Friday, July 11, 2003

SWINGIN' ON THE FLIPPITY-FLOP: Will Leitch of The Black Table explains why Times A&E editor Jodi Kantor deserves your support:
Kantor's greatest strength is her ability to take what the Times, in the past, might have once brushed off as petty pop culture and turn it into something worth talking about. Critical thinking about pop culture is a fairly recent concept, and Kantor has helped legitimize it by putting it in the Times. She, through the Times, has an opportunity to set an agenda that is recognizable to the biggest consumers of mass culture. If newspapers want to remain relevant, they're going to have to continue to attract those same consumers. If you're a journalist who doesn't think that's where the future of this industry is going, you're in the wrong business. . . .

The Web is where the next generation of writers is coming from -- the workers have developed the means of production -- and that's precisely the reason the Times so desperately needs people like Kantor. For all his faults, Raines recognized that. If a few catty and chatty Times staffers continue to do whatever they can to discredit the very people who can save them, well, as that famous grunge story might say, they'll become a bunch of lamestain cob nobblers.

(My previous Kantor praise.)

Via Gawker.
IMPRESS THEM WITH YOUR PROWESS, DO: So, in case you haven't seen it yet, Harvard has revoked its offer of admission to Blair Hornstine, the plagiarist/litigant from Moorestown (NJ) High about whom I've already blogged at length.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this.

The one hand: The plagiarism's a bad offense. Real bad, and her own high school's code of conduct said so as well. It casts a bad shadow over the rest of her academic work, and Harvard is right to deny admission to someone who lessens the integrity of the institution.

The other hand: But this never would have been investigated by the Camden Courier-Post, nor would it ever have been publicized, but for Hornstine's justified litigation, and the fact that it happened right after the Jayson Blair fiasco. (How do we know it was justified? She won.) And who knows how many other Harvard matriculants have committed similar, undetected offenses, whether on academic or non-academic work.

And where's she going to go now? (a) It's July already, and while I'm sure lots of schools would love to have a disabled female valedictorian with a great volunteer record on their campuses, schools of Harvard's caliber have all locked in the sizes of their freshman classes already. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, while Hornstine had also been accepted at Princeton, Duke, Stanford and Cornell, "Spokespeople at those schools said it was too late for any student who had already turned down an acceptance to enroll in the freshman class."

And (b): if Harvard says that Hornstine's not of sufficient quality character to merit admission there, well, what school's willing to come out and say, "Hey, we don't care about plagiarism as much as Harvard! Come on down!"

Back to the first hand: But you know what? Given the negative publicity already surrounding Hornstine at Harvard, she's better off not matriculating there in the fall anyway. She'll be better off at a school where a large portion of the student body doesn't know who she is, and doesn't think of her negatively because of the lawsuit/plagiarism/etc.

Except that this should've been her choice to do, back in the spring. I don't quite know who's going to accept her now (my guess: Tufts, given the Gina Grant precedent), and I don't know whether she'll be able to start anywhere in the fall with the blank slate and freedom to define herself anew that freshman year in college provides.

Wherever she ends up, Blair Hornstine will be known as That Girl Who Did Something Bad, rather than Blair Hornstine, Point of Light, or just Hey, Who's That Girl In My Political Science Class? She's Kinda Cute. And that's a shame.

I hope she ends up at a top-level school, away from the NYC-PHL-BOS media centers that have focused on her case, and large enough that she can blend in the crowd, and succeed, or fail, on her own merits.

One last thing: Blair, whatever you do from here, don't sue Harvard.
A READER WRITES: "Randall Simon was merely acting out the Ramones' song "Beat On The Brat," but missed the brat and hit the Italian sausage instead."

Beat on the brat Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat
Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh-oh

Beat on the brat Beat on the brat
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat
Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh-oh Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh-oh

What can you do? What can you do?
With a brat like that always on your back
What can you lose?

