Saturday, April 23, 2011

INTELLECT AND ROMANCE OVER BRUTE FORCE AND CYNICISM:A Doctor Who season premiere filmed on location in the US? The return of River Song and her continuing effort to figure out in what order she intersects with the Doctor? The Doctor explaining how Stetsons are cool? The return of the "The Doctor can't remember what he likes to eat" joke? I'll take that! (Not sure how I feel about the Amy Pond premise-explaining opening voiceover, but I can understand why it might be necessary for new audiences, which they're clearly hoping for given the substantial promotional campaign BBC America has undertaken.) Discuss.
LONGREADS:  Accompanying the publication of The Pale King has been a lot of writing this month trying to understand David Foster Wallace and his illness. Here's the two best I've seen: Maria Bustillos, Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library (a trip through Wallace's papers at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin); and his widow's interview with The Observer (UK).

Friday, April 22, 2011

BUT HE'S GRITTY AND HARD-WORKING, WITH NO NATURAL ABILITIES! Can anything other than race-based thinking explain why less-than-completely-awesome white Browns running back Peyton Hillis has made it to the finals of the public voting for the Madden '12 cover?

In completely unrelated sports blogging (because I don't feel like opening up a second thread), All 30 NHL Goal Horns, Ranked.
ALWAYS THE PADAWAN, NEVER THE JEDI: Sepinwall recaps the penultimate Michael Scott episode of The Office and pretty much captures my thoughts -- it was uneven, the whole Will Ferrell thing is indulgent, but damn that ending had me verklempt.

I just want to ask about a side question: have we really reached the point as a culture where, half-bleeped, you now can say the word motherf**ker on network television at 9:25 pm? Between that and Amy Poehler's bleeped "F*ck you, Ann!" a few minutes later on P&R, I'm wondering whether it's time to just abandon the whole bleepin' business and let tv creative types, and the audience, just decide together what's appropriate for each show. I don't think anyone who watches either show was offended by either term, but nor would they be if the words were unbleeped either.  Or are there still lines one cannot cross in terms of what we expect from network tv?

Added: The video, below the fold.
SPECIAL ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO "ADAM GETS TO QUOTE 'FINDING FORRESTER'" EDITION:  Via Marsha, Wichta Eagle columnist Lisa McClendon reviews what she calls nutty non-rules of grammar, some of which we've addressed before (splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions) and some we haven't, including these two:
Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Raymond W. and Christie Z. both pointed this non-rule out in Twitter posts. And they’re right: it’s OK to start a sentence with a conjunction, just don’t do it with every sentence or it gets tedious.

Don’t begin a sentence with the word “it.” Although it can be a sign of bloated or less-direct writing, there’s no grammatical reason not to start a sentence with “it.” How could you rewrite Dickens? “The times were both best and worst”? This non-rule was shared by Casagrande, who wrote an interesting post about “the anticipatory it” here.
Let's focus on the former, because Oxford agrees:
NO. NO NO NO NO NO:  Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig expects baseball to expand to a ten-team playoff in 2012, with the two wild card teams in each league facing each other first before the division winners begin plan.

Worth noting on Grammar Rodeo Friday: Selig said "there's a myriad of details to work out," and according to Merriam-Webster:
Recent criticism of the use of myriad as a noun, both in the plural form myriads and in the phrase a myriad of, seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective. As the entries here show, however, the noun is in fact the older form, dating to the 16th century. The noun myriad has appeared in the works of such writers as Milton (plural myriads) and Thoreau (a myriad of), and it continues to occur frequently in reputable English. There is no reason to avoid it.
Poll results:  "And are you okay with using 'myriad' as a noun, as in 'there's a myriad of ways ...'?" Of course, says 54%; 25% says "it hurts my brain" and 20% insists "never, never."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#69. WE WOULD HAVE WATCHED 'MILF ISLAND': In honor of tonight's 100th episode, 100 things to love about 30 Rock.
AMERICA KEEPS VOTING:  My one non-spoilery comment is that asking someone with Jacob Lusk's voice to sing "Hey Soul Sister" is like hiring James Joyce to write greeting cards. Yeah, sure, he could, but you're kinda wasting his talents.

FROM THE ALOTT5MA MODERN LOVE AND SENIOR YEAR HOOK-UPS DESK: All that planning for tonight's date? Our Prospective Suitor has an update:
Well, the two of us managed to miscommunicate to a pretty serious degree. I thought the date was happening Thursday, because she had said "tomorrow" at 1:05 am Wednesday, whereas she REALLY meant Wednesday night. She called me five minutes before eight to let me know she was ready anytime, and I had to scramble just to get there 15 minutes late.

