Saturday, March 20, 2004

AND GOOD RIDDANCE: Within eight hours, Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium will be no more.

I said my goodbyes back in September, which you can read here.

Of course, before this city wins another professional championships, there's a few more things that need tearing down.
OH DANCE WITH ME... Late update on Pixies anticipated North American stops.

04-13 Minneapolis, MN - Fine Line Music Cafe
04-14 Winnipeg, Manitoba - Burton Cummings Theatre
04-15 Regina, Saskatchewan - Doris Knight Ballroom
04-17 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Prairieland
04-18 Edmonton, Alberta - Red's
04-19 Calgary, Alberta - MacEwan Hall
04-21 Victoria, British Columbia - Victoria Curling Club
04-22 Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
04-23 Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
04-24 Spokane, WA - Big Easy
04-25 Boise, Idaho - Big Easy
04-27 Eugene, OR - MacDonald Theatre
04-29 Davis, CA - Freeborn Hall
05-01 Indio, CA - Empire Polo Field (Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival)

Props: Pitchfork Media, where good people write good things about good music.
DON'T KID A KIDDER. Or do. Your choice, really.

Friday, March 19, 2004

AFTERWARDS, THEY DO THE HOMPTY-HOMP: Okay, so most of the fun is gone from the Bush-Cheney poster generator, but, still, you'd think that a website promoting Our Education President could spell everything correctly.

But: American Somoa? Really?

For what it's worth, American Samoa has representation in the U.S. Congress, sends delegates to the Republican National Convention, and is also the home of a lot of athletes you know and love. How hard is it to spell-check?

Gee. It's almost as bad as having your official campaign pullovers being manufactured in a repressive regime whose imports we banned because of human rights concerns, but no one could be that stupid, right?
WHAT WE NEED: I've promised to keep these to a minimum, but I want to talk for a minute about the Hoeffel for Senate campaign, because we're at an important point where we need your help.

A new Quinnipiac poll came out yesterday regarding our race. Here are some highlights:
1. After seeing him for four terms in office, only 49% of Pennsylvanians approve of the job Arlen Specter is doing, with 36 percent disapproving. Among independent voters -- his alleged base -- the percentage of those who disapprove of the job he has done has shot up by 11 points in a month.

2. Only 36 percent of Pennsylvania voters want to see Specter reelected this year. 44 percent want someone new. Among independents, he has gone from up 48-38 to down 30-47, just in a month.

3. In a head-to-head, we trail Specter 45-29, closer than last month, and without our having aired a single ad yet. In fact, 70% of Pennsylvanians still don't know who Joe Hoeffel is. With time, and with your help, that will change.

4. Only 35% of Pennsylvanians have a favorable opinion of Arlen Specter. After 24 years, that's it?

Even among Republicans, Specter's primary lead has shrunk to 47-37 among likely voters.

I can tell you that even in comparison with every incumbent senator who has lost in the last two election cycles -- Hutchinson (AR), Cleland (GA) and Carnahan (MO) in 2002; Roth (DE), Abraham (MI), Grams (MN), Ashcroft (MO), Robb (VA) and Gorton (WA) in 2000 -- Arlen Specter's numbers are worse. Their "favorable" numbers were higher than Specter's, their "would you re-elect" numbers were higher than Specter's, and each of them lost, many by wide margins. No one had a "would you re-elect, or would you like to see someone new" number as low as Specter's is now. It's unprecedented.

We can win this race. To do so, to put it bluntly, we need your money. Money means ad buys, money means name recognition, money means respect, especially in advance of the March 31 FEC quarterly reporting deadline.

A number of you have already been generous with your support. Everyone reading this blog can afford to give something -- every $10 or $25 makes a difference, and the more, the merrier we all can be. (And, I'll stop asking.)

So click here, share some love our way this morning, and tack on an extra $0.72 so they know it's from my readers.

