Saturday, September 24, 2011

BACK IN THE DAY WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER, BEFORE I HAD STATUS AND BEFORE I HAD A PAGER:  Twenty years ago today, the albums Nevermind, The Low End Theory, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik were all released, with Trompe le Monde having an official release date the day before. Not bad.
COMMA CHAMELON: It is time—can you believe it already (you can, I'm assuming)—for another National Punctuation Day celebration! This year's contest calls on folks to submit: "one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using these 13 punctuation marks ... [y]ou may use a punctuation mark more than once." My submission will probably be so-so; good luck?

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'M YOUR DENSITY:  We frequently see ALOTT5MA favorites colliding into single posts -- SNL and pointless lists; NPH and Top Chef; Woody Allen and intellectual property law; spelling bees and musicals; shark and octopus; "Say You, Say Me" and foreign advertising.  So why not combine Back to the Future with (one man, multitracked) a cappella music?

JOEL MCHALE OR CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, ANYONE? With the 37th season of SNL debuting tomorrow night, Tara Ariano lists ten celebrities who have never hosted but should (and have something to plug) this year.  (My first addition was going to be George Clooney, but he hosted in 1995.) (Okay, we kinda did this post last year.)

Related: has a brutally flawed slideshow of its picks for the fifty best skits ever.  (Essentially, it overvalues the past decade at the expense of the 1980s, and includes a bunch of things which aren't skits -- digital shorts, ads, Update appeances. Its #1 is the right character, wrong skit. And where's Jackie Rogers Jr's $100,000 Jackpot Wad?)
TARPMONSTER: THE STORY OF THE 1985 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: Okay, so what other baseball teams that didn't win a World Series deserve the film treatment?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

DOWN HERE IT'S JUST WINNERS AND LOSERS AND DON'T GET CAUGHT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THAT LINE:  Let's give everyone behind The Office a ton of credit for succeeding in keeping secret the identity of the new regional manager until tonight's season premiere. Especially in the Internet era, that's a hell of a task. As for the merits of that selection, it remains to be seen, and the rest I'll leave for the comments.  (Episode as a whole: just okay, with a nice-and-I-dare-say-Scottian ending)
I'M LESLIE MONSTER: I'm sure I've said this before, but I will say it again. There are many things that make me happy. There are many things in the media that I love. But there currently are only two things in the media that make me happy -- and I mean the actual feeling that I have some kind of personal connection to the thing that I'm experiencing, when in fact I know that I do not. The two things in the media that make me happy are Jeff Sullivan writing about baseball in those fleeting months when the Mariners are not hopelessly out of the playoff race (e.g., right up until maybe the fifth game of a seventeen-game losing streak), and Parks and Recreation.

Don't get me wrong, I like Modern Family and I love Community. But I feel like an alien in a world where Parks and Recreation is not the best comedy on television and Amy Poehler did not, over the last year, deliver the best performance (male or female) in a televised comedy. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because that show still makes me happy.

That is all.
ALOTT5MA UNNECESSARY REMAKES DESK:  Barry Levinson's Diner: The Musical, with book by Levinson, music and lyrics from Sheryl Crow, Kathleen Marshall to direct. That better be one hell of a song for the quiz scene.
THESE WALLS ARE FUNNY. FIRST YOU HATE 'EM, THEN YOU GET USED TO 'EM. ENOUGH TIME PASSES, YOU GET SO YOU DEPEND ON THEM: With the freakin' dolphin movie debuting tomorrow, I cannot be the only one wondering what it will take to finally get Morgan Freeman to play against type and portray an evil, devious, not-the-center-of-world-dignity mofo? He got to play Nelson Mandela; can we balance the cinematic karma a little here?  (And while we're at it: Tom Hanks too, and don't tell me Road to Perdition, because I don't believe anyone actually saw it.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

YES, THEY DON'T LIKE HEARING IT AND FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SAY, WHEREAS WITHOUT BATTING AN EYE A MAN WILL REFER TO HIS DICK OR HIS ROD OR HIS JOHNSON: Apparently not any more, Maude: the new fall tv season chock full of people saying the word "vagina."
(AND I FEEL FINE)  Thirty-one years later, R.E.M. has decided to call it quits. Says the band, "To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

[Stipe adds: "A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave. We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it."]

Take them as synecdoche for the entire American underground music scene of the 1980s and its commercial evolution therafter, or just as a damn good band with a mountain of songs many of us will be listening to until we're old and grey, from mystical to loud to incomprehensible to vaguely political to the simple earnestness of "Everybody Hurts" and "Nightswimming."  My favorite R.E.M. song is a list of at least ten R.E.M. songs, and I'm  grateful to have had their music in my life.
YOU SIT IN THE QUAD, AND THINK "OH MY GOD! I AM TOTALLY GONNA GO FAR!"  One of our younger correspondents -- we'll all keep the name private to protect her from Googling, so I'm not going to spell it out for you -- is in her senior year of high school and looking at colleges.  She shared with me her list of colleges to which she's planning to apply, which seemed somewhat disjointed until she explained that each was reputed to have a strong program in at least one of the two career paths she's considering.

No, I responded. That's not how to choose a college. "Well then what should I focus on in a college?" she replied, to which I said:
You want to go to the best school you can that feels right for you. After you visit enough schools, folks generally just "know" it. At a minimum, you should be able to rule some out -- both XXX and YYY just exuded such elitism/class issues for me that I feared I'd never fit in completely -- I still applied to one of the two, and am grateful it did not offer me admission. And "feels right" means a whole lot of things depending on who you are and how you're wired--size of student population, location (urban v rural, east/west, all of it), breadth (or specificity) of academic offerings, academic focus and intensity (things like Chicago's core), importance of athletics and Greek life on campus (or lack thereof), class size, sense of elitism/class issues on campus ... in short, is this a school where I will feel nurtured and safe, and will it help me develop into the adult I'd like to become? [And, of course, there's the financial issues.]

