Saturday, July 5, 2003

DOUBTLESS, TODAY'S BRITTANY WILL NAME HER DAUGHTER DELORES: Only five-plus months since this blog tackled the issue -- see here (The Madison Theory) and here (Calaya Niamh and Related Atrocities) -- the NYT Magazine this Sunday explores the no-longer-pressing-but-it's-a-slow-week question: Balis, why there so many baby girls named Madison out there?

A few key grafs:
Still, Madison? No. 2? How in the name of good taste did that happen? Satran points to a confluence of trends: Madison came along at a time when place names and surnames (McKenzie, Morgan) as first names were hot, as well as the related androgynous names for girls (Taylor, Sydney) and the Ralph Lauren, faux horsey-set names (Peyton, Kendall). Then there's Lieberson's phonetic wave theory. In this case, Madeline (56) may have begun to grow tired while Madison sounded just a little fresher. So when Madison finally sinks, who will replace her?

On a hunch, I typed another New York place name into the Popular Baby Names site: Brooklyn. Sure enough, it has vaulted from 755 to 155 since 1991. Then I tried expanding in a different direction on the sound chain from Madeline and discovered that Adeline was inching up as well. Given those trends, it would not be as random as it would appear if, a few years from now, Adelaide and Portland, two seemingly unrelated names, were both in the Top 10.

Now I was getting somewhere. A few nights later, I saw a film that took place around 1900, a mother lode of contemporary names for both sexes. One character was Annabelle. That sounded jaunty. I liked it. But what was its appeal? Then I recalled the current popularity of the Isabella/Isabel/Isabelle chain (14, 84, 112) not to mention Anna (20) and Ella (92). Lovely names all, but they've been done. That made me suspicious. As it turned out, Annabelle was rising with a bullet (from 984 to 330 in seven years, while Annabella went from 963 to 722 in just one). The following week I spied it monogrammed on a sleeping bag in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Annabelle was off my list.

Michael aside, overuse usually spells the end of a name, at least for a while. Names also lose luster when they become tied to a particular era. If you really want to ensure your baby girl will be unique among her peers, name her Barbara, Nancy, Karen or Susan. Or Peggy. Those sound like the names of middle-aged women because -- guess what? -- they are.

Full article. And go here for easy access to the SSA Popular Names tables.

I said it in January and I'll say it again: If you want to give your daughter a unique first name in 2003, name her Jane.

Friday, July 4, 2003

ONE MORE FOR TODAY: Mr. Young, let 'er rip:
There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign on the road ahead;
There's a lot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead.
Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them.
So I try to forget it any way I can.

Keep on rockin' in the free world

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away, and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school,
never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand
We got department stores and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin' in the free world

Thursday, July 3, 2003

WELL, AIN'T THAT AMERICA? For the 4th of July, I give you an excerpt from Frederick Douglass' speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", delivered July 5, 1852, before the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, Rochester Hall, Rochester, N.Y.:
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was "settled" that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were "final;" not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them!

Read the full speech here. Enjoy the fireworks.
DAILY EATERS WITHOUT THE GODS OF METABOLISM ON THEIR SIDE WILL LIKELY PULL A VIOLET BEAUREGARDE REAL QUICK: From the same people who gave an in-depth nutritional analysis of the Swanson All Day Breakfast, the unhealthiest breakfast ever, now comes a look-see at The McGriddle:
So, what is a McGriddle, exactly? Okay -- you know those "Big Breakfast" meals McDonald's sells, the ones that come with everything from sausage to pancakes to eggs and beyond? Well, a McGriddle is essentially a Big Breakfast packed into one Small Sandwich. The buns are literally drenched with maple syrup -- it's baked right into 'em. The rest of the offering plays out like any ol' McMuffin, but you'd be surprised to see just how far an upgraded, sugary bun can go in really pushing your intestinal track over the edge. McMuffins kinda just fuck with the system for a few minutes, but McGriddles? These things will make you explode outright. And I mean that in the most disgusting way you can take it.

You see, at least from my perspective, eating a McGriddle is a one time experience. Even if you're totally into it, there's going to be an inbuild voice of reason who insists that you can't put your intestinal track through this again. It's just too much . . . too much McDonald's in such a small package. I've got nothing against the chain on the whole - personally, I think the restaurants provide one of the last wholesome surefire fun nights for families, even if it makes all the children fat. But these McGriddles, I tell you...these McGriddles are too much!