Thanks. Back to the nonsense.
MORE ACCURATE THAN THE SLEEK28 SPOILER: We went 4/7 yesterday; for Friday's bracket, will The Method demonstrate its strength?
WEST Regional

Lousiana-Lafayette v. N.C. State:
The Cajuns are Ragin', but they'll roux the day they faced this pack of wolves. The Pack smells dinner, and they'll stuff guard Antoine Landry inside of guard Brad Boyd inside of forward Antonie Hamilton for a tasty first-round turducken. (Roast at 250 degrees for 18 hours for best results.)

Western Michigan Broncos v. Vanderbilt Commodores: The Commodores might think this game will be easy like Sunday morning, but it isn't being played during the night shift, and the Commodores will be once, twice, three times an upset as their three-point shooting turns into a brick house. Nothing will bring them up when they're down, and the Broncos will sail on to the second round by a margin wider than the gap between Nicole Ritchie's fame and her accomplishments in life.

MIDWEST Regional

Pacific v. Providence:
Anyone else remember that challenge in the first Amazing Race when they had to walk the gauntlet of tigers that had been trained by monks? Thankfully for the Friars, these Tigers are equally pacific, so God yeve yow right good lyf, Providence.

EAST Regional

Richmond Spiders v. Wisconsin Badgers:
Wilbur and Templeton aren't here to protect the spiders this time, and the badgers will pester and annoy their way to a first-round win.

Central Florida v. Pittsburgh: Which knight's fate will the Golden Knights follow: Galahad's? Lancelot's? Bob's? (He did win yesterday.) No, unfortunately, it's ER's Lucy Knight, as the panthers will cause gaping, inoperable wounds, leaving the knights bleeding to death in an empty room, and there's no way for Carter to save them now.

And a DIII prediction: Ephraim's cows will fall to the smallpox blanket once more in Salem tonight. GO JEFFS!
SOMEBODY GET THIS FREAKING DUCK AWAY FROM ME!! Take this link to the homestarrunner site and run your cursor over the choices on the menu screen. It's full of old Atari parodies, with a curiously high number of Activision titles represented. (Okay, it's got two.) If you had a 2600, and played lots of Adventure and River Raid, you'll wet yourself. Then, if you've never been to homestarrunner before, check out some SB Emails!
EXTERMINATE!! The evil that extinguished a thousand worlds without ever successfully negotiating a staircase may be making a comeback. But Daleks or no Daleks, I'll watch if they cast Eddie Izzard as The Doctor.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

I LIKE COP SHOWS. Always have, or at least I have ever since the 'rents started tuning my family in to Hill Street Blues because it effectively prevented us from watching Dukes Of Hazzard. Serious cop shows, you know? We're not talking TJ Hooker, Hunter or Enos. (Okay, I liked Barney Miller, but that's different.) I like narratives about transgression and redemption, dark places, flawed righteousness, moral compromise, good intentions and gunplay.

Now, I avoided it initially because I saw Michael Chiklis and thought: "Oh, yeah. That guy from The Commish." But, towards the end of last season I finally caught on to The Shield. This year, with a modernized, updated, DVR-enabled household, I fully intend to make the new season into a semi-religious weekly observance.

It's off to a great start, what with the Armenian mob thing and the gang war thing and the internal politics thing and the external politics thing and the fact that The Family Angle has been pushed aside so that we can all enjoy Detective Vic's moral ambiguity without having to empathize with him overly. If you haven't seen it, imagine Dennis Franz' Sipowicz without the whole "dark angel" angle to redeem him, and you begin to get the picture.
AND NINA BLACKWOOD IS MISSING: Original VJ (and therefore TV pioneer) JJ Jackson has died. Along with Martha Quinn, and in spite of Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and the aforementioned Nina Blackwood, Jackson helped make MTV into what it was in those early years: a decent-enough way to waste three hours in the afternoon while waiting for the one video in rotation that you liked to come on.
NEXT UP: WILLARD V. AL ROKER DEATHMATCH: Hot on the heels of my scoop on Ann-Curry-hate, Salon has weighed in with word of a Katie Couric backlash. This I don't get. I had a lot of trouble with Couric initially, principally because I hated the way she got the job. I always thought Norville was treated unfairly (whether or not she had the chops we'll never know), and presenting Couric as the second coming of the button-cute and inoffensive Pauley just seemed like a retreat and a regression to me. But I was surprised by how apparent it is that Couric views the perky-hostess tag as an albatross. She is a tough interviewer, she is smarter and waaay more substantial than both of the guys with whom she was paired up, and she is clearly the professional among the current crew of affable doofuses. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she's not just keeping the seat warm for Jillian Barberie.

