Saturday, April 24, 2010

DOPE SMOKERS ARE A BARGAIN: Matt Taibbi, of all people (yeah, I know), had an interesting think-piece on the NFL Draft in Men's Journal:
This is about as dark and freaky as our sanitized modern American mainstream culture ever openly admits to being. These are bloodless corporate enterprises using advanced scientific and economic metrics to measure the material worth of human flesh down to the half-pound, the 16th of an inch. Which would be horrifying and morally repulsive under normal circumstances, but when added to a strong rooting interest in your home team, can become for certain people one of those guilty pleasures you just can’t give up because you enjoy it so much....
All I know is that I don't feel nearly as good about having stowed away Justin Forsett on my dynasty league team as I did twelve hours ago.
THIS IS IT, JOEL. IT'S GOING TO BE GONE SOON: Anne Thompson performs a career audit on Jim Carrey, noting: "Carrey is too old to play the goofy adolescent and seems loathe to abandon big-budget star vehicles, even though stars aren't driving the gravy train anymore. Carrey's attempts to stretch in dramatic roles haven't connected with moviegoers, from the Capra-corny 'The Majestic' to the horrific 'The Number 23.' Becoming Tom Hanks or Jack Lemmon didn't work for Carrey, who just isn't beloved in the same way."

So what should he do? Claims one producer with whom Thompson spoke, "All Carrey has to do is step back into a role where he does that funny thing and he's back. He doesn't have to do leading men. Audiences would welcome him." Or are you finished with him?

Friday, April 23, 2010

CAN I BORROW YOUR ODORANT? Disney/Pixar to release Monsters Inc. 2 on November 16, 2012; also coming from the studio will be Pirates of the Caribbean 4, the Muppet movie Jason Segel was scripting, the round-the-world Cars 2 (6-24-2011) and, this June 18, Toy Story 3.
IT'S A PRIVILEGE TO PEE: Apparently, New Jersey is looking at closing its last two remaining free rest stop restrooms. Let's let Officer Lockstock and Little Sally explain.
I KNOW LEA MICHELE. LEA MICHELE IS A FRIEND OF MINE. YOU'RE NO LEA MICHELE. Marilu Henner and David Hasselhoff lead a "glee club" of familiar faces from TV in a little Journey. (And seriously, you're going to waste Fred Willard on that?) (HT: Maret.)
THE "AWARDS WHICH HAVE NEVER BEEN GRANTED TO THE SOURCE" AWARDS: The 2010 National Magazine Award winners have been announced, including Glamour winning the American Society of Magazine first-ever general award for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence, New York Magazine again cleaning up with four awards (including its definitive guides to Neapolitan pizza and the circumcision debate, to give some idea of the magazine's breadth), and Atul Gawande deservedly winning for that New Yorker article last summer on that town in Texas with the messed-up health care costs which everyone -- everyone -- seemed to have read.

Frustratingly, the ASME website neither links to the winners nor explains why the other finalists were nominated.
MY BULLSHIT DETECTOR IS ON HIGH ALERT: If it were indeed true that Comedy Central's bleeping of last night's South Park episode included Kyle's final speech about intimidation and fear and all the references to Muhammad and that it wasn't all some big meta-joke on Trey Parker and Matt Stone's part, then why haven't they released the full script of the episode publicly? Why would that even make sense from Comedy Central's perspective? That said, at some point on Thursday they did take down from their website the Super Best Friends clips depicting Muhammad (which I almost posted this morning), so who knows?

Longtime fans of this site know what pleased me about that episode, of course.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I HAVE TWO LITTLE GREEN MEN PROTECTING ME: Dan asks the proper question regarding Survivor: "completely brilliant or brilliantly stupid?" I'm going with the former, because we've seen in too many seasons how important getting this immediate result right can be for the endgame -- but part of it is just how much I enjoyed being blindsided like that, and I'd love to know how much of that was planned (and known by the participants in advance).
SOMEWHERE, HOOPER X IS ANGRY: Having probed alternate history with its exploration of the future of the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle, Archie Comics will introduce a gay character later this year. Of course, this is an apropos time to again remind you of the existence of Archie Meets the Punisher.
I WOULD SUGGEST THAT IF YOU WERE LITERALLY LIVING IN A POWDER KEG, THE LAST THING YOU SHOULD BE DOING IS GIVING OFF SPARKS, BUT THAT IS ME: Combine the Taiwanese Susan Boyle with Captain Kirk and the greatest pop song of the 20th Century and the results, predictably, are magical.