Keep reading.
WERE BOTH COREYS BOOKED? If you're opening the first new casino in Atlantic City in 13 years, do you think you could get better star power for opening weekend than Stephen Dorff, star of . . . . S.F.W. and Fear Dot Com? Apparently not.

Monday, June 30, 2003

BUT IF YOU DO IT AND YOU'RE STILL UNHAPPY/THEN YOU KNOW THAT THE PROBLEM IS YOU: Yeah, I know I said I'd lay off until I listened to the album, but tomorrow's Village Voice goes three ways with three reviewers on That Album: disappointed Joshua Clover ("I'll always leave the light on for Liz; listen, Neil Young's made about 20 bad records, and we still love him."), Jane Dark's it-looks-like-she-liked-it ("I can't quite tell if "Hot White Cum" is supposed to be for real, or is mocking beauty tips from magazines, but as I have reached the age where ambiguity is even funner than double entendres, that's OK."), and, finally, Dean of All Critics Bob Christgau comes in with the unqualified rave we've all been hoping someone on high would give the album:
So then I played the advance and stopped worrying. Liz Phair may not be her best album, but don't bet on it. For sure it's the one I want to hear right now, next month, all year. It includes no bad songs — at worst a couple of dubious or uninspired ones—and four or five every bit as indelible as "Flower" . . .

I can't explain the technical stuff, but I'd describe the Matrix's sound with Lavigne as "generalized." No matter who produced what (which since I did get all five right must mean something), that's how this album comes across—keybs everywhere, voice big and in tune. Only with Phair, this generalization—while definitely ambitious, tsk tsk — is also an act of love (toward Christina fans and such) and a reaffirmation of the sexual appetites she's indulged since she was exiled in Guyville, a sobriquet she devised to insult the indie world oh so long ago. Five years later, she put in quality time as a matron-artiste; now, single again at 36, she further insults the indie world by successfully fusing the personal and the universal, challenging lowest-common-denominator values even as it fellates them. You want her to express herself? She just did.

ICE TO SEE YOU: In a world where more Gen X'ers (we still exist, right?) quote Rainer Wolfcastle than Arnold Schwarzenegger, what's the point of a third Terminator movie? The NYT's Tony Scott gets the inexplicably early head start on the competition:
I won't give away the ending. But even if I did, it wouldn't be the end of the world. For all the hype and the inevitable (and most likely short-term) box office bonanza, "Terminator 3" is essentially a B movie, content to be loud, dumb and obvious, and to leave the Great Ideas to bona fide public intellectuals like Keanu Reeves and the Hulk. Mr. Schwarzenegger, whose main contribution to American culture has been inspiring wicked parodies on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons," acts (if you can call it that) with his usual leaden whimsy, manifesting the gift for uttering hard-to-forget, meaningless catchphrases that is most likely the wellspring of his blossoming reported desire to seek elective office in California.

If you need more, it's here.
SURE, BUT IF CAMERON DIAZ IS SWEATING LIKE NIXON, I'LL SEE IT: Dave Poland of The Hot Button didn't much care for the new Charlie's Angels movie, to put it mildly.

So? Lots of people didn't care for the movie. But only Poland did so while invoking Broadcast News:
“What do you think The Devil is going to look like? No one is going to be taken in by a guy with a long red pointy tail. He will be attractive. He will be nice and helpful. He will get a job where he influences a great God Fearing nation. He’ll never do an evil thing. He’ll never deliberately hurt a living thing. He’ll just bit by little bit lower our standards where they’re important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit.”

Welcome to Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

The coup de grâce? "McG essentially delivers 90 minutes of product shots. And the primary product is ass."

Ironically, I believe some early reviews of Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. said the same thing. Read Poland's review here.
CAREER ADVICE FROM PISCOPO: More on the Dennis Miller Lost His Way meme, via Alex of A List A Day. Dennis Miller 1988 meets Dennis Miller 2003:
DENNIS MILLER (1988): Scrooge! When the clock strikes one, you will be visited by three spirits! (high-pitched cackle). Just pulling your chain, chicky babe! It's me, your younger self.

DENNIS MILLER (2003): Christ, you scared the shit out of me. I jumped like Don Knotts at the Chinese Lunar Festival.

DENNIS MILLER (1988): Nice, good to see I'm still down with the glib obscure reference shtick. (Looks around the room). Love the shag carpeting, by the way. This reminds me of Huggy Bear's crib in Starsky and Hutch -- it's nice to see I haven't lost my innate sense of style. The room seems to be devoid of any Oscar statuettes, however. . . .

