Saturday, November 21, 2009

A LIGHT-FILLED, AIRY OASIS FILLED WITH WARMTH AND CHARM: Remember that boss's list of 100 things restaurant staffers should never do? Via Gawker, there's a 101st, and this is the only non-obscene passage of restaurateur Vadim Ponorovsky's email to his staff which calls his employees every word in the book except for 'cocksucker': "Effective immediately, any server or host who fails to collect at least 20 emails per week, will be fined $100. Anyone failing to collect at least 20 emails for two weeks in a month will be fired immediately. No matter what. No matter who you are."

Now maybe it's just me, but I can't remember ever filling out a "please add us to our email list" card when presented with the bill; it's just more spam in which I have no interest. So we've got three issues here: (1) how much of an asshole is Ponorovsky, based on this email? (2) under what circumstances do you give a restaurant your email address? and (3) aren't servers just going to make up email addresses to comply with this diktat?
AND THE SECOND GREATEST FIGHT OF THE LAST 100 YEARS: Key moment in this dramatization of the fisticuffs at the Washington Post earlier this month comes about 1:50 into the video.

FORGET THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE:  This was the fight of the century.

DON'T FORGET TO MASSAGE THE GRAPES: Has it really been five-and-a-half years since Jimmy Fallon was last funny?
STRONG LANGUAGE, COCKSUCKER: If HBO warnings were honest.

Friday, November 20, 2009

PAUL RUDD = LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM? The folks at American Polymath interview Chuck Klosterman, and while I appreciated his dual answer to "What is your favorite era in Elvis Presley’s (or Grbac's) career?", it's another question in the interview that's a grab bag of fun for the readers of this site: If you were hired to cast a movie about Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, who would you pick to play the members of the band?
WHAT ABOUT A WHOLE ROASTED TURKEY? For those like me traveling via air for Thanksgiving--a helpful guide to food products and other items that you can bring through airport security--pies and fruitcakes? OK! Gravy and snowglobes? Not so much.
APPARENTLY, THERE'S A JOB OPENING FOR AN EXOTIC DANCER WHO OWNS A POCKET DICTIONARY AND A COPY OF THE TURABIAN MANUAL: Matt and I have counted at least three errors in this recent Philadelphia Daily News ad.
DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT SHOOTING FISH IN A BARREL? Newsweek really goes out on a limb in this list of 12 Unfunny Comics, zagging rather than zigging with takedowns of such revered comedic geniuses as Pauly Shore, Carrot Top, and even poor old Yakov Smirnoff. When Jeff Dunham is the most controversial pick on your list, it may be time for a different bit, unless the whole list was conceived as a way to use a contemporary photo of a shirtless Gallagher.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

YouTube - Roland Martin Introduces "Ascot Day" On "PTI"

THE BALD BROTHERHOOD: Today was Ascot Day on PTI.
MY NAME IS RICHIE CUNNINGHAM, AND THIS IS MY LOVELY WIFE: Oprah Winfrey will end her talk show in September 2011.

There will be much time, obviously, to quantify and reflect upon her impact on American life -- in commerce, in literature, in spirituality and self-assessment, in reviving the talk show format in the post-Donahue era, in philanthropy, and so on. For now I just want to reflect on what a remarkable life she's had, as Wikipedia clinically summarizes. Seriously, to start from where she was -- to endure what she did growing up -- well, most people don't go from there to known-around-the-world billionaire status. There is so much to admire.
CAN WE HAVE A JOHN CASEY V. JOHN LOCKE AWESOME-OFF? Two much-anticipated TV return dates around here arrived today:
  • Chuck returns on January 10, before returning to its regular timeslot of Mondays at 8/7 Central the following day. At least for me, that creates a DVR conflict, as it'll be against House and HIMYM (as well as One Tree Hill and Dancing With The Stars), which Dr. Hizzy sadly loses.
  • Lost returns on February 2 in a new Tuesday at 9 timeslot, against interesting competition (Biggest Loser, NCIS: Los Angeles, Idol or whatever Fox decides to air out of Idol, and Melrose Place), with an eye to a Dancing results/Lost/V lineup on Tuesdays.
FREAKS OF THE INDUSTRY (REDUX): San Francisco Giant Tim Lincecum is this year's National League Cy Young Award Winner. A tougher call this year than last, but well deserved. If that guy had more of a team behind him, there would not have been any room for doubt.

