Saturday, May 8, 2010

ALSO DURING THE INTERVENING YEARS, GREG MADDUX AND TOM GLAVINE HAD THEIR ENTIRE MAJOR LEAGUE CAREERS: In between Jamie Moyer's first complete game two-hit shutout (8-16-86) and his most recent (last night):
  • 15 different franchises have won the World Series.
  • 4 different pitchers won at least 300 games.
  • 10 different batters hit at least 500 home runs.
  • 5 presidents have been in charge, and two of them served two full terms.
  • 7 pitchers have won multiple Cy Young awards.
HT: Clutch Hits. To give some perspective, also on that date in 1986: the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the "Baby Bells" could begin offering services outside their geographic regions such as "cellular radio services," "computerized answering services" and "one-way paging services." One week earlier, a twenty-nine year old Spike Lee released his first film, She's Gotta Have It, the first of his now-seventeen feature films (plus numerous full-length documentaries).

Friday, May 7, 2010

NO, IT'S NOT AS GOOD AS THE TONY DANZA REMAKE: Aspiring actor Brandon Hardesty, last seen in these parts tackling all the roles in Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, now takes on That Scene in Downfall (mind you, he speaks no German), visits Sidney Lumet's jury room and sends us down the oubliette with some celebrities.
SIX FOR THE TAX MAN AND ONE FOR THE BAND: An update on my alleged $0.04 tax delinquency, as noticed by one of our readers. Via

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"PROPS. ALL PROPS MUST CONTINUE TO BE MAD PROPS": One of my favorite annual posts on the blog is the release of the annual University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt list. It's Mother's Day weekend, so say hello to the 2010 edition, which includes....
PARANOIA STRIKES DEEP; INTO YOUR HEART IT WILL CREEP: Tonight's Survivor did not go according to plan, which made it a curious decision to be the two-episodes-crammed-into-one week episode (made obvious by Probst's odd voiceover during the first immunity challenge) when there was so much gamesmanship going on.

The main thing I'll note about this show is how completely they've abandoned any narrative dealing with deprivation, conditions and, um, survival. All that "strangers building a new civilization" mumbo-jumbo from the first seasons? Gone. It's all about the game, and how you play it; all about control, and if you can take it.
YOU DON'T WANT TO BE PART OF THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE AT ALL, BUT YOU MOST CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO BE IN THE MIDDLE: The star-free Ebert horror film review I've been awaiting for a week:
You would have to be very brave to choose this ordeal over simply being murdered. Maybe you'd need to also be insane.... I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine.
OOOOH AHHH GA GA GA:Yes, it's Nina Totenberg performing Telephone by "Justice Gaga" (backed up by other NPR folks).
AND AN ADDITIONAL 10% OFF WITH YOUR MEMBERSHIP CARD: Can someone explain to me how Barnes & Noble makes its discounting decisions? I was in one last night, planning on picking up Innocent, only to find it only marked down 20%, rather than the 30% typical for bestsellers. In contrast, the week's other two big new releases--the Laura Bush memoir and the new Sookie/True Blood book (I tried both the books and the show, and found them pretty much awful)--were already marked down by 30%. I was willing to pay a little more for the convenience of having the book right now, but not nearly 20% more than what Amazon is charging. Innocent probably won't go to #1 (the Sookie books have fans that are too devoted, and Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest and the new Reacher book are probably headed for near the top before the Twlight novella sucks all the air out of the room), but it's going to be a bestseller--why was it singled out for lower discounting?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'VE GOT A FEELING ABOUT THIS, TRIPP. I FEEL THIS KID IN MY BONES: Todd Gilchrist argues that Robert Downey Jr's best role was that of editor Terry Crabtree in The Wonder Boys -- "charming, relentless, dubiously motivated, and always hustling ... combining the altruistic and the predatory, the benevolent and the sinister, into one believable, compelling, and yes, even sympathetic package."