But, besides all that, it went pretty well. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner but the waiter, sensing we weren't going to run up a big drink tab, sort of hustled us out. I paid, and while she lightly protested it seemed more of a "I don't want to look like a jerk" formality. She didn't fight it beyond, "It's my treat, really."

She's on a sports team that requires her to get up at around 4:00 am, so we figured it best to just drop her off. I was priming myself for the "We should do this again" spiel, when she beat me to the punch and told me we should get together sometime next week (she's going home for Easter).

No real physical contact. I'm fairly shy about that stuff, but I figure I should work SOMETHING in the next go round. So, you know, not magical but certainly pleasant. And, given her expressed interest, things are looking good. 
Also, I had a friend tell me that since I've handled the "nice date" now I have to figure out a "fun date", like mini-golf or kayaking something like that. Boston is a little big for a second date, and I'm saving "Come to my apartment and I'll cook for you" for date three or four.
GOTTA BE FRESH: Jeff Yang at SFGate provides this rather positive view of the founders and (short) history of Ark Music Factory.
NO LOVE FOR FEUERSTEIN:  Splitsider ranks all thirty-eight NBC Thursday night comedies of the past 15+ years.
THAT N-WORD'S CRAZY:  Please just hand Jeff Probst his fourth straight Emmy now for last night's Tribal Council on The Sensitive Topic Of Race. What a way to make interesting-and-I-dare-say-enlightening television out of what, strategery-wise, was a dull episode. (Isn't this the point of the show at which it's time to do the smash-the-plates, reveal-the-pecking-order challenge?)

"Survivor" producer Mark Burnett has been responsible for more than a few casting decisions that reenforced and reaffirmed certain stereotypes about opinionated African-Americans. Mark Burnett likes drama and one of the ways he's most reliably found to yield good drama is by exploiting and perpetuating racial assumptions. If Burnett had his way, every one of his shows would feature a Phillip or an Omarosa or a NaOnka every season, since he's discovered that African-Americans with opinions make for tremendous villains. You can almost sense his disappointment when an opinionated minority contestant like Francesca either comes across as rational or is eliminated early. Because the diversity on these shows is spotty -- sometimes "Survivor" does a great job with rainbow casting, other times dreadful -- those become the most repeated representations of race on one of the post popular shows on television. But "Big Brother" perpetuates the same stereotype. "America's Next Top Model" thrives on it. And even "American Idol" does it, substituting "diva" for "crazy," where "diva" becomes a pejorative almost always applied to African-American contestants with opinions. So Mark Burnett perpetuates a phenomenon of media representation and then, in the case of tonight's episode, gets a provocative episode of television out of the climate he's stoked.
Also, according to Probst: 8 Survivors make it to the final episode. In other words, we'll get a trio challenge at Redemption, and three Immunity Challege/Tribal Councils to get it from 6 down to 3, then Final Tribal? Doesn't leave a lot of time for the March of the Fallen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL:  It's Sing Whatever The Hell You Want Week (again) on Idol, limited only by The Songs Of This Century.  Will everyone stay in their boxes? Of course, as Kim and I review...

Adam: Well, that's a new place to start American Idol -- it's the Redemption Island singers! Oh, I miss Naima. And Smiling, Twitchy Paul doesn't belong within 200 yards of a Pink song. (Also, I completely forgot that Karen Rodriguez existed.)

Kim: Karen who?? It must be strange to be Paul and come back on the show the week after you get booted.

Adam: It's all (I assume) in reaction to the story that Pia's going to sing for DWTS soon; time to remind these kids who made them stars. Anyway, Scotty's batting leadoff, and ... does it matter what he does, or what we think of it? I found it boring even by I'm City Folk And I Don't Much Cotton To Country Music standards, but perhaps your ear is more subtle.

I CAN'T GET NO QUADRILATERAL: I quit Glee long ago, in no small part because many of you pointed out that if I hated it so much, I shouldn't watch it. But I did happen to catch about 15 minutes or so last night while looking up from Bossypants. Those 15 minutes, in which a subset of Nude Erections lamented a financially troubled Athletic Decathlon team (open retcon; paradigmatic nontroversy, (tm) Spacewoman), confirmed that there was no need whatsoever to watch the rest of the episode. It did tickle me today to see a screen grab from that scene, with an error that I didn't notice. Hey, wouldn't, say, the Athletic Decathletes have noticed that? This kind of sloppiness only reinforces my belief that the show spends months putting together its elaborately produced musical numbers and then basically improvises the rest of the stuff at the last minute.

