Saturday, April 26, 2003

WHAT ABOUT THE TONY DANZA? Blogger Oliver Willis called Rick Santorum's office yesterday:
SSO: "Senator Santorum's office."

Willis: "Hello there... took me awhile to get through. Guess you're pretty busy what with all this going on."

SSO: "Yes."

Willis: "Well I just wanted you to know that my wife and I are big supporters of the Senator, but we have just one question..."

SSO: "Yes?"

Willis: "Does oral sex between a husband and wife, when they're both consenting... does that constitute sodomy?"

For the response, and the rest of the conversation, click here.

(x-ref post title here)

Friday, April 25, 2003

A BEAUTIFUL FIND: Remember during the Survivor: Thailand reunion show when Jeff Probst made a cryptic remark about how understanding "John Nash’s non-cooperative game theory" would prove important to viewing the current season?

A writer going as "Whobdi" tries to figure out wht he meant. Key graf:
The best way to play this game is by doing what others aren’t. If someone has already assumed the position of tribe leader, stay back and do nothing. You won’t get the lead role for the time being, but you can save yourself from being voted out. If no one has been crowned leader, seize it! And make sure no other player tries to usurp your power or topple you by voting out the threats and psyching players back beneath your finger. You’ll have control over the others and net the win.

It gets much more complicated, and interesting, from there. You can read the whole thing via this link.
UNDESERVED PRAISE: As reported by Andy Lloyd of Pathetic Earthlings as part of his travels Down Under, and verified by Aussie blogger extraordinaire Tim Blair via email:
We met up with several Australian bloggers later in the evening. I'm missing one here, but with Tom of and Alan of and a third gentlemen whose name (and blog) escapes me. I'm hoping Tim can stick it in a comment if he gets to my blog today. But they all claimed to have read my blog -- and if they hadn't I wish I could have lied as convincingly -- and we just mused about how much the Blogosphere brings the world together -- we've got friends all over the planet now and I, who was never promethian about the internet, can't say enough good things about this.

One cool thing, of course, was getting to remind Tim to check out my friend Adam Bonin's blog -- Throwing Things -- (bad connection here in the lobby, so no links 'cuz I cannot I'm not surfing to check the links). What was cool, of course, was that Tim (who didn't know Adam and I are friends) said, more or less: "that's one of the greatest blogs there is. I need to read it more. He's practically the only fellow doing something different in the Blogosphere."

Like, wow. But why aren't there more pop culture blogs? If you know of some good ones (or are running one), let me know. We need to network and cross-promote like the law/politics cabals, so that people can find us.
DISS OF THE WEEK: An early nominee -- the NYT's A.O. Scott, on Ed Burns in the new movie Confidence:
The problems with "Confidence," which opens today nationwide, are summed up by Mr. Burns's performance, which is difficult to distinguish from any of his other performances, except that his hair is shorter. The conviction of his own infinite charm and intelligence is apparently so strong that he need never manifest the slightest vulnerability, doubt or complicated emotion — anything, in other words, that might be called acting. He is so glib and lazy as to make Ben Affleck look like the young Dustin Hoffman.

Dude, that's just cold. But wait, because Scott wants one more shot this week at Al Pacino:
As for the older Mr. Hoffman, he seems to be angling for a place in the middle-aged hambone pantheon along with Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. His antic, gum-chewing turn is pure throwaway shtick, but it shows up Mr. Burns, who in their scenes together stands around flat-footed, basking in his own cocky cuteness, which he, and the movie, persist in mistaking for style.
DEFERENCE TO THE EXPERT, VOLS I & II: Again with the Jen material, but she's smart:

1. On wad-shooting: as she points out, "money shot" -- a clearly porn-derived term -- has clearly crossed over into regular news coverage. ("The toppling of that big statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad is the money shot of this war.")

2. A conversation, from earlier today:
Me: I'm so immobilized by this arm injury. I should probably watch King Gimp for some pointers on getting around.