What can you do? What can you do?
With a brat like that always on your back
What can you lose?
WHY EVERYONE SHOULD READ GAWKER.COM EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE: Who else is going to publish a sighting of Mr. Soy Bomb?

And who else was going to let us know about a prank that converted the stodgy Astor Place cube in NYC into a giant Rubik's Cube?

WHEN SALMA HAYEK WINS THE THALBERG, WILL THEY SHOW A CLIP? How bad is League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

Bad enough to have multiple reviewers compare it to the Will Smith/Kenneth Branagh/Kevin Kline travesty Wild Wild West. Among the things the Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey has to say about it?
Easily the lamest action-adventure fantasy since Wild Wild West - which shares its fetish for Big, Bad Toys - League is the unwatchable in pursuit of the inexplicable. . . .

It's kind of the Harold and the Purple Crayon of Victorian popular literature - give fictional figures tools and see what kind of world they create - but lacking imagination, unified vision and humor. . . .

Ill-conceived, sloppily directed, shoddily acted, LXG looks like the work of a confederacy of dunces.

Across the building at 400 N. Broad St., the Daily News' Gary Thompson asks, "what prompted this debacle"?
There are many amazements on view in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Among them:

A machine gun!

A submersible!

A car!

Once more, for dramatic effect:

A car!

"I call automobile," says extraordinary gentleman Capt. Nemo, although I'm pretty sure I could have guessed what it was, because I live in the 21st century and I DROVE TO WORK IN ONE.

Never has so much summer-movie money ($75 million) been spent trying to impress audiences with crap that was invented 100 years ago.

But Soren Andersen of the Tacoma News Tribune levels what may be the ultimate diss:
There ought to be a special place in hell reserved for the people responsible for the especially awful "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

In that place, these people will be forced to watch, with eyes clamped open like Little Alex in "A Clockwork Orange," the following: "The Shadow," "The Avengers" and "The Hulk," pictures notable - or rather, ignoble - for their cheesy (yet ever so pricey) special effects, their preposterous plotting and their laughably awful acting.

To heighten their torment, these people also will be obliged to watch "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
. . .

You wonder: How could a class act like Connery wind up in a picture so crummy? And then you remember: He also was in "The Avengers."

I'll never delete the email where my friend Jon reviewed The Avengers. In part:
This movie was so bad, that my friend and I were trying to figure out what was intended by it; as if, it couldn’t have been that pristinely, exquisitely awful just accidentally. It was so bad that you weren’t really disappointed, just confused. It’s not like we were sitting there thinking “If only they’d ___ed the ____, then the ___ wouldn’t have seemed so ___ and I would have been able to forgive all the __ing ____ that ___ ____ in the _____ reel.” No. It was like coming to work in the morning and finding a full bucket of warm shit in the elevator. “It can’t JUST be a bucket of shit, can it? Why would anybody put shit, in a bucket, in an elevator? There must be something else... some explanation...”

Nope. Just a bucket of shit. Totally worthless. Remarkably worthless, in fact. Significant, for it’s utter lack of worth. A perfectly pure entertainment vacuum has been achieved in this film.

I used to have to think when someone asked what the worst movie I’d ever seen was. Not any more.
IN CELEBRATION OF BLACK ENGLISH MONTH: Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder has signed a deal with Sony to develop a feature film and television series based on the strip.

Give 'em hell, Huey.
UNTITLED (PERFECT COUNTERS): In a temporary experiment (and an effort to establish my rightful spot in the top 75 of N.Z. Bear's blog traffic rankings), I'll have two different traffic counters going on the blog for the next while, both started at the same number -- the palindromic 64,264. Let's see what happens.

