Saturday, March 6, 2004

DECEASED WRESTLER OF THE MONTH UPDATE: "Disgraced" would be more accurate, but likely redundant.

Steve Austin's ex wife -- Sorry. Make that Stone Cold Steve Austin's ex-wife is selling their wedding ring on EBay, and "[a] portion of the proceeds of this sale will benefit SafePlace, a non profit organization against domestic violence."

Hat tip: Liz.

Friday, March 5, 2004

NEGOTIATIONS AND LOVE SONGS: Four things I think I think after watching reality television tonight:

1. If Probst had been clued in better by the producers at to the extent of Sue Hawk's anguish, that would have gone down a lot differently, no? Yes, it's a game show, but that was insensitive, if not downright cruel, and few castaways acted with any compassion.

Maybe it's just me speculating, but I bet that if a naked castaway started grinding his cock against Amber during a challenge without her consent, he would've been swiftly tossed from the game by the producers and the victim would have received immediate psychological consultation. But because of how Sue Hawk was perceived (older, less attractive, "tougher"), she didn't get that same sensitivity.

Or, as TWoP's Miss Alli wrote, "All these people suck. I fucking hated every single one of them at least once tonight. Except maybe Alicia and Lex. Fuckers. I hate these people."

2. It's now two straight Thursdays that someone has used the non-word "indoendo" instead of "innuendo" on a Thursday night show. Like, wtf?

3. You do realize, I hope, that this week's Apprentice challenge was fundamentally the same as last week's: take a product whose unique characteristics are impossible for the competitors (or, perhaps, anyone) to understand, for which there are any number of equivalents always available in NYC, one that you can only sell based on looks and your inherent selling ability, and try to make a killing, quickly, with customers that are outside your range of experience. It's not easy.

4. Y'know, I agreed with Isaac that this week's Top Model reward was incomparably lame, but, shit, it's still better than "ten minutes with Trump". What, they didn't want to spring for a pack of Twinkies for the Versacorp members? C'mon, The Donald, give Troy a Ho Ho next time, or splurge: let Ghostface Killah take them to Starbucks, for pete's sake.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

NEXT WEEK IN PROPERTY, RICHARD HELMHOLZ ENTERS TO 'WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE': I was going to do a whole lengthy post about my two favorite candidates for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in Illinois, but because of a variety of personal conflicts of interest (and in an atte,mpt to not bore most of you), I'll just skip ahead to the good part:

Barack Obama has a theme song, and it's pretty damn catchy.

In the hierarchy of theme songs, it beats "You Can Call Me Al" and "New England: The Patriots and We," but it's not quite on the level of, say, Hansel's theme in Zoolander or Rick Derringer's "Real American". Still, for a politician, not bad.
YO, WE CAN START BY BEING POLITE: Philadelphia's trade unions are rolling out the red carpet for MTV's The Real World, so to speak.
NEXT STOP, JUMBOTRON: The NYT's Alex Witchel reports on the latest in circumcision-related catering. As in all other things, count on New Yorkers to take things a bit too far.

That said, I feel safe in predicting that unlike with bar mitzvahs, this is one Jewish cultural rite that won't be appropriated by others.
POOR JOSHUA! [WARNING: THIS POST IS 100% POP CULTURE FREE]: If you're like me -- and even for most of the people reading this, you're probably not this much like me unless you were a student of Austin Sarat's -- the highlight from today's release of Justice Blackmun's personal papers may well be the opportunity to see in Blackmun's own handwriting his dissent in DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Soc. Serv. Dept., 489 U.S. 189 (1989).

The case involves Joshua DeShaney, a four-year-old who was so severely beaten by his custodial father that he fell into a life-threatening coma, suffering traumatic head injuries that caused life-long brain damage and profound retardation. What's worse, the county's department of social services had visited the family a number of times during the previous two years because of suspicions of abuse, noticing repeated injuries, yet essentially did nothing.

A lawsuit was filed on Joshua's behalf, claiming that his constitutional rights were violated by the state's failure to intervene to protect him against a known risk of violence. Chief Justice Rehnquist commanded a 6-3 majority, holding that the state had no affirmative duty to protect Joshua despite everything it knew.

Justice Brennan wrote the more formal, legal dissent, but it's Justice Blackmun's separate dissent that everyone remembers. Blackmun decried the "sterile formalism" which led to the court's result, and concluded in personal language uncharacteristic for a Supreme Court opinion as follows (internal cites deleted):
[T]he question presented by this case is an open one, and our Fourteenth Amendment precedents may be read more broadly or narrowly depending upon how one chooses to read them. Faced with the choice, I would adopt a "sympathetic" reading, one which comports with dictates of fundamental justice and recognizes that compassion need not be exiled from the province of judging. Cf. A. Stone, Law, Psychiatry, and Morality 262 (1984) ("We will make mistakes if we go forward, but doing nothing can be the worst mistake. What is required of us is moral ambition. Until our composite sketch becomes a true portrait of humanity we must live with our uncertainty; we will grope, we will struggle, and our compassion may be our only guide and comfort").