Jen: King Gimp? You're not even the Duke of gimp!

ten minutes later

Jen: Hell, you're not even the Dauphin Gimp.

Ain't love great?

Thursday, April 24, 2003

JUST SHOOT . . . WHAT? Lia Haberman of E! Online reports today on NBC's sudden axing of its was that-really-still-on-the-air? sitcom "Just Shoot Me":
Now, although Peacock net programming execs say the sitcom's 13 remaining episodes have been postponed until this summer, Just Shoot Me has apparently just shot its wad. Its time slot has been replaced with specials for the upcoming sweeps month, including The Most Outrageous Game Show Moments airing May 6. Just Shoot Me's current contract expires at the end of this season.

(emphasis added)

I didn't realize you could now use euphemisms for ejaculation in family publications. No one else does.

Up next: CNN breaks the "douchebag" barrier in an article on Rick Santorum.
¿QUIEN ERA ESA NIÑA?: Via Vinay Menon of the Toronto Star:
So long, Madonna.

Okay, technically speaking, she's still alive. But for all pop-cultural intents and purposes, the former Material Girl officially immaterializes tonight, when she guest stars on Will & Grace (Global, NBC, 9 p.m.). . . .

Tonight's episode, which deliberately falls on the first night of the spring sweeps period, will be followed by a special Will & Grace "guest star clip show," featuring past appearances from, among others, Glenn Close, Cher and Demi Moore.

Did you get that? Madonna's name is now on a list with Glenn Close, Cher and Demi Moore. This is not dissimilar to being on a list with Boy George and Emilio Estevez.

Who's that girl? No, more like what happened to that girl?
BECAUSE SOMEONE ASKED: No, I forgot to ask A.I. if I could borrow his Bentley to go to the ER. Damn.

Yes, it was the same ER.
BLOGGING TO BE LIGHT FOR A FEW DAYS: I spent 10:30p-4a in the ER last night because I tripped over something on my way out of the 76ers game, flew and landed on my left forearm and wrist. Nothing's broken. X-rays were negative; just a sprained wrist and something near my elbow that's preventing me from rotating either w/o significant pain. My left arm is in a splint from hand to mid-forearm, and I'm typing one-handed right now. Could be a few weeks before I heal fully, which I fear may impact my babycatching skills.

Jen, fyi, is a saint. 39+ weeks pregnant, and she still drove me to the hospital, gave great comfort and support, and refused to go home despite my urging her to get some sleep.

Also, I got to hear words last night I had never heard before: "Welcome to Last Call, I'm Carson Daly", at which point it was still 45 minutes before a med student saw me. . . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

ODDS OF HAVING YAHOO SERIOUS AS A WAITER -- ONE IN TEN: My good friend Andy Lloyd and his wife are travelling in Australia for a few weeks, and we're privileged to be able to read his travel diary online at Pathetic Earthlings.

Today's installment begins with a question: "What is with non-Canadian Commonwealth Countries that they think any flavour in the world can be distilled and fused with a potato chip?"
MY MANDATORY BASEBALL-RELATED POST OF THE WEEK: Alex Belth of the Bronx Banter weblog has a fantastic interview online which he conducted this weekend with Buster Olney of the New York Times, former beat writer covering the Yankees and Orioles, among other, on what it's like to cover a baseball team on a daily basis:

Here's an excerpt in which Olney discusses how the current Yankees deal with the media:
Buster: Yeah, Soriano. When I started covering baseball he was like twelve, thirteen years old. I’ve had the experience of going through a number of different situations in seeing how players handle things. Let me give you an example. Randy Keisler was pitching for the Yankees [This was in 2001] and he had a bad game, and he was very emotional, and he basically ripped Stottlemyre and Torre saying, ‘They didn’t have faith in me.’ It’s my job as a reporter to ask the player his opinion. It’s not my job to protect him from his own opinion. I remember sitting there, listening to this and thinking, oh you dumb schmuck. But, hey, you know, you are supposed to report what the player is feeling. And there are times, as I get older, you definitely develop an instinct for, this is what you should say, this is what would probably be best, but you can’t inject yourself that way.