KEEL MOOSE AND SQUIRREL! Rocky and Bullwinkle arrived on television 50 years ago today. Much as I enjoyed the serial cliffhanger spoof that the Rocky and Bullwinkle segments were, the Peabody's Improbable History bits were always my favorite.
LAND OF HIS LOST APPEAL: Based on its return on investment analysis (star compensation v. revenue generated), Forbes magazine's list of Hollywood's most overpaid stars is topped by Will Ferrell, Ewan McGregor, William Robert Thornton and Eddie Murphy. Its previous Best Actors for the Buck list was led by Shia the Beef and James McAvoy -- i.e., actors who have never been the selling points for their fims.
AS A REMINDER, THE CITY DUMP MAY BE CLOSED: With one week to go it's time for our annual preview of our Thanksgiving menu plans, and while I'm locked into the greatest turkey recipe ever I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the now-traditional Second Protein for our table of ten adults and three kids. In recent years, I've done the five-spice duck recipe with which I'm very comfortable, only with duck breasts instead of whole duck, but I'm considering a second option: making two, smaller turkeys if I can determine a second method which is different enough from but complements the first.

On the stuffing side, I'll probably reach towards the sausage/fennel direction again, but my 2008 experiment of preparing individual portions using muffin pans just didn't quite deliver on crunch or consistency. Everything else is someone else's problem. How about you?
AND SO JAVERT, YOU'LL SEE IT'S TRUE/THAT MAN IS NO MORE BUILT THAN YOU: Remember two years ago today, when we started cracking jokes about a porn star acting under the name of Jean Val Jean? Well he's gone legit -- Reality Blurred has followed him to Bravo's Chef Academy, where he's among the cheftestants.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

THE FINAL FOUR IS THE FINAL FOUR: I'll try to have more to say about tonight's Top Chef in the morning. Just know that I'm pleased, if a bit confounded by the result. I'm really surprised this challenge proved so difficult to execute, for what it's worth.

added: AVClub's Scott Tobias says all I needed to: "To torture a sports metaphor, it was like watching the regular season peter out and suddenly burst into the postseason, where the stakes are higher and only the very best come out to play. Can you even imagine Robin attempting the Elimination Challenge in this week’s episode?"
WHO NEEDS FLOTUS? According to Slate's Bret Asbury,the best preschool programming on tv is the trippy Yo Gabba Gabba!. Seriously, it's only a few steps away from the Altered State of Druggachusetts.
GIG 'EM: I was generally neutral or slightly favorable to UT in the Texas v. Texas A&M wars of my youth, but that doesn't mean I wasn't in awe of the phenomenon that was Aggie Bonfire, where students built a 55 foot tall bonfire and lit it on fire after it was doused with jet fuel. 10 years ago today, at its final stages of construction, the bonfire collapsed, killing 12 and injuring 27. The Wiki page provides a lot of insight into the community's response, which, regardless of your feelings about A&M as an institution, says a lot about how amazingly cohesive it is as an institution, especially for a school of that size.
WHAT DO WE WANT? BRAAAINS! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? BRAAAINS! What with our prior discussion of "zombie banks," we'd be remiss in failing to link to New York Magazine's effort to add zombies to Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big To Fail, an account of key moments in last year's banking crisis. Yes, Jamie Dimon is apparently an incredibly powerful zombie slayer.
NOW THIRD IN LINE FOR THE PRESIDENCY: Despite a substantial number of reports that Robert Pattinson would be named this year's Sexiest Man Alive over the past few days, instead, Johnny Depp becomes only the third (after Brad Pitt and George Clooney) two-time winner of the title. Also sexy, per People? Pattinson, Ryan Reynolds, Bradley Cooper, Robert Downey, Jr., Gilles Marini, the men of Glee (Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith, and Mark Salling), Adam Lambert, and John Cho.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ACCORDING TO BABYCENTER.COM, YOU CAN NOW EXPECT US TO BE MORE DELIGHTFUL AND LESS NEEDY: This blog today celebrates its seventh birthday. If you look through that first week's postings, you'll see many of our traditional concerns in their nascent form -- the state of SNL (referring both to "the greatness of Dratch-Fey-Poehler-Rudolph" and Tom Shales' "new" book on the show), beauty pageants, Jacko, evil rabbis, quoting Roger Ebert, the AV Club, A.I. worship, statistical analysis of baseball and, of course, Kikko-man. Thanks for sticking around.

