Saturday, March 13, 2004

SOUVENIRS, NOVELTIES, PARTY TRICKS . . . Everyone likes to have mementos of important events that have touched their lives and, failing that, souvenirs from trivial gatherings that were nonetheless exciting and widely attended. (I'm thinking of the drumsticks in my closet labelled "Fishbone" and "RHCP", respectively, and bearing dates from 1992-93.) We anchor ourselves to moments of significance by consecrating objects as relics; reminders not only that we were there but of what it was at that moment to be there. To this end we buy t-shirts, take pictures, or smuggle found objects out of more or less secure locations. (Please. Yes you have.) Such objects have particular power when the events they commemorate are difficult for us personally -- making the act of consecration more serious, even controversial if the events are complicated or painful for some or all of us collectively.

The potential for controversy is particularly acute when those consecrating the relics are agitants or advocates who intend to deploy them as symbols in ongoing campaigns of political or spiritual re-organization. To do so is, in effect, to work a kind of sorcery that propagates a less-than-fully theorized sympathy for the consecrators' preferred perspective on issues related -- or entirely unrelated -- to the event the symbols commemorate. There is accordingly, in every such deployment of symbol, the potential for tendentious profanity and bad faith on an order of magnitude proportional to the depth of feeling evoked in each of us by the event or issue symbolized.

Those of us who are wary of partisans and the social power of symbols and relics are left to watch anyone who would deploy mementos and reminders in this way and wonder: Are you a good witch, or a bad witch? If we accept your symbols, what else will you ask us to do?
NEXT WEEK ON FOX: Celebrity Boxing -- Liza Minelli v. Jack White! And, on the undercard -- Jason Stollmeister v. David Gest! Catch the post fight hype from the last bout on BunsenTV.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I HAD BEEN BETTING ON "LITTLE CLETUS": Congratulations to long-time TT fave Will Ferrell and his wife Viveca, currently celebrating the birth of their first child, Magnus Paulin Ferrell, born early Sunday, weighing 8 pounds, 12 ounces.

No word on whether Dr. Steven Poop was involved.
VIACOM CRUSHES ITS HEEL ON SHANDI'S NECK; (NO) FILM AT 11: I can't tell you how upset I am by this news:
UPN ordered Tyra Banks, the show's executive producer and host, to cut out portions of next week's episode - which has been highly promoted as "the orgy" episode.

The group grope happened late one night in Milan, Italy where four of the show's up-and-coming models were working on the show.

The contestants invited four young men they met there up for a party and nature apparently took its course from there.

"Next week's episode contains material that UPN felt was inappropriate for broadcast," said a source close to the show. "They asked the producers to edit it down - it exceeded what would've been appropriate for broadcast."

So, let me get this straight: it's okay to show Janice Dickinson on-air ("Savvy"? You named your daughter Savvy?), but not this? We can't see Shandi getting her Italian swerve on?

You have no idea how much Jen has been looking forward to this episode.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

THE QUESTION IS NOT WHERE I'M BUYING IT, OR HOW LONG IT WILL LAST. THE QUESTION IS HOW FAST: When the band that provided the title for this blog releases its first video DVD compilation, including a tour documentary among its four-plus hours o'content, we here are sure to let you know.

Superchunk's Crowding Up Your Visual Field, including the rarely-seen "Throwing Things" video, is now in stores, and by all accounts, it kicks appropriate ass:
Fifteen years of steady songwriting, touring, and DIY rock living has surely provided Superchunk with enough video footage to pack a box set of DVDs, but the band instead squeezes a cargo van full of material onto one disc. . . .

Those performances serve as a reminder that Superchunk has survived this long for a reason: For 15 years, it's made bedrock-solid, passionate music that these visuals might entertainingly augment, but will never truly improve.

