Saturday, June 14, 2003

EUGOOGLY: I haven't had a really good critical diss to run for a while. But then the Philadelphia Inquirer's Craig LaBan sat down at the new Belgian pub Eulogy in Olde City, and . . .
Then again, beer folks can be as finicky about their paraphernalia as wine snobs, demanding specific glasses for virtually every beer. So when our server showed up glass-less, expecting us to drink those world-class beers straight from the bottle, alarm bells went off in our heads.

In fact, many of the servers at Eulogy do a fine job - respecting the brews, explaining them well, and serving them as often as possible in the proper chalice. But this weekend waiter didn't know his Kwak from his Corsendonk.

"Tell me the number - we're like a Chinese restaurant!" he'd say every time we asked for an artisanal beer by name.

I can understand a novice trying to sift through hundreds of beers by numbers. But jeez, there are only 10 appetizers.

"Tell me the number – we're like a Chinese restaurant!"

But things were simplified further, it turned out, by the fact that only two of those 10 appetizers were edible: the freaky frietjes fries and the cool asparagus spears paired with chewy Belgian Ardennes ham.

The others? Well . . .

Keep reading, and find out what dish ended up tasting like "a cross between gruel and tile grout." As we like to say here, yikes.

Friday, June 13, 2003

THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Former Phillie great Garry Maddox has been elected to the board of directors for the Third District of the Federal Reserve Board.

And it's not just ceremonial. Reports Bloomberg News: "Once a month, Maddox and eight other directors meet to discuss the economic climate in the Philadelphia region and establish bank goals. After listening to economists' reports and a recommendation from Santomero, they vote on the discount rate that financial institutions are charged when they borrow money from the bank. The rate is subject to approval by the Federal Reserve Board in Washington."

Damn, that's cool. Story via Clutch Hits, which contains one of the better ledes I've seen in a while: "Two thirds of interest rate policy, open market operations, and banking industry regulation are covered by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. The rest is covered by Garry Maddox."
IT CAN BE USED AS A WEAPON: If TMFTML can shameless try to generate Google hits by blogging about The Hulk's hot, throbbing love hammer, well, by gum, I can also blog about his angry green weapon of mass destruction.

At least, however, I should add a link to this related Zap2It article, with quotes from director Ang Lee on the subject, and which also asks and answers the question: what's a grown-ass man doing in purple trousers?

(Also: this movie is really going to suck, isn't it? I mean, these are ridiculously unimpressive trailers.)
WHEN THE EWOKS ARE INVOKED, YOU KNOW WE'VE GOT TROUBLE: Sometimes, we cross the pond for our snark.

Let's see what some British filmgoers are saying about The Matrix: Reloaded:
The best scene of the film is when Neo bursts in on a man in a locked room, surrounded by thousands of keys, cutting a key on a grinder. "Are you the Keymaker?" Party on dude.

If you a dress a turkey in a PVC outfit and give it lessons in Karate - it's still a turkey. Poor. Poor. Poor. This movie really is appalling because (1) It takes itself far too seriously (2) It features the worst dialogue since Anaconda, the highlight being "let's shake this cave" in Morpheus' cringe-inducing speech (3) It features the most pointless dance sequence seen since the Ewoks decided to get funky in Return of The Jedi . . .

A shockingly bad film, but forget all that for the moment. The Wachowskis can redeem themselves in 'Revolutions' by incorporating the following story elements: 1. Neo punches the Oracle, just to see what happens. 2. The Architect (aka Colonel Sanders) tells Neo he can unravel the Matrix by naming all 11 secret herbs and spices. 3. Agent Smith reveals that he is actually Neo's father. 4. The residents of Zion all grab shovels and just dig deeper. 5. Winnie Mandela gets voted new leader of Zion. 6. The French Guy mysteriously receives an award for 'Best Acting by the most totally irrelevant character in film history'. 7. Trinity has a baby that is all green and covered in numbers. (Please Note: There shall be only 7, because that is the way it must be, and I would have done it that way even if I had a choice.)