Top five Downey roles, in no order: Chaplin, Iron Man, Wonder Boys, Soapdish, Less Than Zero? Not that I don't love Tropic Thunder, but that was much more the writing than the performance, I thought, and I almost included his live-wire Black and White role or his subdued work in Good Night, and Good Luck or "Ally McBeal," a delicate role at his personal weakest point. But arbitrary numbers require choices, and that's my five.
IN A HUFF: Words cannot express -- okay, these perhaps are close enough -- how disappointed I was tonight on Idol that they didn't use the final five as an opportunity to let Crystal Bowersox play the role of George Huff -- the until-now standard "two guys over here, two over there -- Crystal go stand with the group with whom you belong," which would have worked especially well given that she hasn't seen the previous seasons. Instead they did it in reverse, naming the safe person (Lee) first, then dividing the remaining pairs, with Seacrest half-heartedly offering an invitation for him to pick two to join which he promptly declined. Odd.

Tonight's result was inevitable; this wasn't someone who was going to make the list of top 24-selling Idol artists of all time, though nor quite frankly might any of these five but-for a perfunctory winner's bump. Next week: songs of the cinema, with Jamie Foxx returning to guest mentor the same theme again, though he was thoroughly unmemorable (at best) last time. (Also of note: last year's final four was the one solo/one duet format; will we see something similar this time?)

Added: Hey, let's take a look at my original tier analysis below the fold. It's mostly holding up, and where it's wrong we know why it was wrong. I do want to note Girard31's comment back then: "Siobhan can't win. The little girls and grammas will vote her off. They'll make Casey go a long way, and Crystal reminds them of the cool mom/daughter on the block, so she could last as well. Big Mike could go the distance if he doesn't appear threatening in any way. It's the tweens and the grammas who vote, always remember that."
WENT TO MY DOCTOR YESTERDAY; HE SAID I SEEMED TO BE OKAY: Kim raised the excellent question yesterday, re Lost, of what effect salt water would have on a gunshot wound. I thought exactly the same thing. And then I thought: It's lucky I'm a medical expert! At least in things that have occurred on Grey's Anatomy. So I thought I'd compile a few of the medical questions that have come up in the last few weeks, crack open my DSM-IV, and dispense some irrefutable medical wisdom. Caveat: since my medical license is temporarily neverexistent, please consult a doctor before testing any of my hypotheses by sitting between giant electromagnetic donuts (or otherwise). Anyway, please peer into my waiting room (subscriptions: Guns and Emo; Elegant Cat; The Oakland Chronicle of Traffic Inconveniences and Garbage Strikes) to overhear the advice I've given to our favorite non-attritioned Oceanic passengers:

What would ocean water do to a gunshot wound? A 1% saline solution made from clean water is a good way to clean a wound. Ocean water, however, has a higher salt concentration and will sting like a scorpion. In addition, according to the authoritative medical text
In marine wounds, however, the risk of infection is high. Warm ocean water, and the mouths and skins of marine animals, host numerous bacteria including species of Staphylococcus (Staph) and Streptococcus (Strep). These wide-ranging bacteria, also common on land and human skin, are the leading cause of marine infections in Hawai`i. Some wounds are complicated by venoms, broken teeth, other animals parts, or by bacteria found only in water, for example, Mycobacterium marinum and Vibrio.
So on the one hand, Kate's wound would be excruciatingly painful. On the other hand, some people enjoy sepsis.

Could Widmore's electromagnetic donuts actually kill somebody? They certainly could, if the person were made out of iron. For those of us made out of carbon and water, there is a dispute about whether electromagnetic fields are hazardous. The dispute appears largely to be between scientists who say there is no evidence of danger and non-scientists who think that Jenny McCarthy cured autism. Let's say that I am in the class of people who place their faith in diner-counter science backed up by rigorous celebrity tweetsearch. In that case, since powerful magnetic fields allegedly cause cancer (everybody knows that weak magnetic fields cure minor maladies, duh -- why do you think I paid $24.95 for this magnetic bracelet?), extremely powerful magnetic fields must trigger spontaneous, instantaneous cancer, right?