WHO MAKES STEVE GUTTENBERG A STAR? OK, I don't get Starz, so have missed out on Party Down, but just five minutes of the 4 episodes streaming online right now indicates that this is something I (and probably you) should be watching, if just for the sarcastic description of Ayn Rand as someone who "wrote books about how awesome awesome people are" and the true sign of affluence--owning Herbie: Fully Loaded on both Blu-Ray and DVD. Check it out.
THE BASKETBALL QUADRUPLECAST: There's a bunch of interesting stuff in this press release about the NCAA's new TV contract for the Division I Basketball Tournament, but the two big things are:
  • Starting next year, rather than CBS's "flip from game to game" coverage, it seems all games will be shown in their entirety on four different networks--CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV (f/k/a/ CourtTV). Unclear on how exactly the games will be divided among the networks. Beginning in 2016, the Final Four will air in alternate years on CBS and TBS.
  • Next year's tourney will expand from 65 to 68 teams, I assume by adding a play-in game to the 3 other regions that no one will really care about.
SERGEANT, CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT HOW YOU HAPPENED TO GET THIS MEDAL? YOU MUST HAVE MOWED THEM DOWN: Via one of the researchers for The Pacific, archival footage of the real John Basilone meeting NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to pitch war bonds. (HT: Poniewozik.) I'm still one episode behind in my viewing, but feel free to discuss.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

HE BELIEVES HE CAN FLY: Time for our decennial Fordham baseball highlight, and it's a good one. (Context here.)

In other baseball news, Halladay! 9 IP 5 H 0 R 1 BB 7 K in 113 pitches. Phils win 2-0, and Roy's ERA is a mere 0.82 with a 28:3 K:BB ratio after four winning starts. Wow.
$100 = TEN MOSQUITO NETS: Say what you will about American Idol, but what other show with its reach devotes two hours (almost) every year to the realities of global and American poverty and urges its viewers to give?

We'll talk about the results below the fold once they happen, and feel free to live-comment. But as Fienberg suggests, make a reasonable-sized contribution and you're morally clear to snark on the rest of the show as much as you want.
NOBODY PUTS DOWNEY IN A CORNER: And with more natural grace than Jennifer Grey ...

