Saturday, March 19, 2011

YOU MIGHT VERY WELL THINK THAT, I COULDN'T POSSIBLY COMMENT: Michael Dobbs, a one-time Chief of Staff for the Conservative Party, wrote House of Cards - a clever little novel about Francis Urquhart's devious ascent to the Prime Ministry in the wake of Margaret Thatcher. It was, in short order, turned into the best political dramas ever put out by the BBC. Sir Ian Richardson, as FU, is all but perfect as the antihero.

Now, Kevin Spacey is leading US-set remake. It's unclear quite how this works in a US setting. FU's rise was premised on the fact that election cycles were fluid, leadership of the legislature does meant leadership of the party and the country, and that scandals in the UK burn far faster there than here.

I like Kevin Spacey, of course. And House of Cards is so good I'm surprised it didn't get sucked over here years ago, but how does this show dirty, dirty politics without showing itself as a humorless West Wing?
LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD:  Of the nearly six million submissions in ESPN's bracket contest, President Obama is in 492nd place (top .0083%) with 29/32 correct so far and only one Sweet 16 team eliminated (Louisville).  There are no perfect brackets remaining, and only nineteen entrants with 31/32 in the first round.

Friday, March 18, 2011

SQUIRREL RESEMBLING ABRAHAM LINCOLN FOUND: The 55 best newspaper headlines on The Simpsons.
ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO:  Just when you thought we had dropped this feature, Tom Scocca notes some changes in the AP Style Guide:
The AP announced today that it will drop the hyphen from the word formerly written, under AP style, as "e-mail." It is also changing "cell phone" to "cellphone." Nearly a year ago, the wire service switched from "Web site" to "website." ...

Some people believe that the hyphen in "e-mail" is antithetical to the free and speedy spirit of the in4mationage. Some people believe that the unhyphenated "email" looks faddish and lazy. I find both sets of people irritating, and I have no desire to stage a debate between them when I am simply trying to mention, in passing, that the means by which someone wrote and delivered a particular piece of text was an electronic-mail program. It was an email. An e-mail. I don't care which.

What's the point of switching sides now? In 10 more years, for all we know, everyone's going to do the even more straightforward thing and call electronic mail "mail." Most people I talk to already call their cell phones "phones," because those are what they use to make all their phone calls. (That thing sticking out of the wall, which I got mostly for the sake of hearing people clearly during phone interviews, is a "landline." Or is it a "land line"? AP, so eager to keep up with the times, doesn't specify.)
In addition, "smart phone" is now smartphone, and Calcutta is Kolkata, and according to the Style Guide's website the preferred nickname for St. Patrick's Day is "St. Paddy's Day," not "St. Patty's Day."
SALAD BAR ADVICE EVEN RON SWANSON WOULD LOVE: Having already figured out who's getting elected, in what neighborhood of New York you should live, and whether, statistically, trading for Carmelo was the right call for the Knicks, Nate Silver finally turns his attention to a real issue--how can I maximize the value I'm getting out of a pay-per-pound salad bar?
AND SUNDAY COMES AFTERWARDS! It's Friday! (Yes, I know we're behind, but didn't make sense to post on Wednesday or Thursday.)

On a related note, for the first time in a long while, there's a plethora of new film options for folks this weekend, including Frost/Pegg alien comedy Paul (which our friend Linda Holmes loved), a pair of adult-oriented thrillers in Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer, a limited release of the new Tom McCarthy film Win Win with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, and the widening of a new version of Jane Eyre starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbinder. How are folks planning on spending their entertainment dollars this weekend? For me, Paul is a sure thing (Frost and Pegg haven't made a bad film yet), and maybe one of the new adult thrillers or Adjustment Bureau.
IF YOU WATCH JEOPARDY! BACKWARDS, IT'S ABOUT RICH PEOPLE PAYING MONEY TO GET ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:  Also: "If you watch Harry Potter backwards, it’s about a young wizard who gets sent into witness protection after a violent altercation" and "If you watch 127 Hours backwards, it's a lovely film about a disabled man finding an arm in the desert." is your meme of the day.
THE LONG SCHLEP TO THE KODAK THEATER: We're clearly at the point in the Idol season for the tier analysis of American Idol hopefuls which, to be sure, is not 100% accurate. It still serves, I think, as a useful way to organize your mental space for the rest of the season by placing the contestants into bins based on what we've seen from them so far and what we know about voting patterns.  The bins should leave the show in order from top to bottom, but the point is to not worry about the order of elimination within each bin.  No one in the first three tiers is going to win; someone in the last two will.