Poor Joshua! Victim of repeated attacks by an irresponsible, bullying, cowardly, and intemperate father, and abandoned by respondents who placed him in a dangerous predicament and who knew or learned what was going on, and yet did essentially nothing except, as the Court revealingly observes, "dutifully recorded these incidents in [their] files." It is a sad commentary upon American life, and constitutional principles - so full of late of patriotic fervor and proud proclamations about "liberty and justice for all" - that this child, Joshua DeShaney, now is assigned to live out the remainder of his life profoundly retarded. Joshua and his mother, as petitioners here, deserve - but now are denied by this Court - the opportunity to have the facts of their case considered in the light of the constitutional protection that 42 U.S.C. 1983 is meant to provide.

Justice Blackmun never lost sight of the people whose lives were being affected by Supreme Court's decisions, and for that, we are all in his debt.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

THIS SEASON IS THE GOLDEN CALF: Clearly, something is amiss with American Idol. The talent, it is just not there.

You knew when watching the first season's round of 32 that Justin, Tamyra and Nikki were real talents with strong personalities, and had no idea until "Stuff Like That There" how good Kelly Clarkson was going to be.

Last season, by this point, Frenchie, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Rickey Smith (Hercules! Hercules!) and Kims Caldwell and Locke had all clearly broken through with both charisma and singing ability, and we were looking forward to the competition that was to follow.

This year? Just two people are at all memorable -- Latoya London, whose "All By Myself" was absolutely transcendent, and Fantasia Barrino with her charming Macy Gray-ish voice -- and even they can't hold a candle to Tamyra Gray's overall talent. (Yet.)

(And no, I'm not upset just because my girl Bree didn't make the wild card.)

So, what's gone wrong? Surely, in a nation of 292+ million, there are more than 64 people capable of being entertaining round-of-32 performers. We haven't exhausted the supply yet, have we?

Well, maybe. Maybe everyone who was really capable of shining in these lame, relative dead genres of music had already come out for the competition. Maybe it's time to broaden the musical context of the show beyond power-ballad and antique pop to include hip-hop and modern rock.

Maybe they need to loosen the eligibility rules, and allow in competitors with more professional experience.

Maybe the judges need to take their lesson from Frenchie's ouster, and realize that a female American Idol doesn't have to conform to a rigid body image to succeed.

And maybe, just maybe, the talent is out there, but the producers and our esteemed panel of judges were so busy looking for the William Hungs of the world for embarrassing audition footage that they just neglected to put in the effort to find the next Kelly Clarkson, or even the next Trenyce.

All I know is that this season is shaping up to be the lamest one yet, and I don't believe I'm alone in my disappointment.

Am I? Are you also disappointed, and do you have a theory as to what's going on this season? Is there a real talent out there I'm just missing?
AND FOR THE FINAL QUESTION, I TELL YOU WHAT, JUST WRITE A NUMBER. ANY NUMBER, ANY NUMBER AND YOU PASS. WE'LL ACCEPT ANY NUMBER, ANY NUMBER AT ALL . . . A ONE, OR A TWO, OR A THREE, OR HOW ABOUT A FOUR? IT'S THAT SIMPLE, I KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS: It's usually easy, and not much fun, to make fun of the academic shenanagans that go on in big-time college athletics.

Still, former University of Georgia assistant men's basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr.'s final exam in his Fall 2001 Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball class really sets some kind of new standard revealing harsh bigotry of zero expectations.

Among the questions given to the "student athletes" in the class, in the multiple-choice format as shown:
5. How many halves are in a college basketball game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

8. How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a Basketball Game?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

20. In your opinion, who is the best Division I assistant coach in the country?
a. Ron Jursa (sic)
b. John Pelphrey
c. Jim Harrick Jr.
d. Steve Wojciechowski

All 39 students in the class received A's.
BECAUSE EVEN 'MARCI X' DESERVES SOME PROPS: Yankee Pot Roast presents the 2003 Sexist & Xenophobic Awards for filmmaking accomplishments last year. Your nominees included:
Most Confusing to the White Man:

--Wait, Kingpin's a black dude?; Daredevil
--Wait, God's a black dude?; Bruce Almighty
--Is Jessica Alba multiƫthnic?; Honey
--How 'bout Vin Diesel?; A Man Apart

Most Uncomfortable Homoerotic Moment:

--Russell Crowe winks at a dirty South American hooker from the boat, but otherwise prefers the company of young boys; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
--Frolicsome hobbits pillow-fighting; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
--Johnny Depp's fabulous eyeliner; Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl
--Shirtless, pubescent lost boys and a fairy; Peter Pan

I believe this is the first time Jude Law wasn't nominated in the category.