One correction: the Garofalo/Cross video is "Watery Hands", which you can view online (among others) here.
OKAY, ONE MORE THING: Last night's AI Wild Card Show was decidedly meh. I find myself almost in complete agreement with Mr. Cowell -- these people are pageant and talent show singers, not future pop stars, and the only metric on which to evaluate them is within this highly constrained sphere of Idol-ness, because, objectively, they ain't that good.

George Huff amused me last night. I don't care that he looks damn near forty -- he's got the kind of charisma and upbeat energy that make him this year's most worthy successor to the Clay Aiken geeky-charm crown.
TWO TRIBES: I don't really have anything this morning, but, hey, since when has that stopped me?

So I'll let you provide the content: choose your side in the brewing war pitting the forces of Starbucks Nation against a surging Dunkin' Donuts army bent on claiming the latte crown.

Also, just posing the question gives me an excuse to link to one of my favorite SNL skits, so, there you go.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

DID YOU EVER SEE OUR SHOW? IT WAS CALLED THE HOLOCAUST: I don't watch every episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm myself, but, dear lord, if you miss this week's episode ("The Survivor"), you're missing some truly inspired comedy.

If I say a word, I'll spoil too much. (We can talk about it in the Comments.) But great guest stars, including one of this board's recurring faves, and just brilliant, potentially-offensive overlapping plots that made for perhaps the best episode since the one with the Judy Doll.

Okay, I'll say this much: Larry's meeting with his rabbi to discuss his upcoming renewal of vows with Cheryl. The rabbi mentions that he has a friend in town who's a survivor, who he'd like to invite with him to dinner at Larry's the next night. Except . . .

I'll stop there. Catch it while you can.
TIME IS MARCHING ON, AND TIME . . . IS STILL . . . MARCHING ON: Three things that made me feel old today:
1. WrestleMania XX is Sunday. Twenty? Was it that long ago that my father took me and Todd to the Resorts Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City to watch a closed-circuit broadcast of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T's victory over Roddy Piper, Cowboy Bob Orton and Paul Orndorff? When a young nation saw King Kong Bundy set a then-record by pinning Philly's own S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones in only eight seconds, I was young then, too. Twenty years. Damn.

2. Someone in the office today was playing Blues Traveller's "But Anyway" from a mix CD, their first hit, which was released when he was in elementary school.

I was already in college.

3. This Friday night, the Amherst College Lord Jeffs (25-3) travel to Franklin & Marshall College to take on the New Jersey City University Golden Knights (22-6) in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Div III men's basketball tournament.

The last time the Jeffs travelled to Lancaster was 1994, my senior year, to face the #1 host F&M Diplomats. I was friends with most of the team, having been the team's beat reporter the prior season, and was doing the radio halftime and postgame work for the tournament while my freshman year roommate Graham Hunt did the play-by-play and color by himself, a trick he taught himself by listening to Washington Bullets' radio broadcasts. The Jeffs won that game in a stunning 80-71 upset, still one of the best games I've ever attended. (Rounding out the Amherst top four games of my tenure -- the Williams home win in 1994, the Anna Maria game in the ECAC tournament and the game at Westfield State that ended in fistfights during the postgame handshakes. But anyway.)

That was ten years ago. Graham's now a professor of music, the team's starting power forward is designing board games, and I've, wow, three years of law school, six years of lawyering, marriage, a daughter, a career shift . . . damn, ten years, but that game doesn't feel very long ago right now.

I'm feeling up for a road trip on Friday.

Anything making you feel old lately?

Sunday, March 7, 2004

ESPN'S DREAM JOB: Damn, Quigs, I haven't seen a performance like that on live tv since R. Budd Dwyer held his last press conference.

Either that or when Josh Gracin sang "Piano Man" on Idol last year -- it's somewhere in-between.
JENNIFER MELFI: WORST PSYCHIATRIST EVER? Open thread for discussion of tonight's episode. Feel free to discuss spoilers therein.
I FELL IN: As promised, Nashville Star is back, and as predicted, I really miss season one judges Robert K. Oermann and even Charlie Robison.