BB: That kind of outburst was rare on the David Cone Yankees.

Buster: I think that Cone clearly was a guy who always knew how to deal with the press. Think of the players involved. Jeter is very savvy. He’s intentionally boring, I think. He tones down his opinions because he knows how dangerous is can be for a player like him to go too far out on a limb. He’s careful. O’Neill was great if the team played bad, because he would just indict himself. But if they played well, he would he would run away from you because he was superstitious and thought if he said anything, he’d blow it.

You can read the whole interview via this link.
YOU HAVE TO BE SOME KIND OF DECONSTRUCTIONIST: Is movie columnist Jeffrey Wells excited to see The Real Cancun? Not exactly:
If CANCUN succeeds, which it unfortunately seems to have an excellent change of doing, "it could cause a seismic shift in the ways teen movies are made, just as the runaway success of AMERICAN IDOL and SURVIVOR has revolutionized the look - and economics - of network television," [the LA Times' Patrick] Goldstein wrote.

Hey, that would be terrific. Fewer plots, less writing, less acting, less cost to the producers, and a lot more assholes on the screen. If only D. W. Griffith and Ernst Lubitsch were around to share in this moment of industry pride.

You can read his full piece here, which includes some thoughts on T3.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

LIMITED EDITION CRAP-PACK: Yes, this blog really likes "least essential" lists. So here's another:'s Ten Least Essential Summer Films, 2003

To this list, I can only add Uptown Girls, since Jen and I saw the trailer for it before seeing What A Girl Wants last weekend.**

Brittany Murphy, whose only good role was her first, plays a free-spirited rich girl who ends up as the nanny for a precocious obsessive-compulsive seven-year old neglected by her music executive mother (Heather Locklear). Do they . . .
(a) team up to combat a ruthless international crime syndicate?
(b) deliver a withering critique of America's obsession with body image?
(c) help train a crusty old boxer for one last fight?, or
(d) argue at first, but end up learning valuable life lessons from each other?

Hmmm . . . tough one . . .

**Please don't mock me for that -- it's a cute movie.
IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN: This weblog has now been criticized by a high-ranking authority. Check it out.
PLEASE BABY, PLEASE BABY, PLEASE BABY, BABY BABY PLEASE: Ladies and gentlemen, Mars Blackman is back, and he's pitching Nikes again. (What else? It's gotta be the shoes.)

Read about it here, view the ad via this link.
ONE FINAL NOTE ON THE NYT/GAY WEDDING THING: Sara Sklaroff, an editor at U.S. News and World Report, was on public radio's The Next Big Thing to ponder, "Where did the gay weddings go?"

Of course, as soon as she asked, they came back.

You can listen to Sklaroff's thoughts on the "necessary weekend ritual" of reading the Sunday Styles section via this link -- if you have RealPlayer, that is.
MINOR BIT O'TRIVIA: Courtesy of the good people on TWoP (thanks jennifuh), we now know that the "NFL Mascot" guy who went all spazzy on Mr. Personality last night is Rob Federighi, who isn't actually an NFL mascot.

No, Rob's a a commercial real estate broker by day. On the weekends, though, Rob goes wild, and paints his face for Bears games. Ooh. For this service to the Chicagoland area, Rob has been inducted into the Visa Hall of Fans.

I only mention this because, face it, dude acted unreasonably, even for a guy on a reality tv show.

Google. It's a weapon.
I TOLD YOU SO: In other running news, remember yesterday, when I noted that foamy lattes make Will Ferrell all farty and bloated?

I wasn't kidding:
Ferrell, the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member who finished in 3:56:12, enjoyed his third marathon.