In that regard, the most telling part of last night's results was not that Karen Rodriguez was eliminated, but that Paul McDonald wasn't even in the bottom three for that ragged, rambling take on "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" which no one liked.  Until further notice, Idol remains the province of sexually non-threatening older white guys who sing "rock," and this analysis reflects that.  So:
Perfectly Adequate, But Not At All Contemporary Singers:  Ashthon and Karen were just the start of a mass run of female eliminations; Thia and Haley are not long for this competition either, nor is Naima unless she has a few more Umbrellas in her stand. She's the one contestant who can break out of this group.  Stefano's in the same boat for the guys -- I did like his take on Bruno Mars's "Just The Way You Are," but without more like that he seems more like Idol pre-Daughtry than Idol post-, which means a pre-Passover exit.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW:  So, okay, last night I tweeted that "Haley's approaching a Corey Clark level of suck tonight," and those of you who've followed me on Idol over the years know that the season two Idol contender has become something of a piñata for me. This afternoon, the piñata hit back:
@adambonin there's some more suckin u can do too...on my ballz!!!! Biatch!
Feeling honored, I did respond, noting with amusement that I had over three times more Twitter followers than an American Idol finalist and, unlike Clark, "I have never destroyed Americans' eardrums like he did on 'Against All Odds.'" Okay, perhaps I was laying it on a bit too hard in subsequently noting that "It's rare to get into a Twitter fight with someone with as long an arrest record and as short of talent as Corey Clark," and that he and I had a lot in common: "no record deal, no future in music, never hooked up with Paula Abdul."

His responses to me (here), blasted to his 496 Twitter followers, included dick jokes, momma jokes, "turd burgalar" accusations and the like, which I described as "embarrassingly obscene and unfunny, which added to 'can't sing' makes Corey Clark a true triple threat." And at that point, after he called me, Alan, Dan, and Scott Shields "deuchebags," I more or less stopped.

Yes, the leveling effect of Twitter is neat -- Mr. Clark can search the globe to find out if anyone still remembers him, and do battle with his critics in the court of public opinion. But I feel more sad for him than anything else -- both in the choosing to respond and the juvenile nature of his responses. I'd like to believe that someone nine years removed from the show was not so desperate for attention, any attention at all, and one can reasonably question whether it was a proper use of my time to respond.  I guess there really is a place so far down that one should stop kicking.
POP POP IN PAWNEE: In something guaranteed to make all of us happy, NBC has now officially renewed all four of the shows that are legitimately part of Comedy Right Done Night, All Night, with Community and Parks & Rec leaving the bubble, and The Office getting an official renewal, joining the already-renewed 30 Rock. (This apparently includes a further contract with Rob Lowe, thus finally killing speculation he would be going over to CBS.) I expect the four to remain on Thursdays as a block, and would think that NBC might try and launch a young-skewing big drama out of it, and NBC's got no shortage of intriguing dramas in development for the fall. (Still on the bubble at NBC? Harry's Law, Parenthood, and Chuck.)
AND YET NOTRE DAME IS PLAYING TOMORROW:  I'm assuming the confluence of St. Patrick's Day and the start of the tournament today works out better today than last Tuesday's confluence of Mardi Gras and International Women's Day celebrants, or as Seth Meyers put it, "Show us your boobs, but only if you’re okay with that and if you’re not, we completely get it!”