Via Hollywood Elsewhere.
ENDLESS SUMMER: Congratulations to bloggist Another 1L, for completing his first year of studies at The University of Chicago Law School.

Then again, he's sticking around the Laird Bell Quadrangle for the summer, so from experience I can tell him that it's a weird kind of break, especially as the students start trickling back in after Labor Day. But it's good to be around for the summer -- you get to know the professors better, you get to enjoy the many Grant Park festivals and go to Cubs games, but, wow, a Chicago summer has its drawbacks, too.

I just hope, for his sake, that's a less-eventful summer than the one I spent in Chicago after my first year, working for the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. Yikes, that was bad.

edited to add: Jen suggests this related link from America's Finest News Source.
HE'S GOTTA HAVE IT: Round one of Spike Lee v. Spike TV goes to Mr. Lee. As Manhattan Supreme Court (that's the trial court level) Judge Walter Tolub announced in enjoining Viacom from proceeding with the name change pending a future trial on the merits:
What appears, at first blush, to be an exercise in egocentricity, becomes on closer review an earnest attempt by a prominent personality to limit what he regards as the commercial exploitation of his public persona. . . .

Contrary to defendants' position, the court is of the opinion that in the age of mass communication, a celebrity can in fact establish a vested right in the use of only their first name or a surname. There are many celebrities that are so recognized, including Cher, Madonna, Sting and Liza.

Spike TV was set to roll out on Monday, June 16.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER THE TAIL STOPS TWITCHING: If there's one thing readers of this blog have come to expect, it's having the finest muktuk coverage of any blog in the lower 48.

But I'm sure you've been wondering, lo these many months, just what does raw whale blubber taste like?

Mike Dunham of the Anchorage Daily News had a muktuk party last Sunday, and here's the answer:
Muktuk, sometimes spelled "maktak," is whale blubber, the rubbery black skin (if from a bowhead or other dark-skinned whale, but white if from a beluga) and the adjoining fat.

Eating cetaceans is somewhat out of favor in certain circles nowadays. Rejection met just more than half of my solicitations, from polite demural to "Don't even come near me with that stuff" and "No, no, God no."

But other colleagues plunged the sliver-size morsels into their maws and reported a wide range of reactions. "Kinda like sushi," said the first adventurer. "But it chews like leather."

That's why it's cut so thin -- to make mastication possible.

"It's the chewiest food on the planet," said one veteran of the cuisine. Think calamari on steroids. A big chunk, say the size of a thumb, can occupy the diner for many hours as he or she grinds out the many nutrients in the flesh. These include iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, antioxidants and lots of calories. It's the ultimate energy food. Best of all, no cholesterol -- zero -- which makes a refreshing switch from pork rinds for snackers on the Atkins-style high-protein diets.

"Slightly nutty. It reminds me just a tiny bit of clams," said a relinquishing muktuk virgin. "Creamy," reported yet another. "It must be the fat." "Octopus" said others, and "bacon." I'll assume they don't fry their bacon crisp and like it with the rind on.

One member of the panel declared, "It chews like wood and tastes like Scotch tape." I also got a "Yeccch," a "That's nasty" and one "Never mind the napkin; I'll just spit it in the trash."

None of this surprises me. If you like sushi, you're probably OK with muktuk. If you can't stand fish, you probably won't like whale.

Keep reading, and find out what wine Dunham thinks goes best with muktuk and what the title of this post refers to, via this link.
MCGINLEY. IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO MCGINLEY: Kudos to Rob Owen of the Knoxville News Sentinel, for compiling a fairly comprehensive list of The Show Killers -- those actors and actresses who, once cast in a television series, seal its doom. Among the culprits, each of whom has killed at least three shows:
Justin Louis
"Hidden Hills" (2002-2003, NBC) is another epicenter of show killers, including Louis, who previously appeared in "The Fighting Fitzgeralds" (2001, NBC), "Battery Park" (2000, ABC), "Trinity" (1998, NBC), "Public Morals" (1997, CBS) and "Local Heroes" (1996, Fox).