(Post title explained here.)

edited to add: As a former mathlete, I should've realized right away that 64,264 is not, in fact, a palindrome. Duh.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

SOMEONE LET ME KNOW: Is CBS's new reality-dating-elimination show 'Cupid' really all that?
SEBASTIAN, THE MANLIEST OF ALL THE MASCOTS: It's much more than just Randall Simon and the jogging sausages. The editors of Sports Illustrated have compiled the complete recent history of odd mascot incidents.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

BANG BANG! "In its 88-year history, [publishing company Alfred A.] Knopf has never had an author whose work-related injuries include 325 stitches, eight concussions, three knee surgeries and the loss of two teeth and one ear."

Until now.

Of Tietam Brown, Publisher's Weekly writes: "If Freud and de Sade were to pen story lines for WWF Smackdown! the result might be this lurid coming-of-age novel . . . Foley is not much of a stylist. He mingles villainous trash-talk dialogue and stilted sexual banter ("I'll admit right now to being somewhat distracted by the pleasant tingling in my penile area") in a Rabelaisian tone as self-conscious and overbearing as a large man in tiny trunks. But readers in the mood for vigorous pulp may enjoy this steroid-fueled brawl."

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

YARR, THIS MOVIE BE BOOTYLICIOUS: I swear Elvis Mitchell makes me dizzy sometimes. In his Pirates of the Caribbean review, the pop culture referencing gets ridiculous (but in a good way, I think):
Gargling his consonants before spitting them out, Mr. Depp's pirate suggests a man who has spent either a great deal of time with Keith Richards after a tour of the Rebel Yell factory, or a man who has spent a great deal of time watching Mike Myers do his Keith Richards impression. Either way, festooned with dreadlocks and braids in his hair and beard, and wearing enough industrial-strength mascara to indicate that Captain Jack was probably influenced by another King of the Wild Frontier — Adam Ant — Mr. Depp offers a ratty, bedeviled turn that keeps the picture in motion during that extended period when there's not much plot involved.

But when this protracted state of narrative lassitude suddenly shifts, "Pirates" brings in enough story line for several movies. And in the words of Bart Simpson, it takes a knife-wielding maniac to show us the way.

Seriously, is Elvis taking Dennis Miller's medication? Maureen Dowd's? Did he really reference both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and "what Nicole Kidman might be like if she didn't spend so much time coughing tragically into handkerchiefs in an equally tragic pursuit of important roles" in writing this?

I am an Elvis Mitchell fan. Duh. I mean, how can you not love a critic who takes time out from his 'Pootie Tang' review to compare Bob Costas' relative merit in that movie and 'Baseketball'?
I'M ONLY GOING TO SAY THIS ONCE: I promise not to pimp my wife's books incessantly on this blog all summer long so long as you click on the cover and buy it today, as it's now on sale in paperback nationwide:

People called In Her Shoes a "wonderful fit" and "an entertaining romp through family battles and toxic relationships"; the Guardian U.K. hailed it for contrasting "feminine wish-fulfilment with penetrating analyses of familial and romantic neurosis and a pervasive sense of urban tragedy", and Publisher's Weekly said that Jen is "a marvelously natural storyteller, [who] blends humor and heartbreak to create an irresistible novel."

All of which is true. So buy the book today, and enjoy a great beach read this summer. You will not be disappointed.

(P.S. If you haven't read Jen's first novel yet, Good In Bed, get that too, and join the hundreds of thousands who made it a best seller for almost all of 2002. Now I'll stop.)
INSTA-POLL: Which was the dumber Dusty Baker decision this week?
(a) telling reporters on Saturday that Black and Latino players do better in the summer months, saying, "It's easier for most Latin guys and it's easier for most minority people because most of us come from heat. You don't find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Right? . . . We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? Weren't we brought over because we could take the heat? Your skin color is more conducive to heat than it is to the lighter-skinned people. I don't see brothers running around burnt. That's a fact. I'm not making this up. I'm not seeing some brothers walking around with some white stuff on their ears and noses"; or,

(b) leaving Florida rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis (8-1, 2.13 ERA) off the All-Star squad only because he hasn't actually seen him pitch yet, as though maybe he didn't really exist.