Please feel free to insert a joke here about Gillian Barberie and warm seats.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

63 LOSERS: Due to some very happy circumstances that were under his control nine months ago, our good friend Charlie Glassenberg won't be able to provide the results of his exclusive NCAA MascotMatcher analysis this week. That said, I'd be remiss if I didn't perform my own amateur analysis on key games in Thursday's bracket:
EAST Regional

Manhattan Jaspers v. Florida Gators:
Herpetologists beware! The giant reptiles may have bite, but they're up against a true American original. The Jaspers' abstract approach will paint the gators into a corner, and you should flag this game as an upset as the Floridians' chances go pop.

Charlotte 49ers v. Texas Tech Red Raiders: The squared sevens suffer get ambushed by Ralph Nader's supporters; however, shut out from the debates, they fail to break 5% from the floor, and we all know by now that 49% is enough in a divided race. Good Charlotte lives to sing another day.

WEST Regional

Texas-El Paso Miners v. Maryland Terrapins:
The miners take their pickaxes to the hard shells of the dawdling turtles, but that canary's dead thanks to poor OSHA enforcement under the Bush administration. Seeking the motherlode of all upsets, the miners find Quecreek instead as the turtles crawl to victory.

Dayton Flyers v. DePaul Blue Demons: Why so blue? These drones are armed, and ready to kill. Goose, let's go for a fly-by of the control tower.

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners v. Stanford Cardinal: So I say roadrunner once, roadrunner twice, I'm in love with the modern trend of sixteen-seeds never beating number ones, and it'll take more than 50,000 watts of power to break the cardinal rule.

Also, look for wins from the austere Peloponnesians and the chunky Nutmeg Staters. This system is infallible.
HERE'S WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD: This morning was wonderful. If it seemed that the sun was shining a little bit brighter, or that my morning Special K with Strawberries was a little bit sweeter, well, it was because I didn't hear the words "now let's go to Ann Curry at the News Desk." I've been watching the Today Show for a few minutes almost every morning for over 20 years. I've seen a lot of empty haircuts rotating through (or subbing at) the news desk, and people, my bar is not high. I liked Matt and Giselle, I liked Lester and Deborah (yes, Deborah), I liked Soledad and Faith and Campbell and hometown sub Jean Enersen. I, uh, I really liked Elizabeth Vargas.

But: I hate Ann Curry (as does Spacewoman). Does everybody hate Ann Curry?

By the way, I also hate Dan Abrams.
WHAT'S NEXT? As you know, I'm a big fan of the reality tv "get a job" subgenre.

It started, as best I can tell, with MTV's WWF Tough Enough ("America's Next Top Wrestler", three seasons completed), followed by Making the Band, Model, American's Next Top Comic Who's A Friend Of Ours and, of course, The Apprentice, which America's Next Top Boxer on its way.

Key elements of all these shows include a lot of "this job is harder than you thought", a healthy portion of "life at the house", rigid performance evaluation and, at the top, a charismatic host who makes the viewer admire what that ultimate success looks like.

(As I'm defining it, American Idol both is and isn't part of the genre -- obviously, there's a job at the end of the show, but we don't see any life-at-the-house, nor is there really any behind the scenes insight into what it really takes to succeed in the industry. It's just a talent show. An incredibly popular one, but it's not the same.)

(Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the same man has helmed several of these shows -- Ken Mok produced Tough Enough, Top Model and Making The Band.)

So, I'm trying to figure out what's next -- careers to which people aspire which would make for a great television show. They could go all Zoolander and give us America's Next Top Male Model, but as Jen pointed out to me this morning, other than Tyson Beckford, can you name a male model?