Paula Marshall
If Louis is the king of show killers, Marshall is undeniably the queen. In addition to "Hidden Hills," her career has been "Cursed" - which became "The Weber Show" (2000-2001, NBC) - by "Snoops" (1999, ABC), "Chicago Sons" (1997, NBC) and "Wild Oats" (1994, Fox). Even her one quality series, "Cupid" (1998, ABC), lasted a single season, and then she arrived on "Sports Night" (1997-1998, ABC) just in time for its cancellation.

Keep reading. Shark-jumping patron saint Ted McGinley is quoted.

(Via TV Tattle.)
YOU MUST LEAVE THE CHATEAU IMMEDIATELY: "For Love Or Money" "star" Rob Campos, whose drunken antics got him kicked out of the Marine JAG Corps, now has been voted out of his job as well.

According to his firm's website:
The recent news stories related to Mr. Campos' misconduct during his tenure as a Marine are alarming. Furthermore, we were concerned about his conduct during the second episode of the TV show "For Love or Money" on NBC, which aired on June 9, 2003. Taking the two events together, we find that it is in the best interest of this firm to disassociate our relationship with Mr. Campos. Since Mr. Campos has never been a formal "employee" of this firm, the firm simply will cease any additional work and we have asked him to vacate his office space.

We take this action carefully, without haste, and after due consideration. We have factored our relationship with Mr. Campos as well as the decisions he has made over the years and the last several weeks. Although we have known Rob Campos to be an intelligent and hospitable person and a person who has acted mannerly with our staff and our clients, he has allowed himself to become ill perceived. What is of greatest significance to us, is that our firm vigorously enforces the rights of individuals, many of them minorities, many of them foreign to this country and many of them women. We hold our relationship with our clients and potential clients dear to our hearts and of the utmost importance in prioritizing our responsibilities. We do not wish to allow any possibility of our practice of law being perceived as unsympathetic to the causes we strive so hard to protect.

It's okay. There's always Big Brother 4. They'll take just about anyone.

(Item via the good people at Sawyer's World.)
TART AND SKEPTICAL: Today's Chicago Tribune (registration required, I think) has a great List piece today -- the top fifty magazines "that you'll find on staffers' nightstands and coffee tables, in our backpacks and on our car seats and on the edges of our bathtubs. These are the periodicals for which we pay good money."

And number one is a household favorite here:
1) Cook's Illustrated. The measure of a magazine is how well it covers its chosen field, and in that regard, Cook's is a gem, notable both for the quality of its recipes, for its testing of kitchen gadgets and for the obsessiveness of its recipe testing ("Now I had solved the problem of the soggy crust, but there was still work to do. The egg wash had proven only deflective, not impermeable. . . ."). Even if you're not a foodie, this magazine's tart, skeptical prose is well worth reading, and its product reviews are as trustworthy as can be, given its exhaustive testing and the fact that it doesn't take any ads.

Cook's Illustrated (and their series of books) has changed the way Jen and I cook almost everything, from linguini with garlic and olive oil to pan-roasted chicken in a shallot-vermouth sauce to their incredible dry rub for barbecue, which Jen has mastered. They even figured out how to make scrambled eggs better.

Enjoy the list.

(Via Romenesko.)

edited to add: TMFTML has thoughts on the list. Read them.
COMMENTS TEMPORARILY DOWN: Everything posted in the past 12 hours or so has been erased, but, if experience is a guide, it'll come back again some day. Just like Frosty.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

MURAL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD: Did you know that Philadelphia has more public art murals than any other city in the world?

Thanks to a joint venture between Graduate School of Fine Arts and the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, and through the financial support of the William Penn Foundation and the City of Philadelphia, the murals now have a suitable online home. The all-new muralBase contains photos and data on each of the hundreds of murals painted in the City since 1990, and it's pretty extraordinary.