What should a person worry about when exiting a flooding submarine? First, getting out. Because the submarine is still flooding, water is moving into the submarine. Getting out, I imagine, would be a little like trying to throw a whiffle ball into an open fire hydrant. I suppose one would have to wait until the water is in complete equilibrium (meaning the sub is completely flooded) before leaving. Once out of the submarine, you'd have to worry about getting caught in the wash. The friction of the large, heavy object sinking will drag nearby water (and whatever's in the nearby water) down with it -- I believe I read this with respect to the Titanic, anyway. And if our heroes escaped, they would still have to worry about ever making it to the surface. Submarines can surface very rapidly -- faster than a person can swim, by decompressing air into the buoyancy tanks. If the Dharma submarine were a minute and a half away from surfacing at the time of the explosion and then sank for another couple of minutes, it would be a long way to the top. Even assuming they could orient themselves correctly (and I have no reason to think they could, since the submarine appeared to be spinning), Hurley and Jack could not rely upon their natural buoyancy to take them to the surface, because the pressure at depth would compress the air in their lungs and frustrate buoyancy (I read this in the New Yorker article about free diving). Without those cool dolphin fins that free divers use, they probably wouldn't make it to the surface. Did I mention that they were each carrying someone? And once at the surface, wouldn't they have to be a long, long way from land, since they were so deep when the bomb went off? But I'm a fake doctor, not a fake physicist. What I do fake-know is that our submarine escapees would need to surface very slowly and take breaks to allow the nitrogen in their lungs to come out of solution slowly. Otherwise, the bends would kill them, or at least make them wish they were dead.

Can you just reach out and snap someone's neck by twisting it? Having little experience with this, I consulted my practice partner, Dr. Google. He talked at length, and everything he said fell into one of two categories: (a) why don't you try it and report back; and (b) I totally can -- I know three-point-five ways to do it, but I am trained in several obscure martial arts and also probably am fourteen years old and on a school district watch list. So I'm not crediting Dr. Google. All I know is that the way that Smokey did it -- reach out with both palms as if imitating an elderly relative kissing a grandniece, then give a hiccupy twist -- doesn't exactly seem textbook.
GILLIGAN'S CANDIDE: An excellent analysis of the sociopolitics of Gilligan's Island:
In every episode, Gilligan somehow manages to ruin another chance for the castaways to be rescued. Still, in the next episode, everyone will rely on Gilligan for some critical act. Schwartz forces us to ask, "Why do they continue to trust Gilligan when they know he will fail?"

Some speculate it is the Skipper's guardianship that leaves the islander's powerless to remove Gilligan's influence. While it is true that the Skipper is usually supportive of Gilligan, he is also often very critical -- especially following some significant mishap. The Skipper's protection is not the real reason Gilligan is left to perform crucial duties.