Via Uncle Grambo, natch.
THE FREAK IS IN THE HOUSE: Free agent signing has begun, and that game feels so very long ago. . . .
AND IF YOU ASK NICELY, HE'LL SIGN A BASKETBALL FOR YOU: Hey, NYCers, are you being invited to Kwame Jackson's Apprentice parties?

I'd enjoy watching the next season of American Idol with Justin Guarini, and he may just be available.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

WELL, I GOT ME A FINE WIFE, I GOT ME A FIDDLE: Start the countdown clocks and set your TiVos, VCRs and related devices -- Nashville Star 2 debuts on the USA Network this Saturday night at 10p with a ninety-minute special.

Fans of this website recall the raves I gave the show last season since week one. Think American Idol, but with more talent and integrity, people who can play instruments and write their own songs while singing their hearts out. It was a great run, and winner Buddy Jewell was exactly the kind of undiscovered talent who deserves all the boost a show like this can deliver.

(Yeah, Buddy was great, but I still miss Amy Chappell -- great voice, great heart, best original song of the group. I hope she makes it big someday.)

So, even though they've axed Robert K. Oermann, my pick for Best Reality TV Host/Judge of 2003, I'm eager for the new season, and look forward to being wowed again.

I am not a country music fan, but I loved this show. Cristal Connors' big sister is back, and I hope you'll give it a try.
LIKE THE BATTERY JUST DIED ON HER VIBRATOR: Fans of America's Next Top Model just got to witness the most satisfying boot on a reality tv show since Donald Trump fired Sam, or, even, since Heather & Eve forgot the meaning of "walk" on Amazing Race 3.

Next week: Cosmo's girl does the hippity-dippity with her uomo Italiano, and complications ensue. Oh, yes, they do.
HEY MAN, NICE SCHOTT: Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott has died. She may have started off as a reasonable person, but then she went nuts.

With her passing, the title of Worst Living Former Owner In Sports falls to former Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell, of whom it was once said: "Modell winning a Super Bowl is like Spiro Agnew getting elected vice president--proof that even the lowest and sleaziest crook can rise high if he claws his way upward eagerly enough."
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER KRESSLEY: Renee Graham of the Boston Globe nails what I missed: isn't the real problem with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that it's just another "magical negro" show?

She writes:
[O]n "Queer Eye," the Fab Five, more often than not, are working to make their straight subjects more acceptable to the women in their lives. As the show plays with stereotypes of style-challenged straight men and trend-perfect gay men, it also reinforces long-held notions of minority groups existing only to improve the lives of (usually) straight white people. Though the idea of straight men being fussed over by gay men may seem like progress, it's really just another twist on the "magic minority" idea fostered for years, especially in such recent films as "The Green Mile," "The Legend of Bagger Vance," and, more recently, "The Last Samurai" starring Tom Cruise.

So long as the "Queer Eye" stars remain nonthreatening homosexuals, their popularity, which has already spawned a book, a CD, and various award-show appearances, will remain intact. . . . America may embrace gay men who don't stray too far from stereotypes -- it's no mistake that the cliched and flamboyant Kressley is also the most popular figure -- but it isn't as easily accepting of gay men with political opinions and relationships of their own for which they demand legal recognition. So, as long as they use their homosexual know-how for the sole purpose of heterosexual betterment, "Queer Eye" will continue to mollify the straight masses.

At least it's better than calling it a "gay minstrel show", as Noy Thrupkaew wrote for The American Prospect in August. ("The Fab 5 players work with a scathing yet warm professionalism that is a joy to behold. But at the end of the day, must they return to their Batcave, their chic servants' quarters? . . . After their work banishing the horrors from straight men's closets, it seems especially wrong to ask the dream teamers to adjourn to theirs.")

More of my general QESG-backlashing is here.

Monday, March 1, 2004

FROM THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT YOU 'SCHOOL OF COCK': By request of one of our fellow blog travellers, and even with the full awareness that there's now a website devoted to the topic, and even though I can't find the last time we did this in the archives, I hereby open the floor to your nominations for the latest installment of Porn Title Equivalents For Films In Current (Or Upcoming) Release.

Stu started things off via email with Cold Mountin', and here's my initial foray:
Girl With A Pearl Necklace
Deeper By The Dozen
21 Slams
Mask Her And Command Her
The Perfect Whore
Someone's Gotta Give Me A Blow Job
The Pushin' I Did Thrice

Jen suggests one that needs no change in title: The Triplets of Belleville. Indeed.

As for you . . .