"It's truly an amazing event," he said. "The crowds couldn't have been nicer. It's almost a bit of a blur. I just want to apologize to all the people I passed gas in front of, but that just comes with the territory, I guess."

Via the Hartford Courant.
"I'LL MAKE UP FOR IT NOW": Nine-time gold medalist Carl Lewis has been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence.

I mention this news not because it is particularly newsworthy, but only because it provides me with a cheap excuse to direct you to Mr. Lewis' most notorious accomplishment: his January 21, 1993 rendition of the National Anthem at a New Jersey Nets basketball game.

Is it bad? Remember that guy in the American Idol 2 tryouts who warbled "Like A Virgin"? This may be worse.

Monday, April 21, 2003

MISSED HER PERSONALITY: Meh. Meh Meh . . . . that show was meh.

I'm all a fan of new spins on the reality-dating genre, and the whole asymmetrical information thing pioneered by Joe Millionaire was worth repeating with other variables.

But in Fox's new Mr. Personality, we've got guys with no faces, sure, but the woman dating them has nothing engaging about her, the host has a poor track record when it comes to the whole "confidante" thing, and the show has no discernible slant to it yet. Let's review:

The Men: Look, I had been rooting for Mexican Lucha masks since the day the concept was revealed. Instead, we got grey masks with numbers, and now, ten remaining guys in simple color masks -- Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Light Blue, Mr. Red . . . all like a too-literal Reservoir Dogs.

I wanted to see the scene where the guys fought over the mask colors they'd have to wear. "I don't want to be Mr. Brown -- Mr. Brown sounds too much like Mr. Shit!" "Alright, who's going to be Mr. Teal, and who's Mr. Periwinkle?" "I want the Sasuke mask!"

And, so far, what's under the masks stinks. We've got none of the charming lunkheads who were the Men on Ice from Bachelorettes in Alaska. Instead, we've seen fairly bland, even repellent (#17 - the motivational speaker) guys, none of whom seem physically unattractive, though I am a fan of the Asian unemployed guy who, thank goodness, isn't Mr. Yellow.

The Woman: Her name is Hayley Arp. She is pretty, I guess. But seems to have no sense of humor, seems to be attracted to overly confident men, and has none of the appealing "what the hell am I doing on this show?" skepticism that made Evan Marriot such good television from day one. Instead, guh, she seems earnest about all this. She really thinks she can find the right guy through a television show. Ha!

The Host: Well, according to the show's official bio, Monica Lewinsky "graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. For the past few years she has been designing an exclusive collection of handbags and accessories that are available at Raised in Los Angeles, Lewinsky currently lives in New York City and is considering a future career in law."

Oh yeah, she also once shared tobacco products with the leader of the free world.

I'm not a Monica-basher by any means. I don't fault her for anything that she did -- she was young, naive, impressionable, captivated by power and secrecy, and, anyway, she's not the one we elected. I felt bad for her for all the abuse she suffered, all the judging and blame and public ridicule, for something that was very human and understandable.

That said, once you get beyond the curiosity factor, she didn't show me anything during the first hour of this show to suggest that she'll provide any entertainment during the remaining hours. So far, she's pleasant, I guess, but doesn't have much of a presence. Then again, she's competing against our memories of JM butler Paul Hogan at this point, and that's a high bar to meet.

The Tone: All this adds up to the big problem -- this show has no angle.

All the successful reality shows have, as a base, some unified worldview communicated through its host. Joe Millionaire was edited as a campy hoot, with a snarky, seen-it-all butler leading the way and reassuring us that none of it was to be taken seriously. The Bachelor, on the other hand, is premised on hyper-seriousness, with host Chris Harrison reminding everyone that the purpose of the show is for someone to get married. And the best of the reality competitions -- Survivor and The Amazing Race, have bright, subtly funny hosts in Jeff Probst and Phil Keoghan who always communicate both the intensity of the competition and the fact that it's still just a game for money with equal aplomb.