But it's early, and we didn't get to see a lot about the competitors. I did like the dude with the washboard, and I know Jen's rooting for the woman who gave birth just two weeks ago and still made it to the show, and both, thankfully, survived the first cut. And there's the usual supply of pretty boys, but also a healthy number of women in their 30s all looking for their big break. Should be a lot of fun.

I have no idea, however, whether anyone else is watching the show, given that it's (a) on the USA Network, best known for hosting the dog show and Monk; (b) on Saturday nights, when all you hipsters are out on the town; and (c) is, after all, a country music-centered show, which I don't think many of you are fans of.

So, are you watching? (There's still five chances to see the premiere.) Should I keep blogging about it, or should I keep this one to myself?
WE'RE LIKE LUXEMBOURG, EXACTLY LIKE LUXEMBOURG: Except that Luxembourg doesn't have everybody piling-on calling it a piece of crap when it's really just an inoffensive and enjoyable little spot doing its amiable best to provide what it promises in its unassuming promotional material, which, frankly, shouldn't have lead anyone to develop such high expectations in the first place. I mean, if you want something you can make a big freaking deal about, you should go see Paris, or New York, or Shanghai . . . but instead I went to see Starsky & Hutch.

For the record, I had to go see the movie, because my mom wouldn't let me watch the original TV show. CHiPs was okay, but I think Starsky & Hutch got too much booty to be allowed into the house while the kids were young and impressionable. Of course, mom's not-so-secret thing for Erik Estrada may also have been a factor.


Anyway, Starsky & Hutch admittedly is not An Important Film. It is not Paris Is Burning. It is not Hercules In New York. It is not even truly on a level with Shanghai Knights (which may be the best buddy movie ever, or at least the best since Running Scared), but it's not nearly as godawful and disappointing as many reviewers have suggested.

Starsky & Hutch stars:

Ben Stiller, as Ben Stiller;
Owen Wilson, as Owen Wilson;
Fred Williamson, as Fred Williamson;
Snoop Dogg, as Huggy Bear, and
Vince Vaughn, as The Bad Guy.

It's thought provoking. Including thoughts like "Dude, that was Jason Bateman? Where's he been?" and "How much of Juliette Lewis exactly did they leave on the cutting room floor?" and "Carmen Electra's boso -- um, performance certainly was riveting, at least compared to her prior work on BattleBots." and "Whoa! It's that guy from Resevoir Dogs!"

There are some cringe-inducing moments, of course, and some things that just don't work, but also a few really great scenes with Snoop and some Will Ferrell sequences that will make you squirm and giggle and wonder if the writers are deliberately parodying Red Dragon or just goofing off. (I like to think it was deliberate.) The signature Starsky & Hutch car is also used to great effect on several occassions.

Folks who have axes to grind with Stiller, Wilson, formulaic nostalgia movies or formulaic buddy movies should probably steer clear, but those who go into the theater with reasonably well-adjusted expectations will enjoy Starsky & Hutch enough to justify the price of admission and pop-corn (and parking, probably, if the theater validates and you don't live in New York or San Francisco).
IS 'THE SOPRANOS' AS GOOD AS EVER? Even better, writes the WaPo's Tom Shales on tonight's fifth-season premiere.

I still want to know if they'll ever find the Russian gymnast.
RPI IS THE NEW BCS: This afternoon was glorious. This U-Dub team poses a very difficult question for the NCAA Selection Committee. Yes, for the first half of the season, it was woeful. There is no question, however, that during the last six weeks it was one of the two dozen or so best teams in basketball (maybe better) -- winning 12 times (and knocking off the #1 team in the country) and losing only twice, both times on the road to the teams ranked #1 and #18 at the time. If the NCAA weighs wins and losses equally no matter when they happen -- and maybe it should -- then Washington is almost certainly out of the tournament. Still, you can't tell me that there won't be a few coaches of #4 or #5 seeds blowing sighs of relief when they check their brackets and find out that there's no Washington there.