THERE'S A SPECIAL ON DEP DOWN AT THE DRUG STORE: Having finally seen the final few minutes of last night's Glee (no, thank you Fox for your inability to finish Idol on time), seems that we had the traditional strengths and weaknesses--Sue Sylvester's awesomeness, a couple of dramatically overblown production numbers ("Like A Prayer," "4 Minutes," "Ray of Light"), one interesting reinvention of a song ("What It Feels Like For A Girl"), and a gleeful disregard for any sense of continuity (the mysterious appearance and disappearance of Quinn's baby bump, the makeup coverup on one of Lea Michele's tattoos in the bedroom scene). There wasn't an awful lot of plot development, and Idina Menzel's absence was notable (wouldn't she be raising holy hell about her star leaving for the "competition," at least unless this is all a ruse?), but still, a good time, right?
THAT PILOT WHO LOOKS LIKE HE STEPPED OFF THE SET OF A BURT REYNOLDS MOVIE: Normally by this time, you'd have something cogent and provocative from Isaac in this space regarding last night's Lost, but thanks to the gradual dissipation of Eyjafjallajökull ash you've got me instead. (Sorry.) And I don't have much to say about last night's "rearrange the chessboard" show other than it continues to confirm my thinking that in the alterna-world, Desmond is the new Jacob, nudging (or ramming his car into) people to drive each in the direction he or she needs to go for some greater purpose. As to what that purpose is, I'm all ears, and HitFix's Drew McWeeny has a theory you may find interesting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DEAR LEE DEWYZE, PLEASE DON'T FORGET ABOUT US. SIGNED, THE WHORES ON SEVENTH AVENUE: Inspirational, celebrational, muppetational? Idol was all of that tonight, and in order from most awesome to the least:
Crystal: I don't know to what to attribute her emotional display at the end of "People Get Ready," but she had won the night before that. Pantheon, no, but damn good. As Dan notes, MamaSox is "the best pure singer and the gap is wider than it has ever been between the best and second best in any season since Fantasia's win."
Lee: Big gap between #1 and #2, in part because of the rather significant edits to the text, and it was good but not that good. Sincerity is important, but it does not by itself make you a winner.
Tim: Yeah, I said it. I know he doesn't have much of a range, but he stayed within it well and gave a solid performance, even it wasn't great singing. I'd like to think my touting him is separate from Theory #2 on improving performers rising above the always-solid as the competition progresses, but there's some conflict here.
Big Mike: Best rendition of a Spider-Man song in show history. He's got a higher ceiling than any other guy in the competition, I think.
Siobhan: Big gap again between #4 and this one. It had its moments, but she needs to be singing rock and roll, not this weak cartoon crap.
The Outlaw Casey James: One of my basic rules of Idol song selection is to be wary of songs written to be sung in harmony. There's just no great way to sing "Don't Stop" as a solo male, and he didn't.
Aaron: Automatic point deduction for selecting a song written by an artist who has a mural in his house showing him playing basketball against the Tasmanian Devil and who may have used that house in videotaping himself urinating on minors for his own sexual gratification. Beyond that, it's a shitty song that the house muppet warbled badly.
WAY DOWN IN THE HOLE: That the Emmys are eliminating the "best theme music" category comes as no surprise--themes have been becoming less common for several years, and even shows that start off with theme music (Grey's Anatomy, Community) dropping it to make way for more story time, or shows that go with just a very brief (5-10 second) musical sting (NCIS: LA, V, Lost, Modern Family, The Good Wife). But even aside from HBO's magnificent main titles (The Wire, Six Feet Under, Treme), there are still good ones out there--Friday Night Lights, Parks & Recreation (and Jabba the Hutt!), Parenthood--and even a short theme can be very effective (Lost, HIMYM). I hope we're not losing it entirely.
NO, DOOGIE HOWSER DID NOT TAKE YOUR WALLET: Apparently, Kal Penn was mugged at gunpoint early this morning.
GOT! TO! HAVE! A! CEL! E! BRA! TION! Time to play mentor for the Idol final seven. Based off the list of approved "inspirational songs":
Crystal Bowersox: "The Boxer," Simon and Garfunkel. Has never been performed on the show, and she's got the earnestness and phrasing to sell it.
Lee DeWyze: "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)," Jackie Wilson. If the Horns of Idol leave him alone, it's a strong song for him to sell.
The Outlaw Casey James: "Up Where We Belong," Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. Yeah, he could have fun with this.
Aaron Kelly: "Angels," Robbie Williams. A rite of passage for a certain slice of the Idol performing demographic. Either that or Enigma's "Return to Innocence," because why else would it be on the list?
Michael Lynche: "You've Got A Friend," Carole King. Just a guess. Fits his acoustic side.
Siobhan Magnus: "I'll Be There," The Jackson 5. About time for her to hit another home run, so why not scale Mt. Mariah?
Tim Urban: "Don't Dream It's Over," Crowded House. Fits within his limited range and demeanor.
BUT THEY ALSO KNOW US AS KIP AND HENRY -- BUFFY AND HILDY'S BROTHERS: Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari and the Bosom Buddies cast reunite and reminisce for the TV Land Awards. Said Holland Taylor:
Occasions like this makes me want to see everyone more. We were not a hit, we were not anything. We were virtually invisible. As a result, it just came down to us enjoying each other, and we really did. It was like kids fooling around in the backyard.
I was ridiculously fond of this show when it aired. Credits!

Monday, April 19, 2010

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT MUSIC? TO BEGIN WITH ... EVERYTHING: Jim DeRogatis is leaving his longtime perch as pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times to teach the reviewing arts at Chicago's Columbia College. He'll continue to co-host Sound Opinions and will blog at