Monday, November 16, 2009

THIS EVER-CHANGING WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE IN: Having apparently decided that living Americans such as Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen (well, he's getting a Kennedy Center Honor this year), Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Carole King, Smokey Robinson, Prince, Lou Reed and Holland-Dozier-Holland weren't good enough, the Library of Congress is awarding its third annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (for lifetime achievement in songwriting) to Sir Paul McCartney.
BECAUSE LORD KNOWS, WE DON'T FOLLOW HIM CLOSELY ENOUGH AROUND HERE: Eeeeee! Confirmed via Felicia Day, yes, NPH is now on Twitter! (Amusingly, thus far, the only person he's following? Teller.)

Oxford Word of the Year 2009: Unfriend : OUPblog

SADLY, "PWNED" GOT PWNED: Oxford University Press has spoken, and "unfriend" is your Word of the Year, besting hashtag, sexting, zombie bank and tramp stamp.
HINT...HE'S NOT CANADIAN: Remote Control host Ken Ober has died.
PLUSHY! Yes, we're circling back towards the quadrennial awesomeness which is Olympic figure skating, and as such we invite back frequent commentator Gretchen, winner of the 2006 ALOTT5MA Award for Olympian Achievement In Guest Posting, to bring us up to speed:
* * *
Skating is back!* It's that time again -- time for America to fall in love with figure skating for three intense months, before forgetting about it for the next four years. After all, has anyone really thought about figure skating since Torino? Probably not, if this weekend's coverage of Skate America was any indication. Peggy Fleming had to remind us all about the Code of Points, which has abandoned the old 6.0 scale. Newspapers bemoaned the fact that no American woman had secured the official "America's Sweetheart" position, and that we have only two (rather than the usual three) berths at the Olympics this year. And gauzy TV packages touted Yu-Na Kim, the 2009 world champion, explaining to us Americans that while we have no idea who she was, she is known as Queen Yu-Na in her home of South Korea and is largely viewed as a lock for Olympic gold.

With Yu-Na Kim, Evan Lysacek, and ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Skate America was a good preview of some (though not all) of the top contenders, all of whom were expected to win and did. The biggest surprise was Rachael Flatt's terrific and exuberant skate in the long program (surely a statement that she deserves the Olympics and the American's Sweetheart title), and Queen Yu-Na's surprising falters on the ice, where she delivered her worst long program in two years. It's a testament to Yu-Na's dominance that even in light of her falls and bobbles, she still easily took gold.

Sasha Cohen was scheduled to skate and pulled out at the last minute, claiming injury. She hasn't skated competitively since 2006, instead focusing on the professional skating scene. No matter how good a pro she is, the reality is that her pro performances were a far cry from Olympic-level skating, often replacing jumps (and ice skates) with a focus on her extraordinary flexibility. The last-minute pull-out makes me think that she's just not ready for competition -- and may have underestimated how hard it would be to come back. The real question is whether she can get her act together in time for nationals. I have my doubts. In Sasha's place, Emily Hughes was a last minute entrant into the competition, but had a disastrous short program, resulting in a seventh place finish overall. After two years that were largely plagued by injury (not to mention five-class semesters at Harvard!), she also may simply not be prepared for this level of competition.

While Evan Lysacek seems to have his gold-medal-march all planned out, there's one thing that can get in his way -- one big, arm-waving, ice-thrashing, former-gold-medal-winning thing. Yes, Plushy's back. Like Sasha Cohen, he's attempting to stage a return to the world stage after retiring post-gold-medal in Turin. Unlike Cohen, he's actually shown up for a Grand Prix event (the Rostelecom Cup), which he won. But his comeback attempt raises similar questions -- after spending four years basically off the ice (although he did show up to skate as part of the winning 2008 Eurovision Song Contest performance), is he ready to compete with Evan Lysacek, who has been plotting out this move for four years?