I'm pinning my hopes on America's Next Top Figure Skater: all the diva-ish behavior we get from models, with the weekly thrill of seeing people fall on ice. Sign up Scott Hamilton to host, guarantee the winner a spot on the Stars on Ice tour, and you've got yourself a show.

I have a feeling, however, that someone out there has a better idea.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

YOU HAD SEX? If you didn't see it yet, watch this week's Top Model episode when it re-airs on Friday. So worth missing the second hour of Idol for. If you don't laugh uncontrollably during Shandi's phone call to her boyfriend, your heart is way too pure, and I don't know what you're doing here.

Cosmo's right; it's hers to lose, even if her boyfriend's a better diva than she is.
IT'S OKAY; WE'VE GOT T.O. TO ENTERTAIN US NOW: Philadelphia laborers tried to be polite, but MTV has decided to be real -- real gone from Old City Philadelphia -- and The Real World XV will now be filming elsewhere.
ALSO, THEY DISSED MY BREE: Other than Matt Rogers' changing hair profile, what's wrong with American Idol this season?

A whole heck of a lot, explain Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz in today's Newark Star-Ledger, and they're especially right on this point:
The blatant agenda: The winner of this year's contest will either be an R&B diva or a teen pop starlet. How do we know this? 1) More than half of the finalists fit one category or the other. 2) The producers arranged for the aforementioned divas and starlets to perform near the start or finish of each episode (the two spots most likely to affect voters); and 3) Because the judges have practically kissed the feet of the singers in those two categories.

Lisa Leuschner, who missed the cut in group two and didn't even get to sing in the wild card round, was in trouble the minute the judges compared her to original "Idol" champ Kelly Clarkson. Why? Because the "Idol" producers already have a Kelly Clarkson and don't need another.

Also, why did Fox have to schedule a two-hour show tonight and go up against Shandi's skankdown? Don't they understand that we only own one TiVo?

Monday, March 15, 2004

MORE COWBELL: So, Entertainment Weekly has this list of the twenty-five funniest people in America. While they got a lot right (Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Aaron McGruder and others), hoo, boy, do I have some suggested changes.

First, the cuts: Amy Sedaris (#8) shouldn't be allowed to piggyback off her brother's success; Augusten Burroughs (#15) and Scot Armstrong (#16) haven't done enough yet, and aren't that funny; I have no idea who Demetri Martin (#21) is; Catherine O'Hara (#22) is a bad choice for a token older female; and, of course, Sarah Silverman (#24) is a bitter homewrecker who's just a younger person's Joan Rivers.

So, who gets added? If we're doing collectives (Daily Show, Wilson/Stiller), how about the staff of The Onion? the crew from The State?

For funnier women to whom I'm not married (and you better believe she belongs on the list), how about Margaret Cho or SNL's Amy Poehlert? (And, okay, Tina Fey, but her shtick's getting tired to me.)

From the musical world, why not Marshall Mathers, who's not only funny but does so within the confines of assonance and rhyme? Where's the love for Marc Shaiman, who wrote the songs for Hairspray and and South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut? (Also, there's the wicked-fun cameo (is it a cameo when no one knows who you are yet?) as the news theme composer in Broadcast News.)

Speaking of which, BASEketball aside, seriously, you guys, how can you do a list like this without South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker? Had they only given us Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants, but not given us Scott Tenorman Must Die, dayenu. Had they given us Scott Tenorman must die but not given us Cripple Fight!, dayenu . . .
ANOTHER REVIEW OF A MOVIE I VAGUELY REMEMBER: I just read Irvine Welsh's Porno, the ten-years-later sequel to Trainspotting, which I never read. I did see the movie, though, and Porno jogged just enough of a recollection for this:

Trainspotting is basically Sex and the City (or Herman's Head), except instead of sex it's drugs, and instead of New York it's Leith, a neighborhood in Edinburgh (pronounced "Edinbaurauagagh"). Carrie, or, if you will, Herman, is played by Ben Kenobi. This was the first time I saw him without the Carl Bernstein 'do he wore in "Shallow Grave." Carrie/Herman has three imaginary pals, each of which represents one facet of her personality. Sick Boy (or Miranda, or Genius), played by Mark McGrath, lets his o'erweening ambition interfere with his human interactions. Spud (or Charlotte, or Angel), played by DJ Qualls, has a romantic optimism and simplistic world view. Monty (or Samantha, or Animal), played by Kitty Carlyle, is less of a character than a repetitive action, that being promiscuous and insatiable violence. The movie follows Carrie through a series of vignettes that pose the question: Can a girl kick smack and settle down without losing herself in the process?