Use the opportunities afforded to spend overnight on campus with students without your family around (I did post-admission, pre-acceptance) -- you need to see how it feels to be immersed in these places.
Your further advice on this question would be welcome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DEATH TO TEAL:  The Florida-soon-to-be-Miami Marlins have unveiled their new logo, and if you like faux-deco styling on what looks to be the entrance to a Miami subway station circa 1986, topped by something in the San Francisco Giants' font, you'll be excited.

Speaking of baseball and excitement, my sympathies are with the fans of the Red Sox and Braves. Was this foreseeable?
ALOTT5MA TRAVEL AND LEISURE DESK: While frequent commenter Eric J will be in Orlando too soon to visit Disney's Pandora, I think we can still help out a bit:
My family and I are doing our first major Disney World vacation next month, and I'd like to throw open the question to the blog of a) tips and tricks, b) best places to eat in and around the parks, and c) can't miss experieinces we'd need to sign up for in advance. We'll be staying for 6 days. 9 year old boy, 8 year old girl. Not super princess-attached. (One of my proudest geek dad moments was when as a four-year-old, her friends were talking about princesses, and she said "My favorite princess is Princess Leia."
My advice (now dated): rely on the WDWinfo website and the Unofficial Guide, learn to love the FastPass, and either you or your wife needs to audition for Idol. Know which characters/films your kids care about most, and plan around them. (Jedi Training Academy!)  And eat at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.
MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO: MLK biographer Taylor Branch has an essay in The Atlantic titled "The Shame of College Sports," and while there's not a lot that's new it's still a Longread worth your time. Here's a taste:
[A]fter an inquiry that took me into locker rooms and ivory towers across the country, I have come to believe that sentiment blinds us to what’s before our eyes. Big-time college sports are fully commercialized. Billions of dollars flow through them each year. The NCAA makes money, and enables universities and corporations to make money, from the unpaid labor of young athletes.

Slavery analogies should be used carefully. College athletes are not slaves. Yet to survey the scene—corporations and universities enriching themselves on the backs of uncompensated young men, whose status as “student-athletes” deprives them of the right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution—is to catch an unmistakable whiff of the plantation. Perhaps a more apt metaphor is colonialism: college sports, as overseen by the NCAA, is a system imposed by well-meaning paternalists and rationalized with hoary sentiments about caring for the well-being of the colonized. But it is, nonetheless, unjust. The NCAA, in its zealous defense of bogus principles, sometimes destroys the dreams of innocent young athletes.
THIS KID COULD REALLY BE SOMETHING SPECIAL. LOOKS WAY TOO SKINNY TO BE DURABLE, BUT YOU NEVER KNOW:  That's what Baseball Prospectus's annual guide wrote of Mariano Rivera before the 1996 season, his second in the majors, just part of the fun time-wasting you can explore now that they've posted the entire 1996 Prospectus online for free.
MARILYN VOS SAVANT NEEDS A BETTER PUBLICIST: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced its 2011 "genius" grant honorees, including Jad Abumrad, co-host and producer of WNYC's Radiolab.

(Here's our Genius Grant posts from 2009 and 2010, the former having links to our 2006-08 offerings.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

JUST GONNA STAND THERE AND HEAR ME CRY:  Zooey Deschanel may have some competition in the adorkability race with Sara Bareilles' addition to The Sing-Off, and I reckon our local experts in singing without accompaniment might want to weigh in as to the favorites ought to be.
THE MEMORIES:  Dolores Hope, feted last year on this site as being among the most surprisingly still-alive people in the world, isn't anymore. She was 102. John Lahr's 1998 profile of Bob and Dolores Hope captures a marriage which might seem peculiar to us in 2011:
For sixty-four years, Dolores has had to do a lot of adjusting. “He’s a rover by nature,” Dolores told an interviewer in 1953. “The first year we were married, I saw so little of Bob that I wasn’t sure we’d make a go of it. Now, of course, I’ve gotten accustomed to his being away, and I couldn’t imagine life being any different.” Her Catholicism and her family helped Dolores fill Hope’s long absences. “There were times I wanted to pack it in,” Dolores told the gossip columnist Cindy Adams; and times, too, when Hope did. “Marilyn Maxwell was really serious,” Elliott Kozak says of the buxom blonde, who was known on the Paramount lot as Mrs. Hope in the early fifties. “Bob told me at one point he almost left Dolores for her.”

But Bob and Dolores were a good partnership; they shared not only a sense of humor but an almost Presidential faith in keeping up appearances. “There was a big social element to being successful as a standup comedian,” Tony Hope says. “You had to have the right wife and the right kids. . . . You had to have the total image. And she created that for him.” About her husband’s notorious womanizing, Dolores told me, “It never bothered me, because I thought I was better-looking than anybody else.”
WENT DOWN TO SEE MY V.A. MAN, HE SAID "SON, DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"  Apropos of the curious decision to have The Canadian Tenors sing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as background music for the Emmys Necrology segment, I received several requests last night for an All-Time Misunderstood Songs discussion. I'll be watching you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I HOPE YOU BROUGHT A CHANGE OF CLOTHES, BECAUSE YOUR EYES ARE ABOUT TO PISS TEARS: Open thread for all matters Emmy, pre-Emmy and whatnot.