After the International Skating Union passed the "Boitano Rule,"** which allows skaters to claim amateur status even after skating professionally, numerous skaters have tried to follow this path of going pro, and then returning to amateur competition for the Olympics. After all, the Olympics offer excitement, attention, and a world stage unlike any professional ice show. But it's not always easy. Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt both failed to make the podium in their post-professional try at Olympic gold. At this point, I wouldn't bet that either Plushy or Sasha Cohen can find their way back to medal contention. But I hope that NBC will broadcast enough skating to let us see them try.

*As a reminder, I have no actual knowledge of figure skating other than an excellent memory for the last thirty years of winter Olympics and an abiding interest in this often-ridiculous, occasionally sublime, perpetually entertaining sport. If anyone has actual knowledge, please weigh in!

**Did anyone else see Brian Boitano's new show on the Food Network? It was actually funny!
INTERNET KILLED THE VIDEO STAR: We here at ALOTT5MA like lists so much, we put it in the title. So, as the oughts close to an end, here is video-rich list of one man's 101 Best Videos of the 2000's.

Here's my current favorite video - a ukelele-d out version of Poker Face. Very, very catchy.
ANY QUESTION THAT KENNEDY IS THE CONSENSUS #1 PICK? Not all of us follow football, baseball, or basketball obsessively enough to compete in fantasy sports. For those who do not, there's Fantasy SCOTUS.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TYPICAL WESLEYANIC FOOLISHNESS: List all the coaches in NFL history who could make the call to go for it from 4th and 2 on his own 28 with 2:08 on the clock, up 6, and not have his sanity and professional credentials sharply in question. Call it, ALOTT5MA -- was Bill Belichick appropriately aggressive given Manning's talents (and the timeout situation), only to have his risky move fail ... or was this one of the more heedless decisions you've ever seen since the days of Barry Switzer?

added: Football Outsiders does their weekly roundtable, ("I think Belichick was wrong to go for it, and you don't know what effect the decision to go for it had on the defense's morale, but wasn't he somewhat vindicated by the fact that the defense rolled over on the 30-yards?"), and Pro-Football-Reference does some math: "To assign some final probabilities to the situation, punting would give the Pats a roughly 60% chance to win (ignoring things like blocked punts, quick IND scores followed by NE scores, etc.). Going for it would give the Pats a 70% chance to win (60% chance to win following a successful 4th-down play, and a 1-in-4 chance of stopping the Colts the other 40% of the time). While we're using very fuzzy math here, I doubt you can come up with convincing math that says it was overwhelmingly a bad call to go for it here."

Also: the math's been automated. I'm starting to believe it was the right call.
SOMEONE GOT TO GIVE GLOBETROTTERS A TAXI. WE THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS! A speed bump is just a bump in the road, but nothing can derail you like not knowing what a candelabra is or failing to see the word "garden"on a clue. No, the finish was never in doubt, but we did see two unique things in this leg of the Race -- a shared taxi (apparently, non-penalized) and, okay, the thing we're going to talk the most about: editorial blurring not on account of nudity but rather based on Sam & Dan's excitement regarding the competition. Kudos to the Globetrotters, because those baggy, vertically-striped shorts do come in handy.

Speaking of which, that was one of the better sports-with-the-locals they've done in a while, a challenge format they've used rarely this season. The first part of this leg was frustrating -- seriously, a half-day wait for a half-day ferry? -- but once they got to Tallinn this was quite a well-constructed leg. (Which is to say that I'm still annoyed that they seem to have totally devalued skill-at-traveling as an asset in this year's Race.)

Fienberg has more on this week, and Miss Alli's recap of last week is now up. ("Right away, as Sam gets underway, Dan is screaming at him about how he has to break open the netting around the bale so he can unroll it. He’s right, but he’s already using his You Dumb Jackass tone of voice, which isn’t the direction you want to go right out of the gate.") Also, Saunabuss!
PRETTY STUPID? I don't have a whole lot to say about last night's SNL, but an interesting question--has a performer ever done as poorly for themselves or squandered so much goodwill as January Jones did last night? Yes, she looked very pretty throughout, but missed pretty much every comic note imaginable and seemed unable to play anything other than "staring directly into camera/at cue cards." And seriously, a sketch built around farting on the set of Rear Window? Really?