And Mr. Personality? Well, no one has to get married, so it's not that serious. But reliance on astrologers for advice aside (and wasn't that a Reagan thing?), neither does this show treat itself like a big joke. It's just kinda there, filling up space on Fox's schedule, hoping we've got nothing better to watch.

In television, as in dating, first impressions are important. By that standard, Mr. Personality may not get a second look. A reality dating show can choose to be serious or it can choose to be cheeky, but it cannot ever choose to be boring. That, fellow viewers, is an impeachable offense of the gravest degree.
DON'T FORGET -- A FOAMY LATTE MAKES HIM ALL FARTY AND BLOATED: Congratulations to former SNL star Will Ferrell, who finished the Boston Marathon today, his third, in 3 hours, 56 minutes, 12 seconds, a half-hour better than his previous best. According to the Boston Globe:
''It's truly an amazing event. Along with the history and everything, it's a bit of a blur,'' Ferrell said. ''Heartbreak Hill felt like a lovely summer day ... and then you get hit over the head with a hammer.''

His numbers, via the computer chip in his sneakers (bib #9999), reflect a very consistent pace of 5K every 27-28 minutes:
5k - 0:27:17
10k - 0:55:38
15k - 1:23:09
20k - 1:51:36
Half - 1:57:50
25k - 2:20:17
30k - 2:49:09
35k - 3:17:33
40k - 3:44:34
Official Time - 3:56:12

Ferrell was the 9282nd competitor to finish, number 6790 among all men.
MR. PERSONALITY RECAPS: Will I have one? You betcha. Come back tonight after the show.
STILL MORE FUN WITH CAPTIONING: Due to the tremendous response from our last foray into this area, Charlie Glassenberg and I now have another round of translations for the leaflets currently being dropped on the people of Iraq:

(click on each picture to enlarge)

Coalition forces are here to liberate from the tyrrany of the Saddam Hussein regime and a high carb diet! We will complete the work of the martyred Dr. Atkins! Soon even your sullen children will reject heaping plates of rice.

(a) Ted Kaczynski is coming to your home! He will need to eat huge amounts of food! If you do not comply with his demands a giant hand will crush you, just like it did this parachutist!

(b)Third Amendment? Sorry, never heard of it.

Are you troubled by blotchy skin, jowly cheeks and passe Francophile fashions? Coalition forces will help you look and feel fabulous by promoting public crossdressing!

Facial hair and fey berets makes you look so gay! The Gillette Mach3 will help you get a clean shave and you will attract many beautiful women!

After the bombing is done, it will be party time in Baghdad! Cruise on down to the Big Mosque and show the world that the Iraq knows how to tailgate!

We know you've got AT-ATs. Walk away slowly and we'll give you an employment application with Bechtel.
SKITTLEBRAU: From the U.K.'s Guardian Unlimited, Euan Ferguson's "300 Reasons We Love The Simpsons".

Here's a few:
6. The minor characters, such as Bad Jack Crawley, such a bad man that Bob Dylan wrote a song to keep him in jail.

7. Homer: 'Operator, give me the number for 911!'

42. Bart's one trophy. Inscribed 'Everybody Gets A Trophy Day.'

59. Homer: Donut?
Lisa: 'No, thanks. Do you have any fruit?
Homer: [offers some of the donut he's eating] This has purple stuff inside. Purple is a fruit.

129-134. The five most emancipated sayings of the Malibu Stacy dolls (as collected by Smithers and Lisa) - 'I wish they taught shopping in school'; 'Let's bake some cookies for the boys'; 'Don't ask me - I'm just a girl'; Now let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice-cream'; 'Thinking too much gives you wrinkles' and 'My name is Malibu Stacy but you can call me (wolf-whistle).'

All that, but no dental plan?
MASK AND WHIG: Continuing this blog's round-the-clock coverage of political news from the Iwate Prefecture comes word that Prefectural Gov. Hiroya Masuda has relented from his demand that The Great Sasuke remove his mask before joining the prefectural assembly.