As far as the tournament is concerned, I'm too far removed from active fandom to try to win any bracket via merit, so I'm totally pursuing the hedge fund strategy of gambling on a 2-4 seed to win it all. If I'm going to lose, I don't care how close I was.

added:  This Washington Post tournament database is the coolest timewaster of the day, other than watching the games.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

狼獾!  Bowing to market pressure from distributors, the filmmakers behind the (otherwise finished) Red Dawn remake are digitally changing the enemies from Chinese to North Korean:
People close to the picture said the changes will cost less than $1 million and involve changing an opening sequence summarizing the story's fictional backdrop, re-editing two scenes and using digital technology to transform many Chinese symbols to Korean. It's impossible to eliminate all references to China, the people said, though the changes will give North Korea a much larger role in the coalition that invades the U.S.
A MULATTO, AN ALBINO, A MOSQUITO, MY LIBIDO: Two years ago when Allison Iraheta scaled Mt. Wilson, we discussed whether singing "Alone" was a fair metric for a singer or whether, as I think Alan put it, it was like hitting home runs with a corked bat.

Well, damn: Jacob Lusk done hit himself a home run tonight in the first truly memorable performance of the season. Yes, he's affected. No, he's not going to win the whole damn thing. But those are pipes he's got, and he was only one of two contestants to impress me tonight.

The second was Lauren Alaina. Not that her "I'm The Only One" was particularly great, but it was a wise choice done with spunk.  (Scotty may well have been a third, but his genre is so Not My Thing that I skipped past after the first few bars.)

I'm glad Casey introduced Nirvana to the show, but this was the wrong song, performed oddly. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is not a fundamentally angry song meant to be sung with a demonic glare; it's about alienation and rebellion and release and, performance-wise, it's about losing control and throwing yourself into the song heedlessly.  None of this can fit into an Idol performance, between the context and the stage and the annoying and distracting Horns of Idol.  (Maybe "In Bloom" works better? I still prefer my choices. And P.S. to J-Lo: I guess you didn't get the memo, but one does not evaluate grunge based on whether it sounds "pleasant.")

Everyone else was either mediocre or worse, with the women in particular choosing snooze-worthy songs which do not belong in a competition to locate the next contemporary music star.  And then there's Paul: that shambolic stuff needs to be tethered to slightly better performing.

Bottom 3: Haley, Karen, and the gonna-be-going-home jasminetriastic Thia Megia.  And it doesn't matter what order they go home; they're all going home.  (I know Dan thinks it's Naima, but I think she's got enough goodwill from last week still.)
SPELLING BEE WINNER BEGINS SINISTER PHASE 2: 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner Evan O'Dorney (and fellow East Bay kid) has won the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search for his entry, "Continued Fraction Convergents and Linear fractional transformations."
YOU'LL HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE:  After recognizing that Legally Blonde, The Musical swept Britain's equivalent of the Tony Awards this year (with Project Broadway presenter Denise van Outen learning how to bend ... and snap as Paulette), Tom Scocca notes that come this summer there will be two musicals based on Patrick Swayze films on the London stage: the long-running Dirty Dancing, The Classic Story On Stage and, in June, Ghost the Musical.

Your two-part challenge: suggest song titles (lyrics?) for the world's favorite clay-sculpting story, or other Swayze films which belong in musical format ... other than the one that's been done already.

AND IF YOU MUST PUT ME IN A BOX, MAKE SURE IT'S A BIG BOX WITH LOTS OF WINDOWS, AND A DOOR TO WALK THROUGH, AND A NICE HIGH CHIMNEY:  This week on Idol it's Songs from the Year You Were Born week, which means a second straight week of "sing in whatever genre you want" so that the contestants can define who they are as artists.  This, in turn, allows the judges to spend the next few months deciding whether or not they should stay in or leave their defined boxes.  If I get two of these recommendations remotely close, I'm calling it a win:
  • Naima Adedapo (1984) - It's the year of Purple Rain, but I have no idea if any of it's in her arsenal. "Baby I'm A Star"?  I'm sure "The Glamorous Life" is, but for an oddball choice why not Alphaville's "Forever Young," repopularized for the youngsters thanks to the Jay-Z sampling
  • Paul McDonald (1984) - Totally in his box would be one of the twitchy-mumbly hits from R.E.M.'s Reckoning -- "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" or "So. Central Rain. (I'm Sorry)."  It's also the year of "The Unforgettable Fire," which I think he could nail. Can he do a ballad?  Because there's this Cars song called "Drive," and he could be awfully good at it.
  • Jacob Lusk (1987) - Yes, I have a soft spot for Prince. "Sign “☮” the Times" is this year ... "If I Was Your Girlfriend"?  Okay, let's get creative here: New Order's "True Faith" ... but effort into finding something off-beat doesn't matter here.  It's the year of Terence Trent D'Arby's debut album and Michael Jackson's Bad, and they're just too obviously right for him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