For samplers, there's David McShane's Jackie Robinson in North Philadelphia and Larry Fine mural (perhaps the closest one, ironically, to our home); Meg Saligman's remarkable Philadelphia Muses, with a strikingness that a photograph can't possibly capture; Diane Keller's gorgeous Frank Sinatra in South Philly; and, finally, A Tribute To Herman Wrice, just a great lasting remembrance of the late anti-drug activist, planted right in the middle of his Mantua neighborhood. Enjoy.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T CONGRATULATE YOURSELF TOO MUCH: Moorestown High School litigant/plagiarist Blair Hornstine has decided not to attend her high school's graduation, and instead would like to be named valedictorian in absentia.

This weblog was able to obtain a draft of her planned valedictory address, however. It begins:
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2003:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. . . .
I DON'T WANT TO BE CALLED YO MIGGA: Is The Matrix: Reloaded a Magical Negro movie? Is Bruce Almighty just Driving Miss Daisy with Jim Carrey in the back seat of Morgan Freeman's spiritual car?

Rita Kempley of the Washington Post picked up the ball Saturday with a great article . WaPo metro columnist Courtland Malloy took the handoff and moved the meme forward yesterday into national politics, asserting, "In the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell is the magic caddy. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice stars as the gung-ho psychic."

Today the New York Times' Samuel G. Freedman picks up the analytic trend. He writes:
The praise for "Bruce Almighty" in black intellectual circles is not unanimous. The cultural critics Gerald Early of Washington University in St. Louis and Linda Williams of the University of California at Berkeley said that Mr. Freeman is carrying on what Ms. Williams, in an e-mail message, called "the same old tradition of the saintly black man who is shown caring for the relatively trivial worries of white protagonists."

Both scholars traced that line of cinematic characterization back to Uncle Tom tending Little Eva in the 1927 film adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Sidney Poitier took on several such roles in the postwar decades, particularly as the handyman caring for a group of white nuns in "Lilies of the Field" (1963). Mr. Freeman himself portrayed the moral instructor of a self-absorbed white as a rich widow's chauffeur in "Driving Miss Daisy," the 1989 screen version of Alfred Uhry's play.

"We have here another instance of a wise black person helping a white person achieve insight, realize his humanity," Professor Early said of "Bruce Almighty." "That's about as tired a Hollywood formula, indeed an American culture formula, as one can get." He added, "Audiences subconsciously were drawn to it, particularly white audiences who like their black folk nonthreatening and supportive."

Who's next?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY: My friend Jon Drumwright has this to say on The Matrix: Reloaded:
On the one hand, it was too much like a two-hour version of the best and most expensive episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers ever filmed. On the other hand and at other times it was altogether too much like a terrible pomo knock-off of My Dinner With Andre and/or Under The Cherry Moon. If you can, you should forgive it because (1) it was a sequel which could hardly be as revolutionary and appealing as the original film whose concepts created its world and rules; (2) it was the imperfect middle child in a development triptych, designed more to set up the last episode than live up to the first; and (3) because, under those circumstances, directors and production folks can be forgiven for not appreciating the diminishing returns on beating the hell out of tricks that wowed audiences the first time around. Besides, I bet a lot of this one looks better after you've seen the last one than it does now, with nothing to compare it to but your awestruck response to the first one.

Yeah, but the French dude has no justification.
PAGING BARBARA MANNING: Did Dock Ellis really pitch a no-hitter while tripping on acid?

Snopes says yes.
GROAN AND BEAR IT: For fans of bad punnery (or good punnery), yesterday's Photoshop challenge seeking Literal Interpretations of Sitcom Titles is a goldmine.

One example:

That, of course, is Malcolm in the Middle. Enjoy.

Monday, June 9, 2003

THE MATRIX -- REBLOATED: Jen and I finally saw Matrix Reloaded today, leaving Lucy Jane under the excellent care of my mom. Some early thoughts:

Things That Kicked Ass
1. The highway chase scene. Worth the price of admission by itself.

