The stencil perfectly conveys what Stallone wants us to believe about all of his characters -- that they are men of the people, subsisting in and on the needs, desires, and heroic will of the common folk. At the same time, it paints (literally) John Rambo as a revolutionary by appropriating an iconography from people of a different political stripe (particularly the ubiquitous Che Guevara image, but also Lenin, Mao, and Stalin). I have never seen a Rambo movie and likely never will, but this campaign had me wavering, wanting to join a movement that I knew was fabricated in a conference room high above Madison Avenue. Now that's an ad campaign.
ME AND MARIAH GO BACK LIKE BABIES WITH PACIFIERS: So, it's Mariah Carey week on Idol, and my goodness these singles don't present a lot of options for the men. To me, she's a more difficult sonic mountain to tackle than Whitney because that higher-octave range just seems so impossible for mere mortals to climb -- human beings are not supposed to hit the same notes as a teakettle.

If I'm Young David Archuleta, I ask if her cover of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" is eligible (and then wrestle Clifford the Crunchy Muppet for the right to sing it), but otherwise I can see him doing a credible job on "Hero," and not just because it's yet another inspirational song. I have a feeling CtCM could work "Emotions" into his little range, and for David Cook, I think "We Belong Together," "Dreamlover" or Harry Nilsson's "Without You" are among the songs he theoretically could rock out on.

For the ladies: avoid "One Sweet Day". You will not convince the audience that Wanya, Shawn, Nathan and Michael were unnecessary. What advice would you give?
TAX TIME, AIN'T NOTHING BUT A MESS: Special for you on April 15th, here are some of the best songs that mention taxes:
  • "Tax Man" by the Beatles
  • "Take the Money and Run" by the Steve Miller Band ("He makes his living off of other people's taxes")
  • "Trouble Man" by Marvin Gaye ("There's only 3 things for sure: Taxes, death and trouble")
  • "Third Degree" by Willie Dixon ("Got me accused of taxes; I ain't got a dime")
  • "Paisley Park" by Prince ("Memories die but taxes he'll still have 2 give")
  • "Can't Cry Anymore" by Sheryl Crow ("There's not enough to pay my taxes")
  • "Ideology" by Billy Bragg ("Expect a little more back for their taxes, like school books, beds in hospitals")
  • "Paradigm" by Ani DiFranco ("They were happy to pay taxes for the schools and roads")
  • "Play it Again Sam" by the Indigo Girls ("Well, we'll donate to our charities to deduct our future taxes")
  • "Cash Talkin' (Workingman's Blues)" by Albert Collins ("Tax time, ain't nothin' but a mess/Payin' Uncle Sam more an' I'm gettin' less")
  • "Ball of Confusion" by the Temptations ("Politicians say more taxes will solve everything")
  • "Gasoline Dreams" by Outkast ("But I still gotta pay my taxes and they give us no pity")
  • "Large Amounts" by Ludacris ("Cuz I'm sure I pay more in taxes then you made in your life")

Monday, April 14, 2008

BREAK THE CHAIN: Given both its general and typical awesomeness and its depiction of big law firm life this week in particular, a thread to discuss tonight's HIMYM is certainly in order. Don't forget to bring your completed Ninja Report with you, and I'm calling shotgun for all eternity.

Me Llamo Dora: An Explorer in Modern America : NPR

TICO IS NOT A ROLE MODEL: Russ passes along this neat little story from NPR today on all the thinking that went into creating "Dora the Explorer".
HE WAS NOT LOOKING FOR HIS 'ROCK OF LIKE', NOR WAS HE SEEKING HIS 'ROCK OF LUST': Did Bret Michaels find his Rock of Love last night? We are not above asking the questions Americans want answered about last night's vomit-and-gratuitous-nudity-filled finale.

e.t.a. Bret talks to the AP: "My hair is combined of my hair and the finest extensions Europe has to offer. I do the show without it on all the time and they won't film me. They are like, 'Put your bandanna back on. It is your image.' It is my signature thing."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

MAYBE TAKING FAMEWHORING TO THE NEXT LEVEL: How did I miss that Rebecca Cardon (of Hellboy partnership fame on TAR6) not only appeared on Bravo's Work Out, but also took up with lead trainer Jackie Warner? I'm guessing that relationship had to be less codependent than the one she had with her ex.
STATES RIGHTS: For what I assume are reasons entirely different than Isaac's prior quest to locate kid-friendly songs mentioning all 50 states, Ken Jennings has created a list of what he believes are the best bands from each of the 50 states (Part 1, Part 2). I am quite certain there is much to argue here (the Prince/Replacements debate is probably worth a post of its own)--do so.
BECAUSE LORD KNOWS WE DON'T WATCH ENOUGH TV ALREADY: ThingThrowers in the market for gifts (or just for additional things to watch) may be interested to know that this week, Best Buy has on special for $19.99 the following:
  • Seasons 2-3 of The Office
  • Season 1 of Heroes
  • Every season of Gilmore Girls
  • Seasons 1-6 of Smallville
  • Seasons 1-6 of Scrubs
  • Season 1 of 30 Rock
  • Seasons 1-2 of How I Met Your Mother
  • Season 1, season 2, and season 3 parts 1 and 2 (separate purchase required) of Entourage
Marked down even further--every season of The O.C. is $16.99. Most of these sets regularly go for $29.99 (or more!), so it's a nice deal. Many of these aren't available for online viewing, and some of the sets contain a multitude of special features. Happy shopping!
"JON'S REAL, TALKING TO FAKE PEOPLE. I'M FAKE, TALKING TO REAL PEOPLE." In advance of this week's quartet of shows from Philadelphia, Stephen Colbert talks to the Philadelphia Inquirer about his on-screen persona, his love of Dungeons & Dragons, and why it doesn't matter to "Stephen Colbert" who wins in November.