Also, I would never equate the actors in question, but as for the characters, aren't we at the point where we can recognize that Sue Sylvester = Ari Gold? Acid-tongued self-absorbed secondary character is the breakout role in the first season, garnering press and critical attention disproportionate to the role; producers follow up by increasing the quantity of screen time as marginal returns decrease and then dip into the red.
JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID: Doesn't mean Steve Jobs doesn't know where you've been every minute of every day for the last nine months.

Why is this okay? More importantly, why isn't someone specifically marketing devices to me with an explicit promise not to log my whereabouts block by block, second by second, for no disclosed purpose, whether I like it or not. Go far enough to reassure me I'm in control of my information and I'll pay a premium -- even if the phone doesn't make pancakes for me. Am I a demographic of one?
CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, EMPTY WALLETS: With Friday Night Lights having come to a close, NBC is auctioning off wardrobe and props--yes, you can buy Coach's playbook, Riggins' prison uniform, or dress as awesomely as Tami Taylor. (Unsurprisingly, as Vulture notes, the Riggins paraphenalia already has bidding wars.)
FOUR - WHEN ORDERING FOOD, YOU FIND OUT WHAT SHE WANTS, THEN ORDER FOR THE BOTH OF YOU. IT'S A CLASSY MOVE. "NOW, THE LADY WILL HAVE ..."  From one of our college-aged readers who'd rather this query not come up in a Google search for his name, an urgent request for the ALOTT5MA Modern Love and Senior-Year Hookups Desk:
I've just committed to an evening with a girl I like very much on Thursday night. I'm excited and nervous in equal measure, largely because I'm a notorious dork. As someone who goes on few enough first dates, and even fewer second dates, I'd like to get ask the ALOTT5MA commentariat for help in the most general sense. My default plan was just going to be dinner at a comfortable restaurant, but I'm open to suggestions Where do I go? What do I do? What do I say? What/where DON'T I do/say/go/eat/think/etc.? Do I pay? Help me, ALOTT5MA, you're my only hope.

Notes: I'm 22, she's 20. I need to stick to a reasonable budget. Our college is located in Central Massachusetts. I have a car, and the date is at 8pm.
OF COURSE, HE STILL HAS PHATHER ISSUES:  The Phillie Phanatic has been named America's favorite mascot by Forbes Magazine based on "four key attributes: awareness, appeal, entertainment value and team identification (the degree to which consumers are able to associate a mascot with the team it represents)." The Racing Presidents (now with JFK?) are in sixth; Wally, the Green Monster places eighth. It's unclear where Lady PhaPha placed, and there's no sign of the Yankee Dandy.

One thing I'll say about the Phanatic, though, is that he's a real motherplunker. From Sunday's Phanatic Birthday Party mascot baseball game:

DOES SOMEONE KNOW THAT I EXIST?  Via Linda Holmes, this adorable video of a young man singing a song from Legally Blonde in his home is so much better than anything else you'll see today.

related, kinda:  Bring It On: The Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeff Whitty, Tom Kitt and Amanda Green with the book/lyrics) is preparing for a national tour; you can see a promo video here.
OUROBOROS:  Andy Denhart reports that the same baby whose in utero existence persuaded Jonny Fairplay to quit Survivor's Fan v. Favorites season in late 2007, now has led former ANTM cycle 4 contestant Michelle Deighton to quit USA's Tough Enough wrestling competition. Writes Denhart of Piper Addison Fairplay, "So that kid has now influenced two reality TV shows on two separate networks, giving it more power than any other three-year-old in the history of reality TV."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TRACKER JACKER WATCH: Somewhat surprisingly, Deadline burys the lede in its coverage of new Hunger Games casting. Yes, Ross and his team have wisely gone with relative unknowns for some important roles (Glimmer, Thresh, Rue), but Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket? Note-perfect. Unfortunately, fan fave idea Hugh Laurie as Haymitch (I still think he's too old--Haymitch is in his late 30s or early 40s) seems off the table since he's lined up a film gig in New Zealand while House is on hiatus.
GOOD AUTHORS WHO ONCE KNEW BETTER WORDS NOW ONLY USE FOUR-LETTER WORDS WRITING PROSE -- ANYTHING GOES: Commenter Randy spent last week on a Broadway bonanza tour. He files this report:
* * *
We're recently back from our trip to New York -- a trip that happened in part thanks to this blog. When Matt mentioned back in December that the New York Philharmonic was going to be putting on Company with Neil Patrick Harris... well, it took us all of 10 seconds to realize that, yes, we needed to be there. So, figuring we needed to make the most of it, we ended up seeing 7 Broadway shows in the 6 days we were in NYC. Because the first night featured a dinner at Colicchio & Sons - which we recommend STRONGLY, by the way, and if you go you need to get the coconut cream doughnuts - it was actually 7 shows in 5 days. Overkill, maybe. But we didn't fly across the continent NOT to see Broadway shows. (And since four of the shows we saw are new productions – five including Company – I will have seen, for the first time ever, a few Tony nominees before the awards are handed out.)