2. Harold Perrineau. It's good seeing Augustus Hill walking again.

3. Hell yeah, the Neo v. 100 Smiths fight is a good one. Better, though, is the weapons-laden fight that seems to have been set in the villa where Nomi Malone had her opening night party.

4. The notion that Neo's existence is a built-in part of the matrix meant as a mechanism of control. Kewl.

5. The albino twins with the dreadlocks.

6. Cornel West. You can never have enough Princeton professors in movies, and I hope this opens the door for Peter Singer to get his shot in the next Adam Sandler film.

7. Again, that highway chase. Whoa.

8. The sentinels are appropriately creepy.

Things Which Sucked Ass:
1. Shut the f*ck up, Merovingian. Seriously, you ponderous French motherf*cker. Not one word in those scenes was necessary to the plot.

2. Shut the f*ck up, Jimmy Exposition. This whiny little sh*t almost ruined the first half-hour of the movie single-handed.

3. Shut the f*ck up, Commander Lock. We know there has to be Someone In Zion Who Thinks Morpheus Is Going Too Far, but why did he have to be such a douchebag?

4. Shut the f*ck up, Old Councillor Guy Who Complains That He Doesn't Understand How Machines Work. You should've been Brian Dennehy, and then I'd have cared.

5. Shut the f*ck up, Architect. No action movie should have the words 'ergo' or 'concordantly'. I heard more coherent philosophy from Bodhi in Point Break.

6. Seriously, did George Lucas write half of this? With all this crap, I was waiting for the discussion of the trade situation on Naboo. Nobody cares about intra-Zion tussling; we just wanted to see some serious ass-kicking with some half-decent philosophy behind it. No more Paduan learning!

7. That half-assed rave scene. Where was the dude with the Cat-in-the-Hat hat?

8. My increasing fears that this was going to become just another Magical Negro movie, with Morpheus and the Oracle and Link just dispensing wisdom to Neo and Trinity, and only the white people being allowed to kick ass. But in the last twenty minutes, Morpheus gets his share of Serious Ass To Kick, and it's worth it. Still, the movie comes really close to uncomfortably trading off notions of black=authentic spirituality as a cultural shorthand, and I don't quite know how to draw the line between laudably diverse casting and unacceptable, though benignly-intended stereotyping.

9. If you're designing the matrix (I'm talking both vis-a-vis the architect within the movie and re: the Wachowskis), and you want to make it enticing, why's everyone driving Cadillacs? Wouldn't an attractive fantasyland designed to keep humans satiated include a few BMWs?

10. Not enough Cornel West. And that's what's really jarring: how can you have a movie that's too ponderous yet doesn't have enough Cornel West? I guess this is how.

The Wachowski brothers seem to have become too convinced of their own brilliance, and this movie needed an editor -- or, at least, someone to say no to them every once in a while. This movie could've been a half-hour shorter without harming the narrative.

That said, bring on Revolutions -- just, maybe, release it as a silent film?

edited Tuesday morning: in the interests of allowing people who view this site behind profanity filters at work, I have carefully replaced a lot of u's with *'s in certain four- and twelve-letter words. It's crafty.
HIDE FROM IT IN TERROR: Pathetic Earthings has moved from Blogspot to its own domain, Note it, live it, learn it, love it.
THE GUN STILL SMOKES:'s latest reality tv victim: Rob Campos, "star" of NBC's new reality-dating-ripoff-show, "For Love Or Money". Key grafs:
Rob Campos, the 33-year-old attorney starring in the program "For Love or Money," was headed for a career in the Marine Corps Judge Advocate General (JAG) unit, when the drunken escapade occurred in mid-1999 at the Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island. As a result, Campos was expelled from the JAG training program, slapped with an administrative punishment, and ordered to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program. The incident effectively ended his military career--Campos was subsequently allowed to leave the Marine Corps 20 months before his service commitment expired, a truncated tenure that apparently did not bother military commanders. In a reflection of his damaged goods status, Campos left the Marines having never been promoted from his original rank as a lowly second lieutenant.