Read it. Commit it to memory. Send the link to your friends.
SOMETIMES, IT DOESN'T MATTER THAT DAN DUQUETTE AND JIM STEINMAN WERE PARTIALLY OUR FAULT: Continuing this blog's around-the-clock coverage of the NESCAC bond market, both Moody's Investor's Service and Standard and Poor's have given Amherst College bonds an 'AAA' rating, the highest available. According to the College's press release:
Standard & Poor's praised Amherst's "exceptional endowment growth," "impressive demand" for admission, low debt and "good operations." Moody's based its rating on "Amherst's broad-based student draw supporting excellent student demand, vast financial resources relative to operating budget and debt and consistently superior operating performance."

Read more about it here.

Williams College: don't send your kids there; and don't send your money there either.
YEAH, I KNOW WHAT I SAID ABOUT 'FAME', BUT THIS IS BETTER: UPN's summer reality series (already renewed for a second season) America's Next Top Model just plain rules. Aspiring beauties without a hint of self-awareness trying to make it in the modeling world. Tyra Banks as an exceptionally smart, insightful and, yes, beautiful host. Bitchy judges. A sighting of "Bachelorettes in Alaska" host Steve Santagati. Competitors doing their best to look like Sarah McLachlan or look and sound like deceased stoner supermodel Gia Carangi.

Watch Tuesday night at 8pm for last week's rerun, then 9pm for the new episode. You'll get to see a devilish challenge up there in difficulty with the infamous Opal Mining quest from Amazing Race 2 -- five mentally challenged contestants having to find five modeling agencies in Paris in five hours, without using taxis, with none of them able to speak French. Hilarity ensues. Do watch.
TWO MORE, AND THEN I'LL ACTUALLY BUY THE ALBUM AND HAVE MY OWN THOUGHTS: Pitchfork ("'Little Digger' offers up all the insight and emotion of a UPN sitcom") and The Antic Muse weigh in on That Album.
THE BOY WHO DISAPPOINTED: I really don't want to get into spoilers for those of you who haven't read/finished Order of the Phoenix yet, but for those who have, do you agree with me on this?
1. All the pre-Hogwarts stuff: great. Once you're at Hogwarts: repetitive of other books, boring.

2. Grawp = Kong = Yawn.

3. Final Revelation: unsurprising. Didn't we pretty much assume this from the beginning?

4. Neville Longbottom rules. So do Fred and George Weasley.

5. Yet at multiple times in the book, you will say, out loud, Shut The Fuck Up, Harry. Grrr. Teenagers, with their attitudes and all.

6. The Death: Rowling picked the character that affected me least out of the ones put in peril during the course of the book.

7. I really wanted to know more about the substance of the O.W.L.s.

The book, while entertaining at times (loved the trip to the Ministry), just didn't "raise the game" the way Goblet did. And those things which are now different from the end of Goblet, well, I don't see how Book 6 is going to do anything more than stall us before The Inevitable Conclusion.

More later, like, when I can speak more freely.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

AND THEN GOLDILOCKS SAID, "THIS ARTICLE IS TOO MEAN!" Okay, fine, Liz, so you didn't like last week's NYT article trashing the new album. Most creative folks would've tried not to read the article in the first place, or, if they did stumble across it, make sure not to react publicly to it.

But Liz? In today's NYT, she responds with an arch, lengthy missive back at Meghan O'Rourke:
Once upon a time there was a writer named Chicken Little. Chicken Little worked very hard and took her job very seriously. Often, she even wrote. One day, just as Chicken Little was about to have an idea, she heard something falling on her roof. "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" she shrieked, spilling green tea and vodka all over her work station. This commotion awoke her three readers, who lived with her in her hut, and all three rushed outside to see what had happened to the sky. After enduring several anxious minutes alone, Chicken Little was relieved to see her readers return. "Oh, Chicken Little, it was just the trees dropping their buds on a beautiful spring day," they said. Chicken Little tried not to show her disappointment. . . .

Gee, did you think the letter had anything to do with Jon Pareles' decision to land one more arrow in Phair's back ("The album isn't only an artifact of one songwriter's spectacularly bad judgment and surrender to clichés"), or do you figure he just wanted to make sure not to miss his chance at piling on?
GOD KEEP OUR LAND/GLORIOUS AND DIVERSITY-FREE? Are the Toronto Blue Jays becoming the Toronto White Jays?

Geoff Baker of the Toronto Star examines the least diverse team in all of baseball.