The answer, of course, is that the islanders have become complacent. Gilligan performs almost all of the menial chores on the island. Because he is so often relied upon for the unpleasant or mundane, it seems strangely natural to everyone that this dependence extend to the vital. No one wants nuisance Gilligan or blundering Gilligan, but no one is willing to do away with utility Gilligan.
I DON'T GIVE A DAMN 'BOUT MY REPUTATION: While Kim has already rightly pointed out that we had the best Lost in some time, I thought Glee also regained its footing a bit last night, managing to incorporate most of the characters in some way rather than giving us something focusing on only one or two relationships, Brittany's brilliant discussion of the effects of cold medicine, some surprisingly nice acting from Dianna Agron (who's become the show's secret dramatic weapon), and for once, a song ("Run Joey Run") that seemed to be chosen for reasons other than the likelihood of selling singles. A few other loose thoughts:
  • How do you do an episode called "Bad Reputation" and not use the eponymous song? Either Quinn or Puck could have done it and ripped through it.
  • Admittedly, William McKinley High School exists in some sort of bizarro alternate universe, but why on earth would Kurt, Artie, Tina, and Mercedes think that performing a musical number (which was unusually poorly lip-synched by Kevin McHale in particular) in the library would generate a "scandal" which would make them popular? Pretty sure that's a one-way ticket to Loserville, population you.
  • Matthew Morrison rapping--yay or nay?
THERE ARE THESE OASES, AND LIFE IS HORRIBLE, BUT IT IS NOT RELENTLESSLY BLACK FROM WIRE TO WIRE: Woody Allen talks with a Brooklyn priest about the nature of the universe, and (among other things) reveals which character from Crimes and Misdemeanors shares a worldview closest to his own.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LIKE WATCHING THE WEEPY PART OF TITANIC ALL OVER AGAIN: Well, the home stretch of Lost was going to come around at some point, and it would appear that tonight marks the beginning of the home stretch. Please join old friend Alan at his new digs to think about what it all means, but just a couple of quick observations here:
  • I have been really impressed with the acting on the show of late -- some of the distinctions between characters on the island world and the sideways world have been positively Draper/Whitman-esque. This week I was particularly struck by Matthew Fox, of all people: Jack of the alt.universe is a positively lighthearted soul compared to his counterpart back on the island. Terry O'Quinn always dazzles in this regard -- the Locke who's still with us, while tormented in his own way (and for reasons we now know!), doesn't fill me with the wave of sadness that the defunct one always did.
  • Are we supposed to have seen Claire's music box before? I have no recollection of anything of the kind.
  • Salt water can't be good for bullet wounds, right?

Everything else will have to wait for the comments. (Three more episodes.)

FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY IS WHAT THEY PAY MY BABY FOR HER PRETTY FACE: I've heard of artists taking requests before, but formerly beloved indie rock singer Juliana Hatfield has taken it to another level. For $1000, she'll write a song for you. Terms and conditions below the fold:
LUCK BE A LADY TONIGHT? Blah, blah, okay but indulgent, very good, pretty good. Send one of the first two home, but what's striking to me at this point (especially after these past three theme weeks in a row) is that whatever's going on in terms of the internal Idol competition, they're doing a lousy job at making anyone believe that one of our remaining five could be the next American pop superstar. Much like America's Next Top Model, succeeding in the challenges which comprise the show does not necessarily make you suited for achieving the goal denoted by the show's title, and I'm not terribly inspired by our final five at this point.

Added, OOF! "The Top Five American Idol performance show last night drew the reality giant's smallest audience since the the first season, which aired in the summer of 2002."
MY "JOURNEY" ... UM ... LANGUAGE OF ORIGIN, PLEASE? This year's ABC primetime coverage of the National Spelling Bee finals will be hosted by Chris Harrison of "The Bachelor". Breaking from tradition, the Bee will be Thursday-Friday this year instead of Wednesday-Thursday.

I will begin our annual coverage with news to delight even the hardest-hearted of our readers: this year's youngest competitor will be eight-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, younger sister of 2009 winner (and longtime ALOTT5MA Fave) Kavya Shivashankar, of whom Shonda wrote in 2008: "Here come the supercute ESPN montaged Behind the Speller segments. Make it stop. Make it stop. I mean, I agree that 5 year old Vanya Shivashankar is freaking adorable. We all do. But she is not in the Bee. She is stealing her big sister Kavya's thunder! Thunder Stealer!"

The final two words in the Thunder Stealer's Olathe final: uh-RON-duh-smuhnt -- a French administrative region -- and ah-puh-RAH(t)-chick, the thing this blog needs more of.
AN ELECTRIC NIGHT OF BASEBALL: So I went to the Phillies game last night and saw a foul ball land two seats away from me, a rare out on runner's interference, Joe Blanton best Albert Pujols three straight times (let's not talk about the fourth) and thousands of Phillies fans pulling up Tennessee v. Garner (1985) on their Blackberries because we've never seen a guy get Tasered for running onto the field before.