Whether or not you think this movie is an unfortunate modern reiteration of a uniquely anti-semitic variety of Christian storytelling (Safire: Likely, yes. Ebert: Likely, no.), and no matter how you feel about the fact that its violence makes Starship Troopers look like a children's cartoon (and really, Starship Troopers was a children's cartoon), I think you'll have to admit that this right here is pretty messed-up.

I'm not even sure what to call it. Productsthelytizing, maybe?

The appeal of the crucifixion-nail necklaces for the whole grunge-metal set is intentional, yes? No doubt shrewdly calculated. But is the fact that the "witness cards" remind me of Magic The Gathering similarly deliberate? Is there a collectible cardgame in the offing? Action figures? I want action figures.

Or maybe a Burger King of Kings Kids Meal. . .
NOT MY GUMDROP BUTTONS! Sometimes, cultural reporting should be left to professionals like, um, me? Or, at least, someone who'll do minimal research before pontificating.

Case in point: Tim Graham of The National Review whines this morning about "another sad episode of corporate-conglomerate mass promotion" in the Barbara Walters/Shrek interview last night.

Except for one problem: Disney didn't make the Shrek movies. They're DreamWorks SKG films, and, in fact, for an animated children's movie Shrek contains some fairly vicious satire of Disney, its films and its theme parks. As one critic noted:
Shrek's comedy depends on the assumption that its audience is well-versed in fairy tales, specifically those associated with the wonderful world of Disney. In fact, Farquaad's castle itself is a spoof on Disney World, with phony-looking cobblestone roads and little singing puppets that explicate the rules upon entry. Everything in Shrek's world turns out opposite from the usual dynamics of Disney." This is not the way it is supposed to happen," Fiona protests when she realizes her savior isn't a dashing Prince Charming and her storybook fantasies will not pan out as she'd imagined. When she attempts singing to a bird in a scene clearly mocking the classic cutesy duet in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the bird strains so hard to keep up with her high notes that it explodes in a hail of feathers. Fiona subsequently cooks the dead bird's eggs for breakfast. This is the sort of dark humor that runs throughout Shrek, making it one of the more unusual animated features to come out in a long time.

The original Shrek is one of the few movies I've paid twice to see in theatres; I think it's that good. I wonder if Tim Graham has seen it once.

edited to add: Correction published.
BECAUSE HAVE YOU EVER SEEN HIM TOGETHER WITH PETER JACKSON?? One reason why the Oscars were not as bad as usual, despite the high risk posed by the irritating, unfunny Billy Crystal: No Bruce Vilanch.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

OSCARS OPEN THREAD: Feel free to comment as things happens, or afterwards into the night and next day . . .
IF I WERE A BETTING MAN, the idea that "Theron opened at 8/5 and Keaton at 7/2 in the best actress genre," while "Other nominees were Naomi Watts at 2/1, Samantha Morton at 8/1 and 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes at 20/1" might seem less surreal.

At least that's the line quoted at one shop. Mr. Cranky has other numbers.

Anybody that can get reliable odds on Adam's Question No. 6 below, give a shout. I'm waffling between "the trailer for next summer's comedy smash Analyze Dat Otha Thing" and "that he's a fem-bot".
OH MY GOLLY, OH MY GOLLY: Always nice to know where to get the official-unofficial propaganda.

Thanks: fork.
5. Your best option for an extended bathroom break will be (a) the awarding of an honorary Oscar to Blake Edwards, because, I mean, really, the guy who did the John Ritter glow-in-the-dark-condoms movie?; (b) any of the four Best Song performances not involving Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara; (c) the short film awards; (d) just go to bed after Best Actor is awarded, because you know exactly what's happening in the remaining categories.

Fill in the blank:

6. The clothing covering Billy Crystal's right breast will be yanked off to reveal ______________.

7. The biggest surprise of the night will be ________________________.

I'm going with (b), a tattoo of Harvey Weinstein's face and someone other than Peter Jackson winning Best Director.

A decent Oscar drinking game can be found here, featuring the following sage advice:
Take a sip any time the camera catches best-actor nominees Bill Murray, Sean Penn or Johnny Depp, who usually avoid these shows like the plague, looking uncomfortable at being talked into coming by their agents. If Murray wins, do a shot of Suntory whiskey. If Penn wins, chug a Sam Adams beer, which is brewed in Boston. (If you don't know why I chose those beverages, do two shots and go see their movies.) But if by some miracle Penn and Murray — widely considered the two most cantankerous bastards in L.A. — split the vote and Depp wins, down half a bottle of rum.

I'll only add one more rule: when an award recipient uses the adjective "beautiful" to describe his wife before using any other adjectives, that's a double.

bonus essay question, 25 words or less: The living person most deserving of an honorary Oscar in 2005 is . . . ?