FOR THE ALOTT5MA HOLIDAYS OF LIBERATION DESK: A question from the email that maybe we should answer?
Hi. First time, long time. I was at a Passover seder last night with some dear family friends, and for the main course they heated up for the children Kosher for Passover chicken nuggets which they had purchased from the supermarket. Intrigued (and somewhat suspicious), I looked at the bag afterwards and these were not, in fact, Kosher for Passover but just plain Kosher nuggets. (A Google search indicates that the company makes a K for P matzoh meal-breaded nugget, but this was not that.)

Two questions: should I have said something to my friends, who are not that religious? (I didn't.) And if I had realized this issue before the children were served should I have said anything? Ex ante, I'd prefer that my children at least try to keep Passover, but there'd be no way to tell them not to eat the chicken without leading to them complaining loudly and our hosts finding out why. Was it possible to be a good guest and a good Jew?

Monday, April 18, 2011

YOU'RE THE BLACK SHEEP OF A FAMILY THAT WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THREE "MIGHTY DUCKS" FILMS:  Special guest roaster Jeffrey Ross livened up the festivities as the Charlie Sheen "Torpedo of Truth" tour made its way to Atlantic City last weekend. Video is, understandably, NSFW, and mystifyingly interrupted repeatedly by a guitarist playing the role of rimshot drummer.
ONCE AGAIN, WE HAVE BEEN OVERLOOKED: Your 2011 Pulitzer Prizes have arrived, and a few things of note:
  • Sorry, EmperorFranzen--you weren't even a finalist in the Fiction category, which was won by the much-acclaimed A Visit From The Goon Squad.
  • Interestingly, the Drama Prize winner is "Clybourne Park," and the only show to have run on Broadway to be nominated was "A Free Man Of Color," which got widely panned.
  • The NYT's work on concussions in football was a finalist in Public Service, but lost to the LAT for its reporting on corruption in Bell, CA.
  • Eric Foner's recent book on Lincoln and slavery won the Pulitzer for History.
BOO: If read just one paean to a mediocre, mostly disliked, and largely forgotten baseball player, make sure it's this one to Johnny "Disaster" LeMaster whose only moment of greatness was that his first big league at bat was an inside-the-park home run.
AMERICA'S NEXT GREAT TELEVISION OBSESSION:  There's lots of television out there which we never, ever discuss on this site. Sell us on watching the other things that are holding your interest.
OH, SISTER, I JUST WANT TO BE YOUR FRIEND: I'm not the person to give Game of Thrones the full recap treatment; thank goodness for Sepinwall. I'm not a fan of the fantasy genre, not even of the Rings movies, but on the recommendation of The Critics We Like and Mr. Spaceman I did sample the HBO premiere last night and I'm going to try to stick with it for a bit. If you're a fan of Boobies and Beheadings, oh boy is this your show, and if you're a fan of Lots and Lots of Exposition even more so.

I'm still in the "now who was that again?" mode, so the HBO guide helps me not refer to Jaime as "the guy who looks like Aaron Eckhart" who's responsible for this post's title. (Less helpful: the Salon guide, which I didn't realize just how much it was spoiling until the end of this episode fell.) But there's enough plot and intrigue to have me interested in more, if not quite craving more the way I was right away with The Sopranos or Rome. My track record of sticking with HBO shows is not the best, so we'll see if I'll be speaking Dothraki in due course or not.

[As Alan suggests, our spoiler policy is this: don't talk about plots from later in the books.]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

WE HAVE BEEN LED TO DISTINGUISH TWO KINDS OF DRIVES: THOSE WHICH SEEK TO LEAD WHAT IS LIVING TO DEATH, AND OTHERS, THE SEXUAL DRIVES, WHICH ARE PERPETUALLY ATTEMPTING AND ACHIEVING A RENEWAL OF LIFE: Sometimes a Race is just a race, and sometimes it's an excuse for Flight Time to start peeing on the wall at the University of Vienna. This was an episode for music, whether it's "Hello, Dolly" (well, for those who noticed it), "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "The Sound of Music" or Generic Heroic Cowboy Music, so deserved and appreciated this week compared to the Whining of the Goths through tonight's tasks.

For whatever reason, the Amazing Task Testers goofed on one of tonight's -- making it far harder to swallow than intended (I'm guessing) -- but other than that this was a well-designed leg, so long as you didn't focus too much on the product placement.