COUNTRY WEAK: A guest post from commenter Robin:

Having read on ALOTT5MA that Country Strong had a shocking ending, I knew I had to see it as soon as it hit our dollar theater. And even though I enjoyed the movie, unironically (I'm a sucker for melodrama), I did spend a good portion of the movie trying to guess at the surprise waiting for us in the third act.

Potential twist endings I imagined while watching Country Strong that were more shocking than the one it actually delivered:

I REGRET WE NEVER HAD AN @IDOLGOATGIRL FEED:  If you want to know how my Idol tier analysis is going to come out, looking at the contestants' Twitter follower stats (as of last Monday) will not steer you wrong:
Casey Abrams: 28,686
Scotty McCreery: 28,301
Paul McDonald: 23,978
Lauren Alaina: 20,530
Thia Megia: 20,120
Pia Toscano: 18,940
James Durbin: 18,477
Stefano Langone: 16,727 (wild card)
Jacob Lusk: 11,208
Haley Reinhart: 10,048 (Bottom 3 last week)
Karen Rodriguez: 10,047 (Bottom 3 last Week)
Naima Adedapo: 9,322 (wild card)
Ashthon Jones: 6,629 (wild card, voted off last Thursday)
DON'T TAKE THIS OFFENSIVELY: Asians in libraries is so played out. Here are some other offensive stereotypes* you might want to use instead:
  • Swedes on escalators
  • Blind people at funerals
  • Nicaraguans in candy stores
  • Historians at the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Namibians in Zambia
  • French Guyanans in line for concert tickets
  • Neo-Calvinists in pottery classes
  • Youth in dungarees
*I'm not talking about my friends. I'm only talking about people I don't know.
I HAD A COWD IN MY NOSE: As someone who's finishing getting over a cold, as always, I must sing the praises of Vicks VapoRub as an easy and effective way of dealing with some of a cold's more sleep-depriving symptoms and helping clear up that congestion, but wanted to note two innovations in VapoRub technology--one praiseworthy and one utterly confusing:
  • VapoRub Cream--it's VapoRub, except rather than the stuff in the greasy Vasoline-like jar which sticks to sheets and clothing and is impossible to get off your hands, it's in a cream form that dissolves but still sends the vapors to clear the congestion.
  • VapoRub Lemon--It's the old gel VapoRub, except rather than smelling like VapoRub, it smells like lemons. Certainly, the VapoRub smell is "medicine-y" (for lack of a better term), but the pungent menthol odor is actually soothing and helps clear things out in a way that a scented product wouldn't.
FOLLOW TUESDAY: Longtime commenter Tosy and Cosh had the wise suggestion that we invite everyone to share their Twitter handles for following purposes, which oddly we haven't done for ... ever? I'll compile them all as a list at @alott5ma/regulars by day's end.
SUCK IT, MARCOTTE: The magazine itself is defunct, but that hasn't stopped US News & World Report from ranking America's law schools again. highlights the significant moves.
MY BELOVED SPCWMN: NEVER LVING DCA. RMEMBR ME FONDLY, LV ALWYS, SPCMAN: Four years ago this week on the blog: Isaac offers a rebus; Bravo/NBC/Universal buys TWoP and Fametracker; Jeopardy! ends in its first three-way tie; Kim was recapping So You Think You Can Grease while Rob and Amber got needle-and-haystacked out of TARstars I ... oh, and Isaac dealt with USAirways at Reagan National Airport, and the regrets were manifold.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ANOTHER SEVEN ASTRONAUTS: Learning that Gilbert Gottfried was fired by AFLAC today for a series of NSFW tsunami jokes he tweeted brings me back to the whole "offended" vs. offended debate from Ricky Gervais and going way back in our culture, and brings in sharp relief the different between "oh-ho-ho, that Kathy Griffin sure is controversial" to someone saying something in a context that legitimately pissed off a lot of people.  You can get away with certain things in the sanctuary of a Friars Club roast that will not survive general public scrutiny -- especially if the jokes aren't stellar  -- and anyone looking for a career in the Obnoxious Animal Voices field now has a few more job opportunities to explore.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD: I'm not 100% sold on the potential brilliance of Sucker Punch yet (though I'll almost certainly go see it), but if it starred Disney princesses? That, I'd definitely be sold on.
WHAT CAN I DO TO GET YOU TO BUY THIS CAR TODAY? Why the Mariners should trade Felix Hernandez, by a bunch of national columnists:
  1. He is not a Yankee.
  2. He should be a Yankee.
  3. Why build your team around a Cy Young-winner whom you just signed to a contract extension and who has been with your organization since he was 16 years old and who has established a rapport with your fans?
  4. When you could build your team around a bunch of 20-year-olds who might be really good in four or five years?
  5. When they would be ripe for you to trade them to the Yankees?
  6. It would be good for baseball.
  7. Because what is good for 200 miles of I-95 is good for baseball.
  8. And Seattle is not a baseball town anyway. Something something coffee grunge rain Microsoft funny joke! You have not heard this one before!
  9. So it's a deal, right?
THIS PROGRAMMING NOTE: To echo something Linda noted on her own blog today, we, too, are watching with great concern the devastating events in Japan. We will continue to blog as normally as we can, because that's the thing at which we are allegedly good, and like you we will balance our use of the Internet between the serious and the supplemental as events warrant.