In the true spirit of politics, however, both sides have compromised. Sasuke -- no stranger to being on the firing line -- is having a new mask designed for his official duties, one which will show more of his face around the mouth area, thus helping the public gauge his emotions more clearly (per Masuda's demands).

In addition, Sasuke says the mask will feature an official Iwate Prefecture emblem on its sides.

Read more about it here.

In addition, did you know that Kanegasaki, Japan, part of the Iwate prefecture, is a sister city of Amherst, Mass?
Frank Booth: What kind of beer you drink, neighbor?
Jeffrey Beaumont: Heineken.
Frank Booth: Heineken? F*ck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!

Quote via IMDB.
DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME: A.I. gets the playoffs started in historic fashion. Whoo!

Sunday, April 20, 2003

SPRING HAS SPRUNG: Congratulations to William Andrew Kocis Jr. and James Henry Knopf, who affirmed their partnership yesterday at the National Arts Club in New York.

In so affirming (and announcing), the couple has ended the NYT Styles section's streak of eleven straight weeks of straight weeks, just like the editors promised.
VANITY. DEFINITELY MY FAVORITE SIN: Building off his review of The Recruit in which he explained the "Al Pacino crazy mentor picture" genre, the NYT's A.O. (but everyone calls him Tony) Scott today puts it bluntly: "Pacino's best performance was also his most contained. So why has he been chewing scenery for the last decade?"

Scott's key sentences, in an essay titled "Seen This Guy Lately?":
Mr. Pacino's more or less recent body of work — from "Sea of Love," the 1989 crime melodrama that marked his comeback as a movie star, through "People I Know" — may look, at first glance, like the usual screen actor's grab bag: high-concept studio pictures and quirky indie projects, genre exercises and improbable stunts, interesting mediocrities and a handful of rough gems. But there is also, beneath the surface diversity, a strange consistency, almost as if the individual roles were episodes in a single ongoing performance. Again and again, Mr. Pacino has chosen to explore the inner condition and outward behavior of a middle-aged man who lives haunted by the after-effects of a calamitous, generally self-inflicted defeat, someone who has survived his own moral or material failure and now must struggle to evade its deathly shadow. Sometimes these men find redemption, sometimes destruction. Occasionally they fumble toward love, though more typically it has long since slipped from their grasp. Their principal relationships tend to be with younger men (and occasionally, as with Hilary Swank's worshipful young cop in "Insomnia," with women) for whom the old-timers serve variously (sometimes simultaneously) as mentors, tormentors, confessors and role models.

But they are all, somehow, variations on a theme. Mr. Pacino has become, deliberately or not, our foremost cinematic embodiment of male midlife decay, exposing souls that have been betrayed, corrupted, worn down and otherwise damaged by weakness, hubris or the sheer ferocity of their own personalities.

Scott's essay accurately describes the condition, but does not much diagnose why Pacino's recent acting mostly consists "ravaged intensity" that often descends into "the crudest shtick".

Well, I've got a theory. It's not my own, but it makes a lot of sense: Al Pacino is almost sixty-four years old. Did you realize that? The theory is that he's had his face lifted so many times to keep looking younger that he can no longer do any kind of subtle facial gestures. He's lost the ability to furrow his brow, to communicate without words, and so the only acting tool left in his kit is his booming, melodramatic voice.

Take a look at these pictures -- one from The Godfather, Part II; the other a recent portrait. You tell me:

I think that forehead looks a little . . . smooth, don't you?

By the way, the whole Arts & Leisure section is great today, highlighted by a Frank Rich column on why Jon Stewart so owns this cultural moment and Todd Purdum's full-pager on the comedic legacy of Bob Hope, who turns 100 next month, despite all my predictions to the contrary. Congratulations and thank you, Jodi Kantor.