Unlike in SATC, however -- and perhaps thankfully -- the answer is "yes," and to do it she doesn't even need to settle down with a turd like the Dancing Latvian Barbituate. (So, unlike SATC, the moral is not "you are trapped in a Sisyphean hell consisting of unfunny banter with three other unlikeable egomaniacs, edging for 29 minutes toward some kind of character improvement that will be snatched away on the next-ons.") As a caper film, it doesn't really work. As an escape fantasy, it winds up more optimistic than "Thelma & Louise" or "Catch Me If You Can" (depressing! I sentence you to a lifetime working for the government!) but less so than Witch Mountain. As an art project, it was too orange and brown.

By the way, Porno was funny enough. Nice to see that Welsh's publisher -- I forget who -- actually created a pornographic web site for the movie to which the title refers.
IS CHRIS THERE? We'll have more to say about EW's Funniest People Alive list later tonight, but, first, have you ever wondered what would happen if your new cell phone number had been Chris Rock's old cell phone number? Would famous people like Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson and Ken Burns be ringing you up all the time?

Wonder no more.
BARBRA STREISAND, MOTHER FOCKER: It's finally, almost, official.
WHEN GOOD THINGS ARE SAID ABOUT GOOD PEOPLE: From James Wolcott's article on the political blogosphere in the current Vanity Fair, in which he discusses the recent contretemps between Atrios and Andrew Sullivan regarding the former's pseudonymity:
And I would add, based on my own subjective impressions, the reason Andrew Sullivan attracts so many personal attacks isn't that he's recognizable and his attackers aren't, but that he makes it so easy and fun. He's like a bad tenor begging to be pelted with fresh product.

On the surface, the battle between Andy and Atrios is a minor spat between a drama queen and a shrinking violet, but it has deeper rippes. That Sullivan, a well-known byliner, television pundit, and former Gap model, felt impelled to pick a fight with a lesser-known blogger was a sign of insecurity -- shaky status. It signifies the shift of influence and punch-power in the blogosphere from the right to the left.

It is Atrios, not Andrew Sullivan, who is in ascendance in the blogosphere.

I've met Atrios. Really nice guy, with good reasons for remaining pseudonymous, and I so admire what he's been able to pull off.

Consider, for a moment, that most of the "stars" of the blogosphere have academic credentials or previous print credentials to give themselves online legitimacy. On the flipside, people like Atrios, Howard Bashman and Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga have had to create their own credibility from scratch through their words, just by being compelling voices amid a sea of thousands.

This place just might be a meritocracy after all.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A THOUGHT THAT OCCURRED TO ME WHILE FLIPPING PAST HIGH FIDELITY ON THE TV THIS AFTERNOON: For all the abuse and derision heaped upon Gretchen Mol for her post-Vanity Fair non-career, she's still had more success in Hollywood that Iben Hjejle.

Seriously, what was Stephen Frears thinking? Like, okay, translate it from London to Chicago if you must, but Laura had to have an almost impenentrable Danish accent because . . . ?
MAQUILADORAS OF LAW: For months, I've been telling people that the free trade issue wasn't going to resonate for American professional workers until it really started to hit home, and that it was only a matter of time before American law firms started to bypass recent law graduates to send legal research tasks offshore to be completed by younger, cheaper foreign workers, just as in every other industry over the past decade.

That time is now.
REALLY?? With "advanced meat retrieval" so fresh in our collective memory, you'd think they could have done better than "wardrobe malfunction".