Cast your vote in the Comments section. Explain your reasoning, and show all work.
GUARANTEED TIME SUCK: Massive update on TV Tattle today, so rather than vulturing off them to produce 3-5 posts, just go there yourself to find the articles of interest.

(For me, it's this piece on the UK's "Lit Idol, a complaint about the fact that you can't turn on digital cable without having 'French Kiss' on some channel, a Ruben/Clay sighting at Hooters, and a great piece on 'America's Next Top Model', which concludes tonight on UPN. Your mileage may vary.)
GOD PUNISHES DAVE MATTHEWS FANS: This time, lightning. Next time, a swarm of locusts. The time after that, cattle disease. Until they learn.

Via No Rock & Roll Fun, a Brit music blog that looks to be worthy of your time -- that is, if you appreciate items like this:
The video for the new Robbie Williams single is - in a bid to raise interest/money - all interactive, with viewers being able to choose what ending eventually gets grafted onto it. Sadly, none of the options include the things we'd be prepared to splash text messages on - there's no option to see Robbie Williams being fed to hungry lions, or made to drink a bucket of Draino, or covered in the scent of a female grizzly on heat and sent into the Yellowstone hills at mating time.
SCREW JAYSON BLAIR; THIS IS WHAT'LL GET ME ANGRY: As the de-Rainesification of the Times continues, the Post is now reporting that new Arts & Leisure editor Jodi Kantor might be near the chopping block:
"She's in over her head - and she's very aloof," sniffed one ticked Timesie. Her critics charge that Kantor is larding her section with contributions from inexperienced "old Slate cronies and Web bloggers" - like online journalist Sarah Hepola, who wrote a front-page Arts and Leisure story about "Sex and the City" last month.

This blog has praised Kantor's changes to the section in the past and will continue to do so. Not only do I have a natural affinity for someone who left Harvard Law School to focus on pop culture criticism and online journalism, but I like what Kantor's been doing with the section: smarter analysis of pop culture, taking the "low" as seriously as the high, just as she promised when hired:
I do think you'll see us playing around with the format, thinking up novel ways to cover culture, and developing more regular features and columns. . . .

One thing that 'Arts & Leisure' will not be doing is choosing between pop culture and the more refined arts. These days, rap stars give breathtakingly good performances in Broadway plays, the most beloved show on TV explores Freudian theory with great subtlety, and novels about comic books win Pulitzers.

Here's hoping the Times recognizes a good thing it has going on, and that Kantor is allowed to remain and thrive.

Monday, July 7, 2003

PLEASE SHELTON PLEASE SHELTON SHELTON SHELTON PLEASE: Viacom and Spike Lee have settled the "Spike TV" lawsuit. Details have not been disclosed.
READY FOR THIS JELLY: This blog is willing to take on all comers to defend its fondness for the music criticism of Kelefa Sanneh (see here and here), but Mr. Sanneh was dead wrong in Sunday's Times: This is the summer of Beyoncé, no ifs, ands or buts.

Seriously, if there's a better song this summer than "Crazy In Love", show me. Beyoncé and Jigga have got it going on.
TRIPLE LINDY: Yes, it's true: Rodney Dangerfield has signed a deal to remake his 1986 hit comedy Back to School, a movie which, among other things, marked the screen debut of author Kurt Vonnegut as 'Himself'. (It's the part he was born to play.)

This raises any number of questions: (1) If Dangerfield isn't going to reprise the lead role, will he take the Sam Kinison part? (2) And then who'll play Thornton Mellon? (My nominee: Bernie Mac, with Drumline's Nick Cannon as the son.) (3) Will Sally Kellerman make an appearance? (4) Ned Beatty? (5) And where has Ned Beatty been lately, anyway? (6) If they're remaking Back to School, what else from the Dangerfield film library might be excavated? Is America ready for a Ladybugs revival? And if not, how long would it take to get ready? If it's more than a few minutes, is it worth it?