According to an NBC spokesperson and Bruce Nash, executive producer of "For Love or Money," Campos did not disclose to them his checkered military career. In fact, after TSG contacted Nash Friday and gave him a brief outline of our story, he directed private investigator Mike Miller, who conducted detailed "For Love or Money" background checks, to contact Campos. According to Miller, when he asked Campos whether there was anything irregular about his JAG service, Campos answered, "Absolutely nothing. Nothing. Nothing."

Read more here.

I suggest the jury be dismissed so that we can move to an immediate Article 39a Session. The witness has rights.

Sunday, June 8, 2003

BABY, LOOK AT ME, AND TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE: Jen and I have been watching NBC's talent competition Fame regularly since its debut. (It airs on Monday and Wednesday this week.)

If you watch American Idol, you'll appreciate Fame. It's a good show. It's not a great show, but it could be. Let me review the strengths and weaknesses:
1. The idea's good: as host Debbie Allen keeps reminding us, the show is trying to find the next triple threat -- someone who can sing and dance while possessing a star-like oversized personality. If all you can do is sing, that's not enough here.

2. Unlike American Idol, it is a completely contemporary show, acknowledging and fully involving hip-hop music and dance. This show is alive. It has real energy, provided by the dancing, both in the individual performances and . . .

3. The group numbers, which are fabulous. The full-cast rollcall of Kool Moe Dee's 1989 "I Go To Work" made the pilot episode just plain dynamic, and each week's ensemble performance blows away the stiff, hokey crap that American Idol passed off each Wednesday night as "entertainment". It wasn't. This is.

4. Back to Debbie Allen. She's wonderful on the show as its creator-host-denmother. She's supportive yet tough, and always enthusiastic. She's like Paula Abdul, minus all the flaky new-age bullshit, and plus a lot of talent.

5. A live band. Yippee. Much more energetic than AI's muzak.

But this show has problems. Real problems:
1. The talent, to put it bluntly, isn't talented enough. The twenty-four competitors all appear to be dancers first, singers second. And they're all great dancers. But none of them are great singers. Not one can sing as well as the final twelve from Idol this year.

It's a damn shame. The show is well-designed to boost one of them to stardom, but so far, none really seem to deserve it.

2. The judges are just 'eh' so far, but they're growing on me. Like Idol, it's one industry professional, one late-80s singer and one wildcard, but they don't have clearly-drawn personalities yet. Look: no one knew who Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell were before Idol started. They became stars because they voiced their opinions well and knew where they were coming from. With this group, that may still happen.

Early on, they were too afraid to criticize the competitors, fearful that if they said the talent sucked we'd stop watching. In that respect, they're better now. Let's hope for more. Trust that we'll keep watching so long as you, and they, entertain us. No one has to be perfect.

3. Put the two together, and that's where the real problem is: the heart of the show is comprised of six individual singing/dancing performances where the singing isn't that great and the judges aren't always willing to call them on it. So, as a viewer, you're looking for validation that yes, that singing was mediocre, but no one on screen will say that. And it's too late to recast and find better competitors, and I don't know if it was a problem of not recruiting the right people or not selecting the right people from the auditioning pool, but either way, we're left with performers not yet worthy of the show they're on.

4. Oh yeah: some of the dancing is way too provocative to be coming from sixteen-year-olds at 8:15p, what with the humping and the grinding and the fellatio-hinting glances. To quote Showgirls, dancin' ain't fuckin', and a bit more subtlety won't kill the show, or rob it of its spark.

It's still a good show, because of its energy, its hipness, its contemporary feel and the divine Miss Allen. It can be even better. It can't outdo Idol on the singing, but on the production values, the production numbers, the dancing and the hip-hop flavah, it excels. It should accentuate what it does well, and de-emphasize the areas where direct comparison to other programs shows it to be lacking. The show's still evolving, and I'm glad it's unafraid to tinker.

Fame, we ain’t seen the best of you yet, and given time, you may well make us forget the rest. I'll keep watching.