A list of charities active in relief efforts is here, and this thread is open for whatever's on your mind.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"THAT MAY HAVE BEEN THE WORST LEG RUN BY ANY TEAM EVER": So tweeted our good friend Linda Holmes tweeted tonight regarding The Amazing Race, and since I haven't been around for a few weeks to liveblog this season it's a good question with which to start.  My immediate reaction was that The Groanies' decision to fly from Brazil to South Africa via NYC and London was a bigger snafu, but as she pointed out "this contained more DIFFERENT bad decisions and more KINDS of bad decisions" than that singularly bad error.

So, where does tonight rank in Race history, with a team Dan Fienberg called "impressively stupid," "pretty astoundingly stupid," and "pretty mind-bogglingly stupid"?
THE ONLY GOOD TIME TO YELL OUT "I HAVE DIARRHEA" IS WHEN YOU'RE PLAYING SCRABBLE: I wish Saturday Night Live as a whole were as funny as Zach Galifianakis was last night.  The body spray joke was funnier than anything I've seen on the show at least since Tina Fey was spoofing Sarah Palin, and between the monologue (Hulu doesn't include the musical bit), the dead dog skit, and Scared Straight skit (which I usually FF past) it was a night worth watching (in bits and pieces, as always.)  And like others, I do want to see a full Boston Powers skit, and I want to see it now.

Also on Hulu: backstage before the farewells.  We are now at nine straight episodes without What's Up With That?, and I'm starting to get restless.
I DIDN'T KNOW THEY GAVE OUT RINGS AT THE HOLOCAUST:  If you listened to the recent This American Life episode titled "Oh, You Shouldn't Have," be advised that YouTube does have the complete This Is Your Life episode with Hanna Bloch Kohner (pt1, pt2), as well as excerpts of the one with Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, and it's every bit as bizarre and uncomfortable as the Allison Silverman piece makes it out to be.