Video here if you haven't seen it, and it's worth viewing in its entirety from that angle because it makes clear that this particular trespasser had no intent to harm any of the players or umpires on the field -- look at how many he ran past. He was an idiot running around for as long as he could, and IMHO this was an unnecessary, excessive and dangerous use of force -- though with notable deterrent effect as to future miscreants. Seriously, though: just keep chasing him. He ain't goin' nowhere.
TWYLA! TWYLA! FOSSE! FOSSE! It's an interesting year at the Tony Awards--fewer new musicals opened than revivals, and most of those new musicals (Fela!, Million Dollar Quartet, American Idiot, Come Fly Away, Everyday Rapture) use pre-existing music as scores, so when you look at the nominations, it's a bit strange:
  • 2 of the 4 best play revival nominees and 2 of the 4 best musical revival nominees are already closed (and the currently running Promises, Promises was snubbed for musical revival).
  • 2 of the 4 Best Score nominees come from plays (Enron and Fences), in part because Idiot was deemed ineligible.
  • Despite generally positive reviews, American Idiot gets only 3 nominations--Best Musical, Best Lighting Design, and Best Scenic Design--no love for performances, orchestrations, direction.
  • It's a very starry year in terms of nominees--among those nominated--Jude Law, Kelsey Grammer, Denzel Washington, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury, and Scarlett Johansson.
  • The lack of a Special Theatrical Event category hurt some shows--we might have seen more nominations for Wishful Drinking and Sondheim on Sondheim.
Leading all nominees are Fela! and La Cage Aux Folles. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, May 3, 2010

ONLY A PUTZ WOULD THINK THIS: Apparently the New York Times still considers the word "schmuck" to be "potentially offensive" and may not use it so often in writing about the upcoming Steve Carell-Paul Rudd film Dinner for Schmucks.
  • Self-taught
  • Acquired instrument by means other than purchase or gift
  • Instrument need not be traditional musical instrument and may occasionally be means of conveyance, storage enclosure, or prosthetic device
  • Pee smell
  • Will not take gratuities in food
  • Visible butt-crack
  • Set list includes no greater than two songs plus shouted profanity
  • Weeping
  • Deafening
  • Seeks eye contact
IF I DIDN'T WANT IT, I WOULDN'T HAVE LET "YOU" TAKE THE CAR: You want meta theory? Because this beats anything I've ever conjured:
My favorite thought-piece about Ferris Bueller is the "Fight Club" theory, in which Ferris Bueller, the person, is just a figment of Cameron's imagination, like Tyler Durden, and Sloane is the girl Cameron secretly loves.

One day while he's lying sick in bed, Cameron lets "Ferris" steal his father's car and take the day off, and as Cameron wanders around the city, all of his interactions with Ferris and Sloane, and all the impossible hijinks, are all just played out in his head. This is part of the reason why the "three" characters can see so much of Chicago in less than one day -- Cameron is alone, just imagining it all.

It isn't until he destroys the front of the car in a fugue state does he finally get a grip and decide to confront his father, after which he imagines a final, impossible escape for Ferris and a storybook happy ending for Sloane ("He's gonna marry me!"), the girl that Cameron knows he can never have.
Added: A list of crimes committed by Cameron and his "friends" during their trip to Chicago. (Reciprocal HT: Althouse.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SPEED BLIP: Not much to say about tonight's penultimate leg of the Amazing Mildly Amusing Race, staying in Shanghai to focus on patience, foreign city navigation and killer fatigue. And much like those traditional race elements, traditional race advantages weighed in heavily: find a local to guide you around, and when in doubt the hotels will have folks who can speak English.

I do admire Dan & Jordan's strategy when frustrated in finding the first clue box -- wait for the detectives to show up, find it together, then assume you'll break away from them at the Speed Bump. As Boston Rob correctly explained in a recent interview (audio), until the last leg this is a show about not-being-last, and sticking with the pack can make a lot more sense than being lost in a city the size of Shanghai. In this case, however ...
WRONG EVEN ON THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE SUMMER: Am I wrong to have a mild case of the oogies over the fact that Rita's Water Ice has chosen as a slogan for their diet flavors "Do The Lite Thing"?