In one of my rare acts of journalism committed on this blog, I interviewed DeRogatis in 2003 to discuss his new book on the alternarock boom of the 1990s.
WEST XYLOPHONE? AT&T and Verizon claim to provide wireless coverage in more countries (220) than actually exist.
WE STRAIGHT UP TRAPPED IN A BEAR CAVE, YO:I don't think there was much to say about last week's SNL, which now drops behind Doctor Who for essential viewing on Saturday nights (seriously, for whatever doubts I had about Matt Smith, he was awesome), but I wanted to talk a little about Ke$ha's first performance--to me, I was reminded of nothing more than a bad middle school talent show--awkward choreography, over-enunciated vocals, strange costumes that appear to have be cobbled together for $9.95? Seriously? Let's let Beyonce and Brittany from Glee show you how it's done.
THE SPIRIT OF MASSACHUSETTS IS THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA: Happy Patriots Day, Bay Staters. As Bill Simmons explained in 2003, a date which justifies a reference I'm deliberately leaving in:
There are hundreds of reasons to hate living in Massachusetts. The weather stinks. City living is ridiculously expensive. The accents and fashion senses are just plain humiliating. Every time you walk into Store 24 or 7-11 to purchase a newspaper, you end up waiting in line for 20 minutes while losers load up on scratch cards in front of you. You can't find good Red Sox tickets, you can't afford Celtics tickets and you don't want Bruins tickets. Our football team was forced to build its stadium 30 miles outside of downtown (and we almost lost them to Hartford).

Wait, there's more: The Never-Ending Big Dig makes it impossible to go from one side of Boston to the other in less than 30 minutes (will that thing ever be finished?). You need to drive almost an hour out of the city to see a good concert. You can't find a good slice of pizza unless you're in the North End. The bar scene crawls with big-haired chicks and beefy guys looking to sucker-punch someone. The list goes on. Believe me.

And yet Bostonians have this one thing that nobody else in the country has -- a random day off in the middle of April, when it's finally getting warm and we can spend a guilt-free afternoon outside. Maybe the only day of the year when everyone in Boston is having fun at once. Well, except for the people running the damned [marathon].
Forecast is for 60 degrees and sunny. Wikipedia (who else?) has compiled a list of state- and city-specific holidays. Von Steuben Day!
SEA HORSES, MCSAILIN', DOLPHINS MCWAILIN': The Boston Globe slideshows ten odd fast food items, only two of which are the McLobster Roll and the notorious KFC Double Down.

added: Nate Silver (why not?) on the Double Down: "I've created an index based on the amount of fat, sodium and cholesterol that the Double Down and a variety of comparable sandwiches contain as a portion of the USDA daily allowance. (In the fat category, saturated fats are counted double and trans-fats are counted triple.) The index is scaled such that the Original Recipe version of the sandwich receives a score of 1.00, a measure of gluttony that will hereafter be known as The Double Down (DD)...."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I'VE MADE MY BED, I'LL LIE IN IT: Three variations on a theme in Sunday's NYT Arts & Leisure: profiles of female entertainers whose careers peaked in the early 1990s, had detours including motherhood and are now in their mid-40s and back in the public eye -- Courtney Love, Natalie Merchant and Demi Moore.

[Odd thing about that Love article. It mentions her being banned from the Chateau Marmont but not her being banned from contacting her daughter, with just a few words indicating she had lost custody. I'm not quite sure how you can write about someone whose upcoming album is titled Nobody's Daughter without addressing it some.]
DO NOT TAUNT THE BASEBALL GODS: So, of course, as soon as the WSJ wonders whether we've reached the end of new things to see in baseball, the next day produced the first no-hitter in Rockies history and, to top it, a 6h53m twenty-inning Jayson Stark classic of a game between the Cardinals and Mets featuring eighteen straight scoreless innings, position players pitching and pitchers in the outfield and some of the weirdest, dumbest managing of Tony LaRussa's career. Really -- letting relievers bat twice with bases loaded and two outs just to preserve your closer? And double-switching out Matt Holliday in the 11th so that the pitcher's slot followed Albert Freakin' Pujols in every subsequent at-bat? Mr. Cosmo, I'm sorry.

added: Posnanski - a "20-inning managerial performance against the Mets on Saturday [that] should replace La Russa's plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was an overmanaging thing of beauty," including a quintuple-switch.

And, yes, Jayson Stark has many tidbits, including:
  • This was the first game since the dawn of the modern save rule in which a closer got the win, a starter got the save and a position player got the loss.
  • "And you know the best part of that Raul Valdes hit? He got it off Felipe Lopez -- who, as you might have heard, normally plays the infield for a living. And only one day before that development, Lopez had hit a grand slam off Valdes. We haven't been able to find any other case of a guy hitting a grand slam off a pitcher one day, then giving up a hit to him the next day."